Wednesday, 3 February 2016

"If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber."- Albert Einstein

Just finished The Birth And Death Of Meaning by Ernest Becker. One of those manuals for de- and re- construction that is both liberating and damning. Reads like Joseph Campbell's comedown.

-"Mind culminates in the organism's ability to choose what it will react to."
-'Me' before 'I'. Kant, child development and identity as an object of others, before an executive subject. The child's first identity is a social product.
-"He doesn't unfold into the world, the world unfolds into him."
-On the separating nature of inner worlds- "We have become victims of our own art."
-Adler and the need for affection as the lever of a child's education.
-From polymorphous perverse to polymorphous pervertible.
-A traffic in images of self worth.
- "The child's need to be somebody in the symbolic world, since physically, nature had put him into an impossible position."
-Idea of sibling rivalry like bored knights dueling for the best adventures/primacy of the stage
-"Culture is a structure of rules, customs and ideas, which serve as a vehicle for heroism." (Links a lot to Campbell's hero ideas.)
-'How are others supposed to feel about me?' As an insightful question, apparently.
-Reminded of this: Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling. Scraps of information have nothing to do with it.- Alfred North Whitehead.
- Goethe on social awareness as ' a courtesy of the heart akin to love'. The love is the control of one's self so that social life may go on. Also recommending acting as essential preparation for adult life.
-Idea of the need of autonomy in a world of manifold options.
- It matters not what you mean, but what you say. (Carnegie said something like this.)
-"Our alertness to the performance of others, therefore, is an expression of our concern over sustaining the underlying meaning of the plot." "Continual, keen scrutiny of the performance of others is the life preoccupation of an animal trained to be on stage."
- Illegitimacy implies above all that legitimacy exists.
-Forming of joking relationships at tension points in the social system (e.g. with in-laws). Carries the encounter along automatically and breaks tension.
-Paraphrased idea of marriage losing its stimulating colour as it becomes a refuge from the creative challenge of ego mastery.
-Silent musing as tacit communication of the idea that meaningful silence exists.

-On Goethe: "He provided that conviction of life's meaning that man needs."
- "A person's whole sustenance comes to be based in a power source unknown or unacknowledged to himself..."
-"'s spouse, his Gurus or his guns."
-If one is a servant of divine powers everything one does is heroic. Religious unity as a powerful source of self esteem.

-"Our drop-out youths are the newly de-tribalised."

-"One of the most terrifying things about living in the late decades of the twentieth century is that the margin that nature has been giving to cultural fantasy is suddenly being narrowed down drastically. The consequence is that for the first time in history man, if he is to survive, has to bring down to near zero the large fictional element in his hero-systems."-"With standardisation of industrial culture, and with standardisation of medical-psychiatric perceptions we are narrowing and bureaucratising the spectrum of normality."
-"An individual who fails to put forth a self that others can value, by an oversensitivity to the performance, testifies to a primary failure in socialisation." "He has nothing to give to society, because he has nothing to put forth." "There must be actors in our play if we are to feel its meaning and not simply a stage propped with non-entities.""We want others to claim a share so that we can feel there is something worth claiming."

-Depression as a massive threat to ceremony. All playthings tired players on the bench, and idea of a guide to occasionally sitting on the bench of the cultural fiction (if not leaving the ballpark once in a while).
-Erving Goffman's definition of the mentally ill as those "least ready to project a sustainable self."
-When man evolved into consciousness he could no longer take creation for granted. "We are just not constructed to function practically in the everyday world and at the same time to be overawed at the miraculous." Idea of shamans once being able to do this with the support of the community (and a bed of self-fictions too perhaps). 
-Children abdicate their ecstasy because they have to. Individuality within finitude.
-Fromm: "The real problem of mental life is not why some people become insane, but rather why most avoid insanity." The pathology of normalcy.
-"The neurotic bungles small quotas of reality, the psychotic, large quotas."
-"Anger for most people is an alternative to fading away."
-Notion of illness and disease breaking the aesthetic of our cultural play, and upsetting our sense of justice. Resulting marginalisation of the chronically ill.
- "The necrophile takes revenge on life for what it did to him. He allies with death over life."
-Man's fate "is to live in the teeth of paradoxes."
-"Power for man, as the genius Hegel saw, is the ability to support contradictions, nothing less."
- We can't know what is real but we can see what is false to our own lives (or at least what halts our forward momentum/unfolding).

- Frantic daily life as a defence against self-consciousness (see Jung: “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.”)
 - "...the undermining power of the miraculous." 

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