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Friday, August 13, 2004
a true self 'deep down'
dream on

The following passages are taken from Cultural Psychology of the Self: Place, Morality, and Art in Human Worlds by Ciarán Benson. Specifically, from the chapter titled "Psychologies of Maturity: Development or destination?" I'm putting them here because they relate strongly to what I'm working on in the background (as it were), and also because I thought some of you mind find this interesting. I've discussed, and dissed, Maslow here before, and will again in more depth, as long promised, but I love how he skewers the guy here -- and even more so in the parts following what I've captured. This is one of those books whose full text you can access on Amazon, so if you are interested, you can read a lot more here.

The 'view from nowhere', to use Thomas Nagel's charactrerization of the ideal scientific perspective, is radically distorted when the idea of a completely developed life is the focus of inquiry. At this level, all psychological perspectives on what constitutes a desirable pattern of human development are morally and locally contingent. There is no aboriginal 'true' self to which we can turn for guidance.

The idea of a 'true' and a 'false' self recurs in both psychoanalytic thinking (for example Donald Winnicott) and humanistic psychological theorizing (Carl Rogers and the 'Human Potential Movement', for instance). It has philosophical support in the work of Rousseau and Kant, and voices of opposition from Hegel and Dewey. 'New Age' psychologies are particularly fond of this idea of a true self 'deep down' which simply needs to be massaged or conjured out into the open....

Cultural psychology argues that we understand ourselves to be who we are through the richness or poverty of the languages of expression which we come to acquire. We emerge from and become who we are over many years through transactions with our families, churches, schools, friends, enemies, books, films, governments and others. A task for psychology is to explain how these transactions lead to a fabricated world of individual subjectivity which is our culture. The self to whom we may be true is a self whose very being is collective, so that to be true to oneself invariably means being true to something other than oneself. A psychology which fails to recognise this in its formulation of an ideal of maturity occludes a crucial part of the picture.


Some psychologists try to avoid the moral dimension by asserting that a universal ideal of maturity accompanies a universal conception of self. On this particular tendency, cultural psychology casts a cold eye. Abraham Maslow, for instance, believed that his idea of self-actualization transcended nationalism, class and caste:

I have described my self-actualizing subjects as transcending nationalism. I could have added that they also transcend class and caste, This is true in my experience even though I would expect a priori that affluence and social dignity are apt to make self-actualization more probable.
He later writes that
my prediction or guess about the future of the normality idea is that some form of theory about generalized, species-wide, psychological health will soon be developed, which will hold for all human beings no matter what their culture and no matter what their time.
This is ahistorical, acultural psychology in full self-confident flight despite the camouflage of historical references.

At the heart of Maslow's position is that man has 'an essential nature of his own' with universal needs that are 'good or neutral rather than evil'. On the basis of these assumptions Maslow goes on to claim that

full health and normal and desirable development consist in actualizing this nature, in fulfilling these potentialities, and in developing into maturity along the lines that this hidden, covert, dimly seen essential nature dictates, growing from within rather than being shaped from without.
'Good' is what assists the actualization of this nature, 'bad' is what thwarts or hinders it. Maslow believed that he was talking about a human nature discovered by modern psychology, including psychoanalysis. The contrary view is that what he took to be a true universal human nature was in fact the desirable lineaments of the modern self as it has been shaped and constituted by the forces of modernity. This latter view sees what Maslow and others take as given elements of human nature, there to be 'discovered', as instead cultural-historical achievements or constructions. These constituted aspects of self are contingent and open to significant change.

The passages above are quoted from Cultural Psychology of the Self: Place, Morality, and Art in Human Worlds, pp. 225-228. The embedded Maslow quotes are from A. Maslow, Motivation and Personality (2nd ed), New York, Harper & Row, 1970.

1:31 AM | link |

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Some Good Things
for a change
The big thing here lately is my new cat. Yeah, I know. But she (I think she) strolled in at about 4am last Saturday morning. I was awake, sorta doing something, probably getting this PowerBook set up again (got it a year ago or so and it crashed hard, waited until now to resurrect it, etc) and suddenly there's this reasonably large animal slinking past in my peripheral vision, holy shit what is it? There's a skunk around here, I can smell it on occasion, I'm glad there's a skunk, but once I'd left my door open and I was upstairs and I thought the smell got terrifically strong, oh no, I thought, perhaps it came in! So I went downstairs and closed the door. Then I thought Jesus Christ, maybe it did come in and now I've locked myself in with a skunk! I opened the door again so it could get out if it was really in there (that is to say, in here) and crept around downstairs VERY CAREFULLY, as you can imagine, thinking oh great, what if I encounter a skunk in the bathroom and it freaks because I've cornered it and you know what happens then. Could be extremely bad. Could be life changing. Fortunately, there was no skunk and I was OK with feeling stupid for creeping around so slowly to find out if there was. So I closed the door. Whew.

But I still leave the door open some nights so the cool air will come through and the polluted smoke-besotted air will hopefully go out. And that night, Friday/Saturday, here's this actual animal suddenly going right past me about oh maybe six inches from my leg as I'm sitting on my infamous couch (as I am at the moment) and godalmighty whatever it is could BITE ME! So whatthefuckisit already? I'm a little jumpy at 4am, I admit. Especially when some unknown life form, possibly hostile with large teeth, decides to drop in.

All this takes place in 34.2 nanoseconds, of course, and then I see oh it's a cat. Thank God. Cat looks basically like this, though this is not a picture of the actual cat that is now living here with me and that I talk to all the time and who is now sleeping on the nicely upholstered black velvet chair seat about six feet away from where I am now typing typing just keeping in touch you know...


I've been feeding her all my stash of tuna fish, which as of tonight is totally depleted (will she stay? does fish matter?) and some Black Forest ham, milk, and the occasional splash of half and half. Cat seemed famished and skinny, but quite affectionate and playful, though now I think she's a little wary of me because I have played some tricks on her. Tonight it was the old shoelace-is-a-snake routine, they always go nuts for that one. But she knew I was making the snake crawl away and after a while I could tell she knew I was fucking with her head and she went out for a couple hours. Where? How do I know. She never tells me where she's going. Just like a woman. No I'm going down to the bar. No I'm going over to my sister's. Nothing. She just splits and I'm left wondering if she'll come back this time. So far so good, but I'm worried about not having any more tuna -- she loves the hell out of it. White albacore, she should. And we finished off the last of the ham yesterday, so I don't know.

But last night, holy shit, it was like Wild Kingdom in here. First she comes in yowling. It's a different noise than she's made so far so immediately I'm wondering what's up with Kitty. Pretty quick I see that she's brought in a vole (your basic field mouse) which she has conveniently first killed dead as a doornail. Oh, you caught a mouse. Excellent. Great. Yeah, why don't you put right there under that desk behind that giant stack of books so it'll rot and leave an indelible stain on (not to mention irremovable stench in) the rug. Yeah, right back there. Good Kitty.

After she loses interest in the non-moving former small animal, I retrieve it by the tail, contorting myself to get back into this impossible space where she's dropped the thing, and I toss it outside. Maybe the skunk will like it. OK. Where was I? I go back to reading this really fine just-published book called Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis by Eli Zaretsky, who I'd never heard of before, but wow, who is this guy? Knockin me out over here. I mean, this is so right on for the sort of stuff I'm going to write about one of these days, or for what's ailing me, or shit I dunno something. About how Freud was the Calvin of the second industrial revolution, the latter being something I know something about, used to write passionately about, stuff I never published anywhere. A long and never finished tirade against that hoser Daniel Bell and his book, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting, which was all too right and all wrong at the same time. Techno-elitism at its unselfconsciously arrogant best. So you can imagine that I'm pretty stoked about finding some seriously intelligent leftist analysis that situates Freud in the shift to a consumerist mass-market society. And I'm spacing out thinking about this and looking at the cat in that way you do when you're spacing and not really looking at anything because you're thinking wow Calvin is to the Reformation as Freud is to Fordism wow. And I notice the cat is the wrong color. My eyes must be fucked up because Kitty looks black now. Oh wow holy shit it's another cat! There are two of them in here and what the fuck's going on? Is there going to be a fur-flying-everywhere-spitting-clawing catfight, or a wildass feline fuckathon? I'm up, I'm saying words no cat would understand anyway. The black one runs upstairs. Kitty bolts out the door.

Hey, are Mac's supposed to crash all the time like PCs do? Because this Mac is crashing total blackout no warning just a bunch of English German Japanese saying oh well you're fucked you just lost everything better reboot better luck next time. Thanks. I had to retype half that last paragraph. From a failing memory. But never mind. This was supposed to be about Good Things. So forget I mentioned that Apple totally sucks as far as I'm concerned at this particular point in time, as Nixon might have said leaving for Beijing to sell out Amerika for some giant Coke deal. Yeah better luck next time asshole.

As you can imagine, my concentration was at this point rather disrupted by the events of the evening. And I couldn't just shut the damn door and go to sleep, because Kitty was out and the Black Marauder was hiding somewhere upstairs. I didn't want to face thinking it through. What must be done, that is. I avoided it for another hour as I tried to read while falling asleep 58 times in the same paragraph what is this shit saying anyway what autonomy democracy homosexuality my god there's no end to it is there and what's this about Fascism Ezra Pound the Cantos in Chinese the War the fin de sickle & hammer no I'm asleep again there wasn't anything about Ezra Pound. OK. I get it. I get up, go upstairs, do the sneaky room-to-room search for the black one. There is no black one. Hmmmm. Well, I guess that's good then, right? I go downstairs just in time to almost intercept Kitty coming home at all hours now, and with another mouse! This one still partially alive no I don't want to think about it. Kitty is playing her grisly game of hah-hah-I-kill-you and I'm thinking she won't really eat it, will she? She seemed to have no interest in eating the other one after it stopped moving. But this morning, or when I woke up, which was more like 2pm -- I mean, Christ, after all that -- I barely managed to snatch up Kitty and hurl her out the door before she could regurgitate what was surely the remains of the second mouse.

So yeah, it's been pretty active around here lately. Thanks for asking.

Other good things. One of you who shall remain unnamed dropped 50 bucks on my PayPal button. Yay! I eat and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes for another day or three. And I found out I really did buy BBedit a year ago, and not just download the demo version, and the nice folks at Bare Bones Software sent me the serial number so it's mine all mine again and I'm glad because BBedit really is the hands-down best text editor for the Mac (I write, saving every two words now) and I do miss TextPad fiercely. And another kind person gave me -- gave me, you understand -- this incredible (really is too) app called NoteTaker, which is wow man killer cool. Something like something I once designed in my head before there was any of this amazing (yes, I'm still amazed; more every day) web infrastucture to support it. Plus I found out (by making a phone call I've been putting off for a month) that the stuff that was in my Honda when they repo'd it is still at the repo place and yes I can come get it later today (I was going to get it tomorrow, but that was yesterday) and this means I will have the glasses again that I need to drive at night, which last night I realized were more needful than I thought as I drove Selene to some x-random birthday party through a deluge of rain and premature darkness caused by tornado and one-inch hail warnings. Think for a second about what a number one-inch hail would do on you out in the middle of some fuckin pasture if there were no handy trees or bunker emplacements. Kill you is what.

So now that it's tomorrow already and I really meant this to be just a short note of thanks to all of you for being such wonderful friends and seeing me through what has to be the godawfulest motherfucking stretch of my already weird-enough life, I guess I should end here and get some sleep before I go down to Denver to the repo place. The girl on the phone was surprisingly friendly and sounded nice, so I want to look my best.

5:09 AM | link |

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
About Me
well, sort of

A while back -- a year? a month? last week? who keeps track? -- I finally created a profile on blogger.com. You can click on the grafik above to see the whole thing. If you do, you will notice that it still says "see blog" in the About Me section. I went there a couple nights ago meaning to flesh this out some, and was encouraged by the field description that says: "Write as little or as much as you like." For me, that was an invitation to my most undisciplined random rambling stream of consciousness. And if you know me at all, that's really saying something. So I wrote...
It is after midnight between Saturday and Sunday and I'm editing my blogger profile. That has to tell you a lot. I used to have a life, I think, But that was long ago, too far back to remember now. I am actually 87,486 years old, and I have literally seen it all. Nothing surprises me anymore. Nothing is painful or annoying. I have achieved perfect equanimity and composure. As a result, I am the world's greatest lover. No, seriously. Don't laugh. It pisses me off when you laugh like that. What? Do you think I am writing all this for my health? Casting my pearls before swine like you? Kneel! I demand total obeisance! Otherwise, I will turn you into Tupak Chopra and make you eat lentils and chapattis till they're coming out your ears. Oh dear, I see now that RageBoy has taken over my mind and made me type all this. I'm ever so sorry. I had meant this to be more... descriptive. RB is an affliction at times, but he means well and I love him like a brother. Or an alter, which is what he really is, though he'd never cop to that. So in closing let me say: it's challenging to write About Me, and I don't think that's likely to change anytime soon. The persona is a fragile fiction that we hold between us like smoke, like water, like clouds drifting across the moon.
There, I thought, and satisfied with my creation, hit the commit key. Only to see this: "Must have at most 1200 characters."

And that's why the the About Me section still says: "see blog."

3:39 PM | link |

pedal steel on the night line
intertext overdrive, context free

I have not replied to him, nor to any of you, for that matter. So now I am replying to you to inform you that I have not replied to him. I don't know what to tell him. I am dreaming of a steel guitar engagement, I am high on a peak in Darien. In Tokyo 20 years ago, I was reading George Steiner, After Babel, but I stopped at The Hermeneutic Turn. So I have wondered all this time what that was. Turning and turning in the widening gyre, fahrenheit 451 in the Borghesian labyrinth Eco of manuscripts aflame, Malleus Maleficarum, vanity, vanity, all is vanity. Then out jumps Rick Derringer with that Rock. And. Roll. Hoochie Koo. Come on mamma, light my fuse and Sean Connery nodding sagely, ever the Scot, Duns Scotus, Origen, the desert fathers, incubus, succubus, incunabula consumed by fire, the library at Alexandria, Justine in the failing light, Coptic sext, prime and vespers in the courtyard, dark coffee, hashish, and the turn we took then, was it hermeneutic? Is that what it was all about? Gadamer huddled under the Reich. Heiddeger, Heisenberg. All these fucking Germans. Nietzsche like a dog hearing silences beyond the human range. What would I tell him? That Nietzsche was mad? Kafka merely angry? And what about Thomas Mann, his brooding Buddenbrooks dissecting the complacent burghers, perhaps unwittingly urging Jung to descend (on the third day) into the dark and atavistic recesses of the human heart, if heart there was in it. That is to say. And in Tokyo dreaming was I borne into this, novice to all and everything, tabula rasa, in flagrante delicto, I have the right to an attorney. Not having one, one was provided, mirabile dictu, and later, much later, driving across New Mexico, leaving Santa Fe in fact, the radio was tuned in sideways to the land of enchantment where once it had given me Hopi elders chanting as the full moon rose majestic and inscrutable over the dreaming desert, but this time, only several days ago now, was going gimme the beat boys to free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll, and drift away...

1:04 AM | link |

Monday, August 09, 2004
just look at this poor guy
oh wait... that's me!

2:06 PM | link |

that of which we cannot speak
must perforce be silent movies

11:40 AM | link |

what is postmodern, anyway?
who really knows?

2:28 AM | link |

Sunday, August 08, 2004
on the beach
more fun with spam

Now here's a great idea. A cell phone with an analog clock on the cover! Who would have guessed design would ever go this far? But who cares, right? You're getting smashed on the beach. Broiled like a lobster inside and out. And you never did quite get it about the big hand and the little hand anyway. Hey baby, you and them glasses. Whatzat blue shit yer drinkin mind if I join ya don't mind if I do...
[yes, we realize this is totally stupid. it is for testing purposes only.]
But wait. Because it is so stupid, here's something smart as a bonus. We came across this after finding something very cool (more about that soon) after stumbling across a quote (a misquote, as it transpires; more about that soon too) from Virginia Woolf, of whom we are not one bit afraid. This is from a review (of a book so dumb it's not worth the bibcite) by Louis Menand in the (pop-up ridden) New Yorker. He says, and I quote... "There are writers loved for their humor who are not funny people, and writers admired for their eloquence who swallow their words, never look you in the eye, and can�t seem to finish a sentence. Wisdom on the page correlates with wisdom in the writer about as frequently as a high batting average correlates with a high I.Q.: they just seem to have very little to do with one another. Witty and charming people can produce prose of sneering sententiousness, and fretful neurotics can, to their readers, seem as though they must be delightful to live with. Personal drabness, through some obscure neural kink, can deliver verbal blooms. Readers who meet a writer whose voice they have fallen in love with usually need to make a small adjustment afterward in order to hang on to the infatuation." So girls, we know it's hard, but do try to be careful what you wish for.

10:23 PM | link |

"RageBoy: Giving being fucking nuts a good name since 1985."
~D. Weinberger
28 October 2004

Chris Locke's photos More of Chris Locke's photos

Until a minute ago, I had no photos. I still have no photos to speak of. I don't even have a camera. But all these people were linking to "my photos." It was embarassing. It's still embarassing. But I'm used to that.

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