Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"the contributions of the four types of people" an essay

Some further thoughts for my old essay “tetramatrix” which is about the four types of habits – feeling, thinking, saying, and doing – and the four types of men – mystics, philosophers, poets, and heroes. Here I try to explore what each type contributes

Daniel june


The contributions of the four types of men

            Language is created through poets who invent a metaphor and trope, and philosophers who define a word and category. Therefore, culture, which is really nothing more than a Language in the complete sense of the word, owes the most to poets and philosophers, poets because they were insane and therefore able to see beyond convention, and philosophers because they were able to fix the confusions of our collective experience and put them into definite words and phrases, thus giving language power.

            Heroes and mystics (saints) are also aligned, and they add the objective and subjective realties which. Heroes, historical and imagined, face the deadlocks of living in the world, they show how to solve the plot of life. The basic plot of all stories is this:

Hero desires

Hero’s desires are frustrated

Hero’s desires are resolved

            We can see therefore the connection between emotion and action, and see how thought and language are means of preparing, allowing, reinforcing, opening up the possibility of action and more emotion. Thought and language are mediators that turn desire and emotion into objects and tools, and in this way the mind controls emotions and is not controlled by them.

            Since the hero’s quest is based on his desires and their place within his world, the basic plot is about tension and relief – as is the same for music. And music is the objective form of emotion, the stuff of mysticism. Desires and emotion in the mind are already structured like music, and music therefore serves as the best and perhaps only language for directly transferring complicated emotions into the hearts of others. It could even be imagined that when we feel a given emotional desire, unconsciously, the emotion is moving like music. This at least is true when emotions are expressed, through the cadence, pitch, and other articulative devices of language: language is musical, even written language: it has rhythm, balance, tense, and breath – for every sentence is a breath.

            The mystic who does nothing but feel seems the opposite of the hero who acts, but they are aligned like music to dance. All music is dance music, it implies a moving of the body, is based on amplifying the movements of the body, from lungs, heart, and muscles, to sex and fighting sounds.

            The greatest events in history are the creation of a profound metaphor, that opens up a new way of thinking, of making technology, doing science, and doing politics – the work of the poet; and when a philosopher defines a series of terms that subordinate wide ranges of experience to a few powerful words.

            The human organism, as well as the group organism, is built so that energy is channeled, diminished or allowed, through language, and in this language holds a magical potency. All language is a circuit, or an attempt to one: we want the world to mirror us and echo us, not word for word, but spirit to spirit. Those special forms of language created by the legal system called contracts and rules function like razor thread, being ultimately allowed by violence, and we use such threads to pass beads of money through the system. Or in another sense, money is the oil that makes the social machine work. Imagine the system without money, but people acting in the same way. Money is nothing more then pure numbers, held in place by violence and the laws violence makes, to coordinate group activity towards agreed upon goals.

            Ownership only comes from intimate and continual use. Though a man may legally own his house, he doesn’t own it psychologically for weeks or months until he has internalized its structure and reduced the regular activities there to an idea of what the house is for.

            Just as all our concepts of ownership and fairness seem so common sense to be almost universal, and even called god-given, we really owe this common sense to the work of hundreds of thousands of lawyers, judges, and court cases, and these drawing their wisdom from the great philosophers who invented the very concepts that the laws enact. Our common sense is the work of thousands of years: the original poets and philosophers, mad and eccentric though they were, have given society its greatest gifts.

            Sometimes it is helpful to take an object out of its context and conceptualize it alone. Take the visual concept of yourself: a naked person standing in an infinite white vacuum, and all the activities you do are reduced to that body lifting objects that aren’t there, walking in place, working with invisible tools, like an immobile mime, in a wide universe of his own imagination. That would be the concept of your body abstracted from any visible world. This too can teach us about what you are. By looking only at one object, and letting its context fade into the background, we get to see what it itself is up to, where its autonomy lay, what it stands for, but this isn’t the whole picture. We must also see it in a wider picture, then a wider, then a wider, and we must even try to imagine the widest of pictures, the structure of the All. Allism is based on trying to shift between levels, and to integrate them.

            By doing this with desires, we see that a mystic is somebody who plays with his desires, and finds their fulfillment in merely purifying them, isolating them, and putting them in the right musical form to transfer them to others; and by frustrating them from being expressed into action, those desires become monstrous and intense, just as a man whose secret lover has died, and isn’t allowed to cry to give away his despair actually feels much worse from the lack of tears. The hero however does not believe in emotions as an end in themselves, but as motivators for action. The frustration of his desires may lead to much thought and further feeling, but the ultimate freedom from the deadlock of them is in the violent break that changes the structure of the world – and more so the outer world than the inner world.

            Thus the basic virtue of the hero is what it should be for all: courage, the courage to seek one’s desires at all costs and in the face of every discouragement and impossibility. The wisdom of the hero is to show how one does this, how one holds on to his desires, when enemies, friends, the good and the wise would call him foolish.

            Thus if we take the hero from his context, and merely watch his body and listen in to his expressions, we will see where the point of decision is, and where the decision for violence comes out – and here I mean violence in its abstracted sense of altering and destroying an impasses, even if it is merely an idea or custom. Or again, if we take away from the hero any language or expression of emotion, and look only at actions, this too can convey a truth lost if we must also process his words, alleged intentions, and feelings at the time.

            So where the poet seeks a trope, a way of bending ideas into a new shape, the hero seeks to break an idea, and the violent act forever repeats itself. Just as we cannot use money without at some living thinking of what violence the money stands for: in those that would steal it, at those who would attack thieves, and arrest them, at the prison system that prosecutes those that break the laws on how money is given, and when, and to whom: a wide range of stories are at the back of money, including of course the suffering it costs to earn it, secure it, protect it, and use it. Sex and violence, pleasure and pain, are at the back of every social reality, and all other social realities, buildings, bridges, streets, clothing, etc. are nothing more than solidified words and language to hold them in place.

            Imagine if somehow we built a bomb that destroyed every man made object, but couldn’t hurt us, so that our property, buildings, possessions, books, contracts, etc, was completely gone, the world over. After the initial shock, there would be the rush to rebuild the systems that keep us warm, fed, safe, and breathing. Any anarchy would be temporary: we would all seek to rebuild our civilization. But meanwhile, what happens to our social rank, our community place, or class, our identity? Perhaps those who are used to being rich would do everything to be so again, and those used to being poor would also stick with what they were familiar with – for we all have already internalized our possessions and have a sense for our rank without the actual external things. And yet without the external tether to hold those internalized possessions in place, without the language that all ownership stands for, our cultures would not be able to be reinstated: we would have to start over. A building is a story that keeps telling itself: when it is gone, not even our memories can keep the story going. The plastic form of culture is a concrete language which keeps telling itself, and holding our world in place.

            Now imagine that instead of a bomb that destroyed all manmade things, it destroyed all people – except a dozen – but kept the manmade things in place. This is a childhood favorite daydream: how would we live in the world if there were no people in it? We would perhaps choose the finest house, and put the best things in it. We would eat what we wanted at the store, drove what care we wanted. Eventually we would have to wonder how to get plumbing and electricity to work, and figure out what to do when the food at the grocery store went bad. You could play with this scenario for hours on a car trip.

            But what if there was enough people to start to rebuild a society? What if you started a “tribe” amidst the remnants of a great city? Isn’t it conceivable that within a few generations, or maybe many generations, the things left behind would put us in our place, and we would slowly approach the world we knew before the people left? This brings up the problem of meaning. Does a book have meaning? We would say that no, it doesn’t, but the author had some, and the reader has the potential for it, and that the book is a code that transfers meaning, but lacks it itself. So if every living being in the universe were vaporized, but a billion years from now a species evolved and found some intact books on a silicon chip or something, they may be able to decipher the meaning of our books, though for a period, there wasn’t a mind in the universe, and therefore, there was no meaning.

            Therefore, the greatest objects in our culture are the few books that speak the most profoundly, and which directly and indirectly extend themselves throughout the world, and continue to think, move, act, and create, through the readers, through those who talk to the readers, and even through those who are unaware that the book exists at all.

            The popular books that come out every year are like footholds for the centipede of tradition; events and people are stepping stones: a great book takes thousands of years to unfold, and whatever spirit the author possessed in his life time, acts and is conscious through the activity of his book: and so he is immortal.

            Philosophy is the trunk from which every science and discipline branches off. Science would be impossible without a metaphysical basis, and this is as true for art, though art can be equally based in the opposite of philosophy, which is to say, pure madness. The poet converses with chaos, and brings back the fire, whereas the philosopher transmutes all these raw materials to golden syllogisms.



No comments: