Exploring the Back Catalogue: Wish, Triggers & Ye Olde Venerated Man-Baby Philosophers

November 24, 2020

I’m really enjoying our new acquisition Wish, on multiple levels – musically there’s so much on there that’s lovely, and even the stuff that’s not I think is the way it is to reinforce the story told by the lyrics – e.g. Wendy Time isn’t exactly a beautiful song, but the quacking Donald-Duck type guitars and the dissonance and ner-ner-ness of the thing just goes with the portrait of an insufferable attempt at manipulation, which the narrator is wise to, which in turn makes me go, “Hooray!” because how many people fall for that, not just once but repeatedly…

It’s mostly like aromatherapy for your ears (not roses or geranium, and nothing fake with phthalates from the chemistry lab either, more like sandalwood and boronia), while the lyrics to most of the songs are written with great care, go well as stand-alone poetry, and make you think.  If there’s a main theme, I think it’s interpersonal relationships and the human condition…but I would think that  :winking_tongue – it’s like, “What do you see?”


I had a bit of a collision with the musically gorgeous track From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea a while back, before we got the album it was on, when I first looked specifically at its lyrics and found that an aspect of them actually triggered some really bad ghosts in my cupboard.  (When I find where that is on CF, I’ll link to it…  Aha, it’s this thread!)  And I mean, triggered them to the point that I was physically nauseated and in full fight-or-flight mode – an occasional oh-so-lovely by-product of having complex PTSD.  :1f635:   It took me a while to lose that subconscious response to it, but thankfully that’s gone now.

It’s been really nice for me to see this song in the broader context of the album it’s from, and had I heard it like this in the first place, rather than as a stand-alone in concerts, I’d probably have had an intellectual “click” that would have forestalled the involuntary trigger response. I was unable to see or articulate what was going on clearly at the time – it was just something that jumped me from behind, some ghosts from nearly three decades before, the very smell of which made me want to throw up.

If I had to try to explain that to other people now, I’d say that if you’re an inexperienced young person who spent their childhood with narcissists in the home and is now living with a malignant narcissist who makes the business of causing you pain not just a way of deriving sadistic pleasure for himself, but a way of successfully portraying himself to the sycophants all around him as a poet and a higher being than the person he is hurting, and who thinks of himself as the person most wronged by the universe, in this twisted, “It hurts me more to hurt you than it hurts you and I’m such a poet and people should have sympathy for me and isn’t this great poetry!” way… well, then you just develop an allergy to anything that can be construed as romanticising or poeticising certain types of situations, and anything that takes you down the Pensieve to the powerlessness and despair you once experienced.

To be clear, if I were talking to that young version of me now, I’d say to her, “You’ve been brainwashed from early childhood to believe that all problems in relationships are entirely your fault, that you’re not a good person, that you’re not worthy of love, that anyone who gives you any semblance of love no matter how poor the facsimile is to be put on a pedestal and viewed with awe and gratefulness and I-am-not-worthy-of-thee, that the first person you sleep with has to be the person you’re with for life or you’re a slut whether or not you enjoyed the sex (not that it should make any difference, it’s just highly ironic, and it’s so utterly stupid in hindsight :1f62b:) and you’re not really supposed to enjoy sex anyway if you’re a girl, it’s just a service you are beholden to provide for people with Y-chromosomes, and your body isn’t really yours, and all sorts of total BS like this. And: Most of your brainwash isn’t in your thoughts – your intellect will help you from early on to cut through those lies – but it’s in the way you feel, which won’t be changed by reason, and won’t in fact go away until the Great Wall Of China you don’t know you have in your head collapses in your early 40s, and then your feelings won’t contradict your thoughts anymore, woohoo, something to look forward to!  :smth023

…and meanwhile, please understand that you have a right to remove yourself from situations that are harmful and painful to you, but you don’t do it yet because you’ve been brainwashed to believe that to walk away means you don’t love and you don’t forgive and that you’re of weak character and that you are unable to solve problems plus you’re a coward – all which is also BS…”

As Joe Straczinsky says about his father in Becoming Superman:

I could debate endlessly his reasons for doing those things, or try to figure out why his personality had splintered to the point where he needed to inflict pain on others in order to feel alive, but that didn’t alter the fact that those were his problems, his choices.  Like all abusers he wanted me to believe I had no choice but to accept this behaviour, that I could never escape him. That had been true when I was younger, but I was now old enough to walk away from an abusive situation; if I failed to do so, then it became my problem, my choice.  I had no control over my father’s behaviour, but I had absolute control over my proximity.  He could only hurt me while I chose to remain within range of the fist and the boot, the lie and the scream.  If I wanted to stop the abuse, all I had to do was step outside his reach…

Was I running away from the problem?  Probably.  But when you’re in a situation where nothing will change, running away isn’t just a solution, it’s the only solution.  No one being chased by a bobcat thinks, Maybe I should stick it out, try to make the relationship work.  And there’s some people in this world who are just frickin’ bobcats.

It is, of course, textbook to go from a narcissistic family of origin straight into a romantic relationship with a narcissist, and it’s actually scarier to be in that romantic relationship than it was to be in your family, because you naively thought that was all over now…

So, no wonder that things that remind me of the twistedness of all that can still trigger me if I’m just mooching about, not expecting that to happen.  It was a song I really liked, and was at that stage not entirely familiar with, and for me to look at the lyrics and get triggered by that recalled all the old OMG I was lulled into a false sense of security, oh no not again where’s my radar shock.  And then later you work through that, to discover what’s ghost and what’s reality, and of course ambiguity and tea-leafiness doesn’t make for any cut and dried conclusions.

Something doesn’t have to replicate a situation that once really traumatised you, it just has to smell remotely like it, when you’ve already let your guard down, to create that fight-or-flight response in your brain.  Then, your job is to herd the cats emotionally, while having a good think.  While that kind of reaction isn’t pleasant to experience (it’s roughly like a migraine in unpleasantness, and equally physical, but very different), it doesn’t happen all that often to me these days, and when it does, I’ve got established ways of defusing it.  Not having a particularly precarious existence anymore has been helpful.  Also, you get to a point where being occasionally triggered by something helps you put the few missing pieces together in the puzzle you’ve been solving.

So I’ll have a look at From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea again, this time without the trigger reaction.  Next time though, I want to look at A Letter To Elise.

November 25, 2020

There’s a soft sound to Wish that’s probably the closest The Cure have come to folk.  There’s a lot of acoustic guitar, quirky keyboards with more acoustic (as opposed to synthetic) sounds like those of bells and xylophones, general jingly-jangly stuff including from cymbals and percussion, a bit of piano and viola, and vocal harmonies – all of which are elements I frequently encounter in my favourite folk music.  However, I’ve never heard folk music with anywhere near that sort of bass playing, not even when Sharon Shannon really gets swinging…

(Look at the expression on her face hahaha, I’ve seen her live and she’s always doing that!  :lol:)

Nor with that level of electric guitar, which is sadly often woeful when folk artists include it.  Here’s an example; this piece by Máirín Fahy starts off wonderfully and is then totally ruined by the cheesy electric guitar…

She did an acoustic version of this called Sydney Harbour, without that dreadful guitar playing, that a housemate had on an album, but sadly I can’t find it anywhere…  :1f62a: I can’t leave it at this;  to get that bad-cheese taste out of everyone’s mouth, here’s some dark folk from South Australian outfit The Audreys:

So, no horrible sounds, and happy ears with Wish:)

A Letter To Elise today.

I had no idea there was an official clip for this, since this is all relatively new to me.  But look, an extra guitar!  :cool   Interesting that Perry Bamonte is a leftie – I wonder if he strings his guitar the other way around because of it, or plays it as is, but can never seem to catch this information off live footage; it’s not nearly as obvious to me as violin stringing.  (Speaking of adjustments people make, there’s a violinist in our town who used to play with the West Australian Symphony and then had a traffic accident that made it impossible for her to hold a violin up, so what she did is learn to play it all over again, this time like a miniature cello… was part of an outfit around here with the hilarious moniker “Well Strung”… :lol:)

I heard this track for years on Paris before we got Wish

It works very well live, and always reminded me of Pictures Of You musically – that sense of a string quartet working together, with the bass like the cello and the guitars working in like violin and viola.  Funnily, I always imagined that A Letter To Elise pre-dated Pictures Of You when it’s actually the other way around. I love the composition on both those tracks.

Back to the lyrics, and the theme for a large group of songs off Wish:



Oh Elise it doesn’t matter what you say
I just can’t stay here every yesterday
like keep on acting out the same
the way we act out
every way to smile
and make-believe we never needed
any more than this
any more than this

Oh Elise it doesn’t matter what you do
I know I’ll never really get inside of you
to make your eyes catch fire
the way they should
the way the blue could pull me in
if they only would
if they only would
at least I’d lose this sense of sensing something else
that hides away
from me and you
there’re worlds to part
with aching looks and breaking hearts
and all the prayers your hands can make
oh I just take as much as you can throw
And then throw it all away
Oh I throw it all away
like throwing faces at the sky
like throwing arms round
I stood and stared
wide-eyed in front of you
and the face I saw looked back
the way I wanted to
but I just can’t hold my tears away
the way you do

Elise believe I never wanted this
I thought this time I’d keep all of my promises
I thought you were the girl I always dreamed about
but I let the dream go
and the promises broke
and the make-believe ran out

So Elise it doesn’t matter what you say
I just can’t stay here every yesterday
like keep on acting out the same
the way we act out
every way to smile
and make-believe we never needed
any more than this
any more than this

And every time I try to pick it up
like falling sand
as fast as I pick it up
it runs away through my clutching hands
but there’s nothing else I can really do
there’s nothing else I can really do
there’s nothing else
I can really do
at all

(Phew!  The line arrangements didn’t make sense to me off Internet lyric sites, so I looked at the CD booklet – with our biggest magnifying glass, the one we use to look at tiny orchids, and my eyes are now sore – tiny black print on a red background, not exactly high contrast… :P)

It’s been a strange day – I’ve picked up writing again after a day planting out tomato seedlings, baking bread, cutting firewood for next winter out of a tree that had fallen into the road, trimming donkey hooves, making a mushroom risotto, etc – and during a teabreak I came across a total idiocy in The Guardian, OMG, read it yourself, there’s someone who’s got it all back to front, but it made me wonder if that person could also read the words to A Letter To Elise and think it summed up their failing relationship (not that I think that particular individual has a poetic bone in his body, but narcissists will give themselves airs :1f635:).

It’s not how I personally would read the song, but people will read themselves into things and that’s part of the point of lyrics and poetry, that if you leave any wiggle room (and sometimes even if you don’t) people will interpret the words in a way that makes sense to them for their own lives, and will try to find things to relate to.  (And yes, I do that too, but that’s usually tempered by being professionally trained to take several steps backwards to try to look more objectively at a situation, to reason things out, and to look for alternative ideas, explanations etc, to what my own initial ideas about something are.)

Personally the song made me think of situations in which people are basically role-playing romantic relationships, the same way pre-schoolers will play “mummy, daddy, child, dog” – and then finding that there is nothing underneath, at the core – it’s just surface stuff, window dressing for an empty shop.  I think that can happen quite unconsciously especially in people without much relationship experience, where they just go through the motions doing what they think they’re supposed to do.

I love the line I just can’t stay here every yesterday – it has Groundhog Day overtones (and perhaps actually, that film’s message may apply here too – or of course it may not) – and also calls to mind for me that old Middle Eastern tale about a ghost ship, a sailing ship which a shipwrecked person manages to haul himself onto, only to find all the crew dead on the decks, and he’s unable to shift the bodies, they are literally stuck.  The ship keeps sailing towards the distant coast, but as night falls, the ship reverses direction, and all the dead come to life and kill each other all over again in this shockingly violent scene.  Then the ship tacks back towards the coast, but by nightfall it reverses direction again, and the dead rise to massacre each other once more.  Our horrified passenger eventually finds that pinning verses from the Koran to each body makes it possible to pick them up off the planks and throw them in the sea, and this breaks the spell, so that he finally gets to the coast.

The relationship portrayed in A Letter To Elise appears similarly stuck.  Sometimes, there’s a solution, but sometimes you do have to walk away.  Of course, a lot of people will walk away, only to find that similar problems arise in their next relationship too, and that this won’t change until they change themselves.  Nevertheless, compatibility of personalities, values, life goals etc is very important in determining whether you’re going to have a good relationship, and if that’s not there, it’s unlikely to have a happy outcome long-term.

(Brett says, “I have a boy bit, you have a girl bit, seems to work OK!”  :winking_tongue …and I told him to mind what he says, because he’s liable to get quoted.   :angel  He’s given to shocking oversimplification just to tease me; e.g. he might grumble, “I hate people!” and I might reply, “Well, I’m a people, you don’t seem to hate me, why is that?” to which he typically says, “Well, you have breasts!”  :1f62e:  – and which I typically counter with, “So does nearly half the population!  Your point is?” – to which he’ll make various convoluted replies that don’t stand up to rational scrutiny but do muddy the waters, should’ve been a bush lawyer!  :P)

Back to the scheduled programming… I guess because of the way people are, there’s a range of contexts for which the words in A Letter To Elise could be appropriated, whether or not it’s a good fit.  The song does suggest itself as a breakup letter – and often it is easier to express something difficult in writing than to do it face-to-face, especially in a charged environment where what you’re trying to communicate may not even half come out before the arguments and recriminations begin.  (Just don’t do this by sms!)  As a model for breakup, I don’t think the text does badly – because the character in it has taken time to sit down and explain where he is coming from, and he does express genuine regret that it hasn’t worked out.  Also, it doesn’t strike me that he’s trying to blame the other person, he’s just looking at the situation really, and at himself critically too.

Now compare that to the total idiocy scenario linked to above.  That guy isn’t breaking up yet but sounds close to it, and he’s all me me me and apparently blind to the extraordinary arrogance, entitlement, fault-finding, blame and lack of empathy of what he’s written.  It seems to me that he thinks sexual or any other passion is something that’s inherent in a person, sort of like a setting on a robot, and that maybe his wife should dial up the setting a bit – and it doesn’t seem to occur to him that it has anything to do with the actual relationship and how that’s going.  Anyone here think they’d be passionate about a person like that?  Because hello, sexual passion, the lack of which he complains about in his partner, is so utterly related to how you feel about your partner as a person, at least in a long-term relationship – and in that context, is a lot deeper a thing than just the biological fireworks response to a new(ish) mating partner, which is rather one-dimensional and not usually lasting.

And at least from my perspective, how you feel about your partner as a person has so much to do with how they comport themselves in the world, how they think, how they treat other people, how open they are to you, how interested they are in relating to you on all sorts of levels  – and your own ability to see and appreciate and respond to what’s there.  So that particular complaining husband actually needs to take a good look at himself in the mirror if he wants his relationship to improve, but he doesn’t seem the type that’s actually going to do such a thing; far easier to break up and repeat his cycle with the next person – unless he can find someone who’s primarily interested in having sex and stroking his ego, preferably simultaneously, and who finds that an acceptable bargain.

As you can see, A Letter To Elise is a good springboard for discussions about breakups, and for what actually makes relationships work – discussions that are well worth having in classrooms, and in the broader community.

♦ ♥ ♦

When I look at a song, I tend to trip over materials online about it, although I try to avoid that at first, because I’d rather just respond in the raw first, without being pointed in particular directions – that becomes interesting later, when I’m looking at a broader picture than just personal response.  Anyway, apparently A Letter To Elise was influenced by Kafka’s letters to Felice, so there was some homework for me, because Kafka doesn’t feature prominently in the literature curriculum for Australian secondary students, and the only point of recognition we had in our house was a novel by Haruki Murakami on the bookshelf called Kafka On The Shore, and that’s one of the few by Murakami I’ve not actually read yet. 

Before anyone leaps to unwarranted conclusions about the quality of the reading lists of the Australian secondary curriculum, I’m going to point out that the people who usually leap to conclusions about that tend to unjustly privilege European writers and thinkers, and mostly men at that, when they try to dictate to everyone else what a quality literature curriculum should look like.  The same people probably have never heard of Kate Grenville or Kath Walker or Judith Wright or Sally Morgan, all of whom are examples of authors who are extremely valuable for Australians (and others) to read.  They have a lot more depth than just the cold theorising of quite a few invariably white male authors held up by some as the supposed gold standard of writing and thinking – and they think more broadly, and have more openness, and are far less anthropocentric, and they don’t look down on having a heart.  Read something by one of them and see for yourself – in The Secret River, for instance, Kate Grenville astutely charts the inevitable collision course between European colonialists and indigenous Australians, and does it with a lot of compassion, and extraordinary poetic prose that captures the Australian landscape so beautifully well.  Her work makes you think – not just introspect and deal with your own stuff, but look at others with more empathy and see a broader picture than what you saw before.

So I looked at Kafka’s letters to Felice, touted on Brain Pickings as “beautiful” and “heartbreaking” – and to be honest, I was distinctly unimpressed, because here’s another example of the romanticising of relationship dysfunction the world doesn’t actually need, except perhaps as an adverse example.  What it most reminded me of is this:

Most of us seem to be hankering after romantic love. But few of us realize that, far from being timeless and universal, romantic love is a modern construct that emerged in tandem with the novel.

In Madame Bovary (1856), itself a novel, Gustave Flaubert tells us that Emma Bovary only found out about romantic love through “the refuse of old lending libraries”.

…were all about love and lovers, damsels in distress swooning in lonely lodges, postillions slaughtered all along the road, horses ridden to death on every page, gloomy forests, troubles of the heart, vows, sobs, tears, kisses, rowing-boats in the moonlight, nightingales in the grove, gentlemen brave as lions and gentle as lambs, too virtuous to be true, invariably well-dressed, and weeping like fountains.

…In Greek myth, eros is a form of madness brought about by one of Cupid’s arrows.

from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201606/these-are-the-7-types-love

Elise is a far more healthy epistle psychologically than Kafka’s deluded, bombastic outpourings to Felice as a 29-year-old, and for this I’m truly grateful.  The first thing I googled when reading Kafka’s letters was “Kafka & codependency” just to check if anyone else had noticed, and they indeed have.  It’s so disappointing for me to make a side excursion into the work of someone deemed one of the most important people in 20th century literature, and then to find this sort of unhelpful stuff – and the same thing happened when I read Sartre’s Nausea in my 30s, something I’d really looked forward to because of that person’s general reputation and all the hype about it.  I’m beginning to think that the kinds of people who have been classically venerated as important thinkers in Western culture are really just another symptom of the sickness that’s inherent in Western societies, and that’s driven us to the current point where we’ve nearly destroyed our own planet, after hundreds of years of destroying other cultures and ways of thinking.

That’s not a new idea, of course – it’s one of the main ideas behind ecofeminism, and the older I get, and the more I read and experience, the more I think that the philosopher Patsy Hallen, who taught me Environmental Ethics (excellent course) and philosophical writing 30 years ago as part of my undergraduate science degree, was very much onto something there, and not just participating in some fad.  Of course, her philosophy has much in common with the philosophy of Arne Naess, which you can sample in this classic essay; and my personal philosophy overlaps a great deal with theirs, and not very much with the classical anthropocentric philosophies of the West.

PS:  If you’re interested in Robert Smith’s book choices when he was in his 40s, here’s a nice link I came across while fact-finding about this song.  Just be aware it’s a poor translation from French…  http://www.picturesofyou.us/03/03-08-rockandfolk-fr-1.htm

PPS:  Brett just read this post, and said to me to remember that Kafka isn’t renowned for relationship insights, but for absurdist novels – and told me he’d tried reading one of Kafka’s absurdist novels, and found it didn’t do anything for him, and he has no desire to read anything more by him in the presence of so many other books worthy of his attention, and he thinks the same about Sartre’s work.  We’ve got a bookworm friend whose tastes range to more dark and nihilistic stuff than what we prefer, like Gould’s Book Of Fish and the biographies of dictators (because he is interested in the pathology of how they think), and who is a walking encyclopaedia on famous “thinking” writers.  So, when I ended up supremely disappointed by Sartre, I asked this friend if he could point out to me some things of worth I might have missed, to which he grimly replied, “I can’t help you with that, I couldn’t even be bothered to finish that book.”  Anyone out there who’s a fan of Kafka and/or Sartre, don’t imagine that you’re automatically a more serious or sophisticated thinker than those of us who aren’t (because I’ve met people like this) – I don’t imagine you’re automatically a lesser thinker for being a fan of them, either.  But perhaps realise that there’s not just one way to think seriously, and perhaps give someone like Kate Grenville a go sometime before you look down your nose at such “lesser” authors – you just might learn something.  And just perhaps, cultivate a bit of criticism of what’s considered to be gold-standard thinking by the narrow white boys’ club that’s been influencing literature lists for a long time.

And here’s some light entertainment, to pick up the mood:

Existential Office

…from the marvellous https://www.existentialcomics.com/

November 28, 2020


Here’s a gentle, wistful ode to a lost love…


Remember how it used to be
When the sun would fill the sky
Remember how we used to feel
Those days would never end
Those days would never end

Remember how it used to be
When the stars would fill the sky
Remember how we used to dream
Those nights would never end
Those nights would never end

It was the sweetness of your skin
It was the hope of all we might have been
That filled me with the hope to wish impossible things
To wish impossible things
To wish impossible things

But now the sun shines cold
And all the sky is grey
The stars are dimmed by clouds and tears
And all I wish is gone away
All I wish is gone away
And all I wished is gone away
And all I wish is gone away
All I wish is gone away
All I wish is gone away

Of course, at a stretch, you could also avail yourself of this piece when your partner has to travel elsewhere without you for a while – but it does rather have a sense of finality about it, and will remind most people of a relationship that ended, which they didn’t want to end.

The primary candidate that suggests itself here is the death of a partner – although being “disappeared” in a country that “disappears” people for political reasons would also fit the bill – or any other form of kidnap or imprisonment or detention (like Australia’s shocking immigration detention, which has split families up, not to mention made people rot without hope on an island for years and years) or some other party interfering so that a couple is split up against their will.

Of course, sometimes people who have been left by a romantic interest will feel like this too.  In that case there may be some editing skewing the perspective, since the grass is always greener etc, and relationship-ends can be like funerals where nobody wants to remember the bad things, even though they should – even though it’s so unhealthy to pretend everything was hunky-dory, and that the person who has died or the partner who has left you was some kind of perfect angel, instead of a human being with good sides as well as flaws.

Here’s a really good description of “relationship editing”:

If you really want to know, there were some parts of going out with Tim that I didn’t like.  But when I came home, I’d fall onto my bed and lie there for hours.  I’d watch the room floating with moonlight and scenes from my life would be silvered. Here on the bed I could change things.  I was like a film director, freezing some scenes while I had a good look at a particular expression, a certain gesture.  I played the first kiss scene over and over again.  I felt Tim’s hands stroking my face, his tongue tickling my ear, the music beating its way into my body.  It made waves rise up in my belly like the tide coming in.  I’d wanted that song to last forever – ‘Fire”, it was, and I’d never forget that, no matter what disasters happened later.  I wanted that moment to last, to freeze that frame.  Tim with his arms around me, shining down on me while I quivered in his light.  I could feel his heart hammering hard against mine, the music vibrating through the floor, running like sap through my toes.

On my bed, I’d replay that scene until I was exhausted.  I was a star actor in a million-dollar movie.  Then other moments would creep in.  I’d chop the film there, letting the bad scenes fall into the dark.  I’d grind my heel into those.  I’d crush them down into the bottom of my mind, until no crack of light was emitted.

That’s from Sydney writer Anna Fienberg’s brilliant novel Borrowed Light, which examines the effects of emotional deprivation in childhood on young people’s early romantic experiences.  If you love astronomy and sparkling writing and to learn about human relationships, and you want a book to make you laugh and cry and think and to learn things about yourself you never knew, read this book… and if it’s still out of print, get a second-hand copy, or order a special print-run copy, offered by the publisher.

♥ ♥ ♥

To Wish Impossible Things is a song about grief, and I don’t know about you, but when I’m grieving, I find it really helpful to listen to songs about grief – it helps with acknowledgement, and with the emotional processing that our brains need to do in situations like this – and apart from these practical considerations, of course, I think we’d not be fully human if we didn’t allow ourselves to grieve when sad things happen.

And then, we have to be a phoenix, and rise up from the ashes all over again.

December 4, 2020


Philosophy is a huge area, and you could never hope to read everything written about it if you lived to be a hundred and did nothing else all your life.  That’s why I’m often suggesting people start with Sophie’s World – it’s cleverly written and accessible, and presents the best pocket summary of the history of Western philosophy I’ve read anywhere.

One of the problems with the way philosophy is commonly presented is that it often privileges the Western, generally white, disproportionately male perspective over and above the many equally interesting ideas and ways of thinking to be found in indigenous traditions, cultural minority groups, etc.  In that way, it can become a blinkers-on pursuit, which is ironic because one of the wonderful things about philosophy is the diversity of ideas which generally help to take the blinkers off people, and show them different ways of thinking and being, outside of their own lived and vicarious experience to date – a hugely liberating thing.

…but only if you keep going, instead of getting stuck in pet parts of it and turning it into dogma – which sadly, some people do, and academia is especially conducive to – both in philosophy and in science.  People can tunnel down in either of these to the extent that they lose sight of the bigger picture.  Just deeper is not enough – we need to be broader as well – I think that’s our biggest contemporary deficit in the West.  The German language has a great word:  Fachidiot.  It basically means “specialty area idiot” and refers to people who are incredibly steeped and expert in one particular subject or even viewpoint, to the exclusion of other areas, in which they become really inept through lack of consideration and use.  And that’s the thing I think we should avoid at all costs.

Synthesis (reconciling the truths of different viewpoints) is way more exciting and useful to my mind than the theses and antitheses some people get stuck in and defend like a religion (usually with the same misplaced sense of superiority).

In the earlier post this is a post-script to, I once again got frustrated by the immaturity, irrationality and psychological dysfunctionality in a piece of venerated writing in the Western canon.  And this is fine, because the point of reading is to understand, but also to always question what is being presented, and not to defer to other human beings because they have been put on pedestals by other human beings.  For me, reading (and listening to music, and looking at art and drama, and living life) is the ongoing business of slowly putting a huge puzzle together, with different pieces from all sorts of perspectives.  It is not adopting one tradition or one point of view and drilling down in it, and essentially closing my eyes to everything else.

Anyway, when I get a bee in my bonnet, I usually ask for input by trusted people.  Brett, obviously – he has an excellent head on his shoulders, is an even broader reader than me, and is forthright with his perspectives.  But also other people, and when I was annoyed by Kafka’s epistles and more broadly the privileging of some viewpoints above others equally or more worthy of consideration, I turned to good friend and honorary family member Elizabeth, who has read Kafka and is familiar with broad swathes of the canons of literature and philosophy, and asked for her thoughts.  She read the above post and sent me this:

“… I’m beginning to think that the kinds of people who have been classically venerated as important thinkers in Western culture are really just another symptom of the sickness that’s inherent in Western societies, and that’s driven us to the current point where we’ve nearly destroyed our own planet, after hundreds of years of destroying other cultures and ways of thinking.”

That’s the whole crux of it right there. I remember reading Madame Bovary in college and thinking, oh yawn, another depressed privileged white lady. I recently finished a new-ish book on codependency and snuck in my thoughts about encultured codependence as a symptom/requirement of systemic oppression into today’s post (which has taken me all week to write and I lost sleep over it – (husband’s) surgery tomorrow which hasn’t helped, lots of stuff converging right now. I remain convinced it’s all to make room for a major, positive shift!)

I agree that romantic love is very immature and as such, narcissistic. Very rich and very poor people are equally guilty of longing for ideal partnerships, the kind in love songs, movies and engagement ring commercials. Real love, as you and I are more acquainted with, requires things like cleaning up together after a bout of screaming, hiking while carrying a homemade birthday feast in your pack, doing introspective, messy healing work, having difficult conversations or carrying a box of used dialysis bags to the dumpster for the umpteenth time so the other person can get some rest. Not glamorous but full of much more substance than Hollywood marriages.

While I love The Metamorphosis for the way it parallels my high school bout of anorexia, it’s essentially a story about a selfish person who’d rather curl up and die than face himself. At 17, starving myself to death was a narcissistic response to my trauma history and instead of curling up and dying, like the character I played, I chose to die to my ego and tackle all my issues so I could live. What remains is more or less a handicapped coping skill I’ve yet to find a healthy replacement for.

Anyhoo. Brilliant, spot on insights as always. Since we go against the grain it’s hard to get lots of people to hear ya but at least there are blogs and forums to let it all out! I for one am always happy and satisfied to read your thoughts.

Elizabeth is a core go-to for complex discussions, albeit a tad busy at the moment, living in the USA where coal-face professionals work insane hours that have them constantly on the edge of burnout when not actually falling down the cliff of it, all against the perpetual backdrop of continuing economic insecurity, and where having a sick person in the family is not nearly as straightforward as it is in Australia, which has a Medicare system for all.  I’m sure you’ve all seen Breaking Bad… the financial and emotional stress of having a serious illness in the household when you’re not in the moneyed elite is tremendous.  As an onlooker to the US, which has a penchant for priding itself on being a supposedly amazing model of democracy and justice and imagining itself the best of everything, my eyes are permanently wide with disbelief.

Well, Elizabeth has lived it – and like Frank McCourt, has crawled out of poverty and abuse and “made good” – which means she’s overworking tremendously, living in rented accommodation with home ownership a distant dream, and trying to fathom the economics of her husband’s congenital kidney failure.  I’ve laughed and cried and thought long and hard reading my way through the mesmerising pages of her fiercely intelligent biography for the greater part of 2019, and I hope the wider world will be fortunate enough to read and learn from her book.  I mention Frank McCourt because to my mind her bio is to the American underclass what his was to the slums of Limerick – but it’s more than evocative and poetic and horrifying and funny, it’s also incredibly educational and mind-expanding, thanks to the professional lens through which the present-day Elizabeth Bouvier can look back on the dysfunctional microcosm of her childhood and family of origin, and zoom out over the wider dysfunctional macrocosm of US society.  If you want to connect some serious dots, you need to read literature like this.   ♥

A big thank-you for being a person I can bounce things off on a regular basis.  Writing into a vacuum isn’t recommended.  Other people help us be and think better, and I think it is important to acknowledge them.  ♥

Back to the regular programming next post!  :)

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