Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Its Always Sunny in Orgonon


Last week, I talked about the mind. We laughed, we cried, and we came to eventual conclusion that it had a very tenuous link to a German film about Angels. Nevertheless, I continue on today with the topic of a brilliant and crazy man, Wilhelm Reich. He had the similar theories to many psychologists, and mainly focused the majority of his early work on the work of Freud. However, he developed his own theories, building on what Freud had taught and drawing his own conclusions, and so, instead of a theory about the Id, the Ego and the Super-ego, we have a theory that says if we don't get enough orgasms, we eventually shiver into a wreck of nervous and crotchety uselessness, as well as a substance called Orgone that wafts around EVERYWHERE.
The theory goes that Orgone is all around us, and if you don't have a sufficient amount of orgasms, which releases the substance, that stuff will clog you up something awful, causing all manner of horrible physical and psychological affects, such as unhappiness, anger and the curling of a person physically until they look like Scrooge. Perhaps Scrooge didn't have enough orgasms. That's probably why he let Tiny Tim die. Son of a bitch.

Orgone is sort of like a reverse drug, one that everyone is involuntarily addicted to, and as such, they have to get rid of it with the physical process of orgasms. But why did Wilhelm Reich choose the orgasm? What made him focus on such a thing? Well, Reich considered the orgasm to be the height of human experience, where a person was the most carnal and basic. Reich both agreed and disagreed with the Freudian theory of the Id, the ego, and the super-ego, in the sense that he believed that the human psyche was one built on layers, but disagreed with the order of things. He posed that the three layers;

The Surface Layer

This was the layer under the most conscious control, a layer that involved polite, compassionate responsibility. This is where people would be thoughtful towards their fellow man, and in other words, not screaming and running everywhere. This is the closest thing to the Super-ego.

The Second Layer
This layer is sort of like the Gollum layer. It is cruel, sadistic, uncaring and malicious, and the closest thing to the Id. This is the layer that will spike up if the carnal need for orgasms is not satisfied, and it will be more and more influential to the surface layer.

The Third Layer

The third layer is a different layer entirely, and Reich posited that this was the most human layer, this layer was what everybody has right in the middle, much like a gooey center of human emotion.

Well with all of these in mind it seems that Reich's theory of human emotions were a lot more optimistic than Freud's, which is probably why he was in the mind that if we should all be doing anything all the time, peeing in corners and screaming at each other, whilst experiencing a medley of orgasms. It would be nice, but damn it would be messy.

On top of the orgasm theory, Reich also had some interesting thoughts about mass psychology, a particular example being the fascism. Why did people support the Nazi's back in the day? Wee they targeted the lower/middle class, and people who were used to strong paternal authority. They assumed correctly that these people would have a love of the idea of rebellion, but lacked the drive to do it, and indeed liked the feeling of being controlled and repressed. The Nazi party offered a perfect situation; they strove to tap into, and fulfill this desire to rebel with subservience, offering a chance to rebel against the current government whilst allowing Nazi's to dominate them.

Reich had many supporters to his theory of Orgone energy, such as William S. Burroughs, and J.D. Salinger, both of which supported the use of the ORGONE CHAMBER. This ominous sounding device was designed to concentrate orgone energy in a box, which would allow a human more of their share of orgone energy when they sat in it, resulting in healing properties and an increased Libido, something else that Reich relied heavily on as a source of inspiration and theory.

Reich lived out the rest of his days on his land, which he designated Orgonon (an old farm near Dodge Pond in Maine), where many people would pilgrimage and stay, living his way of life, using the orgone chambers, and the Cloudbusters, convinced that Reich was a genius who had everything figured out. Reich lived with controversy, allogations of mental health disorders, and scandal, as he tried to peddle his Orgone chamber across the country as a way to cure Cancer, to which the authorities had an objection. He suffered an injunction by the F.D.A, was imprisoned and eventually died on November 3rd, 1957.

Was Reich a genius? there are patterns that suggest that his theory regarding the stress and mental health disorders from repression are quite correct, but a substance that breaks the second law of thermodynamics AND cures cancer? It seems too weird to be true. But the mind is a funny thing. I have always believed that people who are a little different in the mind lknow something that healthy people don't, and if the allegations of poor mental health were true, perhaps Reich really did have everything figured out.

One thing is for sure, his life would have been a hell of an experience.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Abstract Mortality...with Peter Faulk

How do we make our decisions? People have been trying to answer the question for many years, dogs years even, and for a part, they have answered it. We make our decisions with a complex mix of weighing options, experience, trial and error and personal responsibility.

However, one little thing always seems to get in the way, a pesky little thing called a conscience. Little bastard that it is, it brings something called morals into the whole process, meaning that there is a distinct difference between the cold, calculating decisions we could make, and the decisions we do make every day, all the time. Thoughts are the gateway to decision, and if there is one thing that everybody does, its over think. Unless you're an idiot. In what must be the most ridiculous segway, here's a blog about the 1987 German film Der Himmel ├╝ber Berlin, also known as Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders, and written by Peter Handke and Wim Wenders. Bam. Love it.

Angels are a fickle thing to portray in any forms of cinematic representation. Its difficult to show them without them being either omnipotent jackasses or emotionless vegetables that spout philosophical wisdom until they exit stage left. Handke seems to portray a type of angelic figure that is if not the truest, certainly the most interesting. The Angels, named Damiel and Cassiel wander around, listening to the thoughts of the people of Berlin, examining what they think about, their moral discourses and their way of life. The movie brushes over several people, showing their worries and obsessions, such as a heartbroken man, and a pregnant woman, but on top of this, they pay particular attention to certain citizens of Berlin in order to focus in on the different parts of the human condition. They encounter an old man named Homer, who parallels the ancient poet, whilst completely opposing him at the same time (Homer focused on poems of War, whereas this old man is designated a man of peace), a suicidal man, and for some reason, Peter Faulk, as Peter Faulk, who is for some reason a former Angel. No one said it was simple.

One of the Angels, Damiel, falls in love with a fair maiden at a Circus, and longs to be with her. Luckily, Peter Fulk is there to explain that he used to be an Angel himself, and indeed turned into a human, showing that the goal mortality is one that is very much in reach, and Damiel decides to take the plunge. It is in this we see what the Angels have been longing for, and the choice that they must make. In sacrificing their immortality, they are granted the pleasures of humanity; taste, touch, interaction, pain, love and colours. The movie, whilst focusing mostly on how humanity is dry and worrisome, contained within its own winding thoughts, shows the privilege of existence. How truly blessed we are to feel, taste, interact and create. Its harrowing.

The decision that The Angel Damiel made to become human is one that can be looked at as one of stupidity, given that he was once immortal, but it is impossible for us to know what it is like to not feel, to not be able to interact, and so we must realise that we are blessed. We must stop overthinking, and simply enjoy being human.

Otherwise, you might go crazy, and then you and everyone around you is screwed.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

If you build it, they will come...


From last Sunday, I have been incredibly sick. This sickness was passed to me by my housemate, and was passed to him by my other housemate. I believe that they contracted this from another one of our mutual friends, who could only have caught whatever death-spawn this is by slipping in rich, raw sewage from some chemical waste pump. This sickness has caused, among other things (such as a sore throat and an unnatural craving for human meat) a fever which, when combined with sleep, causes me to have horrible horrible visions and nightmares which make me cry out in terror.

The weird thing in these nightmares is that they do not contain anything that would terrify me. Instead, these visions either consist of random events, strange music or sounds, or commands or longings that I would not normally associate. Another thing happened as well, and for this I may have to be a little more descriptive. I see a sheet of black, unnaturally smooth and complete, almost too measured, and at random intervals, this will change into its polar opposite, a thing of black and white, with gradients between the two, its shape changing, almost to natural and jagged measurements that one might see in an eroded canyon.

Scary as hell, right? Jesus, its a miracle I'm not committed. However, This slightly harrowing set of visions created by my tormented fever-filled brain was reminiscent of last week's lecture on existentialism. A little. Enough to make a segway? God I hope so.

As far as I could tell, Existentialism is the term used for a particular way of life, or rather an ideal, a goal. This is to say, one of complete freedom and passion. Existentialism focuses around the theory that existence precedes essence, a term coined by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, better explained as "A central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the actual life of the individual is what constitutes what could be called his or her "essence" instead of there being a predetermined essence that defines what it is to be a human. Thus, the human being - through his consciousness - creates his own values and determines a meaning to his life." WOAH. Heavy. Doc. Anyway...

However, one side effect of this is angst. You see, when you experience everything at a much higher octane, as it were, you suddenly realise that many of the normal things are quite boring, or the theory that "nothing is holding them back" purely because their way of life permits total and absolute freedom. One of the best ways I can describe this is that when a normal person stands on the lip of a cliff, they fear falling off, but when existentialists stand on the same lip, they fear throwing themselves off. In this way, existentialists do not focus on just the "good" passion, but rather everything at a much higher level.

What I find particularly interesting about existentialism is the arts, literature and music it inspires. A few of the particulars are things that I have digested over a long time, and things that I have just been shown.

Jazz

Admittedly, the title for this is vague. We were introduced in the lecture to a Mr. John Coltrane, whose "inward breathing" was not only a brilliant technique, but allowed him to carry a note for as long as he wanted, meaning that he was able to create a truly unique musical experience, a truly free an existential display of passion. Recently I was listening to the music of Ben Webster, and whilst this linked track is more constructed than some of his other, its still an example. As sort of a subsidiary to this Jazz section, I thought I would talk a little about Scat blues singing, and more specifically, the works of Ella Fitzgerald. Ms. Fitzgerald is heralded as the one of the creators of Scat singing, which seems to be one of the most existential musical art forms, given that you can sing absolutely anything, and still have it be a form of music. Its amazing, and it takes a certain sort of strange mind to achieve.

Here's one more musical thing I happen to enjoy, considering the context I thought it might be fun to put it in. Accordion music, whilst lyrically quite planned out, it seems to be so winged all the time that every time its played its the same, but a little bit different. This freedom (I hope) is a little existential. Maybe. Kinda.

Art

Andy Warhol. Isn't it? That's what we all think when someone says "existentialism in art" right? Whether you agree that a picture of Brillo pads, or a man sleeping is truly "art" or just boredom or not is a moot point. These bold statements of lack of definition are somewhat extraordinary in the sense that he was able to captivate so many people with his talented mind.

Literature

Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot is one of the first things to come to mind, and the second thing to come to mind is "What if Godot had arrived?". However, what I did not realise is that one of my favorite authors; Fyodor Dostoyevsky, was one of the precursors/founders of 20th century existentialism. In this way, it is amazing how deep the veins of existentialism lie, how affected my life might have been without the theories set down by existentialism.

Sports

Don't laugh. I recently watched one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams. Admittedly its no Sleep but its certainly gives a hint into the existential thinking behind sports. In the film, Kevin Costner impulsively builds a baseball field in the middle of his corn crop for no reason. Then, the ghosts of dead baseball players start playing baseball in his field. Yes. In our lecture we were told about the passion behind sports fan-dom. Whilst this movie is just a small window into this, it shows how something they are passionate about can change their lives, using a very existential theory of true freedom.

It seems that my life has been much like a "create your own adventure" book. Its full of twists and turns, affected by different choices. If I hadn't read Dostoyevsky books, what would I have done? I suppose its choices like these, definitions, that make me so far away from the theories behind existentialism that I couldn't possibly wear a black jumper or a beret without being completely ironic. All I really want is a create your own adventure version of Crime and Punishment.

"Do I want Raskilnikov to go back to the village, or to buy a new horse?"

Perhaps this sickness is making me crazy.