Inflation / Deflation

Peak                                   -                      Vale
Certain                               -                      Uncertain
Perfect                               -                       Imperfect
Invulnerable                      -                       Vulnerable
Faith                                  -                       Scepticism
Spirit                                 -                       Soul
Inflate                                -                       Deflate
Heaven                               -                      Earth

Something that is perfect needs nothing else, because it lacks nothing. It needn't take anything in, or give anything away. The square is perfect: it cannot give or receive. It has no openings and so is invulnerable. It does not commune or connect.

Imperfection, on the other hand, connotes a lack of something, and implies connectedness. The jigsaw piece is imperfect, it gives and receives. It has openings and is vulnerable. It communes and connects.

As humans we are pulled in two directions: towards, on the one hand, perfection; and on the other, imperfection. We know we are human, and yet at times we aspire to be gods.

Sometimes we become inflated, flying upwards towards a heavenly light. We fly far above the world of things, and become untouchable.

But at the next moment our wings disintegrate, and we fall back down to earth. Then we may become deflated, or depressed. Instead of bathing in heavenly light, we move in darkness and shadows. Our hands and feet touch the earth, and become covered in dirt.

Inflation comes from self-belief, which is another way of saying that we see ourselves as solid, like trees. It is related to absolutism. Its synonyms are: earnestness, seriousness, pretention.

Deflation is the opposite movement; of seeing-through the self, of seeing the self as liquid. It is related to relativism. Its synonyms are: irony, humour, deprecation.

Both are necessary movements; sometimes we must go up and sometimes we must go down. But to get stuck in one movement - only up, only down - is to become unbalanced.

We cannot answer the soul's wanting by any certainty, any goal, without realizing at the same moment that this goal is a fiction and that to literalize it is a mistake - even if a necessary mistake.

Certainty is an identification with a single meaning, one posits one's own private meaning as a "position of finality," which serves only to isolate oneself, defeating our innate altruism and alienating us from the community of humankind.

Gemeinschaftsgefühl [communal feeling or social interest] cannot answer what the soul wants or present its goal; it can serve only as an instrument for reflecting all our goals. Do they contribute, do they embody feeling for others? Gemeinschaftsgefühl thus offers a mode of discovering our isolating fictions and our mistakes.

If we commune at all, it is in the empathy of our mistakes and the humorous tolerance given by the sense of fiction. We are human less by virtue of our ideal goals than by the vice of our inferiority.

So the sense of imperfection, Jung's shadow, is the only possible base for Adler's goal of Gemeinschaftsgefühl. Jung said the same: "Relationship is not based on ... perfection ... it is based, rather, on imperfection, on what is weak, helpless ... the very ground and motive for dependence."

The shadow of weakness is not only moral, it is also humorous. The best entry into imperfection is humour, self-irony, dissolving into laughter, the acceptable humiliation that requires no after-compensation upwards.

The sense of imperfection may be one way into communal feeling: another surer one is the all-too-human bond of the sense of humour.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.106-9

A man will not obtain demonstrations of genuine philanthropy from others as long as he is well off in every respect.

The lucky man can, of course, frequently experience the good will of relations and friends; but the expressions of that pure, disinterested, objective participation in the lot and condition of another, which are the effect of loving-kindness, are reserved for him who in any way suffers.

For the lucky man as such we feel no sympathy; on the contrary, as such he remains a stranger to our hearts [...]

[...] misfortune is the condition of compassion, and this is the source of philanthropy.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
On the Basis of Morality, p.174

The disabled person.

We are all, in a sense, "disabled"; only some of us are able to hide our wounds better than others. The disabled person has little choice other than to show theirs, and in doing so they draw from us a natural response: compassion.

Because the disabled person cannot hide their wounds, we cannot help but see them, and must, as a collectivity, come to terms with what we see.

We see the ways in which they are disabled - the ways in which they need to be carried - and we must mould ourselves to them. This process is made easier because the disabled person is a "known commodity"; we know collectively how we are meant to approach them - the interaction has been culturally coded. Because their needs are known, it is easier, and more acceptable, to attend to them.

They force a certain type of interaction from us and in doing so teach us what it means to be wounded: a lesson in interdependency. With a disabled person we are allowed to cross a boundary that we may otherwise hesitate at.

Recognition of the shadow, on the other hand, leads to the modesty we need in order to acknowledge imperfection. And it is just this conscious recognition and consideration that are needed whenever a human relationship is to be established.

A human relationship is not based on differentiation and perfection, for these only emphasize the differences or call forth the exact opposite; it is based, rather, on imperfection, on what is weak, helpless and in need of support - the very ground and motive of dependence.

The perfect has no need of the other, but weakness has, for it seeks support and does not confront its partner with anything that might force him into an inferior position and even humiliate him.

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.73

When I was living on the Eastern Cherokee reservation [...], after a few months a man my age to whom I became closest began a joking relationship with me. The joking insults between us sometimes flew nonstop, and went to unrelenting and merciless levels.

To an outsider it might seem as if we were intense rivals. At times it even became too much for me, and I had to back off, but when this happened he was puzzled at my reactions. We were very close friends, and the taunting was simply a mark of our close friendship and of his accepting me into his family.

Anyone who has lived with Indian people knows that once you are accepted into the group, joking and kidding abound. It is part of the glue that holds the society together.

[...] Persons of prestige are more subject to ridicule than anyone else. While this gossipy aspect of Indian society can be frustrating to someone who takes the initiative, it does function to preserve a basic egalitarianism by taking potentially pretentious persons and reminding them that they had better not overestimate their self-importance.

It is one among many mechanisms that Indians use to inhibit social stratification.

[Walter L. Williams]
The Spirit and the Flesh, p. 39-40

“A depreciation of the ascetic ideal unavoidably involves a depreciation of science,” because both depend essentially on the unconditional faith that “truth is inestimable and cannot be criticised.”

But it is not easy to see how science can be depreciated without doing more science and therefore without perpetuating it. Nietzsche knows these difficulties.

This is why he denies that science is the ultimate enemy of the ascetic ideal and why he writes that “in the most spiritual sphere, too, the ascetic ideal has at present only one kind of real enemy capable of harming it: the comedians of this ideal - for they arouse mistrust in it.”

Nietzsche tries to be such a comedian - which does not necessarily involve being funny. Rather, it involves the effort to reveal the inner contradictions and deceptions of asceticism, to denounce it, and yet not produce a view that itself unwittingly repeats the same contradictions and deceptions, for to repeat these is to fail to arouse mistrust in the ascetic ideal; on the contrary, it is to offer a demonstration that it is inescapable.

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 133-4

In Greek tragedy, comedy always had the last word.

Modern criticism has projected a Victorian and, I feel, Protestant high seriousness upon pagan culture that still blankets teaching of the humanities. Paradoxically, assent to savage chthonian realities leads not to gloom but to humor. Hence Sade’s strange laughter, his wit amid the most fantastic cruelties.

For life is not a tragedy but a comedy. Comedy is born of the clash between Apollo and Dionysus. Nature is always pulling the rug out from under our pompous ideals.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.6

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Circle / Spiral / Line
Solid Ground
Escaping Uncertainty
A necessary lie
Casting a Shadow
Carry Each Other
Infinite Doorways
Positive Space
Taking the Rough with the Smooth