By David Baird
Thinking of schizophrenia
Beginnings are where most possibility lies. So I’m thinking, by way of a beginning – allow me an imaginative analogy...
Try to picture this: your mind is “colonial”. You, in other words, are a force occupying my “aboriginal” writing. Don’t be quick to judge. Think of all the colonies on Earth where no gold was “found” – but instead where other, more subtle types of richness eventually surfaced.
This analogy, of an alien force entering the land of a mysterious native people, is the type of extreme seemingly necessary when communicating with a profoundly strange mind. For that is how minds are to each other, when insanity is involved...
This book is earth – it is “the stuff of me”. But how are you, the reader, a “force”? Isn’t the writer the one, if anyone, forcing?
Maybe they are right – schizophrenics are ‘aliens’ – and you, if you are sane, are contrariwise the ‘native’ – while I am a visitor from a distant realm... This question – of the “natural”, the “human”, the “normal” – is the sort of thing I’d like to bring to light – the contradictions inherent in the mind, and in life.
I don’t want to say this is a wonderful story. It is, after all, the story of a disease. But, to reverse a saying, all that dies must once have lived – what brains degenerate must somehow first have formed... Too dark of a note to begin on? If this you think, you haven’t an idea of the darkness the sufferer of this dread bane faces...
I may need not explain what schizophrenia is. People have their own glimmer of an idea, even if these are as “crazily off” as psychosis is itself. Indeed – why tell you – when I can show you? If the truth be known, I am a sufferer of this quote-unquote mental illness, this brain disease. So anything, and everything, I write – or am – no doubt bears its marks.
The title was first to be “Superficial Persons”, for reasons that may come clear. This could have made one wonder – superficial persons? Was I implying that the mentally ill are somehow shallow – that we are less deep or real than the healthy?
Not exactly. Or, perhaps not...
For now, I thought, let’s not compare us in a simplistic hierarchal scheme.
Let’s say I was suggesting that ‘persons’, the phenomena of personality, are themselves somehow superficial entities. Though not in the sense of ‘fake’. Disease itself is deep, let alone the being it affects – being which is the most profound thing we can conceive of, besides deity.
However – like a mirror which is only flat, but can appear quite voluminous, depending what is in front of it – a person as we know her is but the thinnest layer of the being – or reality – that is her full being. And persons aren’t just reflective – mirroring what observers wish – but rather are transparent – letting deeper core levels have causal influence, though not always direct evidentiary traces.
The title had partial intent to provoke thought – a cognitive dissonance – in the audience. “Persons – superficial? How dare he!” Or, “I know some superficial persons also...”
External behavior, the fairly ritualized acts and interacts as which others see us, has deep-seated roots. But what we can normally observe of selves – at any one time – are the most ephemeral, or ambiguous, of moments. Though, there is a ‘fractal’ involution, a transparency or lucidity of levels, that allows sight of deep structure at times... (In a fractal, a similar level of complexity is seen, no matter the magnification the structure is viewed at...)
If core events cause peripheral expression, by seeing this you, in a way, can “see” the core. I’m not, of course, saying “‘core’ equals special” and “‘periphery’ equals flimsy wrapping”... For does it really matter which is which? Core-periphery, periphery-core? How do you know the more important? We are both.
Perhaps we can say of postmodern thought that, in it, distinctions are problematized. This means they say it is at least questionable to say x is different than y, no matter what the x, no matter what the y...
If the world is homogenous, or at least made of strings or points or something, then everything, in a way, would be the same – of the same essence. And it matters less what it’s called – calling everything something is seemingly not different from saying “All is water”, like some of the ancients did... But perhaps as the most meaningless (though, if true, profound), statement you could make, saying “All is x” is valuable simply as a thought experiment.
To make this concrete, we could take, for instance, “nociception” – what neuroscientists call pain-perception, and think of it as a model for all perception. Perception as, actually, nociception, in other words.
For a few moments, imagine you are a hypochondriac, and every one of your sensations is painful. This is an interesting exercise, and may help you to one day get more pleasure out of your senses...
There are unique things about pain. People can live with all of their senses intact, but tragically be missing nociception. It is a life-threatening lack, of course, but it is possible.
I wonder – if pain perception is a fundamental category, which can be present or absent, why isn’t pleasure also? Is pleasure instead ‘relative’ – a matter of taste? Does it require something like aesthetic cultivation of the neural apparatus – do lower organisms not feel it? Maybe pleasure isn’t a basic type of mental information, because you could live (an albeit depressing life) with no pleasure, but it is dangerous to go without pain.
Pain is akin to nervous ‘information’ – so is pleasure like knowledge? As you grow older, you may find that, like for me, sensations themselves become, or are naturally seen to be, pleasurable. As in, there is nothing more to go for, but the sight of shadows on the wall, the sound of a far off lawn-mower and some chirping birds, the feel of computer keys under your hands, the weight of your body, etc...
I guess this could be called “empirical pleasure”. Rational pleasure would, on the other hand, probably be an elevated form of it, (like something felt when inventing a philosophy...)
This may sound twisted or masochistic, but one of the highest, most rational pleasures I’ve known was the phenomenon of “depersonalization”, or ego-loss, in connection with delirium during a recent flu, and originally years ago in an acid trip. It wasn’t fun while it was happening, but after it was over, I kind of missed it...
How could being no one be good? As a thinker, you have to ask yourself the most radical questions. (If you don’t, who will?) Like, what could ego-loss’s meaning be? Can you lose something which is supposedly always there? Or is it instead not the most sublime awareness, to see the total constructionality, (constructedness), and historical basis inherent in our every thought?
“I had no thoughts of my own” still contains ‘I’ and ‘my own.’ A contradiction in terms? No thoughts during this loss were personal – they were all wrapped in others’ voices. You may ask, “What is a thought but what is in your mind?” But what was in my mind was merely externally caused. I had no internal causation, or creativity. Rather, I had will – I could move around – but my visual sense was the only sense which gave myself a sense of me. I comforted myself with the saying, “the eyes are the most sensitive openings into the soul.”
This made me think that passive senses, like visuality, must be more basic than language or mentality. Plenty of organisms have sight, but do not have language. Although vision seems very colorful and complex, it may in fact be more primitive – or if you don’t like that word – more necessary, than language...
And less necessary than anything else in the brain, may be personality itself... I’ve come to suspect selfhood is an “epiphenomenon” – something that floats above the real functional operations of the brain. Another way of thinking this is to say “the person is determined, not determinant”. (It is an effect, not a cause.)
For the self to be determinant, you would think, there would have to be an origin to it – a source... But origins – the embryonic, genetic (evolution of the species) or ontogenetic (growth of the individual) origins of the self are relative, or lost in time, or gradually reduced back to zero, the closer to conception you look. In other words, how can the “I” have willpower when to have ‘power’ requires an origin, a causal connection – and no self origin is apparent?
It’s quite philosophical to talk about the decentering, or absence, of the self... But good for us, I think. For in our travels, some of us run into the postmodernisms “There is no subject” or “the subject is dead”. But these are incoherent ideas – they don’t mesh with reality. Of course there are subjects, selves... However, it may be proper to say that the subject is more of an appearance than a reality.
Think of the child – the newborn. Awash in a sea of language, none of which is its own. Perhaps, not being cognitively/linguistically developed, it would not matter as much that none of the language going through your head was your own. Though babies cry a fair amount, I wonder how many of these growing pains are physical, how many mental.
So perhaps, because one can lose one’s ego doesn’t mean one never had ego. And because one once had no self doesn’t mean one can never develop selfhood. In fact, wouldn’t we escape a blind “absolutism” by saying, indeed, that the ego is a developmental phenomenon – not an essential one?
And if we are saying ego is developmental, I think we can also say life is developmental. That particular growth may be our ultimate aim – to examine our lives, and struggle, if we can, to avoid superficial ones – to attain something like depth or meaningfulness, in this one certain time on earth...
Mind-oriented. (Mentally originary.)
If fancy strikes, you may truly say “there is a mountain in my head.” Because if you look at it philosophically, and trust me, you should – everything we know is mind-oriented. For how do we actually know or become aware of anything, but through the ‘instrument’ of our own mind’s action, its “faculties of apprehension”, as Kant might say?
It is not as if we ever escape our selves and reach outside the brain. And it is not as if anything we know magically appears in our heads, and does not arise because of causal influences of the environment, or perhaps genetics, when instinct is involved...
In this view, “the world” is a self-made thing – it is like a mirror – a big surround-version of ourselves – reflecting back to us only what we are capable of thinking real. But not exactly. We learn new things – the world can show us things we’ve never seen – impossible for a true “mirror”.
This analogy functions, but is not literal. Because it could be backwards – we could be the mirror, a sort of blank surface for life to inscribe its scriptures upon, and for other people to then read them off...
You may sense something missing. It can be only this – consciousness... Perhaps as mere ‘brain-machines’ we would be nothing but surfaces – but the thing called “mind” gives us depth somehow as great as the greatest height we have ever seen of the nighttime sky – it gives our inner lives complexity that can grasp or create or play with the most highly textured symphonic music we could hear...
For picture any picture... No matter how complex a vision you have just summoned, it’s probably only the merest fragment of brain power making it. All the complex and amazing-looking crowds you have ever been in were simply “models in your mind, of things ephemeral and sublime”...
This is why “the self itself” is quite a phenomenon, if you grapple with it for prolonged times. And if you interfere with it, by psychosis-mimicking (psychotomimetic) drugs like LSD, you are assuming a right to alter the most profound entity or being you can know.
Experimentality is the life blood of many writers. But the more experimental you are in your speculation, the further off and wrong, necessarily, some will be. Now hopefully, if you survive, your ultimate theories will approach originality, or truth.
Recommendations to be experimental are often taken to an extreme. In my case, for instance. It all made me who I am today, but I have been insane, so I’m semi-confused about whether it is a good thing to be this way or not.
Don’t get me wrong. If you alter your mind, you can, some say, never go back. I myself have been so far down alteration’s path, and it can seem like so much struggle to return, that I’m mostly at peace here.
But unless you want to vastly increase your risk of a psychotic break, mental hospitals, expensive anti-psychotic medicine with many side effects every day for the rest of your life, I would certainly avoid drugs stronger than pot. And even that can tip some minds over the edge. So why not be thankful you have a brain in the first place, and forget about trading it for a synthetic new one through drug use?
In any case, the self is quite a piece of work, and the whole world, in a sense, can fit within it. As this is true of all selves, there are billions of worlds in this world. Walking in a crowd and imagining the parallel subjectivities is mind-boggling. Each person with a different perspective, all as colorful and real and intense as any other, to a certain degree.
Maturity level, or intelligence quotient, may give added twists to how you are interpreting your ‘life-world’ – the “phenomenal” reality of mind – but if you think back, you may be reluctant to say you are a qualitatively different entity at thirty years old than you were at ten. This similarity-within-self makes me project a similarity-across-others. In fact, observation of animals even leads some to guess that just about anything capable of consciousness must have a “spirit” like ours...
This is why education or learning is important. Because the more we know, the more we can perceive. “The real is the made” means that if you, for instance, don’t know the laws of physics, you may not be able to fire a projectile at the angle that will take it farthest. Or if you don’t know a bit about philosophy, you may be paralyzed and uncomfortable when someone criticizes you, instead of reacting with a more balanced overt or covert defense mechanism. Finally, when you look at a globe, if you do not know about life, you will not be able to clearly imagine which world you see...
The mind, like an instrument, needs to be practiced and practiced. It can and does become stronger with use, like muscle. It is up to your imagination to invent its uses, and your life’s, for no one can “a prioritize” these – no one can rightly say, in advance of the action, what the best uses a creature like yourself should put yourself to.
Anti-Horizons, the focus of the world. (Ipseity impinged upon by All.)
I often think of horizons – the limits of the seeable. So when today I turned my attention to the self, I thought to characterize it as an “anti-horizon”. The speck in the middle of a big horizon circle, to give an image. If you want to think big – the self, being at a point, is the focus, indirectly, of the energies of potentially an entire world. The “all” can be said to impinge upon, or touch and manipulate in many ways, this ipseity – this self of ours.
Like it or not, circulation – of capital and labor – characterizes life on Earth. Those with brain diseases are often part of a curious experiment in social engineering. To keep some safe from the circulation, they are given disability income, which is administered by Social Security in America.
You may ask, “Shouldn’t everyone chip in, to the great flux that is society – the market?” It would be nice if we all could. But for several reasons, it is inadvisable. For instance, the stress inherent in participatory economics might cause sufferers of mental illness undue misery, with any number of (lethal or not) negative consequences. Or, since schizophrenics are often very susceptible to verbal suggestion, they could be vulnerable to being exploited by employers – who, after all, come from the entire ethical spectrum of citizens.
I have used disability time to hone my thinking and writing. This is the type of contribution I want to make to a greater good. And since social security isn’t enough money to live at my perceived comfort level, I am feeling, by this point, the capitalist pressure to achieve independent income with my conatus or effort.
This is different sort of writing than I did for the other time I’ve been an adult. I’ve written many things in school, and to be put open on the internet, where one is of course free to say however and whatever one wants – there is a sense of power in that. But now I’ve decided to write for the public market, and my style has spontaneously changed. I have to “reign in” my powers and focus them in a different, more subtle way. Become aligned to the vectors of good taste, and circumscription.
For instance, this is could be thought an exoteric book – not serious philosophy. Philosophers make text fairly challenging, because they are approaching the world’s most difficult problems. Normal people, on the other hand, “laypeople” as you are known to philosophers, would like books a shade less esoteric than the maximum level a writer can make.
But we all want to learn of the big questions, the important problems. “Theory”, in other words. I once strove for theory so original, it would, like in Orwell’s 1984, be considered ‘thought crime’ by the powers-that-be. But now I’m not as sure. For the ultimate revolution, as far as I can see, would be to convince society to stop – to persuade the reproduction to end – to halt history’s march as soon as all of us alive had lived our lives. Of course this would never happen, at least with rational methods. But even if I could do it – is it such a noble goal? Instead, why not let the anarchy of world civilization reign on for a long time – let the world go on its merry or miserable way “forever after”, without the interference of philosophers who think it is not justified in doing so?
The justice of the world, if you examine the matter, changes the world, and changes our very conceptions of what the Good and virtue should be. How it could be otherwise, I do not know...
Form, stance, style, direction. (Beings in movement.)
Speaking of making distinctions problematic – what if we were to do this to the distinction between the is and the ought? Between what happens and what should happen? In other words, what if we were to say “This is the best and only possible world”?
This may be the most fundamental distinction philosophy has to offer – between the True and the Good. So if thinkers have been arguing about this for thousands or hundreds of years, you wonder what progress I can make in a few sentences. Yet, after all, we today are the product, the end-(as of now) result of all history – so we should stand at a viewpoint potentially or at least conceivably ready to give a judgment on the argument.
One tends to forget that the “now” – the present – is the end of history. Not the finality, just the most complete. Near the end, or, the end – the last known moments in history. (A familiar thought to those of us who grew up during the supposed threat of nuclear holocaust during the cold war.)
And since ethics is about difference and distinctions, to build up to a better conception of Virtue and evil, one might first, paradoxically or dialectically, break them down and mix them...
You think the world should change? Do you really think so, if you examine this deeply? Isn’t everyone already doing the natural thing for them, as a person in their history? To change anything – the present, the future – you’d have to literally change history...
What about supposed Anarchy? Would it be so bad – everyone doing what they wished, and no law of the land? Isn’t this how nations already interact, in reality – and how people mostly do, unless they are caught by authorities? You could say we have a state of virtual anarchy, if you wanted to. But society and culture exist – they keep things somewhat normalized – probably through the functions of language or Logos, society is stable. At the simplest level, one is told what to do, and does it. The truth is explained to one, and one believes in it...
At a higher level, discourses or complex systems of statements could “program” our brains, like we’re computers. (After all, as far as we can scientifically tell, the brain is nothing more than a biological computer...) Some call this brainwashing, some call it enculturation. Some say “thought control”, others “education”. It depends how you see it.
If language does program, is this good? Culturated away from our natural state, we tend to behave acceptably to society. We strive for a greater good, as they say. But supposing, like many suspect, that it isn’t good to be artificially constructed – how can we deprogram?
Is this good “good”? I don’t know – and I doubt there are many who understand the question of virtue, who think they do know...
And in a way, it doesn’t matter who has “the truth”. We all know the truth – or at least “a” truth. Instead, postmoderns became convinced that performativity is key.. The performance of your truth – how well you play. Artists seemingly always knew this. Philosophers took longer, or went about discovering it in a more laborious way...
It is strange because thinkers often act completely sane and rational with every letter they type. I, on the other hand, have up front admitted the opposite. Yet still I feel the pull of ratio... For some reason...
It probably has to do with dominance of active over passive in my philosophy. Thinking, in other words, is more important than “thought.” What we are thinking now is more key than what we thought before – for most people. (Those of us with degenerative brain diseases might look back upon our previous mental modalities with a sentimental or wishful air.)
Therapists say degenerated brains can regenerate, and come back to be nearly as strong as before, with the proper therapy... Today, as far as I’ve been able to determine, therapy revolves around “stress tests” – in the hospital, and elsewhere. What else would it be for – to make things easier for patients? – yes, to an extent. Yet some real-world conditions of difficulty are needed to see if patients are ready to enter again the real world...
Throughout my growth, I thought I was going against “the structure” – I didn’t believe in the structure of the world. This is why I’ve resisted therapy. I saw too much going through motions and waiting around. Patients, in other words, adhering to artificial constructions of time and space. This is good if one is acutely psychotic, and in need of self-betterment – but I feel and hope I’ve transcended this most grim stage of the illness.
We all occupy positions in life, or phases of illness. And as volitional beings, we have dispositions – tendencies, to move in certain ways. (Dyspositions...) And really, the mind has a shape to it – the mind has a motion. Because what is a thought? It has to have a spatial, temporal structure, ultimately, to cohere with its neural counterpart...
The disease process. (An abnormal reproduction.)
Schizophrenia is possibly quite “natural” – an evolutionary adaptation, meant to enhance the entire species’ chance for survival... Obviously, for the individual, it is life-threatening. But you might suppose that a bit of specific craziness happening in a culture might stimulate humanity to generally advance.
Cultural advancement may be a reason for the illness. On the other hand, the individual faces reasons of the illness... To get at what the disease means, we should get at what the word could mean...
‘Phren’ definitely means “mind”. But the meaning of the prefix ‘schizo-’ is in dispute. Some say it means “split”. And others say instead “alternating”, as in good-bad-good-bad-etc...
But we must wonder what the ‘meaning’ of a word means, or ultimately refers to. Is it the intention of the word’s originator? If so, why should one person’s intention determine an entire word’s usage – part of a culture’s grand function – forever after? Or is ‘meaning’ reducible to the word’s use in common currency? Or is meaning the best fit to the best theory?
In that case, I’ve heard ‘schizophrenia’ refers to a problem of integration between the mind and body. But the “best theory” is paradoxically the most deranged version of all, (at least taken literally) – because no one knows what the “mind” is, or how it is ‘connected’ to the body. If you read enough neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology, you’ll discover the general and complete ignorance on the issue.
On the other hand, the brain, as opposed to the mind, is rather more well known, for it is (part of) the body. So schizophrenia could be a problem of integration within the brain – integration of the brain with itself. One level may not connect fully to others. Thoughts and feelings and sensations out of whack, in other words – the different cognitive modes not jiving properly. However the illness works – we then must ask how a divinely orchestrated symphony as the neuronal brain, with ideational consciousness and playful memory and imagination, becomes psychotic – detached from reality?
This question may tie to our previous thoughts about the developmental self. For this illness involves an ongoing process. This is why anti-psychotic medicine regimes need to be life-long... Reversing psychosis is not the same as reversing schizophrenia, which would mean a very profound change in the structure itself of the brain...
As far as the process of my own disease, I seem to be functioning decently, though I’ve had difficulties. Dysphoria, suicidality, death drive (passivity), homocidality, and misanthropism – but nothing overt, like destructive behavior... If schizophrenics function well, does this mean they actually are well? One can be a good actor, but very sick inside.
Most people seemingly hide their insides – healthy or sick... To express fully would feel improper, socially unacceptable, or psychotic, depending on the intensity of the personality in question. But I have other ideas. I am able to be public – fully expressive – because of experience with “voices” – with an observer-unconscious, a critic-brain – I am always-already fully public, (at least subjectively)...
The prime level is the primal level. The level of unconscious influence which only schizophrenics have waking access to. For we can “see things” that no one else can. What normal person could be feeling great one moment, and want to kill himself the next? Pleasure and pain can be very close together. And if mood swings are part of the disease, maybe we want to go for self-repression – we want to resist moods, and overcome them.
To wildly speculate, could every mental phenomenon be akin to a psychotic one – all processes like disease processes? Mentality as sickness, in other words... I say this because inner life – subjectivity – could be a great falsity, a great delusion or distraction – from what the ultimate certainty is, that we will all die... (If this is a certainty?)
Many levels at once. (Neuronal Hologram?)
How many levels are there to consciousness – and how many to its neural correlate? In a hologram, each bit of film represents many parts of the 3-D image at once. So I was thinking the brain may be similar. For instance, could one neuronal structure be involved in both the conscious and unconscious selves? And how many unconscious selves could there be?
The idea of an unconscious self is somewhat controversial, and may indeed be ‘incoherent’ – or impossible. You may ask, “Wasn’t that the whole Freud thing?” But Freud himself is not fashionable today in the schools. Although it’s ironic that Freud is unread, it is understandable. Scientists think to move beyond myths of the past, and only philosophers of science seem to study the myths that founded these fields...
But I’m allowed to have controversial theories. And in a way, it would be surprising if I didn’t. If you heard, fully real, a whole chorus of interacting voices, making explicit commentary relevant to you, you might begin to suspect that there is more to the brain than unconscious computational mechanisms... You might suspect an actual self in there..
Once you’ve had conversations with mental voices, you tend to posit a source. But perhaps the source is “just your own (mechanical) brain...” And aren’t conversations in real life mostly one-sided, anyway? You can almost have one just as complete even though the other person isn’t partaking... The other side is implicit.
Is it realistic to posit multiple selves? The authorities say voices “merely come from your own cognitive vocal centers.” Well, of course. That is a priori where voices would have to originate. But that is like reducing one’s voice itself to “merely coming from the cognitive vocal center.” This doesn’t mean there isn’t consciousness behind it – or behind audio hallucination.
An incoherency in the brain, a disorder of thought, could very well entail multiple subjectivities. If one subjectivity can exist, why not ponder the chance that the subject-function is multiply realizable? As many hidden selves as a brain could compute? As interesting as this is, it is probably wrong. For the essence of a subject is that it is conscious and controlling. Any “subject” that was merely unconscious wouldn’t be a subject...
So, one can think, “they’re just voices.” On the other hand, we know there is more to us than merely our voice – because we can feel selfhood. But what if you were brainwashed – hypnotized so as to believe x y or z? Or even more scary, what if you developed in an alien matrix of meaning formations over which you had no control?
Classification of the world. (The many teachings.)
Most writers present lots of information, but can’t convey knowledge – teach ways of thinking, as opposed to merely rehearsing thought. In any case, we cannot always rely on the world for salvation – you must ultimately be your best teacher. Ask if your writing actually changes you. Ask if a restructure of your mind is possible. Try to exercise your brain.
Analysis could be said to be the breaking of a whole into parts. Analysis of “dialectic”, of logic – in your self and in the world – reveals that the dialectic is in ‘the object’, as well as in you. It’s not just in you. Everything you can or will or should encounter is like this – like you.
The dialectic: contradiction, discussion, opposite logical statements, the development of knowledge or logic, the development of truth. As for my logic, I’m trying to lose all irrational or programmed desire. I’m doing this to regain or recreate myself along more ideal or human-as-conscious lines. I seek to want what I should want.
Writing and reading seem like the most powerful ways to recondition...
Writing for its own sake – writing to “get it out”. Writing to weave a narrative social fabric. Do we want to “tear the social fabric”, as radicals think? Aren’t narrative threads the only things keeping us together anymore?
One should at least try to write what one thinks. Who cares what anyone else says? The measure of one’s “unconsciousness” is said by Arthur Janov to be one’s responsiveness to verbal suggestion. On this reading, you may want to go against voiced commentary, as a therapeutic (or life-saving) method.
We have things in us – language and action – we need to express eventually. If you have a literary mentality, like me, you sometimes want to simply keep writing, no matter what is written...
“Teaching people a (foreign) language” is really, if you think of it, teaching people what to say. “Here, say this in situation P...” This goes for English as well. The ‘humanities’, the university programs, seen in a certain light, are fairly contrived or orchestrated endeavors... “Say x to group of people concerned with a b and c. Say y to group concerned with d e and f.” Is this true creativity? I don’t know...
I think academic programs are this way because they have a hidden, deterministic bent... They believe, deep down, that “If x happens, y will then follow”...
It would probably be nice to inquire as to what political effects determinist philosophies have. And to look within yourself for the personal effects of your own psyche’s deterministic bent... (Which is not good, if you regard Freedom as important...)
The brain is a complex system, so chaos theory presumably applies to it, as well as to larger things like the biosphere... A butterfly effect in the brain? If inspiration is a butterfly, schizophrenia is closer to a hurricane...
In any case, writers with language on their minds seek to trigger culture – the language – into pre-emptive crystallization, or a paradigm-shift of a type never before seen... In this light, a “crystallization phenomenon” is the only kind of literary trend worth pondering....
What is non-self? (Closest as farthest.)
It is difficult to determine what the “self” – or anything, for that matter – really is. For instance, what is “mass” – (let alone “mind”)? Methods of approach and investigation with respect to the Absolute, the Universal, can be quite strange – even paradoxical...
As a teacher once said, “To get closer to things, you can go farther away”.
To me, humans are (metaphorically) “alien”. I used to think, as anyone would, that I was certainly human... Until I developed ‘the illness’ – and at which point, looking back, I realized I never was a normal, or even semi-normal, human. So I have to consider how to approach such an alien consciousness as you might be, if I want to communicate with the world.
What does it mean to be alien? Anti-chthonous? (My coinage for the opposite of ‘autochthonous’ – “native” or “of this land”.) As per our discussion of mind-orientation in reality – if your brain is psychotic, the actual world you’re from is quite different from normal... So the essence of what it is to be human, or animal for that matter, is in doubt. To take a specific, the essence of human life is claimed to be its sexuality, by certain psychologists – Janov among them.
But who says – those who have, or have had, sex? That doesn’t include all of us... And what about those who think otherwise – those ‘outside of love’ or with “perversions” of love? Or those who are insane and who have anti-social desires?
Can one be essentially human if one is judged criminal? Are criminals not even animal, let alone human? (Are they “real”? – For a life sentence, or the death penalty, would seem to negate your very reality – it would seem to ultimately remove you, as a coherent phenomenon, from life...)
Speaking of sex, I no longer know what beauty is. I’ve tried to study culture’s ideological stereotyped notions of beauty. I sought a truth within the surface concept. But eventually, beauty dissolved itself, and Imagery alone can now be beauty. A glass of water, or the sound of an air conditioner, can be sublime. If this seems far-fetched, remind yourself that it is real schizophrenia... After all, are you not curious about insane philosophy? Not just the usual fare – insane ranting or insane ax murdering? I think it is up to all of us to re-interpret “insanity” – to come up with a formulation that at least resembles the essence...
Re-interpretation is key. Besides expressionism, your personality is the total of your “reading” ability and practice – your readings or interpretations of life. Of course, other people and institutions love to supply you with their own readings, to adopt as yours. So our task is to learn to “de-interpret” – to automatically doubt what we automatically believe – and re-interpret – to assign a new subjective/objective meaning to our lives... Only this way will our selves be truly personal.
Personalization. (A recurrent theme.)
Personalization would be the opposite, the concomitant, of ego-loss. It would be the process we all grow through as our egos develop – from the nothingness of conception, onward to the near-infinity of possible genius.
Maybe personalization is also the rejection of all other philosophies, including our old ones. For our old philosophy is no more our own. How could any philosophy be truly ours, except today’s?
What is ‘philosophy’? It seems like it would have to be, if you ignored the dictionary, “the knowledge of how we are living now”... Therapy, on the other hand, is usually not quite philosophy. It’s more like acting class, perhaps. And I’m not using ‘acting’ in a pejorative sense, to mean “faking”... I’m using it as meant in the phrase “Act now, or forever lose this chance!”
In therapy, both internal mental acting and external social acting are the topics... “How to act normal” can be a questionable pedagogical aim, considering there is no consensus on normality. But psychiatry generally accepts culturally-specific norms for this, which makes sense.
In a metaphorical way, there’s nothing therapeutic about therapy, except insofar as life itself is all therapeutic. However it is a use of time that can be quite intense. But being a philosopher, I have to invent my own usages for my own time, if I want to get anywhere in my field.
To get a sense for where you are in your progress, try this: If you boiled down all your learning, and had to give a one-line synopsis, what would it be? Mine might be about how the reproduction is a delusion or a lie – a falsity. I use ‘reproduction’ to here mean the sum total of all the societal, human forms of life and artifice that are constantly recycling and reproducing – that are, in short, remaking the world again continually.
For think on “reproduction”... Doesn’t this word inevitably have negative valuation when used in connection with life’s meaning? Do we merely want to reproduce the culture of our forefathers, and not improve it? If we do want to improve it, we have to derail the current culture’s presuppositions and assumptions, intentions and idols...
Methods to derail culture are very valuable. How do we teach others to not respond to “mechanized consciousness”, to automatic impulses? It might have something to do with developing our conception of time. No one, not even academic authorities, knows what time itself is. So I would be suspicious when people had recommendations about how to “structure your time”.
How can you say time has a ‘structure’? Going by clock time is not apposite. Going by machine time, the rhythm of the work week, seems suspicious as well – a good thing to avoid if you can. When people recommend “structure”, I find they are usually recommending procedures and behaviors. The abstraction of temporal structure is a good way to distract patients from the concrete spatial behaviors therapists are really trying to get them to perform...
Speaking of programming, and “programming”, I’m trying to get away from music – pre-fab or not... If you think of the best philosophers, none of them had music blaring in the background all the time. Why? Music seems to have two seductive components: extension and intensity...
For one, music “strings you along” and gets you to keep listening, in hopes you’ll soon hear something good. For another, it channels tons of info into you at once, in a seeming attempt to distract you from the reality that its content is qualitatively lacking...
I brought up music, also, because it is a good metaphor for all the people’s voices we hear during a day... When I’m in an over-sensitive mode, “songs” – memories of what people have said to me lately – are too insistent. I’ll hear rhythms for the rest of the day. This is hard, because I’m trying, as a writer, to focus on my own voice.
As a being, a thinker – whatever you want to be – the fundamental decision is a decision of what to listen to, and say. To create what you want to say. We have all already passed though the produced phase, when we couldn’t talk – when all we had was other people’s voices.
Still, the lords own the fields – the literal fields, and the metaphoric fields. So it is wise when learning what to say to learn, also, what the lords want to hear...
Conclusion: The transparent surface. (The core is born.)
Those who don’t believe the mind is one unified thing sometimes talk of “levels of the self”. “Outer” being “nearer to the world.” But it’s uncertain if a spatial metaphor has anything to do with the way the mind is ‘arranged’. Yes, the brain takes up space – and the world you see with your visual cortex appears quite spacey, and presumably you feel as if you take up space. But philosophers tend to hold that consciousness is not spatial... (I am still trying to figure this one out...)
(We can at least claim that the words we say penetrate farther out into space, than, for instance, the signals in our brainstem...)
The most hidden level – the innermost core of personality – would presumably not be a “core of personality” unless it had effects – unless it were connected with the ‘affect’... Brains, after all, are not ‘black boxes’ – items with completely hidden inner workings. For consciousness is “reportable” – people can explain, or seem to, why they do what they do.
Why talk of “core”? Because if you want change, one way to get in at your mentality is to “get it out” – let it become manifest, on the page, in the air, or simply in the way you move or relax your body and face.
A way to “reach in” is through enhanced transparency of the surface – the top layers which everyone can see – through increasing the amount of “expression” of our most important feelings and thoughts. Free writing is one modality of this. I personally have decided I can know my core when it finally becomes visible – when it is born, in other words – when my personality becomes not like a looking-glass, but instead, perhaps, like a window.
How important is it for one to make one’s self visible? Or to even have a “core self”? This is for you to decide, but I see that the deeper into the self you go, the better things get. The ego-losses I have described have made me pause, and doubt myself, and in turn go on a search for my authenticity, hoping there is some to be found.
How deep can one go – is there a ground, or a foundation, to the self?
Suggestive people have tried to convince me that feelings are the ultimate justifications for our ethics – ‘wants’ base our ‘shoulds’. Although I don’t know if it’s true, I’ve taken it for a long time as provisionally true. As a child I heard and believed that feelings were the most important things. As an adult, various psychologies reinforced this, and now I’m learning that current philosophies are beginning to emphasize ‘intuition’ over ‘rationality’ – the empirical over the ideal.
Not that intuitions are always correct. But, that rationality divorced from feelings would seem to be more of an artificial intelligence, more like a robot or a puppet, than a full human being.
This is what is so troubling about mental illness. A “thought disorder” is often also an “emotional problem”. And if your feelings are disordered, on my reading your ethics will be upside down, and only god knows what could happen.
There are some fundamental “stances” you can take ethically. Those of us with reasonably ordered mentalities often feel the compulsion to parental stances, parental attitudes toward the world. We would educate, or judge, or punish, or lead. This could be based on a symbolic/neurotic struggle to correct the shortcomings of, in turn, one’s own childhood.
This is understandable. After all – who doesn’t want to be grown up? What kid wants to be a child? However, as we grow older, we may realize that childhood was very important – perhaps we could have taken greater advantage of it, if things were to have gone differently. So it is wise to experiment with the other attitude – that of a child-like curiosity or openness to life’s experiences.
This is some of the impetus I’ve felt for keeping this writing more understandable. I’ve written it so that many might read, and benefit from its words. I could have done otherwise – one of the tendencies of the philosophical tradition is to train its supplicants for abstract cognitions. Many view this as unnecessary, even arrogant, intellectualization – and not real intelligence – but those who can read more difficult thinkers know they are writing on higher levels for the reason that anyone writes anything – they are capable of it and they desire it and they feel the conflict inherent – the battleground of ideas, which must somehow commit to, or contribute to, the war of the world – the war that is the world.
But I chose this. Speaking a more straightforward language, in hopes of reaching more people. And the longer I remain clean off of cannabis, which produces what Janov has memorably characterized as “a simulated partial lobotomy” in its heavy users – the longer a journey I take down the road my brain should naturally be on – the more I realize that I am getting better at “passing the time” – at acting like I feel, and feeling like I act. We must remember – one can always feel. It is always our option, and can never be taken away.
Writers must ask themselves of the point of writing in general, or writing at all. I have come to believe the point is a transformation – a reorganization – of the psyche of humanity. People thinking differently, in other words. To have not merely new information – but instead a new way of thinking, new knowledge. To this end I have sought to transform my mind. Sometimes, admittedly, in ill-advised ways...
But as I was thinking – if I can’t think differently – how can I expect people who read me to do so? I feel the need, as many do, to train my mind to reach some kind of new paradigm, some new level. And this level does not have to be a miraculous invention or discovery – something earth-shattering. It can simply be a new voice in the world, a new manner of speech, a tongue revealed, so to speak.
Opening into a new awareness can be difficult. But like life itself, this difficulty is part of the process, part of the journey. I would recommend you to try to identify a ‘should’ in your life. Are you justified in this identification? Emotionally? Rationally?