Opa!

So at the pub (yes, the pub! 😉 ) amidst Heavy Metal rockers dressed in ink, conversation almost always gets interesting. Why be happy when you’re not? Teasing superficialities of positivity speak to the simple American way, he announced. Ugh!!! We all have our stereotypes, and this is pretty much a constant. Anyway…. It’s the simplicity of the claim that irks me. I’m all for being positive, happy, pleasantly disposed, and whatever peripheral artillery this includes. What I’m opposed to, what my dialogical counterpart underscored, however impervious to self-criticism, is the naivety of the view. Sure we all want to be happy. I know I do. And it would seem that there are plenty of people that stack their chips with reason. Such is the plight of instrumental reasoning. You set your sights on some object and reason your way to the means of its acquisition, being careful to factor in along the way conditions for its realization, what might be lost in the process, and timelines. Timelines, schedules, planning, strategizing, and more timelines….again…repeat.

My pub mate did not consider this living. Jesus, he’d shout, these foreigners just don’t know how to live like a Greek! “We might not have as much money, or big houses, and closets of clothes to wear, but we have this, right here, right now.” I doubt he meant that Americans and Canadians (these happened to be the people he had on his mind) don’t go out to pubs and drink. In fact, they drink a great deal and certainly more than the average Greek. But they’d drink to get drunk, making sure to have had ample before heading out to assure success. Now though I have witnessed this for myself on frequent occasion, and often commented on how this is so foreign to my Greek propensities, I don’t think this is the point. It’s this visceral comportment that is distinctively Greek which knows no rhyme or reason. It has no agenda, and waits not for plans to opportune adventure. Life is not on a schedule, and throwing caution to the wind is not feigned in reaction to oppressive externalities, but is a simple way of being. Whether at a taverna, with modest decor, overlooking the Mediterranean eating Greek salad and saganaki cheese with local wine, or enjoying a meal at Lykavitos, it is the laissez-faire attitude which is both unrestrained and yet lacking in pretence that speaks to the Greek way. Perhaps this is what is seen with anticipated melancholy with Zorba the Greek,  “the man I had sought so long in vain”, which is so beautifully captured in this dance. Opa!

 

Advertisements

Your Ataraxia is Disquieting3

Even amongst aretic thinkers as divergent as the Stoics and Epicureans, the linchpin to their philosophies is the pursuit of happiness. Where they differ is what happiness is, and hence the phronetic comportment to its achievement. Each in turn will speak to the virtues of the good life and their appropriation. Not at all unlike Nietzsche! Surprised? Well don’t get too excited before we knock down some artefacts of uncongenial thinking. Virtues are those of strength not humility, or weakness and the like, and the means of their appropriation are devised through a delicate but painful process of deconstruction, forcefully destructive, and aims not at happiness as any of these Greek philosophers imagined it. Instead the “happy life” is not one of “good sense”, but valorized, heroic conduct amidst all that is impenetrably unattainable. Wretched is that seductress ‘causality’ that would feign the life of happiness as one aimed to nullify externalities of no consequent or beyond our hailing hand. Such is it to confuse the cause with the effect, Nietzsche poignantly pointed out. It is not that a life, a good life, cannot withstand such annotations, but rather that having already been impoverished by the mechanization of life via nay sayers and the corruptors of life, that the virtues of humility and the like are adopted. The “original sin of reason” which is a case of the error of cause and effect is put to work to explain this phenomenon. Though this is the stranglehold of religious and moral paradigms, it is illustrated concisely in the example of Cornaro’s diet. Nietzsche says:

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 09.37.13It is not the diet, as assumed by Readership of Cornaro’s illustration, that is the cause of good health, but rather an underlying condition that caused or, otherwise, gave rise to the success of this diet, and hence the longevity of this man. The parallel to morality runs the usual aretic formula to the ground, whereby tis not the virtues that are understood to lead (cause) to the good life, but rather a degenerate state of being  – weak, compromised – that has caused, given rise to, the propagation of these virtues and hence the good life. Virtue is not the consequence of happiness, but ‘happiness’ the consequent of virtue. In his own words: “Instead, virtue [as it came to be construed] is itself that slowing down of the metabolism which among other things also brings a long life, numerous progeny, in short Cornarism in its wake.—The church and morality say: ‘a race, a people is destroyed by vice and extravagance.’ My restored reason says: if a people is destroyed, if it physiologically degenerates, then this is followed by vice and extravagance (i.e. the need for ever stronger and more frequent stimuli, familiar to every exhausted type). This young man grows prematurely pale and listless. His friends say: such and such an illness is to blame. I say: the fact that he fell ill, the fact that he could not withstand the illness, was already the consequence of an impoverished life, of hereditary exhaustion.” (Twilight of the Idols, The Four Great Errors – my italics).

In his Genealogy Nietzsche traces the origin of morality not in an attempt to get behind the contextual framework that is constitutive of all human understanding, but rather to identify those frameworks that have come to be constitutive of that very framework but which sneaked in, and were thereby ordained as the bestowers of life itself. They came to have a life of their own, not of the doing of humankind, but of some Omnipotent Power that deifies these; humankind is thereby tussled from her thrown and the Lord’s drones follow in her stead. It is now Goodness itself, or the verse of Nature herself, that define aspirations worthy of any man deserving of happiness.

Specifically, Nietzsche says of the Stoics, in Beyond Good and Evil:

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 13.46.29

Taking a hammer to this paradigm of thinking, Nietzsche identifies the basic tenet of Stoicism in a longing to cement the good life in living according to Nature, as if there is a determined way and reliable manner in which to ascertain that way. Nietzsche rejects both the naturalism and the rationalism of the Stoics, as I have sketched above. He calls them ‘self-deluders” because they read their philosophy into an understanding of nature allowing themselves to be tyrannized through the oppression of the otherwise natural proclivity for power, by tailoring the passions for a life free of anything “unnecessarily” disquieting. Of course, the general accusation applies to all moralized paradigms which, he says, ‘as soon as ever a philosophy comes to believe in itself, it always creates the world in its own image’. Allowing oneself to rest content with any perspective of the world involves, in some shape or form, the deification or the objectification or ossification of that perspective as if it were to speak now and for always for all things! And yet, this is only to delude oneself that the world is how it has been shaped by the mind; and though everything is interpretation (beware those who sit in smug assurances of their perspective! 🙂 ) and hence there is no getting behind or before it, one can adopt an attitude of the diagnostician (for some reason “House” comes to mind both in his method and demeanour – “everybody lies” mostly, delusionally to themselves – looking at all perspectives, from multiple angles – psychological, symptomatic/physiological, social) who looks unnervingly, and unrelentingly from multiple perspectives searching for motives that huddle over pre-conceived perspectives, hammering away at assumptions, presuppositions, and everything that might cunningly conceal these from view (language, habits, fears, desires). The process is itself a state of unrest, of ataraxia, that requires courage for ‘in all desire for knowledge there is a drop of cruelty’.

So you say, “unhinge me”, Pirocacos! Stoics might retort that I have misconstrued and misrepresented the philosophy of their forefathers in that living a eudaimonic life free from unnecessary and irrational preoccupations does not speak to indifference, a rather inhumane attitude to invest in after all. It is rather in acknowledging the causal workings of the universe through attentive rational scrutiny that one is well positioned to deal with unrealized goals, negotiate misfortunes, and endure ensuing suffering. The point is that there is a rational order to the unfolding of Nature that one is well advised to address when engaged in the practice of living life. After all we do live in this natural world and it is constitutive of laws of nature (you wouldn’t cajole someone to jump from the 6th floor because it is the fastest route to the College cafe because you know that he’d meet with his death!) and causal forces that one can with varying degree of probability determine in order to better secure the ends. Of course, as I hope I have in outline already made clear, this is to miss the point.

So though the process of deconstruction may appear neurotic and outwardly in disarray, in fact, it is only so perceived by the ill-tempered with a mind to what is apprehended by ageless paradigms and/or those that one holds dear to their heart!

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 15.07.05

Your Ataraxia is Disquieting2

So here I am already 4 days late attending to Epictetus’s Enchiridion and Nietzsche’s The Twilight of the Idols. Strangely I find solace in both these authors despite the contrariety of their underlying philosophies. Happiness, said Socrates, is the end of all human activity; no one would, as it were, ever pursue her own unhappiness. Indeed, this is what set him on his track to that all-too-unfortunate qua Nietzsche triadic arrangement: virtue=knowledge=happiness. For if Socrates is astute in this aforementioned assertion, then engaging in actions, and/or adopting beliefs, that run the pursuit of happiness aground cannot be performed in full cognizance. Knowing that causing harm to others inadvertently harms oneself and hence jeopardizes one’s own happiness, one would not betray, deceive, humiliate, rob, demoralize, exploit others. So members of the 30 Tyrants must assuredly have acted from ignorance, or at the very least involuntarily. A life of happiness would then be a life epistemically charged. Everything is riding on acquiring knowledge. But knowledge of what exactly? Well, knowledge of what it is to live a virtuous life dummie! 😉 Stoic philosophy would have no qualms embracing this general position. But in my estimation it is here that they part ways, for Socraticism (dare I call it that!) makes good use of the role of reason but to my knowledge this rests not in any attribution to the workings of the world or the natural order of things. Indeed, despite Nietzsche’s ad hominem attack on the man in The Problem of Socrates, his ambivalence, noted as early as Walter Kaufman’s 1974 seminal work Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (Princeton University Press 1974), suggests at least the possibility of other features at work in this text. (FYI: In my book The Pedagogic Mission: An Engagement With Ancient Greek Philosophical Practices, much is said to distance Socrates from that monochromatic view of rational deliberative inquiry. Link here: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780739126530/The-Pedagogic-Mission-An-Engagement-with-Ancient-Greek-Philosophical-Practices) I would submit that Nietzsche acknowledges in Socrates the spirit of the overman, albeit trapped by an unfortunate state of circumstance that would have him riding in on his white horse flagging reason as the great emancipator from the elusive hegemonic trail of false idols.

Socrates ennobilzed reason and thereby made a tyrant of her. She stepped in as if to nullify the power of the instincts that threaten to unhinge everything at its joints! What chaos! What disorder! What disharmony! What vicious self-annihilating force is this?! For once unleashed there is no limit to what the human spirit might discover!! Decadence everywhere! HA! Did the Socrateses and Platos think that they could just trot in and deliver humankind from herself and not thereby lose humanity in the process?!

Nietzsche says:fullsizeoutput_1111

 

“Happiness equals instinct”!? And yet everything we seem to now “know” of the Greeks – from Socrates to Plato, Plato to Aristotle, Aristotle to the Stoics – aims to expunge the instincts, and with reason as our guide, arrive at a proper understanding of “things” and a will unhampered by the seductiveness of the passions to frame that eudaimonic life we all aspire to!

Nietzsche, the agitator of reason, was not also unreasonable, nor irrational as such. He resented Socrates, or perhaps this ill-framed variety of Socraticism (which he too in part is responsible for popularizing), for exaggeration. For Nietzsche defamed Socrates not only for his aesthetic profanity (so ugly was he, that he was an insult to the good taste of the gods! :)) but for levelling humankind in the service of that counter-tyrant, reason. He says of Socrates:

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 12.04.24

My Twitter handle is no accident – gignolatry – and hence my opposition to ontolatry is real ( 😉 ). In Reason in Philosophy, Nietzsche is emphatic and decorative in his descriptors of ontolatries. He says:

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 11.36.54

‘Being is that empty fiction’, which even Heraclitus, knew too well was the imposition of the mind on what was evinced rawly by the senses. The fable of the essentialists comes in four basic propositions. Now I won’t be able to elaborate these here, for each requires special attention to distinct parts of his philosophy, but enough can be said to counter the Epictetean position with which I began. So what are these propositions? Here they are from the man himself:

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 11.55.58

Plato with utmost clarity (well maybe not that clear!) has distinguished the Sensible World from the Intelligible World, and though numerous arguments are offered, a couple are well known and clearly on Nietzsche’s mind. The sensible world is one with which we are acquainted through our senses, and since the objects of this world are changing and ephemeral, it stands to reason ( 😉 ) that these appearances cannot tell us how it is to truly be a chair, or doorknob or anything else. After all, the colour, distinct markings, spatial-temporal locale, are particular to a “thing” but not to its kind. Hence, it follows, that these items do not speak to how things themselves are, but only to accidental occurrences or contingencies. But it is equally true that sensory perception is prone to run wildly off course given the attachment of the ear, of the eyes, of touch to circumstance, to the particular, itself also unshielded from common error (e.g. an item seen from afar looks small until seen up close). So what happens to the world of things upon exit? Plato (and others) would contend evaporation! Poof, they disappear! Quite literally, the “characteristics that have been given to the true Being of things are of non-Being”. Namely, these characteristics don’t exist, are not to be found anywhere, and hence essentially ( 😉 ) are concocted from the imagination of man! A fable worth telling again and again for care of human endeavors that might cash in on aspiring to live for a world uninhibited by ephemeral preoccupations and fleeting (HA!) objects of hedonic value.

A world concocted is a world that simply does not exist, and tis a fable told to suppress and contain the human spirit unadulterated by confusions interspersed by impositions of the mind. And yet, Nietzsche, often misunderstood, does not address the instincts as wildly out of control, drawn indiscriminately in any direction as a dog is to a bitch in heat! NO! Nietzsche speaks to how one might “spiritualize, beautify, deify a desire”. Though this is a complex notion, it is at least clear that Nietzsche equates the castration of the passions with nay-sayers of life, and the beatification of the passions with the affirmation of life. For Nietzsche says:

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 12.08.52

Nietzsche does not take sides with crude displays of affection, or aggression (as he is often criticized for), but favours the beautification of the passions! This comes not from the objects themselves, of course. Recall, there are no facts, things out there to be apprehended in themselves! It is rather in the delicate nurturing, inter-personalized engagement with, and invested concern for the passions that beauty is brought forth so that in screams of contained rapture one can appreciate, say, Wagner’s Ring Cycle, in silent discourse.

So what is his meaning and how does this set the record straight with Epictetus? Another timeout for Pirocacos as she gets her unhinged self together….to be continued…I promise!

*Alas I am convinced that philosophy, the variety I engage (for there are many forms), is an art form, itself best transcribed literarily, musically, poetically!

Mother’s Day

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Motherhood: the single most fulfilling and accomplished part of my life. I will make no apologies to feminists for how beholden I am to my children – Thomas & Kalianna – who have made me richer by far. There is no time in my life as precious as those days from early infancy spent with you two. Still today women find themselves, perhaps in some ways more so than before, in that impossible position where they must choose between a career, great love, financial independence and motherhood. Often the factical will not bend to compromise, and it is as dramatic as choosing either/or and not both/and! Hands down I have always, despite painful loss, unhesitatingly chosen these two treasures. As I have said elsewhere: my children are feisty, strong-willed, and spirited, but they are also distinctively amazing young adults who each in their own way have evolved into caring, passionately driven by fortitude to fulfill their aretic virtues. I am blessed. But there are others who have been wonderful, committed, loving and supportive mothers and things have nonetheless gone tragically wrong. Gibran’s words speak mightily to all parents: our children are not our children! We are beings-alongside our children and in early life care-givers but never are we, nor should we aspire to be, care-takers. Alas they must forge their way through life on their own ultimate initiative and all we can do is pray that they will not run afar from their own happiness (eudaimonia).

It’s my Birthday

its-my-birthday-5qtd1g

It’s my birthday today. 52 years! Last year I composed a list of 51 virtues; but this year I’m interested in becoming wise to one virtue: self-disclosure. It’s been quite a journey. Nothing terribly bad, mind you. But it has been a life quite turbulent even when everything seemed quite still.

 

Still.

.

.

.

Stillness.

 

A lapse in time.

A forgettable state. And then just like that time arrives as the world awakens beneath my feet and I can walk again. The ground, my ground, was never complacent. Grumbling sounds could also be heard, almost like thunder far off in the distance, only its below me, under me. I’m reminded: I’m here! Cause everything is here with me. I’m not alone. Think and magically appear! But where’d everything go?! (God damn, Descartes!) There! There stillness waits for me…again. And again, I’d disappear.

I hear those grumbling sounds again, but they’re not coming from underneath me, but reside inside me. I should have known! HA! But over the years I discovered a cure: one long swig of kykeon and unsettle everything. As with Sartre’s Roquentin, the disturbing stillness of all that surrounds left me feeling detached and very much a spectator of a life, only it was my life. The world often felt like a row of Platonic forms, quite inert, separate, but nonetheless imposing. Awakening, or being awoken by this ubiquitous grumbling amidst all of this only intensified my angst. Alas, nothing really is as it is; as it presents itself. I took solace in this, in the realization that those darned chestnut roots aren’t just defiantly as they are. So I took to invading the world; decomposing ( 😉 ) anything that presented as itself. Disquietude pervaded my life. But it was all I could do to keep from disappearing. Life choices rarely spoke to the phronetic, and so as I survey my life today, a double narrative appears. Bored and disturbed by constancy, stability, regularity, invariability, and routine, irregularity, unreliability, instability, and the erratic always found me. With gushing reverence I’d collide and abide with unyielding loyalty – but this was no Aristotelean virtue. We speak of being loyal to friends, lovers, family, but also to country, as well as, beliefs, and ideologies. Bonds intimately tied up in the realization of self with and amidst such relations is what cements these. These are relations of mutuality, and are characteristically exclusionist. Aha! The unreliable, the erratic is friend to no one, for there are no abiding standards to cement and bond such a union. Desirous of the ephemeral and irregular, existential crises were inevitable.

Self-disclosure is a psychically arduous task. Happy birthday, Elly mou.

 

 

Is regret regretful?

So many memes on regret and forgiveness these days. I’m not big on blind or universal forgiveness nor do I argue that regret is regrettable ( 😉 )! A twitter contact invited my reaction to this quote this morning: “Regret is a coping mechanism that, coupled with the luxury of hindsight, fixates on the past overrunning your present. Not very productive”. (Proper practice requires acknowledging one’s sources, but as is typical of social media, this is unknown to me. If you happen to be a Twitter contact, my apologies for this, and please do identify yourself and let me know if these words have been taken out of context or belong to a longer more carefully crafted discussion that you’d want acknowledged.) The first speaks to psychology and the latter to a daunting Christian ethic. Nothing wrong with coping, or coping “mechanisms”, so long as they don’t run the show and become a crutch to evade suffering and owning the events of one’s life. These come in so many forms that they are literally countless. But some of these include distractions in the form of alcohol and drugs, food, thrills, other people, or the more elusive case of maintaining a paradigm with shifting faces (this is the best and most successful kind! 😛 ), work, projects, fitness, and more. I know I’m guilty of more than a few of these. But not all of these are necessarily unhealthy choices, since many of these are at least healthy ways to maintain balance, at least initially, and only ever become unhealthy life-long choices when the real underlying sense of loss and despair is left unaddressed. Regret can be a most healthy and mature route as I have argued in my original blog post (see below). As for fixating on the past such that it overrides the present, this too is not a necessary parable. Indeed, lamenting over the past and feeding a sense of hurt, loss, and/or betrayal is not the same thing as addressing the events of one’s life in a level-headed manner in order to properly (re)orient oneself which can be a tremendously insightful process where one often (insert psychotherapy here) identifies habituated patterns born out of pathologies that are at the core of wrong turns taken along the way, and repeated scenarios that mysteriously (hahahahaha) end the same way. Again, this is liberating and leaves one not harnessed to your past, or any pasts, but able to devise new habitual paradigms which are the game changers of life.

What of forgiveness? Clearly moral, psychological and theological issues arise. I won’t attempt to contribute to this complex debate (see Forgiveness and Christian Ethics (for starters), https://www.amazon.com/Forgiveness-Christian-Ethics-New-Studies/dp/0521878802), but I will say this. Forgiveness cannot simply be a matter of the wronged individual rising above the often malicious or heartless pain and suffering caused by others (either directly to one self or indirectly through others). Not all wrongdoings are created equal, and forgiveness does and (in my books) should reflect that. How and why does one forgive the murderous, tortuous deeds of a Nazi soldier who shows no regret, remorse or even the slightly acknowledgment of wrongdoing, but instead reveals an indignant confidence in his “work”, and the commitment to see the events of the world unfold whereupon he’d gladly take up arms once again? Two issues arise here: the seriousness of the wrongdoing, and the regret of the wrongdoer. The first concerns a complicated relationship between the objective and subjective with regards to evaluating wrongdoings as wrongdoings and determining the degree either according to certain features of the act or intentions of the act itself, and evaluating suffering as suffering and determining the causal relationship between the act and the subjective features of suffering, as well as, the authenticity of said suffering (one might argue that suffering is self-imposed in cases of delusional individuals, unstable, and/or hyper-sensitive individuals). The second concerns the regret of the wrongdoer! Again, I address the issue of remorse in my original blog, but let me say this: acknowledging the pain and suffering caused to others from a psychological perspective can be liberating for the “victim” since it may offer closure (a proper understanding of events can be liberating as when one wants to talk to one’s assailant in order to understand why!!), de-victimize the experience, and/or may entirely alter one’s experience of loss and/or betrayal, as when a feeling of rejection, or callousness turns out to be an expression of the assailant’s defence mechanism (this is a common occurrence when one or both parties of an ended relationship speak ill of each other, begin new affairs within seconds of their demise (the Greeks: we’re nothing if not dramatic! 😉 ), and so on; i.e. this is their expression of loss and a mechanism (yes, theirs! 😉 ) to deal with that loss, and hence a sign not of rejection but of the regret (regret? did I say regret? 😉 ) of the demise, and an expression of continued love and attachment) or may be an expression of one’s moral barometer (this can be the case when someone does something that knowingly will cause another a degree of suffering but which is perceived to be for their own good). There is nothing quite as powerful to the ringing ears of the disparaged, than the words “I’m sorry”! But what happens when “Sorry!” never comes? Psychologists sometimes ban with theologians on this one, and argue that forgiveness is self-liberating. That is, it is through the act of forgiveness that the wronged can move on. But why is this? I submit that it rests in a deeply embedded assumption that emotional restitution craves and hence must have a sense of justice restored. The wronged seek peace in understanding the whys and hows of other people’s choices; sometimes these may be part of a larger more spiritual paradigm, and sometimes it is more of a secular kind of anthropology. In either case, it is understanding within a conceptual paradigm of meaning that explains away the wrongdoing, and thereby appeases one’s feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness. I don’t doubt that. Indeed, it receives a swaggering high five from me – after all what kind of philosopher would I be were I not invested in clarity! ( 🙂 ) What I would argue, however, is that this confuses apples with oranges. Clarity, understanding, and sound reasoning can be used to address cognitive dissonance and it can go a long way in realigning one’s orientation in the world, which is part of the healing process. Still, forgiveness is not at issue or exclusively an issue for the wronged subject, as the example with the ardent Nazi soldier aimed to suggest. A corollary issue is whether an assailant deserves forgiveness. Does this not require that the aggressor actually do something, like perhaps show some regret, or remorse?!!! And backward we go again to consider regret! What happens when they just don’t deserve forgiveness? There’s the hard task of admitting that “shit happens…and sometimes it’s an underserved, inexplicable mass of shit” (as in the case of Nazi survivors, cases like Jyoti Singh (I’ve spoken about this elsewhere: See India’s Daughter) and more!). There are evil people (some may disagree) and events (some may object to the word “evil”) in this world. So I submit, that in part, one must admit that so much that affects and infects us, is beyond our own control (some of which is in the control of those sometimes regretful others) and often there is no rhyme nor reason for it. Indeed, one might even embrace the view that there is, in fact, no universal justice in the world (as I would), but only those human-made paradigms in which and for which justice becomes meaningful. Sometimes, healing and clarity requires being able to live with that!

From a moral perspective, it says that I assume and acknowledge my responsibility in the (perhaps unnecessary) pain and suffering I caused you, and can now with clarity of mind, and liberation of heart, genuinely say I was wrong; that you were wronged, and I regret that! From a metaphysical perceptive it says, that if I could go back and alter the causal events of the world, I would have chosen otherwise, and would, given the opportunity, not have put actions or events into play that caused your suffering.

The Joy of Regret (the original blog post)

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! 🙂

Lost in the Clouds!

The beaten path is the one of least resistance. Everyone knows that! Now philosophers may meander, often taking the arduous route only to come out the same end. The straight and narrow, the black-and-white, the clear and distinct (sorry Descartes), the pragmatic (sorry, Dewey) the convenient, the cost-efficient (sorry Bentham), the salient, the reasonable, the acceptable, all conscripted notions that fall heavily on the heads of the masses. Socrates was gadfly to Athens – a pestering annoyance, an epithet few philosophers have not managed to have thrown at their feet as they squabble over the fine print, getting lost in abstractions on a cerebral high only they seem to enjoy.

The Greeks may not have been right that knowledge will necessarily bequeath the happiest life, but it certainly makes it more intro-passionately lived…and though existentially taxing, sublimely meaningful. Sometimes setting life as the outward working of a phronetic plan seems to miss the target (sorry, Aristotle) altogether, though. I don’t question the role of practical wisdom, nor still reason (that would be unreasonable!!! 😉 ), but I do question the universal application of this paradigm. Life is not something that can be put under one’s thumb and lived as a postscript to reason and whatever principles or biotic axioms might be espoused from it. Mostly life speaks to the aesthetic in which one is enraptured in the beauty awaiting discovery and this requires not developing only one’s rational propensity, but one’s sensibilities which are best cultivated through the arts. It involves sensitizing oneself to the transient and evolving beauty that surrounds and creating in oneself a relationship of mutuality.

Postscript: No. I’m not contra-Aristotle. But I come at the aretic view  from a different ultimate standpoint. I have existential leanings that loosely argue that there are no objective standards to ground all judgment. Does that mean that judgment is subjective and anything issued in earnest by the subject is true and right, and thereby impervious to judgment? Actually, no. That would be a rather naive view of subjectivism which owes many confusions to it’s presumed dichotomous relation to the objective. Inter-subjectivity probably best describes the proper rendering of the type of subjectivity defended, and it begins with the primordial positioning of the humankind already in-the-world-with-others and working out structures within which existence can be authenticated. Still, I do not reject aretic thinking, anymore than I reject the advice my physician gives me when I seek out medical advice. Rather within a particular paradigm of meaning prescripts are meaningful and “true”. 

No Blank Slate

There’s no Locke-down ( 😉 ) on personal history, people. There’s no blank slate! Don’t gripe and complain that your partner has hang-ups, concerns, issues, and expectations! What did you think you were getting into? A vegetable garden? Cause if you’re asking for my histoire to be left at the door, I might as well be a vegetable! Look, it’s like this. If you’ve picked me out of a crowd, there’s something about how I hold myself, how I wear my being, that you’ve spotted. Now I didn’t get here just from popping out of my mother’s womb. I crawled, walked, digressed, walked some more, ran (in my case A LOT), took a couple of pit stops, got slapped down, crawled some friggen more (but now as a full-grown adult!!!), learned to walk all over again and maybe in between there might have been some singing and dancing! But ultimately I have a walk, a stride all my own. It’s what you saw. It’s what elated you in my presence, it’s what drew you in. Now maybe you might not stay long. Maybe my run now looks more like a trot, and my gait now makes you think; Purina Dog Chow. But that wasn’t always the case.

What’s my point? We are all historical and existential beings, and that’s just a fancy way of saying that life experiences are the material from which each of us gives shape to our being. Who we are is neither given, nor entirely a social construct. We are intimately preoccupied with the “who” of our being; it keeps us awake at night, and causes us to anguish over how to respond to life’s callings. We are inescapably arrested by that inward pull into ourselves as we wrestle to understand through a process of self-understanding. We are uniquely oriented to the world with others in this way. We don’t just make decisions that can be deemed rational, valid, quirky or stupid. We don’t simply (well, maybe not that simple) speak to a set of claims organized according to logic specs. For even when decisions ascertained are strictly valid, there remain residual concerns of conscience. I can reason my way out of a situation and still find myself startled by the lack of insight and agential restitute that follows. How can this be?

Well, it would seem the who of our being is not constituted by rationality alone. Decisions made do not speak authentically to my sense of being for their excogitations but rather for the unique way that I am the experiencing subject of a life. Again this boils down to the act of understanding as self-understanding that is always concrete, individual and which cannot be outstripped. People come with all sorts of baggage but the #1 slot goes to betrayal! We’ve all experienced it even if the conditions and circumstances that occasioned it were radically dissimilar. So Aleena, a thoughtful, lovely young woman spent the better part of her adult life with Damian ( 😉 ). Damian, though not overtly abusive; in fact, one might say, to the contrary; he was outwardly caring, thoughtful and tremendously supportive. But he had this one teensy, itsy-bitsy quirk, you might say. He was an insatiable womanizer. Blindly committed, Aleena was in the dark…well, until she wasn’t. But that came some 20 odd years later. Those that knew her, knew her to be a true Kantian, and hence, autonomy was non-negotiable. There’s no way Damian could not have known this. So the news of his compulsive infidelity came like a tsunami! Resilient, but now single, Aleena carried on, and as luck would have it, met Stergios. Now Stergios, as his name suggests, was a caring, reliable and dependable man. You might say, Aleena had found her Kantianpart ( 😉 ). So when Aleena would find herself expressly agitated by what were for Stergios perfectly innocent liaisons with other women, he first appealed to reason – her reason, his reason, the selfsame Reason inherent to all human thinking God damn it!!!! –  but that was to no avail. Aleena seemed unappeased, and hence to his mind, irrational, unreasonable, and quite frankly, exhausting. It seemed unfair that he should have to pay for the wrongful ways of Damian! After all, Stergios is the guy! He’s the one that has his shit together, is decent, caring, a man of integrity, and committed to building a life, his future, with Aleena. Shouldn’t she be expected to transcend her past, her life experiences? Shouldn’t she be able to attend to the situation at hand, and with reason guiding her breast, conclude that her reactions are nothing more than displaced emotive energies?

Could Stergios be asking that Aleena leave her history at the door? Could his expectation be that Aleena turn back the clock and undo all that has been done? Reason most certainly can guide thought processes, and this is essential insofar as clarity of thought, and precision of speech can put quandaries and paradoxes to rest that might otherwise be the source of aporia. However, Aleena has not become a suspicious, and infuriatingly sensitized woman alone, she has also become that magnanimous, deeply caring and vulnerable woman. That woman, in fact, who Stergios found to be exquisitely endearing and authentic. It is through an active process of self-understanding that often arises in moments of rupture that we come to renegotiate ourselves, to redefine, and realign ourselves in the world with others. Who we are is always on its way, for as Sartre would say, we are inescapably free and in this life practice we must (re)invent ourselves. But none of this is ever accomplished in a vacuum (well Sartre got pretty damn close…) and hence Aleena is who she is (e.g. magnanimous  and fragile) only because of the manner in which she experienced herself as the subject of betrayal and the meaning that that came to have for her. It would do little good to speak to her of betrayal as something commonly experienced and walk her through the 5 stages of grief (Kubler Ross’s account has been adapted to speak beyond the scope of death). This can often do no more than demoralize, deflate, and decay Aleena’s sense of person. It will create a disconnect; one where I – in Aleena’s voice – feel misunderstood. I am not anyone of those people that have experienced betrayal. Even if there are commonalities that one can discern in the narration of my story, the particular experience is existentially relevant to me because only I can experience myself as the experiencing subject of said betrayal and come to an understanding of myself within such dimensions of life. It is not to be discerned dispassionately, as a spectator, by Stergios, himself unaffected, living life at a frequency of sound unheard, though nonetheless relayed by word and deed.

So that’s it? Case closed? Should Stergios just accept Aleena’s hyper sensitivity? Well no, of course not. For we are also not just the product of our experiences, even those existentially realized experiences of self. We are always on our way, and who Aleena is can and will be renegotiated within a backdrop of openness and care with Stergios, who critically but un-judgingly will indulge Aleena looking to uncover that narrative which speaks to the way in which she has come to see herself (she may experience herself as more vulnerable and yet open, or intolerant and closed…) and others (she may now experience others with suspicion or with greater insight into the human condition), the values she has picked up along the way (she may now reject her Kantian ways!!!), and the opportunities that her relations with Stergios have now occasioned. The conversation is not conducted by two rationally disposed, self-contained beings, bridged by their mutual adherence to basic principles of reasoning. Instead, engagement is characterized by mutually, amongst inter-historical beings who share an inward process of self-understanding within a context of openness (open to the possibilities of becoming through the activity seeking joint understanding). Stergios then does not begin from a position of superiority as if to suggest that his leanings are impervious to historicity, and hence he is called upon to also expose his existential, and hence, personalized investedness in his paradigm of meaning. Suddenly, engaging in liaisons with other women is neither abstractly and hence absolutely innocent or suspect, and manners of being-with-(female)-others need be renegotiated. Mutuality suggests, therefore, that a paradigm of meaning shall be negotiated amongst two historical existential beings.

Relations?! It’s a l o n g, convoluted, often treacherous road. Negotiating these can be taxing, yet rewarding, as each time it takes partners to deeper levels of intimacy, connectedness and mutual understanding. When left unnegotiated or when they are beyond negotiation (the reasons are endless, but high on the list is an existential disconnect) it’s time to sever ties, but WOW, when those ties are restructured, rekindled, that twisted, messy webbed tangle, is gloriously fulfilling, and unmatched. Hold on to those, people!

Song  – the arts in general – have this incredible way of communicating the non-transferable and utterly subjective character of human experience. Have a listen (my Greek readers will understand best!)! 🙂 ❤

 

FYI – None of the characters in this story are historical figures, rather they are a semblance of many – of you, me, mom and dad, distant strangers and more.

A Tribute to Mothers

I wrote these updates for my children’s birthdays. It seemed the appropriate opportunity to express the overwhelming joy these two wonderful people have brought to my life. Mothers (fathers too, but today I speak to mothers who experience parenthood in their own way) know the challenges brought on that go far beyond physical exhaustion, and self-doubt, to accommodating paradigms that seem to cater (still) to lingering patriarchal ideals and a certain degree of self-loathing from which we draw some atonement for betraying what we often experience as the new and liberating feminist paradigm that would have us renounce the more self-sacrificial mode of being-alondside-our-children. I mean even as educated career oriented and independent women we wanted to have children.  More often than not most of us found ourselves assuming the role of the primary care-taker (however much you share responsibilities, most of us still think that we are sharing these!). This usually meant making small and LARGE sacrifices along the way that invariably were at the cost of our professional (and hence financial) advancement. Intermingled with frustration, and despair – and now I speak to my own personal experience – my children helped me grow in ways that would have otherwise been remiss. So though I take pride in having raised two amazing children, as the dedications below suggest, today I am thankful for how I learned a special kind of patience, and open-mindedness with them. I came to viscerally indulge intellectual schemes of thinking I long defended but always short of the practical challenges and potential (and ultimately actual) materials costs and risks evoked along the way. Courage, determination, even faith amidst often times excruciating pangs of self-doubt, I think have made me a better, albeit more complex, person (perhaps those that know me now feel inclined to step in and yell: NO!!!! :)) Being a mother today is a complicated affair, but still oh, so worth it!

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 10.16.30.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-17 at 20.38.55 3.png

 

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: