elizabeth lane lawley
michael "OC" clarke
e v h e a d
sweet fancy moses
wood s lot
m. melting object
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
"so let us not talk falsely now
the hour is getting late..."
dylan / all along the watchtower
There was an ancient forest somewhere on the Northwest coast. She loved to visit this place, she said, because of how it made her feel. On entering it for the first time, she told me, a powerful thought came unbidden into her head: "Nothing false can enter here."
I was supposed to be impressed. I was impressed. It would be several years before I wondered: what would make someone think that?
Falsity is a big concern these latter days. A certain shakiness as to the putative ground of both personality and reality. A certain gushy-if-gunshy wonderment as to whether they might not, in fact indistinguishable from fiction, amount to the same thing.
You make things up, she said. You imagine things. How could I disagree? And what else is new? What else is even marginally interesting?
Postmodernism has taken all the fun out of calling someone a lying son of a (and/or) bitch. Because who is to really say what's true? Split to infinity, the truth is no longer The Truth, but rather, ohmygod, relative. Because ohmygod, relativism and all that, you know? And, by a certain cadre of those saying ohmygod the loudest, this impasse is glossed and made more palatable (to the congenitally stupid) as "My Truth" and "Your Truth." Still capitalized (so to speak), in spirit if not typographically. Let me suggest a new term for the impulse underlying this novel holding action against the already-over-and-done-with meltdown of unequivocal conceptual categories: i.e., micromodernism. A way to preserve a soupçon of certainty after Heisenberg. A way to pretend that the Enlightenment wasn't just for rich white uptight-outta-sight overeducated Northern European males, and yet fully endorse multiculturalism. No, even better: a way to remain Medieval, yet still appear hip. In a manner of speaking.
I made some awful pun the other day when Selene and I were cruising around looking for wroffle CDs, "wroffle" being a term of her own coinage, which she has asked me to propagate. It means something like ultracool. You're supposed to think ROFL when you hear it, but only the initiated get it. Thus are whole cultures constructed.
"That's not so funny," she said. Because I was laughing at my own bon mot. Too hard, she thought. She often tells me I'm not funny for this reason.
"It's funny to me," I say. "It's My Funny even if it's not Your Funny. You know, like My Truth and Your Truth."
She laughs. I've subjected her to the latter rap more than once, so she hears the caps immediately. Selene is spookily smart for a 13-year-old. For that matter, she's spookily smart for a 45-year-old. I'd much rather talk with her than with most purported adults. "My Funny" has now been added to our semi-private-language lexicon. Oh Bride of Wittgenstein, we do your bidding! Or, apropos The Real Difficulty:
But uh... to return to our main theme, we're talking here about The Real, The True, The Authentic. Because The Authentic = Nothing False. Where nothing false can enter, what has entered must, ergo, be true. Not necessarily as in "baby, baby, ooo-ooo-ooo be true..." But not necessarily not, either.
Now here is the main thing that I want to say: when I hear the word authentic, I reach for my revolver. I'm busy 24 hours a day.
Heidegger, in Being On Time (which I have, it goes without saying, never read; I'm always late), wrote a shitload about authenticity, as 11,400 google hits eloquently attest ("to affirm to be correct, true, or genuine" says The American Heritage Dictionary; "relatively speaking," we hasten to add.) Later, Heidegger was found to be a Nazi. Coincidence? You be the judge.
Now extending our premise one step further, we arrive at...
FALSE = INAUTHENTIC = UNHEALTHY
And its painfully obvious correlate...
TRUE = AUTHENTIC = HEALTHY
Thus, getting blown out of your skull on marijuana, peyote, psilocybin, ibogaine, ayahuasca/yage, etc. is not only considered healthy -- certainly more healing than smoking a cigarette (unless it's an American Spirit like the Indians all smoke) -- but it has become an intrinsic element of Transpersonal "Psychology" (about which aberration much more later). Please understand that I intend no moral indictment here of getting blown out of your skull. Go ahead, cram your bong with DMT, see if I care. Just don't hand me this "healing" bullshit. I already tried that route to mental health. Made me what I am today.
What I'm lumbering toward here is that "healthy" is today one of those many suspect words, whose semantics have been twisted approximately 180 degrees in the Newspeak of New Age Narcissism. My current favorites are "healthy selfishness" (popularized by "The Founder of the Self-Esteem Movement" and onetime Ayn Rand sex-toy Nathaniel Branden (see also Nathaniel Daniel's Annual Spaniel Manual), "healthy narcissism" (popularized by Self Psychology founder Heinz "Fifty-Seven Varieties" Kohut ), and "healthy spirituality" (from, among others, the Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology; see also The Association for the Promotion of Barking at the Moon).
Here's an informal snapshot of some similar phrases and their google hit counts, with my favorites linked to the actual searches. Keep in mind that google doesn't really respect the quotes, so there are an indeterminate number (i.e., I didn't determine it) of false positives. Also note that my google porn filter may be a bit more forgiving than yours. Honni soit qui mal y pense.
I want to end this with a quote of a quote from The Upstart Spring: Esalen and the American Awakening by Walter Truett Anderson, which is out of print -- either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view (I mean, it's an excellent book, but I'm writing one myself on some roughly overlapping themes, and I'm not half so convinced as Truett Anderson that any awakening occurred). Yes, well anyway. It requires some setup. So in December 1973, Esalen put on a conference called "Spiritual and Therapeutic Tyranny: The Willingness to Submit." The reason for this particular theme was that Esalen and its various influences and offshoots were getting a bad rep in some quarters (like among the sane) for a sort of none too groovy, none too Aquarian let's say, crypto-mystical fascism. However, if the point was to assuage such fears, the pow-wow seriously backfired. Here's the quote-within a quote...
"The most influential piece of media coverage that resulted from it was Peter Marin's 'The New Narcissism' in Harper's. Marin was not positive about the conference itself ('beneath the ruffled but still reasonable surface of the crowd lay a hysteria that would in other settings take on any one of several forms, none of them pretty'); he was deadly on est; and he did not see that est's shortcomings were noticeably different from those of the human potential movement in general. Indeed, he found est to be 'in many ways the logical extension of the whole human potential movement of the past decade. The refusal to consider moral complexities, the denial of history and a larger community, the disappearance of the Other, the exaggerations of the will...' He found in the movement only a sterile rejection of society, a preoccupation with the needs of the self, self-love, narcissism."So to close with our opening theme, remember:
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