Translated by Zed ('dada didit') Morse.
He presents a nice gestalt perspective. In a sentence or two, the polyvagus describes the intertwining of two separate nerve clusters, the reptilian and something new, sparking mammalian feelings as well as their expression. The two don't always jive. What we once referred to as "the beast inside" turns out pure fish or a mere frog. Drawing on archaic Darwin and modern Sokolov, it's too bad Porges is still infected with that catholic sentiment portrayed by Hobbes, Machiaveli and the reformed Herbert Spencer! In Descent of Man, Darwin had pointed out an analogy of sympathy (in the functionalist as well as emotional sense – being somewhat the same sense of 'affinity') with symphony. The connection is apparent with a little etymological reflection, and philology was still fashionable between 1844 and 1872. Kudos to Darwin on this. But there is still a ring of compulsive necessity or unecessary retention. Nasty, brutal and short? Well sure, if all expression can be shown to evolve only from situations of threat and defense.
Porges cites Sokolov but does not question his own faith in a subliminal lexic concordance. Instead of the fight/flight dichotomy which Porges seems to prefer, (and the only choice retreating catechists approved of – free will and all: "When in Rome, do as ... or die in the Coliseum!"), Sokolov used the terms, "engage" and "disengage". In all our orientations, there is a matter of attention, engagement or immersion, an almost reptilian ambivalence, the alert pause and the possibility of disengagement. And there is much gray-area between these 'choices'. Our language accepts an aesthetic interpretation of these words outside of military and other deadly contexts. In fact, the military usage is rare compared to the purely mechanical (cf. clutch: "to engage or disengage, that is the question"). Clutch itself alludes to apprehension or prehensibility and slippage, like a branch in a monkey's tail or enclamped with her cousin's opposable thumb. Even the metabolic automobile requires a variable oxygen delivery system over and above defensive apparati such as gun turrets and torpedo bays. "Torpedoes, away!" – Chekov
The polyvagal theory describes a metabolic symphony. Adaptive fitness is Pavarotti singing with the London Philharmonic – a simple parallelism. A punctuated equilibrium features Carlos Santana interweaving his own melodic interpretations on electric guitar. The superego is made up of British Empire Club gin & tonic gentlemen shouting "No Rock 'n Roll!!" The right Reverend reformed catholic John Calvin is in full agreement. Throwing tomatoes at the band, he shouts "we must suppress satan at every turn". The Id grabs its crotch and runs away to hide. Only mammals can engage in this sort of behaviour. Reptiles are much more subdued and laid back. They cannot modulate oxygen for provisional burstings and pantomimic absurdities like racing with Achilles. When you get right down to it, lizards are pretty cool.
Really though, I have now discovered in Porges new ammunition in defense of the Id. (We are just so saturated with militancy in the lexicon). I always thought of the Id as "all the little guys in there talking to us (if we care to listen)". I developed my vitamin theory as a small child. With all those pills we were forced to swallow, would we ever develop a sense of taste? If I need vitamin C, my little guys will ask me for an orange! That no one could see the logic in this caused me great emotional turmoil. I've had a phobia for pharmaceuticals (at least the prescribed sorts) ever since.
I agree that emotions (phenomenologically speaking) are an emergent of a synergetic symphony, but not that they are mere epiphenomena. We've been taught that they are dispensable. Animal-like. Get in the way. In need of transcendence. Suppression. Porges could go far in dispelling this notion. But please, shed the archaic religion!
Could it be that alterations to consciousness cannot be reduced to the singular goings-on of gray cells, but rather, comings and goings through them along vague pathways? A whole-body sort of poly-mindedness? Like an emotional outburst, can any "instinct" be said reducible to the expression of single or even multiple loci on a strand of deoxyribonucleic acid? A monotonous reading from a blueprint or the last will and testament of a utilitarian god? Hardware? Lecture notes? Cheat sheets? A unidirectional stimulus-response chain backfed through the black box requiring thirty-seven electroshock treatments to get back on track?
facere de necessitate virtutem
'Make a virtue of necessity',–14th Cent. Grafiti
If adaptation was just a matter of defense against hostile (environmental) forces, where is there room for the pleasure principle? Could a child possibly giggle in that world? Might there be a silent laugh beneath the frog's stoic expression when he retracts his sticky tongue and finds on it a fly? Was there a certain sound of satisfaction in the mechanical "rivet", when swallowed, that followed it?
is a lie. A hungry dog won't even eat on a dead coyote. Even when cut into bite-sized steaks and fried on the griddle! (I once tested this experimentally – my dog gave me a glare of scold, I shiver still the hangdog cold. And now I am told, "Anubis was a baboon, not a jackal")."It's a dog-eat-dog world"
Be that as it may, I like the polyvagal theory. Pretty Polly. Polly Semy. Polly Phony. Sliced Balloney. I just don't think archaic reptiles ever behaved like citizens diagnosed with paranoia or "survival syndrome". Those are neuroses, even by Freud's theories, epiphenomena of schizophrenogenic civilisation. Unlike Freud, I don't think it's a no-win situation. I think it's no game at all. Or pure game, stripped of all sense of play.
It may be there are interweaving synergic functions of the internal reptilian and mammalian systems which play quite nicely as a duet. It would seem a purely mammalian (solo) 'response', superseding, as it were, vestigial organs, might equally lead to organism death. At least a lingering stagnation. Sure, the increased complexity introduced by the symbiotic, chiasmatic dance increases the chance that something can go amiss, but health or well-being is supposed to be the "normal" condition, else natural selection would be a joke. Every song sung between bouts of fighting and running away would, in so many words, say "Indeed, we've not yet died today!" The uniquely human addition to this symphony, the dual duel resulting in an acephalic, acappellic monotony when the other players leave the stage grumping, is the modern "enlightened" condition which introduces so much double-bind tension, I'm surprised we didn't all go extinct in 4004 BC. Only Homo dramaticus traumaticus could ask whether 'twould be better not to be at all...
...and then go out and do something about it (but not all the way, being in such a one sided, single-minded rush toward nowhere, only to find we've tracked out a circle)! Wild mice need no encouragement to swim asap to the bottom of the fish tank and die when we dump them in to see what happens. This is said the contradictory (to mammalian survival) reptilian response. Feigned death works for fish and salamanders, not for rats. To be fair, fish don't enter the water in a state of shock – that happens when they leave it! And certainly there is much thrashing and bouncing when the fish lands on the deck of the trawler. It may be that with no history outside the water, the fish has no option but to continue swimming. Death throws are the oscillation between playing dead and struggle, the only place demonstrating a properly performed fight/flight scenario.
Lab rats accustomed to cages and manipulation, unshocked by the new situation, will swim about till they die of exhaustion. It can take hours. The contradiction is only our own: euthanasia is supposed to be quick and painless. Do the men in white labcoats enjoy a secret little giggle or is it just a matter of little sacrifices for the greater good, the usual justification for killing little furry creatures no one wants to eat? Would they even think to dissect the little beasties if some folks in ancient Greece didn't already suspect there was something fundamentally wrong with life, the universe and everything, what with slaves starving, peasants rebelling and noblemen dying of the plague, but not till they've kicked the gift-horse in the mouth? "Ah, if we could only return to the golden age!" pondered the philosophers. But Troy and Athens will always be at war.
Nevertheless, I still also say "kudos" to Porges. I see important implications of the theory for contemplation of our own ill-health. No wonder prescribed Fludrocortisol only seemed to make matters worse for my bouts of chiasmatic syncope. Stand up, heart stops. Lie down, it races. Sure, the rate of syncopic events decreased, but intensity increased from mere dizziness to status epilepticus. With a regular dose of an exogeneous source of mineralcorticoid, the adrenal glands stopped production altogether. Work stoppage produced by scabs. Only an insurance adjuster would trade decreased morbidity for increased mortality. (not sure if that came out right!).
A diagnosis of Addison's suggests a glandular dysfunction isolated from the rest of the world. No need to look to the environment (the internal milieu as well as the external) for neurotoxins, hormone disrupters or psychosocial stressors and any combination thereof in our diagnoses. Maybe it is just a matter of crossed wires? No! It's always the blather of defectively expressive genes. End of discussion. Take the pill or fuck off.
BS. It's a matter of cosmic disharmony. Bad poetry. The out of tune instrument. The world is running out of breath, and they wonder why Diabetes is becoming epidemic alongside cardiovascular disease? I know two people my age who've just had heart valve replacements! It's becoming more common than breast implants and prozac for toddlers. A contrapuntal part of our discordant tune is material pollution played over a screeching ideological backbeat – all those "little" hypocrisies we are taught to embrace – such that the slightest practice in Voodoo witchery will procure a hefty hospital bill. That is the theory of polytonal dissonance leading to full submersion in a bloody sink, or an unpropitious grand mal riot. Did someone mention gin and tonics?
“Sanity is the lot of those who are most obtuse, for lucidity destroys one's equilibrium: it is unhealthy to honestly endure the labors of the mind which incessantly contradict what they have just established.”– Georges Bataille
There is a third part to this disharmony. Less a matter of dissonance than evacuation or dissolution. Were there even an auspicious ratio of O2 in the air, we 've been taught to ignore it. If children are trained to stifle expression, suppress emotion, acquire a stiff upper lip suitable for any situation, then nothing will elicit more than a minimum of oxygen delivery and blood circulation and the world itself loses poignancy – its capability to inspire a pointed movement. We do not engage except at the most superficial levels. Without expression, impression atrophies.
"Most of our emotions are so closely connected with their expression, that they hardly exist if the body remains passive – the nature of the expression depending in chief part on the nature of the actions which have been habitually performed under this particular state of the mind."The "children of civilised Europeans" (as Darwin called us – "the essence of savagery seems to consist in the retention of a primordial condition") grow up to be unprepared, unpracticed, less than potential, still less than a reptile who at least can deliver a nod and a wink. Even a frog hops from the bathroom sink! For the British empire club (all such clubs are monopolic, a democracy of which the primordial monarch is only symbolic of a poly-voiced monotonic), lunacy is always a matter of protracted emotional display. Best dispense with it altogether. We must not be moved by lunar events! What is not well-ordered is ludicrous, a novel juxtaposition, dissaray. But isn't that as well the definition of play?– Charles Darwin
ludic/ludicrous: playful in a way that is spontaneous and without any particular purpose.[Early 17th century. < Latin ludicrus < ludus "play"]
Latin ludus "play," from which ludicrous is derived, is also the source of English allude, collude, delude, elude, and illusion.– from the dictionary
So no throwing out babies with the bathwater! No one has persistent lucidity, even at the physiological level! The lines get crossed all the time, and that is an incentive to change direction. Or move further downstream. We usually get over bouts of delirius entanglement. Our own disappointment with our situation reveals communication from still sound inner voices. All is not lost!
But oh, no, don't throw a tantrum! I still hear an argument: "Really, jet exhaust is organic! Like, it's made from carbon, you know? Dead dinosaurs put to good use! Like an ancient Chinese aphrodisiac, only better!"
Ha! Like, forget that an asteroid might have only been a fortuitous event during the curtain-call of the big dinosaurs and their big reptilian cousins. Metabolic "fitness" is the selective advantage, not competition. And that is the true matter of "breathing room", what with oxygen being so important to fanning the flames of passion or discontent. The idea of scarcity cannot account for the great mammalian spurt sixty-five million years ago. The intense bloom of life on the planet, the ubiquitous pollination which covered this little ball in space with pretty-flowered shrubbery made for such an oxygen-abundant environment that the little mammalian tree shrews had little alternative (which is to say, found great gaseous encouragement) to go forth and diversify, once the dust clouds dispersed. Equipped with a running start, the little feathery dinosaurs took to flight, inspired by those buzzing insects who didn't seem bothered by anything but cold weather. Could it be that the birds and the bees toppled the Tyrannosauran reign, and an asteroid by chance merely added speed? Lonely reptiles retreated to familiar watery enclaves or hid out, resting under a wettish rock where even on a bad day, a little worm, a vegan bug or velveteen rabbit might come their way. Slurp!
If poetry was considered a sport of word play, much of what I've seen (and in fact, written) seems on the order of lonely games of solitaire. A random jumble of words or even parts of words can bring as much enjoyment as I ching. But solitaire is a single-player event. Is it fun to watch another, through a two-way mirror, lay out the cards on the table for little rhyme or reason but to pass the time punctuated by glandular secretions when there is witnessed a surprise? (Unless, of course, they're contagious.) What was so significant when the red queen fell upon the three of clubs? It must have been a secret secretion which made the player giggle (or cringe).
It is not a performance. Solitaire is an impatient pause between acts, engaged to avoid or induce sleep. A time out or paratextual blockquote to render the appearance of a smooth transition. A gig, on the other hand, is a multi-player participatory event. It requires gaggles to distribute giggles. Where is the fun in merely observing a game of twister unless the view of absurdly positioned bodies exposes the occasional anatomical secret more generally kept hidden in polite company, ("that rigid, crucified form bouncing on regimented pogo sticks"), the mere closeness or touching of which is never allowed beyond the game environment – not without incurring a swat on the face or a call for reinforcements in swat uniforms?
What is the secret of solitaire? What is exposed? What standards are mocked? Where are the poetry police when we need them? "Share it or else!" "Make sense!" 911 is never dialed without intent to shed others' secrets or take our's back. Like blood, they are! Let the academic poets be pissed off. Like, is language supposed to be the provenance of the select, unheard outside the walls of the institution or confessional?
Nah. It's just that when play is never supposed to extend beyond the game, all poetry questions all law, keeping us on our toes like a ballerina. Without the occasional surprise, is there any meaning at all? Consciousness and significance are in the same bag ... order appearing in chance events, chance born of formal engagements . Like the card game, poetry finds meanings in chance proceedings. Personal poetry is just a matter of litsening to the language talking back to you!
I did an experiment once where I only took one factor of the environment into account and produced results. I was engaged in the usage of certain words. Words did things. I sent out certain words into the environment. One person told me that we are caught in precisely this bind, all of us. This person said that I am very perceptive to say that it is not about "certain words," and that I am right. The person then said to me that "certain words" are simply an invariable function within a theoretical/theological apparatus which allows other more interesting objects to come into view. I suppose you could say that there is no other invariable except "certain words" which would work as well at supporting these other objects because it is audacious, because it is known and unknown, because it is fleeting and fragile, because it works like a key, because it produces a surprising contrast with all of history.
Surprise surprised surprising surprises make somebody amazed to cause somebody to feel sudden wonder especially at something unexpected often passive I'm surprised that nobody's thought this before it doesn't really surprise me that nobody accepted the offer to catch somebody or something unaware to attack come upon or catch somebody or something unexpectedly I surprised a huge raccoon going through the garbage last night give somebody something unexpectedly to make an unexpected gift to somebody surprised me with flowers trick somebody into doing something to cause somebody to do something especially to admit something unexpected by trickery or deceit her boss surprised her into admitting she left work early every day amazement a feeling of shock wonder or bewilderment produced by an unexpected event imagine my surprise when she told me she was already married something unexpected something that produces a feeling of surprise especially an unexpected event or gift often used before a noun he told me he had a surprise for me but I haven't seen it yet a surprise visit ability to cause surprise the fact of happening unexpectedly or the ability to take somebody unawares we don't want to lose the element of surprise overtake seize surprise! informally used when making a surprise announcement or presenting something that is supposed to be a surprise used ironically to suggest that something is anything but unexpected well surprise surprise the weather forecasters got it wrong again take somebody by surprise to happen unexpectedly to somebody their arrival took everybody by surprise.– from the dictionary
Doing nothing with it, the merely lexical melds like glistening fungus over the last table for miles and rife with honorary velvet-dysphasic lacerations of crystallized nomenclature fraught with love in night's rhythm and rhythm's daybreak as every humid breeze whispers bombed-out acephalous poem units after installing my brand new bathroom sink.
The tempting book of wisdom behind the counter is the source of crystallized nomenclature that is consumed by the dysphasia but nobody knows why it is happening.
I had some images, their floating contours bred to provoke a system of scanning I’d later mean to acknowledge and lose. That’s taking credit for waking up, and we don’t like that.
Three encourages bad decisions, hand drawn to simulate the time we stole at the well-lit end of the street. Someone gave me a hawk’s name, I forgot it, told someone else it had a name, though obviously without participating in the act, the hawk I mean, with regards to non-participation, a certain protest on my part, this forgetting, and I daily resist looking up its name on the web, so as to keep things unreal. And that’s what I get for attempting to separate nature from naming, another set of giggling decisions taunting us as we delve into the drop off service. You can certainly borrow the seat next to me, elevated as it may be, homogenous without shadowy distinction.
These liquid anti-oxidants for instance, that book of wisdom half a millennium old, the red velvet cupcakes tempting behind the counter. The signs for the washing of hands instill a deeper resentment towards dirt’s absence as I navigate the gaps between moments of silence. Wassup guys? How you doing?
– Anselm Berrigan, Just folded, like a handkerchief or a hinge
The tempting accumulation of knowledge is the systematic annihilation of sensibility, beginning with the dissection of live frogs and proceeding to the deconstruction of poetry and its supersession with A Technical Manual for the Aesthetic Gratification of Machinery. The anti-oxidant is a reprehensible political stand. We here are pro-oxygen! Knowledge? Wisdom? Metabolism!
Slightly tinking with William Morris' thinking, "art" provides the means to distinguish between excrement and nourishment. Art as well can metamorphose one into the other, or rearrange our senses illustrating our previous errors of judgement, our wacky assessments, our sense of green eggs and spam, our preconceived tastes expressed in lieu of actual experimentation. Art is of course, not restricted to means, shit or no shit, as that is the function of academes and factories. Art is first and foremost play, acts of immersion, not the separations implied in "representations".
The study of Expression is difficult, owing to the movements being often extremely slight, and of a fleeting nature. A difference may be clearly perceived, and yet it may be impossible, at least I have found it so, to state in what the difference consists. When we witness any deep emotion, our sympathy is so strongly excited, that close observation is forgotten or rendered almost impossible; of which fact I have had many curious proofs. Our imagination is another and still more serious source of error; for if from the nature of the circumstances we expect to see any expression, we readily imagine its presence.– Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals
Unfortunately, all three groups forgot that the tri-gonadic mathematic was utilised, not to create or discover gods, but to discover nutritious land when at sea or nourishing wetness when in the desert. Trigonomadic meters. Trigonomia. Eve has three faces. To locate familiarity. To start families. To bury ancestors (and keep them there). To ask the fish "where do you go?" is answered "wherever the river flows". Innovative navigation seeks and is propelled by encouragement toward points of interest. Consider the pentagram within the circle and you will find the modern compass. The Phoenician Sailor's god was Baal, lord of cooking, feasting and distributivity. Perhaps we can blame the forgetful Athenians, after Helen absconded with visiting Phoenicians, for our own dysphasic amnesians.
There are five seasons at play in the Mediterranean middle earth emerging from a wet & dry, hot & cold, growing & dying-back rhythmic module. Polynomia. Three twos is five. Which is why the work week is absurd and god had to rest after sex, er, six. How can seven be a lucky number outside of its absence, the unspeakable seventh level of hell or the exclusive gated community of phallic ones surrounding a seven-eleven for all their shopping needs? Quick! Stop! In! Out! A week requires at least one erasure. Ok, even a weak pun is sometimes fun.
The point is, lunatic and solar calendars just don't jive. However, when one conjoins the equatorial horizon with the celestial ecliptic, any location on earth can be calculated. The two circles only appear to be at crossed purposes. Fishy? Not at all. A convenient case of synchronicity, astronomical syzygy requires three points of interest. In poetry, it is a metrical unit of two feet, in song, a syncopated rhythm. One chooses a direction with a pointer, even in the game of roulette. The Egyptian symbol of fertility is a fishy Ichthys, two complimentary arcs with a common meeting point. For a chicken, a round egg has no protuberance to stimulate a closed cervix and get the juices flowing. Real numbers always lie. Snakes eyes are predictably low, but sevens and elevens prevail in chance encounters or interventions. Out beyond zero, there are more big numbers than little ones. Au contraire mon Albert, gods most certainly do play with dice!
Novelty is a head turner, stimulating those face and larynx and pharynx muscles said to be vestigial gills of long-dead fish, attending and drawing attention to the heart and gut. Blood, air and digestive secretions. Pupils dilate. There may be more wetness. The pneumogastric nerve clusters, also called vagal (from vague vaginas) lead to and from the locus ambiguous in the reptilian part of our brainpan. Saucepan. Spirits of turpentine. A spiny pig's a porcupine, it's all the same can. Immersion produces salivation, a solvent for mastication grinding to a pulp. Immersion is like a fish in the water. In its essence. It demands intimacy, and that is ecstatic. Kind of makes ya jump out of your skin. The mustard seed contains the tree without constraints. No permit. No fee. Did it ever occur that free stuff is non-negotiable? Ya can't sell it for love nor money! Immersed, the ego is dissolved and we can experience wonder. Wander. Moral support is handy in unfamiliar water, and Rocky asked, "Are they friendly spirits, Bullwinkle?" Energizing spirits. The hidden third. And if they're not friendly, calling bullshit is fun all by its own self.
Why not? A waste of energy? My ass! Heat keeps me warm. Here, have one. Can I change the world? Maybe not, but sure as fuck, I can imagine. I can even imagine being loved, though I've never experienced it outside of public restrooms washing off the ketchup and mustard so my next cigarette does not taste of cheeseburger. I meant to say "Pleased to meet you". I said, of course, "Let me taste you" and she slapped me. Whoops Rocky, wrong restroom!
"and I daily resist looking up her name on the web, so as to keep things unreal. And that’s what I get for attempting to separate nature from naming, another set of giggling articulations taunting us as we dive delving into the drop off."
Delving betwixt and between engagement parties and disengagement lies true ambivalence, no turning of heads. Insular lead is malleable. No interest. Little resistance. If at this point interest is imposed, should that dimension here intersect the charts like the redundancy of a phallic-shaped peninsula, there is anomie, caught in a double bind, where ambivalence is now a reptilian lie, a feigned death meant to keep cool. Avoid distraction. Desire? Put it out of your mind. Here, bite a bit of plastic bread. Nameless. Faceless. Without protuberance. From this point disengagement is impossible.
Calm, cool and collected detachment is therefore a peculiar mammalian lie. A spin to cover a pause to ponder a wonder. The hardest task a child can learn is sitting still. Lies laying low are always invited or persuaded. Like snake eyes in the empty space between chickens and eggs. What's the chance of that? Like rough mittens on soft hands they are. But movement in any direction produces heat and mittens are no longer required. Every anarchist adult is merely the finder of a lost adolescent charm in a decelerating current. Lost energy is a lie. For any given volt, decreasing the current ups the wattage, and vice versa. Heat is more often found energy than an expenditure into the void. Energy itself is a lie...
that is, unless it sparkles. And that's the glowing truth. Truth does not obviate the occasional meal and a cot. For every Pete and Repeat, there is a corresponding Charge and Recharge.
In the passionless language of cold logic, there derives a certain prophetic poetry generated by the use of certain words:
In mathematics, a syzygy is a relation between the generators of a module named "M". The doctrine of five phases describes two cycles, a generating or creation (she-ng) cycle, also known as "mother-son", and an overcoming or destruction (kè) cycle, also known as "grandfather-nephew", of interactions between the phases.
The set of all such relations is called the "first syzygy module of M". A relation between generators of the first syzygy module is called a "second syzygy", and the set of all such relations is called the "second syzygy module of M". Continuing in this way, we get the n-th syzygy module of M by taking the set of all relations between generators of the (n-1)th syzygy module of M. If M is finitely generated over a polynomial ring over a field, this process terminates after a finite number of steps; i.e., eventually there will be no more syzygies. The syzygy modules of M are not unique, for they depend on the choice of generators at each step.– wikimedia
A warm heart is sufficient when well fed from electropataphoric fluids. Or greased with olive oil and applied suction cups. The antimetabole is neither chiasmic nor parallel. It's been given a bad rap by the modern theory of medicine. The absurd may be breathtaking, that condition is fleeting so almost never deadly!
Certain words become useful only when they are provisional and there is handy a map, or dictionary, or inquiry. We chart uncharted waters should we wish to return. Make a note. Scratch an itch. The ball is the thing whether attached to the ana, hyper, meta or pata. Those things come and go. The real question is as to whether 'tis better to be a ball, have a ball, play ball or simply, to ball."Better a draught from a bottle in front o' me
than a plate with a slice of a frontal lobotomy"– Chantey of the Ancient Mariners
"Certain words" are simply an invariable function within a theoretical/theological apparatus which allows other more interesting objects to come into view. I suppose you could say that there is no other invariable except "certain words" which would work as well at supporting these other objects because it is audacious, because it is known and unknown, because it is fleeting and fragile, because it works like a key, because it produces a surprising contrast with all of history."
Blam! I remembered an anecdote about synchronicity. Carl Jung was trying to explain his ideas on it to Freud. To paraphrase, "We attach meaning to events which co-occur. It would be as if I mentioned something about falling bookcases and one should happen to fall. We propose magical intervention if we can't explain it, refusing to accept that the events are not causally related. The relationship is in the meaning we attach to it." Well, at that moment the bookcase in Freud's study fell over, and the good doctor feinted. No shit! At least that's the way I heard it. I then envisioned Tim Leary putting his arm around Freud in a soothing manner as the doctor began to revive, and with an impish twinkle, reassuringly told Freud, "Think that's weird, try this", handing over a little orange pill. Freud was still blinking widely as the vision dissipated.
"I do believe in fairies, I do! I do!"
It's not a conspiracy. Just the world playing with us because it's just so funny how we take our answers so damned seriously. To the point of sharp words, no mittens, emptied kitchens, drone fighter jets laying waste to the country-side and its little furry creatures. Like Asger Jorn says, "laughter and tears belong in the same bag". So I just love it when weird shit happens. It restores my whatever. The only purpose in life can be to play like a porpoise. At least someone in Rome must have had a sense of humour: "Look mommy! A porcus piscis!"
Pig-fish just eating and farting away till it's all over, till there's no strength left to fight and no place to run, sounds too too boring. Is there no fun in blowing bubbles? Bad science? Ha! Every time I call bullshit on the world, it does the same on me: "Like, dude! All the clues are there; it's not my fault what you do with them!" If it appears I'm in danger of losing my atheism, blame it on the synchronicity of the song. This can only mean there is such a thing as freedom and dumb luck. It's all right there in the dada. That's my whatever. Isn't aesthetics a matter of following clues and then creating poetry in their honor? Music? Theory? Living is when internal and external milieus resonate; space and time disappear, and then anything can happen. Like blowing a raspberry on your kid's bare belly, it's all in the vibration. We're moved and we move. And not necessarily in that order.
"An organism is said to choose when it responds in a way that makes it impossible for another response to occur.
... For the utilitarians, a choice was right if it promoted the greatest good for the greatest number; economists have appealed to the maximization of utility, as in the theory of subjective expected utility; and behavioral scientists speak of the optimization or melioration of other consequences. Choice is needed only when there is no other measure of probability of responding. It is true that if a man does not do one thing, he will do another or do nothing, and that if you want him to do A and not B, you have only to make the "expected utility" of A greater than that of B as by describing favorable consequences or reinforcing A more frequently. But you are changing only relative probabilities. Contingencies of reinforcement are much more powerful than the "expected utilities" that follow from instruction, and rate of responding is a more direct measure of probability than a choice between alternatives." – B.F. Skinner
Dystopias are always portrayed as worlds void of transgression. It is a dream of utopianists as well. It is the goal of civilisation – uniform, ordered movement where neither prediction nor prophecy are necessary. Learned helplessness is the acquired and accrued tendency of behavior to transcend from movement into catatonia. It is the end of a journey, the cessation of exploration. It is the rapid extinction of behavior patterns which are not only not reinforced, but downright hindered, together with the inductive generalization that any attempt at individual movement is a fruitless undertaking. It brings death to imagination. Undertakers are always needed in the general economy! Prolonged catatonia is death, the only condition which makes choice irrelevant, since movement itself is impossible.
Experimental controls, environmental controls and social control are all attempts to eliminate or constrain the influence of intervening variables. These variables are nothing if not contingencies of reinforcement, influences which actually suggest even more variability or "drift". The caged animal is physically helpless. It's life experience habituates it to display behavior patterns of dependence on the experimental administrators to the point (or of such strength) that it will return to the cage even if let loose. Constraint gives it a sense of security when reinforcement (the conditions for survival) is predictably, if only intermittently experienced with the pull of a lever, the push of a button. The Metaphor of the black box is much more applicable to our situation than the "prison", as B. F. Skinner alluded in his dystopia, Walden Two.
Control is the condition of survival, even when, on release, the cage is itself removed from the room. In the presence of food, the animal might frantically search for a lever or button, some learned trick to perform before pursuing the food. The mouse has learned political economy. Fortunately, at least if you are a mouse, there are enough attractive variables or points of greater interest (contingencies of reinforcement or variability in the environment) outside the lab, tricks performed for survival can eventually be replaced with merely living, but not without attendant scars. The rupture in the conditions of living comes not with the opening of the cage door (as necessary as that is), but with the shaking off of old, and now unnecessary behavior patterns. After a time, if the controls are gone – perhaps the window was left open – these behavior patterns, the requisite dance for food, extinguish. If they do not, the little furry guy himself does. In the context of "living", contingencies of reinforcement may be rephrased as "contingencies of encouragement", a context which would not be considered "punishing" but full of possibility. Being "constrained" by encouragement sounds absurd, but describes the nature of operant conditioning: behavior follows the direction in which it is encouraged! It is our Orwellian language games which introduce paradox.
On the other hand, people who have been taught that they are above and beyond such things as instinct or intuition, that the aesthetic sense (the ability to respond to interesting stimuli, to follow what appears appetizing) is the private domain of artists endowed with rare genetic material and specialised instruction, will not be able to get beyond their acquired helplessness and seek out assistance from the gifted or make demands on the willing or the "inferior", which is to say, "subduable". The dance goes on. The punishing context of the history and present perception of modern culture is self-reinforcing, self-justifying only by restricting the aesthetic response to its own jurisdiction through environmental control – difference is not tolerated.
What is not mentioned by a pure stimulus-response (the control paradigm) portrayal of universal helplessness, the idea of a totality of futility when responses to aversive stimuli consistently fail, is that this generalisation may also have positive or adaptive consequences. If personal helplessness does not interfere with one's self esteem as Heider's attributional theory suggests, it is as easily likely to lead to the cognitive assessment that the task or goal is itself impossible and others' claims to success are illusionary (or even delusional). Very often this assessment is correct. That is, self-esteem might not be questioned (persistent radicals rarely adopt the character armour of low self-esteem when their projects fail, at least not in public – when they do, their personal revolution loses all meaning and they cease to be labeled "radical").
For example, Lenin, Stalin and Mao did not bring communism to East Europe and Asia, only an alternate version of capital. In fact, their proclamation of victory abruptly put an end to any attempts to pursue this course above ground. This did not eliminate the reproduction of anarchist and communist "dissidents" no matter how many were shot or rounded up and sent to the gulags or re-education camps. Another example, the "radical" worker's movement shifted from the goal of general strike to local work-place struggle, sabotage of machinery to sabotage of labour time (utilisation of sick days, local strikes, work slow-downs, "slacking") when it was discovered general consensus could not be achieved. The point is that the generalisation that the revolution against everything under the sun is not possible allows one to reassess the goals and address behavior toward more immediate ends, more under-the-table transactions, more achievable possibilities.
Global helplessness ("Resistance is futile!") represents the tragic end of the spectrum of possible responses. Debilitating OCD represents another end. The potential toward catatonia, the extinction of self-motivated behavior itself, is of no use to the general stasis (or the unchanging state of civil progress, the inhibition of periodic crises or "dis-tractions"), hence institutionalization of the depressed and the phobic who are two standard deviations from the desired norm of productive compliance.
Institutionalisation takes the form of 1) architectural habilitation, as in hospital or gas chamber and 2) rehabilitation, as in psychiatry, social welfare/voc-rehab and psycho-pharmaceuticals. It is the same whether the deviation is a matter of constitution (of the state or the individual) or mis-fortune, a potential for a 'real' helplessness acknowledged by all. Obviously, extinction of behavior itself is as well not practical to revolution, therefore a certain range of deviation must always be tolerated. Within one standard deviation, it is called creativity. Any more than this is "transgression". We persist in finding a use for everything, if only as a prop for something to ridicule; otherwise there is the garbage disposal.
In this context, persistent reactionaries or revolutionaries not prone to self-imposed exile are thought to express an unfounded death-wish. Unlike mere criminals who do nothing more than "milk the system", "reactionaries" are never tolerated when there is suspected a danger they might be mimicked, as if there is nothing left on the globe to explore except its abrupt edge. That order would be called chaos. Their very existence is considered an affront to proper parenting and therefore, an insult to one and all.
Neither Chomsky and the sympathetic semioticians, nor experimental behaviorists still operating within a stimulus-response paradigm seem to recognize mutuality and a level of aesthetics involved in learning (although Skinner comes much closer when he posited the almost interchangeable simultaneity of stimulus and response – we equally draw and are drawn, are revolted and revolting, push and are pulled in non-dialectical processes). Might this 'sensory impairment' or blind-sightedness be because of the one-sided cause-effect, fore-and-aft operations (we might say "the politics of everyday life") working to produce both their worlds, worlds in which choice is irrelevant and any sense of alterity is irreverent?
Irreverent physicists are now talking of forces (urges) of self-similarity (fractal cartography of coastlines portrays the equivalence of all Norwegian fnords) and attraction to fractures ('fracticity', or the urge to diversify, fractify) operating throughout nature. And we call this "Chaos Theory". In its simplest form it is represented by gargantuan NASA computers equiped with windows paintbrush as a butterfly. If we look closely, we find anomalies hiding in every dark alley. Best not to travel those streets, where an intervening variable might kick you in the ass. François Rabelais wrote of panurgics (universal labour, great work) in the 16th century, just ahead of the invention of the alarm clock in Europe which announced the necessary equivalence, the self-similarity of work time and prayer time. He portrayed the possibility of movement unarticulated by the ringing of bells.
Outside the lab, identical conditions or sets of contingencies never produce identical responses precisely because there are no identical sets in the first place, only attractive and distracting sets of similarities, all surrounding even more attention-grabbing oddities. When mimicked, rehearsed and repeated, they are no longer odd and we call them "habit". Even a peculiar odor is lost rapidly – we habituate – even though neither of us has left the room. Repeated exposure produces something like boredom and in fact, a sort of nasal amnesia until we are separated for a time, and then re-united. The nasal aesthetic is renewed, as strong as ever. Rehearsal (hear again) resurrects that which we thought was carried away in a hearse at the first toll of the death bell. Or was that the alarm clock telling us to forget the dream and get ready for work?
Repeated or intermittent exposure relegates the one-time peculiarity to the sonic realm, "background noise". This suggests we may forget (become "mindless") by the very same process by which we learn conscious discrimination, the way we know our abc's. When we consider something especially worth remembering, we attempt mimicry, search out similarities, establish new symbolic associations (incorporate it with what is already familiar – we give it "kinship", "sympathy") and/or we attach a label. How soon we forget that habits are always open to re-evaluation along any number of dimensions besides utility, and they are, in fact, open to transgression and ultimate extinction. This works for individuals as well as cultures, and applies equally to our own habits and to our co-habitants. We also forget that extinct behavior patterns are never content to stay buried. A haunting is just a bad habit looking for a more welcoming home. And yes, Bullwinkle, there are also friendly spirits.
The contradiction inserted into any equation will always live on in its solution. The world itself comes to resemble climate-controlled laboratories and ourselves, genetically altered neuro-physiological computing machines navigating simple mazes during the day, relaxing with a glass of carrot juice before retiring, and racing in treadmills on the weekends just to keep up our fitness. Our brains are now taught to model computers, yet they tell us it's the other way around. When the telephone appeared across the land, we were told the frontal lobes resembled the operator's switch-board at the telephone exchange. The homunculus has survived medieval alchemy and found a comfortable home in the deep structure of Chomskian linguistics. Another way of saying all this is that the world is not a machine, not even machinic, and certainly not a mathematical equation calling for a final solution, say, 42.
Operant conditioning is the modification of behavior already undertaken. It demands self-motivation and personal agency or it would be a logical absurdity: psychological "control" (changing behavior) could otherwise be rendered down to simply changing or removing a stimulus to effect a desired response. Sheep herders have never found this a useful tactic. Had he come to the mountains of Arizona or Wyoming, Skinner might not have had to spend so much time in the lab, where he learned that torturing his small furry pets did not produce very good performances. He gave them bigger houses and more levers to push. In other words, he found he had to increase available options and broaden the contingencies of reinforcement.
Freud thought psychoanalysis could systematically eliminate forces of psychic control. What a great idea! Otto Gross took it a step further. Sheepherders call it "helping out a neighbor" or simply moving camp to where the sheep have already discovered "good feed". This relaxation of control is quite a different path than that taken by Freud's nephew who gave birth to the "public relations industry", instituting modern state propaganda. Advertisers and Psyops make great use of behavior modification – they've progressed from honey-coated poison to water-boarding experimental subjects..
We make choices every day, and sometimes we just move. Again, "choice is needed only when there is no other measure of probability of responding." We are not necessarily mindful of this. It is in fact a big choice to make no choice at all. That takes real commitment. We cringe at the suggestion of refusing orders from "above" or even question the insinuations of authorities such as the men in labcoats announcing that "seven of nine dentists recommend Crest". "Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so" [ – Bertrand Russell]. For those who do think, the seemingly common and rational process of mechanically reducing the options available down to one calculated preference for each possible occasion often results in the reduction of the world itself (our ability to perceive it as well as its "physical" destruction) and the paradoxical elimination of choice altogether. Yet we must do something!
Sometimes the first sentence uttered by intuition really is preferable to all the revisions and paragraphs and pages which come thereafter. The sensed aesthetic speaks to passion, passion to motivation. Intuition drives. Ration navigates. The road makes its own curves. The occasion itself is a zen totality, without corpuscles. It is also called "movement". It might be better to say that the whole area around contingencies of reinforcement and modeling behavior describes the aesthetic experience, the attraction or "interest" which inspires all movement, not "forces of control". The very exercise of control-with-a-vengeance, the hindering behavior of bosses and jailers everywhere which we call tyrannical or despotic, is the secret confession of helplessness and inadequacy. The Freudian diagnosis of neurosis is almost inescapable. Fortunately, the more customary admission gives off the odor of victim – the defeated, acquiescent and subdued. It is a more human aura, it may accompany acts of kindness, but the odor is nevertheless one of impending death. It can never create situations, it maintains them. The victim provides all the justification needed to prove the self-fulfilling prophecy. Did someone say vicious cycle?
A constraining environment, our social environment, the very structure of society we produce and reproduce is what we do have. Freud's catharsis or Lainge's movement through madness only work in an unmanipulating or protective environment. So we are more attracted to words like extinction, annihilation, disposal, burying hatchets, negation, revolution, insurrection. When Skinner used the phrase, "under control of contingencies of reinforcement", he was talking about communication – in other words, feedback processes. He clearly acknowledged mutual influence; in fact his theory of operant conditioning depends on it. I once asked a herder, "What do you have to know to be a herder?" His answer: "You have to let 'em be natural. Just watch 'em; they'll tell you what you need to do. ...Ya can't learn sheepherding from a book!".
All relations could be said to have a linguistic "component". Contingencies of reinforcement are merely the world talking to us. When we refuse to listen, we get ourselves into trouble, it is not something done to us. Of course, parents, teachers and judges also use this logic, but for them it is pure sophistry for the express intention of stopping "deviating" movement – "Don't make waves!", "No Meandering!" When we are moved to action, when we move, we cannot help but create new contingencies. The linguistic perspective brings to mind that there is always a potential in any linguistic situation for our relations to take the form of argument or dialogue, to carry on the dialectic friction or engage in the erotic. As Mustapha Khayati suggested, the most important dialectic which should concern us is that between power and life. Motion is the remedy for catatonia just as physical therapy speeds the recovery of broken bones, more than any amount or combination of opiates, anti-inflammatories and strong drink. Those are better served with healthy bones.
When we arrive at a "decision-gate", there is but one choice made, but as Mr. Spock proclaimed, "there are yet, always alternatives". What else could we expect if the universe is presumed infinite and connected? It is true that once we have chosen a course, that choice is no longer available – we move right along – but a whole universe of possibilities is opened up before us, some of which we may even recognise. And that is called the future.
Only an insistence on one's own separation from one's own exterior leads to hurt feelings when issues of personal control over the environment (or by it) are called in for questioning. We are likely to hear "I am no slave to the environment!" and witness behavior which sets out to prove it – we crush a beer can against our forehead just to illustrate we can, and a barren strip mine demonstrates intellectual progress. In that world, the pushing and pulling are always at odds. Every time a science of aesthetics starts to emerge, a science which studies mutual influence, reciprocal relations, the complexity of reciprocal contingencies and therefore the multiplicity of options, the cavalry shows up under the protection of the Archbishop of Thing to bring on the death of nurture by the wrath (or is that wraith?) of nature – it gives us the deep structure of "Harsh Reality", the forward progress of manipulable genetic tyranny – and science itself is rendered helpless.A few notes on reinforcement and reward: Reinforcement: Children understand the difference between reinforcement and reward. So many parents and educators don't (their childhood behavior patterns are extinguished). Children come into the world, (that is, in their growth, 'becoming' or actualization), enhancing and adorning (in the sense of both "titivate" and "titillate") expectations of nurture ('love' reciprocated [reflected, echoed], of appreciation, congratulation, treats, gifts). It is not an expression but an openness or receptivity. They are simultaneously mimicking, adorning, adoring, appreciating, inspired, giving. Predictably, the square block entering the round receptacle results in great acts of frustration we call "misbehavior" or its alternative, "closed off", "timid", and in domestic animals, "broke" (as in 'spirit').
The giving and receiving are two perspectives of what is a simultaneity, not an economy (tit-for-tat) – it is wrong, I think, to say "they have yet to learn to make the essential distinction". That just begs the question of "true essences". Modeling demands this singularity and, not paradoxically, this singular process (growth of the organism) demands modeling. Reinforcement either affirms this intuitive expectation, or it does not. Patterns match or they do not. This pattern-matching may be said to be the source, or rather, the "correlate" or even equivalent of the aesthetic experience. It is the point where the interior and exterior merge. Such is communication. Reinforcement negates hindrance or constraint. It allows continuity of behavior as well as "autonomous" behavioral change. It allows memory. It ecourages movement. To say "we are constrained by contingencies of reinforcement" is, I think, a warped viewpoint coming from life in an experimental lab where contingencies of reinforcement are themselves constrained and controlled, where we do not choose a direction, we are taken.
The aesthetic experience exists in mutual relations between the interior and exterior, so should not be expected to be encoded in genes or expression of the physiologically structured gray matter. Genes are just another contingency in a complex pattern of reinforcement and their expression is generally a matter only of probability. Nor should it be considered the effect of an external locus of control (environmental determinism) except in the closed environment of a highly controlled experimental cage, where there is no exterior but for the experimental administrator, warden and jailer. On the outside, that it is full of complexity is suggested by Skinner's concept, "contingencies of reinforcement ... more powerful than the expected utilities".Reward: Reification of viewpoint allows its cognitive separation, and then physical separation and isolation. We now have the economic notion of "reward". The pattern certainly matches our own social context and history. Expectation is now only directed toward what isn't. We no longer see reflections. We become goal-seeking and ambitious, and quite more often hindered and disappointed. This takes several years of early instruction and rigid parenting (or none whatsoever outside of institutional environments) incorporating what is equivalent to electric shock (punishment as a stimulus, that is, constraint and aversive contingencies) and rewards (cessation of shock or the less dastardly "token" of approval, pellet of food, protective box into which we learn to jump away from the electrified grid in the cage) for behavior to move in the desired direction – the pattern of subjection and subduction.
This describes the pattern of reward (and punishment) systems. They only concern control and are only effective when other contingencies are negated, hence, our obsession with "structured" environments. Subduction is the lesson learned that the exterior is a force of control and the interior is a predetermined path on which one must move right along with no option to step off – the desire to do so is seen as "counterintuitive". The object of the training regimen (regime) is to get the "subject" to step out of the interior and into the exterior and become him- or herself a controlling force. Hence, revolutionaries who liberate the people from tyranny inevitably become tyrants.
Learned hindrance at the center (ego-position) is required to maintain a state of learned helplessness (or "dependence") in the exterior (other-position). To say either is "learned" is to say we are connected and influenced by complex environmental contingencies which influence our behavior or (cognitive, emotional, even intuitive) response, or make this response more or less probable (predictable). These are contingencies of reinforcement, the total (gestalt) environmental matrix we are ensconced in. Hindrance attempts to reduce a muliplicity of attractors or possibilities to a singularity under control. The reward (or punishment) telescopically narrows the view of environmental contingencies. The locus of control expresses great utility only by focalizing the one toward the expectation of the other – all eyes thereafter are only adjusted to the equivalence of utility and politics to the point that the environment itself (the 'locus' of possibility) disappears right alongside aesthetics. We learn self control, self management, and graduate from the black box.
Learned helplessness is produced via non-contingent, unpredictable (random, from the organism’s perspective) PUNISHMENT. That’s why “any attempt at individual movement is a fruitless undertaking”.
Many of us know the effects of intermittent, unpredictable, non-contingent punishment. Yes, helplessness can be a cognitive (even if not consciously articulated) "assessment" or inductive generalization when the other's behavior shows no consistency, and is almost always aversively "loving", or ("both/and" is a better conjunction) hateful "for our own good"; when the generalization is based on a lack of perception of contingency, or a narrowed field of perception. But more than an assessment, isn't it a ritualized (patterned) response (or lack thereof)? Better yet, a pattern or schema for responding (or not), like using the same recipe for every meal – "Add no ingredients, do not stir, set to simmer, go to bed until sunrise". It may be that the assessment can only be made (actually, posited) by an other, by an observer. I can imagine, in fact, have experienced situations where acute helplessness is so severe, no assessment whatsoever is possible. The "helpless" response is more like an instinct, a lamarkean instinct only justified later (rationalised) when questioned.
I should think a scientific attitude would be helpful to avoid this predicament. Unfortunately, scientific thinking is often the first casualty of modern childrearing and in fact, patterned responses are rarely even perceived by the person engaged in them. (This is why I rank OCD on a continuum with catatonia). Or it might be that the response patterns only mimic the nature of the stimulus. An inconsistent stimulus field or a consistently punishing one (generalized catch 22) encourages (draws out) a set of like responses (a mimicking of the conditions of our environment). A lack of reinforcement causes rapid extinction of each response until it appears there is no response at all. Of course, a non-response might conserve energy, allowing a more appropriate action at a more opportune moment, it is more probably a breakdown wherein vast amounts of energy are expended ("nervous energy") when one runs head long into a set of circumstances (environment) to which it has not been “prepared”, by previous exposure (the learning environment) or natural selection (inviting the "instinctual response").
An unmanipulative or non-punishing environment (the utopian project wherein desires can be realized or at least go unimpeded) could use an approach from aesthetics, since "reward" and "punishment" are no longer seen appropriate, as they suggest a "punishing" or "rewarding" agent. Attraction, indifference and disgust are possible replacements which bring to mind the study of sense perception as well as the fight-flight scenario we share with all organisms. Aestheticians point out that sometimes we are highly attracted to what is disgusting, sometimes obsessively so. BDSM and macabre tales by Poe seem to prove this, and I think Freud's approach is more fruitful than the cartography of stimulus-response chains and attribute analyses. In both cases, we are dealing with the generation of hypotheses, not the elucidation of reality – empiricism would look to "reality" to agree or disagree with our hypotheses. Very often it seems experimental behaviorism tries to rule out the intuitive contributions (forgetting it was probably intuition which formulated the question in the first place), whereas, just as often, the latter may present so persuasive an argument that we lose the inclination to put it to the test, to ask the world for confirmation (if only in "disproving" the null hypothesis).
Here is where I have the central argument (or disappointment) with the literature on learned helplessness:
"Advocates of learned helplessness theory...assert that self-perceptions of ability to control one's social and physical environment are crucial to the maintenance of physical and psychological well-being. Any individual, regardless of age, exposed to uncontrollable circumstances will eventually learn that efforts to manipulate the environment are ineffective. This realization of non-contingency between personal response and environmental outcome leads to a learned state of 'helplessness'".
No doubt this is true enough, but I think only in the realm of task performance and goal-directed behavior. There is more to motivation than "manipulating the environment" for utilitarian ends. It's a statement from pure pragmatism. It's almost Marxian (there is no human behaviour but production!), or the economist's "all behavior is economically motivated pursuant to personal maximisation". Sure, there is manipulation in any creative act, but this language pretty much discredits art and play as "human" enterprises, and hides the fact that sometimes we just move along without any calculation or design. If we posit laws of behavior which are only applicable to the modern condition, then they are not laws, but elements of description – ethnographic data. Science needs to be able to see beyond its own cultural categories. This is not an impossible task: how often do we hear "the results of analysis were in a completely unexpected direction"?
In social psychology, our "ethnocentric" logic is translated into "all social relations represent some degree of variation of tit-for-tat exchange". There is more to social relations than presented by the exchange paradigm. That is merely our own set of contingencies (culture and history) poking through. In the same way, both anthropologists and other social and behavioral scientists have portrayed play as a child's way of learning to control the environment, "essential training to attain the necessary skills to grow into a productive member of society". This is probably a true statement (at least for lutherans), but it reflects more on the concept of "games", in fact, games designed by adults with this very function in mind. It does not consider the fact that without supervision, children predictably break or change the rules, and in fact, child-play is more a matter of exploration and experimentation and results in knowledge about the world more than methods to control it. Play fine-tunes responses, and a better metaphor than a course of instruction at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Institute might be the College of Applied Navigational Sciences. The art of sailing is the ability to transgress from prevailing winds.
Like exploration, anticipation of unlooked-for events or consequences can provide the joy (the aesthetic sense) of child-play, not the construction of a predictable and therefore useful universe over which one now gains "control". (Control does not elicit giggles except from maniacal fathers and Jesuit priests). That is the surest road to boredom and the end of the game, but child-play can indeed provide the iteration or rehearsal necessary so that the child can go on to explore something new. Aestheticists say it is the unusual, the unpredictable, the "interesting" which stimulates the aesthetic sense. It's also been said play is a self-reinforcing or "inherently rewarding" (this is "joy") part of the growing process that provides the young with procedural and semantic information that’s pivotal to living: "we evolve a 'taste' for things that contribute to our fitness", where "fitness" refers to that sense of "being at home". Only this gives one a sense of personal agency, where we are not at the whims of social/environmental forces, where the lesson learned is that there is consistency or "predictability" in the conditions of living. Such a system is likewise, self-motivating!
And we wonder why our lives are boring or seem to have lost meaning, that 'nothing interesting happens any more' once we stop playing and get down to serious business (we "settle down"). We as well wonder why rebellious or reactionary sentiments are so pervasive when learned helplessness has not set in. Obviously, the most of us vacillate between both patterns of response, and that is contingent on the particular context we find ourselves in. For the most part, helplessness delegates responsibility to others (conserving one's own energy or reinforcing one's lethargy), follows orders, mimics trends in the social environment, sails only with the prevailing winds, and duly submits to punishment at the first attraction to the unique or suggestion from the "imp of the perverse". Morality, democracy, tit-for-tat justice and exchange-economics supersede the aesthetic sense in the interest of conservation. In such a system, our children must be considered "naughty" or fail to "grow".
To sum up, the aesthetic relation brings personal choice back into the picture rather than "control". We have the option, seeing the lion up ahead on the path, of 1) doing nothing (and hope the lion didn't see us), 2) unobtrusively running away, 3) trying to make friends, or 4) grabbing a pointed stick and giving chase. Our life experiences or "knowledge" represents part of the contingencies which might influence our decision. The actual outcome of the situation is unpredictable, and contingencies surrounding the lion must also be weighed prior to the estimation of outcome (funny how estimation and esteem etymologically share the same root!). It may be that a friendly lion wandered off from a hollywood set, and option 3) would be appropriate. If the lion was threatening your child, very likely option 4) would be considered "correct". But most of our "decision-gates" are not matters of life and death. If we have a history of thwarted choices, then we are likely to feel helpless and pick 1) based purely on induction – we freeze. The hopeless might actually encourage the lion to take a bite. A history of thwarted choices might also truly be random, as in a bad streak of luck, so I can't really impose a "real" environmental punishment, hindrance or agency of constraint in operation. These are all contingencies of a history, an environment where these effects are known to happen. Induction is simply the recognition of environmental consistency. It is probably only unavailable to the "hopeless" or catatonic. They say resilient (to the effects of abuse) children experienced some locus of consistent support in their environment. Is that not also to say that some recognition of consistency beyond the abusive situation was reinforced?
It may sound just as silly when I say that "living" (as opposed to "survival") is not a matter of manipulation but of linguistic relation, of communication with the environment (the set of contingencies). But then, I don't restrict language to the economic transaction of 'information' for the purpose of increased efficiency of control. Rather, it establishes and maintains connections. Could it be that our ideas of manipulation are only a fetish in place of what is lacking in our relations, that it is, in fact, a replacement for relations which are lacking? Perhaps the feeling of helplessness necessarily arises because our objective itself of "mastering" the physical and social environment is an absurdity?
Poetry, play and science share the same quest – to coax the world into revealing itself. "Indulge me", we might say. The process of connecting dots is always more enjoyable than the simple exposed pattern on completion. The double entendre living in a line of poetry shares more possibilities than the literal reading of distinct ideas. In all three cases, what is revealed by the world is a sense of connection, a sense of belonging, a sense of being at home, that it is a place of consistency. That this is useful is only a side benefit. More importantly, it is a reinforcement to continue the conversation.
A particular reward or punishment is only known as such until after a response is witnessed – whether the response rate increases or decreases toward the stimulus – and its variability is a matter of probability, as is its prediction. On the other hand, there are intuitively reasonable punishers like electro-shock. I do remember fondly the buzz and thrill I got as a kid sticking my finger into a light socket, and the excruciating testicular pain at climbing over an electric fence. The difference was in the pulse. I've not since sought out light sockets (once was enough) but am not afraid of them either. I do stay quite clear of electric fences.
Much the same can be said of aesthetics. Aesthetics introduces a degree of subjective relativity, certainly also a function of complex contingencies, but not always apparent and rarely predictable (it's rare that one would even delve into these contingencies, but that is precisely where iconoclasts need to focus). As far as I can see, the aesthetic (point of interest) and stimulus are identical concepts. Is that a "duh!"? One might operationally define art appreciation or even orgasm by rate and strength of response and therefore infer a strong reinforcer – the big attractor. Unfortunately, the men in white labcoats promoting Kent filtered cigarettes and Crest toothpaste have associated this sort of language with dehumanization. Add to this the confusion between science and manipulative and destructive technologies and we see what has alienated so many from interest in science in the first place. I want to bring it back into the realm of play and adventure where it belongs.
That science often comes up with weird answers, that data is often used for nefarious projects, doesn't mean it's not still a good place to ask questions, that there are not some kindred spirits long dead who might be worthwhile to excavate, that it is not impossible to radically change without going back to the zeroness of a blank slate. If we can come up with nothing new, old dead guys might be able to help. Everything which has been said has not necessarily been tried, nor even adequately understood. There are some old ideas or approaches which might do well living in a spare parts drawer, awaiting reassembly in totally new configurations. The problem with destroying everything is that you end up with nothing, and every fucked up line of thinking and behaving is given a new start in the process since critique itself is flushed down the toilet.
There is always a danger, but despair is not always necessary, and it is possible to look at contingencies of reinforcement ("the environment") as actually helpful to creative projects, powerful aesthetic regions to explore instead of overwhelming forces of control and constraint. It is possible to look at the home base as a place where we return and repose and report (share) our findings and interpret or consume them in great feasts rather than a caged repository in which to rest up between chores and other dance routines. It is a place where mutual influence is celebrated and alienation is an unwelcome guest, chased off or thumped to protect growing children. It is the locus of community rather than the locus of control within the larger region or "set" of contingencies of reinforcement.
The fact is, I'm all for experimental science, but I think it can get beyond controlling and manipulating and especially, eliminating environmental influences and calling that success. I want to know what happens when the little furry guy escapes or when the animal liberation folks open all the doors to the live-vivisection lab. Particularly, I'm interested in how existing behavior patterns are shed or modified when going native or when society falls apart all around us or is taken down by revolution. We know quite a bit about how old patterns go dormant and reappear when conditions are favourable. Shit always returns when the plumbing stops up. Skeletons come back to life from entombed closets. "It must be so" is a statement from the book of learned helplessness. Must it? An outhouse contains no plumbing. When it fills, you simply dig a new hole and move the structure over it. I know that, on occasion, psychotherapy is helpful. Why couldn't applied culture-change share in this occasional experience of success? This is the study of applied transgression. This is the kind of revolution I'm interested in.
The great musical aestheticist, Brian Wilson, once said, "You pick a wave, and then it takes you". Maybe that was a different surfer. Maybe it was Geronimo!
Stupidity is a scar. It can stem from one of many activities – physical or mental – or from all. Every partial stupidity of a man denotes a spot where the play of stirring muscles was thwarted instead of encouraged. In the presence of the obstacle the futile repetition of disorganised, groping attempts is set in motion. A child’s ceaseless queries are always symptoms of a hidden pain, of a first question to which it found no answer and which it did not know how to frame appropriately. Its reiteration suggests the playful determination of a dog leaping repeatedly at the door it does not yet know how to open, and finally giving up if the catch is out of his reach.– Adorno and Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment.
In moving from experience of social life to conceptualization and intellectual history, I follow the path of anthropologists almost everywhere. Although we take theories into the field with us, these become relevant only if and when they illuminate social reality. Moreover, we tend to find very frequently that it is not a theorist’s whole system which so illuminates, but his scattered ideas, his flashes of insight taken out of systemic context and applied to scattered data. Such ideas have a virtue of their own and may generate new hypotheses. They even show how scattered facts may be systematically connected! Randomly distributed through some monstrous logical system, they resemble nourishing raisins in a cellular mass of inedible dough. The intuitions, not the tissue of logic connecting them, are what tend to survive in the field experience.– Victor Turner
We like the whale for its great breadth and length, but shudder at collective beachings. We do not envy the ant, as "constrained" as he is by his collective instincts. Even so, it has been observed that an ant will on occasion, visit the neighbors, even those of a different species or sub-species, and after a ritualised greeting consisting of the dropping of a morsel and some mutual rubbings of antennae, will the ant not only be welcomed with gifts of food, but adopted right into the tribe. He may lavish the queen-mother with gifts of aphid-honey. He may even join in on frenzied raids against his former mates and siblings. It is not known whether this was a disgruntled ant who transgressed or merely one who was attracted to and pursued novelty and therefore, did no transgression – this is, after all, the same behaviour by which any ant obtains food. In either case, it is a matter of ant aesthetics.
Humans seem to require the construction of great bodies of tabu in order to transgress against their upbringing, especially when exploration of novelty is itself hindered. It is almost as if we require a book of tabus before we can entertain the notion of transgression. While mass beachings are rare, mass murder is not. Unconstrained by instinct, nothing comes easy. My question is, if someone went to the trouble of recording possible transgressive behavior, whether ceremoniously inserted into iterated dances and rites or inscribed onto papyrus leaves and preserved for future generations of readers, shouldn't we presume that the reason for this effort was to ensure we remembered the possibility of changing our conditions when those very conditions take the trouble to communicate to us their desires for change?
When we ask ourselves about the source of vitality for those festivals which continue to be transmitted in some form, we cannot ignore the existence of an explicit social inclination toward the phenomenon of sacred transgression, no matter how watered down it may be.– Sinoda Minoru, Festival and Sacred Transgression
The sacred is the unknown land, the land of chaos and transgressions and new starts. Its ritual celebration, the frenzied feast or festival, is a surreal landscape whose great secret lies in the scattered intuitions that there are no secrets required to unlock sacred gates. One merely steps through. Most importantly, it is not a place of worship or other prostrations and flagellation. Better words than "worship" and "thanksgiving" would be "awe" and "relief". It is not thanks which are distributed in great feasts, and there is no asking or signing of petitions – a prayer is a reply to nothing and nothing is the appropriate reply to a demand. The experience of relief is felt when we realise transgressing the gate into and out of the liminal interregnum did not annihilate us, yet we are changed and renewed.
It is the same with all explorations – all dérives. Some old women still know to bring flowers when they pop in for a visit and some young men visited upon do not present a white flag, but offer tea and biscuits. It is not a counter-attack but a mutual rubbing of antennae. Rituals which interfere with rituals are anti-rituals – détournements. Such transgressions are the fuel for evolution, whereby the different becomes the normal and in the process more difference is created. The ritual dance of rioters and riot police is always merely the public acknowledgment of a rigid and perpetual struggle between opposites, perpetuating the logic of both sides, ensuring no change is forthcoming – the antinomy or paradoxical result of all dances wherein the antennae must never touch. Transgression or surrender are all that can be learnt from books of rules, codebooks and proselytizations from rigid systems of logic. Maps are of little use to authentic explorers (unless, of course, one is an explorer of maps), only a sharp nose and anxious antennae. Only transgression ends pussyfooting dances and explodes jammed doors.
It should be obvious, I'm not suggesting rubbing noses with riot cops (although that might be shockingly transgressive to all involved, it would be an extremely dangerous undertaking!) but viewing the aesthetic as total sensory attention, follow-through and not only pursuit but renewal of that which smells sweet. Only the aesthetic prevents total annihilation, transgression for transgression's sake (a meaningless iteration which soon loses all sense of transgression), the continuing war of all against all, the single-minded pursuit of total consumption and self-sacrificial destruction, in other words, the existing context of the state.
It may well be true that everything produced or co-opted by the culture of capital is corrupted, and this in fact informs its cultural codes, 'capital' only perceives itself through these codes and is therefore blinded to a vast array of behavior which, although is situated within its context, nevertheless has its own history quite beyond any consciousness but the poetic. Archetypes (or symbols) residing within archaic rituals are memories waiting to be revealed as well as new starting points from which to wander: "nourishing raisins in a cellular mass of inedible dough". The rituals preserve them, but the rite itself is all that's visible and always, therefore, considered by superficial analysis isolated, secondary and meaningless. The symbols (images, dance forms, incantations, offerings – you might notice, these are all behaviors) contained in rituals are less representations than reminders of environmental or physiological phenomena and processes which arouse desires and feelings (Turner). This arousal, the aesthetic sense, is not restricted to time or sequence. It applies equally to the past (memory) and the future (possibility). Rituals can change when their meaning is exposed (that is, when an "innocuous" behavior can be "re-cognized" and generalized to a larger context). They are co-opted when their meaning is lost, which is also to say when we cease attention, analysis and critique. The loss of aesthetics is the end of exploration. Transgression becomes impossible, as the senseless one is even less likely to read the tome of tabus as a book of secret recipes – that would be the aesthetic of crime.
Brings comfort and improvement and tends to personal enjoyment when rightly used. The many, who live better than others and enjoy life more, with less expenditure, by more pro-raptly adapting the world's best products to the needs of physical being, will attest the value to health of the pure liquid laxative principles embraced in the remedy, Syrup of Figs.
Its excellence is due to its presenting in the form most acceptable and pleasant to the taste, the refreshing and truly beneficial properties of a perfect laxative; effectually cleansing the system, dispelling colds, headaches and fevers and permanently curing constipation. It has given satisfaction to millions and met with the approval of the medical profession, because it acts on the Kidneys, Liver and Bowels without weakening them and it is perfectly free from every objectionable substance.
Syrup of Figs is for sale by all druggists in 50¢ and $1 bottles, but it is manufactured by the California Fig Syrup Co. only, whose name is printed on every package, also the name, Syrup of Figs, and being well informed, you will not accept any substitution if offered.
(google add, ca. 1880's)
There is a continuity from Old pre-industrial England to the Appalachian Mountains connecting French Accadians in Nova Scotia to the Mississippi Delta which was in local strength 'til interstate highways, quick-stop speedy-marts and coal mines ploughed through the country-side culminating in the mid twentieth century, but had, previously, already infected every Old West colonial settlement prior to the invasion by the U.S. Calvary and Christian Temperance Leagues using their wars of extermination as a cover-story for keeping an eye on the settlers: the proletarianisation of the peasantry.
The dilettante virus is down but has yet to be beaten. Traditionally re-emerging (if only subclinically) in rural areas, it has recently been seen cropping up in urban centers. This may or may not be a function of job precarity in today's employment market. Gypsies must be expelled from France because of the great wisdom displayed by a single standard curse. The message, "Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it!", is becoming an even greater source of embarrassment for busy bureaucrats. There is also the matter of "kidnapping": with the demise of the wayfaring circus, Gypsies are among the few remaining traveling troupes who embrace orphans and run-aways.
Prior to invasion by wealthy Texans from Kentucky, New Mexicans had enjoyed a one hundred year peace with Puebloan Indians and traveled easily among the Commanche (to St. Louis or New Orleans, and there and back again), just as the Hillbilly had found resonance with the Cherokee carrying on between Carolina and Tennesse and outlying regions.
My Hillbilly ancestors had read scripture as a means of divination – the random sample – rarely front to back or beginning to end. That would be an absurd project best left to obsessive-compulsive souls out to accumulate others' bodies with their preaching. Preachers were tolerated, but should one need an expert opinion, best search out an old granny, where the descriptor "old" is not found by virtue of any age or parentage. Some Grannies were just plum born differ'nt. Regularity is not abandoned (hence, the continued use of laxatives), as individual passages or their derived hymns can be utilised through their proper recitation to precisely time an event such as the boiling of an egg. The chief use of the bible was in teaching children, not a set of ideological truths, so much as literacy itself, as every word usefully deemed is found generally there-in.
Not in the least amateur astronomers, they knew full well the importance of gravity: "Should your bacon curl in the frying, you've butchered the pig on the wrong side of the moon"! There is a time and there is a season, and you can set your watch by it, a watch being merely an observance. Miracles, of course, only come in random distribution and therefore, only come as a surprise. "Land a'goshin'!"
The King James version illustrated to later explorers, not an ideological resonance so much as a linguistic pattern more closely shared with a pre-industrialised English than her own lineal descendants. Sometimes it's not what you read but how you come to read it. King James was certainly no fan of popular eclecticism! In England proper, Muggleton himself was imprisoned for blasphemy over a wrong reading just as New Englanders were still being burned as witches for "improper" usage.
Magic: Got a question? Open the book to a random page and point, eyes closed, to a passage. Works better than the I Ching, as that book had anticipated your question before you even asked it. The bible was written and re-written (at every change of regime) without you in mind at all (unless you took it literally and read it lineally, and then, watch out!), and that makes it a better random answer generator with surprisingly meaningful rejoinders. English Muggletonians approached it differently: as literary poetry, comparing subjective interpretations rather than extracting absolutes. Two equally punishable variations on the theme of Swerve – the juxtaposition of poetry and magic also known as "free association".
The important thing of the Muggletonean Meeting, like the Hillbilly "Shindig", was not the Bible, which itself becomes a fetish by virtue of religious, political association, but the tobacco, wine, beer, feast, discussion and song: communion. The day-long event itself was an occasion. The Tiqqunish insistence on the political essence of any party (which is to say, the potential imbedded therein for mutual antagonism) completely misses the point, annihilating for all true believers the possibility of festivity as a general principle for any economy, an idea the Committee's Lettriste grandfathers had at least incorporated into the title of their own journal: Potlatch. That is a practice older than time itself.
Alienation: An ex-communication. The process of becoming other, as in transferable property; damnation, fallen from grace (see gratis 'gift', 'free'). Taken to an absurd level (or extending the logic),...the focus on alienation is meaningless. Everyone privy to the discussion is a member of the avant garde, transcendant beings. This assessment would not vary should every man Jack on the planet hear the word. It is a most preposterous idea when alienation is juxtaposed to ideas like "the people" or "the masses". These always refer to "everyone else, not me". This is the very definition of the avant garde: those immune to the effects they criticize. It is in fact, this special immunity which is posited the source of consciousness itself. Consciousness establishes privilege: the tautology of "me" and the necessity of one's certainty about it. God's first words were "I am", and was so surprised, he disappeared in a flash, just from the absurdity of it.
The greatest quality of alienation is that nothing can be taken personally. It is represented by Douglas Adam's "SEP field" (somebody else's problem) generating either invisibility or altruistic meddling in "everyone else's" affairs, always "for the greater good". When you take a good look around, it becomes clear that nobody is alienated. Just ask them. Take a poll. Aliens are grey, lizzard-shaped and come from outer space to take our jobs.
What could make things more personal? Precision and clarity. Narrow the definition. Means of production: We don't own our tools. That's something everyone can agree upon. Ends of production: Somebody else profits from our own efforts, and quite at our own expense. As long as the topic centers on means and ends concerning material objects and objective materials, the separated ego is maintained right alongside productive development, precisely and clearly, by virtue of it's comparative value set next to any other material object. Just another natural resource, a lump of coal to fuel the fire. You can set your watch by that too!
The labourers have the most enormous power in their hands, and, if they once became thoroughly conscious of it and used it, nothing would withstand them; they would only have to stop labour, regard the product of labour as theirs, and enjoy it. This is the sense of the labour disturbances which show themselves here and there.
The state rests on the slavery of labour. If labour becomes free, the state is lost.
...Revolution and insurrection must not be looked upon as synonymous
...The Revolution aims at new arrangements; insurrection leads us no longer to let ourselves be arranged, but to arrange ourselves, and sets no glittering hopes on "institutions." It is not a fight against the establishment, since, if it prospers, the establishment collapses of itself; it is only a working forth of me out of the established. If I leave the established, it is dead and passes into decay.– Max Stirner
Any revolution against alienation only enhances it. Revolution is no less productive than any war against any alien other. Between states or within them (class struggle), it's the same game. If evolution does not proceed at the desired rate (Marx' "march of history"), revolution puts development back on pace. Development of the means of production is just a euphemism for a process accelerating and intensifying alienation, always mistook for "personal growth". Social actualisation is only the artificial smile on identically-clad synchronized swimmers. F'ing Utopia!
The extension of reason must produce either truisms, which can therefore be dismissed as an expression of naiveté, or a double bind, which is preferable, as no one wishes to appear the bumpkin, not in the least, one from the country. The double bind generates dialectics, not the other way around as we've been trained to presume: Life imitates art.
Before Marx and Engels helped appropriate the diverse communist movement and narrowed down its apocalyptic principles, showing the christian varieties superfluous and inconsequential, which is to say, immaterial, and the direct action faction as emmisaries of Satan, Wilhelm Weitling had introduced us to generalised alienation as the self-activity of the labour force. Self-alienation ensures that even the draft (conscription) produces an all volunteer army. Few resisters critique the very notion of an army, particularly of labour. The gripe concerns their rank or position in it, the deferral is to the SEP field. Such dissent fuels the democratic process. All is well.
Weitling and Bakunin equally understood the necessity of employing "sociopaths" on the front lines of any engagement. Bakunin had his Nechayev, Lenin his Stalin, the FBI, its standing army of skin-head punks, Capital Records its hip-hop, pimping thugs. Even among such groups, there is a danger of entrepreneurial activity, where the hired gun becomes a risk to the proprietor.
"Whilst I behold such execrable shapes, Methinks I grow like what I contemplate."-- P. Shelly, Prometheus Unbound
The gut reaction, should the idea of a generalised alienation be endorsed as having psychological as well as mere socio-material implications & entanglements, is 1) despair or despondency; 2) a reactionary "acting out"; 3) Delusional disengagement (subverting reality itself through pure fantasy narrative – to wit: Angelian and Masonic Conspiracies, Immigrant labour out to rape your sister, etc.); 4) acquiescence; 5) all of the above.
So a hex, even, upon gut logic. Screw it, else the alienated ego become the only thing we have left. Our "last right" (pun intended). To sabotage this property is certain death. Whatever the water's depth, DON'T LET GO THE ROCK! Fear is the most seductive weapon in the arsenal of any prison guard, inviting one and all to thievery. The delusional paranoid is the most coherent revolutionary, expropriating that weapon and turning it into a personal auto-erotic prosthesis: the self-fulfilling prophesy.
It seems a bleak picture, until one observes that alienation can only follow the originary refusal to refuse set alongside generalised systems of punishment we grow to resemble. Am I too reductive? Add then the loss of interest which is the aesthetic sense essential to any community, not to be confused with any political sensibility. Superfluous now means "It's just not necessary!" Since when did they change the definition of superflourishing flux to disposable waste? Am I going too far? Grandpa used to say "Ah cain't win fer losin'!" Such a binding, he was obviously in need of a nip from granny's fig syrup.
But a no-win scenario only applies to contestants in a game. The avalanche concerns no one if there isn't a ski resort or freight train in its path. In a dialectical universe (the game world), there are only quitters and losers. As the machine with its finger on the button advised the gamesters in the movie War Games, sometimes the only winning move is not to play the game at all.
1. In the documentary 'world at war' one participant in the D-Day landings said something like, 'and men messed their trousers, that was something I hadn't seen before.' It is also something we don't hear much about but with the smell of some dead animal in my nostrils I thought about what it must have been like in the trenches to have all senses continuously assaulted. Alienation in such situations takes the form of a very individualised abject cowering, 'why me? what is this to do with me? what is going on? I want my mother.' Even though hundreds of thousands are all saying and feeling the same thing, there is absolutely no means to broach the subject. 2. On the USSR; at the time it was thought the USSR was strong. Therefore the world was organised in two halves as two apparent separate systems... this in itself created the conditions where it became possible to think of other organisational principles. Where there is now only one system all proposals for change stumble on the fact of the totalised, uniform nature of our reality. 3. A brief bit of theory: just as fetishism is an aspect of all human intercourse and only really becomes a problem as commodity fetishism so a basic level of alienation is necessary to any human activity that separates itself from the animal and only really becomes problematic in conditions of total immersal. In SoTS, alienation is translated as separation and I think maybe that is a better word. Because it describes somewhat both the process of splitting and sets up the conditions for an investigation into what is integrated of the individual and into what and what is excluded, left behind. 4. Alienation is integration. In the past we have understood alienation to mean the exclusion of our individual interest from our forced activity... there is something of us which is vital to us but which is excluded from most of our activities in our day. This sense of alienation has something to do with time, we can perceive how there is a process and an outcome and how we are travelling through this process to the outcome but the outcome is not ours and the process is forced upon us. This is no longer totally adequate because we now live in a circumstance where we do not 'mess' ourselves in the face of an incomprehensible process... on the contrary, we have become dependent and happy. Now we are so alienated that we cannot see that we are alienated, we cannot conceive of any alternative to where we are. Therefore alienation now occurs as its opposite, as a question of integration or subsumption. 5. Even if the concept of alienation is maintained throughout Marx's work, its meaning changes radically on the above terms. Where first capitalism appears as an affront to the alienated essence of humanity later the capitalist relation merely alienates humanity from its objective technological development which has reached thus far and must be pushed further. 6. In other words the question of alienation is always reducible to: what is it that I belong to and what is it that I ought to belong to? In this way we transform the question Marx sets in terms of productive activity back into terms of relationships."Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?"– Lenin & M'carthy
Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have in two ways affirmed himself and the other person. 1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and therefore enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also when looking at the object I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses and hence a power beyond all doubt. 2) In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature. ... Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature.? [Comment on James Mill]
"None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free...
There is nothing more odious than the majority. It consists of a few powerful men who lead the way; of accommodating rascals & submissive weaklings; of a mass of men who trot after them without in the least knowing their own minds."– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Notes:  Poly, of course, is many or multiple. The vagus nerve is a trunk with many branches which all back-boned animals (vertebrates) have connecting the "reptile" part of the brain with digestion, face muscles, (gills in fish) heart, stomach (gastric system), involved with "wink muscles", and less directly, tears and pupil dilation. The main thing is the lungs and heart distributing oxygen everywhere. The theory is that there is a secondary trunk-line intertwined which is the new addition in mammals. The two must sing in harmony or we get all fucked up. If there are dissonant notes, the mammal part takes over (provisionally comes to the foreground). If the mammal gets into trouble (like shock), the "reptile" part takes over, unaware that it is not a fish or frog. Sometimes the lines get crossed. A mammal needs not only more oxygen than lizzards, its rhythm and metering has to be able to be modulated for every shift in movement. This is why a turtle can't win a foot race against Achilles and a jumping frog basically has one speed and the accelerated, meandering wanderings of chased rabits are unpredictable, though not tactless: they tack like a sailing ship outmaneuvering a stormy sea.
I probably wouldn't even have been interested except I made a connection between vagal and vague and then discovered the place they meet in the brain is called the locus ambiguous, the place of vagueness (or is that vagaries?). Racing to the etymology dictionary, I found an actual historical relation which led me to vaginas and eventually to the pirate god, baal (also vulva, revolution, ballerina, etc.). So there is a sort of method in my madness.
The polyvagal theory (of Stephen Porges) says emotions are an epiphenomena or harmonic played out in a nervous dance. Porges used it to explain voodoo magic, another personal interest of mine. That's when I started reading Darwin's early work on expression and he agreed with my hunch, that expressions can be faked, but not very well. You can't have the one without the other. This is why character actors are always more impressive than method actors and child actors seem to have more talent than after they've been through adolescent education.
Which all led me to this contradictory point or cross-purpose (chiasma): What fat fuck decided to call the blossoming of children "child development"? Development literally means 'unprotected' and 'de-valued', ie, 'deflated', 'de-balled', 'castrated'!!! Like the way a tulip feels when someone comes sneeking in the night, while it is enveloped within itself, and pulls off all the pretty petals to determine if his true love loves him back. Just like rural development is the bulldozing of the landscape to erect shimmering monuments for public work. Then I found out the difference between -tion and -ment. The first relates to a natural process, the second to an incited or intended infliction. A monument is a man-made mountain. A moment is an artificial peak in time (aka, money) to measure work. At minimum wage, there are 12.5 cents every moment. There is a centurian in command of every unit of metrical feet travelling at a rate of one hundred per pace with a countinance of grave purpose. A motion is a natural movement. Evolution: Roll out. Emotion: moving outward (aka, expression). Both are matters of free distribution as opposed to the payments of tributes. Today, all tribal organisations are taxed. Impression sticks in the mind, necessary if you think memory is important. So out with the Id! It's monumental suppression produces invalids in tightly sealed envelopes. If we wanted to say "push the envelope" or "out of the envelopment", the more appropriate word would be evelop or express. Expression pre-vents the proliferation of pus.
Of course, etymology has its risks. Political probably does not break down to 'poly + tickle'. Although... Sokolov is a contemporary biologist(?) I'd not heard of but who Porges (also new to me) cites often. He's important in this context because he talks about orientation, engagement & dis-engagement rather than the old standard: "all choices boil down to fight or flight". I think that's disgusting, and makes Freud's sexual-energy reductionism, were it the only other option, much more attractive. I'm no peacenik, but I can think of at least two other things we do besides fighting and running away!
Porges is cool mostly because he agrees with me on the notions of emotions: it's not just "in the head", but a multidirectional, multidimensional communication between the little guys inside and points of interest on the outside. It at least mechanically connects the environment to sensation and perception in terms of mutuality and movement. I think it's "common-sensical", tends to point to the bullshit of "normal" thinking on the matter, and it illustrates the "fleeting" and "provisional" qualities of so-called "mental states" accompanying (or preventing) our other behaviour, engaging with the landscape. It allows for self-correcting systems but does not discount the likelihood of "error" and its upkeep.
It's the opposite of reductionism, but unfortunately, not taken far enough. No scientist seems to want to discuss the notion of aesthetics outside of "dead" cybernetic relations. Even though their ideas of "progress" entail the eventual "transcendence" from "ugliness" through rational and material "perfection", use those terms and most will call bullshit, often a convenient rationalisation to deny internal contradiction or undesirable assumptions. With no uncertain terms, few today seem at all concerned with beauty, not to mention adventure & fun. Beauty is a well-oiled machine and fun is its production. The monopoly of appearances (or is that the appearance of monopolies?) covers everything else in shit. Wow! Asleep already before the second paragraph? I may need to change something. I say "drawing on", referring to the 'subliminal' tradition (still taught to five year-olds!) laid down since the middle ages (and probably earlier) by the likes of Hobbes ("Nasty, Brutish & Short"), Machiavelli ("The Prince: medieval groundwork for the necessity of ruthless dictatorships", aka fascism), Herbert Spencer ("Survival of the Fittest"), and good old Charlie Darwin who, besides Origin of Species, wrote On Expression of the Emotions in Man & Animals.
These cats laid the foundations for "modern thinking" on the fundamental ugliness and single-minded meanness of life, the universe & everything (Darwin slightly less so). God or no god, good christians as well as modern nihilists are trained from an early age to hate the world (fight and flight are themselves reduced to the perception that the external environment overwhelmingly elicits expressions of anger or fear in a highly persuasive circular argument), all competing for ringside seats at the upcoming Grateful (to be) Dead show. The more liberal-minded think we can purify our shit with enough stirring or shaking it, shaping and erasing it; under the rug or under the bridge with it, down the toilette or the bathroom sink. Ever searching for hereditary factors responsible for the expressions of the yet to be discovered "gene" for each specified (hostile or defensive, if not sympathetic) reaction to each specific stimulus (an originary reflex), Darwin tells uswe are led to believe that man has retained through inheritance a relic of them [involuntary and voluntary actions associated with emotions], now become useless.
As is the way of all media dissemination (losing bits in the fray), by the time Darwin's voice makes it to colloquial ears, one would think "Sympathy" an almost secondary epiphenomenon to enable "higher" species to reproduce – mating can thus be reduced to the hunt and victory over potential rivals. How very nineteenth century. Pleasure is now reduced to the avoidance of pain or irritation; concern to vigilance; surprise to fear or antithetical relief; and all "desire for movement of some kind" is reduced to an "uncontrollable" necessity to discharge energy, "owing to nerve-force being freely liberated from the excited sensorium".The contraction of the iris, when the retina is stimulated by a bright light, is another instance of a movement, which it appears cannot possibly have been at first voluntarily performed and then fixed by habit; for the iris is not known to be under the conscious control of the will in any animal. In such cases some explanation, quite distinct from habit, will have to be discovered. The radiation of nerve-force from strongly-excited nerve-cells to other connected cells, as in the case of a bright light on the retina causing a sneeze, may perhaps aid us in understanding how some reflex actions originated. A radiation of nerve-force of this kind, if it caused a movement tending to lessen the primary irritation, as in the case of the contraction of the iris preventing too much light from falling on the retina, might afterwards have been taken advantage of and modified for this special purpose.
Obviously, there is much conversation going on between our little guys and the rest of the world which isn't even audible to those gray dudes and dudettes in the brainpan. Like, they're talking behind our back, and doing so quite eloquently at that. I think Iris might just get a little pissy hearing she has no personal agency. Old Mr. Gray Matter. Executive function? Delusion of grandeur! This is not to suggest consciousness is not helpful, it is just an additional voice in the choir. And surely if not our own, we can consciously induce the dilation of another's pupils with a certain look, with seductive displays in an undimly lit room, no? What is seduction but an invitation to take notice? And we can certainly resist such temptation should we have a different aesthetic sensibility, a matter of differential culturally-acquired habits. When the snake rattles his tail, is he making a hostile threat? Or has he merely hung out the "Occupied" sign on the door of his rest room? When Darwin saw his dog role on his back exposing his vulnerable underside, he thought it more obvious than any amount of words, the dog was announcing "Behold! I am your slave". Might it have been "Hey baby. Wanna boogie"? One must be open to seduction, and I have certainly imagined being seduced when no intention there-to was proffered by the other. Does the pupil not also dilate when we are "blind-sided" by a head-turner coming from the fringes of our attention? When the hairs stand erect on the back of my neck, am I angry, afraid, or just in need of modulating heat-loss by increasing surface area provided by goose-bumps and contracted muscles while I ponder the right moment to make my move? Do light, heat and love belong in the same bag, or are we just talking about a polysymphony played out in the interregnum encompassing one and an other?
If the "hidden third" is a synergetic symbiosis bringing whole bodies to alertly receptive status, receptive of gifts more than wary of risks, why wouldn't the iris contract, the mouth drool, and the heart race in an ecstatic three part harmony doubled to six when the "feeling" is mutual? The sparks fly! If this is all just a matter of "diversified, often circuitous, and sometimes mistaken associations", why do we seek them out so readily and find them so pleasurably, even if vicariously, as if to be played with is not less interesting than to play alone? Or fight? What is necessary in one instance – for example, adjustment to light – is nevertheless retained and reappears in the darnedest situations. This is symbolism, the "unnecessary" polyvagal expression, where significance is found only within polynomial fields over a landscape of ambiguity. The feeling, which is composed of reflexive instinct, sense and assessment is a dance of simultaneity, and cannot be dissected in time or space, except in the sense of identifying the dancers, whose pantomimic intensity requires and expresses variably large or small doses of shimmering gasses, juices flowing, building or letting off steam, presenting the caricature as well as subtlety, now matched only in dream since it's considered by most disgracefully obscene.: Abramson, Seligman and Teasdale, Learned Helplessness in Humans: Critique and Reformulation Journal of Abnormal Psychology: 1978, Vol. 87, No. 1, 49-74. Personally, I think the "identification", mapping and charting of interacting attributes this line of thinking too often represents is a good example of a set of contingencies reinforcing the persistence of an obsessive-compulsive behavior pattern which can incline the investigator to lose sight of the theoretical goals of the research – namely, the reduction (unlearning) of learned helplessness in the population. Like so much research in experimental behaviorism, we see experimentation for the sake of experimentation, ordering for the sake of ordering, just another means to earn the daily bread, just another dance for food. "Proper" science says "we should not be too hasty in jumping to conclusions about our data" and that is good advice, but unfortunately, the task of interpretation is usually relegated to some future scientist.
And as the anthropologists who followed Franz Boas, an early champion of this sentiment, found out, these "future scientists" became stripped of their rights to call themselves "scientist" when they drifted from the rigid interpretation of this dictum. (To this day, the argument as to with whom one might affiliate persists, and in many colleges and universities, Anthropology is subsumed under the division of arts and humanities, losing any "credibility" with the other so-called "social sciences" – how often do "real" scientists seek advice from artists, poets and philosophers?). That "pure science" is only found in the collection and ordering of data not only insures that science as a means of changing (or even informing changes in) the conditions of existence ("for the better") is an absurdity, the chance for cooptation by the unscrupulous is enhanced exponentially. There is no threat to the bureaucratic arrangement within academia, no threat that a bigger picture might be exposed, no threat to traditional or colloquial thinking, no threat of change to any social "reality". Communication itself disappears under the name of "multidisciplinary studies" with democratic notions of truth (truth by consensus), proposing projects to be funded by granting institutions who only see utilitarian value (potential growth of capital) operating in the universe. Alienation and separation, that is, estrangement, continue to fuel the factory's assembly line distributing helplessness to one and all in the name of "social progress".: The insult here refers to the perspective of a genetically derived and mathematically generated language/meaning system functioning as symbolic representation of pre-articulated objective nature, and simple relations of force, manipulation and constraint operating therein. Chomsky helped generate quite a disturbance over Skinner's behaviorism at the theoretical level. His own analysis of verbal behavior relies on the much more tolerated existence of a genetically controlled homunculus in the brain – "generative transformational grammar" whereby the mathematical description of verbal behavior becomes it's own author: Noam Chomsky, A Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior. Skinner's re-iteration: B. F. Skinner, The Evolution of Verbal Behavior. : I'm coming from a perspective which sees dialectic effects as oppositional and contradictory, containing a conflict in need of resolution. I would say, instead of dialectical, the push and pull is a singularity exhibiting "polar" qualities when seen from different vantage points. An example would be in judo: when the attacker pushes, the defender pulls, and vice verse. With two equally trained/experienced "fighters", the struggle takes on the appearance of a dance. In other words, opposition (the "disconnected" dichotomy) produces friction where polarity insinuates flow or mutuality, where the stimulus and response are mutually contingent (a feedback loop) and posing a unilinear causative sequence is just another chicken and egg argument. : François Rabelais, Five Books of the Lives, Heroic Deeds and Sayings of Gargantua and His Son Pantagruel. Rabelais is the namesake for such phrases as "rabble-rouser", and of course, coined the term, "Gargantuan". The entendre of the central theme of these volumes might imply a "dialectic" between the deity, Panurge (total work) and the hero, Pantagruel (total food, great appetite), as a Homeric epic, as the official prelude for such as James Joyce and Raul Vaneigam (but slightly more radical). : B. F. Skinner, Some Thoughts About The Future, Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. 1986, 45, 229-235 Number 2 (March) : Gottfried Heuer, The Devil Underneath the Couch: The Secret Story of Jung’s Twin Brother. : I was going to title this, B.F. Skinner: Poet or Satan? Two theorists useful to MIT (the Military Industrial Technocracy) but the piece I started to write sort of got away from me, and I went with it. The nephew I was thinking of was Freud's sister, Anna's, son, Edward L. Bernays, hired to "mould" public opinion to be more favourable to entry into WWI. He is said to be responsible for the creation of the Rockefeller Foundation as a source of "philanthropic" medical research to overcome the terrible national press John D. got after manipulating a contingent (pun not intended) of marines to open fire (including cannon fire) on the encampment (wives and children) of striking miners in Montana. I've heard it said he coined the term, "Public Relations Industry". There is some compression of Bernays and Ivy L. Lee for these honors. I think Lee and Bernays were sort of like Darwin and Wallace. Wikipedia says of Bernays:Combining the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, Bernays was one of the first to attempt to manipulate public opinion using the subconscious.Skinner's own predecessor, John B. Watson, the so-called "Father of American Behaviorism", also delved into advertising, applying Pavlovian techniques of classical ("simple" might be a better term) stimulus-response conditioning and "associationist" learning theory. : Mustapha Khayati, Captive Words: Preface to a Situationist Dictionary : With a perspective from the biology of "growth", Maslow gave us the possibility to refute Marx and Morgan and Freud's idea that the essential difference between the civilised and uncivilised is that "savages" are "child-like" (arrested in development): in fact, they are the adult who, as a child, was allowed to self-actualise. Margarette Mead pretty much confirmed/reinforced this in her ethnographic studies of "primitive" child-rearing. We must infer that other contingencies than "human nature" or "nature" itself – the "progressive laws" of evolution – are responsible for the development of centralised states and economies bent on control, exploitation, destruction and alienation of both the "environment" and the "civilian". Evolution is not progressive, and "progressives" would not deem exploitation and alienation as indexes of progress. They call it "barbarity"! : Perhaps the most dire response-pattern is not the hopeless catatonic (diagnosed as a "major depressive episode"), who cannot even summon the wherewithal to self-annihilate, but the development of self-isolating schema when early attempts at authentic social relations have been reinforced to such a low (or punished to such a high) extent that all forthcoming social behavior only exacerbates one's own alienation or alienation of others, and encourages one's self-assessment itself a total set of contradictions. Reich's "characterological armour" becomes indispensable. It is always the best mask which wins the beauty contest. Alternately, masochism is relabeled "self-empowerment". (see Deleuze, The Dogon Egg and the Distribution of Intensities).
He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the 'herd instinct' that Trotter had described.
If there are also "genetic" contingencies involved in the various diagnosed "disorders", it still takes an alienating environment, an external order of "non-contingent punishment", to actualize them. While in no way trying to minimize the effects of childhood or adult "trauma", it is the consistence of inconsistency and unpredictability in the social matrix which produces the inhibition of the ontogenetic process, the growth of the organism, self-actualisation; a fecundity of the entire spectrum of pathology which reproduces the complex but barbarous relation we mislabel "social".: Tietleman & Priddy, Helplessness, Pseudohelplessness and Psychotherapy. Paper presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (38th, New Orleans, LA, November 22-26, 1985) – my emphasis. : Of course, there are situations where this is an entirely appropriate response, as it gives us time to observe and assess the situation. It is the origin of "informed consent". For example, on passing through the high forest and looking down upon the glade, my "guide" stopped me and said, "See that stump that looks like a bear? Let's wait for ten minutes and see if it moves. If it doesn't move in that time, it's probably not a bear that looks like a stump and it will be safe to go down". : di- [< Gk dia "double", "half", "across"] dis-[< Latin "apart", "undue"]
in- [< Latin "not" < "in, into, toward, within"]
sect [14th century. Via French < Latin secta "school of thought" < sequi "follow"]
secret [14th century. Via French < Latin secretus "separate, hidden" < secernere "separate apart" < cernere "to separate"]
-sect [< Latin sectus , past participle of secare "cut"]  peasantry: [from L. pæ-, pay 'land]'; otherwise known as "Earthlings".  see Gushing, 'pouring, flowing, overflowing, spouting, torrential, spurting effusive, voluble, enthusiastic'. Superflourishing rather than superfluous. Antonym: trickle  Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle  A stand Marx appropriated from Max Stirner, but could never acknowledge as St. Max had never been a "member" so could not, thereby, be excluded. One must ridicule what one cannot ignore from any apparently separate system, lest there be any other's perception of an association. I think Freud had something to say about such a defence of the ego-position.