Thursday, January 05, 2017

Remystify what You Have and Demystify what You Want

Not only do we want, but we want to want. Yes, that's a bit of a cliché, but let's see if we can scratch beneath the sophist.

I'm thinking in particular of collecting. Do you collect anything? For me it is music. I've been collecting since I was about 11 or so, but if I had kept everything I've collected since then, it would probably fill my house. This hasn't happened because I mainly patronize used record stores, and trade things I no longer want for the things I do. It's a never-ending process.

It seems that you can't Want what you already have, or at least in the same way. We need a different word for the relationship: wanting a CD I don't have is phenomenologically very different from wanting one I already have. Something is demystified the moment I have it. Or perhaps "wanting" the object imbues it with mystery. But once you have it, poof. Mystery solved -- if "solved" is the right word, which it isn't. Rather, the mystery is just displaced to a new object.

No doubt "womanizing" partakes of the same process. Some men go through supermodels the way I go through CDs.

Back when I was in graduate school and pondering dissertation topics, one idea that came to mind was The Remystification of the Mind. I see that my auto-spell quickly corrected me and insisted upon Demystification. I can see why: probably nothing demystifies as quickly as a computer, particularly one connected to the internet. With it, one needn't even take the time to cultivate a robust Want. Think about what's going on when you find yourself -- and you know you do -- mindlessly clicking from site to site, looking for... what, exactly?

"Much that passes for desire today is so ephemeral and evanescent that it must be acted upon posthaste before it dissipates or is replaced by yet another mimetic enticement. Such feeble desires are quickly recycled, each giving rise, phoenix-like, to yet another effervescent faux-desire" (Bailie).

Quick! Fulfill me before the sensation passes! What's the old line? Instant gratification is too slow, or something.

Our liberal unintelligentsia speak of "micro-aggression," which comes down to a perversely cultivated ability to discover victimhood in any context. But there really is something like "micro-desire," isn't there? At the far end of wanting to want, "the halfhearted impulses that pass for desire are likely to grow more fickle, more impatient, and more in need of external stimulants and pharmacological enhancements."

Soon enough, now! isn't fast enough, and micro-desire shades off into quantum desire. This has the effect of dismembering the human now, which is all we ever have in this life.

I'm not sure if we're succeeding in getting beneath the surface. So far, just a lot of pneumababble.

Another more subtle aspect of collecting is the creation of what I would call a "micro-world." It is as if the collection stands in for some completed dream-ideal. If you can just acquire that last missing piece, the world will be complete! Which of course it never is.

By the way, I don't want to imply that I still fall for such obvious tricks of the devil. Rather, I am very much aware of the phenomenology of it all, and see it as a way to indulge my futile desires in a low-cost way. It is not as if I am throwing my money away on Porsches or fine Italian shoes or supermodels or whatever.

It seems that Jesus tries to tackle this whole desiring business head on. We know that the Buddha did too, in his own way. Come to think of it, religion is in many ways a means for properly structuring and directing desire, isn't it?

Bailie notes that in Jesus' case, he famously claims that "Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Such a bold statement can only be made by someone who has long meditated on the nature of desire. What he's implying is that we don't actually want what we think we want, with the result that we can never get enough of what we don't really need. That is the endless cycle of desire, and he is offering a way out of it.

So many the Aphorist's truth grenades go to this.

But before getting to them, a thoughtlet just occurred to me vis-a-vis politics. What is the left but the ideology of wanting? Everything about it comes down to compelling the state to convert desires into rights and wishes into entitlements. Your wanting becomes the state's taking.

The act of despoiling an individual of his goods is called robbery, when another individual does the despoiling. And social justice, when an entire collective entity robs him.

A proper conservatism is a much tougher sell, because it revolves around who we are as a people rather than what we want. Just make America great again, and we'll take care of the rest. Indeed, America's greatness consisted in just that: a system through which we could actualize our latent potential and rise or fall based upon our own merits.

Having said that, beware: for The gods do not punish the pursuit of happiness but the ambition to forge it with our own hands. The only licit desire is for something gratuitous, for something that does not depend on us at all.

Oh really?

That's right: Desire thinks that it desires what it desires, but it only desires God.

Indeed, One single being can be enough for you. But Man can never be enough for you.

Nevertheless, Man does not feel free as long as his passions do not enslave him -- so long as he isn't lost in the evanescent satisfaction of fleeting micro-desires.

That is a perversion of our God-given freedom. What is its real purpose?

Freedom is not indispensable because man knows what he wants and who he is, but in order for him to know who he is and what he wants.

Perhaps we could summarize by saying that we should start by remystifying what we have and demystifying what we think we want.

Everything that makes man feel that mystery envelops him makes him more intelligent (all aphorism by Nicolás Gómez Dávila).

8 comments:

julie said...

It is as if the collection stands in for some completed dream-ideal. If you can just acquire that last missing piece, the world will be complete! Which of course it never is.

So much of modern pop culture, especially things for kids, is based on this mindset. Pokemon being the most recognizable version, but when it became clear just how wildly successful it was everything from toys to video games has since followed suit. Notably, even if a particular "collection" has a finite end, they always come out with the next series before the first could possibly be collected by any one person. It is virtually impossible to "catch 'em all," but there is always the illusion of a potential completion. Of course, if the collection were ever completed, well, then what?

Contrast, too, with a simple building set or board game that offers "endless possibilities." In that case, the having is the launch point for creativity, instead of the drive for simple possession.

julie said...

Bailie notes that in Jesus' case, he famously claims that "Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Yes, the woman at the well. The funny thing about that exchange is that what she imagined, when he offered her living water, is something very like a faucet in her house so she'd never have to go fetch water again (and of course we know that even had she been given that, it wouldn't have done a thing for her soul). An end to thirst itself didn't even occur to her.

Rick said...

I don't know why ya gotta pick on Jerry.
Jerry gets it.

https://youtu.be/c5JbEVaoNgQ

Gagdad Bob said...

You can can now "marry" yourself. Apparently not satire. Appropriate that Deepak was evoked at the ceremony.

julie said...

The ultimate onanism. She must have been a real picnic as a real wife, perhaps it's best for everyone if she takes herself off the market.

debass said...

As Mr. Spock said to Stonn "wanting is often better than having". Then the happy couple went off and were vulcanized.

Christina M said...

How do you mystify what you have and demystify what you want?

Christina M said...

How do you mystify what you have and demystify what you want?