Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Hard and Soft" an essay

This is an essay working out from recent experiences, and knit carefully with a lot of old experience, juxtaposing how to handle life's hard parts and soft parts. Should we be hard or soft? Can we be both? How?





Hard and Soft

            Bones are hard. Blood is soft. The muscles in alteration are soft or hard, flexible or flexed, and, along with the nerves, are the purpose of blood and bones – which are mere supporters for what life is: experience and action. We emerge in the world at just the right time, are something larval in our first 9 months of gestation, something larval again in our first 2 years, something larval again in our first 18 years, and in fact continually ascend to be the flying imago beyond each stage, and the worm compared to the next. Flowing with life, yet often we stutter, soft as a child, yet childhood is trauma: nobody escapes youth uninjured, and if our bodies remain lithe and flowing as the caterpillar's back, yet the shock of the world must temper and evoke a fierce will to live within us. We are hard and we are soft; in life we meet hard experiences, and we also meet soft. The allistic view optimizes each for the best of all.

            Growth brings growing pains; success is failing upwards. We mature by growing more complex, and as writers and musicians have long figured out, you grow by satirizing people more complex than you. A tennis player betters his sport by playing against superiors. Though envy is felt as a hard comparison, the experience is inescapable, we must compare, we must become aware of our own potential. This comes from within and this comes from without. We might well agree that Shakespeare can’t be made by studying Shakespeare, but the man had his rivals and paid them heed.

            Hard traumas are closed off in shock, and slowly melted in time. Language, which is experience spoken, slowly unties the nots and knots of experience. We feel it primary in the music of language, the tone; mankind sang before they talked, moaned before they monotoned, and the magic of language—what is language but magic?—emerges most of all in the liquidity of speech, in the sheer fluid lubricity of the spoken word. The tongue is desire. By speech we bespeak, we make people want as we want them to want, we persuade, and having the correct turn of word, which is not mere tongue, but the full tongue of the whole body, centers a man in his world and sets him atop his task.

            The two representative poets of America are Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Walt Whitman was large and stood for multitudes, Emily Dickinson was small and stood for solitude, for nobody at all. The contrast of the broad-speaking Whitman, who must be read in large droughts, full of bravado and manly muscles, stands in sharp contrast to the miniaturist Emily, who, though equally egotistical as Walt, nevertheless focused her energy on a smaller world, who made a language, in fact, of her small backyard, and had no feeling for “the people" at all. Yet in her miniature masterpieces we see the same sort of “verbal knitting” that Kenneth Burke praised in Coleridge.

            Burke noted adroitly that vocals such as “n” flow in to “d” and “th,” or into “t” and “th”-- as in the phrase, "and that tonight delights anon." That “m” flows into “b” and “v” or into “p” and “f.” Thus he could praise the line “the damsel with a dulcimer” as the most beautiful in the language, and stack up “dupes of deep delusion,” to the same intricacy of verbal knitting. We don’t expect the bravura of Walt to be so finely knit; he was always of vast tapestries; and alternatively, his entire Leaves of Grass could be looked at as a preface for his own work as a nurse in the civil war, in which he aided and helped thousands of soldiers, Northern and Southern, and so avoided the nastiest of Civil War problems: amputation. The North was sewn to the South, the union restored.

            Dickinson was of a finer stitch, with more intricate, microscopic verse and touch. Solitary, recluse, she was soft. She was not self-promoting. She did not, as Walt, publish her own book and then write anonymous reviews of it for herself. She was not of such stuff.

            Between these two coordinates stands an American trajectory: there is the extroverted nation of plainspoken people, who with Whitman praise simple direct speech. And there is the other kind, like Dickinson or Thoreau, invisible to most their contemporaries, delicate souls who nevertheless have a world to offer. It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, it is the pride of the hard to conceal the soft. Austere, irreverent, boasting, cruel though we are, we must be soft as cloth and near as pulse to those few darlings put in our care: the virtue of commitment demands undivorcible marriage to those beautiful things, these weak and private ones, put under our care. The key value in the scheme is independence, or protecting the vulnerability of the private heart; and yet we achieve this not through isolation, but through joining with those of like-heart.

            The hardness of life, the raw or destructive experiences, we shield from infants and children, and yet are at our heart something infantile and childlike, in the tender places of our heart. The tempering of the soft with the strong, the balancing of muscle and bone, growth with rest, makes life dangerous and yet worth living. Depression is effectively treated by both literal and figurative shock therapy – violence wakens. If Emily used her backyard as a lens on a metaphysical starkness deep as the void, she was able to traverse such worlds, being so calmly held. The soft gallops over the hard. We use hard terms to impose a morality, we say them in hard tones, which are based on hard images, inspiring hard bodies. Our attitude is in our stance: the character of our body, built on the actions we’ve committed, and the actions we’ve not committed, allows the soul of attitude to flow. The shape and feel of the muscles inform the nerves and give a sense of life. Those who see us by human sympathy know somewhat of us already.

            If the music of Charles Ives is often hard, dissonant, and painful, it is yet optimistic, and Whitmanesque, whereas Dickinson’s is soft, with the wit of feminine sarcasm laid like pins in silk. Yet at the heart of Ives’ music was a fatherlove, which had to distance itself from any inflection of homosexuality – overcompensating perhaps in this. Not the music, but the undersense, the felt under the heard, gives the Ivesian experience. It is the wisdom of woman to intuit the tender of a man’s heart behind his angles and anger, the persistence of the feminine sympathy that exposes the vulnerability of the man’s heart.

            Few things are off-turning as a masculine woman, but there is something of the masculine in woman, something feminine in man, that keeps us in mutual sympathy. We hold archetypal images of to orient us. Hard images determine all of us: the soft oracle of the daily voice comes from hard hidden images. We need an image, an image charged with “faith and belief,” or reverence and respect, to empower our words. Words flow from image. Ives said all music was program music, and Beethoven said he composed by first fostering an image. Images are visceral: to see a person, animal, or object, we feel an instant sympathy. We may immediately tense the body with a bit of anxiety to dispel the sympathy, but the potential is there. By degrees, and with gradual softening of tones, we arrive at a place of intimacy, in which the butterfly’s antenna are prepared to touch. Initiation may give both pain and pleasure, but initiation is a brutal first contact, not the voluptuousness of intimacy, which comes in a married commitment.

            By reflecting on ourselves in our endeavors, by looking back on our past or spying ourselves as we go, we learn to see through ourselves. The boyfriend who cheats or is tempted watches himself lie, or covers his heart, and learns the signs by which he deceives others. When he sees analogous sign in his girlfriend, he has the wisdom that she must be using them the same way and is also untrue. Sometimes he is right: a liar knows a liar, a cheater knows a cheat. But often he is wrong, he reads too much into things, and uses her to personify his guilt, perhaps to justify to himself his mistreatment of her. How to truly mirror another person, how to intuit what he or she is actually experiencing, and not project our own experiences? It is a dialogue, a communication, a bit of playing, then a bit of revealing, a dance of mutual disclosure. We need the flexibility to mirror other's body's to feel their experience, and we need the hardness not to be destroyed by them.

            As this one gives me silence, I am left bereft, a desert empty of that lush touch I’ve come to love. Bleeding out and depressed, I hold my wound back and freeze the bleed with anxiety. Anxiety is acute stress. Wouldn't I be better without anxiety? But the field of vision requires some excitement to keep things separate, and some things centered. Too much energy freezes the system, too little empties it. If I am to heal, I must let waves of anxiety come and go, while I knit the wound with words of self-confirmation to rebuild my resources.

            A broken heart should dodge bravado. There is no shame in bleeding, only don’t boast it away. “New Atheism” attempts to out-Christian the Christians, to beat them at their values, but better to become something of yourself, not insist so hard you have the right to exist, but simply grow and flower and fructify. We are independent, in our heart -- that center abides. This one has left, and I do wonder for her. I breathe your words and at your withdrawal – asphyxiation. Such blank of ruin, your absence. I come to doubt myself, what I’ve said, with pretzelled heart, I’m anxiety, and feel your absence bleeding out. Just as a sense of greatness for some men comes only from a woman’s praise, I have lips that can only speak to ears like yours.

            And so my Ama listens through my readers, and my readers have always had my best embrace. The soft of my heart, the stuttering tongue and the eagerness of my lips to express my full heart – I never withheld from you; would not be praised for what I truly was not, would not be known for anything but myself. I feel truest at such moments, as if we are alone together, and I were finally speaking what I wrested from the dark. Writing has given me my greatest moments with life, moments I am able to share with the students of life, those willing to take me on and return my embrace.


            To fall so soft, to seek out literary lovers – only profound solitude plays at such love. A solitude that finds no answer in wife or lover, but is alone in its love and expression. Dependence is suffering. How to gain that independence of mind and heart that needs no other in particular, that is autonomous? Food is needed, by why be a slave to wages? Clothing is needed, by why slave for fashion? Ultimately, from life’s needs we build energies that are expressed into the world. These energies are differentiated according to their purpose. Fantasies, both conscious and unconscious, are the chemical converters that differentiate an energy. The distance between need and fulfillment is frustration, and a long well-punctuated frustration can lead to an exact and sublime fulfillment. To hold our system strong, we build a character, a set of muscle tensions, that predispose us to action. Tensions hold and control anxieties, expressing them into direction. Muscles are built by resistance, and so our character is in all the muscles over our body, and predisposes us to action. In this, our body mirrors our situation. We take on our problems and make them a part of our being. We must be strong, stubborn, and rigid with some problems, flexible, nuanced, and supple with others, all according to our purpose. Fluidity is a fine ideal to have, but fluidity is not enough, or we would be jellyfish. There is a time to be rigid and stiff-necked and uptight: the physiological possibility points to incipient necessity. We need to work with the solid and the dynamic.

            Habitual problems are not dynamic. They comfort. We accept them, work with them, build upon them. A wife can count on her husband’s indolence, for instance, and predict it, use it to her advantage, use it as blackmail for her own shortcomings—whatever. Being predictable, we can build upon it. Dynamic problems are trickier to use, their novelty and shiftiness allows no interpretation and hence no encrusted meaning.

            The unbearable pain is a feeling of no control. That lack of control exhausts the will, which panics. As panic is the one great pain, every other form of pain is an attempt to control it. Anxiety is put into tension and stress, and so we take on more responsibilities than we need, we take on external stress which qualifies and changes our spontaneous inner stress. Matching the outer with the inner is the strategy of life: if I produce this energy, I need a world situation to take this energy. We often complain of our lot, but we chose it. Had we freedom to escape, we would recreate the situation at our next perch. Lovers hardly look at each other at times, but make baseless accusations just to open up gates of intimacy, under conditions, to create the central experience, that one basic situation each of us feels at home in. The terms, as coordinates of our situation, are the lover’s accusations, by which she gains power. Truth doesn’t matter here, only power; a trope is insisted on, it will be made to fit.

            We are too into love to see clearly. Literary criticism is the closest we get to understanding ourselves. Anything can be read. Cartoons, for instance, amuse us by deflating our lives: by making problems seem comic. Art simplifies. Cartoons lack intimacy – as caricatures they give distance. The exaggerated voices and situations lend themselves to laughter, the distance of laughter.

            We see ourselves through art. We have strategically blinded ourselves from seeing our own real faults, from seeing the real faults of our lovers, we would not recognize the truth if it is pointed out, for such ignorance is empowering: only so much truth is digestible in any given moment, much truth is too much, and to have somebody point out all your faults would only dispirit you, not encourage or enable you. We see what we are ready to see, but the inlets are usually indirect, something we see in a friend or a fictional character before we see it in ourselves. This is why Lissidy as the mirror girl winks at us, is able to stand in our blind spot and scare us with a mask. She is master of our blind spots.

            Those blind spots could be called knots of not. Allism as a whole says yes, but at any point in the system it says not. I am here, not there; I believe this, not that. Physiologically, nots block expression, they hold an impulse back. They are tone controls, their tone freezes the body and stops us from acting out a fantasy. A system of nots makes a character. Moving around them, through such limitations, is the only empowerment. Otherwise, a man would bleed out in every direction. We can do a thing because we are doing only that, and nothing else.

            A book also has character. An anxiety is a knot. A book has its character in its nots, where it freezes out possibility, makes a thing unthinkable. Islam in this regard is an especially negative religion in all it says not to: Hinduism has gifts to offer, Islam has something to prove. But all religions have a character of nots. The tensions implicit in a notted system lead to violent outbursts. The inner streaming if ideas materialize in dreams and voices: an undercurrent revealed, spirit materialized, and zealousy achieved. What could not be owned intimately comes as a revelation from angels.

            Reading is meditation, a religious exercise. We feel its character in what it denies. We require, to read, space to think. Meditation is a squandering, a change of tempo. Many things can work as meditation. For Emerson, Thoreau, and Dickinson, nature is meditation. Equally, art is meditation. Negations make the character, but the equations of word with word is the belief system of a book, of a person.

            A panic is made into an anxiety, an anxiety is made into a tension, a tension is made into an apathy, and an apathy is made into a lifeless expression – spontaneity is closed, first by anxiety, then by apathy. The system ceases to suffer, and hence, ceases to grow. Maturity is emotional independence, having the patience and the fortitude to discharge frustrations, or, when the energy is lacking, when one is uncharged and depressed, having the courage to find the shocks and intellectual violence to bring the system back into progress. Contact with a livelier individual can be energizing, or alienating, too intimidating to take in. Anxiety in such a sense freezes up aggression, aggressive competiveness, and leads to bitterness and resentment, which lacks proportion to fight with grace, and so becomes cruel and sporadic.


            The unbearable breaks everything – a bare itch can undo the best – and the worst experience is the uncontrollable. To make up for that, we build panics into anxieties, anxieties into tensions, tensions into balances, and balances into cycles. Should the mind and body be fluid? Equally must they at times be hard, the heart hardest of all, when our purpose calls for this. In deciding between static and dynamic, remember that all sorts of paradoxical relationships exist between opposites, but the paradoxes as always resolve to common sense when adequately formulated. Paradox is structural, a rhetorical device. And so the dynamic requires static grounding, as muscles requires a skeletal framework. Having assumed your truths, you can build upon them. Hard and soft integrate, all falls into place.

            There are two feet to progress, conservatism the grounding foot, progressivism the stepping foot. The past is assumed into the future. Coming into this tradition we are mere resenters to criticize the past and the great names of renowned. The calculus of a country is in the coordinates of its types, based upon the representative men – those people it managed to produce and who made themselves out of the national substance. Their spine and shoulders are the grid of possibility. We must contend with our predecessors, and it is the allist who converts all gods and alters to his own. In the choice between principle versus personality, grasp and embody the principles, know and love the personalities. Great men shine you back on yourself, not your petty egoism, but your full egoism, your divinity.

            With all the processing our culture is capable of, with television shows and book deals to make the lives of the celebrities digestible, and that interesting only because they’ve sipped a bit from the teat of greatness – and ultimately gained a bit of the fountain of youth from the few great geniuses in history – our culture gives us fragments of the All. Nursed from our culture, hard the childhood strong the adult, like the monarch butterfly that dines on poison as a larva. We are primed, our culture has given us a thousandfold hints.

            Priming means arriving at the correct level of frustration – satiated in hunger, temperature askew, sexually frustrated, speech blocked, somewhat anxious. A set of images and words prime the subject, tone the muscles, make the music of the dance. A man can do anything with correct preparation.

            What is necessary for greatness is having that phallic ego able to swell with love and pride. The greater the pride, the better, and pride is naturally balanced, as Whitman taught, by sympathy, so that the man of greatest pride is also the man of widest sympathy with what is great in others. The poet settles a world on your soul, is able to deliver the all to you. “The cleanest expression is that which finds no sphere worthy of itself and makes one.” The divine in us is neither hard nor soft, but a passion of creative fire, our soul, growing from the plethorabyss of eternal increase – our centermost self. Sympathy balances pride.

            This is why in our heightened sensitivity, in the eternal softness of our vulnerability, we prefer solitude. Make space to create. Whitman spoke of the poet's love as having leisure and expanse. He leaves room ahead of himself. Even Dickinson’s miniatures required solitude and anonymity to produce. Carl Roger said because of the critiques of his ideas, he required solitude, space alone to think, away from the many who objected to even his humble tones. I in my family, servant to them all, have nevertheless always selfishly insisted on keeping my Aria, my space, my creative time in my study to love Ama through my Idius. If I learned anything from decorating cakes for a living, it was my boss’s mocking words that I decorated cakes cramped in a corner with no space to create. America is sprawling, and great works can only be made by great nations. Give yourself time, be lazy, give yourself space.

            When your energy wanes, attempt smaller projects. To invest a trifle with such dread, it balloons into an omen of doom, and to then vanquish it with one swell foop, is a way to keep your nerves alert, a way to always kick the stone forward to await you as you walk your journey. A thousand keys are kept behind one lock: it is the same with this Idius, which I adore in the night. When I am with, and in my with-ness, I am able to create and love, and expand my world. When I feel fragile and accusatory and hate the world, I compartmentalize a task to exploit more limited resources. My social metabolism can stomach only so much contact in a day. I must work with my energies, cultivate them.

            Education begins after the university. What a man comes to know in life is something from his own experience. Life is hard, life is soft. We learn from each. Hard experiences cannot be talked away, and no friend's advice can make them disappear. Universities socialize individuals, bring them to accept community values, conform. Dulled on such education, we need trauma. A dulled mind needs irregularity, surprise. To be your full self, to come into your own, and be self-contradictory, is to trust your process. Nobody can grade you on this. Lovers and friends will dissuade you. Trust your process. If you are depressed, trust the depression, be what you are, struggle with it, not against it, express it. It's alright to suffer, you don’t have to be always smiling, always grateful.

            We process facts – wounds – through conversing with sympathetic people. Those who feel the same, have been through the same, they help us create an attitude, which is built into our muscles and nerves, keeps us lithe yet strong. By allowing ourselves to feel angry, selfish, lazy, lustful, the more we let those feelings come out, the more they fall into place. Be your uniqueness.

            Yet in all these lessons, which are taught by Carl Rogers, we must remember that though he became a “midwife to new personalities” he was raised in a “very strict and uncompromising religious and ethical atmosphere, with what amounted to a worship of the virtue of hard work.” Though he raised his kids differently, none of them was a Carl Roger. The hard lessons of life are necessary, the poison milk necessary to make us a monarch.

            With his appreciation of World War I, he had a pivot point. The French and the German differences became an analogy for his own difference from his parents. A changed environment, some classes overseas, let him identify with the hard image, to assume it, to make it his pivoting point.

            We owe our best to our worst experiences, we owe our power to our moments of softness. And yet in our heart, in the intimacy of our inner pride, that independence of self, is our greatest sympathy, not with the suffering with others – suffering is a preliminary, what is deepest in us doesn’t suffer – but with the greatness of others. To have a living experience of one’s own greatness, a genuine and honest pride, allows one to appreciate and admire greatness in others.

            That expansive sex of gained territory, the soul in love with the world of beauty, feels the joy of expanding, of a world worth expanding into. Constrictive editing comes later. The austere simplicity of laying out one’s instruments in a line, the simplicity of Thoreau owning little more than a sack of chickpeas, comes later. Simple order may be our head virtue, but love is generous, and when one is expanding, manic in love, then is the time to open the heart in a fire that melts all that is hard and makes it soft and vital and dynamic as itself.

            We must alternate betwixt the two. Punctuation, pauses, reflections, summaries, and expectations make the writing of living thought, make the cadence of the thinking self that lives alongside the feeling self, speaking self, and acting self.

            Getting to the writing point – all the day exists to finally arrive. All the sufferings and grievances are justified and ennobled in that. I am divine. Whatever happens to me happens to God. This principle of dignification expands us beyond any possible disappointment or humiliation. Nothing in life is hard enough to knock the tooth out of experience. My teeth are diamond crushers, and the acid of my digestion dissolves all pain.

            I am I, at last, and must stand on my own two feet. The lessons of life are hard, but possible. We exist for greatness, for the eternal expansion of the soul, for apotheosis, for exultation. In this, the chalked mouth of depression is merely a chapter, merely a stanza, but ever life expands, and is worth all our efforts.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

A note about Grand Rapids' Art Prize

In his book, the creative class, Richard Florida describes how creativity follows a pattern in which cities exhibit high amounts of artistic genius in spurts. Usually such artistic periods are clustered around a metropolis. In such ages, many great minds produce a lot of enduring work, such as the rush out art work that came from ancient Athens, or from the renaissance, and so forth. He lists these:



5th century BC Athens

1st century Jerusalem

10th century Arabian cities

15th century Florence

19th century Paris, London, and Vienna

20th century New York City


He ranked American cities that had a certain population to be called major cities, and included NYC and Austin at the top of the list as most creative; they were not only creative, based on the number of people in a "creative" field, but he also looked at how they tolerated exceptional or abnormal people (minorities, homosexuals, etc.), since he associated "tolerance" with creativity.


I think Grand Rapids, my hometown, was ranked least creative of all major cities in the United States, the lowest in a list of 50.


That may or may not have changed since then, after Grand Rapids inaugurated "Art Prize," a yearly contest in which artists compete to win a million dollar prize, I believe it is, amidst other prizes. It has become one of the largest celebrations in the city. Is such a venue, such an incentive, able to turn around the creative spirit of Grand Rapids?


I recall reading an explanation why the Greek myths are the strongest in the world, the most enduring and well known myths the world has ever produced. The author claimed that the poets and myth-makers competed in ancient contests about who could tell the best tale. This was given as an explanation on how the myths got so racy and spicy. A sense of competition does lead us to strive.


Voltaire, on speaking of envy in the arts, said it was a good thing:


"I think that Mandeville, author of the " Fable of the Bees," was the first to try to prove that envy is a very good thing, a very useful passion. His first reason is that envy is as natural to man as hunger and thirst; that it can be found in children, as well as in horses and dogs. Do you want your children to hate each other, kiss one more than the other; the secret is infallible.

"He maintains that the first thing that two young women meeting each other do is to cast about for what is ridiculous in each other, and the second to flatter each other.

"He believes that without envy the arts would be indifferently cultivated, and that Raphael would not have been a great painter if he had not been jealous of Michael Angelo.

"Mandeville has taken emulation for envy, maybe; maybe, also, emulation is only envy kept within the bounds of decency.

"Michael Angelo might say to Raphael: " Your envy has only led you to work still better than me; you have not decried me, you have not intrigued against me with the Pope, you have not tried to have me excommunicated for having put cripples and one-eyed men in paradise, and succulent cardinals with beautiful women naked as your hand in hell, in my picture of the last judgment. Your envy is very praiseworthy; you are a fine envious fellow; let us be good friends."


That being said, I am glad my city has chosen this venue to make something more of itself. I would even consider submitting something to the art prize myself one of these years -- maybe something inspired by my line drawings writ large?




Pictures of Emilie at art prize:






\ ~@M@~ /


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rings, an essay

Furthering my ideas on ideas, I am looking at how we can use our daily thoughts and make something enduring of them. We think all the time, but all those thoughts add up to little, at the end of the day, unless we know how to use them and build something from them. It may sound especially theological, but that is merely a mode of metaphor.





            Theologically, we say the choice in life is between angel and god: either you worship some god, or what amounts to a god, and go on after this life to be an angel thereof; or you stand on your own two feet, reverence yourself above all else, and upon your passing ascend into apotheosis. Those religions most eager to make angels for a God put a curse on the pride of being something in and of yourself -- pride is especially foul to them, the greatest temptation. As with the Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism, the emphasis is upon serving a higher power, obeying it, and this includes obeying his command to love him; we are told to submit to his power and authority. Yet for Mormon theology, a distinction is made between those who enter plural marriage, or celestial marriage, and those who do not; those who do not go on to be angels who minister to those who do, who in turn gain their exultation as gods. The divine activity proper to a Mormon is to husband a large family. To an allist it is to create.

            Altering the theological frameworks provided, you could say that an American heaven would have no God, but only the angels, who collectively are the God; and men all go on to become angels in the next life, serving one another. This theologically expresses our democratic politics.

            Emerson, who is the wisest theologian on matters of the self, nevertheless errs somewhat in this register. He says, regarding the Oversoul, a sort of cosmic water that fills us all, insofar as we open up our self-reliance to receive it:


“A man is the façade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear though his action, would make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it breaths through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the intellect begins, when it would be something of itself. The weakness of the will begins, when the individual would be something of himself. All reform aims, in some one particular, to let the soul have its way through us; in other words, to engage us to obey.”


            In this, Emerson reveals the one theological flaw in an otherwise pristine theology. To put his curse on the man who would be “something of himself” shows in the sense he could not escape the curse so thoroughly put on pride by the ancient Greeks and Jews. However, the error is slight, and well corrected by such a sentiment as when he summed up his entire literary project as expounding on the “infinitude of the private man.”

            Heraclitus said that the soul is a self-increasing logos. It is, properly, something in and of itself. It is everything, and the mind is nothing. More properly, the mind is nothingness, a vessel of selection, what we call “free will,” and this freedom is an absolute nothingness. To make the consciousness something of itself would be rightly called “the blindness of the intellect.” For the freedom of the mind is allowed and opened through the necessity of the self.

            Metaphysically, we say the self is the hidden sun, the secret name, an addition of matter into the universe; and the universal All, whom we call Mattria, does not know this name, what it is, what it can do, for it is an unconscious part of her body, the universe, nor can she guess it until it emanates its being in the form of additive energy. This unknowable self, uncreated, deathless, exists outside of the universe, and is that aspect which Emerson in his youth boasted of when he told the Universe, “you are no mother to me,” and said her galaxies would melt before he did.

            Moving past theology, past metaphysics, onto ethics, the mandala, or eight virtues, that Allism recommends, either verbatim or as a model for an analogous set, consists of four consecutive spheres. The central ethic is independence, or self-reliance, opening up one's unique necessity and its expressions, and this with the aid of solitude and reflection. Independence finds shape in the “soul” of the man, that part of him that mingles with the universe as a whole, where his difference is knit with the substance of Mattria, and by this we call creativity. Creativity finds expression through the circle of pragmatism, living daily life, practicality, getting on in the world, which is the blood of life, and this circle is balanced by the five “limb” virtues of direct honesty, repetitive study, simple order, intimate commitment, and optimizing optimism.

            A skeptic may have his doubts over talk of heaven, metaphysics, or moral systems; but I am not interested in skepticism here, but in exposing concepts, and using theological, metaphysics, and ethics to better expose them. The topic at hand is answering the question: when is an idea an idea? Since ideas seem to be universal, and yet seem to be created, understanding how created things can become eternal, or how ideas that arise in time can be timeless, can be seen through a perspective that focuses on the difference between fragment and whole. As a practical question, we ask when and how our fragmentary stream of consciousness exults into a full blown idea.

            The angels are fragments: they are emissaries of the divine. The divine is the circle, the angles are points on that circle’s circumference.

            Living in Mundania, this practical muddle of facts, with the pinching necessities to make a living and do our duties, we are, or so it seems, amphibians: divine beasts, godmen. The experience of eternity, the experience of the timeless, the everlasting, seems to come from above, from the “Oversoul,” and fills the world, or aspects of it. We receive it as a gift, not knowing it came from within, and not from without. The universe mingles her light with our own original emanation.

            William James imagined the pluralverse as an alternative vision to the universe. Instead of the One, whose body is the universe, and whose soul is God, and of which each of us is as a cell in the body, he imagines each man as is conscious, and mankind as a whole is like an Oversoul, or overmind, and the earth itself being conscious. God too is in the mix, but he is a separate intelligence, as Christianity sometimes imagines him. What is lacking is an allview, a summing up of all of them. The omniscient one extolled by Hegel and Spinoza is here lacking.

            That is the fatal flaw of William James’s vision. He said “either pluralverse or universe,” when, in fact, clearly, it can be both. The Universal All has a mind of her own, which may not be omniscient, but it is the widest reaching; the cells of our body have a consciousness of their own; each man has his own mind, and every group he is part of has a group mind, so that the United States has a shared consciousness, and so does the church he attends, and the corporation he works for, as well as mankind entirely, as well as the animal life of earth itself, and the earth, as a globe, all the way on up. In each of these rings, there is autonomy, or the selfish part, that exists for itself and not for any others, and there is also the part that emanates to the higher spheres, so that, yes, properly, the universe learns through us, learns philosophy through us, and yet there is something in it that means something to us that it doesn’t to her, as it means something to her is can't to us. These spheres of consciousness are created all the time, are created between associations of men and women, are created through organelles in the brain, through tissues, through cells. Correcting this fatal flaw of James’ system is like correcting the fatal flaw of Emerson’s system; it was the one thing lacking, the one fissure in the mirror of the infinite mind.

            We say that Mattria’s upper lip is God and her lower lip is Satan and that the chip in her tooth is the crucifix; that the Tao is her blood, Karma her nerves. To return to common sense and out of theology, we can say that the perfect circle is not the complete circle, but the incomplete circle. The spiral that grows outwards is the perfect circle, whereas the circle that simply ends where it begins is closed off and limited.

            Human perfection is not therefore a matter of arriving at a final form, but only arriving at the final form of infinite growth. Once we have made that one easy choice, have truly made it, the rest follows forever. Perfection is easy. It was not a matter of leaping impossibly to the brightest ideal our imagination is capable of: that imaginative speculation is utterly determined by our needs and frustrations. What we imagine as the best of all possible worlds never could be, if achieved. Perfection is imminent. The choice is in choosing to close the circle, thus no longer being a mere angel, a mere good Christian, good Buddhist, good American, part of some larger mind, but not something in himself. He must effectively close off his own independence. The one great threat, they call it “Being Saved” is to separate your conscious mind from your necessary self, to divorce freedom from necessity to end suffering. They sell their soul to get to heaven. This quasi divorce between mind and necessity, which is called “coming to life,” or “conception,” when our necessity and freedom broke apart, when our need and mind broke in two, is when we ceased to exist as all nonliving things exist, in a state of eternal bliss. We came to life, and want and satisfaction were separated. That separation is the incompleteness of the circle, or perfecting the circle into a spiral, a cycle, an eternal growth. If death is eternal bliss, then life is eternal growth; and growth is a cycle of suffering and satisfaction. This distinction between growth and pleasure makes the basic choice of life, a choice we mythically call “the kiss of Ama,” when the Goddess kisses our brow and we are made to choose between angel and god, a choice between growth and pleasure. Different religions would use different terms, but mean the same thing by them.

            These events happen within and through the ordinary choices we make each day. To merely imagine a thing is to commit it. All we do builds into our brains, and though our brains decay, the ideas they create endure for both the self and for mankind. Imagining a crime is committing it. We enjoyed the idea and are implicated by pleasure, and hence by guilt. Love is crime. A true act of love, its inception, is to upset the status quo, the power system. This daily dalliance is rife with life and implications. This divided attention makes up daily life – we commit ourselves to a dozen spheres in all we do. Shared pleasure, laughing at an obscene joke, having taken pleasure in it, you did it, you are implicated. The lurid allures us. All which resonates with us shares a world with us. In all we create we create a heaven for ourselves, and live in it now, and how we live in it now determines in part how we will live in it henceforth.

            The mythosphere of stories, which illustrate these ideas, is peopled by personalities. A personality is something that happens to a set of ideas. The ideas resonate to each other and make a system. That system is a personality. But the personality is the epiphenomena of the ideas, the facts, yet is a phenomena of itself once the facts, or material substrate, is removed. Theory justifies itself in application. Only work pays its way. By thinking impossibly we arrive finally at solid common sense. Common sense is the cash by which we make a living. The mythosphere is in the mundane sphere.

            This creative womb, this metaphor mind, by which the mind harnesses fragments and bends them, makes them submit and sends them in missives like so many angels, with each nerve firing our brains like a haloed angel, through which we are able to comprehend and process all the world, the events, the people, the pains, sufferings, and indignities as well as the triumphs and exultations, and so being composite we become a simple circle through acts of integrity.. Masked and inverted, what was once repulsive comes to please us, all the world must find is shape to our pleasure. Form is function, but forms can be transformed; what matters is making a space to think, a nothing room in which to play out impossible freedoms to work through these ideas. We create in this fantasy-board a calculus, a set of coordinates. This is thinking, creative thinking, this  is the adventure of ideas. The competitive collaboration that is partnership with the world requires also time for reflective solitude. We study art, or appreciate art, or enjoy art, or are entertained by art, depending on what we are after. Works of art are formulate a situation – simplifying a world. Art exposes strategies for playing the game of life. What does art mean? A meaning is the desire it inspires. With interpretation, and perhaps a set of values by which to impose meanings on anything, art can come to mean a lot of things. Style sets character; voice leads to action; art inspires life. And each of us, alienated by our pain and alone to it, have a canvas by which to create and triumph. Pain is a space. It is ours to convert God. Certainly we need our time away to “absolve me to myself.” Solitude empowers. Power tests truth. But what is power but distance, control over distance? If I waste my energy fighting off social vices, private vices, then let me bend my vices into a circle, let the vices cancel each other out. Fragments pain us but wholes relax. My fragmented day is whole when I impose a pattern and place things.

            Power is geographical. Mystics talk about lands having powers. As always, we should take metaphysics as rhetoric. We can charge locations with power by telling stories of them. A king is a king be being taken for a king; money is money be being respected as money; a location has power by imposition. We require a language to empower us, to charge our possessions with value. The symbol of the common enemy rallies a group, makes them able to love each other. The story of shared heritage stokes souls. And though facts and fictions are both manufactured things, stories told about the world, spontaneous forms are the most compelling; you can’t fake inspiration. Some say the divine inspires us, “the Muse,” or as Whitman said of his poems, that they are all inspired by the “holy spirit,” -- and pragmatically it is so: inspiration is divine. Not that inspiration is enough. We must edit for efficiency. “Soap is not sold in a trance,” said one literary critic, and ideas must be packaged and sold. We must materialize the spirit, we must spiritualize matter. This ADD vision of the world from media, the medley of images we receive each day, solidifies into a worldview. One unifying style must make it cohere. The person who is to create this world religion must be free from money, a prophet without profits. For him, the world is a mirror, and he seeks to create a morality to help us work. What if heaven were not a fantastic place, but living this life, as it is, only being happy doing so? Morality is a set of attitudes. What is our actual morality? Not the pretty sentiments of sermons, but the pragmatic morality we actually live by. A failed hero can compel, a failed saint suggests the morality is worth following, but in fact the failure is the morality, the ideal always a lie. Failure is a proof of success. That something is worth failing at suggests it’s worth seeking. Pragmatically, failing at the impossible is dignified.

            This is why people are as sick as they can afford to be. We fail as much as we can get away with. We must learn the truth and forget the suffering, just as we learn a word only by forgetting its context. When we can break off an experience, and name it – by naming it, we give it a beginning and an end, make it a circle – then does it resonate, then is it something in and of itself, and produces a spontaneous energy from its inner soul. When we, as its Oversoul, pour our own energy into it, our care, our crea, our creative attention, it mingles with its emanated energy and makes a soul for it. That soul, animated by its necessity, becomes an engine. It can give us precedence for other experiences, new ventures. It is something in and of itself, autonomous, self-sufficient; it has auto-erotic integrity, and yet can be wed to other autonomous beings to create a more complex whole.

            Thus is nothing wasted in life, no experience, no drudgery, no daily indignity, so long as we can name it, can disentangle it from its world, using interpretation, and so transform it both into a resonant sphere, by which to serve us, or perhaps into an increasing spiral, to grow alongside us. This ring that we create, that is autonomous, growing, resonating, can be a circle of friends, a motivational cluster, a satellite of ideas, a spread of related virtues. The essential is born of the proportional. Early American optimism produced a literature, produced the soul of Optimism, and of the American Oversoul, Emerson is the mind, and the being of it we call Ama, America. Your soul asks a question: my name is the answer. This art form that fascinates you presents your world to you. You lived it, you knew it, but you could not comprehend it, could not see it simply. The group dance symbolizes society. Your occupational psychosis, seeing all the world in terms of your job, was a start, was closing the circle, and making a ring, making of work and its unfreedom a playful art -- for play is the ultimate in freedom. Social patterns require artistic symbols. We need simplicity to use a thing, to make a ring of it, to speak it, to use it. Humor relaxes our duty, and being humiliated wakes us from our larval feeding, reminds us that the spiral of growth is perpetual graduations of apotheosis. With each new godhead we assume, we gain a new set of wings.

            Mastering your day, your life, is being able to pattern your experiences into consecutive rings, to let them resonate to, let them inform and conform each other, to make a name for themselves, to be something of themselves, for when an experience becomes utterly selfish, then it is utterly useful, and you can build thereon. Lacking a center, it is a mere fragment, a mere angel, and would require a legion of angels to balance out around you, to be your missives towards the world. Structuring all this together and fitting it into the growth of yourself, your loved ones, your world, is the exultation of being, the game of life, and it is the same Game played by Mattriama, the glorious all, as it is to the smallest atom in the infinitesimal of your being.

            The ring of our initial existence becomes the spiral of our coming to life. To settle for any one God's heaven is to become a ring again, losing our necessity and adopting a new necessity, a new center. The choice in life is to spiral infinitely greater. And this we do simultaneously when we pick up our daily ideas and experience, fragmentary and dying, and make circles and spirals of them. Making rings of our ideas, we give our life resonance.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Hating our lovers" the beginning of an essay

Hating Our Lovers

                Ambivalence is an insufficient term. We have many ideas about those we love, and many needs, we feel more than one or two feelings, but many, multivalence, a shifting alchemy of emotions towards a person. Is it one substance, a sort of affect that can take the shape of love, or hate, or fear, or confusion, melding from one to the other, or are the emotions more like counter substances that combat each other, each needing its own expression, and unable to transform simply one into another?

                The focus can indeed convert mood to mood, can evoke the words of conversion by which the “substance” of an emotion is transformed into another. We have mythic, religious, literary, poetic, or even scientific terms for such things – and science and religion both amount to a magical use of Latin to lend authority to an idea. The glass of focus contracts into a diamond or diffuses into a mist, but the charge on ideas, the desire of them, the affect, is molded by how we focus. We come to experience things outside the focus, and those experiences push idea into the focus, as if an outer sphere of negative emotions pushed in euphemistic ideas into the focus, so that when we felt hate, we thought of love, and when we wanted to murder, we talked about forgiveness, and when we despised our neighbor, we spoke of tolerance, as if keeping those negative feelings at bay, when in fact that false mask was the presence of the thing we opposed.

                We are most masked with lovers. These people who are most intimate to us, who can see our eyes, our soul, these people teach us the most how to lie, to secure that needed and everblessed sense of solitude with our experience. You owe your whole heart to nobody, not your spouse, friend, child, God, or anybody else. That is yours alone, and truly so, and knowing how to shrewdly hide your experience so that you can experience first hand, and not let another judge you and command you how to experience, means having independence, the central virtue, the heart of the virtues.

                Rape is seldom literal, murder seldom physical, but the idea of them, the principle of them, is not criminal, is ordinary, and effective, even beautiful, in slight gestures, inflections, as parts of our speech, so that a conversation has every inflection of blackmail, or theft, or torture, but in such attenuated rhetorical ways that we never grasp the entirety of them. The bullying of highschool is only the external exhibition of the societal bullying that persists the same in all civilized society. The principles are exposed and obvious in a given instance, but nearly invisible otherwise.

                In the same way, there are moments in our life that expose our hate more than others, moments that expose our jealousy. Only a cynic would say that we “reveal our true selves” in such moments, as if only our worst, most shameful, must ugly parts were “truly” us. When a car accident exposes our gall bladder we have not revealed our “true” self, but exposed part of ourselves that belongs in balance with other organs, out of sight, and getting its healthy expression in the appropriate way.

                This lover blames me endlessly; every time you shut the door, you shut it in my face; this other one is endless accusations, we’ve deadlocked at accusations; and thus my friends become to me, though people I love, something of a pain. I don’t understand these relationships, don’t understand you people. Maybe one day it will make sense. In our best moments we never know what we are doing until years later. The best years of our life are only known to be so in retrospect. Maybe I will never understand my friends.

                Nor do we quite know all a friend, enemy, or even pure stranger means to us, what famous figures, historical figures mean to us. Those who bother us, those we hate, may have seen our shame, seen our weakness, and thought less of us because of it. Secret wounds are the deepest. To have an enemy is to show sympathy – envy is a sort of sympathy, one we often mask ourselves through its opposite, pity, or through indignation or disgust. To have an enemy is to have sympathy, and hence vulnerability – we secretly fear he is right, and we are wrong, and if we are unconscientious in our fight, we feel that guilt all the more. The closer the enemy is to our secret heart, the colder or more violent we must feel towards him.

                When we have morally defeated our enemy, he may fight or scream, or deny or whatever, but in our heart, the doubt is gone, the self-doubt we have personified as our enemy, that is no more. Lacking that leverage over our heart, he is no longer an enemy, but just a fool.

                In this, we have tamed our pain, not when we have “forgiven our enemy,” not when we have “prayed for him,” but when we no longer fear him. He ceases to be an enemy, and requires nothing as passive-aggressive as “forgiveness” or “prayer.”

                Loving others is easy enough. It is easier to love than to know. We can love a person, but understanding them is difficult. Religion is mostly personality cult, not a series of spiritual methods for shaping society. A divine figure is loved, but the divine is not understood. Personality expresses attitude quicker than logic. We appreciate a dynamic figure, and since he energizes us, we think he is “good.” A naïve judgment, but consistent, for all the saints, demigods, prophets, and reformers of history, we conclude they most be wholly ideal because they make us think of the ideal as such. That Martin Luther King Jr. committed adultery with teenagers is – who cares? We must consider the austerity of the poem versus the situatedness of the poem. Having an idealized image of a person, based on how he or she makes us feel, we come to idolize them, to make something divine of them, but not the real divine, which is the actual self of the person – how could we hope to touch that? – but really our own inner divine comes out through the image of others. One cannot live on the word for bread alone, we need to touch, we need intimacy, and in this Eros is the highest love, and the sum of love: creating from us a third thing which we share. The “let there be” of magic may have been replaced by the “please do” of religion, but the higher synthesize is the return of magic in poetry, as science is Latinized, as science is magic that works, as dependence is suffering, and asking please is unworthy the true dignity of man. We come to realize this later, in our strength. Introspecting is retrospective – we never know what our art means when we mean it. Our loves and hates, finally, must be seen for necessary, for when we see a thing as having been necessary, we can finally make free use of it.

                Intimacy may know, but it does not understand. Only distance understands. We gain our touch, our key image, but sexuality is to become a part, a sexed animal is half a whole, a section, losing unity. We are initiated through society through sex, through the world telling us what to desire, but this is not the maturity of the man. The sexual union, which is the entire relationship, not just the moment of bliss, is our completion as bodies. The symbolic suicide that brings us to our life and death, the gesture, the solitude of it, gives us understanding, of how to be something in and of ourselves. We take incest as a symbol for narcissism, secret names and knowledge, we dive into the peculiar world of self-knowledge, come finally into our own, our self-bliss, understand our own mind, and in such a love, when we say Ama, and mean Ama -- and we only truly say Ama when we mean Ama -- then there is and can be no hate in the soul, for she is that being which cannot be hated by anyone anywhere, for she is the substance of the love, and the object of address is mere circumstance. In this, the divine by nature cannot be hated, and there is none that can sin against her. It is impossible to offend her, and those who think they have blasphemed her have not even spoken her name or known her face. Hate, which is so necessary in situating the heart, and protecting the things we love, cannot be applied to the fullness of the all – that is the secret and the mystery not of the saints and mystics and seers, but in fact every man, woman, and child everywhere.




\ ~@M@~ /