The Chimney Sweep: Reflections about Mutually Caring Relationships

The Chimney Sweep: Reflections about Mutually Caring Relationships

The Chimney Sweep is a wonderful stop-motion animation by Joseph Mann, set high atop an Edinburgh roof. It’s a delightful animated short, but it’s also so very much more than that. The Chimney Sweep quickly and deeply engages the viewer in reflections about issues of developing caring, mutually reciprocal relationships with another. The film quietly provides a gentle illustration of both our needs for the other and the other’s similar wishes, needs for a co-constructed personal involvement that is distinctively characterized by a sense of caring, mutual recognition.

The Chimney Sweep: Reflections about Mutually Caring Relationships

(Best Viewed in Full-Screen Mode)

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The Capacity to Be Alone, All by My Self

The Capacity to Be Alone, All by My Self

The psychological capacity to be alone, as opposed to feeling lonely, is said to be the foundation for a sense of the self or of who we are. In addition, it nourishes growth promoting introspective thought, imagination and creativity. The media composition presented here today, which is comprised of photographs, a short film and a photo-gallery, represents the beginning of developing a small composition that portrays the differing experiences of loneliness, solitude and being alone. The piece will be modified each day, with a final set of writings, photographs, a short film and a photo-gallery appearing here by January 1st.

Alone, All by My Self

The Capacity to Be Alone, All by My Self

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Seductive Bare-Chested Masculine Confidence

Seductive Bare-Chested Masculine Confidence

Actually, now that I’ve had some more time to think about it from the perspective of a quick character study, while looking more closely at the very interesting photographs of this guy, perhaps I should have described him as “alluring,” rather than “seductive.” “Alluring” suggests, I think, a less cold-hearted stance toward/with others, while “seductive” implies intentionally hard-hearted and calculated schemes to take advantage of others. But the “bare-chested masculine confidence” is certainly a fitting description of the aura he projects.

This is a very handsome, muscular fellow, who most men and women would probably find to be quite attractive. The guy recently won a national title, Mr. America, Mr. American Glamour, Mr. Fascination, or some title like that. Well, at least I know for darn sure that I’m correct about the Mister part. In almost all of the photographs of him, this manly man looks you straight in the eye. In that sense he creates an impression of invitation, with an implication of closeness.

On the other hand, his gaze has a certain vacant quality, conveying a decidedly disinterested air. In other words, there exists a paradox of social attachment or closeness, accompanied by an opposite message of social distance. I’m wondering if this social ambivalence might be somewhat characteristic of people who are celebrities, as well as of people who want or are trying to be celebrities. Anyway, at the very least my comments here have attempted to establish an underlying point that there’s nothing improper about looking closely at men who are alluring and very attractive. Perhaps it’s more a matter of how you think about it.

The Alluring Guy with Bare-Chested Confidence

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Empathy: A Foundation for the Complexities of Love

Empathy, Mutual Recognition and Feelings of Love

I truly hope that readers won’t mind my writing this message that attempts to convey some sense of tranquility. One of the most wonderful opportunities made available and nurtured by writing on the internet is that there arise moments of inspiration which can beget an artistic container enclosing, and a liminal space that relates to, differing personal and public interests with a variety of perspectives. In my case, the art of blogging or writing on the internet evolved or transmuted into a focus upon creative blog composition. My earlier compositions were somewhat lengthy expressions of my understandings of and perspectives on contemporary psychoanalysis, clinical psychology, art, photography, diversity (including the rights of persons in the GLBTTQSA community and other ethnic/minority groups), politics, multimedia and music.

My current blog compositions tend to be short and condensed, but which at the same time embrace several layers of meaning. For example, this composition simply consists of a photograph, this descriptive and interpretive introductory text and a 60-second short-film. A later post might consist of just a single thoughtfully chosen photograph. Regarding this particular composition, in the midst of our current climate of heatedly divisive national political discourse, worrisome economic stressors, environmental and energy concerns and ongoing involvements in international crises, I thought that it might be helpful to offer readers a small oasis, a few moments of thoughtful calm and, perhaps, serenity.

Empathy is a one-minute short film that was a Regional Winner in the 2008 British Academy Film Awards. It is a film of elegant simplicity, which demonstrates how people of different generations can briefly be united by even small gestures of empathic mutual recognition. Empathy reveals how even very young children are capable of showing their passions from an early age. In this short film, the brilliant young actor is able to convey a deeply touching sense of truly heartfelt empathic compassion from which many of today’s adults could well learn.

Empathy: A Foundation for the Complexities of Love

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April 5th: “You Believe in Dreams in a Dream-Forsaken Land”

You Believe in Dreams in a Dream-Forsaken Land

Roseanne Cash in The New York Times

The Ear of the Beholder

“I have spent a lifetime in the service of creative fiction, as well as non-fiction ornamented by fiction….The “truth” (or “honesty”) and the “facts” are not necessarily the same, they are not necessarily equal and one often requires the suspension of the other. This may not be the case in higher math or on Wall Street (or, actually, it may work there as well, but I’m clueless about that) but it is an immutable “truth” in art and music that facts are not necessarily the best indicators of the deepest human experience.

The table where you found the suicide note, the cup of coffee that turned cold because you were distracted in a painful reverie staring out the old wavy-glass window at the rain dripping off the eaves, the seashell left in the coat pocket from the last time you were at that favorite spot at the ocean, when it all came clear that you were at the right place with the wrong man, the letters, the photos, the marbles and jewels – all these physical, material, real-world artifacts carry poetic weight and should be used liberally in songwriting. These are the facts that convey truth to me.

The exact words he said, who was right or wrong, whether he relapsed on the 7th or the 10th, why exactly she does what she does, the depth and weight and timbre of the feelings, whether Love Heals Everything – these aren’t facts, these are ever-changing blobs of emotional mercury, and when you are working in rhyme, it can be much more powerful and resonant to write about the shards of the coffee cup than about the feeling that caused him to throw it across the room. You are better off moving the furniture than you are directly analyzing the furniture maker. This is to say nothing of the fact that the lyrical content of songs is by definition wholly entwined with melody, rhythm, tone and possibly a backbeat, and these carry their own authority.

Recently, I wrote a song with Kris Kristofferson and Elvis Costello. It was a wild idea I had while I was lying around recovering from surgery this past winter. They are both friends – I’ve known Kris since my childhood – and Elvis and I had just written a song together by email. …. I asked them separately if they would be interested in recording together, the three of us, and they were both game. We started talking about this in February. We found that the only day in a six-month window when the three of us would be in New York at the same time, without obligations, was April 5th. I booked the studio, not knowing what we would do. As the date got closer, I started to get a little nervous and thought maybe my initial idea of recording old songs of ours together might not have the fresh energy and originality I was looking for. Elvis and John Leventhal, my husband and frequent collaborator and producer, kept mentioning that they hoped we could write something together that day, but that also made me anxious. It seemed too much pressure for one day.

I had a song that was incomplete, but a great idea, that I had started writing when I was halfway through recording Black Cadillac. It never really worked, and last year John picked it up again, streamlined it musically and suggested some lyric changes – actually lyric deletions, as he thought it was too wordy. I pared the first verse down to this:

You want love
But it’s never deep enough
You want life
But it’s never long enough
You want peace
Like it’s something you can buy
You want time
But you’re content to watch it fly

I loved the song, but it was still incomplete and didn’t seem to have a home. John thought this would be a great song to write with the gents, and so I sent the first verse by e-mail to Elvis and to Kris (by way of his wife, Lisa, as Kris doesn’t do e-mail), to see if they would be interested in finishing it with us. Elvis responded immediately, and within a couple days had e-mailed back a second verse, and some ideas for bridges. I loved his verse (“You want imagination but you cannot pretend…“), and we began a dialogue about where it should go. Nothing from Kris, who was touring in Europe.

We waited.

On April 4th, the day before the session, Lisa sent an e-mail saying, “Here are his thoughts so far…” and a verse from Kris that raised the hair on the back of my head and brought instant tears to my eyes. I sent it to Elvis, fingers shaking, and he wrote back within minutes, his excitement and exclamation points jumping off the screen.

It was perfect.

It all came together seamlessly the next day, in a way that I’ve seldom experienced in 30 years of recording. It was like alchemy. It was eight hours of magic (and I never use that word). Elvis tinkered with his verses a bit, we divided up the vocal parts and the three of us stood in a circle with the three musicians – John, Zev Katz and Joe Bonadio – and recorded the song. It still doesn’t have a proper title, or a home, but it is a thing of beauty. (Regarding the title, I suggested “Free Will,” Kris suggested “Faith and Free Will,” and Elvis was concerned that anything with “free will” would remind people of a movie about a whale; so right now we’re calling it “April 5th,” because that’s when we recorded it.) A few people who have heard it have said that even though the lyrics are uplifting, even elegiac, the song makes them cry, and they are not sure why. I had the same experience, and I’m not sure why, either. There are no “facts” in these lyrics, no literal references to our lives, beyond our combined assimilated experience and unstated values.

A few people who have heard it have said that even though the lyrics are uplifting, even elegiac, the song makes them cry, and they are not sure why. I had the same experience, and I’m not sure why, either. There are no “facts” in these lyrics, no literal references to our lives, beyond our combined assimilated experience and unstated values.

We are so deeply limited by language, and so ennobled by it. Songs are the attempt to convey what is under and behind language, and so it is counter-productive, if not counter-intuitive, to clutch at exactitudes of circumstance that retreat further in meaning the more desperate we become to quantify them.”

You Want Life, But It’s Never Long Enough

Twilight’s Ambiguity: Vagueness and Possibility

Rosanne Cash spoke about how some persons have reacted to hearing this song by saying that, “A few people who have heard it have said that even though the lyrics are uplifting, even elegiac, the song makes them cry, and they are not sure why. I had the same experience, and I’m not sure why, either.”

Just what is it about the lyrics of this new song that evokes the uncomfortable feelings relating to ambiguity and uncertainty? From my own perspective, the feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing, reflects the shadowy, twilight realm known as unformulated experience, which is so often characteristic of our greatest longings, as well as our desperate need to have them “heard.” Rosanne Cash’s wonderful contribution intentionally focuses upon some of our deeper emotional experiences: love, life, peace and time (to live). Sadly, those very wishes too often engender unbearable sources of frustration, the wishes seeming to be either unfulfilling or not obtainable.

Elvis Costello’s verse,”You want imagination but you cannot pretend,” poetically reveals the distressing sense of paradox that is inherent to the nature of our deeper emotional wishes, which can in turn serve as a barrier to maintaining a sense of and attaining our objects of benign hope. Kristofferson’s verse, “You believe in dreams in a dream-forsaken land,” is a similar reflection of life’s fundamental, ongoing and painful sense of paradox, with many-layers of potential meanings. In many areas of life, especially those mentioned in Roseanne Cash’s lyrics, the struggle to achieve a genuine sense of independence and maturity similarly means being able and willing to sustain the essential, complex tensions of paradox until one can achieve a new understanding, supported by a view of experience as emergent. All of these, in turn, call upon a wide-ranging capacity to recognize and appreciate multiple perspectives.

And be not afraid of courting surprise.

Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Kris Kristofferson: “April 5th”

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Scott Walker: The Outsider Sensibility and Creative Visions of Identity

Scott Walker: The Outsider Sensibility and Creative Visions of Identity

Scott Walker has been described as one of the greatest living avant-garde artists, with hardly any other American musician having had greater influence upon rock music, while at the same time remaining almost completely unknown to his countrymen. Walker grew up in Texas, New York City and Southern California, but he became a celebrity in England during the mid 1960s as part of the Walker Brothers band.   This was at the time when young American audiences were going wild over British pop-music groups.  The Walker Brothers were a vocal trio who wed soaring vocal harmonies, lush soundtrack arrangements and a patently somber worldview into a uniquely theatrical package.

Scott Walker’s voice was perhaps the most beautiful male non-soul voice of that era, and an increasingly free-thinking “Beat” attitude was at the core of the group’s appeal.  Although the Walker Brothers became huge in Europe and claimed a fan club bigger than even The Beatles, Scott Walker’s eccentricity cast a dark cloud over the band’s public image.   Scott began to write increasingly complicated interlaced music, and its sense of bleakness was intensified by his mix of translated Jacques Brel tunes with his distinctly arty and pained original numbers.  By 1969, his works were failing to appear on music charts at all.

An increasingly elusive Scott Walker slowly withdrew from public view.   His voice began to lose some of its former pop-music sense of majesty, a reflection of his new interest in the experimental synth-driven avant-garde, which he helped revolutionize to major critical success, but only minor public attention.  Walker seemed to vanish, while artists as diverse as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Julian Cope, Bryan Ferry, Ultravox and Marc Almond became fiercely ardent supporters of his unique body of work, citing him as a primary influence on their careers.  Gale Harold (the actor in Queer as Folk) served as an Associate Producer, along with David Bowie as Executive Producer, of the new acclaimed documentary about the influential artistic vision of Walker’s experimental musical work, 30 Century Man.

The ongoing show of support by the more widely-known artists helped to keep the shy Walker’s reputation alive until he appeared again in 1995 with a new album, a work that was both formidable and deeply disconcerting, completely stripping away the dark romanticism that had once filtered some semblance of light through in his work.  However, in person Walker doesn’t appear to fit the common stereotype of a tortured artist.  After many years, he has completed a new album, The Drift, and in recent interviews about the recording Walker comes across as plainspoken, unpretentious and honest.

The videos presented below include an extended trailer for the new documentary about Walker (30 Century Man) and a music video of the song Jesse from his new album.

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Extended Trailer)


Scott Walker: Jesse (From Walker’s 2006 Album, The Drift)

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The Place of Agency and Norms in Psychoanalysis


The Place of Agency and Norms in Psychoanalysis


The Place of Agency and Norms in Psychoanalysis

The present role of agency and norms in the field of psychoanalysis is the topic of this Philoctetes Center Roundtable Discussion, with Jorge L. Ahumada, Akeel Bilgrami, Arnold M. Cooper, Garrett Deckel, Peter D. Kramer, and Bernard Reginster.

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