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THINKING AND THOUGHT

“MAGIC MOMENTS” : Magic moments, when two hearts are carin’ // Magic moments, mem’ries we’ve been sharing … Time can’t erase the memory of // These magic moments filled with love … Magic moments filled with love  [Songwriters: Burt Bacharach / Hal David.  “Magic Moments” lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC]

“There’s a magic and mystery in positive events.”  –Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, psychologist

The term magic has a variety of meanings, hence there is no widely agreed upon definition of what it is or how it can be used.  However, some treat magic as a personal phenomenon intended to meet individual needs, as opposed to a social phenomenon serving a collective purpose.  The explanatory power of magic should not be underestimated, however.  Both in the past and in the modern world, magical belief systems can provide explanations for otherwise difficult or impossible to understand phenomena while providing a spiritual and metaphysical grounding for the individual.  [See “Magic” in Wikipedia.]

“It’s a mystery!”  –Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare in Love

“…moments of epiphany, or revelation, of radiance…with meaning essentially wordless, for words are always qualifications and limitations.”  –Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

“Persons who come for therapy do so because they lack power; they complain that they cannot achieve.  …  Patients want ‘magical knowledge,’ and no matter how correctly the therapist explains that insight is not magic, it still feels that way to the person when an insight ‘dawns.’”  –Rollo May, “Faust in the Twentieth Century” in The Cry for Myth (1991).

“There is no myth which is not the unveiling of a ‘mystery,’ the revelation of a primordial event which inaugurated either a constituent structure of reality or a kind of human behavior.  [But] when no longer assumed to be a revelation of the ‘mysteries,’ the myth becomes ‘decadent,’ obscured; it turns into a tale or a legend.”  –Mircea Eliade, “Preface” in Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries (1957)

“MEMORY”:  Midnight // Not a sound from the pavement // Has the moon lost her memory // She is smiling alone // In the lamplight…  Memory // All alone in the moonlight // …I remember the time I knew what happiness was // Let the memory live again // … Tonight will be a memory too // And a new day will begin // …  –Andrew Lloyd Webber, T. S. Eliot, Trevor Nunn, Zdenek Hruby • © Universal Music Publishing Group, Imagem Music Inc.

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ: 1 May 1881–10 April 1955, was a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist, and Teilhard de Chardintook part in the discovery of the Peking Man.  He conceived the vitalist idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving).

Although many of Teilhard’s writings were at one time censored by his Catholic Church, in our time he has been posthumously praised by popes.  However, some evolutionary biologists are still negative.  Nevertheless, Chardin has had a profound influence on the New Age movement, being described as “perhaps the man most responsible for the spiritualization of evolution in a global and cosmic context”–even being described as a “visionary” philosopher and a contemporary “truth-sayer” or “prophet.”  Teilhard de Chardin has two comprehensive works, The Phenomenon of Man, and The Divine Milieu.

(Teilhard is mentioned by name and the Omega Point briefly explained in Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stephen Baxter’s The Light of Other Days.  The title of the short-story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor is a reference to Teilhard’s work.  The American novelist Don DeLillo’s 2010 novel Point Omega borrows its title and some of its ideas from Teilhard de Chardin.  Robert Wright, in his book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, compares his own naturalistic thesis that biological and cultural evolution are directional and, possibly, purposeful, with Teilhard’s ideas.)  [Wikipedia]

“The perception of the divine omnipresence is essentially a seeing, a taste, that is to say a sort of intuition bearing upon certain superior qualities in things.  It cannot, therefore, be attained directly by any process of reasoning, nor by any human artifice.  It is a gift, like life itself, of which it is undoubtedly the supreme experimental perfection.”  (The Divine Milieu, p. 131.)  

“When a distinguished but elderly statesman states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.  When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”  –Arthur C, Clarke

“Mystics seem intent in regarding the death of earth as the birth of the new cosmic man.  In this respect, Teilhard de Chardin’s vision is remarkably like A. C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End”: ‘Let us suppose from this universal centre, this Omega Point, there constantly emanate radiations hitherto only perceptible to those persons we call “mystics.”  Let us further imagine that, as the sensibility or response to mysticism of the human race increases with planetisation, the awareness of Omega becomes so widespread as to warm thechildhood's end jackeet earth psychically while physically it is growing cold.  Is it not conceivable that Mankind, at the end of its totalisation, its folding-in upon itself, may reach a critical level of maturity where, leaving the earth and stars to lapse slowly back into the dwindling mass of primordial energy, it will detach itself from this planet and join the one true, irreversible essence of things, the Omega Point?  A phenomenon perhaps outwardly akin to death; but in reality a simple metamorphosis and arrival at the supreme synthesis.’”  –Chardin, The Future of Man, p. 127, in Harper’s, December 1971: 77-78)

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                                                                                                     SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA

“Two roads diverged…I could not travel both….  Yet knowing how way leads on to way…I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”  –Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken” (1930)

DIVERGE: differ, vary, contrast, deviate, bend, branch off, fork divaricate, DIVERGENCE: branch, fork, crotch, detour, deviation.  DIVERGENT: dissonant, factious, factional. 

DIVERGE: To go or extend in different directions from a common point; branch out; to differ, as in opinion or manner; to depart from a set course or norm; deviate; to run apart; to separate; to tend into different directions; to become different; to run apart; to separate; not to converge: to have no limit, or no finite limit; to differ from a typical form; to vary from a normal condition; to dissent from a creed or position generally held or taken, or from the truth;  in different directions (not directly opposed) from a common point; a receding one from another: opposed to convergence: as, the divergence of lines.

DIVERGENT: A departure from a course or standard; differentiation in action or character; deviation; a difference between conflicting facts or claims or opinions; the act of moving away in different direction from a common point; moving or situated in different directions from a common point, as lines which intersect: opposed to convergent.

DIVARICATE: To diverge at a wide angle; spread apart; to branch off; forking; to turn away or aside, as, to divaricate from the will of God; to diverge widely.

“You are what you can’t stop doing. 

What someone is passionate about, that person and that thing will intersect.

Passion involves compulsion.

People–all people–have compulsions that draw them away from their safety and their best interests.

People and what they love don’t always intersect.

People and their compulsions do.”  Dialogue from Amazon Original Series Patriot (2012).

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“Once upon a time…” Sam Keen told and repeated the story of the death of his father.  Keen’s world was shattered, he writes, leading to his finding “a new myth by which to live.”  He realized that he “had a repertoire of stories within my autobiography that gave me satisfying personal answers about the meaning of my life.”

“Everyone has a fascinating story to tell, an autobiographical myth.  And when we tell our stories to one another, we, at one and the same time, find the meaning of our lives and are healed from our isolation and loneliness.”

“We don’t know who we are until we hear ourselves speaking the drama of our lives to someone we trust to listen with an open mind and heart.”

[“In a strict sense myth refers to ‘an intricate set of interlocking stories, rituals, rites, and customs that inform and give the pivotal sense of meaning and direction to a person, family, community, or culture.’”]

“The organizing myth of any culture functions in ways that may be either creative or destructive, healthful or pathological.  By providing a world picture and a set of stories that explain why things are as they are, it creates consensus, sanctifies the social order, and gives the individual an authorized map of the path of life.  A myth creates the plotline that organizes the diverse experiences of a person or community into a single story.”

“Every family, like a miniculture, also has an elaborate system of stories and rituals that differentiate it from other families.  …  And within the family each member’s place is defined by a series of stories.”

“Each person is a repository of stories.  …  We gain the full dignity and power of our persons only when we create a narrative account of our lives, dramatize our existence, and forge a coherent personal myth that combines elements of our cultural myth and family myth with unique stories that come from our experience.”

[Santayana: “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”]

“To remain vibrant throughout a lifetime we must always be inventing ourselves, weaving new themes into our life-narratives, remembering our past, re-visioning our future, reauthorizing the myth by which we live.”

TO BE A PERSON IS TO HAVE A STORY TO TELL.  WE BECOME GROUNDED IN THE PRESENT WHEN WE COLOR IN THE OUTLINES OF THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.”  –Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox, Your Mythic Journey (1973; 1989)

So, “Tell me a story, pleeeeze…”

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Omne agens agit propter finem.    Every agent acts on account of an end.

To begin, let us focus on statements regarding human action from Thomas Aquinas, the Summa Contra Gentiles [I.II:1:6]: That is to say, every subject acts toward an end that is a good for him.

The act of love is the first of all acts and gives rise to all others.

Thomas asks whether love is the cause of all that the lover does.  His reply is brief yet incisive: “I reply that every agent acts for an end.  The end, however, is the good which is loved and desired by each thing.  Hence it is clear that every agent, whatever it may be, carries out every action from some love.”

The primacy of the person in Aquinas’ “moral universe” is evident.  The first affective motion is love (amor).  The priority of love holds not only for the passions, but also for the rational appetite or will.  Thus love is the most basic motion of the will and the principle of all moral action.  The absolutely first appetitive motion in rational beings is the love of persons.  It is this love that gives rise to all moral action, whether good or evil, since in all action the agent aims at the perfection of some person, either himself or another.  It is no surprise then to find Thomas explicitly stating this position: “The principal ends of human acts are God, self, and others, since we do whatever we do for the sake of one of these.”

BUT: “A subject isolated from sensory stimulus and social interchange begins to hallucinate rapidly and to lose all sense of reality.  Sadists who subject prisoners to solitary confinement understand intuitively that the cruelest punishment is to remove a man [or woman] from the community and thereby deprive him [or her] of his [or her] humanity.  Confusion results when community is lost.

HEALTH DEPENDS UPON THE CONVICTION THAT OUR ACTIONS COUNT.  I remain potent only so long as I get feedback which demonstrates that the force of my action is felt…I [obtain] the knowledge of the resonance of my actions, as well as the joy of knowing that my gifts are received and appreciated.

[I become] a responsible agent, with a sense that the future is open, [and] I understand myself to be essentially in a social context, and therefore my fundamental desires always involve other persons.”  –Sam Keen, To a Dancing God [1970]

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“…Perdition catch my soul // But I do love thee! //  And when I love thee not, // Chaos is come again.”  (Othello 3.3.90-92)

 Is life fair?  Lately, some view life’s unfairness, then decide that the world–including, especially, politics–is nothing but chaos.

J.B. [the poetic drama] by Archibald MacLeish, relates, for the modern audience, the familiar story of the Biblical Job.  Both have the main character asking the recognizable likeness of “Why me?” or “What did we do to deserve this?” or “Why does it always happen to us?”  The answer? 

“MacLeish’s Job answers the problem of human suffering, not with theology or psychology, but by choosing to go on living and creating new life.”  Job looks for love.  “Instead of giving up on the unfair world and life, instead of looking outward, to churches or to nature, for answers . . . look . . . for loving.”

“Why bad things happen to good people [now becomes] no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.” — Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 1981.

*Chaos is the confusion that exists before order is established in the universe.  (See Chaos theory; John Milton and Chaos.)   

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In Search of Lost Time/À la recherche du temps perdupreviously also translated as Remembrance of Things Pastis that novel in seven volumes, written by Marcel Proust (1871–1922), often heard about, often to-be-read, often-never-read (finished).  It is considered his most prominent work, known both for its length and for its theme of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the “episode of the madeleine” which occurs early in the first volume.  The novel recounts the experiences of the narrator (who is never definitively named) while he is growing up, learning about art, participating in society, and falling in love.  The novel has been pronounced as “the most respected novel of the twentieth century” or “the major novel of the twentieth century.”

Involuntary memory, also known as involuntary explicit memory, involuntary conscious memory, involuntary aware memory, and most commonly, involuntary autobiographical memory, is a subcomponent of memory that occurs when cues encountered in everyday life evoke recollections of the past without conscious effort.  (Voluntary memory is characterized by a deliberate effort to recall the past.)

Precious fragments are those parts of involuntary memories that arise in everyday mental functioning, comprising the most common occurrences, characterized by their element of surprise, as they appear to come into conscious awareness spontaneously.  They are the products of common everyday experiences such as eating a piece of apple pie, or the smell of Crayolas, or the sound of a fire engine or freight train, bringing to mind a past experience.  (Not-so-precious fragments are some involuntary memories arising from traumatic experiences, repetitive memories of traumatic events, like those parts of PTSD).

Proustian memory: Marcel Proust was the first person to coin the term involuntary memory.  He viewed involuntary memory as containing the “essence of the past,” describing an incident where he was eating tea soaked cake; then a childhood memory of eating tea soaked cake with his aunt was “revealed” to him.  From this memory, he proceeded to be reminded of the childhood home he was in, and even the town itself.  This becomes a theme throughout In Search of Lost Time, with sensations reminding the author-narrator of previous experiences.  He dubbed these “involuntary memories.”  [Wikipedia information]

For further interest and current research on why you might be reminded of…when you see…, look at Chaining, Priming, Reminiscence bump, Trauma-related Intrusions, PTSD.

(Stressful and traumatic events, which may manifest as involuntary memories called flashbacks, may trigger a wide range of anxiety-based and psychotic disorders.  Social phobia, bipolar disorder, depression, and agoraphobia are a few examples of disorders that have influences from flashbacks.)

“The role of memory is central to Proust’s novel, introduced with the famous madeleine episode in the first section of the novel; and in the last volume, Time Regained, a flashback similar to that caused by the madeleine is the beginning of the resolution of the story.  Throughout the work, many similar instances of involuntary memory, triggered by sensory experiences such as sights, sounds, and smells conjure important memories for the narrator and sometimes return attention to an earlier episode of the novel.  Although Proust wrote contemporaneously with Sigmund Freud, with there being many points of similarity between their thought on the structures and mechanisms of the human mind, neither author read the other.”  [Wikipedia notes]

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