In proximity with a neurosis

S. Freud & C. G. Jung 1909 (pd)

“Freud considers a neurosis to be a substitute for a direct means of gratification. For him it is something inauthentic–a mistake, a subterfuge, an excuse, a refusal to face facts; in short, something essentially negative that should never have been. One hardly dares to put in a good word for a neurosis, since it is apparently nothing but a meaningless and therefore irritating disturbance. By treating a work of art as something that can be analyzed in terms of the artist’s repressions we bring it into questionable proximity with a neurosis, where, in a sense, it finds itself in good company, for the Freudian method treats religion and philosophy in the same way.”  ~~ C.G. Jung – The Spirit of Man, Art, and Literature

In the case of arts I rather tend to be with Freud than with Jung (who usually talks greater wisdom) and I’d say that arts, religion, and philosophy (like science, politics writing, and a …hrm… few other things) belong into the realm of civilized neuroses and psychoses. Ridiculous, isn’t it, when we have the common image of a nutcase in mind, a person that we cannot identify with, especially as an artist. We don’t feel sick.
But I don’t mean to say that artists were just loonies or that I weren’t affected and couldn’t create arts myself, or that pieces of art can’t be beautiful. I just begin to let go of the idea that mental disturbances were “something essentially negative that should never have been.” To me, they rather represent a healthy reaction of the mind to an overwhelming challenge, and that overwhelming challenge is civilization. As you may have guessed already I hold that a percentage in the high nineties among us is mentally disturbed by the dominant culture; the more so the more actively a person believes in separation.
From this point of view, regarding any issue or topic, I ask the question, Does this exist among wild peoples, does it exist with animals, does it exist anywhere else? And if so, how does it manifest? What could be the underlying notion there?
Kali mata (N Dhar, Pexels licence)
Interestingly enough, prehistoric artifacts, cave paintings, and tribal totems often find themselves depticted in tomes about ‘primitive arts’ but that’s a complete misrepresentation of what they are to their (physical) creators, I believe. They are not even ‘sacred objects’(Wikipedia), and they don’t represent the Sacred; they are sacred subjects – beings in their own right. So art is not involved here. The ‘artist’ neither depicts reality, nor does she interpret it her way, nor does she express herself. The Sacred is expressing through her. To some degree we find this even in modern times, where the sculpture of a Hindu goddess – say, Kali – becomes the goddess herself at the moment when the sculptor finishes his work. The sculpture is Kali in person, neither a piece of art, nor a representation of the goddess, nor a ritual object. That’s why she doesn’t bear the name of the sculptor on her back.
Compare this to what arts have historically been or what they mean to us today, and what the driving motivations for creating art were/are.
Again, this is not to diminish the artist’s perception, creativity and craftsmanship, or to deny artistic beauty, but to put it into another perspective. Arts, despite modern individualistic views, isn’t merely personal, it has a collective dimension. And the collective is… impaired.

The arts are no exception (Yurugu series #7)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

[previous article]

As my readers, by now, may assume – and rightly so – that no part of European thought, life, and culture has escaped Yurugu’s influence, it is safe to say that the arts do have a role to play in exerting power over the “Other.” The forms of expression and the institutions of our civilization are thoroughly shaped in the image of Yurugu.

John Zerzan writes about the origins of art,

Art, like religion, arose from the original sense of disquiet, no doubt subtly but powerfully disturbing in its newness and its encroaching gradualness. In 1900 [Yrgo] Hirn wrote of an early dissatisfaction that motivated the artistic search for a “fuller and deeper expression” as “compensation for new deficiencies of life.” Cultural solutions, however, do not address the deeper dislocations that cultural “solutions” are themselves part of. Conversely, as commentators as diverse as Henry Miller and Theodor Adorno have concluded, there would be no need of art in a disalienated world. What art has ineffectively striven to capture and express would once again be a reality, the false antidote of culture forgotten. – Running on Emptiness: the Failure of Symbolic Thought

As art must reflect the nature of the asiliwe can expect a society deeply split into the haves and have-nots, to produce an equally split-up arts scene. Indeed, observing developmentsover the millennia, we can seea clear division between an elitist “sophisticated” conception of arts on the one hand, and the “kitsch” itemsthat ordinary folkscreate on the other. Of folk music, I once heard somebody say that, “Pigs can’t help oinking.”
While professional forms of art historically often served to establish a certain story of people’s nature and place in the (hostile) Universe, namely their position in a society’s hierarchy, today’s arts degrade the vast majority of people to consumers. The artist, though, cannot perceive herselfas a pure dominator. She, in turn, is subject to the overarching power of economy, and she is, thanks to the strong premise of separation, fundamentally alone with herself. When she expresses her visions in her art she will help to proliferate that premise. Her expression is perceived as uniquely hers. Whether she can reach anybody else, and whether anybody else is able to deeply relate to what she expresses, cannot be made sure. Following the fashion of the day is the only way how she hasa chance that she can make a living from her work. Marimba Ani writes,

European art becomes increasingly “a commodity manufactured for the market” tending toward the vulgar. We should point out that the interesting contradiction in European culture is that its art may be commercially inspired (“the artist must live, after all”), geared to consumption, inspired by the desire for recognition, and at the same time remain an elitist form, that is, essentially separated from the people, because the art, like culture, creates (controls) the people, rather than the reverse. According to Sorokin, in the artist’s tendency to disregard religious and moral values, the art itself

“comes to be more and more divorced from truly cultural values and turns into an empty art known euphemistically as ‘art for art’s sake,’ at once amoral, nonreligious, and nonsocial, and often antimoral, antireligious, and antisocial.” [Pitirim Sorokin, The Crisis of our Age, 1941, p56]

(Marimba Ani: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,1994, p205)

Strolling through Indian villages, the only obvious kind of art we can see consists of expressions of the religious. The notion that people, nature, and gods are closely interrelated, is still very strong in rural areas. Yet in the cities – the gates through which the floodwaters of Western civilization press into the lives of average Indians – the scenery has become overgrown by a jungle of industrial design – advertisements, economic buildings of concrete, steel and glass, and political monuments – to which the spectator is no one but a subject to power: the power to dictate order, and the power to trigger desire. Bearing only few reminiscences to India’s pre-colonial culture, the form which art, music and design take are dictated by international standards nowadays.
It sometimes seems impossible to escape the omnipresent public cacophony of such products, and I wonder why all these people here simply accept the violation of their mind space. Perhaps they cannot stand the emptiness of a plain surface, or the loudness of silence any longer. Perhaps the lack of attention-grabbing artifacts would make them aware of that other gaping, hurtful void – the one inside. So, “It’s got to be Rock’n’Roll to fill the hole in your soul.” (ABBA). When the flooding of the senses ceases to work, when one day it “doesn’t bring the same reaction from inside your brain” (Savatage), it’s time to end that specific kind of division of labour which condemns the majority of people to stay passive consumers of the arts.
Let music, fine arts, sculpture, architecture, theatrical play, and storytelling come into existence by using your own imagination. What are the values of your community, what are the stories that connect and empower people in your place, and what is the fertile ground on which humanity’s purpose in the Universe can grow? Wouldn’t you like to express, for once, something that is truly important to you? What would art look like when it works towards the ending of the need for art?

[next article in the series]

Who cares

I have been a ‘die-hard metal fan’, as they call the kind of folks that bang their heads at the thrashing beat of drums and screeching sounds of guitars, a guy who, like all the other die-hard metal fans, used to say, “I don’t give a shit what people think. I really couldn’t care less.”
Well, I was lying.
Of course I cared! That’s the whole point of being a die-hard metal fan. You yearn to be other than the others, you want to show off your freedom to all those sheeple out there who don’t dare to bleat. You want to be seen.
So I was lying; I did care, and I was wrong about my perceived liberty, too, as I know now. Being different, as well, is not the desirable thing I thought it was. There are no sheeple. Or rather, all of us are sheeple, the lifestock of the 1%, and each living being deserves getting cared about in kinder ways than rejection as an ‘other’.
Caring is the point of being an activist. Because, if you didn’t give a damn you wouldn’t be out there risking your reputation, your job, or, for some of you, even your life. Yes, you want to make a difference, physically. And then you want for that difference to take roots in the collective consciousness, you want for it to persist and have a lasting impact; you wish for people to finally wake up to what you can see so clearly.
Yet, to get to the point where you can see so clearly what most others don’t, you must have significantly reduced caring about mainstream opinions, and that means, you let go of wanting to be an acknowledged, highly valued member of society. Because the very moment you start to deviate from their kind of truth you are on your way out.
From this perspective, a quote from one of Richard Bach’s novels makes a lot of sense:
“Well, what’s wrong with losing ninety percent of my audience? What’s wrong with losing ALL my audience? I know what I know and I talk what I talk! And if that’s wrong then that’s just too bad.” –Richard Bach
In the end, as an author, you are writing for the sake of truth as such. You are writingin support of those who already understand the truth you tell, the ones who need support with staying strong and sane in an ocean of falsehood. You are writing for the ones you care about. You are writing for whom and what you love. Hell, does it make a difference! It makes an infinitely greater difference than voting for the right guy or buying from a green shop.
So let’s care. Let’s care a lot! Let’s care about our friends and neighbours, about the toads, the grass, the cockroaches, the sky, and the creek. Let’s care about truth.
Truth is not depending on a democratic majority, or anybody else but its speaker at all. Let truth be told, no matter what. You don’t know what else to say. A certain way along the path, you cannot stand anything but the truth; no matter how small the deviation, you cringe under the slightest of falsehoods, and you would rather be dead than contributing to the big lie that is our culture. This is how much you care.
You’d rather be dead.

On the arts

Art thrives on misery and suffering. Tough times produce great writers, painters, musicians etc. Art is a means of self-fulfillment.
But: true Creativity comes from the connection with our joyful center, when you act from what you intuitively know to be right and true and good. Art is a means of service.

I found both to be accurate. I had my most creative writing bouts when I was totally miserable, and once again after I had woken up to the fact that the misery, including the reasons for it, were an illusion and fully committed myself to reconnecting to the Sacred. During the intermittent period I shut down writing activities almost completely for several years. I knew nothing then, I was totally disoriented, and I saw no meaning in anything.

Writing does have to make sense, not only to the reader, but to the writer as well. If this is missing from your life, forget about being creative. Don’t even try.