Tuesday, August 29, 2006

You Don't Know Me

I'm busy this week. (Definitely too busy for long or thoughtful posts.) Busy and stressed. This makes me anxious, and anxiety makes me depressed. I'm glad I can count on the books I read to let me know I'm not alone, or rather, that I am alone and you are too. Together in our aloneness.

From Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession by Janet Malcolm, a writer I admire very much.

The phenomenon of transference—how we all invent each other according to early blueprints—was Freud’s most original and radical discovery. The idea of infant sexuality and of the Oedipal complex can be accepted with a good deal more equanimity than the idea that the most precious and inviolate of entities—personal relations—is actually a messy jangle of misapprehensions, at best an uneasy truce between powerful solitary fantasy systems. Even (or especially) romantic love is fundamentally solitary, and has at its core a profound impersonality. The concept of transference at once destroys faith in personal relations and explains why they are tragic: we cannot know each other. We must grope around for each other through a dense thicket of absent others. We cannot see each other plain. A horrible kind of predestination hovers over each new attachment we form. “Only connect,” E.M. Forster proposed. “Only we can’t,” the psychoanalyst knows.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE this excerpt.
I'm wondering what you make of, "we must grope around for each other through a dense thicket of absent others."
Absent others.
I'm stumbling a bit on this one.

Com$tock said...

I read that bit to mean that, although we try to really know someone, all of our impressions are shaped by our past experiences--specifically our foundational experiences with our parents and others we spent our early years with. Our desires, fantasies, expectations, etc., reflect what happened with those "others," and we bring these all to bear on our current relationships.

P.S. You were my 1001st visitor. Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course! The absent others are those who are physically absent yet stiflingly present in all other ways.
I found your blog through looking up that very quote by Janet Malcolm. All I could remember was, "..messy jangle" (such a delicious combo of words) and I came across your blog that laid out exactly what I was looking for. Thank you.

Do you know about "Brother Void" at Daily Afflictions.com? He lives in Brooklyn and wrote this tiny book called "Daily Afflictions". And he has a website. Much of it is funny and refreshing.

The book "... offers inspiration, practical advice, and food for thought, as you navigate the jungle of existential terror and paradox that begins anew each day."

Here's some more from the site:

A Philosophy of Affliction

The Church of Skeptical Mysticism follows the path of daily affliction, not the path daily affirmation. While both are affirming in their own way, they follow radically different approaches to affirmation. Daily affirmations bathe you in light and manifest all that is positive. They promise that you can attract what you wish for by visualizing it. Afflictions make no such promises. They remind you that when you feel desperate and alone, you are. Afflictions mobilize the suppressed power of your dark side. If your inner child can help you cry again, just imagine what your inner critic, inner bigot, and inner psychopath can do to you.

You can't avoid suffering. The right affliction, however, can make your suffering more meaningful. It won't tell you the answer, but it can deepen an unresolvable question; it won't help you find yourself, but it might help you to realize that you're irretrievably lost. A strong affliction is profound yet painful. It reminds you that the truth will set you free, but first it will hurt like hell.

What afflicts one person, however, may not afflict another with sufficient severity. As you make your way through this difficult life, you must find the afflictions that are right for you. For only in darkness, light; only in paradox, truth; only in affliction, affirmation.


Patron Saints of the Church

Friedrich Nietzsche.
"Become who you are."

Rainer Maria Rilke.
"It is inside human beings that God learns."

Chuang Tsu.
"When the shoe fits, the foot is forgotten."

Franz Kafka
"There is hope but not for us."

The Buddha.
"Work out your own salvation with diligence."


Sample Church Service

Call to Affliction
Downloading of the Scripture
Opening Psalms [photo]
Upgrading of the Technology
Bestowing of the Ironic Blessings [photo]
Laying on of Hands [photo]
Musical Interlude
Sermon: Can Hopelessness Change the World? [photo] [sermon]
Guided Meditation
Killing of the Buddha [photo] [official statement]
Closing Epiphany [photo]

I'm forever stumbling around on the call to make our lives meaningful and full in the face of our certain demise and eventual death. I think this tiny glitch is what the existentialists call "the absurd".