Saturday, May 07, 2011

Where is the Soul 35?

Un carabiniere a Roma, 1 Maggio 2011
The novelist Thomas Pynchon has described Hillman's and Ventura's joint book as "provocative, dangerous and high-spirited," while the Los Angeles Times declared that it is a work in which "[a]ll sorts of fresh ideas dart back and forth as in a successful jam session."  These are more poetic ways of saying what I have been saying on several occasions about the provocative and subversive nature of We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World's getting Worse.  We do owe such authors a debt of gratitude because they push forward the boundaries of knowledge by their courage to ask counter-cultural and very unpopular questions.

Being a Maverick and an Outsider

Most great organizations, the Church included, have long had mavericks out at their fringes - indeed, far too few of them, to tell the truth.  These mavericks, either in thought or in prophetic action, have helped push forward the boundaries of truth and knowledge.  Hillman and Ventura argue well in this book that once any science or institution becomes subservient solely to the state rather than to the truth, the heart or soul of it has been figuratively put to sleep or anaesthetized.  Hillman admits here that he is in the company of other subversive and prophetic voices like Ivan Illich, Ronnie Laing and Tom Szasz at the stultification of the soul and its creativity by subservience to society.  With them he argues that society itself has become dysfunctional.  He also admits that he is looked upon as a maverick and as an outsider and is quite content to be so regarded even when it means lack of prestige and power, not getting the academic chairs and receiving the inevitable low fees for one's services.  In short he admits to being marginalized by the psychological profession.

Support Groups

Hillman returns yet again to the modern preoccupation with support groups of one sort or another.  People don't go there to form friendships.  In fact, most if not all support groups, warn against the establishment of deep friendships or personal relationships within these groups because people are way too vulnerable and share very similar vulnerabilities.  People go to these groups to get personal support.  To this extent our learned author argues that "support groups are a symptom of our time because they further the individualism."  (Op. cit., p. 208)

The Importance of Human Touch

Jazz group busking, Rome, May 1, 2011
As a frequent visitor to the South of Italy I delight in the Italian sense of touch.  It has been my opinion for years, indeed it's a commonly accepted one, that the Latin peoples are way more comfortable and "at home" with physically touching each other in loving and caring ways.  We Celts of the North have problems with touching others unless in macho sports games like rugby, wrestling and football where somehow most of the taboos about hugging and kissing (among males obviously, given the sports mentioned) are forgotten.  The Italians have a way healthier attitude to holding hands, hugging and kissing.  When one witnesses such physical encounters one realises how natural they are.  In the Northern European countries we are less tactile and perhaps this has something to do with the climate which necessitates the covering of all limbs during long cold periods.

Hillman argues that in modern Western industrialized nations like the USA and Britain our sense of touch has literally been desensitized.  We are touching only artificial surfaces of things mostly, rather than real natural objects.  And what he says is so true that "the stuff that [we] touch... are plastic, styrofoam, cold metal, so in a way there's a slow anaesthetizing, [our] hands have become brutal." (Ibid., p. 212)

Sexual Abuse

South American group busk, Via dei Fori, Roma, Maggo 1, 2011
It would be interesting to compare figures on sexual abuse in the USA and Northern Europe with those in South Europe and in African Countries.  Are there any correlations, I wonder, between the more "repressed" or less physically demonstrative countries and the rate of say sexual abuse?  In other words, is sex abuse higher in more physically repressed countries than in more open and more tactile countries like those of the Latins?  I don't know the answer, but it is a question that I must research on the Internet, but that is a topic more appropriate for another post.   Once again ponder these subversive or challenging thoughts from Hillman:

In the old-fashioned bordello the imagination of a person was cared for.  Same for de Sade, which is a storybook of images.  When the imagination of a person is not cared for we are left not only with what they now call sex addiction and sex therapy (which is a technology of sex and not the art of sex), but we are also left with the grandfather and the uncle who finger the little girls.  Again, sex molestation and all that is partly a function of the repression of prostitution and of all sexuality not considered "normal." (Ibid., p. 215)

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