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

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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

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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

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

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p.220


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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

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"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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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"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


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Related posts:-
The Silence is the Source
Testing new opinions and courting new impressions
Being open to the new
Per-Fiction
A Higher Power
The gods are within us
Everything is alive
Value of religion
Rationalism and Faith
Imagine something better 
Fear Visions
Represent
(To what) are you paying attention? 
Making it up as we go along
Where mind goes, body follows 
Re-write It
Make Yourself Up
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?
 

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