TOTP vs Popworld

So Top of the Pops has been shelved.

Should we be sad? Probably not. TOTP was only really worth watching for those moments when defiantly underground music somehow gatecrashed the charts.

Seeing this show, with its eternal Smashey and Nicey-ness, try and accommodate things like acid house was always fun.

TOTP had to try to appeal to both 'the kids,' and their Daily Mail-reading parents, a gloriously impossible task that gave rise to the odd moments of TV gold, such as Altern8 donning chemical suits and bring 'ardkore to the nation's living rooms or Nirvana's very obviously mimed performance of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' a masterpiece in the art of piss-taking.

But recently, with the charts buried in the living death of neo-AOR and X-Factor sludge, those moments where TOTP could be a clash of very different worlds have become few and far between. And so, the programme lost its point, settling down very comfortably to men on stools singing ballads.

While I don't mourn the passing of TOTP, I do hate what its passing says about TV and pop culture in general. See, it's all about context: in particular, the rise of channel 4's Popworld, its every success mirrored by TOTP further sliding into oblivion.

TOTP was, at least, genuinely enthusiastic about pop music, gamely trying (and dismally failing) to understand all this new-fangled stuff where you couldn't even hear the words. Popworld, by comparison, doesn't - can't - show enthusiasm for anything, except its own cleverness.

For Popworld, everything is to be smirked at: pop music exists as the object of a snide putdown and nothing more. Everything is wrapped around invisible, ironic quotation marks. Actually, scratch the 'invisible': presenter Miquita Oliver's hands routinely flail into the air, out of her control, and you can tell that, deep down, she wants to do those little inverted commas, over and over again, but she stops herself at the last second, aware that such a gesture just wouldn't be cool.

The problem is, I think, about distance. Popworld is unable to enjoy anything, or show any passion, because its always at a distance from life: it exists behind a post-modern barrier of sarcasm and affected superiority.

That's sad, hateful and pathetic, of course. But, perhaps more importantly, it's also just very boring. The presenters' self consciously display their boredom towards those around them, but, really, there's little more tedious than a smirking, passionless smartarse sneering in an impeccably arch manner.

TOTP might have been shit, but its cheerfully enthusiastic heart was in the right place. Popworld, by contrast, doesn't have a heart at all.

[Simon Hampson]
Found in FACT magazine

Related posts:-
The Perils of Radical Subjectivity
Life Amongst the Rubble
Tasteful Distance
Only Playing 

A Safe Distance

Because in general we approach the arts and entertainment from outside, because we go to art, we regard it as external to the main part of our life. We go to the theatre, to the cinema, the opera, the ballet; to museums; to sports fields (for a part of all great games is as much art as theatre or ballet).

Even our reading is outside the main occupations of our day; and even the art that is piped into our homes we feel comes from outside.

If we consign art to the leisure outprovinces of our lives, and even there experience it mostly in some indirect form, it becomes a mere aspect of good living - that is, a matter of facts, not feeling; of placing, of showing off cultural knowledge; of identifying and collecting.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos ('The Importance of Art'), p.199, 200

................................................................................................................................................................................


When the chief fields for intellectual expression and the main channels for the stating of personal views of life were theology and philosophy, the artist was able to remain in closer contact with a public.

But now that art has become the chief mode of stating self, now that the theologian-philosopher is metamorphosed into the artist, an enormous gap has sprung.

The only person who might have stopped this schism between the artist and the non-artist are the critics. But the more obscure and the more ambiguous a work of art the more need there is for interpreters. There are thus excellent professional reasons for critics to encourage the schism.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos ('The Importance of Art'), p.198


................................................................................................................................................................................

Related posts:-
Playing the Art Game | Fetishism
Being friends and sharing simple things
Games of Culture
The Tyranny of Novelty
The Real Thing
Creative Living 
Tasteful Distance

Assumptions



................................................................................................................................................................................



We feel we are stating a natural sequence of events when we say: this house was burned down because the lightning struck it. Primitive man senses an equally natural sequence when he says: a sorcerer has used the lightning to set fire to this particular house.

In explaining things in this way he is just like ourselves: he does not question his assumptions.

[C.G. Jung]
Modern Man In Search Of A Soul ('Archaic Man'), p.130



................................................................................................................................................................................


[Popper] believes that philosophy is a necessary activity because we, all of us, take a great number of things for granted, and many of these assumptions are of a philosophical character; we act on them in private life, in politics, in out work, and in every other sphere of our lives - but while some of these assumptions are no doubt true, it is likely that more are false and some are harmful.

So the critical examination of our presuppositions - which is a philosophical activity - is morally as well as intellectually important.

[Bryan Magee]
Popper, p. 15


................................................................................................................................................................................


Related posts:-
Being open to the new
Dangers of Dogmatism

Guiding Fiction

Theories [can] matter according to their use. They are not destinations, they are our means of transport ... the question about a belief is not whether it is true but, rather, how would my life be better if I believed it?

So a belief can never be an idol or a fetish (or a resting-place), it can only be a tool or an instrument.

However subtly, however difficult to discern, what we believe issues in what we do. Our theories are compasses, if not maps.

When [we ask] of any particular truth, 'What is its cash-value in terms of particular experience?' [we] imagine what this particular truth, this particular belief, can buy us, what experiences it can provide us with.

Our truths are not out there, like new planets, waiting for us to discover them; they are made by us (and for us) like uniforms. In the service of our needs, they equip us for our particular tasks.

What we believe about God - like what we believe about the differences between the sexes, or about creativity - will above all affect our conduct.

[Adam Phillips]
Side Effects ('On Not Making It Up'), p.76, 77, 78


................................................................................................................................................................................


Any attempt to square linguistic statements with the world is to compare apples and oranges, to try to climb out of our own minds and language to see the world as it is in itself, and Rorty saw no profit in it.

Indeed, following his own pragmatist criteria, he did not suggest that he was offering an alternative view of the world; rather, he proposed that his way of talking about things was useful. 

Instead of spending valuable time asking whether various types of inquiry—science, political thought, poetry, alchemy—are better or worse at capturing the truth, we should ask whether there are new ways of describing and redescribing the world that better serve our variety of goals, with the understanding that "hope of agreement is never lost so long as the conversation lasts."

[James Ryerson]
'The Quest for Uncertainty: Richard Rorty's pragmatic pilgrimage'


................................................................................................................................................................................


In a letter to Popper [...] Einstein states quite clearly his agreement with Popper 'that theory cannot be fabricated out of the results of observation, but that it can only be invented.'

What is more, observation as such cannot be prior to theory as such, since some theory is presupposed by any observation. Failure to recognise this is, in Popper's view, the flaw in the foundations of the empirical tradition.

'[...] the belief that we can start with pure observations alone, without anything in the nature of a theory, is absurd; as may be illustrated by the story of the man who dedicated his life to natural science, wrote down everything he could observe, and bequeathed his priceless collection of observations to the Royal Society to be used as inductive evidence....

Twenty-five years ago I tried to bring home the same point to a group of physics students in Vienna by beginning a lecture with the following instructions: "Take a pencil and paper; carefully observe, and write down what you have observed!" They asked, of course, what I wanted them to observe. Clearly the instruction, "Observe!" is absurd....

Observation is always selective. It needs a chosen object, a definite task, an interest, a point of view, a problem [...]'

This means 'that observations, and even more so observation statements and statements of experimental results, are always interpretations of the facts observed; that they are interpretations in the light of theories'. 

At every level, then, our knowledge can consist only of our theories.

[Brian Magee]
Popper, p. 33-4


................................................................................................................................................................................


The person with whom saving is a desire springing from his personality gains also a profound psychological satisfaction in being able to act accordingly; that is, he is not only benefited practically when he saves, but he also feels satisfied psychologically.

One can easily convince oneself of this if one observes, for instance, a woman of the lower middle class shopping in the market and being as happy about two cents saved as another person of a different character may be about the enjoyment of some sensuous pleasure.

This psychological satisfaction occurs not only if a person acts in accordance with the demands springing from his character structure but also when he reads or listens to ideas that appeal to him for the same reason.

[Erich Fromm]
The Fear of Freedom, p.243


................................................................................................................................................................................


In the natural history of the living human being, ontology and epistemology cannot be separated. His (commonly unconscious) beliefs about what sort of world it is will determine how he sees it and acts within it, and his ways of perceiving and acting will determine his beliefs about its nature.

The living man is thus bound within a net of epistemological and ontological premises which - regardless of ultimate truth or falsity - become partially self-validating for him.

[...] what is important is a body of habitual assumptions or premises implicit in the relationship between man and environment, and that these premises may be true or false [...] the net of premises which govern adaptation (or maladaptation) to the human and physical environment. In George Kelly's vocabulary, these are the rules by which an individual "construes" his experience.

I am concerned especially with that group of premises upon which Occidental concepts of the "self" are built, and conversely, with premises which are corrective to some of the more gross Occidental errors associated with that concept.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('The Cybernetics of "Self": A Theory of Alcoholism'), p.314-15


................................................................................................................................................................................


[...] the world partly becomes - comes to be - how it is imagined.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p.220


................................................................................................................................................................................

The way we imagine our lives is the way we are going to go on living our lives.

For the manner in which we tell ourselves about what is going on is the genre through which events become experiences. There are no bare events, plain facts, simple data - or rather this too is an archetypal fantasy: the simplistics of brute (or dead) nature.

... our fundamental unease with Freud's theory is not that it cannot be verified but that it does not satisfy. We fail to fall for it not because it empirically fails as a hypothesis about human nature, but because it fails poetically, as a deep enough, embracing enough, aesthetic enough plot for providing dynamic coherence and meaning to the dispersed narratives of our lives.

We see what our ideas ... allow us to see.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.11, 23, 36


................................................................................................................................................................................

"Being born, coming into this particular body, these particular parents, and in such a place, and what we call external circumstances ... form a unity and are as it were spun together." Each of our souls is guided by a daimon to that particular body and place, these parents and circumstances, by Necessity - and none of us has an inkling of this because it was eradicated on the plains of forgetting.

Images such as these fill the mind with lovely speculations, and have for centuries.

These cosmological myths place us in the world and involve us with it. The cosmologies of today - big bangs and black holes, antimatter and curved, ever-expanding space going nowhere - leave us in dread and senseless incomprehensibility.

Random events, nothing truly necessary. Science's cosmologies say nothing about the soul, and so they say nothing to the soul, about its reason for existence, how it comes to be and where it might be going, and what its tasks could be.

Explanation by the physical sciences of the ultimate origins of and reasons for our life may not be such a good way to go. Any cosmology that begins on the wrong foot will not only produce lame accounts; it will also lame our love of existence. The creation myth of random events in unimaginable space keeps the Western soul floating in a stratosphere where it cannot breathe.

No wonder ... Plato says of his "fable": "It may preserve us, if we are persuaded by it."

[James Hillman]
The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling, p.46, 47


................................................................................................................................................................................


You also have to look at yourself in a temporal context - to have some sense of your life as a narrative, in order to judge whether it is going well or not.

This does not mean that everything from cutting your first teeth to losing the lot of them has to form a logically coherent whole. Not many narratives of any degree of subtlety have that kind of unity.

Narratives can be multiple, ruptured, recursive and diffuse and still be narratives.

[Terry Eagleton]
After Theory, p.127


................................................................................................................................................................................


People find no resources within themselves and nothing to inspire them outside. It's a state of affairs that would be inconceivable in Tibetan society, where the dying are sustained by the teachings they're reflected on all their lives, and thanks to which they're prepared for death.

They have all the reference points and inner strength they need. Because they've been able to give meaning to their lives, they know how to give meaning to their death, too.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.270


................................................................................................................................................................................

Storytelling plays a noble and historic role in our lives and in society. Stories can give us a narrative to guide and instruct us. They are crucial to our knowing who we are; they provide a sense of identity. Some stories, however, become the limitation to creating anything new ... We need to distinguish between the stories that give meaning to our lives and help us find our voice, and those that limit our possibility.

The stories we find useful and fulfilling are the ones that are metaphors, signposts, parables, and inspiration for the fullest expression of our humanity.

Limiting stories are versions of the past. They are stories about the conclusions we drew from events that happened to us. Other limiting stories are those that are rehearsed or make the point that the future will be a slightly modified continuation of the past out of which the story arose. Stories of this nature place us as victims of events or even fate.

Theater, movies, song, literature, and art are storytelling of the highest order. These are the mediums for building an individual sense of what it means to be human.

[Peter Block]
Community, p.35

................................................................................................................................................................................


Gender egalitarian societies often have creation stories which give important roles to women. Without the active explanation in myth, there is no ideological underpinning for a high female status.

The same may be true for the berdache. In cultures where berdaches have high status, there is usually mythological justification for the practice. It is not enough that the religion be neutral or tolerant. It must actively explain the phenomenon in a positive manner.

[Walter L. Williams]
The Spirit and the Flesh, p. 188-9


................................................................................................................................................................................


"Should we be mindful of dreams?" Joseph asked. "Can we interpret them?"

The Master looked into his eyes and said tersely: "We should be mindful of everything, for we can interpret everything."

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p. 80-1


................................................................................................................................................................................


PTSD is often seen as resulting from an inability to create an organized narrative account of the trauma.

Therapeutic models of trauma in fact suggest that the generation of a comprehensible narrative account of the traumatic experience is an important part of the recovery process.

Such therapeutic processes can be understood within the EMU framework as helping to constrain the interpretation and behavioral implications of the event within a clear explanatory narrative, thereby dramatically reducing the uncertainty associated with the traumatic experience.

It has long been argued that one of the functions of religion is to reduce uncertainty about the meaning of the world. However, the EMU predicts that any strong interpretive structure (e.g., political ideology) would constrain the behavioral and perceptual affordances associated with an experience and, therefore, serve a similar uncertainty-reducing function (cf. Amodio, Jost, Master, & Yee, 2007; Hogg, 2005).

[Jacob B. Hirsh, Raymond A. Mar, and Jordan B. Peterson]
'
Psychological Entropy: A Framework for Understanding Uncertainty-Related Anxiety'


................................................................................................................................................................................


Related posts:-
The Silence is the Source
Testing new opinions and courting new impressions
A necessary lie
A Higher Power
The gods are within us
Everything is alive
Faith vs Reason
Imagine something better 
Fear Visions
Represent
Take Aim
Where mind goes, body follows 
Re-write It
Playing With Your Self
Creative Partnerships
Hell in a basket
The Creation of Meaning
Memory Lane 
Case History
Ideas with weight 
Masters of the Universe
A Healthy Body  
Twisted out of Shape
The Death of Meaning 
Where language ends (and art begins) 
Which difference makes a difference?
 

Healthy Risks

It would be possible, from a psychoanalytic point of view, to describe the singularity of a person's life in terms of the risks courted and the risks evaded (in this sense, a symptom turns up when an opportunity has been missed, a risk not taken).

As Lenin insisted, it is always never the right time for a revolution.

[Adam Phillips]
Side Effects ('Learning to Live'), p.159

................................................................................................................................................................................


The development of one's essential traits depends indeed on circumstances that allow for practice and risk taking.

[James Hillman]
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.70


................................................................................................................................................................................


I think I don’t regret a single ‘excess’ of my responsive youth, I only regret in my chilled age certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace.

[Henry James]


................................................................................................................................................................................

Related posts:-
Life Is Too Short!
Being Brave
Hear the Calling
Sailing the Turbulent Seas
Do Not Disturb

Stepping into the Unknown

................................................................................................................................................................................


It isn't always the future that people want; they are often, as it were rather ambivalent about the Promised Land. Indeed, it isn't the future they most want, it is the past.

Psychoanalysis, like education [...] is an attempt to lure people into the future, to tempt them to grow up.

What the analyst and the teacher and the political revolutionary come up against is people's refusal to sacrifice an apparently known pleasure for an apparently unknown one. Better the devil you know, because if you know him he can't be the devil.

[Adam Phillips]
Side Effects ('Learning to Live'), p.152, 154


................................................................................................................................................................................


Related posts:-
Hear the Calling
Healthy Risks
Status quo
Live in the Now

New Look

Three years ago, I had a nightmare that I cut off all my hair. Ever since I'd started growing out my hair at 17, I'd vowed that I would never cut it. As a teenager, I always felt skinnier and younger than anyone else, and somehow the extra hair made me feel bigger and more adult. Soon, I came to see my hair as a reflection of my integrity and personal steadfastness, and later, as the symbol of my identity as a rock-and-roll performer.

The year after I started growing my hair, I moved to New York to become an entertainer. I wanted to combine all the things I enjoyed most - music, performance, art, philosophy - into an experience of heightened fun. I fashioned my image accordingly. I associated long hair with freedom of spirit and rebellious living, and I wanted to harness those associations to entertain people.

So I transformed myself into an archetypal frontman, a character I could lose myself in. Onstage, my long, unkempt strands created a sense of additional craziness, amplifying every head bang, every body slam. My stage uniform was a white T-shirt, white jeans, running shoes, and a watch, with my hair obscuring an unshaven, dirty, sometimes bloody face.

The idea was to create a basic silhouette that would stick in people's minds. I wanted children to be able to draw me using just a few basic visual elements, like a cartoon superhero. I grew up drawing comics, and the idea of being able to represent a persona with just a few basic elements seemed almost mythic to me.

My hair was the envy of many women, even though I washed it only four times in six years, and sometimes it smelled so bad it made me sick. I wanted to get reactions out of people, to push the idea that I was wild and free. Abandoning personal hygiene was one obvious strategy. Sometimes, I even used fake dirt to make my clothes look as if they were covered with sweat and human waste. I was amazed by what a primal response filth could elicit from people - women in particular.

So the dream about cutting my hair made me think I'd lost everything. My entire identity was caught up in those oily locks!

But then I woke up. I leaped out of bed and looked in the mirror. It was still there - long and flowing. I felt like I'd been given a second chance.

The I started thinking. What if I did cut my hair? Would I look ridiculous? Would people think I was a sellout? Would my dance moves lose their power? Maybe my subconscious was telling me to shake things up. Had I become too safe, too predictable? Did my persona take all the risk out of creativity?

If I really wanted to be crazy, then maybe I needed to let go, since holding on to anything as superficial as a hairstyle was going to keep my real wildness from riding free. I wanted to shock myself. I wanted to do what I most feared, just for the sake of doing it. I wanted to embrace the idea that I could only discover myself through fearless living.

I called up an old friend and told him what I was thinking. "Are you crazy?" he shouted. "Do not cut your hair! It's career suicide!"

That was all I needed to hear. Thirty minutes later I was in a barber's chair. "It must have taken years to grow your hair so long," the barber said. "Why cut it now?""I had a dream that it would be the worst thing that could happen to me," I told him. "So I figured I better do it."

He began to snip. I watched in the mirror, expecting an unrecognizable face to emerge. But all I saw was me. Realizing that my identity transcended my aesthetic choices was liberating. But it was scary too. For so long I had maintained a fixed conception of myself, never considering that there were countless other possibilities, each one just as valid and real.

Offstage, people stopped recognizing me - not just fans, but also friends, business partners, even ex-girlfriends. People speculated that the "real" Andrew W.K. had been spirited off and some imposter had assumed his identity.

And in a way, people were right. I'm not the same Andrew W.K. anymore. Since I cut my hair, I've begun actively challenging many of the other assumptions I've always had about myself.

I used to think that I didn't want to make music with other people. So I started looking for opportunities to work with other musicians, and I wound up producing Repentance, the new album by Lee "Scratch" Perry. I used to insist that I would never participate in organised religion, so I began making friends who believed in God and went to church, and I even joined a church.

These decisions might sounds like contradictions, but I've never felt lost or uncertain about them. Instead, I feel more and more that I have nothing to be afraid of. No matter what I do, I can only be myself. It's the only choice I have.

[Andrew W.K.]

Related posts:-
Uses of Heroes | Self-development
Community | Individuation: Becoming who we can be
Group Identity
Solid Ground
Playing with ourselves

Faith vs Reason


................................................................................................................................................................................


Reason                            -                      Faith
Literal                             -                      Metaphorical
Phenomenon                   -                      Noumenon
Fact                                 -                      Fiction

................................................................................................................................................................................



The imposing arguments of science represent the highest degree of intellectual certainty yet achieved by the mind of man.

So at least it seems to the man of today, who has received hundred-fold enlightenment concerning the backwardness and darkness of past ages and their superstitions. That his teachers have themselves gone seriously astray by making false comparisons between incommensurable factors never enters his head.

Above all, the facts of faith, which might give him the chance of an extramundane standpoint, are treated in the same context as the facts of science.

Thus, when the individual questions the Churches and their spokesmen, to whom is entrusted the cure of souls, he is informed that membership in a creed is more or less de rigeur for religious belief; that the facts of faith which have become questionable for him were concrete historical events; that certain ritual actions produce miraculous effects; and that the sufferings of Christ have vicariously saved him from sin and its consequences.

If, with the limited means at his disposal, he begins to reflect on these things, he will have to confess that he does not understand them at all and that only two possibilities are open to him; either to believe implicitly, or to reject such statements because they are flatly incomprehensible.

Whereas the man of today can easily think about and understand all the "truths" dished out by the State, his understanding of religion is made considerably more difficult owing to the lack of explanations.

If, despite this, he has still not discarded all his religious convictions, this is because the religious impulse rests on an instinctive basis and is therefore a specifically human function.

You can take away a man's gods, but only to give him others in return.

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.45, 46


................................................................................................................................................................................


The standpoint of the creeds is archaic; they are full of impressive mythological symbolism which, if taken literally, comes into insufferable conflict with knowledge.

But if, for instance, the statement that Christ rose from the dead is to be understood not literally but symbolically, then it is capable of various interpretations that do not collide with knowledge and do not impair the meaning of the statement.

Is it not time that the Christian mythology, instead of being wiped out, was understood symbolically for once?

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.27


................................................................................................................................................................................


Temples and churches, pagodas and mosques, in all countries and ages, in their splendour and spaciousness, testify to man's need for metaphysics, a need strong and ineradicable, which follows close on the physical.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.162


................................................................................................................................................................................


Our time has been distinguished, more than by anything else, by a drive to control the external world , and by an almost total forgetfulness of the internal world.

By 'inner' I mean our way of seeing the external world and all those realities that have no 'external', 'objective' presence - imagination, dreams, phantasies, trances, the realities of contemplative and meditative states, realities that modern man, for the most part, has not the slightest direct awareness of.

People did not first 'believe in' God: they experienced his Presence, as was true of other spiritual agencies.

Sanity today appears to rest very largely on a capacity to adapt to the external world - the interpersonal world, and the realm of human collectivities [...] But since society, without knowing it, is starving for the inner, the demands on people to evoke its presence in a 'safe' way, in a way that need not be taken seriously, etc., is tremendous - while the ambivalence is equally intense.

Small wonder that the list of artists, in say the last 150 years, who have become shipwrecked on these reefs is so long - Hölderlin, John Clare, Rimbaud, Van Gogh, Nietzsche, Antonin Artaud ...

Those who survived have had exceptional qualities - a capacity for secrecy, slyness, cunning - a thoroughly realistic appraisal of the risks they run, not only from the spiritual realms that they frequent, but from the hatred of their fellows for anyone engaged in this pursuit.

Let us cure them. The poet who mistakes a real woman for his Muse and acts accordingly ... The young man who sets off in a yacht in search of God ...

The outer divorced from any illumination from the inner is in a state of darkness. We are in an age of darkness. The state of outer darkness is a state of sin - i.e. alienation or estrangement from the inner light. Certain actions lead to greater estrangement; certain others help one not be so far removed. The former used to be called sinful.

Already everything in our time is directed to categorizing and segregating this reality from objective facts.

Many people are prepared to have faith in the sense of scientifically indefensible belief in an untested hypothesis. Few have trust enough to test it. Many people make believe what they experience. Few are made to believe by their experience.

We live in a secular world. To adapt to this world the child abdicates its ecstasy.

There is a prophecy in Amos that there will be a time when there will be a famine in the land, 'not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.' That time has now come to pass. It is the present age.

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.115-8


................................................................................................................................................................................


[A man] must sense that he lives in a world which in some respects is mysterious; that things happen and can be experienced which remain inexplicable; that not everything which happens can be anticipated. The unexpected and the incredible belong to this world. Only then is life whole.

[C.G. Jung]
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.390


................................................................................................................................................................................



[...] our ancestors understood metaphorically at least five thousand years ago that the process of creative courageous encounter with the unknown comprised the central process underlying successful human adaptation, and that this process stood as the veritable precondition for the existence and maintenance of all good things.

Such understanding, however, was implicit and low-resolution – at best, procedural, embodied, encoded in ritual and drama – and not something elaborated to the point we would consider explicit or semantic understanding today.

We are constantly tempted to regard such understanding as superstitious, because of its continuing lack of explicitness, and to presume that our current modes of apprehension have rendered traditional beliefs superfluous. 

This attitude is predicated (1) on failure to recognize that empirical enquiry cannot provide a complete world description, because of the intractable problems of action, value and consciousness and (2) on an ignorance with regard to the content and meaning of pre-empirical or pre-experimental belief that is so complete, profound and unfathomable that its scope can barely be communicated.

Freud described religious beliefs as illusions, motivated by wish-fulfillment.

Such beliefs can be more accurately understood as culturally-shared and accepted strategies for pragmatically managing complexity.


[Jordan B. Peterson]
'Complexity Management Theory: Motivation for Ideological Rigidity and Social Conflict', in Cortex 38(3), December 2002, p. 453, 455


................................................................................................................................................................................


Whenever you try to understand anything, by whatever powers you have, you will discover [...] that what you are pursuing is inexhaustible [...] that you are trying to apply a formula to something which evades your formula, because whenever you try to nail it down, new abysses open, and these to yet other abysses.

When [the romantics] asked themselves how [...] one could begin to understand reality, in some sense of the word 'understand', how one might obtain some kind of insight into it without positively distinguishing oneself on the one hand as a subject, and reality on the other hand as an object, without in the process killing it, the answer which they sought to give, at least some of them, was that the only way of doing this was by means of myths [...]

[...] because myths embody within themselves something inarticulable, and also manage to encapsulate the dark, the irrational, the inexpressible, that which conveys the deep darkness of this whole process, in images which themselves carry you to further images and which themselves point in some infinite direction.

[...] the Greeks understood life because Apollo and Dionysus were symbols, they were myths, who conveyed certain properties and yet if you asked yourself what it was that Apollo stood for, what it was that Dionysus wanted, the attempt to spell this out in a finite number of words, or even to paint a finite number of pictures, was plainly an absurdity.

Therefore myths are at one and the same time images which the mind can contemplate, in relative tranquility, and yet also something which is everlasting, follows each generation, transforms itself with the transformation of men, and is an inexhaustible supply of the relevant images, which are at once static and eternal.

[Isaiah Berlin]
The Roots of Romanticism, p. 120-1


................................................................................................................................................................................


Related posts:-
Guiding Fiction
Dancing at the Border
Value of religion
Body, Spirit and Yoga
The gods are within us
Real Magic
How do you take your metaphysics?

Holistic Workout

I will remain silent on the subject of what yoga means for India, because I cannot presume to judge something I do not know from personal experience. I can, however, say something about what it means for the West.

Our lack of direction borders on psychic anarchy. Therefore, any religious or philosophical practice amounts to a psychological discipline; in other words, it is a method of psychic hygiene.

The numerous purely physical procedures of yoga are a physiological hygiene as well, which is far superior to ordinary gymnastics or breathing exercises in that it is not merely mechanistic and scientific but, at the same time, philosophical.

In its training of parts of the body, it unites them with the whole of the mind and spirit.

When the doing of the individual is at the same time a cosmic happening, the elation of the body becomes one with the elation of the spirit, and from this there arises a living whole which no technique, however scientific, can hope to produce.

Yoga practice is unthinkable, and would also be ineffectual, without the ideas on which it is based. It works the physical and the spiritual into one another in an extraordinarily complete way.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychology and the East, p.85

The gods are within us

Our time has committed a fatal error; we believe we can criticize the facts of religion intellectually. Like Laplace, we think God is a hypothesis that can be subjected to intellectual treatment, to be affirmed or denied.

We completely forget that the reason mankind believes in the "daemon" has nothing whatever to do with external factors, but is simply due to a naive awareness of the tremendous inner effect of autonomous fragmentary systems [instinctual products of the unconscious].

This effect is not abolished by criticizing it - or rather, the name we have given it [God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, etc] - or by describing the name as false.

If we deny the existence of the autonomous systems, imagining that we have got rid of them by a mere critique of the name, then the effect which they continue to exert can no longer be understood, nor can they be assimilated to consciousness.

We think we can congratulate ourselves on having already reached such a pinnacle of clarity, imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods.

We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth; in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor's consulting room, or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world.

It is not a matter of indifference whether one calls something a "mania" or a "god." To serve a mania is detestable and undignified, but to serve a god is full of meaning and promise because it is an act of submission to a higher, invisible, and spiritual being.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychology and the East, p.37, 38, 39


................................................................................................................................................................................


The human psyche has many levels. What is religious exists at the very deepest of those levels. What is religious is what is fundamental.

People are religious, whether they know it or not, because they must have fundamental beliefs. Otherwise they cannot act. They can’t even perceive. They can be very confused about what the nature of those fundamentals. Their psyches can be fractured, disjointed and incoherent.

Without axiomatic beliefs, however, we cannot simplify the world enough to act within it. 

[Jordan Peterson]
'Maps of Meaning: Suggested Readings and Russian Translation'


................................................................................................................................................................................


Related posts:-
Faith vs Reason
Real Magic

Imitation of Christ

The Christian subordinates himself to the superior divine person in expectation of his grace; but the Oriental knows that redemption depends on the work he does on himself.

The imitatio Christi [imitation of Christ] has this disadvantage: in the long run we worship as a divine example a man who embodied the deepest meaning of life, and then, out of sheer imitation, we forget to make real our own deepest meaning - self realization.

As a matter of fact, it is not altogether inconvenient to renounce one's own meaning. Had Jesus done so, he would probably have become a respectable carpenter and not a religious rebel ...

The imitation of Christ might well be understood in a deeper sense. It could be taken as the duty to realize one's deepest conviction with the same courage and the same self-sacrifice shown by Jesus.

Happily not everyone has the task of being a leader of humanity, or a great rebel; and so, after all, it might be possible for each to realize himself in his own way.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychology and the East, p.56, 57

Related posts:-
Facing Reality
Escaping Uncertainty

Magic and Illusion

[In reference to religious rites and blessings] Everywhere and at all times there have been rites d'entreé et de sortie [rites that precede or proceed an event] whose magical efficacy is denied and which are impugned as magic and superstition by rationalists incapable of psychological insight.

But magic has above all a psychological effect whose importance should not be underestimated. The performance of a "magical" action gives the person concerned a feeling of security which is absolutely essential for carrying out a decision, because a decision is inevitably somewhat one-sided and is therefore felt to be a risk.

When the rationalist directs the main force of his attack against the magical effect of the rite as asserted by tradition, he has in reality completely missed the mark. The essential point, the psychological effect, is overlooked.

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.18, 19

................................................................................................................................................................................

Magical practices are nothing but projections of psychic events, which then exert a counter-influence on the psyche and put a kind of spell upon the personality. Through the ritual action, attention and interest are led back to the inner, sacred precinct, which is the source and goal of the psyche and contains the unity of life and consciousness.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychology and the East, p.25

................................................................................................................................................................................

By what criterion do we judge something to be an illusion? Does there exist for the psyche anything which we may call "illusion"? What we are pleased to call such may be for the psyche a most important factor of life - something as indispensable as oxygen for the organism - a psychic actuality of prime importance.

Presumably the psyche does not trouble itself about our categories of reality, and it would therefore be the better part of wisdom for us to say: everything that acts is actual.

[C.G. Jung]
Modern Man In Search Of A Soul ('The Aims of Psychotherapy'), p.74

................................................................................................................................................................................

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

[William Wordsworth]
Passage from 'Daffodils'

................................................................................................................................................................................

Related posts:-
Take a break (watch a film)
The gods are within us
Faith vs Reason
A Way In
The Importance of Rituals 
How do you take your metaphysics? 

Uses of Heroes | Introduction

This text is an exploration of the importance of heroes; why they initially become important to us, and why they continue to be useful throughout our lives.

It may be tempting to think of the idea of having heroes as an immature one, as something that we all grow out of eventually. This is perhaps due to the importance that we attach to them in our youth, a time when they seem especially significant. Popular opinion can also have us believe that we should be able to rely on ourselves, and our own egos may add to this impression.

The dictionary tells us that a hero is a person admired for their courage or achievements. I’d like to use the term here in a slightly broader sense, as someone that we look up to and admire, for whatever reason. Hero is a masculine term, but for simplicities sake I shall use it here to speak of both men and women.

Uses of Heroes | Early Importance


From an early age we become familiar with the idea of heroes. The first heroes that we come to know are perhaps those who look after us at a young age, our parents or guardians. These are the first people that we look up to, and, once we come to understand the idea of a hero, they may be the first that we choose to class as such.

The fact that heroes matter to us so much when we are younger is indicative of their fundamental importance. When we are younger we are unsure of who we are; we may be building an identity or searching for one, and heroes help us in this process by embodying qualities that we wish to assimilate.

A good example of this is comic book heroes. In many superhero comics we have characters who portray universal qualities - those that we value as a society: justice, honour, bravery, empathy, kindness, and so on. These traits are brought to the fore; painted in bright colours and presented within moralistic story lines. The heroes of these comics may be simple, and wear their morals on their sleeves, but their importance to us as children is a microcosm of how heroes will matter to us for the remainder of our lives.

Uses of Heroes | Experience

The demands of our lives can often limit the ways in which we experience the world, as can the conditioning of the society that we live within. It is easy to become carried along; to lose ourselves in the sea of pre-described experience that is made available to us, and to accept that this is all there is, or all that we should expect.

Part of the joy of youth is in the sense of adventure and creativity that we show towards life. There is no urgency about youth, and no real demands are made on our time. We can enjoy languor without guilt; passion without embarrassment. We don’t yet know the conventions of society (or don’t yet care about them) so are free to make up our own rules.

The process of adolescence can serve to detach us from this state, as we begin to become aware of, and to conform to, the various pressures of societal conventions. The process of becoming who we are as adults can be seen as a struggle against this conditioning; a struggle that, in a sense, attempts to reunite us with the uniqueness of our childhood selves.

The fact that the conventions always flourish in one form or another only proves that the vast majority of mankind do not choose their own way, but convention, and consequently develop not themselves but a method and a collective mode of life at the cost of their own wholeness … conventions are soulless mechanisms that can never understand more than the mere routine of life. Creative life always stands outside convention … The mechanism of convention keeps people unconscious, for in that state they can follow their accustomed tracks like blind brutes, without the need for conscious decision. This unintended result of even the best conventions is unavoidable, but is no less a terrible danger for that.1

In going against convention, we may be treading an unknown path, or an ill-advised one. In doing so, it is often helpful to have another to look to for inspiration or consolation. In lieu of (or in addition to) such persons in our immediate environment, we can look to heroes for this function.

In glimpsing the world of someone that we admire, we are reminded of something fundamental, something that is all too easy to forget: that other worlds - other ways of experiencing the world, other modes of life - exist outside our own. To many this realisation can be both bewildering and frightening. To some, it can be an inspiration.

Uses of Heroes | Self-development

It is probably true that as we get older we become surer of who we are, but the potential to grow remains throughout our lives. Carl Jung, a pioneering and influential psychologist, advocated a path of self-development that he referred to as individuation.

Jung’s concept of integration is not in fact that of a static mental condition, although it is sometimes misinterpreted as being so. In Jung’s view, the development of the personality toward integration and mental health is an ideal which is never entirely reached or, if temporarily attained, is bound to be superseded. Jung thought that the achievement of optimum development of the personality was a lifetime’s task which was never completed … 2

Jung believed that we should always seek to grow; that, despite never being able to reach an ‘ideal’ state, we should always be striving to be the best, and the most, we can be. As our identity solidifies, the process of change that we go through may become slower and less dramatic, but our ability to develop remains.

By the time we reach adulthood we will possess a number of self-schema - these are generalizations about the self, derived from past experience. For example, a person may believe themselves to be shy: this belief – ‘I am a shy person’ – will impact upon future interactions and experiences, and can lead to the building of new schema, based around the idea of shyness (‘I’m no good at public speaking’, ‘I’m no good at talking to the opposite sex’, and so on).

To change and to grow can be a trying process, and may involve letting go of ideas that we had formerly held close. It is perhaps no surprise then that we eventually reach an age where we believe that ‘we are who we are’. In thinking this we close a door within ourselves, which may come as a relief for some; however, as Jung pointed out, we are never beyond growth.

… for the average person, the undermining and destruction of a cherished vision of reality can be a shattering experience. Such an upheaval is comparable to the disturbance a man suffers when a person in whom he has had ‘basic trust’ turns out to be unfaithful or untrustworthy … Schemata, philosophies, religions, scientific theories, and even aesthetic prejudices, can all act as bulwarks against the basic, cosmic anxiety which we all suffer when we realize how large and how indifferent the world is, and how small and helpless is each individual in it. No wonder we resent having our cherished illusions shattered, our traditional way of looking at things challenged.3

If we are always growing, then it follows that there will always be people that we look up to; we may not call them heroes, but these people play as important a role as those that we admired in our youth.

Uses of Heroes | Permission

We have seen that when we are younger we look to heroes for qualities that we wish to realize within ourselves. It is worth noting that our perception of these qualities can be both conscious and unconscious - we may be drawn to a person without a thorough understanding of the subtleties of our attraction, whilst in other cases the basis of our admiration may be quite obvious.

In admiring these qualities in others, we are also recognizing them within ourselves; they may exist only in embryonic or partially realized form, but our detection of them within another is often a signpost towards our own potential.

The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires.4

In looking to a hero, we are marking out a path for ourselves; from the point at which we currently exist towards that of the person that we admire. In this way, heroes can show us what is possible.

For example, we may wish to enjoy life more, to inject more joie de vivre into our day-to-day existence. This realization is itself a start, but it can be tricky to know where to go from here, or how to do it. To have someone who we can look to that embodies this attitude provides us with direction; their actions and words light a route that may otherwise have been dark, and inspire us to venture along that path ourselves. In identifying with a hero, we give ourselves permission to be like them, and to assimilate those characteristics that we admire.

The most important permissions are to love and to change and to do things well. A person with permission is just as easy to spot as one who is all tied up.5

Attaining permission to do something is often a unconscious process. For example, a fundamental benefit of Art School is that it gives its students permission to be creative. Being surrounded by others who are creating, within an environment in which creativity is a day-to-day normality, facilitates an inner shift. The process of Art School allows the student to think of themselves as a creative person, which then enables them to go on being creative for the rest of their lives.

Heroes can provide us with permissions in much the same way. In looking up to someone you bring them into your life, and this proximity is crucial.

In becoming close to certain people, we may find ourselves able to think and act in ways that previously seemed unavailable. For example, if a person who is used to the company of largely introverted people were to suddenly become friends and spend time with an extravert, it may free them up in unexpected ways; things that were formerly unacceptable become normal and opportunities arise where before there were none.

The closeness of this person allows us a glimpse into another way of being, and their company affords the opportunity to assimilate elements of their persona. In truth, what we are really doing is opening up areas of ourselves that had previously lain dormant or undiscovered. This is a process that many of us may have experienced whilst growing up.

A similar thing can also happen with heroes; in bringing them into our lives (with the affirmative, ‘this is a person I admire’) we are privileged with their company, and through this proximity we may be afforded a variety of permissions.

Uses of Heroes | Fictional Heroes


In our day-to-day existence we generally get to see very little of other peoples lives. We witness a certain amount of those closest to us – our friends and family – but our experience of them is limited. We don’t have access to them in every situation, at every moment, and so our idea of who they are is generally based on what they allow us to see.

By giving us a glimpse into the lives of their characters, films allow us to experience other people in a unique way. In spending the duration of a film with a character we may bear witness to a number of thoughts and interactions that we wouldn’t be able to observe in real life. Whilst most of these characters are fictional, and their interactions artificial, we can still draw value from observing the way in which a character interacts with their world.

In spending time with a film character, we are allowed to enter into their persona. We can temporarily adopt their outlook and mannerisms, and see the world in the way that they see it. We are removed from ourselves, and are allowed to reflect upon who we are from an altered perspective – a dichotomy is created, between the character and us, and from this all sorts of useful self-analysis can arise.

As an example, lets take the character of Wayne Campbell, from the film Wayne’s World. The reality of this film exists at a distance from our own; whilst the world he inhabits is recognizable, much of the film is fantastical. However, the way in which Wayne interacts with his world, and with others, holds truth.

Wayne is an upbeat character, and his positive persona is reflected in his interactions; through being in his company, the idea of positivity is fore-grounded, and we may be led to question it in relation to ourselves. Do we admire his positivity? Is positivity something that we value? Are we as positive as he is? Would we like to be? A lot of this analysis may be near-unconscious, and may be represented as a simple like or dislike of the character; however, it is analysis that can affect us, and is relevant to our experience of our world.

To use another example; the character of Otto in Repo Man affects an air of disenfranchisement. His world-view is largely negative, and through him we witness the interactions of a young disaffected person. We are asked to identify with Otto, and through this we may make a series of judgements; am I disaffected like him? How do I feel about this? Do I agree with his outlook?

Whether we end up liking Wayne or Otto, in spending time in their company we have been compelled to make judgements about their character. In making judgements about others we are inevitably drawing comparisons to ourselves, and reflecting upon our own personality.

In this sense, fictional characters like these can operate as heroes. They create opportunity for self-analysis, and through insight into their interactions they facilitate self-development.

Uses of Heroes | Possibilities

The whole value of history, of biography, is to increase my self-trust, by demonstrating what man can be and do.6


There can often seem to be a great distance between our heroes and us; whilst we may recognize aspects of ourselves within them, their accomplishments can make them seem unattainable; almost other-worldly. This may be particularly true if the person we admire lived in another age.

Whilst we can appreciate the achievements of our heroes – perceive talent, or genius – we must realize that our admiration of them also contains the invitation for us to achieve. Heroes can show us what is possible, and it is this that is their primary use.

To feel the full value of these lives, as occasions of hope and provocation, you must come to know, that each admirable genius is but a successful diver in that sea whose floor of pearls is all your own.7

Circumstances may have led us to believe that we are destined to tread certain paths, or forbidden from following others. This is an easy trap to fall into, and once in it we can find it very hard to climb back out; our own negative self-schema can conspire against us, and things may be worsened by the constricting influence of other people.

It is easy to get lost in the sea of other people’s ideas and achievements, and to believe that our own accomplishments are of less worth. A negative outlook can flip the role of a hero, from an enabling, positive presence, to a stifling one. Most of us need people around us who realize our worth, especially if we fail to see it ourselves. These people lift us up; they are localized, with their sights set on us, and in this sense they can provide the perspective that we may sometimes lack. They see our achievements for what they are, and through their eyes we see what we are capable of.

This positive network can be furthered by the presence of heroes. For example, in finding out about the life of someone we admire we may realize that they are more normal than we’d at first thought; the details of their lives brings them closer to us, and makes them more attainable.

Heroes are there to enable us; to know their lives and achievements is to know what is possible. They should not act as full stops on our ambition, rather as provocateurs or pacemakers.

Related posts:-
Steps to greatness

Uses of Heroes | A Reminder of Who We Are

In the flow of daily existence it is very easy to get pulled out of shape, and to forget who you really are. We probably all experience moments in which we lose sight of ourselves and become, if only momentarily, people that we no longer recognize.

Friends and family tend to be our main antidote to this - the safety and familiarity of their company normalizes us. Their expectations of our character, based on knowledge and experience, can be a positive force, re-uniting us with our true selves.

It is often hard to maintain the integrity of our personality – as psychologist Anthony Storr points out, ‘people often express the idea that they are most themselves when they are alone.’8 In going out into the world and interacting with others - those who don’t know our history, who we really are – we are bound to be pulled out of shape. Conflicts can cause us to act irrationally; certain situations may provoke lapses of character; peer-pressure and other forms of social conformity can limit us. There are many situations that remove us from ourselves, and its natural that we need ways in which we can counteract this.

We’ve seen how our heroes can be a reflection of the positive aspects of our own personalities, so it follows that in connecting with them we are also able to re-connect with who we are. This could be through something as simple as watching a particular film or TV programme, listening to a record or reading a book. In doing so we connect with the ideology of our heroes; we’re brought into their world, which is also a reflection of our own.

Cultural paraphernalia (such as books, DVDs, records and posters) can act as an assertion of our identity; it can be a relief to arrive home, to a place where you are surrounded by your own objects, because these objects remind you of who you are. In much the same way, to know who your heroes are, and to have them in mind, is to know yourself.

Uses of Heroes | Hope


We’ve seen that heroes can have a variety of uses. When we are young they aid us in defining who we are, and they can remind us of this when we lose sight of ourselves. They can also guide us in the process of self-development, and can show us how to experience the world in ways in which may have previously seemed unavailable.

In this age of easy-celebrity it can seem that heroes are offered up to us all too often, and for too little. It is perhaps easy to forget that one of the most important things we can hope to gain from these people is an understanding of ourselves.

The pressures of daily existence can all too easily push us into living a life we neither desire nor recognize. At their simplest, Heroes provide us with hope – they show us that there is another way, and that we are allowed to choose it, if we wish.

Uses of Heroes | Endnotes

1 Jung, C.G. The Essential Jung, p. 195, 202
2 Storr, Anthony. Solitude, p. 197
3 Storr, Anthony. The Dynamics of Creation, p. 147
4 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Solitude, p. 79
5 Berne, Eric. What Do You Say After You Say Hello?
6 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Literary Ethics
7 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Literary Ethics
8 Storr, Anthony. Solitude p. 147

Approaching Conceptual Art | Introduction


This text is intended as a short exploration of conceptual art. It hopes to serve as a simple introduction to the art form, and to provide some ideas as to how to approach and understand it.

As a society, our understanding of conceptual art appears to be limited. In general, this is due to no fault of our own - the world of art has changed a lot within the last century, but this change has mostly been ignored, denied or neglected by our education system and our popular media. Our idea of what constitutes art has never been so varied and, whilst this widening of the horizon is no bad thing, it can frequently lead to confusion.

The economy of space and the scale of the topics we shall be exploring will necessitate a certain amount of generalization, for which this text asks to be forgiven. At best, it hopes to offer some ideas and insights that may be of use to you the next time you decide to take a trip to a contemporary art gallery.

Some of you may be very much at ease with the idea of conceptual art, and to those of you who this applies, this text hopes to serve as an interesting reminder or a handy point of reference.