There is a theme running through many of my questions, interests, and studies across time, maybe always, of the vast diversity of human being and experience, and flexible boundaries. I wonder about how the social world influences how human beings experience themselves, and the power to re-author one’s identity, to give an alternative reading to one’s body. I operate with an idea that what human beings are changes. Our souls are arranged one way in relation to a particular time, place, space, we have different metaphysics at the level of sensation and perception– e.g., in the Iliad, the running soldiers did indeed see Ares over the battlefield (much more interesting than whether they perceived blue in the ocean!). A social constructivist viewpoint, but at the level of the sensory-perceptual felt body. Psychologically, this has to do with my quest for self-reinvention, or having several lives integrated into my life to avoid that choice that leads down a path toward death.
Intellectual bio, updated
I’ve been meaning to write an updated intellectual biography for a while, and this one is inspired by a recent question about which questions I was trying to answer at which points in my life. What follows is a look at what I was studying or trying to figure out, and where it led– also an effort at developing continuity, a story of my development.
What makes a person lovable? What draws one body to another? Alcibiades to Socrates in the Symposium, Alcibiades first person account in the first and second Alcibiades dialogues. Learning/ concluding that love is in the eye of the beholder. Learning about longing, and closely attending to a person’s speech about themselves to hear all of what they are saying, a sort of hermeneutic of restoration.
If we become too abstracted, too far from the body and world, we do not gain a higher transcendent consciousness but we lose consciousness altogether. Kierkegaard’s Johannes Climacus, as JC reads Hegel, he ascends the ladder (recalling the Platonic ladder in the Symposium, from love of a particular body to love of the good), but gets dizzy and consciousness is lost. We are tied to the world, we are situated, we are in and of the world. We are matter, but we are also particularities of movement, of how to, our own stories. Inspired also by Wittgenstein here, knowing from context, the abstract questions less relevant than answers from what we do, how we behave. Again, a close reading of what people do and say, and grounding us in our bodies and our activities, not an abstract discourse behind it all.
Then, pursuing these questions in grad school, finding truth in experience, in subjectivity. I wrote a paper about class clowns early in grad school, with the idea that there is some phenomenon that gets named clown, but what is that? I ask about clowning, the activity of being/ doing clown, as this is what matters, not an abstract definition of a static kind of person, but what happens actively that results in this name? I asked participants about experiences of clowning, and learned about their relations with the world. This was embodied, what do their bodies do with the world, what are the contours of the world and space to them? How did they embody their bodies and what are their relationships to space, and how does it get called clowning?
Interest in gender emerging from there, how does one get called a gender? [To be continued]
It is valuable to be a member of a small world.
1) It helps to be able to edit one’s exposure, so as not to be swallowed up by churning of the big world: http://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/magazine/jonathan-franzen-is-fine-with-all-of-it.html
2) It helps to be able to say “that’s not how we do things here,” to have an alternative world with its own culture and rules. Not a whole alternative world that is necessarily in active battle with other worlds over culture and rules, but a clear and unapologetic alternative. (This is what I appreciate about my institution– particularly, that I can speak as a member of a small world, and not just as an individual. It’s not that this isn’t how *I* do things, but that I, as another voluntary member of this institution, follow its practices. Despite how you may operate elsewhere, we don’t do things that way here. This is what is meant by the concept of “The Third,” that thing which situates and stabilizes the dyad.)
The problem, or a problem, with psychoanalysis, in my experience: the problem one comes in to solve becomes one. I am not working on something; I am that something. I came to analysis out of desperation to not sink into the problem, for it not to define my life so all would not be lost, and casually, my analyst tears away my capacity for wrestling, for resisting, for asserting my will to power, and feeds me to the monster. All pretense of freedom from it is lost. It owns my life; my life, now, is this problem. If I had thought the purpose of my life was something other– well, fuck me. It’s not even that figure has become ground, it’s that there is no figure anymore, but perhaps the figure of the analyst, whose ego now thrives on the energy I once dedicated to trying to remain free of the problem, who now has the privilege of a sick patient to cure.
“(ll. 169c-169d) And again far-seeing Zeus made yet another generation, the fifth, of men who are upon the bounteous earth.
(ll. 170-201) Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labour and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth (6). The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime. Men will dishonour their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another’s city. There will be no favour for the man who keeps his oath or for the just or for the good; but rather men will praise the evil-doer and his violent dealing. Strength will be right and reverence will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them. Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all. And then Aidos and Nemesis (7), with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil.” -Hesiod
“Thus we find, particularly in the greater and more highly developed historical people, a consciousness, often toned down to a universal skepticism, of how much folly and superstition are in the belief that the education of a people must be so overwhelmingly historical as it is now, but it has been precisely the most powerful people, that is, powerful in deeds and works, who have lived differently and have raised their young people differently. However, that folly and that superstition suit us—so runs the skeptical objection—us, the late comers, the faded last shoots of more powerful and more happily courageous generations, us, in whom one can see realized Herod’s prophecy that one day people would be born with instant grey beards and that Zeus would exterminate this generation as soon as that sign became visible to him. But historical culture is really a kind of congenital grey-haired condition, and those who bear its mark from childhood on would have to come to the instinctive belief in the old age of humanity. However, in old age what is suitable now is an old person’s occupation, that is, looking back, tallying the accounts, balancing the books, seeking through memories consolation in what used to be—in short, a historical culture. The human race, however, is a tough and persistent thing and does not wish to have its steps forward and backwards viewed according to millennia, or indeed hardly according to hundreds of thousands of years. That is, it does not at all wish to be viewed as a totality by the infinitely small atomic point of the individual person. Then what will a couple of thousand years signify (or, put another way, the time period of thirty-four consecutive human lives, reckoned at sixty years each) so that we can still speak of the beginning of such a time as still the “Youth of Mankind” and the end of it as already the “Old Age of Mankind”? Is it not much more the case that in this paralyzing belief in an already faded humanity there sticks the misunderstanding of an idea of Christian theology inherited from the Middle Ages, the idea of the imminent end of the world, of the nervously awaited judgment? Has that idea put on new clothes through the intensified need of history to judge, as if our time, the last of all possible, has been authorized to consider itself the universal court room for everything in the past, something which Christian belief awaited, not in any way from human beings, but from the “Son of Man”? In earlier times this was, for humanity as well as for the individual, a loudly proclaimed “memento mori,” an always tormenting barb and, so to speak, the summit of medieval knowledge and conscience. The phrase of more recent times, called out in a contrasting response, “memento vivere,” sounds, to speak openly, still quite timid, is not a full-throated cry, and has something almost dishonest about it.* For humanity still sits firmly on the memento mori and betrays the fact through its universal need for history. In spite of the most powerful beating of its wings, knowledge cannot tear itself loose in freedom. A deep feeling of hopelessness is left over and has taken on that historical colouring, because of which all higher education and culture are now melancholy and dark. A religion which of all the hours of a person’s life considers the last the most important, which generally predicts the end of earthy life and condemns all living people to live in the fifth act of the tragedy, certainly arouses the deepest and noblest forces, but it is hostile to all new cultivation, daring undertakings, and free desiring. It resists every flight into the unknown, because there it does not love and does not hope. It lets what is coming into being push forward only unwillingly, so that at the right time it can force it to the side or sacrifice it as a seducer of being, as a liar about the worth of existence. What the Florentines did when, under the influence of Savonarola’s sermons calling for repentance, they organized those famous sacrificial fires of paintings, manuscripts, mirrors, and masks, Christianity would like to do with every culture which rouses one to renewed striving and which leads to that slogan memento vivere.* And if it is not possible to achieve this directly, without a digression (that is, through superior force), then it attains its goal nonetheless if it unites itself with historical culture, for the most part even without its knowledge, and now, speaking out through historical knowledge, with a shrug of its shoulders, rejects all becoming and thus disseminates the feeling of the person who has come much too late and who has the characteristics of an epigone, in short, of the person born with grey hair. The stringent and profoundly serious consideration of the worthlessness of everything which has happened, of the way in which the world in its maturity is ready for judgment, has evaporated to a skeptical consciousness that it is in any case good to know everything that has happened, because it is too late to do anything better. Thus the historical sense makes its servants passive and retrospective. It is almost the case that only in momentary forgetfulness, when that very sense is intermittent, does the patient suffering from the historical fever become active, so that, as soon as the action is over and done with, he may dissect his deed, through analytical consideration prevent any further effects, and finally flay it for “History.” In this sense, we are still living in the Middle Ages, and history is still a disguised theology, in exactly the same way that the reverence with which the unscientific laity treat the scientific caste is a reverence inherited from the clergy. What people in earlier times gave the church, people now give, although in scantier amounts, to scientific knowledge. However, the fact that people give was something the church brought about in earlier times, not something first done by the modern spirit, which, along with its other good characteristics, instead has something stingy about it, as is well known, and is, so far as the preeminent virtue of generosity is concerned, a miser.” -Nietzsche
Lost my way
In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.
A reddit search of “lost my way” reveals the multivarious paths which we are on, and which we lose. We move linearly, like time; I often find I want to move laterally, to slide into another life, or more lately, to slide off of this like just a bit. To take it to another city, to change my body, to renarrate my history into a new journey.
How is it that we come to be so lost? I thought I had a way, and was stunned to encounter forces pushing me off of it. Perhaps now that I’m prepared I would not let myself be so pushed, but here I am, in the brush. My path was fresh enough that it was easy to lose, and vegetation grows back over it, such that there is only woods. A pleasant wood, in places, but nevertheless living in the woods won’t do. How do I trek along again? How do I clear out this brush?
Having a baby/ becoming a family with a baby clarifies the competing discourses and discursive influences that shape human behavior. One is gender– I find that my daughter is pressed, oddly early (hours/ days/ weeks/ months old) into a gender identity. Her hospital bracelet is “her first piece of jewelry.” At the pediatrician’s office, the doctor coos to her “aren’t you a pretty girl?” She is mostly “cute” and “gorgeous” to relatives (hopefully if I had a son, he would be too?). Her large size, energy, sturdiness, and motor skills are not commented on so much– perhaps these are harder to appreciate in any baby? Or, these are not qualities that matter in a female baby.
I also notice the gendering of my husband, and assumptions about his involvement, competence, and role as a parent. There is a push to paint him as other than deeply invested, a full collaborator and equal co-parent, and a partner in figuring out how to care for the new person in our family.
Pregnancy, labor and delivery, and my newborn have taught me a lot. Among the lessons: don’t hold onto pain (when the contraction goes, let it go), when it’s time to rest and let go really rest and let go (between contractions, and now, when it’s time to rest or to sleep), take it slow and let things go/ re-learn to give full attention, a central aspect of development is turning instinct over to conscious control. I am also challenged to request help, accept love, remain open to the world, as well as to assert my authority and desire.
I’m reappropriating this wordpress site/ blog to develop my ideas that appear as partial outlines in a google doc, notes in the margins, sometimes a facebook post, and once in a while a more elaborated piece of writing. The idea here is to take these scraps and develop them into paragraphs (or, an opening thesis and outline), spelling out the whole idea rather than leaving it only as a note to jog my memory or get it out of my mind. I will add tags/ categories so that ideas on the same theme may coalesce into a longer piece (for instance, I have been tracking ideas about the will for a long time, so this would become a tag). These are rough drafts, a place to collect thoughts– developing them into papers happens elsewhere, as does sharing with a general audience.
2012 Year In Review
2012 was good to me. I finished my PhD (with wonderful internship and dissertation experiences) and began a great, unique postdoctoral fellowship. This year I also celebrated my first marriage anniversary and began psychoanalysis. I got to travel, see friends and family, and try some new things.
My goals for the next year include becoming licensed, publishing something based on my dissertation work, and continuing to expand and consolidate my professional identity and practical ability.
Here are some highlights of what I did in the last twelve months:
dissertation draft approved by director, distributed to committee members, progress meeting scheduled
take on second child client at internship, developing child psychotherapy mini-rotation,
become part of new adolescent substance abuse program at internship
chiropractor visit and massage
reading Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, read Chester Brown’s Paying For It
attend Sundance Film Festival
postdoc interviews, including UMN Human Sexuality Program in Minneapolis
watched all Simon Pegg’s “Spaced,” started watching Breaking Bad
Uncle Bob dies: http://bit.ly/IUQntE, http://bit.ly/JBUFTH
more postdoc interviews in Pgh and MA and by phone in NYC, invited to interview for a tenure-track position in Critical/ Feminist Psychology
dissertation progress meeting in Pgh, schedule my defense for March, visit Nicole & Mike
begin therapy work with a family
see Dave Foley perform stand-up in SLC
watched Portlandia, War Games, The Remains of the Day, In Treatment 3
accepted an offer for a postdoctoral fellowship (2/29)!
Dissertation defense (3/23)
saw Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “Freud’s Last Session” with Nicole and Mike
visit Austin, present postphenomenology paper at Div. 24 conference, go to Zilker Park Kite Festival with Ian & Gillian & Nora, visit Soledad & Jose
read Best Short Stories of 2011
start doing cross-stitch
start watching Star Trek original series, watched A Dangerous Method, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Ghost Dog
begin using Pinterest
start leading groups in adolescent substance abuse program
read The Map and the Territory by Michel Houllebecq, Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo
watched Pontypool, Stella, Albert Nobbs, The Baxter
overnight in Ogden, UT
visit family and go to a cat show in Denver, CO
saw Evanston’s local community theater performance (“Kitchen Witches”)
Joe’s French class in Pgh begins (5/7)
watched We Need to Talk About Kevin, Spellbound, watching Twilight Zone episodes
craniosacral massage at Healing Mountain Massage School
Brief Models of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy seminars
Grandma’s 90th birthday party celebration and potluck in CO
parents visit Evanston and SLC
attend St. John’s Alumni Leadership Forum in Annapolis, MD
Joe’s French class ends, all requirements for his M.A. are complete
Anti-gravity yoga class
watched Carnage, Gaslight, 12 Angry Men, Mad Men 5
complete all of original Star Trek, watched Workaholics, watching David Wain movies, watched all the Batman movies
go to Evanston Brewfest
watch awesome Evanston fireworks on the 4th
one-year wedding anniversary (7/16), celebrate with champagne at Evanston’s finest (Bon Rico)
internship ends, going-away party, all requirements for Ph.D. are complete– start driving to Massachusetts
visit Nicole & Mike on the way to MA
read Pale Fire and The Luzhin Defense
move to a cottage on a hill…
visit Boston for a few days
begin CSA with Wolfe Spring Farm
start using baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo
finished watching Trailer Park Boys
watching Louie C.K., watched Antichrist & Melancholia
begin postdoctoral fellowship (8/22)
begin psychoanalysis (8/31)
attend Bill & Rachel’s wedding in Boston with Jess and Emily
watching Peep Show
submit a panel proposal w/ Duq colleagues to Division 39 conference (accepted for spring 2013)
first Early Planning Conference (short, public clinical presentation)
attend lecture and clinical workshop with Philip Bromberg
first, and second, case conferences (detailed presentations of clinical work)
third patient (full case load)
first psych assessment presentation at a case conference
silent observer to a patient government group
complete introductory technique seminars
Dream Seminars w/ Jerry Fromm
attend Lacanian Clinical Forum with Bill Richardson presentation on Heidegger
see Magnetic Fields at Helsinki Hudson!
watching Community, watched Argo, The Man Who Wasn’t There
attend Transference-Focused Psychotherapy training at WPIC, visit Nicole and Mike, dinner at Salt
Begin seminars on Psychoanalysis and the Law with Ann Dailey
“Reskilling Collective” meeting in Albany, begin brewing kombucha again
begin continuous case conference seminars
Thanksgiving at our place w/ Joe’s parents, featuring seitan and brussels sprouts with toasted almonds
watching Twin Peaks, watched Lincoln
new green glass desk from IKEA
massage w/ new massage therapist, haircut w/ new stylist
reading Steven Millhauser, new Zadie Smith book, read Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?
begin Family Work seminars
first Fellows dinner at the Red Lion Inn
re-read McWilliam’s Psychoanalytic Case Formulation
reading Tom Main’s The Ailment
watched The Sessions
begin silently observing a small group, continuing to learn about group processes
Fellows group meets with organizational consultant
join WMAAP (http://www.wmaapp.org)
attend lecture and clinical workshop with Steven Cooper
watch patient performance of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle
go to Society of Friends meeting in Great Barrington
contribute to a book chapter for publication with two colleagues
car repairs, get snow tires
join Berkshire South Community Center
New Year’s in New York w/ Jess & Emily