Anxiety: I Love and I Hate

Kierkegaard believed that those things that we are anxious about we both love and hate. Actually he said we have an antipathetic-sympathy and a sympathetic-antipathy towards them, but that’s a fancy way of saying the same thing. We want them and we don’t want them.

Those things that we feel anxious about are the important things — people who really matter to us. Big decisions. Big stuff. Do you want cocoa puffs for breakfast? Sure, why not. No anxiety. No love and no hate. No antipathetic sympathy or sympathetic antipathy. You simply prefer them.

Where did he get this stuff from? From life. But life as he lived it was told in the context of a particular story.

Kierkegaard was a Christian — sort of — which meant he believed in the old story of the Fall and the hoped for Redemption. What’s that?

Augustine, the North African philosopher of Roman times spent ten years as a Manichean — i.e. he believed that from eternity there had been two principles at war in the cosmos — good and evil. Then he became a Christian, in part to make his mother happy. He was the greatest Christian theologian of the Fall, though his enemies thought he was still a crypto-Manichean.

Augustine said the fall is the reason we want things and don’t want them. For example: sex. Before the fall sex was a matter of thinking it would be good to have sex and then joining genitals with no anxiety and no ambivalence — like shaking hands. But now our members — our sex organs — revolt. We can want to have sex with a person even though we think it’s wrong. We want and we do not want. As Catullus said: I love and I hate.

A strange story — falling and then loving and hating. That is the sign of trauma, they say, that you are in a sense split, into the person who underwent the trauma and the person on the outside observing it. They say that trauma splits how you see the world. You hate the person who traumatized you — of course. And you love him too. Why? It’s too scary to imagine that he doesn’t care. Part of you does Stockholm syndrome and sympathizes with the accuser.

And a story that takes you through what they call peripateia and anagnorisis — ups and down and something that makes sense of the story from all the masks of the drama — abuser and abused — and the person the abuser was abused by — and the person whom the abused abuses in turn — story knits together the trauma. It teaches us how we can love and hate.

Does thinking do it? Thinking is a sort of self-talk. We take two sides of the story.

Anxious people think a lot. Do I love her or do I hate her? Do I forgive him or will that kill me? They think to deal with their anxiety.

People feel anxious about two things probably — birth and death — joining together in love or breaking up.

Birth and death, copulation or separation with another person. But also internally. Birth and death of the fragments. Do the fragments join together and become a whole, which has a more nuanced view? Does the whole person undergo a new trauma and split some more?

In the old days there were two basic takes on all this — the school of love and the school of strife. The school of love thought the world was a bunch of separate things seeking to reconnect, while the school of strife thought life was about a bunch of unruly wholes seeking to tear themselves and others apart. Needless to say the School of Strife was in love with the School of Love, while the school of love strove ceaselessly to fend off the school of strife.


Why Do We Cry Because Time Passes?

Why do we cry when we look at a picture of our grown children as babies and toddlers? What would we like them to do? Stay babies forever? How would that even work?

Do we want to have them both, the baby and the grown-up son with us at the same time? Don’t we know that the baby must go to become the grown-up son?

Is it that we cry because want something even though it is impossible? Is that who we are/the kind of things that we are?

Or is it that some things make us cry even though we don’t want them to be different? Maybe crying is not rational? Maybe we don’t need a reason to cry?

Thinking and writing and asking and coming up with reasons why this is that rather than something else, just a quiet form of crying?

Land just an usually dry form of the ocean?

Earth just the lowest point of sky?


Cultural Evolution

This article explores under what circumstances a species is more likely to evolve. You need mutation but that’s not enough because a potentially salubrious mutation can be snuffed out by random noise; the monkey who has the mutation making him 1% smarter than his peers may get eaten by a lion before his mutation has a chance to spread through the population. If a species goes off to form little breeding colonies periodically and then reconvenes that’s better. In this case our hypothetical smart monkey can go off and breed a little sub-population of smart monkeys, and when this sub-population starts interacting with the rest of the monkeys they can have more offspring and the whole monkey species will evolve.

What are the analogous rules for cultural evolution? It seems like something analogous is true. It’s not enough that there need to be cultural mutations — say a new way of writing poetry that is kicker or more evocative or more memorable — because this new way can just vanish in the marketplace. The new cultural form needs a protected enclave in which it can thrive and get love, and then it can burst onto the global marketplace. This is probably the function of sub-cultures and fandoms.



Lovely Fool

What’s Hecuba to Him?

When father lost his job he went to the city for hours and came back and his finger stunk! What were you doing all day mother asked. “I was giving the neighborhood dogs free prostate exams!” the old man said proudly. “Lovely fool!” said mother “That kind of animal doesn’t have a prostate.”

What’s He to Hecuba?

My sister said: Those two old people were both a pair of idiots. The mother was wrong — that kind of animal does have a prostate. The father was wrong: he had no idea how to check them.

Lovely Fool

But I say: those two old people were both right. The father was right that they had prostates. My mother was right that he didn’t know what he was doing. He felt bad he lost his job, he wandered the neighborhood to get away from us. He saw the collie and wanted to help it. So what he didn’t know how?

Now they’re both gone.


Complicated Idea

When Master Jennifer was discoursing on the Doctrine of Creation, her student the Green Leaf Elder said “Why so complicated? Why so many falls and re-arisings? Why the Increate, the Son of the Increate, and the Dream of the Increate’s Ineffable Mother? Why the light, the returning light, and the shattered light? Why can’t your explanation of Life and God and Evil be simple?”

Master Jennifer took the Green Leaf Elder to the shower of the Education Building where a plumber was working on a stopped drain by pouring water down it. “Why is the drain stopped up, Louis? Why is water rather than going down, going up? And why, if there is too much water, are you adding even more water?”

Louis said:

The plumbing system in your home is composed of two separate subsystems. One subsystem brings freshwater in, and the other takes wastewater out. The water that comes into your home is under pressure. It enters your home under enough pressure to allow it to travel upstairs, around corners, or wherever else it’s needed. As water comes into your home, it passes through a meter that registers the amount you use. The main water shutoff, or stop, valve is typically located close to the meter. In a plumbing emergency, it’s vital that you quickly close the main shutoff valve. Otherwise, when a pipe bursts, it can flood your house in no time. If the emergency is confined to a sink, tub, or toilet, however, you may not want to turn off your entire water supply. Therefore, most fixtures should have individual stop valves.

“That’s so complicated!” said Master Jennifer “Wouldn’t it be easier if the problem were simply that there was a big stone in the pipes?”

“I don’t know what to tell you, lady.” said Louis. “There’s not a big stone in the pipes.”

“I see, Master Jennifer!” said the Green Leaf Elder and threw himself at her feet asking for forgiveness.

And yet when the government burned down the Education Building, put the teachers in jail and destroyed the Teaching, both Green Leaf Elder and Master Jennifer worked until their eyelids bled to put the teaching in an easy-to-understand form, so the common people, harried as they were by the pressure to stay alive and provide food for their families could understand it, as much as they were able to.


Powerful, Gentle, Being

I got the add in google mail and I bought the product from Amazon; it was a metal disk about the diameter of an Eisenhower dollar and as thick as a paper towel with the letters IGB printed on it. It cost seven dollars. It came with instructions that you put it on the middle of your forehead with two-sided surgical tape, and you put on eyeshades and lie down and if you want listen to music or to pink noise, and you have an experience of an incredibly powerful, gentle being. Whoever wrote copy for the web-page (it didn’t seem that English was their first language — perhaps — most likely — it had been translated using a computer) said they did not use the word “infinite” because whether something was infinite or simply so vast that it exceeded human comprehension was a claim “not amenable to evaluation by the FDA”.

I asked the being which was a more revolutionary technology: LSD or money.

The being said, “Oh wow. I remember fifteen hundred years ago when you asked me the same question only you wanted to know (or said you wanted to know) which was a greater gift of the gods: gold or wine.”

“If you remember me fifteen hundred years ago does that mean I am immortal?”

“Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.” said the being “Let me try to explain it to you. You are like a hand in poker — you are like a spade flush — and the cards are immortal but the hands get continually reshuffled.”

“That makes sense.” I said “But what are the cards?”

“Yeah, sure it makes sense you would ask that.” said the being “The cards are also hands of poker so there is so to speak no ultimate level.”

“I wonder why people get insights into the illusory nature of the ego and it gives them a big ego?” I asked the being because I had the sense that it was gentle enough the question would not anger it.

“You might as well wonder why people burn people at the stake in order to teach them to love.”

“I do wonder that, gentle being!” I said “I worry about that one a lot!”

“Well I’m glad you do! You know part of the challenge of being an infinite being is that if you worry everyone worries.”

“Is that why you created me?”

“Or vice versa. Anyway very nice talking with you and I hope we can talk again soon.”


Museum of Your Life

They tell you they will make you live for billions of years — more or less immortal! But because your memory is finite you will not be able to remember the life of billions of years. So you are told to create a museum of your life so far and your new self on its journey of a billion years — practically immortal! — will wake up every day in this museum and learn who you are.

What will you put in this museum?

And…are you already living in such a museum?

And if you are, isn’t it time to throw some things away?

Or better yet — move out?