The Conscious Self

I am dealing with a fairly abstract subject here – and what I am saying should not be taken as the gospel truth, but the thoughts of one person – who has messed up much of his own life.

I can’t help but notice that people’s conscious attitudes are often overridden by their unconscious motivations – that are often less than desirable. This has been known for thousands of years – but has been carefully overlooked in our time.

Our own time – what a strange time it is! We have to start from our situation, in our time – and acknowledge our own deficiencies. But for the most part – we do not! And we have to start from there – with our refusal to see what we are doing, and what we are like.

Americans will say they are not so bad off – and economically they are right. They can still go to their supermarket (like I did yesterday) and buy almost anything they want. But ethically (and mentally) – they are in bad shape!

The link between ethics and sanity is a close one. If people cannot think right, they cannot act right. This is so obvious, it hardly needs to be said. But more can be said anyway:

When people grow up in a world, whose basic institutions (such as the family) are defective – they become defective themselves – and they create a defective society.


Proud to be Nothing

This attitude, in my opinion – says a lot about a lot of people. Who are proud to be nothing – because that is, after all – quite an accomplishment!

On my last trip to the States, I saw this clearly – when I lived with a cousin of mine in Northern Virginia – part of the DC area. This guy, and his wife, were the perfect example of nobodies in action. They had bodies, all right (and a townhouse, and two cars) – but something was missing, there was no one there!

They were surrounded by machines of every kind – and a shopping center, with the largest supermarket I had ever seen – a school for handicapped children – and retirement homes. Everything that money could buy.

This took me back 15 years, or so – to when I was working in Silicon Valley – that was full of these people! I was part of a therapy group, where the leader, our therapist – took this for granted. And saw nothing wrong with it.

The people there were robots. They knew how they were supposed to behave – and they behaved that way – without thinking about it at all!

I could see something was wrong – and I had to get out of there.

I had the same problem many other people had – I understood what was going on! And I understood how dangerous this was.

To be the right kind of person – you have to understand nothing – and reject everything. Then you are perfect.

This is Love

Love in the Dark

THE sensations that come to mind when I think of my love for you rely on metaphors of air and water: I am inflated, inundated, floating, brimming, surging. I swell with love for you. I surge toward you and experience the pleasure of desire and care—the siblings of love. My life becomes meaningful in a way it was not before; my days feel urgent in the awareness of the precarity of your life. I love you because you are there naked before me, suffering and surviving. Because you are loving me idiosyncratically, imperfectly, with ambivalence. Because you lay both your brokenness and your trust at my feet. Because I can.

I love you in the stubborn belief that my love is omnipotent. And there you are by some happy and most irrational coincidence loving me. Telling me with your mouth and eyes and hands that I am loved. I experience that irresistible pull into a shared existence, always aware of your proximity or distance.

When I am separated from you by physical space, there is no corresponding geography in the world of our “we.” Our thoughts are like threads that connect us—I think of what you would say about this new book in my hands or about the image on the wall before me, and I hear your laughter over something I just overheard. In this way, you are always present to me.

Love may intensify over time or fade away, but it is born in a moment of unnamable affinity. We call this “chemistry”—neuroscientists have one explanation and psychoanalysts another—but I prefer the term affinity, which brings us into the poetic. We do not love everyone. Something in another captivates us, draws us in—vulnerability exposed in an open face, something familiar yet different, the aura of a person that we cannot quite identify. A hand is opened, and we grasp it, an invitation extended, and we accept. We let ourselves into another life and our own alters irrevocably.

In this way, our lives are inhabited by others, and even when we lose them, they remain lodged within us. It is this initial affinity that becomes the foundation on which we build a world around a “we.” Diotima’s wisdom is sound. The beloved is before us, pregnant with beauty and goodness, and our love is a skilled midwife drawing out this nobility. This is your inestimable gift to me—to desire what is beautiful and lovable in me that I might feel something like the person you adore. I come to see myself through your eyes and hope that you will come to see yourself through mine, willingly accepting the risk of this intimate exchange for the sake of the we, the interworld arising between us.

I try to imagine what philosophy or religion might look like now if throughout history the confusion of human desire and affect, their origins in a mutable body, and the bittersweet nature of eros were celebrated rather than dismissed as irrational nonsense. So much of what is good and beautiful in life is irrational. There is no reason in the scene before me—the blue of the sky and the deep clefts of a mountainside. There is no reason in how moved I am by the pine trees that line my path and stimulate my senses. There is no reason in the love I felt for you, no reason in the fact that I felt more loved by you than by those whose capacity for love exceeded your own and who loved without the torment it caused you to love and be loved by me.

Making a Better World? What a Weird Idea!

I must begin this discussion by making a clear distinction between people’s conscious minds – and their unconscious minds.

The discovery of the unconscious mind was a huge breakthrough for psychology. It was known long before that, of course, but not in any formal way – it didn’t have a name. Freud discovered an idea that already existed – and elaborated it into some foolishness of his own.

People who could afford it, went into his Analysis – that discovered their unconscious problems – and assumed, once they knew about them – they were free of them. But it didn’t work that way – people ended up as crazy as ever. Freud himself barely escaped the Nazis.

Many other therapies were invented – and I must have tried most of them. Some of the latest denied the existence of the unconscious altogether. People had no trouble taking this a step further – and denied the existence of the mind altogether! Which, for them, was a satisfactory development – that freed them from any responsibility for what they did.

This was not a carefully thought-out conclusion, it couldn’t be – it involved the abandonment of thinking altogether. And once they stopped thinking – they ceased being. It was all simple – one domino falling on the next.

I would not have been hard to go back in our thinking to before these dominoes were set up – but we couldn’t! This kind of essential time-travel – using our minds, was no longer available.

We were fucked – to use plain language.

Business Thinks the World was Made for It

Business has taken over the world – and is proud of that. As people, however, we should have some qualms about this – is it good for us or not?

To answer that question, however, we must first answer this question “Who do we mean when we speak of people?” The answer will depend on the culture addressed – and every culture is different.

I will restrict myself to the 21st Century American culture – and its many sub-cultures. In all of them Business (business with a capital P) is dominant – and is assumed to be Good – or perhaps even God.

This is the result of long development in the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries that we have not thought about very much – it just happened. And now we are living with the results – which includes people who do not want to think about what happened –  because Business forbids this.

Lots of people, however, are questioning the dominance of Business – but not doing a very good job of it. They feel, somehow – that it is wrong, but cannot say why. And they take the easy path out – and don’t think about it. After all, they need their jobs – and they are not going to bite the hand that feeds them.

It is tempting to go back and describe what happened to get us to where we are – this is the usual approach – a careful analysis of history. But I will bite the bullet instead – and insist on staying in the present, and dealing with what we have now. Especially the dominance of Business.

We can simply say “This is the way it is!” And then plan were we want to go from here. This is not difficult, in theory – but in practice, it is nearly impossible. Because people are scared to death.

But we can continue by noting that people are scared to death – paralyzed with fear. They are not aware of this consciously – but unconsciously, this fear dominates their lives.

When we speak of people – were are speaking of at least two personalities – their conscious and their unconscious selves.

The discovery of the Unconscious was a key discovery of the early 20th Century. And now we are experiencing the denial of it. We are, in fact – in denial.

Once again, we can say “This is the way it is!”

The Loss of Self

I lived through the end of Industrialization in the Fifties – and then the rise of TV. And then the rise of the Computer in the Eighties.

These were huge changes, but the biggest change of all was in us – the way we changed ourselves.  We became unable to notice what was going on. And let other forces take over.

This is not unusual – people have always let their technologies take over – for example, in the invention of agriculture. Civilization itself was the takeover (often violent) of many technologies – including writing and metallurgy. But these changes took thousands of years.

The changes that happened to us in 19th and 20th Centuries, were so profound, and happened so rapidly – that we went into shock. And lost that most human of abilities – the ability to think.

And one more thing – the ability to be good to ourselves. We no longer thought of ourselves as human – but superhuman. And entitled to exploit the merely human.

But something else was happening also – the Computer arrived, and brought with it a new way of thinking. In fact, a new kind of intelligence – which we have bragged about to the high skies – but have not bothered to understand.

This is the crisis of our times – understanding what has happened to us – and understanding the impact of the Computer especially. It’s not enough just to learn how to code – we have to understand what we are coding, and why we are coding.

Let me say this again – the Industrial Economy has self-destructed – and the Computer Economy is trying to take over – and we are stuck in the middle – not sure where we are.

The result? We have decided to destroy the whole mess – and start over. This has happened many times in the past – empires have arisen and fallen. Right now, we are helping ours to fall – and really working hard at this.

If we were smart, we would put on the brakes, look things over, and figure out where to go from here.

But we are not smart, and will drive right over the cliff.


I am now a proud user of this computer encryption program. No one else can get access to my computer. It’s mine alone.

It’s so easy to use, I can’t believe it – but you have to follow the instructions carefully. It will hold your hand – but it will take you into unfamiliar territory.

I now feel like Alice in Wonderland – I’m someplace new, but a little scary.