Wednesday, May 31, 2017

An Ode to the Romans of Decadence

Romans in the Decadence of the Empire, 1847
Thomas Couture

The Spirit of Decadence 

It is natural to dream of ascent toward the Heavens, in which the noble soul ascends by means of the "noble" ... winged horses ... of the gods ... soaring upward, as is the rule of the universe. 

Our imagination working like the light of the sun on Icarus's wings ... we droop in our flight and at last settle on solid ground, but this descent to earth is an imaginative eidos, essential in the sense of "essence" and also as an idealization of other worlds. 

Here is our "heaven" ... the pastoral retreat, the ideal Republic, the Golden Age. 

Necessarily imagined as departures from other worldly experiences to higher spheres or manifest spheres in the absence of matter. The essential and the accidental are mixed in formal concepts like objects of logic and a whole series of conditions that essence reveals. 

Above and beyond the intuition, "essences" concern their conditions into existence. The pursuit of essences involves the consideration of paradoxical instincts in the notion of ideality of all, the cosmic symphony. 

It is no wonder the Romans were so decadent 

The Devolution 

In an acceptance of the conditions of earth, the sensual and intellectual possibilities of life and poetry, the possibility of transcending, of touching another human being, and of letting go of time-bound existence, death, and the limits knowing enables, an essential condition of being becomes "event" ... 

In extremis the affirmation occurs in a world proud and strong and also in the withdrawal to stellar pallor. To touch this poverty is to know autumnal space between words complete and essential to being on earth, and touching that which one is and which one is not. 

Vivid expressions of the conditions of earth's aesthetics mirror divine harmonies. Historically, or mythically, the descent plummets "essence" to earth. Exalted images of floods of white that burst from the clouds and the winds that blew life forth contort strength around the sky, until it swoops down in a notable fall. 

Here the world becomes noble even in its raucous sociability, as in Couture's Romans ... the poet is the earth's metaphysician in the dark, twanging a wiry string that gives Sound to passing rightnesses, the noises of Shakespeare and the sweet airs of New Caledonia that give delight and hurt not. Humming in our ears is an echo of instruments chosen as analogies to the modern mindset, arguing only with analogy and historical influence. 

The ideas alternate in movements toward heaven and earth and accessible in the light of eidos, without need for explanation, is the idea of the depreciated concept of being human, an essential element in Shakespeare's many plays. Pointing to our earthiness and our experiences of noises we create the accompaniment: 

The music

The Meditative of Earth

Our experience of earth's noises confuses and fuses our senses into what is natural and what is created and plays onward toward that which we create and that by which we are eluded. Beings are subjective and objective, internal and external. Self identity expresses earth's many harmonies and is experienced as "rightness" by both poet and actor. 

The impulse to soar, to rise above idealized otherness, is implicit in those that neglect worldly ends. Dedicated to closeness with the notion of "the One" in a perceived betterment of an already perfect existence is the mind, the dukedom's library large enough to fit legions of civilizations hoist one upon the other in a never ending symphony of ideas and tragedies. 

Our commonwealth is the knowledge that this is a shared experience. No need for magistrate, no riches, no poverty, no service, no occupation, no idleness and no purity or innocence. This is the dream of the golden age, of excelling and excellence giving way to delight and sensation. 

The primordial is antithetical to the ordered, controlled state of Plato. Rome rests comfortably and fruitfully in earthly harmony. The imposition of control and discipline in such a world cedes, and the scene is abandoned to its "natural" state, which is bountiful and providing. 

The decadent splendor

The Idyllic Pastoral 

The Platonic world of Ideas are reflected in common earthly realizations that rise upward toward the ideal, a soaring architecture of symbolic perfection realized in the social design of the city state. With the ascendancy raised to the forefront of our aspirations, the eternally true and geometric supreme, these essential exaltations of the ideal of humanity and of human nature in relation to the supreme world contribute to our education under Prospero's tutelage. In it we recognize a Platonian anamnesis: that the dream of the ideal is humanity's gift to itself. 

Humanity sees itself mirrored for the first time in the other's company, and after having intuitively recognized other as divine, declares 

"How beauteous mankind is! 
O brave new world
That has such people in't!" 

The Antithesis 

The insensate brute, paradoxically brutish and aesthetic. The clanging of a thousand pots and pans. The brute cannot hear the sounds of sweet air, the noises of earth instead imbue him with an unnatural strength, which he presents and supplants with impulse. 

When the brute sleeps, the natural world manifests a benevolent and generative appreciation of quietude, though his voracity hums like an aching wanton buzz. When awake it twangs, refuting and disappreciating the ennobling instinct, though he joins it in a paradoxical essence, such as in The Tempest

Inherent in this worldly brutish experience is a human recognizing experiences sympathetic to force and desire, both central to existence. Martin Heidegger's earthly path, a felicitous way of being human. 

Linking discordant or opposing impulses appears oxymoronic, a pitying of Prospero and Miranda in a "loving wrong" or "sacred orgy" of the Bacchantes, destructive as it is restorative. 

Pentheus's craving for a voyeur's watch is ripe in the imagery which is titillating and scandalous. Tales of ecstasies permeate and serve Aphrodite rather than any new god. Teiresias warns him from above, hand outstretched against villainous pestilence, but Pentheus cares not for wholesome remains. 

Revelry from which no good comes 

The Miracles

Women perform miracles in the natural world, causing milk, wine, water, and honey to rise from the earth. The messengers of surreality's effects, but also of their activities, until interrupted by intruders, including the ethical, law-abiding, faithfully devout and dutiful. Blame against idyllic and harmonious with nature-like activities drunk in abandonment taunt the righteous and in fierce opposition in the name of that which is praiseworthy they place judgment. 

Gratifying their lusts alone amid the woods, by wine and soft flute-music maddened, but resting on the ground, flung carelessly, they discover modesty. 

The new view of woman is echoed in the Golden Age, innocent and pure. Woman's idleness, unlike man's, is a reassurance of her virtuosity. What she hears is beauty, springing up from a strange, fair array of ordered ranks: a miracle of discipline to behold / a wondrous sight of grace and modesty. 

The messenger of miracles assures Pentheus that if he could see her honor god himself would appear and in his arrival grant him eternal and everlasting joy and the flowing of heaven's eternal bliss. 

Honoring the gods Penthesus aligns with righteousness and the brute, though terrifying in his subsequent deeds, does all in the name of this new and blessed state, in harmony as a group and at one with the notion of nature. 

In repose ...

The Transformation 

The character is transformed akin to the music of the spheres, the rise to heaven, the ennobled escape from the environs of earth, its boisterous noise, its danger, and its darkness. The music of Bacchantes, in its raucous affinity with earth, rises up. 

In the opening stasimon, the Chorus sings, not of the elevated image of the individual ego characterized by Pentheus in his arrogance, self-aggrandizement, self-assurance and certainty of things, but in the virtue of love, participation, and community - the highest dance of Dionysus and his followers, accompanied by the deep heartbeat of the drums and thunderous-kneeling of timbrels. 

The sound of the booming drums symbolize the "win" of victory, the maddening and ecstatic Satyr-band, winning favor from the mother-goddess for their participation in the festivities. Having been appropriated, the most unrefined of creatures are sweet in their crying breaths and Phrygian flutes. All dance at her festival. 

To snare the nimble marmoset

The Exalted World 

The idea of an exalted world is attached to the architecture of the city, represented in the painting. It is the city Pentheus rules. His sense of rightness and privilege essential to the protective and benevolent social design that is mimetic of cosmic logos. The duplication of ideal reality in the state. Plato's Republic is implicit in the painting's attitude of superiority and control as a safe harbor, even for chaos. 

The Dionysian principle literally demolishes and burns the palace in a fiery ecstasy, bringing it crashing down as the archangel pulls at Teiresias's robes (far right). The release of the sacred into this world is not an event of justice and order but a renewal of earth's power, the reaffirmation of earthly truth in the face of Cosmos, who asks "What is wisdom?" 

Man concludes that wisdom is found in he whose life day by day is happy and blessed: "Happy is he whose bliss from day to day doth grow". To accept being on the earth is to accept that which suffices in the essence's remembrance of joy, heard in mortal music. 

Echoed in a finite sky

The Affirmation 

The earth fosters a presence as sweet as noise, a counter- but also an alter-beauty, and the twang and drum noise of the Satyrs, with their raucous harmony. Not mere cacophony, nor meaningless sound, but truth: essential as the structures idealized in the painting, represented in the aboveness of the expansive sky and the belowness of the bacchanal scene. 

The primal truths speak like essence in self-discovery. The gaining of purity and an exactitude of knowledge in a recovery of purity and innocence. It is the return to the world that retains its virtú

If one must again become ignorant by the death of Phoebus and the death of the one god, then one must mirror the death of all, the certitude that is the ending of life. The first idea - and the last. 

This notion is not presumed escapable, even to childlike innocence. The past idealized condition makes way for disciplined achievement from pure perception: the new understanding. The precise awakening of knowledge not in ideas but about the thing itself - it's authenticity. 

Birds with their scrawny cries, appropriate to the earth, precede the choir and part of their knowledge becomes the earth's new reality. There is no romanticizing here. The past pays attention to the present in the concreteness of life while intentionality yields only to originality. 

Where art reveals
Nature's lack of design

The Drama 

The Romans reemerge, falsified and previously impoverished by the naturalistic tendencies of their time, only to overflow the world with nature, recapturing the contours and richness that life in its abundance deems interesting and boring, useful and useless, beautiful and ugly, ridiculous and anguishing.

The world of our time unlike in the painting has moved toward its center. Our time's naturalistic tendencies are countered by the noise a recovering world, the idealized image of beauty, the "desired," and those reborn Romans who recline in the warm basking temperatures of heaven, sleek in their natural nakedness.

Modern society attends the tranquil pastoral scene with wit and with intelligible twittering that substitutes for intelligible thought. Like the unpromising thickness of the Romans' robes, human thought, human language, and the accomplishment of regaining or reconstituting the world is exalted into what Levinas calls an

"Overflow of Nature" 

The New Generation 

The new generations currently populating the earth hear their own music and in response and participation, opposing Plato's view of the depreciative artist echoing braying asses and crowing cocks (noises of an inferior and contrary nature, sound effects of earth's crackles, moans and groans), share the assonance and dissonance of earth as an entity with its own justified and justifying music.

A capable human voice is but a mirror of earth's sound. Attuned to the creatures of earth, the sounds of the planet are echoed in ancient instruments and modern ones, too.

Distant cries of the sea-nymphs announce that the sea is changing. Revelers hear them and their companions create a religion of wine and worthy earthly sustenance to adore the unfolding. Untamed beasts are left to run wild. Trees adorned to press, the cries of nature's elite, a dance in unison for the Dionysus of the mountain top toward which the adventurous brazenly trek.

In response the hills are thrilled and join in bacchic worship. The devolvement is the newest voice of nature exalted into Earth Day, simultaneously elevating the language of Pentheus, who ostentatiously identifies his superiority as evident of his lineage: he is Pentheus, son of Agaue and Echion.

Par excellence among the newer tribes of pantomimic imitators is the high-toned, those jovial singers ode'ing to the spheres. The poetry of their verbal exuberance representing the onomatopoeic sound effects vital in their engendering of the world. The only satisfactory human existence is now imbued with that which has been undermined and overcome.

Perfection in the dream of Saints

The Renewal 

This condition establishes a necessary renewal or retrieval from one generation to the next. In the imagination of the ultimate horizon of being, beyond the last thought, the image of Rome's decadence reappears in the bird's song. Knowledge and happiness are placed as heroic icons with the human as center of the universe, among the gods. The abstracting power of the intellect makes this possible.

The bird's song has no human equivalent. It is in and of itself complete. The appearance of the winged creature on the horizon represents the transcendence of thought. Identifying with its essence humanity understands the essentiality of being human. This makes one happy or unhappy.

To know is not the reason.

The bird's feathers swoop down and then extend upward toward the fire-fangled cosmos. The effect is heard among the multitude of diverse voices expressing a mimesis of that which is considered an essentiality of becoming a fully realized human.

A richer experience
A finer susceptibility
A newer mode of thought,
acts or passions

The Notion of Truth 

The notion of truth makes us happy. Delight and sense sing of springtime while poems end in the imposing thickness of winter's austere hand. Both sing puissantly. Echoes of past songs are ransom for Willow's rebirth.

The ultimate meaningfulness negotiates regions of the earth and of the human psyche, from which the philosopher rises ambulatorily, joining in the song that is not primordially a logic of language but of the extravagance of the mind's intelligible twittering.

Together with the poet the philosopher participates in the transforming, transmogrifying celebrant appropriate to exalted worlds. Pentheus's image of himself takes center stage, and declares twice:

"O brave new world!"

The Comic and the Imp

Befittingly becomes comic, even grotesque. Opposed to the heroic stands comedy, natures balancing act. King Pentheus produces pictures of aged men dancing, paradoxically, the youthful dance of age. There is something foolish in the avowal that one should tire in old age, and remain repose all day and night long, striking the earth with nothing but a cane or walking stick.

Forgetting joy in age is the first assurance that one is old. Feeling young enough to dance is joy in costume, comedy in errors, arrivals in departure. The ridiculous trappings and their linking arms shame the modesty of grey hairs so sense-bereft. The only senility is shame.

Delivering a lecture in metaphoric pentameter, the Comic reveals Dionysus's truth and power. Teiresias warns Pentheus not to deem himself wise, nor laugh in scorn ... but instead to wreathe his head in leaves, grasses, flowers and branches to dance with Ivy.

Comedy is indignant, scoffing at its appearance, clad in dappled and worn-torn cloth. Greybeard cannot dance but at the same time he knows he must. Attuned to the forces of earth unleashed he seeks tribute to youthful celebrants found only in nature's imps. His reawakening is because he "must".

The grotesqueness of this image is repeated in the beast with four legs, under the cloak. It is Rome's only animal shape. Referred to as fish and monster, sometimes as both or amphibious: half a fish and half a monster. But this monstrous image is compounded by union with the Imp.

In a frenzied fright he lies with her wondering whether he is a man or a fish, and, as the storm approaches, decides to creep under his gaberdine, an action making for strange bedfellows.

Pleas for mercy are sung to the Imp in a most delicate and monstrous manner, to heal the monster she pours wine into its mouth and into her own. The comic antics of these types reiterate the comic figure that Pentheus and Teiresias make together, and the depreciation, like that of old men, brings them close to the mouth of earth.

Society declares the Comic not the victor but the fool, reassuring him that the noises and sweet airs of the Imp's voice are attuned to the intelligible twittering of birds, and when he protests, it is said that the two are one in the same in their absurdness.

But it matters not in this moment ... because the Comic also brings release. His voice grows ever mellifluous in appealing to his new Imp's senses. Mimetic in his stuttered song about his new freedom. He has a new master and he bows before her only.

Eternity, Fidelity, Affection

The New Poetry 

The Comic's ode becomes the poetry of positivity, of, "here and there, an old sailor / Drunk and asleep in his boots no more" ... he who catches tigers in red weather and the grotesqueness of his old figure stripped of illusory decrepitude in favor of virile robustness. A new nobility in poetic ennoblement. 

Imps delight in their fortune's twists of fate and the image of ourselves overcoming our demons paints a picture of nakedness newly clothed. The monster is to myself as two things are together as one. The self as Comic and Imp singing the heroic image of bearded bronze just because the singer must. 

Yet another form of renewal essential for the interdependence of those expressions embedded in the time and place of our collective being and becoming. The loss of despair the greatest beauty and clearest distinction between life and the premature death of living. 

The desire to go and see and explore the garden

The Scene is Set

What is repeated in the script is now only a souvenir. Life learned the speech of place and time and in it saw the face of the people reflected in war and that which suffices for peace. Poetry is once again ablaze, constructing a new stage upon which the world, a theater, in its construction of self exists. 

The intricate elicitings of language and being in the most delicates ear produces a meditation of satisfaction. The scene transcends, as Aristotle would argue into a new reality. Like the aged man whose intellectual gymnastics mesmerize an Imp, life is again an intrinsic image of contorted and contorting, the "eccentric" and the elemental participant in a decomposition and consequent fertility of earth. 

Yet the worm wins

The Worm-Poet is Speaking 

The worm battles with the Chieftan while the chicken clucks in a carefully construction illusion of himself as a ten-foot dinosaur among inchlings. The worm in its pretentiousness enlarges and exalts himself, creating an illusion of himself consistent with the exalted illusions of humanity's splendor. A laughable illusion crying in defiance to uncertainty. 

Affirming the inchling is smaller than he, the worm inches his way along the earth and aligns himself in the philosophy of being a comically diminutive worm-poet who makes fun of the world in which he performs. His "fear not" and his "all is well" transform his shape and the metamorphosis that occurs, orchestrated by the universe, that remarkable protean composer, and enables us to see that he is affinity expressing capability held in form. 

Now, that's a mouthful. 

The worm-poet knows that "he" and "it" are as inseparable as performance and activity. He might as a matter of taste prefer one over the other. So long as he does not exalt one and deny the other, taste is only a matter of taste, and also of being there and there-being. 

Such versatility from a worm-poet enamors the world and in their own bodily metamorphosis which produces mimicked sounds they shift the quality of the comic further toward the grotesque as they raise the Worm to Heaven's Gate. 

The worm-poet looks down upon the world and sees nothing but the idea of beauty. Instead of joyous experience relishing in itself judgment enters, which is an experience in itself. Being a worm the worm-poet knows that a decomposed object can be reconstructed as beauty, and that putting something back together is a metamorphosis. Conserving, preserving, restoring and reanimating for an audience a metamorphic act. 

The worm-poet creeps along the fallen jugs of wine in search of ideal-forms of distortion while composing his next ode. 

Here are their lips
one by one
the bundles of bodies
and the feet

The Eccentric 

The eccentric enters with her noisy distortion of standard form. Squawky sounds and high-tones in opposition to Poetry. Squiggling like saxophones, the Eccentric appears in devolutions. In doing so the "essences" are being retrieved, or discovered, made or found. 

Reconstruction of the awareness of need is awakened in the world, and in the idea of a fruitful earth, a world of belonging and possibility is realized. The worm-poet shares this impulse with the Eccentric, and both echo the Dionysian celebrants of a "new" religion, the religion of authenticity. 

Found here are those who preserve a recalcitrance to being uplifted by anything but their own bootstraps. Like Pentheus's Apollonian architecture, the Eccentric believes it is language that causes rebellion against civilizing. And in a rebellious tone she abdicates authority admitting her own thing of darkness and lightness. 

Essentially the world idealizes the blessed rage of order, as identifiable as it is elusive. A place of books and imposing high-minded values, provocative to balance against a paradoxical acceptance of earth as human beings cede to mother nature. The immanent image of nobility plunges to the ground. If transformation is to occur, the flower is to take the place of Narcissus's corpse. 

The forces of the earth, the danger and destruction, the withdrawal into darkness, the comic and the grotesque, regenerate in the losing of temporal power and beauty. The year ends. Spring has not yet come. Without renewal presence in the eccentric is absent.

While Orpheus plays the leading role

Spring Comes Forth

The music of the earth once again echoes across time. A new season opens with the pervasiveness of the paradoxical grounded in impish thought provoking monstrous appetites. The sense of dismay is replaced with childhood's harmony while nature while glory has passed away. 

Spring is the dialogues of business, of love, and of strife to which honeybees affix their tongues. Solitude is replaced with earthly delights and the tale repeats itself again. 

We return full circle to the blessedness that comes with knowledge and the belonging that comes with an earthly domain. The perpetual benediction sings sweet songs of thanks and praise for the achieved awareness of a previously obstinate questioning. 

Sense and outward things fall and vanish and that divine purpose, insomuch as it is intuited by humanity, necessitates an acceptance and identification with the meekest of flowers whose petals are also blown about by the wind. 

For one final instance we can trace the earths twists and turns in Couture's painting pressed down upon the canvas of the earth, and thereon setting our sights anew, pulling them in a lavishly upward direction toward an unattainable impulse. 

The Roman desire to apprehend cosmic design is dripping with spring in this painting which reflects a total sky without defect. The ephemerality of the frenzy appears as a pool of flowers, brief as they were, eternal as they are. 

The contingency of things in nature is not to be lamented but rather to be celebrated. The essence of being, in the progress of this ode, is from the pleasures of youth, and the sweetness and beauty that gratify because they satisfy the need for "ache" and they "sting" ... it is for a mature appreciation of only the most powerful of pleasures and pains of the senses, and aims to satisfy a craving for both with the stain of honey and of tears. 

The worm-poet becomes a moth while the poet transforms him into a butterfly. He flies alongside the winds of the cosmos, humanizing nature with his song. The old men in Euripides's play delight in their Bacchantes.  The birds sing and the lions are tamed. 

Apollo takes measure and smiles

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Curmudgeon and a Termagant Walk Into A Bar

Termagant: O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who (for the most part) are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipp'd for not associating me with being a true vixen.

Crumudgeon: Swear thou art honest, Vixen! Heaven doth truly know thou art falsity jostling others for dominance, with brute power the final factor of your raging encounter.

T: It is the very error of your moon that brings you nearer to a state of lament, where you will most assuredly find your incredulous thinking!

C: Command you not of governing cosmic peculiarities. We lay traps for the likes of you.

T: Those may be your final words. 

Why have you grievance with me, surely the question of your own motivation is sufficient without quirk or injury to my blessed tragedy.

C: I refuse to be drawn into your inquiries. I shall remain steadfast to my impenetrable resolve.

T: So striking it is that you invite it here for examination?

C: Don't try to inquire further! Be content with the knowledge you have. 

T: Tush, never tell me. Mock me not. Trifles light as air are to the jealous confirmations strong. As proofs holy writ. 

C: As prime as goats or hot as monkeys! 

T: Just order the scotch, already.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Fish in Love

I never met a metaphor I didn't like. Not only is this fish out of water, but it is riding a penny-farthing. Of fishes, Lynda Barry wrote:

Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke. 

Dr. Mardy Grothe, a very clever and witty writer and author of treasures for the intellectually insatiable, wrote about the 1995 novel Corelli's Mandolin, where Louis de Bernieres tells the story of Pelagia Iannis, a young beauty who lives with her physician father on the small Greek island of Cephalonia. When the island is overtaken by Italian troops in the early days of World War II, Dr. Iannis and his daughter are forced to billet the officer in command, Captain Antonio Correlli, in their house. Corelli is a handsome and cultured man who always travels with his prized mandolin. His passion for music is matched by a disdain for military life, which he demonstrates by replying "Heil Puccini" whenever he is offered the Nazi greeting "Heil Hitler." The beautiful Pelagia soon falls for Corelli, even though she is betrothed to a young Greek fisherman who has left to fight in the war. The developing love affair gravely concerns her father, who sits her down one day and says:

Love is a kind of dementia
with very precise and oft-repeated
clinical symptoms.

After ticking off some of the "symptoms" that he has observed in the young lovers, Dr. Iannis launches into an extended analogy. 

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body ...

That is just being "in love," which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew toward each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches, we found that we were one tree and not two.

Ambrose Bierce wrote: Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. 

Returning to Dr. Iannis' lecture to his daughter, this is where Mardy and I take a divergent path. It is the path of awareness. Dr. Iannis speaks from his perspective, which is conventional love. Living in society this is perhaps one of the easiest loves to have. It is intimate and personal, but it is also illusory when two people deny their essence in the name of pragmatism or even altruism. If it is the first, it may be more authentic, with two individuals living in earnest. These are the people who claim to have met their soulmate. Another person with whom they are naturally inclined, with both sharing the preference for and ability to sustain a long lasting love affair. But if one is secretly languishing, denial and resentment can arise. These sentiments are formidable even for a well balanced mind, and require higher faculties to escape. These are the willingly chosen ideals that result in a very rich and creative inner reality - sometimes turning one into a phenomenologist. 

Although the sentence: "I never met a phenomenologist I didn't like" doesn't have the same ring as "I never met a metaphor I didn't like" - even if one could argue the structure renders these two concepts categorically equal. 

The next category is love for convenience. History and literature are filled with woeful unrequited ultimately loveless tales of this nature. When we read these stories, we feel instantaneous "compassion" and "anguish" for the main characters, those pour suffering souls living in secret torment, under the spell of insatiable love or the hope thereof. 

If this happens to a flat character, usually a fortunate or unfortunate impetus occurs, and the person follows an almost predestined path back to their senses or a more "suitable" suitor. Either that or the author kills them off creatively. 

If forbidden love happens to a dynamic character, a journey or odyssey begins. These characters are the Odysseuses of the world whom wanton readers will follow, sometimes to the scaffold. Where despite innate trembling imagine their hero or heroine (Joan of Arc, for example) step upon the scaffold with nothing but dignity and grace. Like Marie Antoinette and probably Anne Boleyn, they take one final breath, gaze up upon the morning sky, and let go of enough inner pretense to accept the harsh hand of fate. Their true natural eliteness (not elitistness) will not allow them to superimpose their ideals upon another, so their final word is conciliatory. If nothing happens that requires one final courtesy, such as apologizing for tripping over the executioner's foot; then their deepest hope and faithful desire is their last steadfast thought. In a single helplessly beautiful heroic act, they free their heart from their body, close their eyes, and wait. 

This is just one of many death scenes that history has imposed on some of its most dynamic characters. It is the tragic fate of those unyielding souls who can hear the sun set between perfect action in accordance with self and perfect action in accordance with other. 

Folklore describes these beings as cursed or solitary in nature, and in many ways they are. They may become beloved orators, steadfast to the great potential in every conceivable landscape. They are often educated by the best teachers of the day, but their autodidactical approach to living will seek knowledge from every conceivable source. 

Some are born into old and respectable families, others arrive into states of chaos. Most all turn to some form of writing or the arts, or toward physical experiences that are all-encompassing. Ultimately they set their sights on love and amorous intrigue. If the dynamics of love are not present in such a captivating way, they channel desire elsewhere. Devouring a sophisticated and pleasure-seeking society in perfectly unique ways that speak to them. They may be popular or unknown, but others are not necessarily unknown to them. 

Venus and Adonis - Abraham Bloemaert (Dutch, 1566 - 1651)
The Statens Museum for Kunst

Ovid was married three times, finally finding contentment in his third marriage. His first two marriages were short-lived and not particularly harmonious, giving special relevance to a line that appeared in the Art of Love: 

Love is a kind of warfare

Our penny-farthing riding fish out of water picks up the shattered pieces of Odyssey's heart and turns and twists them into metaphors or historical remedies, reminding us that Ovid was one of the first in history to say that love is war, a more powerful concept exposing the weakness of character behind Dr. Iannis'  love is a mental illness.

The timid would stop here, but a more insatiable being would ask: 

What about fire? 

That ancient flame - the flame of love - has been a central theme in world literature. In The Divine Comedy, Dante used the metaphor to suggest that a great passion can spring from a modest beginning: 

A great flame follows a little spark.

In Guardians of the Galaxy, baby Groot is ever more adorable and irresistible because he has the heart of Groot inside. In the seventeenth century, an English proverb commonly attributed to English cleric Jeremy Taylor continued the theme and became one of history's most popular observations: 

Love is a friendship set on fire 

Lord Byron saw love as a kind of celestial fire, calling it "a light from heaven, a spark of that immortal fire." Honoré de Balzac wrote that "Love is like the devil," adding "Whom it has in its clutches it surrounds with flames." 

Of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the Chicago Tribune Book World described García Márquez as taking one into a dream, where the reader emerges with their mind on fire. Not as twisted as Nabokov's enormous appetite and imagination, nor his fatalism either. Like rum calentano, these stories go down easily, leaving a rich, sweet burning flavor behind. 

If only it would stay gone. 
But it doesn't. 
It returns.
Again and again, fecund, savage and irresistible. 

In the words of Maya Angelou: 

Love is like a virus. 
It can happen to anybody at any time.

It may be a gift we give ourselves, it may be designed to catch a heart like a fish, it may be Anouilh's "one arch-enemy" ... it may be instinct, a way to find the way to one's own heart, or it may be a feeble insect in search of its next flower, with an innate will that nothing can dismay nor turn aside (Honoré de Balzac). It may be Nature's fairest gem or an exploding cigar. It may be a flowing wine held in existence or the wild card of existence. It may be wrapped or bare, savage or barbarous, dark, or so primal it purges vanity and leaves one with no other choice but to yield, if only to drag oneself from its torturous grasp. 

It may be fiction or reality or history. It may be the promise of an alliance of friendship taunted by lust. It may become pliable and overly yielding, or die of starvation. Whatever it is, love is a passion exalted and refined, gross and sensual. It is friendship set to music and the foundation of all civilization. 

It is an ocean of emotions, surrounded by apologies and personal expenses. For some it could prove to be more painful that being alive, a perpetual, relentless aching wound. Love is every ode willingly ascribed to it.

Of all it is and all it is not, love is always one thing above all else: Spelled correctly.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review of the Movie 'Gifted'

Nobody likes a smart ass

When the science of behavior and mind masquerade as genius there is bound to be confusion. Embracing all aspects of conscious and unconscious experience as well as thought, we establish general principles and superimpose our worldview upon all subjects, including the subject of genius, about which scientists know very little.

How does one explain the variation in the species that produces profoundly, observably-gifted individuals? 

By presenting it in relation to something else.


Natural scientists have been searching for the origin of genius since at least Plato. Today, a neuroscientist might refer to the phenomenon as plasticity, whereas a biologist might offer the theory of evolution. There are perhaps as many theories as there are opinions.

It would seem we don't yet have a roadmap for the further we move along the evolutionary ladder. After opposable thumbs and the ability to utilize one's hands as a unit, we find ourselves faced with a family of ontologies, such as fictional, imaginary, and impossible objects like Pegasus the winged horse or round squares. Genius is thought to reside somewhere nearby.

In the below clip from Men in Black, Edward (Will Smith) determined after a brief hesitation that little Tiffany posed the most threat while trained military officers instantly reacted to the monsters.

"She's the only one that seemed dangerous," says Edward. "She's about to start some *stuff ... those books are way too advanced for her."

This is precisely how I would describe the many complexities of genius: way too advanced for a quick review or movie. Regardless, the movie does address some important aspects of the challenges associated with living with genius, including those experienced by caretakers.

Specifically, the movie addresses these five (5) topics:
  1. What responsibilities do the gifted have to society? 
  2. Are the gifted at a higher risk for existential crisis?
  3. What responsibilities do caregivers have to the gifted? 
  4. Which environment is best for the nurturing of gifted? 
  5. Is childhood development different for the gifted? 

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1. What responsibilities do the gifted have to society? 

Mary's maternal-grandmother believes that Mary is a "one-in-a-billion" mathematical prodigy who should be privately tutored in the hopes of being able to better contribute to society, and perhaps solve one of the Millennium Prize Problems (a set of seven mathematical problems so difficult they have a $1 million prize if you solve them).

Midway we learn that Mary's Grandmother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) was also a mathematician, but that her career ended when she married. Here, it is implied that Evelyn has redirected her emotions and feelings (transference) about succeeding as a mathematician onto her granddaughter, and her daughter before her.

While it may be true that the grandmother (or Evelyn) does appear to suffer from some negative transference conflicts, this psychological affliction does not address what the development of giftedness can do for society. For that, we have to ask questions like:

What can solving math equations do for society? 

Take for example Évariste Galois, who at twenty-years-old solved a concept called - group theory - which today is recognized as the official language of all symmetries.

"And, since symmetry permeates disciplines ranging from the visual arts to music to psychology and the natural sciences, the significance of the discovery cannot be overemphasized." (Mario Livio)

This is where the movie vacillates between ethics and value.

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2. Are the gifted at a higher risk for existential crisis?

An existential crisis occurs when an individual questions whether life has any meaning, purpose, or value. Existential depression can occur following a trauma, leaving a person feeling like they're "falling apart."

Existential depression in gifted individuals is widely documented. In some cases it can be linked to positive disintegration experiences (Dabrowski), but not always. In the movie Little Man Tate, Fred Tate (Adam Hann-Byrd) can solve complicated math problems and play piano extraordinarily well, but he is plagued by big world problems until his intellectual abilities are guided and his emotional needs are met (making friends).

In the movie Gifted, Mary does not seem to suffer from Fred's type of existential crisis until she learns that her biological father did not want her. This is the audience's first real glimpse that she feels deeply. Toward the end of the movie, she hits her uncle, but this could be in part due to the type of television programming they are watching (or to the disingenuous introduction of a court ordering Mary to live with a foster family without legitimate cause).

Instead the movie addresses this subject via the mother, presenting the "risks" (anger, resentment, depression, negative action) but not expounding on them.

Image result for gifted movie math

3. What responsibilities do caregivers have to the gifted? 

What the movie does explore is the responsibilities caregivers have to the gifted. Frank's greatest fear is that he cannot give Mary what she needs to reach her unique potential. As a philosopher, Frank (at the end of the movie) tells Mary that he broke his promise and sent her to a foster family because he doubted his ability to care for her.

In philosophy, an individual is free in the positive extent when they have control over their own life, or are self-determining and free from interference by others. While Mary is young, Frank makes it clear that Mary is smart and capable of knowing what she wants, and that he should have listened to her in the first place. No doubt Frank is familiar with Bentham who coined the term 'negative liberty' to describe the situation when a person is free only in absence of coercion (see Hobbes, Locke, and Hume). It appears Frank mostly wants to love Mary while helping her develop her intellectual abilities and interests, not coerce her into a specific experience, which is what the grandmother attempts to do.

Of course, sitting in the audience, one can't help but feel compelled by the narrative. The audience wants Mary to return to her uncle, where she will be loved for who she is:

"He wanted me before I was smart."

4. Which environment is best for the nurturing of gifted? 

In the movie, being 'gifted' is presented as an intellectual affinity versus an affliction (such as in A Beautiful Mind, when genius is presented in relation to mental illness). Audiences leave with the impression that a loving environment is best for everyone, including the gifted.

But questions linger. In particular, one can't help wonder what potential might be lost when a child engages with ordinary children instead of with his or her intellectual peers. This is precisely what the director wants us to question and debate.

5. Is childhood development different for the gifted? 

Of the gifted it is said that they show clear signs of moral and social responsibility at higher levels of development, and that this occurs earlier in life than it does for most.

According to Dabrowski, there are various levels of development, from narcissistic self-absorption to a life of pure service. This is not an age-related theory. It does not imply that human beings begin life as sociopaths and end up like the Dalai Lama.

Level 1

The individual is concerned with self. In the service of egocentrism, perfectionists become tyrannical. They do not see their own imperfections; instead, they focus on the flaws of others. At this level, other people are used for self-gratification and self-aggrandizement. Parents at this level expect their children to achieve in school, behave well in public, get accepted to an Ivy League university, and become a success in life - to reflect well on them. These individuals set unrealistic standards for others and focus on their flaws; this is accompanied by blame, lack of trust, and feelings of hostility toward others (Hewitt & Flett). This is said to increase the potential of causing debilitating perfectionism in gifted children. While Mary's grandmother is clearly intellectually gifted, her transference is causing her to engage with perfectionism at a lower level.

Level 2

The individual is at the mercy of a society or their social group. They continuously ask themselves, "What will people think of me if I ...?" They experience insecurity and feelings of inferiority toward others; they judge themselves lacking in comparison with others. Polarized - all or nothing - thinking arises, where they judge themselves as either perfect or worthless.

It is said that perfectionists live in a constant state of anxiety about making errors. They have extremely high standards and perceive excessive expectations and negative criticisms from others, including their parents. Sometimes these pressures are real, sometimes they come from within. Perfectionists question their own judgement, lack effective coping strategies, and feel a constant need for approval. They fear being exposed as frauds or imposters. Many avoid the healthy risks that will help them grow, procrastinating, or refusing outright to try new experiences for fear of failure. (Adderholdt-Elliot & Goldberg).

Level 3

Healthier forms of perfectionism emerge when the individual becomes a seeker of self-perfection, instead of feeling inferior to others or feeling inadequate. The person is aware of their potential to be fully human and feels inferior only to that potentiality. Integrity, empathy, wisdom, and harmony are powerful incentives for growth. The longing to become one's best self propels the individual to seek out blind spots, see the truth about themselves, and transform lower-level instincts.

Life is a high drama. There are persecutors (Mary's grandmother and the insensitive, powerful court system), victims (Mary, Frank ... and nearly Fred), and rescuers (Bonnie). The first two levels are compelled by the lower realities, and there is little, if any, awareness that a higher possibility is possible. At Levels IV and V, the pull from the higher reality directs the personality. At Level III, the individual is aware of the higher, but in the beginning is still caught in the lower. The struggle that ensues is painful. To know there is a higher reality, while at the same time feeling incapable of reaching it, causes an agonizing tension. Even though this high drama is difficult, it can work as a catalyst for inner transformation.

Level 4

One gains a greater capacity for self-reflection, for acceptance of others and of self when one has transformed much of the inner polarity and is able to live according to higher ideals. Here, self-regulation is eased. Instead of being controlled by baser desires, such as possessiveness or trying to control others, one is more compassionate, able to think about and understand the plight of others. These individuals have a clearer vision of the meaning of life experiences.

Level 5

Dabrowski refers to Level V as the perfection of the personality. It is life without inner conflict. It is a life directed by the highest guiding principles. These individuals are wise teachers, guides, and exemplars for others. Autonomy is achieved from the lower layers of reality fraught with confusion and violence. Life is lived in service to all humanity, not in service of the ego. The motto, "All is love" reflects the transcendent potential for humanity - and perhaps the greatest gift the 'gifted' can give the world.


Frank Adler (Chris Evans) recognizes and treats his niece's mathematical proclivities with respect and dignity, ensuring that she is presented with theoretical math books that feed her mind's insatiable need for stimuli.

But he is also concerned about Mary's psychological well being and emotional state; in particular because her mother (his sister) took her own life. When Mary wants to continue reading and solving mathematical equations, he insists instead they go to the beach to play and let off a little steam. This tells the audience that as a caretaker, Frank is concerned with Mary's happiness and well being, not just her potential.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Super Mensa Lumen, or "Luxsa" for short

Are you a Secret Super Brain?
(and don't even know it?) 

How about we consider some kind of expanding, brain-sizzling, angelically devilish entertaining questions before watching a mindless video on meditation? (get it?) those who do, continue reading.

Are you in league with Isaac Asimov or Buckminster Fuller and don't even know it? Let us find out! 

But before we do, let us give ourselves a name, so that people of exceptionally high intelligence might have a label with which to identify should the subject arise at their next dinner party. 

Let's start with Mensa. "Mensa" is Latin for table, so Beyond Mensa is Super Mensa Lumen, or "Luxsa" - our newly adopted and beloved colloquial expression for Smarty Pants. It also means that our desk now has a table lamp.

Disclaimer: If you are concerned with elitism, Luxsa might not be for you ... for elitism is the belief one is superior to one's peers, while elite is sufficient enough. As such, Luxsa is elite. 

Luxsa is not mindless Trivia without context. For to do well on Trivia, one only need be in possession of a well-furnished, overstuffed mind. But if Trivia is a favorite pastime, you'll find yourself in good company here. 
  1. Which does not belong? George Sand, George Eliot, George Orwell? 
  2. If while in a coffee shop you heard people discussing ullage and botrytis, what is it they were discussing? 
  3. In the novel by Jules Verne, who went around the world in eighty days?
For the more arcane, how many imaginary places from world literature can you name? For the Super Arcane, how many landscapes from imaginary places can you close your eyes and verbally walk me through? 

Come back down from the slender stilts that rise from the ground at a great distance from one another and are lost above the clouds of the city and aim your spyglass and telescope back upon Luxsa for you will never tire of examining it, page by page, leaf by leaf, stone by stone, particle by particle, contemplating with fascination abstract notions of concrete realities such as absence and presence.  

Now that our minds are warmed up, let us start 4 hours after the meridian in Greenwich strikes 12 o'clock noon, which would be right about now. 

The following set of questions are relative to the unimportant matters or things one's mind considers. The tedious, never-quieting internal dialogue and debate on the nature of chicken-and-egg riddles and tyrannical influences and civil responsibility. The fun and charming challenges of nurturing a large working memory and the triumphs in fine mental tuning. Let us draw our own lines and color inside or outside them, and then arrange the elements in such a way as to arrive at a conclusion, a decision, or solution to some random and entirely important-in-the-moment thought ... to a place where our intuition resides. And by intuition we mean not some mystic or mysterious force that belongs in the realm of psychic phenomena. But rather a real, definable, and, to a greater or lesser extent, present in all of us accumulation of millions - perhaps billions or trillions - of tiny, "trivial" bits of information stored in the recesses of our memories that we harness, dust off, and bring together in an appropriate combination when the situation calls for it.

Armed with our thinking caps we enter a room filled with thoughts, and instantly we experience a feeling, either positive or negative. Let us pause and consider what creates that first impression? Are we hard-pressed to offer specifics? 

If our reaction be negative, what in the world, might I ask, is that human computer of ours doing? Is it being unruly? Focusing on facial expressions, mannerisms, a way of walking, and style of dressing - and with matching socks, dressing up these experiences with, and reactions to, "trivial" matters based on arcane or worse yet - boring information from the past? A kind of sad and desperate subconscious picture is drawn and in a fraction of a second reacted to that presents to the mind the notion of "bummer vibes?" 

The longer and more actively we engage our brains, the keener our intuition becomes. There are those who can take one look at a person, read a few words in a comment, or observe someone's manner and in an instant know precisely how that individual will react in certain circumstances. Dangerous, you say? Indeed, but only when used for ill. For there are those whose systems independent of their prowess of intellect adhere to higher grand principles from which to engage the world. Higher, not mindless and unexamined. 

Because the accumulation of facts is important to intuitive thinking, to the myriad of snap decisions and quick judgments one must make in order to go about one's day; trivia, in all its lack of glory, is part and parcel to our thinking experiments. 

We are almost compelled to conclude that Luxsa will be filled with Trivia and relatively unimportant matters or things, but these things can be another's essentiality. As we are not aware of the essentiality of others, those things by which they define their life purpose, we can only surmise - a few of us effectively - what those things might be based on their actions, words, complaints and celebrations ... for data examined is often illuminated. And fortunately for us, we have a light on our desk to see it. 

There will be some cramming in the head of information that one must merely suck up and learn, and by learn I mean not memorize. If there is a subject, rather than consult Google to see which posts rank highest and then take as proof of answer that which fits one's mindset; delve deeper, read scholarly journals on the subject, and "think" about the matter and allow your mind to openly wonder without bias and preconception. 

Travel along the neural framework you have carved for yourself with ceaseless thinking activities. If for any reason your neural framework is not functioning clean and clear of clutter, draw yourself a mind map of the 15 basic thinking paradigms by which your brain processes thought. Then delve down deeper into categories and subcategories and exceptions that belong to those areas of thought. Once you have mapped out where your thoughts reside, with a big picture view, you can now make the necessary adjustments to put your brain on your desired track. If you prefer to remain in the mire of twisting and turning and churning in your stomach over trivial matters, enjoy. If you consider that an unpleasant experience, retreat to a safe harbor, examine your mind's map, and adjust accordingly. 

One final thought, if you come to this activity with good cheer and sufficient rest for your mind, your enjoyment will be increased tenfold. In other words, you'll have more fun. If this latter comment on amusement was charming and nostalgic rather than illuminating, welcome to Luxsa. 

Match Wits with Luxsa

  1. Describe how your perfectionism developed. 
  2. Under which hierarchy has your critical perception and evaluation of values arisen? 
  3. What is frustration and why is this question important? 
  4. Define superiority and inferiority? 
  5. Does thinking cause you disquietude? 
  6. What is the value of agitation and anxiety? 
  7. Does surprise and shock exist? 
  8. How does one rectify moral failure (guilt)? 
  9. Which positive maladjustments have you adopted? 
  10. Does antagonism against social opinion and protest against the violation of intrinsic ethical principles make you feel better about yourself? 

Though uncomfortable, those who can answer these questions have the potential to fully realize and illuminate their mind map. 

In our next activity, we'll pull out our drawing utensils and make our very own mind map so that we might more easily keep our table lamp shinning bright. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Little Theory of Enchantment

A Little Theory of Enchantment 
(Saturday morning musings)

Pure reason supplies our over-arching concepts for grand and otherwise overwhelming items. When we are dazed and enchanted by a night sky full of stars, this wildness is somewhat tamed when we make use of the rational concept of space and time.

The deepest sense of the sublime is our recognition of this power of reason to grasp something extremely awesome and essentially unpresentable. It is the major artifice of intellectual power to grasp ideas in the first place.

Take a short historical romp with me through a few of the religions of the world to see the theory of enchantment in operation ...

Let us start with the ROMANTIC ... a sublimity in the intuition of oneness between nature, humanity, and the notion of existence. Nietzsche made the sublime encompass the entire domain of cultural symbolism and philosophic speculation - the entire net of culture as the territory of the sublime.

Whether this vast sublime domain is under the control of reason or the will to power, for it to be so it must FIRST be placed under the control of FANTASY, a fantasy which rests on pure existence. Out of everything, and out of nothing is pure existence ... be it manifest or unmanifest.

Human fantasy lays down the wholly fictional constructs that give grand coherence to each person's life. We see these examples expressed daily on social media. Consider the remarkable bond between the Chinese mind and the concept of the mysterious Tao, the absolute which uses Yin and Yang as its agents for creating the world. Those who discount this idea as a non-truth, might instead classify it as a great cultural fantasy which satisfied their civilization for centuries.

All of our major religions, cultural, and ideological beliefs are in this sense made possible by the psychological ability to construct a notion of fantasy and enchantment.

To dramatize this theory, we might consider a hypothetical dispute between a Methodist and a Catholic. For Catholics, Holy Communion has maximum sublime power because of transubstantiation. The Methodist believe that the supposed miraculous conversion of wine to blood is a superstitious Catholic fantasy, and that the Methodists have a better theory of communion, as a memorial service to Jesus as the Christ.

To a Zen Buddhist, the Catholic model and the Methodist model are both improper fantasies. If Augustine says that he feels sublime bonding to an invisible City of God, and if Marx says he feels such a bond to the socialist state, Augustine and Marx show the same symptom of deluded fantasy.

It is a little known Theory of Enchantment (little know for I have just now written it, in this post) ... that enables all theories to yield a powerful joy and simultaneously touch the deepest psychological core of jouissance and desire.

In my world, the Self and the Mysterious Other are best construed as one something seeking another something, because each entity is, in essentialist language, complete and whole in and of itself, an abundance, existence, a positivity that enables manifest reality.

If we are to have a true history of human culture, we need not decide who is right or who is wrong, but that there is room for all theories and realities to simultaneously exist in the cosmic vacuum needed by an expanding universe.

On a more simple level, we each have our tea parties to which we invite friends to achieve the perfect balance of harmony in the operations of the real world.

This is my Saturday morning story. I shall now sit atop Mt. Olympus with histories great Greek intellectuals and partake of a highly attractive breakfast of nectar and honey.

Bonne journée !