/journal

Romanticizing pathology

I just started listening to the audio-book version of William Gibson’s book The Peripheral.1

Early on in the book, there is a description of one character named Shayleen who is interested in a former marine who is kinda messed up after going through some crazy special-forces type of stuff.

On page 8 of the book there is the following few sentences:

Shaylene had gone out with him a few times in high school, but she’d gotten more interested when he’d come back from the marines, with that chest and the stories around town about Haptic Recon 1. Flynne figured Shaylene was basically doing what the relationship shows called romanticism pathology.

This stuck out to me because, at some point, to some degree or another, we have all romanticized pathology. Right?


Footnotes:

  1. I’m a longtime reader of Gibson’s work, and I’ll often do a combo read/listen to his books. I’m doing that with this one. I read the first chapter then listened to it (and more) again when I went for a run.

Call Out

I hear people using the term “calling out” a lot as of late.

When I hear people using the term I think about the difference between the subject of the statement and the subject of the enunciation.

The subject of the statement is what people consciously mean, or, to put it another way, what they think they mean when they say something. The subject of the statement is the explicit words that are used.

Psychoanalysis tends to see the statements that people make as suspect. Some (many?) statements say more than the speaker intends. This is where the subject of the enunciation comes in.

The subject of the enunciation is the presence of unconscious desires in what is said and how it is said. The subject of the enunciation is the implicit absent-presence in the words that are used and how these words are used.

Here is an example:

Someone says, “I’m fine.” That’s a statement, but how the person say these two words matters. The enunciation of these two words could be “I don’t want to talk now,” or “I’m doing very bad but don’t want to talk about it now,” or any other number of things.

When people say they called someone out I notice that there tends to be a daily large gap between these statement and the enunciation.

The statement is that they person made someone aware of something about themselves, ostensively so this person could somehow better him/her self.

The enunciation seems to bet that I (unconsciously) desired to make this person feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Sometimes it is a (unconscious) desire to bait someone and pick a fight with them.

Either way, I think we should all be more suspicious of our own motives when we feel compelled to “call out” anyone.

Death Drive

The short book (a long essay?) Beyond the Pleasure Principle by Freud was published in 1920, 100 years ago now. To understand Beyond one would need an understanding of what the pleasure principle is and how it works.

When I teach this concept I start by saying the pleasure principle is a motivation within our bodies, a motivation to seek out things that feel good and avoid things that cause us discomfort. The pleasure principle is tied to instincts. When we live according to the pleasure principle we, more or less, obey our instincts. We eat, we sleep, we move around in ways that are fun. When we follow the instructions of our instincts our bodies get a biochemical reward that feels good.

Animals (non-human animals) tend to live their entire lives in accordance with the pleasure principle. Humans, on the other hand, have gone beyond the pleasure principle created “social life,” civilization, culture, society, etc. To live in society we human beings do things that don’t feel very good at the moment, things that violate the pleasure principle’s desire for immediate gratification, and opt into doing things that hopefully create a long-term social situation that is actually more enjoyable than living in what Rousseau called a “state of nature.”


However, humans go beyond the pleasure principle in more ways than creating elaborate social contracts and social institutions that see to the social contracts being carried out.

In Beyond, Freud grappled with many things, but the main thing was what he called the death drive.

Like the pleasure principle, there are many ways to explain the death drive. The most succinct way I explain it is that it is an unconscious desire to destroy our selves and others. Generally, in a society, people are able to keep their death drive somewhat sublimated. Two examples of the death drive being present in a sublimated form would be the desire for a sports team to “destroy” the opposing team and designated places for people to get intoxicated.

For Freud, the enjoyment associated with the death drive is something that went beyond, that went further than the enjoyment tied up in the pleasure principle. In Beyond Freud was attempting to figure out why do people enjoy doing destructive things —things that destroy themselves, others, and their shared life-sustaining environment— so much.

I look around now, today, and it seems to me the death drive is gaining power and speed.

I’m worried.

The best time…

I read the following on the 8sided.blog , which is written by Michael Donaldson

The best time to start something is yesterday, and the second-best time is right now.

This last weekend I recorded (but have not yet edited & released) an episode of From78 that is an interview with Jason from The Regrettable Century. In that interview, we talk about how every day that goes by we take a day from the stack of tomorrows we have and place it on the stack of yesterdays. For a long time (hopefully!) the stack of tomorrows is much larger than the stack of tomorrows, but there does come a time in all of our lives when the stack of yesterdays passes the stack of tomorrows.

How we use our time is important.

As I write this I remember a time when I had been called into a meeting with my boss’s boss’s boss. I was told that I was being let go, “No hard feelings.” I was told. “You didn’t do anything wrong, we just don’t have the money to keep you on. If there is anything we can do to help you get a new job… a letter of recommendation or anything…”

Five minutes after I had finished packing my stuff into boxes, and I was moving the boxes out to my car, this I got a call from someone telling me my application to a doctoral program had been approved, and there was a spot for me in the cohort that would start classes in the fall.

I remember thinking, “I just lost my job. I have no income. This is a horrible time to start an expensive project in higher education.”

However, I also thought, “Fuck it. There if I wait for ‘a good time’ I’ll never do this. There is never a good time to start something that is going to be hard.”

I said I’d be there in the fall.

He said I’ll email you the syllabus for the first class later today.

Nothing that’s worth having comes to us without a temporary surrender of our security.

Unions

Yesterday Atlas Minor pointed out the following.


Yesterday the Supreme Court confirmed that civil rights apply to people who are gay, bisexual, or transgender. It’s insane that such a question even needed to be litigated, yet most American states allowed people to be fired because of who they love.

James A. Reeves

I’m thrilled by this decision, and like Reeves, and I think it is wrong for it to be possible to deny a person employeement for a choice about who they love or how their body expresses gender.

The Supreme Court has now said it is illegal to fire people for being gay or transgender. This is good. I’m sure this decision will have a positive effect.


However, even with the supreme court decision, I suspect companies will still “terminate” the employment of people because the company does not approve of what that person does with their body. Of course, the official reason the company will place on the paperwork will be that the employee was late too many times, or the employee failed to “perform necessary duties” (no explanation given beyond that), etc. The real reason, the reason behind whatever is printed on the official papers, will be discrimination.

My question is: Will a person who is living paycheck to paycheck have the means (i.e. the money) to mount a legal dispute and hold the company accountable for discrimination when discrimination happens?

I hope that employees, regardless of their particular identities, to create good powerful unions that protect their members from being fired for any discriminatory reason.

The Supreme Court decision is the start, it provides solid legal gound on which to stand. But just standing there is not enough. I think that organizing and forming unions could be the necessary follow-through. Just imagine what a principled and effective union could do now in the wake of this Supreme Court decision!

Silence

I read something about silence today

in an interview with Bernard Seynhaeve (who is the current President of the New Lacanian School) about his decisions to cancel the NLS Congress on interpretation, which would have taken place later this month due to COVID-19.

When the interviewer asked Seynhaeve about his decision to cancel as opposed to postponing the congress he replied


Well, for all of us, what has befallen us came out of nowhere, and it rendered us speechless. […] there are no words, it overcomes you and makes a hole in knowledge.

The “it that Seynhaeve is speaking about here is the real. COVID-19 is an example of the real, of the very real fact that our lives are contingent and not guaranteed. Seynhaeve continues by saying,

I noticed that this hole has been immediately covered up in different ways by a lot of people, by attempts to fill it in with words, with knowledge. […] Some people, some groups […] have suggested for example creating places where doctors and paramedics could meet and talk about their trauma. I personally did not think this was a good idea. That’s just my opinion. And there were others who wanted to start writing in order to fill the hole. I did not want that. I wanted to consent – that’s the right word – to this real.


I really liked these words. I like what they say, and I like how it is said.

It also reminds me of something Wittgenstein said at the end of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.


What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

Early

I woke up early today, a touch after 5:00am.

I just woke up and knew that I was not going to get back to sleep. While I hate it when I get woken up early by external forces beyond my control, I enjoy waking up early when it happens like this.

I grabbed my phone and scanned my RSS feeds, and read the following on James A. Reeve’s blog Atlas Minor.

More people die during the black and blue hours just before dawn than any other time, disappearing in car crashes, heart attacks, overdoses, and suicides. They call it the hour of the wolf, and I think it’s reassuring there’s a name for this time, that others feel it too. In his 1968 film of the same name, Bergman describes these in-between hours as the time “when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fears, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. But the hour of the wolf is also the hour when most children are born.”

After reading thought Reeve’s post I thought “there should be a name for the time that comes after the hour of the wolf. That time from about 4:00-5:30 am, during those hours, time has a different texture. It is as if the day is figuring out what mood it will be in.


As I wrote the text above I remembered the book After Dark by

Haruki Murakami, which takes place in Tokyo starting when the trains stop running and ending when the trains start running again. Here is a description from the back of the book.

In After Dark—a gripping novel of late night encounters—Murakami’s trademark humor and psychological insight are distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery.

Nineteen-year-old Mari is waiting out the night in an anonymous Denny’s when she meets a young man who insists he knows her older sister, thus setting her on an odyssey through the sleeping city. In the space of a single night, the lives of a diverse cast of Tokyo residents—models, prostitutes, mobsters, and musicians—collide in a world suspended between fantasy and reality. Utterly enchanting and infused with surrealism, After Dark is a thrilling account of the magical hours separating midnight from dawn.


I’m also remembering the book Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, which I read a little before I read After Dark.

I liked After Dark, but I loved Pattern Recognition, to this day it is one of my favorite books. It has become a “touchstone” of sorts, an object that I seek out when I desire to be comforted. (I think it is the book I’ve read start to finish more than any other book.)

From the book.

Five hours’ New York jet lag and Cayce Pollard wakes in Camden Town in the dire and ever-circling wolves of disrupted circadian rhythm.

It is that flat and spectral non-hour, awash in limbic tides, brainstem stirring fitfully, flashing inappropriate reptilian demands for sex, food, sedation, all the above, and none really an option now.

Gibson’s sentences are some of the best sentences I’ve ever read.

From78

Hi there, I’m From78 & this is my journal (blog if you prefer).

For years now I’ve tried to keep a regular journal/blog, and I’ve never been able to do it. I generally start strong, but then one day I’m too busy to write something, then one day turns into two, then two days turns into like half a year.

Maybe this time will be different. We’ll see, eh?