What Do Artists Talk About?

 

      The Buddhist philosophy suggests that all worldly existence is centered on pain and suffering and that the only way out of the pain and suffering is   detachment developed in individuals by practicing the art of meditation. This involves emptying the mind of runaway thoughts and controlling the breath, which in turn leads to a more tranquil state of mind, temporarily at least.   The desire for peace and harmony through meditation is not in itself a bad thing. Contemplation when it leads to creativity is a key to a fulfilling life.

   The arts are crucial components in human survival as demonstrated tacitly in the heroic legends and effigies Mesopotamia, Carthage and Pre-Hellenic Greece. Similar trends extended from China to North America through Mexico to the South Americas, the black African nations as well as forming the basis of the Indian Brahmanic Dharma and Asian Buddhism.  These were the works that expressed action and guided new realities. It would appear then that art is a good place to start in understanding the human psyche.    Liberating humanity from fantasies and delusions is not an easy proposition because the world we live in is engulfed in fantasies and many of these thoughts and feelings stem from our ancient past.   As the enlightened scientist Carl Sagan has pointed out we inhabit  A Demon Haunted World which holds more prominence in people’s lives than logical thinking.  This world of fantasy has become so very popular that some scholars, including Sagan refer to it as a pseudoscience, but maybe pseudoscience is just another word for creativity.  Every science has its counterpart in a pseudoscience and in some cases the science has come from the pseudo-sciences as in the practice of astronomy, which was born from ancient astrology.  Pseudoscience differs from erroneous science because as Sagan explains

Science thrives on error, cutting them away one by one.  False conclusions are drawn all the time, but they are drawn tentatively. Hypotheses are framed so they are capable of being disproved.   A succession of alternative hypotheses is confronted by experiment and observation. Science gropes and staggers towards improving understanding.[1]

     Pseudoscience depends on systems of faith, creeds, canons, discourses and practices that cannot be certified to be true and effective and which frequently act against any real understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.  It is nonetheless an area of creativity.   Pseudoscience still depends on myths and possibilities which become delusions when people start to see them as truth. On the other hand myths help us to map our lives.  Not all the aspects of mythologies are bad; myth makes great art and even more fascinating literature.  The fact is, fantasy continues to be more accepted by mass populations as the world become ever more complex.    So why should we strive to change this phenomenon?  The simple fact is, we don’t need to change the appeal of myths, we just need to put them into perspective.  Otherwise, there is the possibility of slipping back society   back into stagnation and the kind of life-world that resembles the Dark Ages.   It has happened before that great periods of Enlightenment have led into the depths of human despair.   In fact we might say that history is littered with light and dark periods that have had their greatest impacts on the poor and vulnerable. Generally speaking, people do not deal well with change.  The dark spaces are not a good environment, yet so many creative people are plagued by them.

 The most familiar period in history to be called the Dark Age is that describing a period in history during the Middle Ages, from approximately the 6th to the 13th Century and prior to the 14th Century Renaissance. Although there is no historically fixed boundary on the use of the term, in the Dark Ages there are some important lessons to be learned.   Its use, which usually refers to a cultural and economic decline that followed the ‘Fall of the Roman Empire’ resonates with many dark periods in modern history including the current 2013 economic decline.    All empires rise and fall and the world is currently experiencing the reconstitution of empires dismantled after the Second World War, but these empires have reached a hiatus.   Global empires have brought us a global economy, not such a bad thing, but it has also opened the door to abuse through poor regulation.  People are protesting the onset of doom and gloom with few gains and no resolution.

     The concept of a Dark Age originated with the Italian scholar Francesco Petrarca in the 1330s and was aimed at critiquing a decline in Latin literature; it then denoted a period of deep and ‘dark’ backwardness that was juxtaposed to the notion of ‘light’ and progress. As the time moved forward the Dark Ages came too include the excesses of theology, enforced piety, rigid laws, austerity and the persecution of dissidents and outsiders.  The Dark Ages is sometimes linked to corruptions in the church and state as well as highlighting the reduction of knowledge and opportunity within the mainstream society; moves that have generally suited the dominant interests.  

      Over the decades many an economic downturn has been described as a move towards the Dark Ages with the latest events linked to the 2008 global economic crisis which still, in 2013, has Europe and the United States in the grip of austerity measures and the tightening of social order.  In some quarters the Dark Ages is seen as a good thing because it encourages conservation and boosts a national impetus towards political  unification, this in turn aids business, but it divides the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ across ever widening chasms.  Community becomes a key feature of the Dark Ages because it encourages like-mindedness. However, like-mindedness equates with fewer rights and a curb on population demands.   Like-mindedness can also be a state of inertia, repression and frustration.  This in turn can manifest social unrest and violence. The 2012 Occupy Movement is typical of the retort against government measures of   austerity and typical of a peoples’ revolution when there is nowhere else to go.   There is always a need for social order, but repression can be a major dilemma for any society.  Repression is a root cause of fantasy and delusion in individuals and this has repercussions for the entire social environment. Repression in psychoanalysis is the removal from consciousness of painful and disturbing experiences that leads to the deliberate suppression of any articulation required to deal with them. This scenario has its consequences.

       According to Sigmund Freud every element of life and death is tied up with psychosexual experiences.  The very act of entering into civilised society entails the repression of various archaic and primitive desires. Freud maintained that each person’s psychosexual development is based on surpassing the previous ‘love-objects’ or ‘object-cathexes’ that are inherent in the first sexual phases of child development, this includes the oral phase and the anal-sadistic phase; [food and excretia]  however, even well-adjusted individuals still harbor those hidden forces which become manifest in primal desires.   We see these elements portrayed in dreams, art and literature; or what Freud referred to as slips of the tongue [parapraxes].    also known as the ‘return of the repressed.’[1]  ‘In less well-adjusted individuals, who remain fixated on early libido objects or who are driven to abnormal reaction formations  or substitute formations, two possibilities exist:’[2]

1]     Perversion, in which case the individual completely accepts and pursues his or her desire for alternative sexual objects and situations [sodomists, sado-masochists, etc.];

2]     Neurosis, in which case the same prohibited desires may still be functioning, but some repression is forcing the ‘repudiated libidinal trends’ to get ‘their way by certain roundabout paths, though not, it is true, without taking the objection into account by submitting to some distortions and mitigations.’ [3]

       For Freud repression is a normal part of human development; indeed, the analysis of dreams, literature, jokes, and ‘Freudian slips’ demonstrates the ways in which our hidden desires continue to find outlets in perfectly well-adjusted individuals.   However, when we are faced with obstacles [to the satisfaction of our libido’s  cathexis] we may experience traumatic events, or when we remain fixated on earlier phases of our development, the conflict between the  libido and the ego [instinct and reality] or between the ego  and the superego [the moral self] this can lead to alternative sexual behaviours.[4] In other words most aberrations are rooted in trauma.



 [1]Carl Sagan [1997] The Demon Haunted World. N.Y. Ballantine Books, p20.

[2] Felluga, Dino. “Modules on Freud: On the Unconscious.” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory  Purdue University.   http://www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory/psychoanalysis/freud2.html . Retrieved 12th May 2013.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.  See  Freud. Introductory Lectures 16.350  

 

[5]  The Id, ego and super-ego are the three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud’sstructural model of the psyche; they are the three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction mental life is described. According to this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and the ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.[1] The super-ego can stop you from doing certain things that your id may want you to do.[2]  “The Super-ego of Freud. http://journals1.scholarsportal.info.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/tmp/1616109293319725532.pdf and  http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/personalityelem.htm  Retrieved 12th May 2013.

 



 

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