Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Stuck Outside o' Destiny with the Fated Blues Again

Philo-sophy: love of wisdom. For Voegelin, this word pretty much says it all.

On a number of occasions -- ten occasions, to be exact -- we have discussed Christopher Bollas' conception of the "erotics of being," which covers some of the same territory.

For Bollas, one of the central purposes of life is to discover one's unique idiom, which you might say is the "signature" of the true self, each manifestivus different from the restivus, at least in potential. Whether this difference will make a difference -- i.e., become manifest -- depends upon the course of one's life (recall what we said the other day about the time and space aspects of the self):

"human idiom is that peculiarity of person(ality) that finds its own being through the particular selection and use of the object. In this sense, to be and to appropriate are one."

As I wrote back in 2008, idiom "is not limited to language, music, painting, etc., but can be anything through which we express our true self. For some people, their life itself is the idiom of expression, even if they leave no recorded traces of it. Parenting might be an example of this. My son has become an idiom for my self-expression in ways I had scarcely -- or only -- imagined. No him, no me!"

And it obviously works both ways: "Bollas speaks of his own child, and I am sure most of you parents out there will fully relate: 'What struck me was how he was who he is from scratch. He seemed to be in possession of his own personality, his very own unique configuration in being (what I term an idiom) that has never really changed in itself.'"

Boy, is that ever true. My son's personality is so strong, it is depressing to think of what might have happened if he had been in an environment in which he could not find -- i.e., his parents could not provide -- the objects (i.e., interpersonal relationships) he needs to express and contain it. Just the other day I saw a patient who was in the process of terribly deforming her five year old son, to the extent that he was already on psychotropic medication, when the real issue was obviously his environment (e.g., ten or twelve hours of daycare, disinterested father, poor early attachment, etc.).

More generally, I often wonder at the extent to which my own self would have found a way to discover its idiom irrespective of outward circumstances, vs. how much of it was pure happynstance. What I mean is that we can all look at the people and things that have become central to our identity, but which seem to have come into our life by sheer accident. Here is where an element of faith intrudes, and there is no way to resolve the question empirically.

However, I suspect that the process works in ways we do not understand, and that some things do indeed "happen for a reason," so to speak (I only place that phrase in scare quotes because of the way it tends to be vulgarized by the masses).

It very much reminds me of what Magnus said the other day in a comment, about praying and then patiently awaiting the answer in whatever form it comes. For example, if I look at my life from a certain angle, I can see that in a startling way, it contains everything I have ever prayed for in the deepest sense. And I suppose this could be reduced to love, truth, and beauty.

To continue: "you might say that the true self is a preconceptual logos, or nonlocal clueprint, that must discover those objects it requires in order to elaborate itself and 'live.' In this regard, Bollas says that the self's idiom is 'akin to a kind of personality speech, in which the lexical elements are not word signifiers but factors of personality.'

"There is no real being in the absence of this articulation of one's idiom, only a kind of paradoxical 'negative being,' i.e., (ø), which is very close to the patent nonsense of e-I-e-I-ø.

"When you cannot articulate your idiom, your life will feel somewhat like a prison, whatever the outward circumstances. For example, many feminists choose to live in this deformed manner, because it is less painful for them to imagine that the bars of their prison are outside their minds."

"Liberty and property are keys to the articulation of the self: "without private property, how can the self secure what it needs to speak its idiom? If those things are determined by the state, or by political correctness, or by the heavy hand of custom, or by scientistic fairy tales, the self is sharply constrained in its ability to find its real idiom.

"You could also say that when you fail to find your idiom, you will feel as if you are haunted by a kind of fate that blankets your life, and from which you cannot escape."

You know, this is kind of interesting. Plus I have very little time this morning. I think I'll just pluck some additional passages from the ten posts linked above, and try to connect them to what Voegelin is saying about how our lives are spent in the In Between space, and that within this space we must orient ourselves to the ground of being.

I'm still thinking of that poor kid mentioned above. It looks to me that some day he's going to end up a mental patient (after all, he already is) or a criminal (which he also already is, in a sense, in that he is inappropriately aggressive). If this happens, this would be an example of fate overtaking destiny. How many of these people become angry liberals in search of the Lost Entitlement? Others will get into therapy and gain some insight:

"A patient comes into therapy because they are bogged down by their fate. Something happened early in life that foreclosed their destiny, and now they don't know how to find it, because it is buried beneath so much life history, forced choices, defensive adaptations, etc. But the true self is still there, seeking a way to express itself and to be. This innate urge to articulate the true self is what Bollas calls the destiny drive. The therapist's job is to serve as a mediator, or midwife, in the birth of this latent self.

Now, what is this true self, phenomenologically speaking? I would suggest that it is "aliveness" itself, only transposed to the key of mind, or of subjectivity. Although difficult to define, one can see it as a kind of red thread that runs through one's life. You definitely know when it has been touched, and it is obviously critical to pay attention to these sometimes subtle moments of contact, in order to "find your way" in the world

The odd thing is that the true self is obviously a form of "knowledge" -- "patterned information," so to speak -- but it is more in terms of inclinations to "perceive, organize, remember, and use" the world in a certain way. When there is a good fit between idiom and world, it brings with it a very specific form of "joy," which Bollas has elsewhere called "the erotics of being."

For example, the joy some people apparently find in this blog is simply a case of discovering your idiom mirrored to you in a satisfying way, so that you become aware of your own true self. One can only wonder why our trolls are addicted to a foreign idiom that can bring them no joy or peace. I suppose the inane comments bring some sort of perverse satisfaction, or (-J).

We not only require people to help articulate our idiom, but material objects, books, films, music, hobbies. As Bollas says, we could conduct a kind of "person anthropology" by paying attention to the objects chosen by this or that person. I know that this blog is as unique as my fingerprint, in that it represents the fruit of my own peculiar selection of objects and subjects for the articulation of my being.

According to Bollas, only in modern times do we begin to see an increasing distinction between the terms destiny and fate, so that destiny begins to take on more positive connotations -- the idea that "one can fulfill one's destiny if one is fortunate, if one is determined, if one is aggressive enough."

The whole idea of destiny could only take root once people gained a degree of economic and cultural freedom, and were "able to take some control of their lives and chart their future." One can well understand why America is the land of the "true self," at least for conservatives, whereas liberal victimology represents the perverse erotics of fate.

Don't think for one moment that people don't take perverse and sadistic pleasure in their victim status, for it is oddly empowering to participate in the subjugation of oneself. In psychoanalysis it's called "identification with the aggressor." The latter is the stock-in-tirade of fatemongers such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the left in general.

A sense of fatedness results from being "pushed around" by the past instead of "lured" by the future. The more one is fated -- in particular, by mind parasites -- the less one can manifest one's destiny. (I am sure it would be fruitful to meditate on the implications of this as they pertain to the idea of predestination, which can either be enslaving or liberating, depending upon how it is understood.)

Now, when a patient comes in for treatment, it is again often because they are a victim of Fate, or the Curse of the Mind Parasites: "The person who is ill and comes to analysis either because of neurotic symptoms, or characterological fissures, or psychotic ideas and pains, can be described as a fated person. That is, he is suffering from something which he can specify and which has a certain power in his life to seriously interfere with his capacity to work, find pleasure, or form intimate relationships."

Bollas says that "we can use the idea of fate to describe the sense a person may have, determined by a life history, that his true self has not been met and facilitated into lived experience. A person who feels fated is already someone who has not experienced reality as conducive to the fulfillment of his inner idiom."

Or as Dylan sang, Your debutante just knows what you need / But I know what you want.

Well, this didn't go as planned. Gotta run!


mushroom said...

Well, this didn't go as planned. Gotta run!

I'm putting that on my tombstone.

Joan of Argghh! said...

No wonder the Left wants to "imagine no possessions." I've instinctively been repulsed by the ideas of the Left on just this point. (Plus, they don't mean it for themselves, just for me and you.)

Boil down a Leftist idea and you'll still get the same tired old soup-bone of envy: Be the same, think the same, don't excel, don't stand out, who are you to think you're better than me, my reality, my game? And when they tire of gnawing that one they resort to "we're all special snowflakes" as a cream-puff palate cleanser.

The insinuation that we're unworthy of property or self-possession, carries with it the adjunct idea that seamless sameness is safer for everyone.

Well yes. Safer for those who would rule over us.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Whatever happened to the popular self-help books about boundaries, anyway?

But I do like the idea of, once having established that it's okay to have a self, for myself, that I really should seek to fill the borders of my Self with something about myself.

julie said...

Mushroom - lol

To the post, the fate of the little boy reminds me of a texted conversation I was having with my brother the other day. Seems I missed out on some family drama (one advantage to living all the way across the country), where my dad's mind parasites came out to play in what sounds like an excruciating scene for everyone who was there. My brother worries that he might be like that some day. I told him there's no need to worry; to be like my dad, my brother would have had to endure a childhood filled with traumas we can barely imagine.

mushroom said...

I wish they had added "property" to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" -- but the Founders probably thought it redundant.

The vast majority of us are not going to paint pictures, write poems, or carve sculptures, so how do we express our idiom? In the things we acquire, invest in and value -- our "prized" possessions, the things we point to when people come to visit us to say, "This is who I am."

I might show you the Enterprise, the old Mossberg, and Geraldine, but I'm for sure going to show you pictures of my family, past and present. My dad would have taken you out to see his hounds and horses. My wife will want to show you her garden.

John Lien said...

Excellent post, Bob.

I'm glad you mentioned Magnus' comment on about praying and then patiently awaiting the answer.

When I read that I said to myself that was an idea worth taking to heart. (Didn't comment cuz it was Monday when I read it.)

Mush, LOL!

Thanks to all y'all.

River Cocytus said...

Trouble with mass culture is that customized shrink wrapped consumables - mere preference - does not express the idiom of the person. Our culture of 'me' is the culture of the mask, or the 'heinous facade' as one guy put it. It's narcissism writ large, and because of this, it becomes hard to distinguish the legitimacy of the personal idiom from the egotism of this age. One key thing to me always is the physical environment - how many times you can see how similar (yet different) these environments are. They're all a mess, forget the flashy car, the implants, the big house, the cool photos on Facebook - or they're all filled with Chinese-made shrink wrap products carefully placed to fit the bill.

Not to say there's not a good kind of mess, but old soda cans, chip bags, magazines and papers are not the sort of mess I'd call unique.

Anna said...

River Cocytus said... "...personal idiom from the egotism of this age."

Ego and id... Just noticed that.

Bob said...

thanks for another post chalked full of wisdom, not to mention tombstone ideas! Linked here:

Unknown said...

Quote I ran across today: “The conquests of scientific research and its ever-expanding field wake in us the hope that microbes, the soul’s as well as the body’s, will gradually be exterminated…” -- Alfred Nobel

Mind parasites!

(just thought you'd enjoy...)

Anna said...

Ha! Good find.

Van Harvey said...

"Philo-sophy: love of wisdom. For Voegelin, this word pretty much says it all."

Something I find a sheer wonder... people who snicker and sniff at the idea of philo-sophy, and then, often in the same breath, complain about their lives... you know, the lives they laughed at the idea of wisdom being important to.

It's an all season wonder land.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"A sense of fatedness results from being "pushed around" by the past instead of "lured" by the future. The more one is fated -- in particular, by mind parasites -- the less one can manifest one's destiny."

Hi Bob!
Can a sense of fatedness also result from the present in the form of, say, someone elses mind parasites and one's own combined?

In any sense they are pushy little cusses, ain't they?

Mushroom, that is hilarious! Ha ha!