Knowledge – Wisdom – Marketing – Stereotypes – What Reading and Thinking Can Do for You

image of beach at sunset and family walking
Image courtesy pixabay.com – Free license

Erich Fromm, Alexander Lowen, Sigmund Freud, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Alxandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, The Brontë Sisters, Shakespeare, Plato, Immanuel Kant, Aristotle,…the list goes on and on and on…. And those are only a very major few dealing with live, love, sex, gambling, man vs mankind, culture, thoughts, ideas in human life, right, wrong, and human needs. I’ve read so many books in the course of my life that I can truly say they cover a mid-sized library. A couple of thousands.

Opposed to that are the images you find in many Hollywood movies (often especially the ones drawing huge audiences), on Social Media – strange word for such a rather ‘un-social’ market place – but then, ever since the Ancient times it was common calling bad or problematic things by good names – to lessen the fear or dread of it, such as the Black Sea known to be dangerous to sailors. They called it “Pontos Euxeinos” in Greek, the friendly, kind sea.

Market places: Marketing images are everywhere – and they ‘feed’ on stereotypes.
Reading and thinking on your feet, you might say, trains the mind; trains your thinking, to go beyond common images, and be – at some point – a complete and wholesome human being rather than someone chasing the latest fashions in order to be fashionable – and be ‘IN’.

The monster, the lady in distress, the prince and the common man to rescue her so they can fall in love with her afterwards…
C.G. Jung, a Freud-disciple, called them ‘archetypes’ that have been around for many centuries in human existence, in the West at least, and patriarchal society, and thus are part of all our common (usually unconscious) heritage of ideas and wishes.

Most important in this respect to me are these ideas:

Knowing about something does not mean you had to do it first in order to  understand.

Wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge. Wisdom is the combination of empathy (know human emotions) with experience and knowledge to truly understand human life.

“Anna Karenina” – The Looks – and the Great Divide

19th century drawing of Winter palace St. Petersburg
19th century drawing of the ballroom in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg – License: public domain

Beauty, wealth, a comfortable life and an adorable son: Yet, Anna Karenina still is one of the most tragic figures in literature. In popular movies the unhappy love story is always very much stressed. The actual underlying wonderfully rendered idea of what society and its expectations can do to individuals that stand out, is one of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpieces.

If you never had the opportunity – or never felt much like reading, try one of these two ways:
Just try and read the actual book.
Look around for a fine reading of it as audiobook recording.

Leo Tolstoy makes it a ‘movie theatre in the mind’: Vivid images of the people involved, the locations they visit, the talks and exchanges make it come to life much more vibrant than any movie ever could.

Most important to me is Tolstoy’s realization of an almost cruel truth: The expectations of a patriarchal society that quickly condemns anyone who does not conform to the ideas of what a lady is supposed to be like.

And the bitter truth that holds true to this day: The wife to be nice and quiet and even a little limited, preferably. The other woman, fascinating by charms and esprit who is being desired, craved even but put at a distance that is remote adoration, at best.

Tolstoy with his usual cutting-edge powers of observation also diagnoses the underlying ‘disease’:
Men who expect a plaything, a toy and presume the position of power, even cruelly to do as they please – because the ‘guys’ never mind or even applaud.

In modern times where at least on the surface the equality of the sexes has been achieved in some parts of this world, one would expect this to be a behaviour of the past.

But some more conservative surroundings bring it up again: The ghost of women passed – and past – who suffered from male expectations – and delusions. Or the bitter payback of ‘frustration’.

‘Chastity’ Revisited: Passion’s Pain or Joy…?

image of monastery hall in watercolour
Monastery – Free license courtesy Ecosia search engine

The religious aspect of the church trying to control passionate contemporaries putting their urges into action, cannot be overestimated in Christian regions, over the past couple of thousands of years.

A Question of Politics

But it also is basically a question of politics: Apart from food and drink and the need to ‘relieve yourself’ (discreetly put), human bodily passion is the strongest urge and many call it by rights the second most pleasurable among them. So, controlling it by making people afraid, as the Christian church has done for such a long time, means power over their minds. Which means, power over them.

I couldn’t agree more. What I also think is: It happens still far too often that people are irresponsible or downright careless. They ‘play games’ with their own or other people’s hearts just because they can.

Why hearts? Isn’t this about ‘bodily love, passion, lust’?

I’ve posted about this before.

Somehow the subject seems to come up repeatedly and a certain careful approach can easily be misunderstood by the uninitiated.

Review The Evidence

It has been made clear in the past couple of centuries by social sciences as well as medicine that passion in humans (or other organisms) is not singularly a matter of the body – uncontrollable – or, as it was posed for quite some time after the 1960s sexual revolution, just a human need, like having food and drink.

Since, simply put: If you do not drink or eat for a certain amount of time at all, you will die. You do not die from not having sexual intercourse.

Which brings me to my argument here and anywhere else in this blog if you care to check:

Although it has been represented to be two separate things, namely lust and love – they are just two aspects of one and the same thing: Emotions, feelings are closely intertwined with our body and its reactions.

We start breathing hard when the object of our desire is close. Our heart starts beating. We may feel ‘butterflies in our chest’ or just a wonderful warmth all over.

There is ample proof that all this is not to be treated lightly.

That’s all I ever mean or advocate – in so many words, sometimes even less words used:

Take Good Care of the Fire

Take good care of your or other people’s hearts, be responsible. Because for all the time mankind anywhere on this world can remember, arts, music, poetry and literature as well as fairy tales have called human passion and love what it actually is:
A fire, it can be wonderful to have around, warming, fiery, full of light – but it can burn, like a firebrand, and destroy all before it.

So, treat it – and yourself – with kindness and respect – as you would a good friend. And do unto others as you would want them to do unto you…

Emotions, Panic, Humans – and ‘Ol’ Siggi’…

Pavement mosaic with the head of Pan. Roman artwork, Antonine period, 138–192 CE. (courtesy Wikimedia Commons, lightly cropped)

Ever since ‘panic’ was defined in ancient Greece, it also was clear that it is a powerful emotion. To this day, the root of some of the most tragic events and results of large group gatherings is panic.

What is Panic, Exactly?

‘panic (noun) – Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behaviour.’
So the Oxford dictionary. As so often is the case this dictionary puts it in clear and concise language:
‘sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety…’

Emotions Spread…

One of the most striking results of research into emotions that Sigmund Freud (‘Ol’ Siggi’) already described were the phenomena of ‘transference’ and ‘projection’. Both basically mean that human beings can feel each others emotions, sometimes in reverse, sub-consciously.

This effect is also what causes the spread of panic in large crowds: it’s not a rumour or words so much but the actual feeling, the emotion spreading between humans, causing those dreadfully tragic flights which so often crush people below them, when others start running and trampling, regardless.

Emotion – or ‘Energy’?

In other more ancient systems the emotions are sometimes called ‘energy’. The possibility of transferring emotions between humans. So far, modern science such as physics hasn’t found or developed instruments that would measure these ‘energy fields’.

Although the names are different, the ‘thing’ is the same: emotions, feelings, warmth, they are transferable, the more so the better a person understands and accepts their own emotions, without judging them.

Everyday Life

Which does not mean: ‘acting them out’!

Basic, almost everyday example: someone who for some reason or other becomes suddenly angry, has several ways of expressing that anger:

    • they could hit the person in front of them.
    • Or they could hit an object, such as a punching ball.
    • Or they could say ‘I am angry’, leave the room and take a good long walk, until the anger has passed away.

I have read so many books in the course of my life and analyzed structure as well as meaning and the underlying patterns – as well as that of other kinds of stories, such as movies, poems, you name it – that I could cite such examples going on for hours.

Find Yours

But the long and the short of all this is: especially in Europe people who are completely unfamiliar with either actual experience of that kind of energy being transferred – consciously! – or with Sigmund Freud’s and his disciples’ writings, may find some of those people who know, rather inexplicable.

Additionally, people who have been raised on very ‘reasonable’ not to say cold lines, may find it almost impossible without taking certain kinds of ‘medicine’ to ever feel deeply.
Which is very sad to know – or to watch.

I encourage anyone who reads this and perhaps yearns for deeply stirring moments or experience in their lives, to do some research, find out about the close connection between body and mind – and not ‘take’ anything other than the occasional herb tea or spice.

About Blogs, Texts – and Literary Rules

In literary research and in literature, it is one of the first rules: never assume that author and narrator are one and the same. The same is true for other kinds of texts, whichever they are.

A number of my readers may know this well anyway and take it for granted. Still, I’d like to point this out for all who might not know or be aware of this.

When I write here, about philosophical ideas or life, politics or love – you name it – most of what I write about, as all writers of any genre do and know too, originates in thoughts, very extensive reading throughout a lifetime (in my case), research, online and offline – and observation.

Writing about it does not necessarily mean that someone has seen or done something themselves.
To believe that would be gross, in some cases, but presumptuous at least.

Distraction – Internet – Productivity – or: Us?

In recent years documentaries and books as well as blog articles tell us how disruptive the internet is to our work ethics, how problematic it has become for people to constantly check their phones and so on social media about their latest ratings, the newest trend, even if only purported, or the most scary news.

Of course, with any new technology, it is added, this means we should be careful, not to say beware: dreadful things are happening, people become dumb, or dumber through the internet, more distracted, less able to focus.

But as I posted before, history can teach us: neither these warnings nor the idea of a new technology or medium being dangerous to the average person’s mind is really new.
When Gutenberg invented printing, the church and other ‘forward thinkers’ predicted dreadful consequences, for minds as well as morals of the population.
When radio came first into being, it was a wide-spread fear that those waves would damage brains or thinking or make impotent or even criminal.
When TV arrived on the horizon and was made available to the masses, the same happened, all over again.

The presumptions in all of this are:

  • There’s an actual average level of the mind of humans that can be damaged or ‘pulled to depths of iniquity’.
  • There’s a crucial point where certain kinds of knowledge or insight might cause the ‘fall from grace’ to happen again, the paradise-situation and first sin all over again: eat the fruit of enlightenment or insight and you will be disgraced.

What all of these prognosticators disregard sadly, are some basic truths of history and humans that are not all nice to look at but still true:

  • For thousands of years dreadful crimes have been committed, cruelty and torture, by the inquisition, an institution of the Christian church, as well as feudal landlords, have inflicted pain and suffering and death on innocent people.
  • Wars have caused actions of killing and torture the average mind shudders at. Rape, hunger, sophisticated torturing, you name it. And most of the time mankind exists, there was no internet, no social media and no radio, books or TV around.
  • People, in throngs, used to visit public hangings and punishment that was institiuonalised torture, many a scary movie these days would shy away from depicting.
  • Women were called ‘witches’ and tortured and burnt at the stake long before any of the abovementioned media were around, again, no radio, no books, no TV or internet.
  • People always have exchanged sensations, told stories, true or false, ‘spun yarns’ and – looked for excitement in an often too boring reality.
  • The ballads that were sung, the shallower of the plays in mass theatre productions, ‘wall newspapers’ that would pay tribute to any of the today’s tabloids, were in abundance long before analogue or digital technology were even thought of.

If anything, in many parts of the world with higher education levels and more well-paid jobs available, cruelties have decreased – except for times of war, which ‘behave’ according to precedent – and according to crimes’ statistical records that cover around two centuries now.

So, I like to put it rather like this, as someone said somewhere a couple of years ago:
‘Smart, educated people will smartly use and become more smart with using media, dumb ones will become dumber.’

It means responsibility again, too:
the better we ourselves learn to discern and also teach our children discretion of good or bad or the best media, the more hope is in it, for all.

Stephen Fry: “Playing Grafcefully With Ideas” – Oscar Wilde, Albert Einstein or Modern Heroes

I like to share this address here, Stephen Fry’s address to Oxford students on what to value very highly in life, especially as student or – I like to add, human being:
freedom of thought

Fry’s speeches and subtle humour are famous already, as actor as well as writer he can be said to practice the true art of understatement.

I will just put this here, it’s great fun and well-versed as well as read. Take a little time off your household chores, perhaps, get a breather from a working life of pressing tasks – and enjoy!