Tag Archives: object separateness

“Vive Le Difference” is Politically Relevant Today.

The following is a copy from another blog of mine which is very relevant to spirituality.  Religion, like politics, is always beset by the temptation of epistemic closure.  This is the tendency of human nature…always ego-ridden—to create a world and/or to affiliate with a world in which one’s premises are confirmed.

Difference matters to me.  I was raised in a conservative, American South culture with religion being the paramount dimension in my particular subculture.  But this upbringing in a rigid, highly structured atmosphere of “us vs. them” troubled me and in my early adulthood I began to acquire a more inclusive, less linear-thinking oriented approach to life.  Now, in the latter stages of my life, the issue of sameness vs. difference is a paramount concern of mine, especially given the political climate in my country and in the world.

Today I stumbled across a book in my library, “The Order of Things” by Michel Foucault, heavily marked up from my “youthful” enthusiasm of decades past.  In the quote which I will share, Foucault explores the relationship between “sympathy” (i.e. sameness”) vs. “antinomy” (difference) and the dialogic imperative of an interaction between these two complementary dimensions of the human soul.

Sympathy is an instance of the same so strong and so insistent that it will not rest content to be merely one of the forms of likeness; it has the dangerous power of assimilating, of rendering things identical to one another, of mingling them, of causing their individuality to disappear—and thus rendering them foreign to what they were before.  Sympathy transforms.  It alters, but in the direction of identity, so that if its power were not counter-balanced it would reduce the world to a point, to a homogeneous mass, to the featureless form of the same:  all its parts would hold together and communicate with one another without a break, with no distance between them, like those metal chains held suspended by sympathy to the attraction of a single magnet.

But then Foucault presents “antipathy” as the opposite life-force, equally necessary, which seeks to counter the otherwise stultifying power of the demand for sameness.  What he calls “antipathy” is merely a drive for difference, an innate desire to not be swallowed by the whole of sameness, a “whole” which would be merely a “black hole” without consideration of this “antipathy” or difference.  Foucault declares:

Sympathy is compensated by its twin, antipathy.  Antipathy maintains the isolation of things (i.e. the difference, the desire and demand for independence) and prevents their assimilation; it encloses every species within its impenetrable difference and its propensity to continue to being what it is.

This notion of continuing “to being what it is” is an essential dimension of identity, an ability to “hang onto” a core of what/who one is even when beset by the challenges of difference.  With maturity, i.e. “ego integrity,” one can hang onto a core of who one is even as he negotiates with difference, (i.e. “antipathy”) and knowing that he can survive…and even thrive…with the benefit of “difference” (i.e. something new) into its mindset.

And, my hero and soul-mate, W.H. Auden has a relevant note with which I conclude:

I wish you first a sense of theater.

Only those who learn illusion

And love it will go far.

Otherwise we spend our life

In confusion about who and what we really are.

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Racism is About More than Race

Racism is about an early development in the unfolding of the “original germ of being” which we are when that that “gleam in the eye of our father” suddenly bring us into this time/space continuum.  (I apologize to my mother who could have had some equivalent of this “gleam in her eye” but I’m sure patriarchy had taken that capacity from her in her early youth.)

As we unfold in our neonate state, we begin the process of biological differentiation in which we separate ourselves from the maternal matrix which was our origin.  This “differentiation” is the early phases of “object separateness” which will not conclude…and in some way never does…until our adulthood.  This requires a biological ability to separate ourselves from the biological morass which is our origin and begin to establish ourselves as separate and distinct. This is a physical/biological/neurological process which at some point after birth becomes more a function of a separate and independent human will.  Without this “separate and distinct” human will, we are fated to live our lives in the grip of unconscious impulses the knowledge of which will be banished from awareness.

Racism has its origin in this need to create an “us vs. them” paradigm starting with drawing distinctions between ourselves and our mother, and shortly thereafter our father, our siblings, and then the social world which we will find ourselves implicated within.  In many, if not most cultures, a significant development is when we begin to distinguish ourselves from various social categories.  In my case, being raised in the American South, one of the earliest “distinctions” that I drew was between myself, my very white family, and “those blacks”, then described as “n…..s.”  This was, and still is, one of the bedrocks of my emotional/psychological/spiritual existence for in the very important socio-cultural arena I was born into the “n…..s” were so readily “them.”

Socio-economics is relevant to this matter as I was born into a “po white trash” in central Arkansas in 1952.  I make that point with some reservation, for I am very proud of my origins and realize that the context in which I “discovered America” was totally happenstance.  But being from an impoverished Southern family in 1950’s America, the “n….s” were a primary embodiment of difference and without this “difference” we cannot exist as a group or as an individual.

Here I have put on the table a problem which is beyond the grasp of reason–how do I escape the basic human problem of “object separateness?”  How do I bridge the chasm that separates humankind from each other?  How do I give up that “us” vs. “them” paradigm? A friend of mine has a bumper sticker which answers the question, “Awareness is all.”  Simple awareness of the problem is the beginning of the answer.  If one can hold within his mind a contradiction like this—“I am my brother’s keeper, no I’m not”—the experience of paradox can begin to unfold in one’s heart and the grace of understanding can begin to flow through one’s encrusted, linear view of the world.

I must issue a caveat re my earlier point that racism is “still” part of the bedrock of my soul.  My point is that at the stage of development in which this was etched into my brain, the “recordings” are never erased though with “awareness being all,” we can learn to mitigate their influence and evolve a mind/brain/heart which allows us to see unity where we once only saw difference.

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ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running.  Please check the other two out sometime.  The three are: 

https://wordpress.com/posts/anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/literarylew.wordpress.com

 

 

Hatred of the “Other” in Religion

Dave Chappelle offered a comedy skit years ago which is the best illustration of the lack of “self” awareness.  He portrays a black man who is a white supremacist who has been kept from awareness of this “problem” by a KKK hood for decades.  But when the hood comes off, and he has to admit that he is a “n…..r”, he still cannot lay aside his racism.  (See hilarious clip at end.)

Disregard, hatred, and contempt of “the other” is deep-seated.  It reveals itself in so many dimensions of life, usually without notice unless one has a very astutely discriminating eye.  For example, I have become very aware how that in my spiritual tradition the insistence of drawing the distinction between “Christian” and “unchristian” is often just an effort to maintain the unconscious “us vs them” paradigm.

Sometimes I like to parody this phenomena with the following spiel:  “I just hate people who are intolerant.  I want to line ‘em up and shoot ‘em!  I wanta humiliate them and then kill em!”  This is relevant to present day with people who have an inordinate emphasis of setting boundaries with immigrants, wanting to deport them when at times it goes beyond the pale of basic human decency.  Certainly immigration laws, boundaries, need to be present and need to be enforced.  But it appears to be that the immigration issue has taken on a larger-than-life emphasis, has become a “cause celebre,” allowing people to vent their existential “us vs them” venom to be focused on this one issue.  And, “us vs them” is an essential dimension of identity.  But when one’s core identity is tenuous to begin with, he/she cannot tolerate the ambiguity of reality to recognize that the distinction between “us/them,” or “me/thee” is often not as clear as we would like to think.

This is a spiritual issue.  But Protestant Christianity has emphasized “us vs them”, i.e. “saved vs unsaved” and failed to realize the inclusiveness/forgiveness that Christ brought into the world.  This is best illustrated when Jesus chose not to stone the Samaritan prostitute at Jacob’s well, which the “Republicans” of the day were encouraging, instead telling her to “go and sin no more.”

Dave Chappelle clip:  — http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3a3f0f