Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Work . . . Job . . . Occupation . . . Vocation . . .

For heaven's sake . . . .  What is it that pulls one out of bed at such an ungodly hour . . . to write?  Which of the nine muses (this time) or, perhaps, one of the candidates for the "tenth muse," or Mnemosyne, herself?  It certainly wouldn't be Zeus!

So, the tradition is to call upon one (or more?) of the muses . . . .

But how to pick THE thought for expression out of the "blooming buzzing confusion of the outer world"?

This one, it seems to me, stems from a "conversation" with a homeless woman while waiting for the bus yesterday here in Palm Springs, CA - "I have rights . . ." she kept saying while listing a litany of abuses from landlord and county . . . .

So, it must have been that in my sleep I was reflecting upon my experience back in Minnesota - just coming into actual retirement and being a live-in, caretaker for a 76 year old man (formerly a technical VP at 3M) with mild Altzheimer's.  Experiencing first hand his (and his wife's) battle with a series of "guardian / conservators" (the Dakota County  investigator had taken their client's fearful expression that he did not want his wife [current or ex-?] to be his guardian-conservator as the gospel truth - $200,000 in lawyer's fees later, his wife was finally named to be his guardian / conservator).  With one guardian-conservator they had run into a situation which involved Federal tax returns from individual submissions and the question arose as to whose assets they were, so that the guardian-conservator cut off all funds to the household (this was not the first time they had faced this situation, as an "emergency guardian-conservator" appointed by Dakota County for a ninety-day period, did absolutely nothing except once a month write his client a check for food and himself a check for $50.00 for writing the check for food; that is to say, none of the household bills were paid during that period and they faced having their electricity shut off just previous to Christmas [you can imagine what this would be like, living in Minnesota], not to mention their health insurance cancelled).  They had "rights" after all . . . .

And, grasping at straws for survival, one day upon reading the paper I saw an ad for newspaper route work and suggested that we try that avenue for temporary income.  This was 3:00 - 6:00 AM (12:00 [Midnight] - 7:00 AM for the Sunday paper), seven days a week work (at less than minimum wage [not counting the "tips"], it turned out), with a commitment on my part for one year (of service).

Was I an idiot?  Probably only in the sense of Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" . . . .

Thus the title for this post!

Have a great day!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

On Obituaries . . .

Good Day!

After my next youngest brother had come home from the hospital ‐ post 8th heart stent visit (with a total of 9 stents inserted) ‐ he forwarded an obituary that he wrote (because the angina on this occasion was fairly serious).

Having as recently as yesterday said “goodbye” to a long time “loved one” (the subject of another blog - “It's been good knowing you, Sandy [name has been changed to protect the innocent]” ‐ she once gave me a ring inscribed “True Love Waits,” to which I, jokingly, added “Forever”), I was taken in this morning's sleep to that place of writing my own obituary . . . and had to make these hasty notes . . . with analysis at a later time . . . .

“‘Known by many, and loved by fewer’.  He is survived by siblings (etc.) . . . .

As a dove flying through the heavens, suddenly flies into the reflection of the world in a plate glass window, so, an event in 1989 left him “permanently disqualified” for life.  But given the stupid, human quest for survival, he attempted to continue in the game of life and was successful ‐ off and on ‐ depending upon whether or not the state's sanctions permitted him to work at his life's task(s).  He was a kind of “dead man, walking,” though different from your typical American Civil Religious Somnambulistic Schizophrenic.”

As an INXP, to those he was able to love, he loved with commitment:  caring deeply ‐ indeed, passionately ‐ sensitively, with strong capacity for devotion, sympathy, and adaptability.

His internet signature and tag lines summed him up in three ways:  "Appreciative Systems Synthesist," Dante's “Nessun maggior dolore che ricordarsi un tempo felice nella miseria” (“There is no greater sorrow than to recall a happy time in misery.”), and John 15:13.

Though in his recent babbling there were often references to Job 13:15!

He would wish you well as you are able to continue playing the game of life.1

Cremation memorial service, Lakewood Memorial Chapel; no flowers; memorials to Joseph's Chateau or a charity of your choice"

1 These additional notes upon “analysis”:

During a marriage counseling session back in the ‐ I'm going to say, early 70s ‐ the counselor asked me whether I thought that life was a game.  Being “wet behind / between the ears,” I just naturally answered, “No” (though I thought differently; I thought, ”We're in deep dodo, if it isn't.”)

Some ten years later, during divorce counseling at Lutheran Social Services in Minneapolis, I had taken the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory - for, at least, the third [of many] time[s] in my life) ‐ and here are the psychiatrist's (John H. Mowery's) conclusions (recently dug out of an email I shared [just before mid-summer, 2006] with another friend on the journey).

This is a valid MMPI.  Individual counseling is indicated.  A neurotic depressive disorder is suggested, severe in degree.  The basic personality appears to be obsessive-compulsive and prone to neurotic symptoms under strong degrees of stress.  Perhaps an eclectic counseling approach might be effective.  This would involve development of greater emotional insight, a better self-concept, better social skills, a higher level of emotional maturity, and a redefined philosophy of life.  If the depressive symptoms should deepen significantly, despite good counseling techniques, psychiatric referral should be considered.

Today, those conclusions certainly appear to be a canned response, and back at the time - having read (in alphabetical order) Becker, Berger, Brown, Eysenck, Feyerabend, Foucault, Freud, Fromm, Goffman, Grunbaum, Jung, Laing, Legman, Masson, Menninger, Popper, Rank, Reich, Sullivan, Szasz, and Wilson-Schaef (not to mention many more), here was my response to John:

How could you miss as regards my basic personality being obsessive-compulsive?  Don't I live in modern Western culture?  Wilhelm Reich saw that our whole culture was sick, and Erich Fromm coined that beautiful, liberating, yet, empirical scientific expression:  “the pathology of normalcy.” Otto Rank held that all our human problems arise from our ceaseless attempts to impose our fictions on the natural world, to over control it.  We deny our finitude with the same dedication as the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, but now whole masses are playing the game, and with a far richer armamentarium of techniques.  The skyscraper buildings, the clover-leaf freeways, the houses with their imposing facades and immaculate lawns ‐ what are these if not the modern equivalent of pyramids:  a face to the world that announces “I am not ephemeral, look what went into me, what represents me, what justifies me.”  The hushed hope is that someone who can do this will not die.

Life in contemporary society is like an open-air lunatic asylum with people cutting and spraying their grass (to deny untidiness, hence lack of order, hence lack of control, hence their death), beating trails to the bank with little books of figures that worry them around the clock (for the same reason), ogling bulges of flesh, bent over steering wheels and screeching around corners, meticulously polishing their cars, trimming their hedges (and of course spraying them), giving out parking tickets, saluting banners of colored cloth with their hand on their heart, killing peasants in third and fourth world countries, carefully counting the dead, missing, wounded, probable dead, planning production curves that will absolutely bring about the millennium in thirty-seven years (if quotas are met), filling shopping carts, emptying shopping carts, nailing up vines (and spraying them) ‐ and all this dedicated activity takes place within a din of noise that tries to defy eternity:  motorized lawn mowers, power saws, electric clipping shears, powered spray guns, huge industrial machines, jack hammers, automobiles and their tires, giant jets, electric shavers, motorized toothbrushes, dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers, vacuum cleaners.

This is truly obsessive-compulsiveness on the level of the visible and audible, so overpowering in its total effect that the human beings' natural animal spontaneity is almost wholly stifled.

In this kind of normal cultural neurosis, the material-technological character-lie is so ingrained that the human beings' urges toward mystery, awe, and beauty show up only minimally, if at all, or in forms that are so swallowed up in culturally-standardized perceptions that they are hardly recognizable.  We are closed off, tightly, against dimensions of reality and perceptions of the world that will threaten or upset our standardized reactions:  we will have it our way even if we have to strangle the segment of reality that we have equipped ourselves to cope with.

The significance of Reich's, Rank's, Fromm's and Ronald Laing's work is that everyone is crazy, because everyone sees the world within the culturally neurotic perceptual system (the only one who has a chance of getting out of it is the one who is mentally ill, who has a breakdown and so leaves the old perceptual system behind and emerges into a new, less automatic and constricting one [as Fromm mused “the real problem of mental life is not why some people become insane, but rather why most avoid insanity” The Sane Society, p. 34]) ‐ normalcy is illness.  How could it be otherwise?  Each person will twist the world in some way to try to accord it with their fantasies, wishes, fears; they will fail in some way to see obvious things in the world because these obvious things are a threat to them; they will knuckle under to some kind of authority, some source of sustaining and transcending power which gives them the mandate for their life and nourishes their equanimity.  Neurosis is a constriction of perception and action due to the need to maintain a positively valued self from within an inferior power position.  And so we can flatly and empirically say that everyone is neurotic, some more than others.

Over and out for now . . .

I'm considering adding a few more paragraphs or, perhaps, another footnote to this writing.  But, it will still be capped‐off with this reference to my November 5, 2014 blog entry (which mentions work by some of the author's referred to above).

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