Moods and Stories and Temporality

I just got back from the American Society of Existential Phenomenology meeting in New York City.  Wayne Martin was presenting a paper on the will in Luther, but this inspired me to read an earlier paper of Wayne’s on “Manic Temporality’.  Francisco Gallegos of Wake Forest University also presented a paper on moods.   It got me thinking about the intersection of three different phenomena: mood, narrative, and temporality.

Mood is easy to get a handle on if we contrast it with emotion. I could hate a person or be jealous of a person or angry at a person.  Mood in contrast is not focussed on a specific person or event or thing.  Mood is the background emotional color of everything I experience. If I’m in a sunny mood, everything seems hopeful. If I’m in a bitter mood, everything seems like a waste.

But when we look at a mood like anxiety or depression or panic, what really seems to get warped into a particular shape is our experience of time.  In an anxious mood, all future possibilities seem both desirable and scary.  In a panic the future seems inaccessible and all that exists is an intolerable present.  As Wayne Martin points out in his paper on manic temporality, when we are manic all future possibilities seem very good, although vague.  I think love is a form or mania focussed on a particular person; that person seems to be the gateway through which a bounteous, exciting future makes itself present.  And as we would expect mania has its corresponding temporality in depression — the future seems hopeless. And romantic love has its corresponding form of depression which we call heartbreak — the only possibility of happiness lies in the other and that is impossible.

Moods it seems to me (and this is developing on a theme from Francisco Gallegos) carry with them a characteristic narrative.  That’s because narrative, according to Aristotle structures events in a particular way — it makes us focus on events that turn things from bad to good or from good to bad (peripateia/reversal of fortune) and on events that cause us to understand ourselves and our situation in a new way (anagnorisis/removal of ignorance).

Together mood, temporality, and narrative reinforce each other to define our lives.




What’s an Analogy Analogous To?

Supposing somebody didn’t know what an analogy was?  How could he find out?

Could somebody explain it to him by an analogy?  Could somebody say “Look –an analogy bears the same relationship to the thing I am analogizing as does a dream of a river to our waking fear of death, an image in a mirror does to the thing mirrored, tears do the overburdened heart?

How could that help?  Because it would seem to understand the analogy, the person would have to understand what an analogy was already, and thus it would be useless.

And yet we are not born knowing what analogies are.


Don’t Go Near Them Said Grandpa

They’re not like us.  Most of them don’t know about human life or human love.  Some of them know a little about human life but nothing about human love.  Some of them know a little about human love, but nothing about human life.  Steer clear of them. They’re the worst.

On the branch, the shape of a fourteen year old girl was sitting, brambles in her hair, and beckoning.


Ending of Game of Thrones Bad?

A lot of people think the end of Game of Thrones is bad.  Because the beautiful advocate of fairness for all is dispatched, decisions in the future will be made by a committee of the super-rich families who will claim these decisions are endorsed by a mystic whose authority can’t be questioned.  And also an expert at murder is going off on a colonizing mission.

It all seems like a gross, self-serving political message.  At a time of oligarchic families and unchecked wealth, the moral of premium cable’s priciest series is…watch out for people who believe in fairness?  Let decisions be made by a cabal of rich families?  What a drag!  Bad!  Bad!  Or as they say on the show “Shame! Shame!”

It’s only bad if you think it’s a political message.

If you think it’s just a story about how these people would actually behave it’s fine.

You could think of Game of Thrones as debunking of the high fantasy genre.  The message of Game of Thrones is that the Lord of the Rings is political propaganda. People tell themselves stories like “The Lord of the Rings”.  But actually they are living backstabbing petty lives like the characters in Game of Thrones. The ending of Game of Thrones is a transition from one kind of propaganda to another kind of propaganda. In the beginning these characters told noble heroic stories about their selfish backstabbing.  But now they will tell pragmatic, this is the best you can do in an imperfect world stories. But it will remain bullshit.

So you could view the end of Game of Thrones as saying “This is how people should live” and get mad. Or you could view it as acknowledging that the way stories end in the show “Game of Thrones” is also propaganda.

What do the writers think?  1)Who knows?  If you ask them they won’t tell you the truth and 2)Who cares?  Lots of times things mean things more than the people who say them know. (Lots of times = all the time.)

A hint is that a particularly conniving character says when making the goofy mystic his figurehead king “the most powerful thing in the world is a good story”.

Now, that’s obviously not true. There are jillions of good stories thought of, published, even made into tv shows every year and they have no power at all.

The most powerful thing in the world is a good story that the person telling it believes is true and can convince others is true.

So since they said that, and it’s obviously a lie, they probably know more than they’re letting on.


Women Squashing Their Own Voices

Everybody has a critical inner voice I suppose, but for women in our society it’s particularly horrendous, because it seems to say “If you have an opinion, or express it, or express it forcefully, you may hurt somebody’s feelings, so keep it down, or you’re a bad little girl.”  This internalized misogyny is bad news, not just for the women who feel bad when they shouldn’t, but for everybody.  Because when a woman shuts herself up, or expresses herself diffidently, the result is not silence.  The result is some braying jackass of a man filling the available space with an opinion that is generally less nuanced, less sensitive to the needs of the situation, and just wrong.


Vegetarian Who Binges on Burgers

Every morning at 5 am I go online and post a beautiful essay in defense of vegetarianism.  Every day at noon I eat a burger.  I’m not a hypocrite, at least at 5 am I’m not a hypocrite, I genuinely feel sad for the suffering of cows, especially those in factory farms.  At noon there is nothing I would like more than to eat a burger from in and out, especially one with cheese and bacon.

Sometimes at 1 pm I think “Those beautiful essays are by a different guy, a better guy who is forced to share a body with my gross, and greasy, self-indulgent self.”  And sometimes I think “Those beautiful essays are by a fragile, brittle self-conception, floating around issuing moral pronouncements, echoing parental shaming from long ago — a ghost in the bombed-out city.”  More often, I don’t think at all.

Sometimes I think, I know this, I got this.  I am a “vegetarian at 5 am, burger-binger at noon” and that’s a thing.  Why isn’t that a thing?  You do you, they say, and I do me.  I do!  I do.  Me is what I do.  And that — veg burger-binger — is what — one of the what’s — doing me is. And I do it!  And I’m good at it!   The only person who is able to do me, by definition is me.

An interesting way to look at it, and also utterly fatuous, since the only person able to fail to do me, is guess who.


Ori the Dog

Who is your friend when life is tough?

Who is the one who goes “Wuf! Wuf!”?

It’s O-ri the wonderful dog

O-ri the wonderful dog

O-ri the wonderful dog

America loves Ori.

You will never feel sad or sorry

If you meet the dog whose name is Ori.