Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Proper Use of Sick Time

We left off, more or less, with Berdyaev's diagnosis of, and prognosis for, our timeboundedness: that time recovered from its illness is eternity.

What illness? Well, all the ills for which time is notorious: decay, disease, disintegration, death... and that's just the D's. So, if you've come down with a bad case of Time, there's still hope for you. You've got a good prognosis -- a very good one -- if you take the cure.

I don't know if "cure" is the right word, since time is more akin to diabetes: it is something you manage but don't get rid of. In fact, if you don't manage it, it will manage you. But not for long.

In fact, Bion had the same complaint about mental illness: that the whole concept of "cure" is an analogy borrowed from the realm of physical medicine, and is wholly inappropriate when applied to the mind. He speaks of "the extent to which ideas of cure, based on a background of sensuous experience and the pleasure principle, pervaded not only psychoanalysis but the whole domain of mental or spiritual life."

It is as if we have the implicit belief that "There is pain. It should be removed. Someone must remove it forthwith, preferably by magic or omnipotence or omniscience, and at once; failing that, by science."

In short, "The 'desire' for cure" is "not to be entertained by a psychoanalyst." Likewise, "the idea of 'results' should be similarly suspect because it derives from an attitude, common to physical scientists whose experience is related to sensuous impressions.... We should be amongst the first to have realized the inadequacy of models in which results occupy a prominent place."

Thus, although religion results in more happiness, better mental and physical health, a longer life, and a more satisfactory sex life, this is not why one should be religious. Rather, one should be religious because it is a beautiful and fuller way to live, here and now, for its own sake. One should be religious because one loves being so. One should be "in love," not in negotiations.

Speaking of which, remember the epic Jerry Lee Lewis box set I spoke of a couple weeks ago? There is a funny story in it about how Jerry Lee prayed that his mother be spared from cancer. If God cured her, then he would quit the devil's music and "use his talent in the service of the Lord."

Sure enough, "When Mamie went into remission, Jerry felt obliged to fulfill his half of the covenant," so he began recording gospel music (which is great, by the way; despite his worldly ways, he was always a fervent believer).

But then Mamie died, and that was the end of that: no deal. Jerry Lee had held up his end of the bargain. God had reneged. Back to the boogie woogie.

So, that's what can happen if we confuse cure with treatment, or if we pursue the spiritual life for narrow reasons of self-interest. When we hear the cliche about ridding ourselves of "ego," this is what it means, at least in a western context: not eliminating the self, but purifying it.

Likewise, to return to the main subject, there ain't no cure for time, but there is treatment. For example, creativity: "All creative activity, all creation of something new, should be directed not toward the future with its fear and worry and its incapacity to conquer determinism, but toward eternity" (Berdyaev).

Alert or obsessive readers will recall that this very principle was embedded in the Mission Statement of the One Cosmos blog, pronounced in October 2005. You can can't look it up, because I've since deleted it and republished it in a later post. I will append some of it to the end of this post, so as to not break up the "continuity" of this one.

Back to pointless creativity as a treatment for time: "This is the reverse of movement to hasten time." In the Church of the Subgenius, it is known as "time dilation." For Berdyaev, "it differs from the speeding up of time" associated with a modern technical society, and provides us with a kind of daily "victory of the spirit."

If you are a clock jockey living in the kingdom of quantitative duration, you're pretty much screwed. "We are witnessing a mad speeding-up of time," so "man's life is subject to this constantly swifter time. Each moment lacks value and completeness in itself, we cannot stop it, it must be succeeded as quickly as possible by the next moment....

"The 'I' has no time to think of itself as the free creator of the future." Rather, "it is carried away by the mad current of time." This temporal acceleration is "destructive for the 'I,' for its unity and concentration...." (Berdyaev).

As we were saying above about the proper pointlessness of religion, the "moment of contemplation" is not "a means to the next moment" but "communion with eternity."

Christianity intensified time extraordinarily, narrowed it to one point, from which the results of every act are extended through all eternity.... This intensification of time indicates the possibility within a moment of time, of passing out toward eternity, toward events with eternal, and not merely temporal, meaning. --Berdyaev


From that first post, which emphasizes that the blog is an endless exercise in discovering its own purpose:

Q: We don't need another blog. Why are you inflicting your beastly opinions on us?

A: To those of you who are new to this site, join the club, as I am still in the process of trying to understand the author's intention. For surely there are already far too many books and blogs, with no way any human being could ever assimilate the information contained therein. Actually, the problem we face is how to relate all of this fragmented and sometimes contradictory knowledge into a coherent picture of our world -- to move from mere knowledge, to understanding, to truth and to wisdom.

2,500 posts later, there's no longer any need to try to understand the author's intention. It's too late for that, and he doesn't know anyway. Now the question is, What was that all about, then?, and that's for you to decide.

.... If you can detach yourself somewhat and try to "hover" above it, the news of the day may be regarded as the free associations of a very troubled patient called Homo sapiens. This patient, now about 40,000 years old (before that we were genetically Homo sapiens but not especially human), has many sub-personalities of varying levels of emotional maturity, and one of his problems is that these different aspects of his personality are constantly at war with one another, which tends to drag down the more mature parts.

You could almost go so far as to say that this collective patient suffers from the kind of severe splitting and "acting out" characteristic of Multiple Personality Disorder. One of our axioms is that geographical space reflects psycho-developmental time, so that different nations and cultures embody different levels of psychological maturity. In this regard, the Islamic world bottoms out the scale at the moment.

More broadly, what I hope to facilitate is an appreciation of the "vertical" dimension of human history, culture and politics. For example, historians typically view history in a horizontal manner, leading from past, to present, to future. Likewise, we divide our political mindscape in a horizontal fashion, from left to right. However, as in a great novel or film, the "horizontal" plot is merely a device to express the artist's greater intention (the theme), which can only be found in a vertical realm, by standing "above" the plot.

I don't think it's healthy to orient your life around politics 24/7, as does the secular left, for whom politics is their substitute religion. Politics must aim at something that isn't politics, otherwise, what's the point? Politics just becomes a cognitive system to articulate your existential unhappiness. Again, this is what leftists do -- everything for them is politicized.

.... One of the general purposes of this blog will be to try to look at politics in a new way -- to place the day-to-day struggle of politics in a much wider historical, evolutionary, and even cosmic context. History is trying to get somewhere, and it is our job to help it get there. However, that "somewhere" does not lie within the horizontal field of politics, but beyond it. Thus, politics must not only be grounded in something that isn't politics, but aim at something that isn't politics either.

.... Tip O’Neill is evidently responsible for the cliché that “All politics is local.” The greater truth is that all politics is nonlocal, meaning that outward political organization rests on a more fundamental, “inner” ground that interacts with a hierarchy of perennial and timeless values. Arguments about the surface structure of mundane political organization really have to do with whose nonlocal values will prevail, and the local system that will be established in order to achieve those nonlocal values.


neal said...

Of course, if there really is a damned War, then the natural management of the local and the non local would sequester eternity from causalty, sort of. Myth becomes cyclic, the spatial becomes entropic. I guess the snake will not eat itself, if you were not from these parts, neutrality would be like home. Worship used to be steady state, now stutters, rough around the edges.

An unstable event horizon processes free will. Orbits the place where and when memory does not have to be relevant to be born.

mushroom said...

...which is great, by the way; despite his worldly ways, he was always a fervent believer

I have a couple of pastor friends that, like Jerry Lee, went to Southwest Assemblies of God College down in Waxahachie, TX. The older one is nearly the same age as Lewis and was at college the year after his departure. The story I heard from him was that JLL was playing piano during a Holy Ghost worship song when he stood up, kicked the piano stool off the platform, and cut loose. They had his bags packed for him when he returned to the dorm.

I think that might have been a mistake on the part of the SWAGC administration.

Rick said...

"...this is not why one should be religious..."

Reminds of a joke(TM) from the TV show Taxi:

Latka: I want to be famous. Like the Famous Amos. But not for the reasons everyone else does...

Alex Reiger: You mean, not for all the money, fast cars and beautiful women?

Latka: well maybe I do want it for all the same reasons..

Rick said...

"There is a funny story in it about how Jerry Lee prayed that his mother be spared from cancer. If God cured her, then he would quit the devil's music and "use his talent in the service of the Lord."

How far is this from praying for, say, harm to come to someone? So it is possible to pray and sin at the same time. Are "wish" and "pray" so different?

mushroom said...

I tend to think of a wish as being "undirected". The power of prayer is in to whom it is directed. When Moses put the bronze serpent on the pole (Numbers 21:8-9), all the person who was bitten had to do was look toward the snake. It didn't matter if his vision was 20/20 or if he was way out on the edge of the camp and the snake was just a speck. He would be healed because he looked the right way.

Rick said...

Well, I know that of all my favorite cosmic mistakes, the biggest was thinking I was alone, when I was alone.
In other words, who was I thinking with when I was doing all that thinking.

Rick said...

From Mush's post today:

"When we meditate upon Scripture, we are washing our thoughts in light.."

Now that's a beautiful thought...

ge said...

"...That about slams the lid on things for another night. And so, until tomorrow at this same time, remember: your influence counts. eee-YOOOZE IT! [Get Khadaffi!]
RIP Bob Grant the little guy with the biggest peanuts, the father of Conservative Talk