Sharing Atoms in the Fire of Light

"So many millions of info-bits on the Internet," I'm thinking, and then wondering, "what led me to this one?" Maybe a more important question: what made me zero in on this one and let all the others move in and then out of focused attention?

Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto's time-lapse map of the 2,053 nuclear explosions that shook the Earth between 1945 and 1998 certainly set off a lot of thoughts, feelings and questions for me this morning. None of them were things I had not thought, not felt, not questioned before. (See my August 6, 2010 post: "The Bomb"s at 65.) In a way, perhaps, Hashimoto's art has brought it all more profoundly into my body.

 

 

A couple of experiences with this video today stand out.

The flashes of light and sound representing each detonation evoked the feel of a gaming arcade, or maybe a casino, pure entertainment in the zone of things imaginary. At the same time, the connection of the flashes on the map to another human being's home place was not lost on my heart. The white-light flash on the screen beneath the cross-hairs over Hiroshima sucked time, along with my mind, into a six-decade implosion. For a second I was simultaneously in the rooms where generals gave the destruct order, in the cockpit of the Enola Gay, and on the ground with WTF-amazement at my fiery ascension into the poisonous mushroom.

A few years pass in the upper right hand margin of the video before I can make sense of the flags, beeps, tones, pulses, flashes and numbers emerging in front of me.

My mind reorganizes. It occurs to me how far some of the flashes on the map are from the capitols of the countries that exploded them. How foolish to think that a nuclear explosion in a sparsely populated area would not have consequences.

What is the source of this privilege, this arrogance (or pathetic mindlessness) that could possibly endorse such destruction inside or outside of its own boundaries, against its own (or other) species? It would have to be people who are totally disconnected from laws of nature, people who, blinded by the superpower of fear and loss, have forgotten that what we do to others, we do to ourselves.

Perhaps it's not that Hashimoto's art brought my nuclear thoughts, feelings and questions more profoundly into my body, but that his interpretation put me more profoundly in touch with something that was already there. After all, the atoms in the bombs and the atoms in my body are the same, all connected, all communicating, all the time.

When the US dropped that bomb on Hiroshima, it dropped on me, though I wasn't yet born. The cells that would grow and develop as a vessel for this local self I know as "me" already held the memory of that nuclear holocaust, and have no doubt reverberated with every explosion since, though well beyond conscious awareness...until now.

WhiteSandsSunSet_1000BlogEd
Sunset at White Sands National Monument, south of the "Trinity" site in New Mexico where the United States detonated the first atomic bomb in 1945. [Photo credit: Cathie Bird]

And so I renew my questions with a louder voice: Who is really the scariest bomb maker? I think a case could be made that it's the folks who have exploded the most bombs, the people who dropped the first ones on unsuspecting citizens of someone else's country.

But here in this first week of 2012, another question comes to mind: What if we as a species misread the impulses that led us to build such things as bombs in the first place? What if the seed of the bomb is our own atomic not-yet-conscious memory of the life-giving Big Bang? It wouldn't be the first time that humankind misunderstood the cohesive evolutionary forces of love, light and life and chose instead a path of undoing.

What if the explosion of light we are driven to seek and give form on Earth is the spiritual fire, the atomic essence of our true Selves?

 


IN MEMORIAM: ELISABETH YOUNG-BRUEHL

Ouch! I had really enjoyed reading Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's blog -- Who's Afraid of Social Democracy? -- for the past year or so, and had subscribed to it via email to be notified of new posts. She wrote about politics and culture in our modern world with a psychoanalytic eye on things. It also seemed to me that she managed to embed a clear, vital spirit in her writing, which is why the news of her death took me so much by surprise, I think. Today, Dominique Browning cross-posted a tribute on Young-Bruehl's own blog, and I thought I'd share it here.

On Thursday night I went to a performance of Philip Glass' opera Satyagraha, about the early life of Gandhi. I left in a trance, spellbound by the music and the puppetry. In front of Lincoln Center a large crowd had gathered; it took me a moment to recognize the barricades, the police vans lining Broadway, the gorgeous blue-green sheen of a large puppet of the Statue of Liberty, covering her eyes in shame, or was it misery? It was a peaceful demonstration; the protestors were chanting; it seemed as if sidewalk had become proscenium. The audience surged forward for another performance. Several people were standing at the entrance to the opera house, giving away copies of a broadsheet: The Occupied Wall Street Journal. I took one, and went home.

I was restless that night, even though it was late; I couldn't sleep. Glass's music is lyrical and lulling and I kept humming fragments that bubbled up. So I sat and read The Occupied Journal. I began thinking, intensely, of my friend Elisabeth, who has written so much about revolution and democracy. Elisabeth was due to arrive on Sunday for a week of lectures and research work in the Winnicott archives, an enormous project into which she had just thrown herself with her usual whole-hearted, single-minded absorption. I kept thinking, as I read the Occupied, how much she would enjoy the essays in the paper--the entire movement--and how much I would enjoy talking to her about its profound significance. I set the old-fashioned broadsheet on top of a pile of books and magazines I had put aside to share with her when she arrived.

Early the next morning came the terrible, choked phone call from Elisabeth's beloved spouse, Christine Dunbar, that Elisabeth had suddenly collapsed and died as they were walking home from a concert.

Read the whole post at www.slowlovelife.com

You can also read Browning's tribute at Who's Afraid of Social Democracy?

 


Pinker on Reason and Morality - NYTimes.com

I loved Gary Gutting's analysis of Pinker at The Stone yesterday:

Steven Pinker’s impressive new book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” has been much reviewed and discussed since its publication last month—a rare occurrence for a book of ideas. The two key empirical claims that Pinker puts forward are suggested in the title:  that the level of human violence (war, murder, etc.) has been decreasing over the centuries and that the human ability to reason has been correspondingly increasing.   He goes on to explain the first claim by the second.  Our ability to reason causes us to be less violent: “A smarter [more rational] world,” he says, “is a less violent world.”

In a book awash with empirical data and analysis, it is remarkable that Pinker’s capstone explanation (developed on pp. 647-650) is not based solely on empirical facts.  It also depends on a philosophical argument that rationality logically implies a moral rejection of violence.  Historians and psychologists will scrutinize Pinker’s empirical claims.  Here I discuss his crucial philosophical argument, which I think faces some serious problems.

Read the rest of the article at opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

 


Occupy Wall Street's 'Political Disobedience' - NYTimes.com

Our language has not yet caught up with the political phenomenon that is emerging in Zuccotti Park and spreading across the nation, though it is clear that a political paradigm shift is taking place before our very eyes. It’s time to begin to name and in naming, to better understand this moment. So let me propose some words: “political disobedience.”

via opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com


Progressives -- Don't Get Depressed, Fight Back | | AlterNet

Research shows that a more accurate notion of one’s powerlessness can result in a greater feeling of helplessness and is associated with depression. Several classic studies show that moderately depressed people are more critically thinking than those who are not depressed. Researchers Lauren Alloy and Lyn Abramson, studying nondepressed and depressed subjects who played a rigged game in which they had no actual control, found that nondepressed subjects overestimated their contribution to winning, while depressed subjects more accurately evaluated their lack of control.

via www.alternet.org


Kingsley Dennis, Ph.D.: A New Collective Mind for a New World

Many of us are unsuspecting as to the degree of insecurity that governs our perceptive abilities. We focus on the immediate and seemingly ignore the long term, despite the long term having the greater urgency in scale. Our social institutions and media continue to reinforce the immediate and short term, thus strengthening our social myopia.

Our early history equipped us to live in relatively stable environments within small communities. Challenges were in the short term and nearby. The human mind thus evolved to deal with low-impact, short-term changes. The world that made our mind is now gone, and the world we have created around us is a new world; paradoxically, it is a world that we have developed limited capacity to comprehend.

via www.huffingtonpost.com


What Happened to Obama’s Passion? - NYTimes.com

Drew Westen's latest article in the New York Times is well worth reading -- so good that I even tweeted it to @WhiteHouse:

When Barack Obama rose to the lectern on Inauguration Day, the nation was in tatters. Americans were scared and angry. The economy was spinning in reverse. Three-quarters of a million people lost their jobs that month. Many had lost their homes, and with them the only nest eggs they had. Even the usually impervious upper middle class had seen a decade of stagnant or declining investment, with the stock market dropping in value with no end in sight. Hope was as scarce as credit.

In that context, Americans needed their president to tell them a story that made sense of what they had just been through, what caused it, and how it was going to end. They needed to hear that he understood what they were feeling, that he would track down those responsible for their pain and suffering, and that he would restore order and safety.

via www.nytimes.com

Westen is a professor of psychology at Emory University and the author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.”

After reading Westen's OpEd today, I found it interesting to review these articles from 2007, the year The Political Brain was published:

Book Review: Drew Westen's "The Political Brain" (Daily Kos)

Stop Making Sense (David Brooks)

Dissecting the Political Brain of David Brooks (Drew Westen in response to a review by David Brooks)

 


Hanna Segal obituary | The Guardian

Hanna Segal, one of the psyhoanalytic elders whose work I admired, has moved on. Here's the photo and brief excerpt of the article that appeared in the Guardian:

Hanna Segal, who has died aged 93, was among a handful of psychoanalysts whose international pre-eminence was unquestioned. She made fundamental contributions to psychoanalytic theory and practice and, over a career of more than 60 years, was the leading exponent of the ideas of Melanie Klein.

Segal developed the theory of symbolism, the understanding of the nature of creativity, and the establishment of a psychoanalytic approach to severe disturbance, including psychosis. She was also known for her exploration of the functioning of phantasy (unconscious fantasy) and for her detailed elaboration of the inner struggle between forces that strive towards living and development, and those that pull towards destruction.

via www.guardian.co.uk


Dear DSM-V: A pox on all your diagnoses!

A tip of the hat to Norm Holland and the PsyArt list for a link to Stop DSM at blogspot. The home page has several translations of a MANIFEST FOR A CLINICAL NON-STATISTICAL PSYCHOPATHOLOGY.

Even with my limited Spanish I thoroughly enjoyed their video:

 

 

You can also find Stop DSM on Facebook and Twitter.


Joel Weinberger: The Dark Side of the Political Personality Redux: Weiner, Schwarzenegger, and Edwards

I haven't had time to post much lately, but questions about political personalities have certainly have certainly been on my mind the past few weeks. I generally find the media's obsession with stories such as Donald Trump, Sara Palin, Newt Gingrich, John Edwards and Anthony Weiner have recently inspired annoying. But looking at such things from a perspective of psyche and culture is much less so for me. That's why I found this piece by Joel Weinberger--in response to the coverage of Schwarzeneggar, Edwards and Weiner--interesting enough to post as a link:

Let me briefly review the psychological and emotional reasons that can lead to this kind of behavior and why politicians are more likely to have these characteristics. The interested reader is also referred to my previous column for a bit more detail. Space prevented then and prevents now a comprehensive review but here it is in a nutshell: There are four psychological factors that make this behavior likely; politicians are likely to have all four. These are: Narcissism, Power Motivation, High Risk Taking, and a False Self.

via www.huffingtonpost.com

When I'm thinking about behavior of leaders and those who follow them, I find the works of Kohut, Winnicott (quoted by Weinberger in his article) and Lacan (now that I've thought more about his theories) to help organize my contemplations.

Weinberger does not include a link to his earlier article on John Edwards, so I'll include it  here.