Eternal Love

“He who does not know how to encircle a girl so that she loses sight of everything he does not want her to see, he who does not know how to poetize himself into a girl so that it is from her that everything proceeds as he wants it-he is and remains a bungler.” Kierkegaard

So where would Kierkegaard’s aesthetic lover find himself…even more interesting, where would one find Regine Olsen who spent her whole life loving Kierkegaard.

Source: Eternal Love

Hear my prayers

5d4b78351977de6c459efb11f1897d46Please Lord, she says, hear my prayers. Perhaps they sound like the ramblings of a derange girl, but to say so is not to know my soul. Must the spoils of life succumb to the possible? Is it not in the spirit of the Almighty that the impossible is made possible? Is it not in prayer that we seek to escape the trite, the given in the order of things? When I seek your counsel, I do not seek redemption; I do not seek acceptance; I seek the impossible. Faith, my faith, speaks to the Omnipotent with the power to narrate his Being and mine for all possible worlds. Faith is creative imagination taking root in life.

Get Outta Your Mundane

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 mosthuman-inertia 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 shrilling706x410q70ee9d94f4485e80f5f054a92f746730a5-470x260 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! 🙂

 

 

It’s my Birthday

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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.

.

.

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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! 🙂