Monday, March 07, 2011

Thinking is a Relationship

An interesting little exchange occurs at the beginning of Canto XXIII, in which Dante foretells psychoanalytic truths that will not be "discovered" until the latter half of the 20th century. But then Men change ideas less than ideas change disguise. Through the course of the centuries the same voices are in dialogue (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

I am speaking of the miracle of intersubjectivity, through which human beings are able to escape the boundaries of the skin and participate in the being of another. This first occurs in infancy, and indeed, what occurs there is the foundation of what will take place later, at all stages of thought (which is a kind of relationship) and relationship (which is a kind of thinking).

The recent recognition of "emotional intelligence" obscures the fact that there is no thought without emotion, and vice versa, for to paraphrase Schuon, they are the penumbra of the Divine Light and Warmth, respectively, which can only be artificially separated.

For the first time, Dante's fear begins to spiral out of control, almost as if he is describing a panic attack. He spontaneously calls to for Virgil, who informs him that he was already aware of his internal state, for No faster could I catch your outer image / Than I receive that other from within, so that Your thoughts just now were mingled with my own.

The whole possibility of psychoanalytic therapy is predicated upon that last line: Your thoughts just now were mingled with my own. This is what is called "counter-transference." Beholden as he was to a mechanistic framework, Freud regarded this ubiquitous phenomenon as mere "noise" that the analyst needed to rise above and ignore.

But modern psychoanalysis -- which is rooted in intersubjectivity -- regards counter-transference as vitally important communication about what is really going on, both within and without the patient's psyche. To put it in colloquial terms, we are always "giving off vibrations" in everything we say and do. And these vibrations are often the source -- or expression -- of great dysfunction.

For example, some people constantly give off an aggressive, intimidating, and dominating vibe, while others transmit a weak and submissive one that alternatively says "take care of me" or "kick me." The former is sadistic, the latter masochistic, and you'd be amazed at how frequently the two manage to find one another, for an exciting "spark" is created between them that is often confused with "love."

I was just pondering this the other day, while bathing in some aphorisms of Don Colacho, who is able to reach into the depth of my soul like a handful of others -- almost as if he is "me" at a later stage of the journey. Not surprisingly, he addressed this truth in an aphorism: Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader’s soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond.

In other words, he has no control over the effect of an aphorism, which largely depends upon the listener's ability to contain and kill it. I was thinking about this when imagining what a particularly cynical man of my acquaintance would think of these magnificent aphorisms, which is to say, how he would kill them in order to maintain the deadness of his soul.

In this regard, cynicism masquerades as a kind of humility when it is really a form of omniscience, an absolute faith in oneself to determine what is real and worthy of assent. The cynic bows before no one, and therefore bows before himself.

Which is not just a figure of speech, for again, in an irreducibly intersubjective world (which is actually trinitarian, more on which later), thinking is always a dialogue between two subjects. In the case of the cynic, the dialogue is between infantile omniscience and a kind of contemptible stupidity, gullibility, or trust.

This type of person cannot help encoding his message in contempt, which is the counter-transference we feel when reading, say, Paul Krugman or Richard Dawkins, or listening to Keith Olbermann or Rachel Madow. They think they are communicating ideas when they are really evacuating the unThinkable.

This verges on the featured sin in this valley of Hell, which is to say, hypocrisy. For what is hypocrisy but an absence of harmony between inside and outside, or appearance and reality? Hypocrisy is fine so long as we understand we are hypocrites, and that we will always fall short of the ideal. But the bad kind of hypocrite deals with his own shortcomings by unconsciously projecting them into others, and then attacking them.

Back to the action of the canto. Note that Dante even explicitly compares Virgil's great solicitude to that of a mother for her infant: My leader instantly laid hold of me, / Just as a mother, wakened by a noise / And seeing how the flames are near at hand, / Will snatch her child and run... / Having more care for him than for herself.

Having more care for him than for herself. Here again, this is intersubjectivity in action, the reality of a profoundly intimate connectedness which is prior to separation, especially for the infant -- both the external infant and the mother's internal infant, for the true source of the mother's empathy is a connection to her own internal frightened and distressed infant.

This is no different than any other kind of empathy, except that it is so deep as to be beyond words (infans means "incapable of speech"). It is more in the realm of gesture, facial expression (especially the eyes) and tone of voice (here again, the tone conveys much more than verbal communication; it is "music" to the infant's ears, and perhaps even the ultimate foundation of music appreciation).

Later Virgil takes more of a paternal role, Bearing me tenderly upon his breast, / More as his son than as a fellow traveler. This highlights the difference between maternal and paternal love, in that the latter is more "horizontal." Maternal love is more all-encompassing, like the background context of being itself. It can scarcely be thought about, for it is the ground of thinking.

In Hell, the hypocrites are loaded down with burdensome cloaks that are dazzling gold on the outside but heavy lead on the inside. Here we see brother Deepak paying for all that fool's gold he peddled to the credulous seekers up here.

As with the sadists and masochists, it is amazing how efficient the spiritual free market is in coordinating buyers and sellers of spirit, the omniscient mythofolkers and their contemptible crockseekers. Again, it is an interior relationship that is merely projected outward.

As Upton explains, the gold-plated and lead-poisoned hypocrites are "unlike the true spiritual Guide," because they "depend upon the projections of others in order to maintain their aura of sanctity." Like all illusions and illusionists, Deepak is just the sham total of what his dupes project into him.

This is in contrast to the true teacher -- oh, let's say, Don Colacho -- who knows that Authentic superiority is intolerable for the fool. Its simulacra, on the other hand, fascinate him.

Fascinate, from the Oxford Dictionary: ARCHAIC (esp. of a snake) deprive (a person or animal) of the ability to resist or escape the power of a look or gaze: the serpent fascinates its prey.

The road to hell is paved with good intent.

29 Comments:

Blogger debass said...

Rachele Maddow, Amy Goodman, Al Gore, etc. all have what I call the socialist smirk. When they are lying, which is most of the time, they can't help but show this little smile on their face, like they are telling a joke that only they know the punch line. It's funny to turn off the sound and watch them. Hilary Clinton is so blatant that she just bursts out laughing at the most inappropriate times.

3/07/2011 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Debass:

I was just thinking of you in the context of today's post. The other day I read of someone who said of the bass that it is the voice of my father in the body of my mother.

3/07/2011 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"I am speaking of the miracle of intersubjectivity, through which human beings are able to escape the boundaries of the skin and participate in the being of another."

That miracle and the comment about the priMary relationship being beyond description reminds me of this from Hemingway:

"When you first start writing stories in the first person if the stories are made so real that people believe them, the people reading them nearly always think the stories really happened to you. That is natural because while you were making them up you had to make them happen to the person who was telling them. If you do this successfully enough you make the person who is reading them believe that the things happened to him too. If you can do this you are beginning to get what you are trying for which is to make the story so real beyond any reality that it will become a part of the reader’s experience and a part of his memory. There must be things that he did not notice when he read the story or the novel which without his knowing it, enter into his memory and experience so that they are a part of his life."

3/07/2011 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, and there is also an "archeytpal readiness" that allows humans to enter transcendent realities through scripture.

3/07/2011 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader’s soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond.

Yes, I quite like that one.

Great post; it's all the more relevant reading it with an infant curled up by my heart :)

3/07/2011 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger debass said...

Bob-

That is an interesting and disturbing concept. Bass does play the father figure in a musical group with feminine subtlety, sensitivity and nuance. But the physical proximity of the bass would convey an Oedipal context to that idea. Just picture in your mind a bass player and bass, lying down. Creepy!
Don't give the Islamists any ideas. They will come in and measure the distance between me and my bass and then stone my bass.

3/07/2011 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

All the more reason to have a morally upright bass.

3/07/2011 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This type of person cannot help encoding his message in contempt, which is the counter-transference we feel when reading, say, Paul Krugman or Richard Dawkins, or"...Bob Godwin?

3/07/2011 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Creative Editing said...

"the bad kind of hypocrite deals with his own shortcomings by unconsciously projecting them {on to Deepak}.. and then attacking... {him}.

3/07/2011 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Old Fart said...

Above, we see the "Whoever smelt it, dealt it" argument intended to silence any critical judgement. A popular favorite amongst grade-schoolers, often deployed by those who want everyone else to just shut up about the embareassing miasma emitting from their own backsides. If nobody is allowed to speak for fear of being fingered as the smelly culprit, the real offender can continue covertly pulling his own finger in peace.

However, silence is acquiescence, and when the crop-duster lets out one odious squeaker too many, one must call him on his rude behavior, even at risk of being called flatulent oneself. After all, it is just as often the first person to priggishly proclaim, "whoever smelt it, dealt it" who is the true culprit.

Deepak - was that you?

Rock, pig, squeal...

3/07/2011 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We regret the injuries to Anonymous and Creative Editing, but Dialogue with the imbecile poses difficulties: we never know where we harm him, when we scandalize him, [or] how we please him (DC).

3/07/2011 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Old Fart said...

Asscuse me.

Anybody got a match?

3/07/2011 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Creative Editing said...

OK, let's be reasonable. Is this blog contemptuous of leftist figures?

Isn't it always so?

There is contempt here, heaping bowls of it.

How spiritually appropriate is that? Some, very, not?

Does the blog author have any shortcomings? Any defieciencies? Any areas where he is mistaken?

By his account no, no, and no.

The blog author finds dirt on others but never, and I mean never, on himself.

Is he perfect or is he perfectly defensive? You decide.

The miasma is being emitted all right, and in all directions.

This may be a rhetoric ploy but you other readers think about what has been said. It should make you go hmmmmmm.....

3/07/2011 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous DC said...

Whoever wants to know what the serious objections to Christianity are should ask us. The unbeliever makes only stupid objections.

3/07/2011 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The dimensions of the pool -- you can see by some reactions it is more like a tempest in a teacup.

3/07/2011 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Or a fart in a space suit.

3/07/2011 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger philmon said...

To put it in colloquial terms, we are always "giving off vibrations" in everything we say and do. And these vibrations are often the source -- or expression -- of great dysfunction.

Hopefully, they can also be the source of cool things as Brian Wilson's brilliant Pocket Symphony suggests :-)

Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader’s soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond.

Bob, I say this with sincerity, and I feel certain that it will not go to your head after what I have read from you -- but appreciatively I say, you help me expand the dimensions of my pond. Or I use you to help myself expand the dimensions of my pond. How ever you want to look at it.

I have (humbly) tried to act as a bit of a bodhisattva in some of adult life ... you are way ahead of me. But that's ok. I appreciate it.

There's always someone cooler than you, after all, and by "you" here, I mean "me". And today, that cooler person is you (and by that "you" I mean "you", not "me". Damn. My head hurts now).

Hey, we all need something to shoot for.

3/07/2011 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger philmon said...

debass

I had thankfully forgotten about Amy Goodman.

Thank you SO MUCH for re-introducing her abhorrent image into my brain. ;-)

There's a mind parasite that needs to be exorcised if I ever saw one.

3/07/2011 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger philmon said...

All the more reason to have a morally upright bass.

Several years ago I saw the late Charles Brown in concert. We sat above him in the balcony of The Blue Note (Columbia, MO). All we could see were his agile, long, ancient, bony fingers gracefully coaxing sweet sounds out of the ivory keys directly below us.

There was a young woman playing stand-up bass farther out on the stage. The way she gracefully danced with that thing was a thing of mesmerizing beauty... that moving image is burned indelibly into my brain.

3/07/2011 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger philmon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/07/2011 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

philmon, you've been to the Blue Note? It's not a bad venue. I used to live just south of Columbia, aka, Havana on the Hinkson.

3/07/2011 08:39:00 PM  
Anonymous son of a preacher man said...

Yes the female standup bass player is a mezmerizing sight.

3/07/2011 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

The bass is a very physical instrument. Mine is usually moral but sometimes sounds evil. That's why the slap bass technique was invented, although I feel bad afterward. We're going to counseling.
Sorry about the Amy Goodman reference, but she is particularly smirky. Actually, most of those leftist propagandists act that way, not realizing that they are the joke.

3/07/2011 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

Female bassists- I had Esperanza Spaulding more in mind. She won a grammy this year.

3/07/2011 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Sal said...

These last posts have been particularly pertinent while watching from her debunkers' site as a certain mommy blogger circles the drain, dragged down by lies and scams.

She, like Deepak, etc. found her complementary audience, who even today will defend her vehemently, even to the point of acknowleging that she's done the things she's accused of, but so what?

She's like the lab for the course work here.

Look forward everyday to some DC.

3/08/2011 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"he addressed this truth in an aphorism: Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader’s soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond.

In other words, he has no control over the effect of an aphorism, which largely depends upon the listener's ability to contain and kill it"

Very well put. What's also interesting about that is who your pond is seen as filled to, and who might find it empty... what waters spring up through your fountains?

Good call on the cynic too, they and their brother the skeptic, simply compete for who knows it all... more than the other. It's a fixed game of course... and they know it.

3/08/2011 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger philmon said...

Mushroom - yeah, I've been here since I came to college here in 1982. So I remember The Blue Note even when it was up on business loop and you had to watch out for splinters and probably the occasional nail that had backed out a bit.

I have seen many cool musical acts at The Blue Note over the years (most after I graduated and thus actually had money). But now that I think of it, it has been a few years since I've been there at all.

I guess I'm an old fart that doesn't get out much anymore. Well, to those kinds of things.

I have my stack of CDs and the enormous vinyl collection I ammassed while working at Whizz Records to keep me company. Plus a loving wife and a really adorable grandson.

Get offa my lawn!

Ok, that was directed at the Anonymous/Creative editing types.

Seriously, has anyone here ever, EVER gotten the impression that Bob's under the assumption that he's perfect or anything close to it?

It's been my observation that the people on this side of the conversation operate from the presumption that we are not, but we seek it because it is worthwhile, even though we know it is unattainable.

It's the ole Gospel according to St. Saulinsky, Chapter 4, verses 1-5:

"Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules." If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity's very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage."

The leftist, who holds standards in contempt, ultimately has none save the inflation of his own ego -- does not need to worry about living up to his own set of rules, for they change like the wind in springtime. Rules, after all, are just a construct of the patriarchal hegemonic heteronormative paradigm, and thus can be rejected authoritatively by the enlightened at will.

I thought "Old Fart"'s comment pegged it well.

3/08/2011 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"This type of person cannot help encoding his message in contempt, which is the counter-transference we feel when reading, say, Paul Krugman or Richard Dawkins, or listening to Keith Olbermann or Rachel Madow. They think they are communicating ideas when they are really evacuating the unThinkable."

They are the err bags who attract crashing n' burning...MR.I's wearin' a ton of knows(itall) rings.

3/09/2011 01:31:00 AM  
Blogger philmon said...

Dang!

Mushroom, just wanted to thank you for that link to Delilah DeWylde & the Lost Boys. I just checked out their two CD's, and that is some crunchy, tasty Texas Swing!

3/11/2011 07:32:00 AM  

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