Friday, March 31, 2017

Jung analyzes a dream

from Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung
"I have always said to my pupils, Learn as much as you can about symbolism, then forget it all when you are analyzing a dream. This advice is of such practical importance that I have made it a rule to remind myself that I can never understand somebody else's dreams well enough to interpret it correctly. I have done this to check the flow of my own associations and reactions, which might otherwise prevail over my patient's uncertainties and hesitations. As it is of the greatest therapeutic importance for an analyst to get the particular message of a dream (that is, the contribution that their unconscious is making to the conscious mind) as accurate as possible, it is essential for him to explore the content of a dream with the utmost thoroughness.   
I had a dream when I was working with Freud that illustrates this point. I dreamed that I was in my home, apparently on the first floor, in a cosy, pleasant sitting room furnished in the manner of the 18th century. I was astonished that I had never seen this room before, and began to wonder what the ground floor was like. I went downstairs and found the place was rather dark, with paneled walls and heavy furniture dating from the 16th century or even earlier. My surprise and curiosity increased. I wanted to see more of the whole structure of this house. So I went to the cellar, where I found a door opening onto a flight of stone steps that led to a large vaulted room. The floor consisted of slabs of stone and the walls seemed very ancient. I examined the mortar and found it was mixed with splinters of brick. Obviously the walls were of Roman origin. I became increasingly excited. In one corner, I saw an iron ring on a stone slab. I pulled up the slab and saw yet another narrow flight of steps leading to a kind of cave, which seemed to be a prehistoric tomb, containing two skulls, some bones, and broken shards of pottery. Then I woke up.  
If Freud, when he analyzed this dream, had followed my method of exploring its specific associations and context, he would have heard a far-reaching story. But I am afraid he would have dismissed it as a mere effort to escape from a problem that was really his own. The dream is in fact a short summary of my life, more specifically of the development of my mind. I grew up in a house 200 years old, our furniture consisted of mostly of pieces about 300 years old, and mentally my hitherto greatest spiritual adventure had been to study the philosophies of Kant and Schopenhauer. The great news of the day was the work of Charles Darwin. Shortly before this, I had been living with the still medieval concepts of my parents, for whom the world and men were still presided over by divine omnipotence and providence. This world had become antiquated and obsolete. My Christian faith had become relative through its encounter with Eastern religions and Greek philosophy. It is for this reason that the ground was so still, dark, and obviously uninhabited.  
My then historical interests had developed from an original preoccupation with comparative anatomy and paleontology while I was working as an assistant at the Anatomical Institute. I was fascinated by the bones of fossil man, particularly by the much discussed Neanderthalensis and the still more controversial skull of Dubois' Pithecanthropus. As a matter of fact these were my real associations to the dream; but I did not dare to mention the subject of skulls, skeletons, or corpses, to Freud because I had learned that this theme was not popular with him. He cherished the particular idea that I anticipated his early death. And he drew this conclusion from the fact that I had shown much interest in the mummified corpses in the so-calle Bleikeller in Bremen, which we visited together in 1909 on our way to take the boat to America.  
Thus I felt reluctant to come out with my own thoughts, since through recent experience I was deeply impressed by the almost unbridgeable gap between Freud's mental outlook and background and my own.  
I was afraid of losing his friendship if I should open up to him about my own inner world, which, I surmised. would look very queer to him. Feeling quite uncertain about my own psychology, I almost automatically told him a lie about my free associations in order to escape the impossible task of enlightening him about my personal and utterly different constitution.  
I must apologize for this rather lengthy narration of the jam I got into through telling Freud my dreams. But it is a good example of the difficulties in which one gets involved in the course of a real dream analysis. So much depends upon the personal differences between the analyst and the analyzed.  
I soon realized that Freud was looking for some incompatible wish of mine. And so I suggested tentatively that the skulls I had dreamed of might refer to certain members of my family whose death for some reason, I might desire. This proposal met with his approval, but I was not satisfied with such a phoney solution.  
While I was trying to find a suitable answer to Freud's questions, I was suddenly confused by an intuition about the role that the subjective factor plays in psychological understanding. My intuition was so overwhelming that I thought only of how to get out of this impossible snarl, and I took the easy way out with a lie. This was neither elegant nor morally defensible, but otherwise, I should have risked a fatal row with Freud - and I did not feel up to that for many reasons.  
My intuition consisted of the sudden and most unexpected insight into the fact that meant myself, my life and my world, my whole reality against a theoretical structure erected by another, strange mind for reasons and purposes of its own. It was not Freud's dream, it was mine; and I understood suddenly in a flash what my dream meant.  
This conflict illustrates a vital point about dream analysis. It is not so much a technique that can be learned and applied according to the rules as it is a dialectical exchange between two personalities. If it is handled as a mechanical technique, the individual psychic personality of the dreamer gets lost and the therapeutic problem is reduced to the simple question; Which of the two people concerned - the analyst or the dreamer - will dominate the other? I gave up hypnotic treatment for this very same reason, because I did not want to impose my will on others. I wanted the healing process to grow out of the patient's own personality, not from suggestions by me that would have only a passing effect. My aim was to protect and preserve my patient's dignity and freedom, so that he could live life according to his own wishes. In this exchange with Freud, it dawned on me for the first time that before we construct general theories about man and his psyche we should learn a lot more about the real human being we have to deal with.  
The individual is the only reality. The further we move away from the individual toward abstract ideas about Homo Sapiens, the more likely we are to fall into error. In these times of social upheaval and rapid change, it is desireable to know much more than we do about the individual human being, for so much depends upon his mental and moral qualities. But if we are to see things in their right perspective, we need to understand the past of man as well as his present. That is why an understanding of myths and symbols is of essential importance."  


Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Gentrification of College Sports

Image result for signing day college football
Privileged rich kids who are taking scholarships from the genuinely needy?

The Undefeated
"[Basketball p]layers like Iverson and Waters – the first members of their families to go to college – are increasingly rare in college sports, even in the big-money, high-stakes sports of basketball and football. Indeed, most athletic scholarships are going to middle-class kids with college-educated parents, not to kids from poor families who need a scholarship to get anywhere close to a university campus.
Simply put, NCAA sports have been gentrified.
For March Madness this year, the NCAA is running a public service announcement called “Opportunity,” which includes images of some athletes from disadvantaged areas who will get to go to college by playing basketball. It underscores the notion that a core piece of the NCAA’s mission is providing athletic scholarships and college educations to student-athletes in need.
But here’s the stark, myth-busting truth: Fewer than 1 in 5 students playing Division 1 hoops, and 1 in 7 in all Division 1 sports, come from families in which neither parent went to college. And their numbers are declining.
Educators call such students “first gens,” or members of the first generation of their family to attend college. It is a closely tracked figure because it’s a key measure of socioeconomic opportunity. First gens are typically from poor and working-class families that have difficulty paying for college without scholarships. For first gen athletes who don’t go onto the pros — the vast majority – an athletic scholarship is their ticket not just to a degree, but also for entry into the middle class.
In 2010, the NCAA began asking college athletes whether they are first gens as part of its little-known GOALS Study, which captures the background and experience of those playing sports at all three levels of competition. In 2015, it did another survey of 21,000 athletes. ...
Surprisingly, the data revealed that most Division 1 sports experienced steep drops in first gen students. The falloff was dramatic even in the sports most associated with tales of uplift: In men’s basketball, the sport that used to have the highest percentage of first gens, the number plummeted by a third in just five years. Women’s basketball experienced a similar drop. Football fell by more than 10 percent.
And the bottom line – that only 14.2 percent of all Division 1 athletes are first gens – most likely overstates their presence. The NCAA did not survey athletes in 10 smaller sports, several of which can be expensive to play and thus less accessible to families that lack resources: equestrian, fencing, men’s gymnastics, bowling, rifle, rugby, sailing, sand volleyball, skiing and squash.
Indeed, the data suggests that athletes awarded scholarships in big-time college sports are more likely to come from advantaged backgrounds than the wider student body. In 2015, the percentage of freshmen at all four-year colleges who are first gens was 17.2 percent, said Ellen Stolzenberg of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. (In 2016, it was 18.8 percent.)"

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fine, just read ONE good book!

Joseph Sobran
"To know a single old book well, even if it hasn’t been canonized as a “classic,” is to have a certain anchorage you can’t get from most contemporary writing.
There are no particular classics, not even Shakespeare, that you “must” read. But you should find a few meritorious old writers you find absorbing and not only read them, but live with them, until they become voices in your mind — a sort of internal council you can consult at any time.
When you internalize an author whose vision or philosophy is both rich and out of fashion, you gain a certain immunity from the pressures of the contemporary. The modern world, with its fads, propaganda, and advertising, is forever trying to herd us into conformity. Great literature can help us remain fad-proof.
The modern world is like a perpetual Nuremburg rally: everything that was wrong with Nazi Germany is more or less typical of other modern states, even those states that imagine they are the opposite of Nazi Germany. Political enemies usually turn out to be cousins, whose most violent differences are essentially superficial, masking deeper agreements in principle. Stalin, Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill were closer to each other than they realized; so are Bill Clinton and Slobodan Milosevic.
When confronted with a new topic or political issue, I often ask myself what Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, or James Madison — or, among more recent authors, George Orwell, C.S. Lewis, or Michael Oakeshott — would have thought of it. Not that these men were always right: that would be impossible, since they often disagree with each other. The great authors have no specific “message.”
But at least they had minds of their own. They weren’t mere products of the thought-factory we call public opinion, which might be defined as what everyone thinks everyone else thinks. They provide independent, poll-proof standards of judgment, when the government, its schools, and the media, using all the modern techniques of manipulation, try to breed mass uniformity in order to make us more manageable.
It’s up to us to maintain some detachment, and the literature of the past helps make this possible. That’s why tyrannical governments usually try to control, marginalize, or even abolish that literature, especially religious literature. This need not be achieved by overt censorship; it can be done through school curricula, or in the name of “the separation of church and state.”"

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

In Parenthesis -- David Jones (1937)

The Artist, David Jones (1927)

New Statesman

"[Painter, poet and World War I veteran David] Jones often wrote about “the Break”, the cultural moment somewhere around the beginning of modernity when the European world-view shifted decisively. Instead of a world where things were unique but linked by an unimaginable density of connection and cross-reference, we had created one in which things were unconnected but endlessly repeatable and where everything could be exchanged in the market for an agreed equivalent: above all, for money. Jones saw his work – both as a visual artist and as a poet – as a sustained protest against the Break and an effort to show that the older picture could, after all, be brought to life.
Born in 1895, he had family roots that helped to shape his interests from the beginning. His mother’s father had been a London shipwright and his father’s origins were in North Wales. Both Wales and London kept a central place in his imagination throughout his life. It was not surprising that when the First World War broke out, he enlisted in the 1st London Welsh Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. His 1937 masterpiece, the astonishing book-length poem In Parenthesis, describes the experience of foot soldiers in the First World War, revisiting his own experiences up to and including the disastrous engagement at Mametz Wood in July 1916. Jones was wounded in the leg during the battle (a wound described by the medical orderly as “a beautiful blighty” – serious enough to get him off the front line, yet not life-threatening). But he was back in the trenches in a matter of months.
The traumas of war stayed with him to the end. In Parenthesis, which he struggled with painfully over many years, is one of the most unsparing accounts of the life of infantry soldiers in the trenches and of the horrors of the Somme; but at the same time it meditates on any number of connections – echoes of conflict, from Troy to the struggles of the British against the Saxons in the 6th century to Malory’s Arthurian narratives, and, woven through it all, the founding act of bloodshed that is the death of Christ. Jones was raised an Anglican, but by the time he wrote In Parenthesis he was a Catholic, and believed passionately that the Church’s sacramental theology was what made sense of a world of symbolic connection, where nothing existed as an atom but where everything enriched the perception of everything else. For him, all art rested on the conviction that God had made a world of endless cross-reference, and that humanity was most fully human when it acknowledged this. Art was humanity doing what only humanity could do."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fr. Reginald Foster -- The Modern World's Greatest Teacher?

New Criterion
"“The most influential Latin teacher in the last half-century is Reggie Foster,” says Dr. Nancy Llewellyn, professor of Latin at Wyoming Catholic College. “That’s not just my opinion—that’s a fact. For decades, he had the power to change lives like no other teacher in our field. I saw him for an hour in Rome in 1985 and that one hour completely changed my life. His approach was completely different from every other Latin teacher out there, and it was totally transformative.”
A humanist par excellence, Latin for Foster was not something to be dissected by linguistic analysis or serve as the raw data for a theory of gender or poetics: it was a language, a medium of human connection. I first met Foster in 1995, at his summer school, and couldn’t get enough: I returned seven times. No one on Earth was reading as much Latin as he and his students were, but he was more like an old-school newspaper editor than an academic: he wanted the story. But for that you actually had to know Latin, and know it well. Foster was ruthless about ignorance, and equally ruthless about anything that to him looked like mere academic posturing. “I don’t care about your garbage literary theory!” he barked at his students one day. “I can tell in about ten seconds if you know the Latin or if you are making it all up.” “Latin is the best thing that ever happened to humanity. It leaves you zero room for nonsense. You don’t have to be a genius. But it requires laser-sharp concentration and total maturity. If you don’t know what time of day it is, or what your name is, or where you are, don’t try Latin because it will smear you on the wall like an oil spot.” The number of Foster’s students runs into the thousands, and many of them are now themselves some of the most dedicated teachers in the field. “When I was in college I asked people, ‘Hey, we all know Latin is a language. Does anybody actually speak it anymore?’ And they told me there was one guy, some guy at the Vatican, who still spoke the language, and that was Fr. Foster,” says Dr. Michael Fontaine, a professor of Classics at Cornell University. “I said to myself, ‘I have to study with this guy.’ And that changed everything for me.” Dr. Paul Gwynne, professor of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the American University of Rome, said of Foster, “He is not just the best Latin teacher I’ve ever seen, he’s simply the best teacher I’ve ever seen. Studying Latin with the Pope’s apostolic secretary, for whom the language is alive, using the city of Rome as a classroom . . . it changed my whole outlook on life, really.”
Time seems to bend around Foster, and past and present intertwine. When I wrote to Fr. Antonio Salvi, the current head of the Vatican’s Latin department, for comment about Foster, he responded entirely in Latin, beginning with four words that sounded like an old soldier praising Cato—“Probus vir, parvo contentus.” An upright man. Content with little. And in many ways Foster’s resembles the life of a medieval saint: at the age of six, he would play priest, ripping up old sheets as vestments. He entered seminary at thirteen. He said he wanted only three things in life: to be a priest, to be a Carmelite, and to do Latin. He has spent his entire life in great personal poverty. His cell had no mattress: he slept on the tile floor with a thin blanket. His clothes were notorious in Rome: believing that the religious habit no longer reflected the simple garb of the people as it once had, he gave up his cassock and bought his clothes at Sears: blue pants and a blue shirt, with brandless black sneakers. When it was cold he added a zip-up blue polyester jacket. The Vatican’s Swiss guards called him “il benzinaio,” the gas-station attendant. Reporting for work at the Vatican, he looked like someone called to fix one of the washing-machines in the laundry room. His outfit was more like something his own father, a plumber in Milwaukee, would have worn. When people would give him gifts, he would give them to the poor. He owned almost nothing, and his Vatican office was legendarily spare: a typewriter, pens and paper, one chair, one desk, and a Latin dictionary. Nothing mattered to him except Latin.
But through the Latin language and his work, Foster might just as well have been living during the Italian Renaissance. He made two exceptions to his no-gifts policy: books, because he loved them, and music, because he could not resist. He covered all his books in brown packing paper, and treated them as precious relics. The solitary pleasures of his cell were the words of Cicero and Leo Magnus, and the music of Handel and Haydn. And outside his cell he reveled in the artistic treasures of Rome. He would show visitors around the Vatican with evident pride, to Raphael’s loggia, a private balcony overlooking Bernini’s colonnade, or the Pauline Chapel (like the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo, but closed to the public and reserved only for Vatican employees)."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Through a Glass, Darkly -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

Through the travail of the ages,
Midst the pomp and toil of war,
Have I fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star.

In the form of many people
In all panoplies of time
Have I seen the luring vision
Of the Victory Maid, sublime.

I have battled for fresh mammoth,
I have warred for pastures new,
I have listed to the whispers
When the race trek instinct grew.

I have known the call to battle
In each changeless changing shape
From the high souled voice of conscience
To the beastly lust for rape.

I have sinned and I have suffered,
Played the hero and the knave;
Fought for belly, shame, or country,
And for each have found a grave.

I cannot name my battles
For the visions are not clear,
Yet, I see the twisted faces
And I feel the rending spear.

Perhaps I stabbed our Savior
In His sacred helpless side.
Yet, I've called His name in blessing
When after times I died.

In the dimness of the shadows
Where we hairy heathens warred,
I can taste in thought the lifeblood;
We used teeth before the sword.

While in later clearer vision
I can sense the coppery sweat,
Feel the pikes grow wet and slippery
When our Phalanx, Cyrus met.

Hear the rattle of the harness
Where the Persian darts bounced clear,
See their chariots wheel in panic
From the Hoplite's leveled spear.

See the goal grow monthly longer,
Reaching for the walls of Tyre.
Hear the crash of tons of granite,
Smell the quenchless eastern fire.

Still more clearly as a Roman,
Can I see the Legion close,
As our third rank moved in forward
And the short sword found our foes.

Once again I feel the anguish
Of that blistering treeless plain
When the Parthian showered death bolts,
And our discipline was in vain.

I remember all the suffering
Of those arrows in my neck.
Yet, I stabbed a grinning savage
As I died upon my back.

Once again I smell the heat sparks
When my Flemish plate gave way
And the lance ripped through my entrails
As on Crecy's field I lay.

In the windless, blinding stillness
Of the glittering tropic sea
I can see the bubbles rising
Where we set the captives free.

Midst the spume of half a tempest
I have heard the bulwarks go
When the crashing, point blank round shot
Sent destruction to our foe.

I have fought with gun and cutlass
On the red and slippery deck
With all Hell aflame within me
And a rope around my neck.

And still later as a General
Have I galloped with Murat
When we laughed at death and numbers
Trusting in the Emperor's Star.

Till at last our star faded,
And we shouted to our doom
Where the sunken road of Ohein
Closed us in it's quivering gloom.

So but now with Tanks a'clatter
Have I waddled on the foe
Belching death at twenty paces,
By the star shell's ghastly glow.

So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.

And I see not in my blindness
What the objects were I wrought,
But as God rules o'er our bickerings
It was through His will I fought.

So forever in the future,
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter,
But to die again, once more.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Firebird Suite, Finale -- Igor Stravinsky (1910)

"The ballet centers on the journey of its hero, Prince Ivan. While hunting in the forest, he strays into the magical realm of Koschei the Immortal, whose immortality is preserved by keeping his soul in a magic egg hidden in a casket. Ivan chases and captures the Firebird and is about to kill her; she begs for her life and he spares her. As a token of thanks she offers him an enchanted feather that he can use to summon her should he be in dire need.
Prince Ivan then meets thirteen princesses who are under the spell of Koschei and falls in love with one of them. The next day, Ivan confronts the magician and eventually they begin quarrelling. When Koschei sends his minions after Ivan, he summons the Firebird. She intervenes, bewitching the monsters and making them dance an elaborate, energetic dance (the "Infernal Dance"). The creatures and Koschei then fall into a deep sleep. While they sleep, the Firebird directs Ivan to a tree stump where the casket with the egg containing Koschei's soul is hidden. Ivan destroys the egg and with the spell broken, the magical creatures that Koschei held captive are freed and the palace disappears. All of the "real" beings, including the princesses, awaken and with one final hint of the Firebird's music (though in Fokine's choreography she makes no appearance in that final scene on-stage), celebrate their victory."

Friday, March 24, 2017

Beowulf lives!

Image result for Beowulf Illustrations
I have the Gareth Hinds Odyssey and it is excellent. I look forward to reading his Beowulf.

The Atlantic

"What’s it about, this running pop-cultural engagement with the old poem? To begin with, there’s the action: kinetic, enthralling fight scenes that go on for pages, pitting a superheroic human against a shape-shifting, ever-regenerating principle of destruction. Beowulf, mighty warrior of the Geats, hearing that some neighboring Danes are being terrorized by a misshapen antiman called Grendel, crews a ship with up-for-it countrymen and sails to the rescue. In the great hall Heorot—built for feasts, now stalked by Grendel—a bare-handed Beowulf fights the monster, rips his arm off, and nails it over the door of the hall. Then he fights Grendel’s mother, a water monster, diving into her demonic pond (where Grendel crawled to die) and running her through with a sword, which promptly melts. And then, back in Geatland 50 years later, Beowulf faces a dragon. Billows of Game of Thrones–esque dragon breath, heroic paroxysms. Beowulf kills the dragon, and the dragon kills Beowulf. The end.
But it’s not the end. Because beyond, or behind, Beowulf’s triptych of hero-on-monster showdowns lies its starker-than-stark Dark Ages existentialism. The poem begins, very deliberately, with an image that is also a kind of parable: a person emerging nameless from the sea and then—after a lifetime of making a name for himself—being delivered back to the sea again. Scyld Scefing arrives on the shores of Denmark as an oceanic foundling, a baby drifting in a boat, and in time becomes a legend: ruler of the Danes and great-grandfather of Hrothgar, the king whose people Beowulf will later arrive to save. When Scyld dies, he is laid out in a vessel stacked with weapons and treasure, and set adrift once more. Away he floats. That’s it, the poet is saying: That’s life. Out of nowhere, and into nowhere. Better make it count.


But it’s Gareth Hinds’s 2000 Beowulf that is the near-masterpiece, a scholarly, synesthetic freak-out: skutchlp goes Grendel’s arm as Beowulf breaks it with his elbow, and the monster’s agony—his “God-cursed scream and strain of catastrophe”—is rendered by Hinds as streamers of ancient script unwinding into the night sky. In my favorite panel, a blood-red Beowulf is breaching the surface of the evil pond, with Grendel’s severed head hanging by its hair from his teeth and the handle of his melted sword hoisted above him like a crucifix. With this one wild image Hinds is resolving, in a sense, the tension between the pagan origins of the Beowulf story and the later, Christian messaging of the anonymous Beowulf poet: Beowulf himself may never have heard of Christianity, but when he vanquishes monsters, he does so under the sign of Christ.
What Beowulf fights against is the undoing of everything. I used to think that Grendel was your archetypal party-hater, a buzzkill like Jason Voorhees (of the Friday the 13th franchise) or Michael Myers (Halloween), his deep-brain slasher centers activated by laughter, music, the trebley ripples of hedonism. Harp-playing in the great hall makes him homicidal, to be alliterative about it. But it’s not just any old harp-playing that gets Grendel going; it’s the Christian vision of cosmic order laid out by the skald. It harrowed him to hear … how the Almighty had made the earth / a gleaming plain girdled with waters. Creation itself, and the fact that it makes sense, is unbearable to Grendel.
So Grendel hates God. But the promise of Christianity, we begin to see, made barely a dent in this poem, which now emerges whole—eerily intact—into the post-Christian wreck of the current historical moment. There is no transcendence in Beowulf, and no redemption. Tear off the man-beast’s arm, says the poet; plumb the lake of psychic terror and come up victorious; kill the dragon—but the dragon will get you anyway. Cyclical, tribal violence obsesses the Beowulf poet: In the same breath that he hails the splendors of Heorot, he assures us that the great hall will one day be burned to the ground. Beowulf saves the Geats from the dragon, but the rider who distributes the news feels obliged to add that, as a people, they will shortly be under the heel of the murderous, unsupernatural Swedes. And in the churning smoke of Beowulf’s funeral pyre, a tableau from any age, every age: A Geat woman … sang out in grief; / with hair bound up, she unburdened herself / of her worst fears, a wild litany / of nightmare and lament; her nation invaded, / enemies on the rampage, bodies in piles, / slavery and abasement. Heaven swallowed the smoke."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trobrianders, Darwin, Ekman and Fear Recognition

Image result for expression fear
Do you know who else has trouble recognizing fear in other people's faces? Psychopaths. Just saying. Nothing against the Trobrianders, who sound like a very interesting people.

"For more than a century, scientists have wondered whether all humans experience the same basic range of emotions—and if they do, whether they express them in the same way. In the 1870s, it was the central question Charles Darwin explored in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. By the 1960s, emeritus psychologist Paul Ekman, then at the University of California (UC) in San Francisco, had come up with an accepted methodology to explore this question. He showed pictures of Westerners with different facial expressions to people living in isolated cultures, including in Papua New Guinea, and then asked them what emotion was being conveyed. Ekman’s early experiments appeared conclusive. From anger to happiness to sadness to surprise, facial expressions seemed to be universally understood around the world, a biologically innate response to emotion.
That conclusion went virtually unchallenged for 50 years, and it still features prominently in many psychology and anthropology textbooks, says James Russell, a psychologist at Boston College and corresponding author of the recent study. But over the last few decades, scientists have begun questioning the methodologies and assumptions of the earlier studies.
Psychologist Carlos Crivelli was one of them. In 2011, he was working with his colleague, psychologist José-Miguel Fernández-Dols, at the Autonomous University of Madrid. Together, they came up with a plan to investigate Ekman’s initial research in Papua New Guinea. Crivelli and longtime friend and research partner, Sergio Jarillo, an anthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, traveled to the Trobriand Islands off Papua New Guinea’s east coast, where about 60,000 indigenous Trobrianders live. These horticulturists and fishermen have been historically isolated from both mainland Papua New Guinea and the outside world. To learn all that they could, Crivelli and Jarillo embedded themselves in the local culture. They were adopted by host families and took clan names; Crivelli became “Kelakasi” and Jarillo, “Tonogwa.” They spent many months learning the local language, Kilivila.
When it came time to begin the study, they didn’t need translators or local guides. They simply showed 72 young people between the ages of 9 and 15 from different villages photos from an established set of faces used in psychological research. The researchers asked half the Trobrianders to link each of the faces to an emotion from a list: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, or hunger. The other half was given a different task.
Crivelli found that they matched smiling with happiness almost every time. Results for the other combinations were mixed, though. For example, the Trobrianders just couldn’t widely agree on which emotion a scowling face corresponded with. Some said this and some said that. It was the same with the nose-scrunching, pouting, and a neutral expression. There was one facial expression, though, that many of them did agree on: a wide-eyed, lips-parted gasping face (similar to above) that Western cultures almost universally associate with fear and submission. The Trobrianders said it looked “angry.”
Surprised, Crivelli showed a different set of Trobrianders the same faces, but he couched his questions in stories—e.g., “Which of these people would like to start a fight?”—to draw out more context. They, too, associated the gasp face with threatening behavior, Crivelli reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The implications here are really big,” he says. “It strongly suggests that at least these facial behaviors are not pancultural, but are instead culturally specific.”"

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

John Hinckley, from St. Elizabeth's hospital to Williamsburg, VA

There's a difference between being disturbed and being dangerous. Let's hope the docs at St. E's aren't proven wrong in their assessment. 

NY Magazine

"In his fantasy pursuit of Jodie Foster, [President Reagan's would-be assassin John] Hinckley cast himself as a chivalric knight, but in life, he had never had a girlfriend. In the hospital, that changed. Hinckley became a promiscuous lover of real women, some of whom seemed to love him back — and others who did not. Leslie deVeau was already a patient at St. Elizabeths when Hinckley arrived, having murdered her 10-year-old daughter in her sleep. (She had then turned the shotgun on herself, but missed her heart and blew off her left arm.) She also was white, and from an upper-middle-class family. Hinckley approached her at a Halloween mixer. “I’d ask you to dance if I danced,” he said.
Their courtship blossomed slowly, over 20 years, constrained by stringent rules and schedules. When they could not see each other, they would exchange letters, taping them beneath the dining tables in the cafeteria. But the romance intensified when deVeau was released (in 1990) and began coming to see him during visiting hours. They would hold hands across a large table and talk, under the watchfulness of the hospital guards. deVeau needed someone to mother, she told The New Yorker in 1999. Hinckley, whom others found distant and defensive, was revealing and loquacious with her, she said. When they first started having sex, outdoors, nearly ten years after they met, it wasn’t awkward, despite Hinckley’s inexperience. “It was as if we’d both had this core of loneliness for a hundred years,” said deVeau.
With Cynthia Bruce, another patient at St. Elizabeths, Hinckley cast himself in a savior role. Bruce, several years younger, has severe schizophrenia and has spent her life in and out of hospitals, according to court documents. By 2009, when they became close, the judge had already approved a series of furloughs home for Hinckley — 12-hour day trips in 2003 and then three-day overnights in 2006 — and his focus was on getting released. In the hospital, he and Bruce were inseparable. And when Hinckley was in Williamsburg, to the annoyance of his mother, they talked incessantly on the phone.
But Hinckley had mixed feelings about Bruce. On the one hand, he loved her. The relationship was “pretty intense,” he told a psychiatrist, and he gave her several rings, including one that was “like the one William gave Kate,” he said. Hinckley even told his family they intended to marry, and said he was considering conversion to Catholicism because Bruce was so devout. On the other hand, he hoped to be out of the hospital soon, so “what’s the point of being engaged to her?” (“It’s very confusing, because they are either engaged or not engaged,” his psychiatrist said.) Another doctor expressed concern that Hinckley was being deceitful, leading Bruce on in order to ameliorate his loneliness. Certain people saw the relationship as evidence of his increased empathy; others saw a mind almost weaponized by selfishness. At a hospital Christmas party, Hinckley was gentlemanly when Bruce had an anxiety attack, escorting her to the front gate so she could get home. But when she’d stood outside the hospital, in full-blown psychosis, holding a sign on a pole and screaming religious terms and his name, Hinckley told his doctors he didn’t hear her.

How do doctors decide when a person’s fantasies are dangerous? In assessing patients for release, psychiatrists talk about “state or trait.” Did a person commit murder because of his “state” — hallucinations or delusions or drunkenness? Or was it depression or a mania that is a part of an underlying disorder — a “trait”? How good is the patient at understanding himself, managing his illness, and acting responsibly in his own interest?
Within three years of hospitalization, John Hinckley’s most dangerous symptoms — his obsessive, fantastical, suicidal-homicidal-romantic thoughts — had abated and, his lawyer says, without the help of psychotropic drugs. But whatever mental illness Hinckley had, it was atypical. “For some people, their symptomology doesn’t fit neatly into a category, or even two or three,” says Paul Appelbaum, the Columbia psychiatrist. “The field doesn’t have it all figured out yet. It’s not unusual to see people who have had multiple diagnoses, incompatible diagnoses, and now have a new set of diagnoses.” Eventually, the hospital settled on a durable clinical label for Hinckley’s illness: major depression and nonspecific psychosis, both of which had been in remission since at least 1990. And over time, Hinckley remained symptom-free. Generally speaking, age modulates psychosis and diminishes violent impulses."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Prescriptions for psychiatric drugs keep rising, and yet the mental health of Americans has deteriorated" -- John Horgan

Scientific American
"In her remarkable bestselling 2007 memoir The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, [law professor Elyn] Saks reveals her struggles with schizophrenia.
She has been hospitalized several times for periods totaling hundreds of days. Doctors once called her prognosis “grave,” which meant that she would probably never be fully autonomous, and she would work, at best, in menial jobs.
She has nonetheless overcome her disorder with the help of medications and—you guessed it--psychoanalysis. Saks has undergone psychoanalysis since she had a psychotic breakdown at Oxford University in the late 1970s, and she plans to continue being treated for the rest of her life.
Saks, who has a Ph.D. from the New Center for Psychoanalysis, saw no contradiction between psychoanalysis and physiological approaches to the mind and its disorders. They represent two levels of “discourse,” she explained to me. “One is at the level of molecules and neurotransmitters and brain cells and so on, and the other is at the level of personality, goals, meaning.”
She is well aware of the criticism of psychoanalysis. She nonetheless finds it “richer and deeper” than alternative theories and therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Freud, she said, was “an amazing writer. The case studies read like novels.”
Freud’s ideas, Saks noted, have spawned many rival schools of psychoanalysis. Saks’s first analyst practiced a therapy pioneered by Melanie Klein. But Freud is “the granddaddy.”
In her memoir, Saks notes that “Freud and his teachings had always fascinated me.” Psychoanalysis “asks fundamental questions: Why do people do what they do? When can people be held responsible for their actions? Is unconscious motivation relevant to responsibility?”
Saks’s affinity for psychoanalysis is part of larger trend. In her 2015 book In the Mind Fields: Exploring the New Science of Neuropsychoanalysis, journalist Casey Schwartz reports on recent attempts to find common ground between neuroscience and psychoanalysis.
In a 1996 article for Scientific American, “Why Freud Isn’t Dead,” I offered positive and negative reasons for the persistence of psychoanalysis. The positive reasons are those noted by Saks: Freud’s essays and case studies have the compelling complexity and depth of great literature.
The negative and more important reason is that science has not produced a theory/therapy potent enough to render psychoanalysis obsolete once and for all. “Freudians cannot point to unambiguous evidence that psychoanalysis works,” I wrote, “but neither can proponents of more modern treatments.”
I stand by that assessment. Critics liken psychoanalysis to phrenology, the 19th-century pseudo-science that linked personality to the shape of the skull. But if psychoanalysis is akin to phrenology, so are alternative therapies, which range from psychopharmacology and cognitive-behavioral therapy to “electro-cures” and Buddhism. As I reported recently, prescriptions for psychiatric drugs keep rising, and yet the mental health of Americans has deteriorated, according to measures such as disability payments."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy (1869)


"[Matthew Arnold's] Culture and Anarchy appeared in book form just one year before Forster’s all-important Education Act of 1870 and it posed questions that still perplex us today: what kind of life should individuals in mass societies be encouraged to lead? How do such societies best ensure that our quality of life is not impoverished ? How to preserve an elevated and exclusive freedom of thought in an age of democratic fervour?
Opposed to this exalted assertion of an ideal version of “the good life”, there was the vulgarity, vigour and vehemence of Victorian England at its zenith. This, Arnold argues, was a heedless and exuberant individualism (replete with prejudice, greed, xenophobia, racism, intolerance and aggression) that would lead to anarchy. He nails this claim by showing how Victorian barbarism affected all strata of national life.
In some of his wittiest and most entertaining passages, Arnold divided English society into three classes — the Barbarians, the Philistines, and the Populace. (With an almost audible sigh, he complains: “It is awkward and tiresome to be always saying the aristocratic class, the middle class, the working class.”) The Barbarians or aristocracy, he says, have a superficial “sweetness and light”, but are too concerned with the maintenance and enjoyment of their privileges to attain a true sense of beauty and a true liberation of thought:
The Barbarians had the passion for field-sports; as of the passion for asserting one’s personal liberty…. The care of the Barbarians for the body, and for all manly exercises; the chivalry of the Barbarians, with its characteristics of high spirit, choice manners, and distinguished bearing – what is this but the politeness of our aristocratic class?” 
The Philistines or middle classes are devoted to money-making and a narrow form of religion; they are indifferent or hostile to beauty; and they are ‘the enemy of the children of light’, or servants of the idea.” 
Finally, the rowdy Populace are violent in their prejudices and brutal in their pleasures. But all three groups are agreed that “doing as one likes” is the chief end of man, and all are self-satisfied."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

For a Young Dancer on St. Patrick's Day -- A.E. Stallings (2009)

At six, her stance is 
Like a professional’s—she waits her cue 
Intensely and with no expression, 
The youngest in the troupe of girls 
Costumed alike in skirts that flare like bells 
Embroidered with designs— 
Abstracted tangled animals and geometric vines— 
Drawn from the Book of Kells, 
Hair done up in headdresses of artificial curls 
To bounce in time to lively Irish dances, 

But it’s the music of a Shaker hymn 
When she takes her place 
Alone on the plywood stage, candescent with such fierce 
And concentrated joy 
As no smile will pierce 
And no trivial laughter can alloy, 
Each swift and nimble limb 
Inhabiting its quickness without haste, 
As if she had only herself to please. 
All gazes 

Fix on her, not because, 
Or not only because, she is a lovely, solemn elf, 
Not that her eyes 
Are just the shade of blue 
 Patterned on antique Delft 
Or that cliché of cloudless skies 
(Though bored through with the blackness of unfathomable Space), 
And it is not her fearsome self-possession 
Around her, tightly furled, 

Rather the possession of her self 
By a vaster power 
Whose presence in this low room till this hour 
Had been unknown to us 
And momently amazes, 
As the wide wind that breathes upon the world 
Enlists the tossing of high-masted trees, 
The bowing of the grass, 
The shiver of a roadside flower, 
So we may see it pass.