Monday, September 14, 2020

Quotes on developing a self

"Selfhood — an obsolete idea, according to Bateson and other proponents of the ‘new consciousness’ — is precisely the inescapable awareness of man’s contradictory place in the natural order of things. … The distinguishing characteristic of selfhood, however, is not rationality but the critical awareness of man’s divided nature. Selfhood expresses itself in the form of a guilty conscience, the painful awareness of the gulf between human aspirations and human limitation. “Bad conscience is inseparable from freedom,” Jacques Ellul reminds us. “There is no freedom without an accompanying critical attitude to the self..."
Christopher Lasch. The Minimal Self: Psychic Survival in Troubled Times. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1984. p. 257-258.

"Similar in concept to theologian James Fowler’s stages of faith (even Campbell’s hero’s journey), [M. Scott] Peck’s framework [in his book The Different Drum] consists of four systematic or hierarchical stages of spiritual growth and development. These include: the chaotic anti-social individual, the formal institutional individual, the skeptic individual, and the mystic-communal individual. Each of these stages addresses recognition, awareness, and fulfillment of our relationship to the divine."
Brian Luke Seaward. Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water: Reflections on Stress and Human Spirituality. (1997) Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, Inc. 2007. p. 70.

"Anyone's drama can be examined...on this spectrum from aggressive to passive…So the order of dramas goes this way: intimidator, interrogator, aloof, and poor me."
James Redfield. The Celestine Prophecy. p. 129.

“o to be so fluid you can hold
another’s shape
& stay the same thing”
“New God of an Antique War,” sam sax, bury it, 2018

Suppose we have our first birth, our natural birth; and our "second birth," the acquisition of a Cartesian soul, as we become thinking beings; then, our "third birth" is joining society. Then, to continue with Bernard-Henri Lévy's musing on this "third birth":

"With all due respect to the “Rousseauism” of those who have never truly read Jean-Jacques Rousseau, man has never existed entirely on his own, with no attachment to a community of others.
But here, we must be very careful. To idolize the social sphere, to passively accept the constraints that result from the imposition of social laws and norms, can prove fatal for human striving. Here lies the bleak realm of Martin Heidegger’s “we.” Here are the nameless, faceless mobs prophesied by Edgar Allan Poe and who today have been unleashed on social media.
To be human is to preserve, inside oneself, against all forms of social pressure, a place of intimacy and secrecy into which the greater whole cannot set foot. When this sanctuary collapses, machines, zombies and sleepwalkers are sure to follow.
This private power may not be accessible to us at first. We aren’t born human; we become it. Humanity is not a form of being; it is a destiny. It is not a steady state, delivered once and for all, but a process.
* * *
The history of this past century teaches us that when we place our bets on nostalgia — when we dedicate ourselves to the search for some lost native land, for something pure — we only pave the way for totalitarianism. We trigger the machines to clean, purge and wash us away.
“We Are Not Born Human.” Bernard-Henri Lévy. New York Times. 22 August 2018. Translated from the French by Emily Hamilton.

The first principle of this [Confucian] ethics concerns motivation. Actions are to be done because they are proper and right, not because they are personally beneficial. Hence the essential antithesis between yi (righteousness) and li (profit). ‘The superior man understands righteousness, the inferior man understands profit.’
The second principle concerns the content of action. It is the principle of humanity (jen). Asked to define it, Confucius replied, ‘It is to love men’ and ‘Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.’ The great Neo-Confucian Chu His puts the two principles together and teaches, ’Jen is uncalculating and has nothing in view.’
In short, proper action is useless self-transcendence. It is useless because it is not done with an eye to its results. And it is self-transcendent because it focuses on the welfare of the other rather than on my own. Sacrifices should be maintained as an act of filial obedience. But like all human action, ritual should consist of acts of yi and jen rather than li.
* * *
The first eight chapters presented the possibility of the religious life generically in terms of its three dimensions, the awesome terror of the sacred as ontological and axiological tremendum, the attractiveness of relation to the sacred as a means for dealing with guilt and death, and the attractiveness of relation to the sacred as an end in itself, as a form of useless self-transcendence.
Merold Westphal. God, Guilt, and Death: An Existential Phenomenology of Religion. (1984) Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1987. p. 154, 251.

"Many of us now alive are in the unique position of having been so both before and after the revolution of the internet. We’re a lost group — to me, anyway, even now none of my technological habits seem inevitable. There’s still a sense that this vast binge of novelty will stop and we’ll arrive at some levelheaded equilibrium between then and now. That’s no doubt delusional. Still...something startling and comforting: that in each of us is reposed something too deep to name or alter, and which for that very reason has survived, for now, the glittering surfaces of our age. A self, I suppose."
“What Tweets and Emojis Did to the Novel.” Charles Finch. New York Times. Nov. 19, 2019.

"Normal, healthy people are full of self, a kind of substance like a soul or personhood that, if you have it, emanates warmly from inside of you toward the outside of you. No one knows what it is, but everyone agrees that narcissists do not have it. Disturbingly, however, they are often better than anyone else at seeming to have it. Because what they have inside is empty space, they have had to make a study of the selves of others in order to invent something that looks and sounds like one. Narcissists are imitators par excellence.
* * *
And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves. They take what they think are the biggest, most impressive parts of other selves, and devise a hologram of self that seems superpowered. Let’s call it 'selfiness,' this simulacrum of a superpowered self.
* * *
Because for the narcissist, this appreciation of you is entirely contingent on the idea that you will help him to maintain his selfiness. If you do not, or if you are near him when someone or something does not, then God help you.
* * *
It isn’t that the [alleged] narcissist is just not a good person; she’s like a caricature of what we mean by “not a good person.” She’s not just bad; she’s a living, breathing lesson in what badness is. Take Immanuel Kant’s elegant formulation of how to do the right thing: act in ways that could be generalized to universal principles."
Kristin Dombek. The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism. FSG Originals, 2016.

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