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Showing posts from October, 2015

Quotes on psychopathy: The absence of love

Robert D. Hare, in his research on psychopaths: "...a frightful and perplexing theme that runs through the case histories of all psychopaths: a deeply disturbing inability to care about the pain and suffering experienced by others – in short, a complete lack of empathy, the prerequisite for love." James Gilligan, in his research on prison violence: "So the person who cannot love cannot have any feelings – pain or joy. * * * But how can one know that others have feelings, or be moved by the feelings of others, if one does not experience any feelings oneself?" Martha Stout, in her research on psychopaths: "We have already seen that when someone's mind is not equipped to love, he can have no genuine conscience either, since conscience is an intervening sense of responsibility based in our emotional attachments to others. Now we turn this psychological equation around. The other truth is that should a person have no conscience, he could never tru

Still waiting for a better answer on 'How to Be Right'

“The idea for this book has been inside me for years, growing, grumbling, developing horns, like a gestational twin with a vestigial tail,” says Greg Gutfeld. His newly released book, How to Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct, an instructional manual for “conservatives” to feel that they can demolish “liberals” in fifteen-second sound bites, is appropriately horrifying. While he laments a shift from “fact-based debate” to “fact-free rhetoric,” he also thinks it’s important “to confirm normal, commonsense assumptions” (note that assumptions are not facts, and what counts as normal and commonsense lies in the eye of the beholder), and his book is entirely about rhetorical flourishes, not facts. As he puts it: “The whole point of arguing is to defeat your opponent by looking great, without hurting your knuckles or spilling your mojito.” He advocates misattributing and twisting people’s beliefs – for example, if someone supports abortion rights in general, you should

Loving others and the need to be loved in return

Krishnamurti said: "If I love you because you love me, that is mere trade, a thing to be bought in the market; it is not love. To love is not to ask anything in return, not even to feel that you are giving something – and it is only such love that can know freedom." Yet is this realistic? People have needs. Eric Felten: "The point of love is not simply to possess the objects of our affections, but to be loved in return. We give love in no small part to get love, and it's not a very satisfying deal to give love and, in return, get a painfully honest appraisal of just what one's love was really worth. As novelist Leonard Michaels put it, 'Adultery has less to do with romance and sex than with the discovery of how little we mean to each other.' Or, to recast his observation in a positive way, it is through fidelity that we demonstrate how much someone matters to us." For the monogamously inclined, to love one person in a romantic or sexual way

Love as a cycle of gaining and losing, joy and sorrow

We will feel togetherness and separateness. We will gain and lose. This in itself is love, as per Richard Powers: "Love is the feedback cycle of longing, belonging, loss. Anti-Hebbian: the firing links get weaker." And as per Frank S. Robinson: "Love is also a feedback loop. You push each other's buttons, doing and saying things that feed the attraction. Sometimes it can even be intensified by indifference or rejection, making the person seem even more desirable. But positive feedback works better. The fact is that, generally, we want to be in love, and given halfway reasonable material to work with, our psyches will try to make it happen." Or that feedback loop, that cycle, whatever it really is, may be rationalized or explained by love, or called by the name of love, as per Albert Camus: "We have to fall in love if only to provide an alibi for the random despair we were going to feel anyway." In any case, it is an experience we share in

Love is: Choice, Action, Adventure, Truth

Love is a choice. Carter Heyward: "Love is a choice – not simply, or necessarily, a rational choice, but rather a willingness to be present to others without pretense or guile. Love is a conversation with humanity – a willingness to participate with others in the healing of a broken world and broken lives. Love is a choice to experience life as a member of the human family, a partner in the dance of life." Love is an action. bell hooks: "To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility." Love is an adventure. Robert Bly: "Falling in love, as our story suggests, is one of the adventures promised to the soul in return for its agreeing to be born on this planet." Love is a truth. Thomas Page McBee: "...we learned we could be both powerful and fragile at once. Love isn't a promise – it's a tru

The demands of love

When we are responsible, we have to care about others. Steven Garber wrote: They are people who "get it" – as in, I wonder why she doesn't "get it." Or, he "gets it," doesn't he? There is something about heart and mind together in that assessment. They are people who are more than smart, because they understand that it is possible to get all A's and still flunk life. In biblical imagery, they are people with ears that hear, and eyes that see. They are people who know that to know – in a deeply biblical sense – means to be responsible, and that to be responsible means to care. This caring is "difficult, demanding and dangerous," as Nick Shere wrote: We may need to kill, but – ironic though it sounds – if we kill, we must kill with love, kindness, care and sorrow. And we must never, ever look upon the life of another with hatred or without compassion. Love is not easy, safe or simple. It is difficult, demanding and dangerous.

Evil is the shadow: Spotting evil within us and without

When we do not recognize evil as our own shadow and see it only as an external enemy, we cannot defeat it. It grows within us. James Weldon Johnson said, "We light upon one evil and hit it with all the might of our civilization, but only succeed in scattering it into a dozen of other forms." Sometimes we present evil as complex, yet still mostly external to ourselves, as Barry Holstun Lopez wrote of the wolf: The human mind entertains itself with such symbols and metaphors, sorting out the universe in an internal monologue, and I think it delights in wolves. The wolf is a sometime symbol of evil, and the mind dotes on distinctions between good and evil. He is a symbol of the warrior, and we are privately concerned with our own courage and nobility. The wolf's is also a terrifying image, and the human mind likes to frighten itself. That evil is in ourselves, too, is probably one reason why self-sacrifice seems to be an effective form of transformation. When we allow o

Taking a stand for peace: Inside or outside the tribe?

Community is important, but there is a risk of being subsumed into a collectivity in a way that diminishes one's ability to see the humanity of others outside it. Jeremy Driscoll: It is possible to say we in a mistaken and dangerous way. This would be the we of a nation or any group that is said at the expense of the individual subject, the individual I, such that there are no I s in the we ; their only identity is their we. Sometimes people are forced into such a we, as in totalitarian governments; other times they choose it, as in a radical and mindless belonging to a group. When there is this kind of we, it is possible to look at others as only a they ... One can stand outside all tribes to defend an ideology of peace, but then, belonging to none, one receives the scorn from all. Alan Watts: It is both dangerous and absurd for our world to be a group of communions mutually excommunicate. This is especially true of the great cultures of the East and the West, wher

Quotes on the nature/nurture theories of growth

Natalie Angier mentioned David S. Moore's book The Dependent Gene which explores the meaning of genetic determination. "No matter how seemingly hard-wired a trait...the outside finds its way in, and the inside responds." 2003 marked the 50th anniversary of James D. Watson and Francis Crick's discovery of DNA. As Angier put it, "The molecule that for so long exemplified youthful bravado, vast promise and vaster self-regard has become another aging, pot-bellied baby boomer." She interviewed many scientists who agreed that we are created by a combination of our environment and our genes. After all, "DNA, on its own, does nothing." It contains instructions for making special proteins, but it needs to be surrounded by proteins who can carry out the instructions. Barbara J. King wrote: But we do not inherit a gene "for" shyness" or a gene "for" depression or a gene "for" spirituality; at most, we may inherit a te

Quotes on our embodiment and our language

Our physical gestures may be part of our speech, an ability that is surely culturally conditioned but that may also be innate, one that we cannot help but express. Marco Iacoboni: "...even though we know the gestures can't be seen, we all tend to gesture when we speak over the phone. Indeed, we gesture when we talk to the blind, and the congenitally blind also gesture when they talk, even though they have never seen people gesturing. "Bizarre? Not really. In his book Hand and Mind, David McNeill argues that 'gestures and language are one system,' that 'gestures are an integral part of language as much as are words, phrase, and sentences.' ...if her hand moves under the left side of the [mathematical] equation, then stops, then moves again under the right side of the equation, the movement reveals that her mind is starting to grasp the concept that an equation has two sides that are separate but somehow related. ...her hand may form a narrow C to indica

Quotes on infatuation

Nicholas Fearn: In the summer of 1999, Cornell University published research purporting to show that love really is a drug. To be precise, it is a cocktail of dopamine, phenylethylamine and oxytocin in the bloodstream that produces the sensation we call infatuation. Love, the researchers argued, was in fact a chemically induced form of insanity. This condition lasts until the body builds up an immunity to the substances involved, which is usually just long enough to meet, mate and raise a child to early infancy. I no longer see early attachment as a distinctly newborn emotion, separate from our adult feeling. The experience – the qualia – of grown-up love is shaped by a thousand memories flashing through your head as the emotion washes over you: memories of past loves, romantic poetry, Audrey Hepburn movies, and most of all memories of the person who triggers the feeling in you. Newborn children haven’t lived long enough to assemble all those memories, and they don’t have a memory

Connecting to others while maintaining a sense of self

Rainer Maria Rilke: "Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky." Alan Watts: "Profound love reveals what other people really are: beings in relation, not in isolation." One such relation is union. Erich Fromm: "Love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one's own self." This self-integrity is essential. Maria Lugones: "Love is seen not as fusion and erasure of difference but as incompatible with them [fusion and erasure of difference]." Connection leads to love, and love indicates this connection. James Redfield: "I consider love a barometer for my own connection." This is the thing that must be done: Fritz Buri

'Our whole eunuch civilisation': The horse in 'St. Mawr' by D. H. Lawrence (1925)

Louise is a married woman who calls herself "the harem type" insofar as she is given to relaxation, "only I never want the men inside the lattice." One day, she spies the stallion St. Mawr, an animal intended to be used as a stud but who reportedly didn't "seem to fancy the mares for some reason," and, "already half in love," she wants to buy him for her husband Rico. "He was of such a lovely red-gold colour, and a dark, invisible fire seemed to come out of him. But in his big black eyes there was a lurking afterthought. Something told her that the horse was not quite happy: that somewhere deep in his animal consciousness lived a dangerous, half-revealed resentment, a diffused sense of hostility. She realised that he was sensitive, in spite of his flaming, healthy strength, and nervous with a touchy uneasiness that might make him vindictive." A man warns her: "...every horse is temperamental, when you come down to it. But

Quotes about loving the stranger and the 'other'

Nick Shere: "Terrorist action is only possible for someone who can look at another person, or think of another person, and say honestly, 'This is a person I do not love. This is a person I do not care about. This is someone whose existence in the world does not matter to me.' And, likewise, I would say that it is impossible for someone to act as a terrorist toward someone they can say honestly, 'This is a person I love. This is a person I care about. This is someone whose existence in the world matters to me.' ... Love is our defense against the terrorist within, and a necessary prerequisite for our struggle against the terrorist among us." Zenju Earthlyn Marselean Manuel: "Most of our hatred is directed toward strangers. 'I hate that stranger because of this or that.' The funny thing is, strangers, people you have never met, are recognized as being a part of your life when you spend time hating them. The recognition itself comes from your n