Backing out from a wall
Gratuitous fears fall
Like a clearing
Heidegger’d be proud
Words now spoken out loud
Backing out from a wall
Gratuitous fears fall
Like a clearing
Heidegger’d be proud
Words now spoken out loud
I would never have pegged myself for the self-indulgent. But there you have it: I am. Not self-centred or selfish, mind you. In fact, on Aristotle’s scale I’d come out on the excessively self-sacrificing and accommodating side, and we all know those are vices that tamper with your well-being. But today I shall leave Aristotle at the door. Sorry dude! Today’s lesson kids (hehehehe) is about the desire to be understood. You’d think it a noncontroversial desire, right? For anyone whose composure isn’t being threatened by your all-too-innocent – angelic? saintly? (hehehehe) – insistence, sure! And there you are following him around from room to room to make your point, and as you do, his steps accelerate – I never knew he could walk so damn fast! – and eventually running out of places to go, the same rooms are visited …ad infinitum…. Okay so we did eventually get off the merry-go-round but even then the house still felt as if it were spinning. Funny how I never even noticed he was silent in all of this! WHAT?! Well, he was there, right? It’s not like he said: Shut up, lay off, leave me alone, go away, take your little spinning top and vamos!!!! Secretly I knew he knew I was right! (I know he did!!! 🙂 )and his silent “presence” seemed to confirm it to my little mind! ELEOS, Pirocacos, moutzes afthones! But not everyone wants their “world” shattered by the truth, and so however important understanding is, it is not….yes, Pirocacos…NOT….everyone’s priority. Truth does not always trump composure. Truth does not always take a front seat to serenity. Truth is not always his truth. (Notice mine is capitalized…NO, I’m not self-indulgent at all, and I take offence at the suggestion!) And so that cute, adorable, feisty, little spinning top looks slightly more like a dog chasing its own tail! Nuts, right!!!? The truth is (OMG, still I seek understanding from my anonymous audience…there is just no salvation for this woman!) …what was I saying? Oh ya, the truth is that “the truth” is never really an isolated state of affairs, and so stuck within the confines of one’s own comportment is not only illusory and self-indulgent, but it’s never quite experienced as truth until it is understood by your dialogical counterpart. So cut her some slack, people!
The calamity of life is boredom. Kierkegaard said so. His linguistic elocutions had better gait, of course, but his point was the same. As he too warns, idleness is not boredom. Inertia is different. It is kinda like passive aggression, it never quite poses for itself. Newton’s Law of Inertia basically speaks to the “inability of a physical body to change from a state of rest or of uniform motion, unless it is acted upon by an external force”. But it was Dostoevsky that understood the existential crisis brought on by this state. Inertia figures in Dostoevsky’s work Krotkaja (“The Gentle One” or sometimes translated “The Meek One”) where the running theme tragically narrated concerns a context, indeed that human-made context, of human understanding which is a coolly, mechanistic world determinate of laws of causation. Here then, inertia is not properly understood as actual inactivity, but activity determinant of a causal network of relations which are taken to define human activity. Much in the same way that objects are subject to laws of nature that determine motion, humankind self-identifies – well not consciously, people!!!!! – as a well greased machine, well at least when performative capacity is optimal. The suggestion is that the laws of nature in the physical world operate in precisely the same way with regards to humanity. Though the threat of determinism is imminent, suppose that this could be surpassed, it leaves free will at the mercy of a modus operandi that seeks out those governing laws of human nature according to which, or for which, any judgement should properly comply. Of course, the point would be that agency is tied up with goals, and the means by which these are fulfilled reflect the modus operandi.
The lucky ones – or maybe not so damn lucky!!! – discover this inertia that has seeped in and corroded all that is human, and despairing look to break out of their mundane. Don’t be fooled, the mundane is actively ( 😉 ) at work in the most sprightly, successful, and assertive lives! Was not the lives of the Greeks – Aristotle (though I will argue in my upcoming book that there is room here to manoeuvre) and notably the Stoics – aimed at virtue-building in accordance with nature, whereby one could learn to address all of those contaminates of the proper ordering of human activity, and live an active, prosperous, fulfilling life? The natural forces do not bend under the human will, mind you, rather it is the human will that learns to adapt and bend to the governing Will of the universe. As a result one would not futilely suffer over the events of one’s life but rather learn to live in accordance with them. As Epictetus famously says: Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.
At what cost Dostoevsky? At what COST! The shrilling sounds vibrate in my mind and arrest my feet. I stand motionless, I am inertia! A double paradox presents. Once there, there seems no where to go, and hence the overwhelming, indeed fossilizing, experienced as angst. Recovery finds its way in the 2nd paradoxical state as vexed resistance: resistance to change.
Zen is not an option. Serenity, αταραξία, is a self-annihilating state. But subliminal peace is too potent to resist and so back to the running wheel disguised as a road spanning over the vast and unyielding beauty of nature. Resist and condemn yourself. Yield and loose yourself. Troubled are the waters not for the Phelpses (Micheal Phelps was a US Olympic decorated swimmer) of the world, but the circus clown! 🙂
More often than not people profess that one should not regret anything one has done because, after all, it got me to where I am now. And strangely even when ‘where one is now’ ain’t so great, bizarrely one draws inspiration from the idea that I would not be who I am were it not for everything that preceded, and I guess not profoundly embracing this notion is blasphemous dribble suggestive of self-annihilation. I don’t agree. I’m so totally with Kathryn.
Do you honestly believe that Biban Janković does not regret slamming his head against the goal post (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boban_Jankovi%C4%87) that caused his paralysis and premature death? What if the late Jyoti Singh (see India’s Daughter) could turn back the clock and not enter the bus from hell? Would she not have chosen to? You can be sure that Stanley Tookie Williams ((http://www.biography.com/people/stanley-tookie-williams-476676) regrets his delinquent ways! Indeed, it was his regret that moved him to change his ways, and though from a prison cell, inspire young hooligans on the fast track to a life of crime, to learn from his mistakes! Regret implies agency – Kathryn is right about this, no? We cannot regret what we cannot change. I can’t regret being born into a world bent on (still lingering) patriarchal sentiments, any more than I can regret the vicious tragedy that befell the lovely Jyoti Singh. These events were not within my power to effect. But this is not the same as decisions made under my watch, as I surveyed my life. The premise is fallaciously employed retroactively to suggest that because I cannot change the past, and therefore have no control over altering events already transpired, that regret is a futile occupation. Of course, I did have agential authority over events that, despite the initial suggestion, one quite naturally evokes a sense of regret for (“Damn I wish I hadn’t eaten that 2nd piece of cake!” or “Shit, I wish I hadn’t betrayed my wife and pissed my family away!”) which is obviously not the case with regards to those events over which I never had (or could have had) such authority over. Still, many might argue that what is done is done. The past cannot be undone. I cannot claim (or be assigned) agential authority over that. True enough. Except for one thing. Regret is an emotionally charged response to a situation which is perceived to have been under one’s control to effect. This is why often cries of self-admonition – “I wish I hadn’t!!!!”- can be heard over and over again. Sometimes regrets linger and are replayed ad nauseam as one wrestles with the emotional overtures of events one could (often easily) have altered….but didn’t. Regret does not reflect one’s impotency to change the past, but one’s weakness, ignorance, idiocy, delusion, to have acted in a way that one now understands to have been under (or could have been) one’s control to do otherwise. That’s why I don’t regret what is perceived to have been beyond my control to act otherwise (eg. under coercive threat).
And we do actually believe this. Regret is the moral backdrop (perhaps) of all organized human life where moral culpability plays a fundamental role in the assignment of blame and incurring punishments and penalties. We don’t send sociopaths to jail because they are deemed ill-fit and devoid of the moral sentiments from which a sense of moral culpability is drawn. The point is twofold: (i) Iff one is sound in mind, is one assigned moral culpability (eg. mentally challenged, temporary insanity, psychoses, etc.) ; and (ii) only in cases such as these does one recognize in oneself acts of wrong doing and the ensuing predictable (and I dare say, expected) feeling of regret! The corollary of this view is that such individuals (especially those suffering from psychoses) are beyond rehabilitation because they are beyond redemption. Herein lies the crux of the matter: regret charges one with both the responsibility and motivation to alter one’s ways. It says, in effect, I could have acted differently, if only I had known x, believed y, was willing to see or accept z, and/or had the courage to act accordingly. With foresight in my grasp, I can now tend to these shortcomings in self, and begin my journey towards my own transvaluation of values (well not quite as Nietzsche might have hoped, but perhaps Derek Vineyard’s existential plight in American History X offers some insight – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsPW6Fj3BUI) and the negotiation of self (so very unlike that more convenient idea with which this blog began where one embraces who one is just because this is how I happened to turn out!!! 🙂 ) more authentically and viscerally realized. It is as Kathryn says, regret only means that I acknowledge in myself the power to be better, the emotional stability to accept my fragility, and the desire to change and make past wrongs right.
Regret at will, I say! It is the healthy choice. And make no mistake, this too is a choice! 🙂
A parable exhaustively announced as if something novel and true. Yes, yes, unless you believe in the transmigration of the soul whereby identity remains in tact (I don’t know about you, but if I’m somehow assured an afterlife with a prelife I have no knowledge of, sign me up for cremation!) you only live once. Got it. Mostly people advocate (insert long heavy sigh) “you only live once” to make a point about doing their utmost to live this one life. It is one of those thoughtless motivational ploys to get people off their asses and really live! I get that. I do. But really? Is anyone ever really moved to live life to the fullest beyond a somewhat transient, flippant, arms flying in the air, “take me now’ mode of being when making such banal pronouncements? There is as much oomph, as much gumption in these words as there is in the goo goo ga ga of mothers’ first words to their (presumed idiot) offspring!
This does more to obfuscate than illumine insights into the human condition. Only the obtuse would enjoin the thoughtlessness that accompanies this prescriptive journey. The reflectiveness of the conscious, or perhaps as Sartre rightly suggests, self-conscious, more brightly sways placating anxieties to turn their wavering heads from indulgences – even those requiring some configured determination, usually of the more physical variety – to festering inner struggles wherein the Subjective looms. Living life to the fullest is not something one simply does, it is an orientation of life that is unsettling as much as it is motivating, disturbing as much as it is enlightening, defeating as much as it is empowering, painful as much as it is moving, crippling as much as it is igniting. It is not a simple task, a monochromatic way of being. It is polychromatic, strangely infused with a cacophony with harmonic hues, which fall deaf on unassuming ears. Being-towards-death is a nonrelational, hence intimately subjective, if lonely, experience, and most importantly it cannot be outstripped, for death is the “possibility of impossibility”. Do the work, if you’re going to make the talk!
Fragile Me is not clinically depressed, nor is she unhappy. Fragile Me discovers the alienating and self-annihilating experience of addressing oneself as a kind. Whenever one speaks to how anything is, one immediately speaks in terms of kinds. Elly is munificent describes Elly as the type of person that exhibits munificence; so if I wanted to know what kind of person she is, I could get a sense (since this is only a contingent claim…though, some have argued that it is a necessary one! 😉 ) of this, knowing what it is to be munificent. This is unavoidable. To evade such utterances is to end up saying nothing at all! (A case in point is the philosophy of Parmenides who deduced Esti as the only truth-preserving utterance, of which nothing can be said.) That won’t do, of course. Why is this self-annihilating and how can it be avoided?
It is self-annihilating because it asks that I turn in unto self (Sartre, of course, has argued that all consciousness is self-consciousness, but that complicated philosophical story for another day – unless you venture to read my Between Shock and Awe) adopting a spectatorial view as a disengaged rational subject as championed by science, but in this scenario I am both onlooker and specimen. I literally become an object unto self (a Cartesian problem which Sartre aimed to address and resolve), so that in an attempt to better understand myself, I think of myself in terms of ‘a human being in x, y, z circumstance’, and thereby circumvent all internal and external inhibitions blocking my ability to properly assess myself in my situation. In effect, I consider myself as anyone who could befall the selfsame predicament and offer consult to oneself as anyone might. So, Fragile Me argued that,
an objective onlooker could identify causes of both the extrinsic and intrinsic variety; a trained scientist of the human condition – a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, neuroscientist, even psychologist, take your pick – could tell you all sorts of objective facts about your suffering. A psychiatrist, along with the neuroscientist, may tell you that there is a chemical imbalance in your brain – something about the neurotransmitters found in depressed people. A psychotherapist may tell you that certain cognitive and emotional (in the case that the emotions are not considered cognitive states) states are the cause. And all of these objective assignments may accurately illustrate your state of being. But none of them, I repeat none of them, can capture what it is to be uniquely in the throws of despair. These facts mean absolutely nothing to one in despair. None of these facts address me; fragile me. Looking upon this state of being, or any other, as one who suffers despair, is literally to supersede and cast as irrelevant the experiencing subject!!!! When invited to look upon my own anguish objectively, scientifically, if you like, and dispassionately, I can not be aware of myself as an existing individual. Indeed, I am asked to be an object unto self, and in effect, to forget myself.
The psychiatrist is no more in error regarding neurotransmitters (well maybe since no one is infallible, right?! 🙂 ) than the physician is regarding death, or even the psychologist might be with regards to the human experience of death. But nothing the psychiatrist or the psychologist has to say captures the existential relevance of despair or death for me. These are interesting assessments of kinds, namely kinds of experiences and probable causes (insofar as this causal framework adheres to accepted laws of movement and human understanding thereof). Indeed, as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross writes in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, humankind can be described as negotiating death in 5 stages of mourning. I may even find myself somewhere amidst these stages. This too, speaks to death – my death, your death, John, Mary, and Jane’s deaths, indeed anyone’s death – as something that we all experience similarly or in common. But can we experience death by proxy? Isn’t it always quite distinctly my death which washes over me with utter confoundment and surprise! Do I lack rational understanding of death? Did I not know of my own mortality? Rhetorical questions to be sure! “How could this be happening? Why now? “, we ask. We look for reasons, but none are forthcoming! There is no reason that we should die, and that we should die when we do. There are causal events that lead up to this ultimate event, as with all others, but there is no ultimate reason for it – for any of it! It is in this primordial state of abandonment, and self-doubt that I comport myself to self in an existentially meaningful way. And it is thus that I may find myself in the throws of despair as described by Fragile Me. But though this despair is an inescapable mode of being towards authenticity, it is not without great reward.
In another blog It’s the Little Things, Fragile Me, says:
It’s the little things. A penetrating glance. A stream of light. Preparing a meal. Writing a blog. A child’s smile. The joy experienced is owed not to the glance, the streaming light, the meal or the child’s smile. For just as words can fall on deaf ears, so too can sights fall out of focus. Everything that is anything is something because we make it so. You see beauty in the creases of the rose-pedal, are mesmerized by the droplets that like a suspended bubble sit indifferent to the raging wind on a leaf, watch as a child’s hand slowly fastens the outreaching arm of his mother. The world suddenly slows down and grows quiet. It is as with the reverence spoken in silent humility upon entry into the House of the Lord.
Beauty, joy, happiness don’t belong to the world for they can not be discerned by the spectator’s lens. I do not stand and face the world. I am always in-the-world. Here I become intermingled with the being of the “objectively present” not related as two separate and distinct entities, but affectively I take in the world with caring attention and personal investedness and I see everything that’s anything!
These little things are sensory data to which I am causally related; but they are only merely sensory data to which I am causally related when all that comprises my world is existentially irrelevant. Poetry, any art form really, may communicate the incommunicable individuality of that concretely individual experience that was my own, not science.
Fragile Me is a troubled being, but for all her trouble, she is finely attuned, and fully immersed in her world with others. Or more colloquially: all is good in her world! 🙂
Fragility is not always esteemed a virtuous quality. We value strength. We tire of people harping on their loss. Deplore public displays of existential anguish. Though we’re sensitive to external forces – natural, socio-economic and political disasters – that can ravage lives. Some of us even practice charity. Some reach out to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram people to sensitize them to the travesties of others. And we may weep for them. Yet, those inner turmoils, especially in the absence of identifiable forces, are entertained only so long as they sync with that invisible timeline of respectable comportment. “Get over it.” “Move on.” “Get a grip.” If you absolutely have to suffer, do it quietly, with composure. Have some self-respect. Be Stoic-like and turn that rational propensity for clarity unto self and address your life, your life-circumstance, as one emancipated from wildly unrestrained emotions that govern your anguish. This onerous and ubiquitous sighting of objective vision asks that we suppress, oppress, obliterate, annihilate what is uniquely, and concretely you. For sure an objective onlooker could identify causes of both the extrinsic and intrinsic variety; a trained scientist of the human condition – a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, neuroscientist, even psychologist, take your pick – could tell you all sorts of objective facts about your suffering. A psychiatrist, along with the neuroscientist, may tell you that there is a chemical imbalance in your brain – something about the neurotransmitters found in depressed people. A psychotherapist may tell you that certain cognitive and emotional (in the case that the emotions are not considered cognitive states) states are the cause. And all of these objective assignments may accurately illustrate your state of being. But none of them, I repeat none of them, can capture what it is to be uniquely in the throws of despair. These facts mean absolutely nothing to one in despair. None of these facts address me; fragile me. Looking upon this state of being, or any other, as one who suffers despair, is literally to supersede and cast as irrelevant the experiencing subject!!!! When invited to look upon my own anguish objectively, scientifically, if you like, and dispassionately, I can not be aware of myself as an existing individual. Indeed, I am asked to be an object unto self, and in effect, to forget myself.
And yet fragility is not weakness. One must be strong to actually endure the psychic upheaval of a fragile spirit. Something acutely experienced when one is subjectivity. And yet, even in subjectivity, most also anguish over being understood. Often this never comes as time is arrested in the fragmentary distillations formulated by those distant, and not so distant, others.
*At the recommendation of my daughter “13 Reasons Why” has been part of my days. I’ll admit to being a little like Clay. Hannah killed herself. She was a fragile soul; hypersensitive to the goings-on in the world and the manner in which her being was implicated, compromised, by others. Again, fragile me got missed. Careful you/we don’t end up on Hannah’s tapes.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – they’ve made us a society of stalkers, and some eagerly turn their little lives into a reality show! Basta! More than ever before, privately lived moments are all the more real, all the more authentic, all the more precious. There is something especially disingenuous and shallow about shouting to the virtual rooftops!