Wednesday, December 30, 2009

feeling concerted parenthood

I’ve shaped a one-page philosophy of parenting, biased by my implicit interest in prospecting a good sense of the basis of creativity, which “feeling…” backgrounds quite ambitiously. The discussion, at section 2, “ecstasy of power,” repeats a couple of paragraphs from yesterday’s posting, but otherwise the discussion is new.

A philosophical discussion isn’t meant to be directly practical, though I see lots of practicality in what I’ve done, if only as a matter of introducing lots of concepts and relations that may constructively swim around one’s mind.

But parenting is easy, in a sense, if you’ve grown up in a good home (and I did). Trust your intuition; keep it child-centered; learn by doing. Parenting is a matter of so many little trivialities that become habitual (and tedious), amid all the fun and awesomeness of seeing children grow up (retropectively) all too quickly. Poof! The years are memory. Love it all, every day.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

“love” of unhappiness

I’m enjoying a synopsis of good parenting by a couple of child development specialists, and my experience tells me that they’re very enlightened. Let me share a little from a Webpage by them (linked at the bottom here) that I find especially important, before focusing briefly on my subject title, inspired by their page.

Infants bring into the world the feeling that “they are causing their parents, whom they adore more than life itself, to pay loving attention to their developmental needs.”
Infants are absolutely certain that whatever happens to them is for the best, because their beloved parents have caused or intended whatever happens. Your brand-new baby believes both that he is engaging your love, and also that the care he receives is ideal. When these inborn convictions are confirmed day after day, your child grows up to possess a lasting inner happiness.
Attention breeds independence. Lots of loving attention will make your child independent, not dependent or “spoiled.” A wholly child-centered approach to parenting with “loving regulation” (no “tough love”) that facilitates their confidence in their own power to cause being loved and in their own potential to gain competence
can provide your child with a reliable, enduring core happiness that is unwavering even in the face of life's unavoidable disappointments and misfortunes. Your child's inner well-being rests on her certain knowledge that she has caused you to love caring for her. Of all the gifts you can give your child, this is the most important, because it is the foundation of all happiness and goodness and the shield against self-caused unhappiness.
The authors indicate that, since a child wholly seeks a parent’s attention, the child will seek whatever the parent has to give. Obvious. But here’s the rub: If the parent is unhappy, the child will want the parent’s unhappiness. The child will grow up seeking unhappiness because that’s what love is. Also, if gaining attention means getting the attention of unhappiness, then becoming unhappy is the way to be loved. But if the parent is unhappy, then they aren’t going to respond sufficiently to the child’s unhappiness, which the child cultivates in order to be loved. Getting insufficient response to one’s own unhappiness by the unhappy parent increases the child’s unhappiness, all the more securing unhappiness as who one is as truly one’s parent’s child, like a bond of unhappiness. “We” belong together in our mirrorplay of unhappiness.

Surely, though, no one seeks unhappiness! But clearly, a child idealizes the parent, so a parent’s unhappiness would be idealized.
As we have said, all babies meet their parents as optimists with regard to relationships. Each infant believes that his parents are perfect caregivers who are perfectly devoted to him. He has an inborn conviction that everything that happens to him is for the best because it is intended and approved by his parents. As a result, we believe, when for some reason parents are consistently unable to satisfy a child's developmental needs [e.g., the career-stressed mother], the infant reacts by believing that his unhappy or alienated feelings are intended and approved of by his parents. Out of love for their parents, and in an attempt to care for themselves exactly as their beloved parents care for them, such children unknowingly develop the desire to cause themselves exactly the same discomfort they believe their parents want for them. These children believe that they are seeking happiness when they strive to recreate the feelings they experienced in their parents' presence.
If this is unhappy, thus maladaptive for motivation in school, etc., then more and more through childhood, there is a lack of inner motivation. Needing to succeed and be admired has to come from desire formed from external rewards, and inner unhappiness has to be suppressed through willful attention away from that by desperate desire for things unrelated to inner happiness. “Happy” desire for others and for things becomes a way to preserve suppression of inner unhappiness and get a life of one’s own.

When faced with situations calling for an inner fullness of feeling, such as empathy, feeling has to be strictly bounded and controlled, if not withheld, because a depth of feeling gives way to inner unhappiness. Another’s great loss has to be regarded casually, because the loss to the child, in reconciling to inner unhappiness as essential to their being, is unfathomable and must remain displaced.

A boy’s love for an unhappy mother or girl’s for an unhappy father becomes, in adolescent love and adulthood, a sense of caring for unhappiness. For example, a high-achieving mother might be married to a man made unhappy by his wife’s success. But he is more available to his daughter than a father usually is, because the mother is less available than a mother usually is. So, the unhappy daughter feels especially bonded to the unhappy father. One can grow to depend on a loved one’s unhappiness in order to “truly” love. One even may “love” the other’s unhappiness.

Yet, one doesn’t want to cause unhappiness, so conflict in feeling becomes natural, and causing unhappiness may seem to be one’s fate, because it’s the firefly’s flame. It’s thus best to avoid close friendships, because they too easily become conflicted. A full social life keeps the reality forgotten. Loving a few others in one’s unhappiness takes all the feeling one can afford. But there’s plenty of energy (especially a lot) for things that can be easily forgotten or discarded. Novelty saves.

I occasionally read about parenting, such as I’m doing today, because I like to periodically test my sense of child development, since I’ve been so occupied with child development for so many years that I’m sometimes wary of my own presumptuousness, especially since I’m beyond actual parenting. I’m happy to feel that I do indeed understand child development and parenting very well. I thought today that a notion of “smart love” might be neat to consider, so I read the long Webpage that I’m quoting from above. In my opinion, it’s an excellent cheat sheet on how to be an excellent parent. The page may seem trite at the beginning, but keep reading. It becomes profoundly useful in its details. Especially useful, I think, is the distinction between primary and secondary happiness.

Monday, December 28, 2009

4 reasons to have children
and 1 reason for philosophy

2/12/2010 — 9:45 pm

This week’s Science is a special issue on “Food Security,” i.e.: how to feed 9 billion people (the estimated upper limit of Earth’s carrying capacity).

Deciding to not have children, or to adopt instead, is like voting: One vote has to be part of a mass preference, for one’s vote to seem important. But one vote is all one has.

Anyway, population growth is out of control, particularly among the poor and illiterate. Last December, I took an eccentric perspective here on having children.

the horizoning child

Somewhere in the late 1970s, a profound little cartoon that I treasured appeared on a magazine page. I believe it was a New Yorker cartoon, but I haven’t found it in available anthologies of New Yorker cartoons.

Like the Russian doll within a doll within a doll, the cartoon on a black background is firstly, in the center of the frame, a little white-line drawing of a very old man sitting cross-legged on the Earth. (He covers the entire Arctic area of the globe), taking up 10% maybe of the space, his back to the viewer, as we see him over his right shoulder, with some profile of his face, as he is looking up, as if into the black horizon (which is speckled with stars). He’s sitting inside a larger line drawing of a middle-aged man in the same cross-legged pose, who is sitting within a drawing of a young man, sitting inside a boy inside an infant. The old man sees the cosmos through the eyes of the middle-aged man seeing the cosmos, etc., etc., through the infant.

For the most part, we adults see as we proximally are (relative to near-to-mind dailiness), but intensity of feeling peels away boundaries of time constituting our presumptions, our capabilities, our talents, our being.

The blastula grows by flowering in on itself, out of the horizon of the ovum. The embryo differentiates into itself, gaining cellular complexity, and the fetus, eons of generations later (relative to cellular geneses), rests within the horizon of its ingrown, recursive epigenesis, a generation of its being—beginning an ontogeny of years— out of its horizonality that will be called its temperament or its genetic nature (but a character shaped by unfathomable hormonal orchestrations composed and timed genomically). By birth, it’s already been months into listening and feeling through its literal horizon (the womb) that is the split-off remnant of its ontogenic horizonality (and temperament), increasingly entertained by the containing feeler listening through its containment, eyes closed but awake more and more.

Birth is no beginning, just a passage. Temperament will always, to some important degree, contain capacity for trust, which will contain the toddler’s desire for autonomy, which will contain the child’s sense of purpose, which will contain capability, containing the teen’s fidelity, containing adult love, containing parental care, containing elderly wisdom.

Of course each expresses its own integrity: Wisdom is somehow born out of our humanity, not primarily contained by one’s individuated past, as attaining discovers, not merely inheriting. At best, adulthood is no simple recapitulation of our parents’ lives; adolescence no mere extension of childhood. Psychoanalysis was always about a lack of futurity prevailing over pastness in our endeavoring presence.

Yet, one is a legacy mirrored in the appeals of the days. From infancy onward, growing habits of attentiveness, of noticing, construct a horizon of relevances and interconnections of relevances. Its horizonal legacy of reliable feeling horizons confidence for efficacious orientations of activity. That horizons good intuition for the sake of valuing and preference. At best, good flow of feeling is easily inhabited by flows of life and world. Capability for focused action may flow easily into thinking well together or flow into creativity composing a well-growing sense of being, which makes a good point in the pointillism of a good society. In our growing well, point to point, interpointing and horizoning each other, one at best gains depth of time and energy for easy generosity, and for time enough to authentically appreciate others’ genuine presence. At best, desire—exuberant and passionate—keeps faith with our potential (a destined fallibility that loves to learn) and sustains the best scale of loving life that one can.

Here, I’m improvising on my own horizonality, not suggesting some doctrine of Being. At best, one’s child finds her or his ownmost sense of trust, autonomy, initiative, capability, identity, intimacy, productivity, and integrity. (Erik Erikson’s sense of the life cycle provides a reliable sense of the healthy lifespan.) A concerted parent might thrive on love of surprise by whom one’s child is endeavoring to become; and love unanticipated insight into their growing their own responsible freedom.

There’s just no boundary on what can be said about good enough parenting for the sake of a miraculous child’s flourishing. Perhaps a prevailing rule might be to accept your fallibility and trust your child’s capacity to gain resilience.

Yet, remember: Like the womb’s genesis of the fetus out of its horizon (eonically genomic), the tissue of Earth’s atmosphere generated life out of its own generated horizon. The goddess Gaia rules. It really was Mother Nature bearing Father Time out of life’s horizonality.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


11:37 am

I know you love me.

Would I dare write about love—without feeling to be on a stage of so much tired rhetoric that invisible quote marks would be on everything?

I can’t write of love without laughing, partly because happiness goes with it, but also because—well, The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology “covers” love in a few pages of a chapter with said name. Meanwhile, literary history always beckons ambivalently. And you know I parsed the presence 16 or so ways—which might be meta-grouped 6-wise: friendship, romantic, familial, artistic, intimate, intellectual. But that can look silly, since what’s romantic without intimacy? And marriage includes most—possibly all? (Derrida was married to a psychoanalyst! “No wonder, then.”) What are differences for, beyond heuristics? We have to get beyond easy senses of things to know possibilities and depths.

The Handbook’s Index entry has numerous subcategories, but they’re all referring to that one chapter. So, the subcategories “are,” listed alphabetically (but I wonder what a good genealogical sequence would be):

across cultures
attachment and
evolution of
happiness and
love triangles
measurement of
passionate love
passionate/companionate love
prototypes of
respect and
romantic, history of
self expansion and
sexuality and
social approach to
styles of
subjective well-being and
I love it.

3:20 pm

My interest in feeling as such, love, desire, etc. is not merely self-indulgent. I’ll keep it entertaining here, but postings elsewhere (to be noted here) will get more focused and analytical.

“Feeling,” you might know, is highly topical in neurosciences vis-à-vis understanding emotional intelligence, but the range of feeling typical to literary art isnt’t so much the concern of science. In the long run, I’m interested in seeing a synergy of interests.

“Love” is made central to ethics for those theorists interested in the work of Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt. But the range of meaning of love is not apparently addressed (at least, not by Frankfurt in Reasons of Love, 2004).

“Desire” is a keynote for theorizing action, value, and preference by philosophers interested in Michael Bratman, who employs a notion of “higher-order desire” to analyze conflicts of interest, preference, and value.

So, I play, I indulge myself, but also I have philosophical motives.

7:52 pm

Pedro Almodóvar’s “Broken Embraces” is a must see. I adore its fabulous storyline, stories within stories, comedy within drama. It’s cinematic fun, every minute. The parody of René Magritte’s painting “the lovers” is hilarious.

The melancholy guitarist singing during the long closing credits (on a black background) caused me to close my eyes and stay to the very last moment (like the ending credits of “Rachel Getting Married,” which has a beautiful violin solo while the camera holds on a garden, like a still life behind the credits).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

a feeling for what matters

Emotion, feeling, affect, sentiment—attachment, love—desire, passion, drive—what is really there for embodied minds? What is there really?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

a constellating garden party

Back from my evening hike—tonight under a starkly black sky, crystalline stars, half moon, Venus soon to disappear over the Western horizon this time of night, this time of year (and wintry cold—glad to be warm again), I see my bookcases (300+ books) as if I’m a guest here.

It’s amazing, intimidating to think he’s all that.

But I’m not. That gathering, distilled over years from thousands I own (stored away)—that aggregate bet on the leading ideas, issues, etc., of Our Time (all published in the past decade or so), an English estate—that somewhat sequenced concert, is what I aim to understand and integrate, not where I’ve been.

I’m happily surprised by my own audacity, anewed by it, making me laugh.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Icarus swims

It’s not foolish to aspire to gain a comprehensive sense of our planetary humanity.

Monday, December 14, 2009

a perpetual project

Thursday — 12/10 — 10 pm

President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize address provides an ostensible sense of our evolving as a perpetual project—The Perpetual Project of our species.

Monday — 12/14 — 4:20 pm

Remarks on the Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century
Secretary of State Clinton
Georgetown University

Friday, December 11, 2009

eros of a collaborative prospect

Twyla Tharp has a new book out, The Collaborative Habit: life lessons for working together. Flipping through it (just bought), I find this:
Intimacy married to creativity—it’s hard to resist, this idea of working with people you know and like. Especially when you’re having dinner with friends. There you are, everyone relaxed, and the conversation shifts to How It Might Be if you could only spend your days doing something worthy with people who share your ideas/politics/religion/values.
In such a marrying, interplays of intersubjectivity are untranslatable into the interactions of interpersonal life, such as a dinner party itself (as normally experienced). A thrill of the “shift” in conversation is an anticipated ecstasis of generative rapport, thinking in sync, a synergy, a love of entwined sensibilities that deserves to be called an eros that makes the sexual meaning of ‘eros’ irrelevant.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

days of letters

My comment yesterday about intimacy and letters had implicitly in mind a recent book I came across: Yours Ever: people and their letters, by Thomas Mallon, so lovely—about the art of letterwriting in the 20th century. Remember the 20th century? I so remember regularly spending hours a week writing long letters with a fountain pen. (I kept a copy of everything, packed away.)

Here’s a random passage from the book (truly random): “Probably no one who’s held the job [of U.S. President] before or since [Theodore Roosevelt] has left behind a more spontaneous bundle of correspondence—with the possible exception of Woodrow Wilson, who for months on end would neglect his job to type besotted love notes…to a woman across town” (111).

Maybe I’ll shelve desire for intellectual legacy and become an expert at besottedness.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

psychological self-implicature

revised 1/2/10 — 6:44 pm

Noelle Oxenhandler shows a lot of courage in Eros of Parenthood, 2001 (hereafter: Noelle), by candidly expressing the energies and the exuberance of parenting, but also the ambivalence and darkness. None of it has to do with sexualizing parenting. Though her courage is especially in confronting the boundary between healthy feeling and abuse, her topic is about the intensity of feeling in healthy parenting that others easily (and self-incriminatingly) sexualize, when there’s nothing “erotic” about the energized innocence of children and about being attuned to that openly (which she at times very poetically expresses). Blurbs on the back of her book jacket, by psychologists I’m aware of, praise her. It’s a profoundly important book, in my opinion. Too bad it’s out of print. (She writes in an email to me that the publisher went out of business soon after the book was published. I’ve urged her to republish it, a decade later now, with a follow-up epilogue.)

To be fair to life and the world, it’s not enough to broadly thematize, not enough to “deeply” thematize (which is to get highly abstract). Writing privately to a dear friend is enough for my having that fairness, and the friend—better, an intimate—gains a chance to understand a sense of the difference (thematic vis-à-vis actually lived, actually worlded), given appreciable interest in the thematics! (Unlikely.)

There are intimate letters in the world, obviously, and we’re insatiable voyeurs, because we want the psychological self-implicature—but at a safe distance. It’s not about you. It’s about her, and you would let yourself entwine and mentally dance through every detail of her that you can obtain—as long as it’s not about you. This is because we want the dark, but with freedom to enter on our own terms.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t resist strange woods. My attraction to where I’m not supposed to go is a fascination with why it’s supposed. I want to know what’s there. This became psychological. As an adult, my curiosity easily became dangerous, evidently—as if others see in my curiosity a dark center rather than a delighted, well-lit, stable and generous clearing that loves to explore the marginal or “unpermitted” because my center is secure. Persons (not I) can be easily haunted by a darkness in themselves that my enchantment with marginality evidently “threatens” to educe, as if I unwittingly intuit the other’s fears. But it’s innocent play, frightening undeliberately. I don’t have to have great insight about the other to anyway carry an aura of “too much” marginality, too much pretense of The Mind’s self-implicature, in which we all are “at risk” of participating.

But I won’t fear the effects of authentic curiosity. I’m not diabolical, not duplicitous; just welcoming chances to appreciate unusual things.

Is it demonic to believe that of myself? Correct me, if I’m wrong. A better standing against cold winds is made from braving bad weather. But the honest life survives most tests of its validity. So, if you don’t engage with me my apparent darkness, don’t blame me for believing I’m innocent in educing yours.

days go by

7:15 am

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Hunger is spreading while the number of homeless families is increasing as a result of the recession and other factors, according to a report on Tuesday.....

All I can do is put time into understanding reality, impress on others to not forget the importance of understanding reality, endorse endeavors that appropriately address the reality, and do my best to live a life that is congruent with evolution of a better world—a life which is also fair to my own talents and opportunities I have or create.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Car bombs killed 127 people in Baghdad on Tuesday, police said, leaving pools of blood, charred buses and scattered body parts in a brutal reminder of the threat from Iraq's stubborn insurgency....

Another day, more jungle madness, more unbearable cries of loss among survivors. Death is our partner in breathing.

The morning paper carries an ad on the front page showing two women soberly looking into the camera, fully appreciative of the reality of cancer that the advertised treatment center serves.

Someone leaves the house, “call ya later, love you,” walks across the same street everyday, but is hit by a bus today, no good-bye, just gone.

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Developing nations demanded deeper emissions cuts from rich nations, particularly the United States, at U.N. climate talks in Denmark on Tuesday, as a study showed that 2009 is the fifth warmest year on record.

The population grows fastest among the “developing,” who proclaim a right to do what the “developed” nations got the chance to do for the previous century that has instituted global warming.

Someone a hundred years from now will find us odd and heartrending, like we find tales of impoverished London in a Dickens novel. (Evenings when the fog was out, the air pollution from coal and wood burning in London made fiery sunsets. London was famous for its sunsets.)

8:37 amInnovate

Align your life with leading trends in innovation, which the Obama crowd is seeking to advance: educational excellence; devotion to growth of knowledge; prudential finance; intelligent design and construction; understanding of and support for planetary management; support for others’s ambitious energies; facilitation and celebration of crucibles of creativity—individual, cultural, and economic; and be flexible in understanding, thinking, learning, designing, making, revising, sustaining, appreciating, loving, living, etc., etc.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jim ’n I

Praise refreshing validity of an ordinary day—dailiness as simply beautiful. Friendship, kindredness, intimacy are vitally integral to the natural validity of dailiness in all the common ground and experience we have together and may share to make our lives go well.

I’m proud to say truly that I was born June 16, Bloomsday (the single day of Leopold Bloom that Joyce’s Ulysses narrates), so I’m a Gemini.

Ulysses and Us
Friday, 12/4 — 8:52 pm

Waking, Learning, Thinking, Walking, Praying, Dying, Reporting, Eating, Reading, Wandering, Singing, Drinking, Ogling, Birthing, Dreaming, Parenting, Teaching, Loving.

—chapter titles of Ulysses and Us: the art of everyday life in Joyce’s masterpiece, Declan Kibard, Norton 2009.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

discursive art

“Many visual artists working today appear preoccupied with how to integrate literary or discursive content into their work,” writes Kenneth Baker, Art Critic for the S.F. Chronicle.

I wanted to email him (but didn’t) to ask what caused him to say “many...appear,” because I’d love to believe what he says is a trend, since I have high interest in discursive and “literary” things.

How about integrating what’s discursive and literary? Literary discourse as discursive Literature?