A different kind of culture – Open Letter – January 2nd 2015

resistance

I could pass fairly easily in normal company by feigning an interest in some form of sport GAA or football. I could take up something like cross-fit or the gym and I could speak in a constricted lexicon, of but a handful, of easy to consume references.

I could have remained in the same incestuous circle of friends – a collision of a boy’s and a girl’s secretary school or hung out with the remnants of some college society I once frequented. It would be easier to be normal but I have to be faithful to who I am and continue to try and be creative and different albeit from within the structures and systems that inhibit this kind of thinking.

In 2015 this blog will be my attempt to keep the flame burning even from within those structures. I will maintain this as a repository for my thoughts and artworks that shall remain a bit different.

Daniel Costigan

A short note on Chapter 9 ‘Altered States’ in Oliver Sacks’ book – Hallucinations

Hallucinations_by_Oliver_Sacks_cover I was recently reading Oliver Sacks’ book on Hallucinations when I got to p90 and there was a Chapter entitled Altered States. I was suddenly gripped by an off-the-wall account of the author’s experiences with substances. By way of contrast it reminded me of an article by journalist and commentator Charlie Brooker. In an effort to make some ‘clever’ point about how newspapers are the real drug we should be scared of Brooker gave a limp account of his past use of substances. acid He dismissed all of his past substance use and says that he is ‘sickeningly lily-livered, by choice rather than necessity’. He says that he would ‘sooner saw of [his] own feet of than touch anything harder than a double espresso’. I think it’s the reason that Sack’s account was more interesting to me than Brooker’s account is twofold – apart from the obvious that it wasn’t trying to make some convoluted point about newspapers.

  1. The idea that clever people take drugs too and they can provide adventurous accounts that showcase their erudition

I like sacks’ account because it is not some sort of cliched ‘not even once’ meth account of drug taking. While there are many instances of lives being ruined by drug use and even Sacks seems to have been derailed a bit by it is refreshing to see someone writing about experiences in a way that showcases both their learning and the operation of the human mind. When Sacks decided  to take Morphine he didn’t just take morphine. He had been hallucinating the battle of Agincourt, in vivid detail, on his arm for close to twelve hours straight. When Sacks decided to take 20 anti-parkinsonian pills (containing artane- a synthetic drug allied to belladonna) he holds a conversation with spider, in his kitchen, mostly on technical matters of analytic philosophy. The spider asked Sacks whether he felt that the Bertrand Russell had exploded Frege’s paradox? artane (2) The notion & (partial) fantasy that people can take substances and it will enhance their brilliance  When Sacks was looking for inspiration when writing about migraines he downed a sugared draft of amphetamine and old book On Megrim, Sick-Headache, and some Allied Disorders: A contribution to the Pathology of Nerve-storms suddenly captured Sacks’ imagination in a whole new way. Migraine_(Oliver_Sacks_book) Under the influence of the amphetamines Sacks plower through the 500 page book and found himself almost becoming the author and seeing the patients he described. He says that the book gave him what he had been hungering for during the months when he had actually been seeing patients with migraine and been frustrated by thin impoverished articles on the subject. The next day when he was coming down, before returning the book to the library, he photocopied the whole thing and that was the genesis of his book on migraines. Sources  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/mar/22/charlie-brooker-newspapers-dangerous-drug Hallucinations, Oliver Sacks

A short note – The internal world of the schizoid

Kadinsky

Some people do not appear interested in social relationships and incline towards solitary relationships and pursuits. They come across as aloof and emotionally cold. The people I am talking about are ‘schizoids’ who are fundamentally characterised by one central defence mechanism that of withdrawal.

This withdrawal can be more or less geographical as in the situation where a man retreats to his den or to some other remote location whenever the world is too much for him, or internal, as in the situation of the woman who goes through the motions of being present while attending mostly to internal fantasies and preoccupations. It is a defensive strategy to protect from overstimulation, traumatic impingement and invalidation. It leads to a loss of flexible human contact, the inability to master new situations and a constant flight into established habits.

Some Schizoids may even give the outward appearance of being able to express a great deal of feeling and to make what appear to be impressive social contacts yet in reality they give nothing and lose nothing. This schizoid is able to disown the part which he is playing and thus is able to preserve his own personality intact and immune from comprise.

Schizoid individuals find it hard to interact meaningfully with others because they do not understand the repression of thought necessary for ordinary social exchange. Schizoids are undefended against the nuances of their more primal thoughts, feelings and impulses. Similarly they are able to pick up on this in others and can be remarkably attended to the unconscious processes in others. What is obvious to them is often invisible to less schizoid people. Schizoids find it difficult to ignore this ‘hidden’ information and are thus further delimited in their range of exchange.

kafka

More than a Pathology

This schizoid temperament is a problem, yes, but it is also this same hidden information and conversation that schizoid individuals carry on with themselves that gives them access to an elevated form of expression and communication.

Example 1

In Merleau-Ponty’s 1945 essay ‘Cezanne’s doubt’ the inseparability of artist Paul Cezanne’s schizoid temperament and his art are emphasised : –

[I]t reveals a metaphysical meaning to his illness (schizothymia as the reduction of the world to the totality of frozen appearances and the suspension of expressive values); because the illness thus ceases being an absurd fact and destiny to become a general existence confronting, in a consistent, principled way, one of its paradoxes – the phenomenon of expression because in this to be schizoid and to be Cezanne are one and the same thing. It is therefore impossible to separate creative freedom from that behaviour, as far as possible from deliberate, already evident in Cezanne’s first gestures as a child and in the way he reacted to things.

Example 2

Kafka offers another perfect example of the linkage of the schizoid process with an elevated mode of art and communication. In his personal life he was intensely involved with a woman called Felice Bauer for five years, sometimes sending her several letters a day. Bauer lived in Berlin and Kafka lived in Prague. During their five years that they were engaged they met only ten times, often for not more than an hour or two. His letters are fraught with anxiety about where Felice was going, who she was seeing, what she was eating or who she was wearing. Kafka demanded instant replies to his letters and was enraged when he did not receive them. He proposed twice, broke it off twice and the letter never took place. The only more disturbing than separation from Felice for Kafka was her presence.

It was, however, this same fragmented manner of relating to people from childhood that informed his works. His writings are full of the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality and parent-child conflict.

Sources:

http://internationalpsychoanalysis.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/McWilliamsschizoid_dynamics.pdf

http://faculty.uml.edu/rinnis/cezannedoubt.pdf

W. R. D. Fairbairn- ‘Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality’. pp 16-17

The Examined Life – Stephen Grosz