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