Monday, March 09, 2015

Monsters and Crosses

Aristotle once cracked that "one does not know the content of a desire unless one knows what ultimately satisfies it" (in Taylor).

This comes very close to what we mean by idiom, for just as satisfaction of a desire teaches us what we had implicitly wanted, the "destiny drive" teaches us who we are by selecting (or by being mysteriously attracted to) objects, experiences, and relationships which "materialize elements latent to [the] personality" (Bollas).

Aristotle wrote of how, "through repeated encounters with the world," experience transforms the particulars of the senses into the universals "that come to rest in the soul." Philosophy itself "lies in a broad circle about the loose space of wonder," such that this primordial wonderlust is the beginning and end of our journey. Thus, philosophy "is what it is before it can be termed knowledge" per se.

By the same token, we could say that we are who we are even before we are anyone in particular. As Bollas writes, the discovery and articulation of our idiom -- the destiny drive -- is "dependent on the environment's sensitive presentation of objects for such use."

By "environment" he means the human environment -- in particular, the parents whose job it is to figure out who this mysterious little person is and what he wants. You can't give the child "just anything" -- or in other words, treat him anonymously -- unless you want to attenuate his destiny drive and make it more complicated for him to become who he is.

Or, parents can try to implant a false destiny, which is something I see a lot of these days. Living as I do on the white trash side of the border to some mega-affluent areas (e.g., Malibu), every child has been pre-selected to attend an elite university, so grades and homework and achievement are absurdly important even in elementary school -- as if the most important point of childhood isn't to freaking have one.

I can't recall it being this way when I was a kit. Nowadays there is such an absurd mystique associated with college, which one would think couldn't have survived the experience of having actually attended one of these graveyards of curiosity. In other words, one can imagine how my father, who had an 8th grade education (back when it meant something), might have been overawed by the prospect of Higher Education.

But most boomers attended college and then some. Do they really believe it "educated" them? Or that they obtained something there that cannot be obtained elsewhere for much less money? Please. Don't confuse the Destiny Drive with the Conspiracy. That's elementary.

This is interesting: Aristotle says that while knowledge of a thing "requires possession of it," "we are not in possession of a thing until we love it."

So, you might say that love is the thing -- or the Thing prior to the thing -- for he means the "delight and desire given to this initial act of knowing," all the way up to the last toppermost of the papamost act of knowing, i.e., the beatific vision, or contemplation of God.

Why indeed is there such a thing as "the pleasures of the mind?" Why this soul-delight?

Normally we think of the hedonist as someone who simply indulges the pleasures and passions of the body. I would suggest that so long as pleasure is confined to that cramped dimension, it is prima facie evidence of a failed destiny drive; or in other words, the drive has misfired, or is maybe compensating for what has been lost "above" by pursuing what is below.

It occurs to me that this is the opposite of how Freud characterizes it. For him, pursuit of the higher is simply a sublimation of lower drives. It is a defense mechanism, a pale substitute for what we really want, which is basically food, sex, and status among the primates.

Now, there was a time that I couldn't help believing that, or at least entertaining it. After all, I was in graduate school, learning psychology from the proper authorities. To paraphrase the famous bumpkin-sticker: Freud said it, I believe it, and that settles it. I don't want to oversimplify it, but nevertheless, not a single one of my professors spoke of the soul, or of God, or of the spiritual life.

I went through maybe six months in the "Freudian mode," so to speak. Looking back on it, I can't really say whether it was the cause or consequence of a depression, but depressing it was. How could it not be? Everything I have ever done or will do is just a self-deceiving transformation of primitive instincts?

I didn't intend for this post to get all personal, but perhaps it is instructive, for that depression speaks to a Destiny Drive Fail. Here I am, in the place I am supposed to be -- or where the Conspiracy wants me to be -- and I am not happy.

But you know the old line: more tears are shed over answered prayers. Which is another way of saying thank God for pain, which is ultimately another way of saying thank God for the Cross! I've been thinking about that last one for the past week or two... How to put it...

It started with an episode of the Journey Home on EWTN. The guest was talking about how when everything was going well for him in life, it tended to swell his narcissism and grandiosity, and thus alienate him from the Cross. Conversely, his "afflictions," so to speak, brought him back down to earth and closer to God.

I think something similar happens to me. Now, let's extrapolate this to an extreme case. Let's take someone who actually does succeed in becoming a Prince of this world. Would he not be a narcissistic monster? Is one of the salutary purposes of the Cross to prevent Monsters? Otherwise, why flash it before vampires and such? And why does the anti-Christian world produce so many monsters?

That was a short paragraph, but it strikes me as loaded with meaning, with things to chew on.

So chew on. It always takes me about six months to get used to Daylight Savings Time, so I slept late and now have to get ready for work...

22 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

I slept late and now have to get ready for work...

Ha - and here I was, just thinking the post was up almost two hours early today.

But you know the old line: more tears are shed over answered prayers. Which is another way of saying thank God for pain, which is ultimately another way of saying thank God for the Cross!.

Yes, so it goes. At least, for my part it's been true that the absolute worst points of life have generally been a launching point for something better. When life is pummeling you into a pulp, give thanks. Just don't ask for another...

3/09/2015 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Don Johnson said...

Let's take someone who actually does succeed in becoming a Prince of this world. Would he not be a narcissistic monster?

Ha. That was the subject around a table recently, counting the astounding number of fallen celebs, CEOs and sports idols we've known in our lifetime. We concluded that the few left that we care about carry the cross in one form or another - through their writing, poetry, music, business, deeds - often in one veiled form or another (or they'd be figuratively stoned to death in the New Culture) but in plain sight to those with eyes to see.

The Christian world has produced its full quota of monsters as well, and that's a tougher one for me to grasp. Narcissism taken to the next level perhaps, into predatory evil.

3/09/2015 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Aristotle once cracked that "one does not know the content of a desire unless one knows what ultimately satisfies it" (in Taylor)."

My boy is wicked smart.

3/09/2015 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"But most boomers attended college and then some. Do they really believe it "educated" them? Or that they obtained something there that cannot be obtained elsewhere for much less money? Please. Don't confuse the Destiny Drive with the Conspiracy. That's elementary."

"Will: See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you're gonna staht doin some thinkin on your own and you're gonna come up with the fact that there are two certaintees in life. One, don't do that. And Two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library..."

'Course that was before the Internet. Which is after librarians who could tell you which books were hooey. Now there's not much to rely on but your friendly neighborhood Raccoon, and your deustiny.

3/09/2015 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"I think something similar happens to me. Now, let's extrapolate this to an extreme case. Let's take someone who actually does succeed in becoming a Prince of this world. Would he not be a narcissistic monster? Is one of the salutary purposes of the Cross to prevent Monsters? Otherwise, why flash it before vampires and such? And why does the anti-Christian world produce so many monsters?

That was a short paragraph, but it strikes me as loaded with meaning, with things to chew on."

Indeed it is. One who thought of the things of this world as being the stuff of, the purpose of and meaning of, success, has to drive out what a truly successful life must be.

What is going to happen at that point? You embrace the void and become is prince, or try and remain 'successful' while trying to hide the failure of your destiny drive, ala Belushi, Elvis, etc., but to continue, wouldn't you have to completely go over to the dark side? I guess if I ever meet up with Michael Moore I'll ask.

3/09/2015 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Elvis is a good case. He was definitely a man who started out doing what he loved -- singing, and got seduced by something else.

3/09/2015 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

... that depression speaks to a Destiny Drive Fail

I have been to that intersection, and I know people who live on the corner.

3/09/2015 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Elvis said...

Heartbreak Hotel?

3/09/2015 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Ricky said...

No, Lonesome Town.

3/09/2015 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some get their heads wet, and do not allow the rest to follow up. Some get their feet wet, and worry about their hair. Some just go all in, mostly kids, and such.

Probably all connected. Maybe not nailing the landing, just making a splash. That is more fun than waiting for the rest of whatever to catch up.

One man's reasonable stigmata is just a belly splash.

Looks cool, leads to repetitions.
The Ones that do not come back regularly are not circling the drain. Probably just carried away. Or underwater swim club.

Funny how the world of your own making still requires drainage.

3/09/2015 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

When you're promoted or advanced, you often feel elated and inebriated with new possibilities. The constraints that held you back (financial, social, etc) are not there anymore, so you feel yourself in a larger sphere of action and choice. This is a heady position to be in, and it's easy to lose one's head. I've had it happen, and see it happen all the time.

The problem is that advancement (becoming a Prince of this world) blinds you to the fact that you're not really any different a person in the new context. Your old faults and insecurities are still with you. With an expanded capacity for exercise, they soon become even more evident. When they becomes evident, one's tendency is to create masks -- to cover over the intolerable feeling of being one's inescapable self.

Multiply the masks, rationalize their multiplication, and you become legion. You are a man now of division. Disordered inside, you create disorder. Instead of harmony, noise. And above all, you become consumed with the splintering and multiplying details of your self. Some people remain in this state their entire lives.

3/09/2015 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Or just say Obama.

3/09/2015 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Magister, I know a couple of people who have drunk deep of worldly success. Now they are reaping what they have sown, it seems with no safety net of faith to soften the fall. It is ugly to witness.

3/09/2015 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Magister said "...Multiply the masks, rationalize their multiplication, and you become legion. You are a man now of division. Disordered inside, you create disorder. Instead of harmony, noise. And above all, you become consumed with the splintering and multiplying details of your self..."

Well put. Or Pro-Regressive for short. Or Obama for shorter.

3/09/2015 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"This comes very close to what we mean by idiom, for just as satisfaction of a desire teaches us what we had implicitly wanted, the "destiny drive" teaches us who we are by selecting (or by being mysteriously attracted to) objects, experiences, and relationships which "materialize elements latent to (the) personality."

Certainly if we don't gno who we are we can't gno what we truly want.
And if we don't know what we want then it's jest desire run amok.

3/09/2015 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger Kurt said...

'For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.' 1 Corinthians 1:18

I always thought you could tell a lot about a man by how he treated dogs and children. Perhaps there is something similar with The Cross? And it has always struck me with wonder how when Christ seemed to be at His weakest, on The Cross, He was really at His strongest, saving all of us from destruction. The wonders of Grace...

3/09/2015 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

When one chooses fate in loo of their destiny they become consumers that are never satisfied or content with their lot, and thus become consumed by their irrational desires.
They attempt to fill the hole in their hearts with wanton want.
Which makes the hole bigger.

3/09/2015 04:13:00 PM  
OpenID serr8d said...

Let's take someone who actually does succeed in becoming a Prince of this world. Would he not be a narcissistic monster?

Temporarily a narcissistic monster. Nothing cures a small human's narcissism better than realizing that one has an ultimate, unavoidable, relentless date with the most animal of fates. It's gonna be worse for those who haven't recognized their own souls.

Well, changing out that overfilled litterbox frequently strengthens one's humility, lessening narcissism. Or so I've heard.. )

3/09/2015 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi serr8d! Good to see ya!

3/10/2015 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

"For [Freud], pursuit of the higher is simply a sublimation of lower drives. It is a defense mechanism, a pale substitute for what we really want, which is basically food, sex, and status among the primates."

Spoken like a man looking backwards at mid-life.

3/10/2015 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Ben, how are you doing?

3/10/2015 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Magister,
I am doing okay (except for eating too much watermelon...egads!) how are you?

3/10/2015 10:37:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home