Today i went into the cinema Cinerama and watched Dune. I’m a bit unsure of what i feel about this movie. The beginning is a bit bombastic, well, up to halfway really. But it is all in the books, which i have read like ten times ever since i first bought them when i was like fifteen years old. So i’m happy i did see this movie, bombast be damned. Curious about the follow-up for sure.
I also enjoyed sitting in the cinema. It was quiet, i went to the 13:00 showing. There were like ten people sitting in there. When i left there was a short queue at the counter, but of course i don’t know what movie those people were going to.
When i was outside for a short time i felt like i was watching another movie. The movie of Rotterdam, in September 2021, with a bit of sunshine and clouds mixed up and quite a few people. Lovely!
i’m not lonely
sleeping all alone
you think i’m scared
but i’m a big girl
i don’t cry or anything
i have a great
big bed to roll around
in and lots of space
and i don’t dream
bad dreams like i used
to have that you
were leaving me
now that you’re gone
i don’t dream
and no matter
what you think
i’m not lonely
Naked and Afraid
By Martha Nussbaum
By Martha Nussbaum, from The Monarchy of Fear, which was published last month by Simon and Schuster. Nussbaum is a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago and the author of more than twenty books. Source
You are lying on your back in the dark. You see, you hear, you feel, but you can’t act. You are completely, simply, helpless.
This is the stuff of nightmares. Most of us have nightmares of helplessness, in which we feel a terrible fear of inescapable demons pursuing us—and perhaps an even greater fear of our own powerlessness. But this horror story is also the condition of every human baby. Calves, foals, chicks, puppies, baby elephants and dolphins—almost all other animals learn to move very quickly, more or less right after birth. Only human beings remain helpless for years, and only we survive that helpless condition. As Lucretius, the Roman poet of the first century bc, wrote,
the baby, like a sailor cast forth from the fierce waves, lies naked on the ground, unable to speak, in need of every sort of help to stay alive, when first nature casts it forth with birth contractions from its mother’s womb into the shores of light. And it fills the whole place with mournful weeping, as is fitting for one to whom such trouble remains in life.
Politics begins where we begin. Most political philosophers have been male, and even if they had children they did not typically spend time with them or observe them closely. Lucretius’ poetic imagination led him to places where his life probably did not. But philosophy made big strides when one of democracy’s great early theorists, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a major intellectual architect of the revolutionary anti-monarchical politics of the eighteenth century, wrote about the education of children with a deep understanding of the psychology of infancy. Rousseau was the opposite of a loving parent: he sent his children to a foundling hospital, without even recording their dates of birth. Somehow, though, through his various experiments in teaching other people’s young children, through conversations with women, through memories of his childhood, through his close reading of Lucretius and other Roman philosophers, and through his own poetic imagination, he understood that early need creates problems for the type of political order he sought. He understood the dangers this condition posed for the democratic project.
Human life, Rousseau understood, begins not in democracy but in monarchy. The baby has no way of surviving except through reliance on caretakers—and so it makes slaves of others. Babies must either rule or die. Incapable of shared work or reciprocity, they receive what they need only by commands and threats, and by exploiting the worshipful love given them by others. (In letters, Rousseau made it clear that this was why he abandoned his children: he didn’t have time to be at a baby’s beck and call.)
We come into a world with which we are not ready to cope. The discrepancy between the very slow physical development of the human infant and its rapid cognitive development makes fear the defining emotion of infancy. Adults are amused by the baby’s futile kicking and undisturbed by its crying because they know they are going to feed, clothe, protect, and nurture it. The infant, however, knows nothing of trust, regularity, or security. Its limited experience and short time horizons mean that only the present torment is fully real, and moments of reassurance, fleeting and unstable, quickly lead back to insufficiency and terror. Even joy is tainted by anxiety, since to the infant it seems all too likely to slip away.
We usually survive this condition. We do not survive it without being formed, and deformed, by it. Neurological research on fear has shown that the scars of early fright stimuli endure and become a continuing influence on daily life.
Fear is not only the earliest emotion in human life; it is also the most broadly shared within the animal kingdom. To experience other emotions, such as compassion, you need a sophisticated set of thoughts: that someone else is suffering, that the suffering is bad, that it would be good for it to be relieved. But to have fear, all you need is an awareness of danger looming. The thoughts involved don’t require language, only perception and some vague sense of one’s own good or ill.
Fear is not just primitive; it is also asocial. When we feel compassion, we are turned outward: we think of what is happening to others and what is causing it. But you don’t need society to have fear; you need only yourself and a threatening world. Indeed, fear is intensely narcissistic. An infant’s fear is entirely focused on its own body. Even when, later on, we become capable of concern for others, fear often drives that concern away, returning us to infantile solipsism.
Marcel Proust, in In Search of Lost Time, imagines a child, his narrator, who remains unusually prone to fear, especially at bedtime. Young Marcel’s terror compels him to demand that his mother come to his room and stay as late as possible. His fear inspires in him a need to control others. He has no interest in what would make his mother happy. Dominated by fear, he needs her to be at his command. This pattern marks all his subsequent relationships, particularly that with Albertine, his great love. He cannot stand Albertine’s independence. It makes him too anxious. Lack of full control makes him crazy with fear and jealousy. The unfortunate result, which he narrates with great self-knowledge, is that he feels secure with Albertine only when she is asleep. He never really loves her as she is, because as she is she is not his own.
Proust supports Rousseau’s point that fear is the emotion of an absolute monarch who cares about nothing and nobody else. This is not the case for other animals, which are capable of acting independently almost as soon as they are capable of feeling fear. Their fear in infancy, so far as we can tell, remains within bounds and doesn’t impede concern for and cooperation with others. Elephants, for example, which are famously communal and altruistic, act reciprocally with their herd almost from birth. Young elephants may run to adult females for comfort, but they also play games with others and gradually learn a rich emotional vocabulary. The powerless human baby, on the other hand, can only terrorize others.
In childhood, concern, love, and reciprocity are staggering achievements, won against fierce opposition. Donald Winnicott, a great psychoanalyst and pediatrician, invented a concept for what children need if they are to develop concern for others. He called these conditions the facilitating environment. Applying this idea to the family, he showed that the home must have a core of basic loving stability and must be free from sadism and child abuse. But the facilitating environment has economic and social preconditions as well: there must be basic freedom from violence and chaos, from fear of ethnic persecution and terror; there must be enough to eat and basic health care. Working with children who were evacuated from war zones, he understood the psychic costs of external chaos. He recognized that an individual’s ability to reach outward is inflected by political concerns, that the personal and the political are inseparable. Winnicott kept returning to political questions throughout his career. What should we be striving for as a nation if we want children to become capable of reciprocity and happiness?
Winnicott thought that people could attain “mature interdependence” if they had a facilitating environment. His focus was on attaining such an environment in the individual child’s life in the family. But his wartime work led him to speculate about the larger question: What would it be like for society as a whole to be a facilitating environment for the cultivation of its people and their human relationships?
Such a society, he thought (as the Cold War advanced), would have to be a freedom–protecting democracy, since only that form of society fully and equally nourished people’s capacities to grow, play, act, and express themselves. Winnicott thought that a key job of government was to support families. Families cannot make children secure and balanced, capable of withstanding onslaughts of fear, if they are hungry or if they lack medical care, if they lack good schools and a safe neighborhood environment. He repeatedly connected democracy with psychic health: to live with others on terms of mutual interdependence and equality, people have to transcend the narcissism in which we all start life. We have to renounce the wish to enslave others, substituting concern, goodwill, and the acceptance of limits for infantile aggression.
But how? It’s an urgent question, and the stakes are high. Fear always simmers beneath the surface of moral concern, and it threatens to destabilize democracy. Right now, fear is running rampant in our nation: fear of declining living standards, of unemployment, of the absence of health care in times of need; fear of an end to the American dream, in which you can be confident that hard work brings a decent and stable life and that your children will do better than you did if they, too, work hard.
Our narrative of fear tells us that very bad things can happen. Citizens may become indifferent to truth and prefer the comfort of an insulating group of peers who repeat one another’s falsehoods. They may become afraid of speaking out, preferring the comfort of a leader who gives them a womblike feeling of safety. And they may become aggressive against others, blaming them for the pain of fear.
When the underlying facts are right, fear can be a useful guide in many areas of democratic life. Fear of terrorism, fear of unsafe highways and bridges, fear of the loss of freedom itself: all of these can prompt useful protective action. But directed to the very future of the democratic project itself, a fearful approach is likely to be dangerous, leading people to seek autocratic control or the protection of someone who will control outcomes for them. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that a fearful approach to the future of race relations would play straight into the hands of those who sought to manage things by violence, a kind of preemptive strike. His emphasis on hope was an attempt to flip the switch, getting people to dwell mentally on good outcomes that could come about through peaceful work and cooperation.
Hope is the inverse of fear. Both react to uncertainty, but in opposing ways. Hope expands and surges forward, fear shrinks back. Hope is vulnerable, fear is self-protective. This is the difference.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)
This Sunday the movie Stalker directed by Tarkovsky was on Dutch television. I did read some reviews beforehand on IMDB, most reviews wrote it was an out of the ordinary movie, others said it was boring. So i watched the movie. I loved it. It was slow, yes. No special effects, no fast camera movements. It was moving to watch. Tomorrow i will watch Solaris. I am usually more prone to watch blockbuster Hollywood movies, but right now i am moved by this. Solaris i have seen before, years and years ago.
Will also watch and read more about Tarkovsky. I am curious.
I have read, half-read, browsed through many books in the course of my life. Most i borrowed from the library. I went through whole sections in the library. In the early 80s i usually went for pychology. I remember reading books by Maslow about his hierarchy of needs. I bought the book Gödel, Escher, Bach written by Douglas Hofstadter and half-read it with much pleasure. At art school i went into the art section of the library and read many books written by art critics and books about artists and their work.
Language was another topic. Orality and Literacy written by Walter J. Ong made me aware the shape of language is dependent on the shape of the tools needed to use it. Written language, typed language, spoken language, sung language are all different. Current society with its many tools to preserve speech and songs is different from societies a hundred years ago. In the early 2000s i bought this book because i wanted to have it near me.
Philosophy, another topic. Many different philosophers from many different ages passed my hands: Plato, Spinoza, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Foucault. None of which i completely understood, or understood at all, i admit now.
Right now i am in the first part of the history section. Philosophy of history it is called. I just half-read a book written by Jacques R. Pauwels called De grote mythen van de moderne geschiedenis (The great myths of modern history). Not read it thoroughly, no, but still learned about myths we are learned by media especially which are simply not true.
I have learned yes. Slowly. Over the years.
Last week i wrote something about the world being split. One side nature, with the changing of the seasons, the weather, the plants growing and giving fruit and vegetables. The other side the man made world, the world we live in with other people, the world made with texts and interviews and people’s opinions and many many talks and decisions.
I don’t know where i belong. Well, to be honest, i do feel i belong in my own world. But it is very hard and difficult to remain in there. The world is very difficult for people outside of the norm.
I do still trust myself. It is scary, difficult. But yes, i still feel i can turn my life around, make my voice be heard.
What is systematically ignored, however, is the question of what we should still understand by that sanctity without religion. The sacred is the name for that which inspires awe and determines our actions and actions, and this because we experience it as something greater and / or more important than we live in our subjective judgment and private well-being. We are not saying that this definition is complete, but at least it provides a characterization of the sacred in its psychic reality. The sacred is distinguished from the well-known “values” because the latter are understood as the result of an economic or moral evaluation of a free subject. The human being as subject is in that case the highest appreciative authority. On the other hand, the sacred is experienced as something that appeals to us and calls us to something; we are not the appreciative body here, but can at most respond to the call that in our experience emanates from the sacred self. The sacred animates us, not the other way around; that is the ethological reality of the sacred, whether it is a delusion from an external perspective or not is irrelevant.
Waar men evenwel stelselmatig aan voorbijgaat is de vraag wat we zonder religie nog onder die genoemde heiligheid dienen te verstaan. Het heilige is namelijk de naam voor datgene wat ons ontzag inboezemt en ons doen en laten bepaalt, en wel omdat we het ervaren als iets wat groter en/of belangrijker is dan wijzlef in ons subjectieve oordeel en particuliere welbevinden. We zeggen niet dat deze definitie volledig is, maar ze geeft in ieder geval een karakterisering van het heilige in zijn psychische realiteit. Het heilige onderscheidt zich van de welbekende ‘waarden’, omdat die laatste worden opgevat als het resultaat van een economische of morele waardering van een vrij subject. De mens als subject is in dat geval de hoogste waarderende instantie. Het heilige wordt daarnetegen ervaren al iets wat ons van zich uit aanspreekt en ons tot iets oproept; wij zijn hier niet de waarderende instantie, maar kunnen hooguit gehoor geven aan de oproep die in onze ervaring van het heilige zelf uitgaat. Het heilige bezielt ons, niet omgekeerd; dat is de ethologische realiteit van het heilige, of dat vanuit een uitwendig persepctief een drogbeeld is of niet doet niet ter zake.
“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
“We’re each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark?”
“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”
“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.”
“What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?”
“Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.”