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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Wired: Federal Wiretap Surveillance Now

Wired: The Wiretap Now

Studs Terkel, the eminent chronicler of American life, has written this Op-Ed piece in today’s edition of the New York Times:

“EARLIER this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the White House agreed to allow the executive branch to conduct dragnet interceptions of the electronic communications of people in the United States. They also agreed to “immunize” American telephone companies from lawsuits charging that after 9/11 some companies collaborated with the government to violate the Constitution and existing federal law. I am a plaintiff in one of those lawsuits, and I hope Congress thinks carefully before denying me, and millions of other Americans, our day in court.

During my lifetime, there has been a sea change in the way that politically active Americans view their relationship with government. In 1920, during my youth, I recall the Palmer raids in which more than 10,000 people were rounded up, most because they were members of particular labor unions or belonged to groups that advocated change in American domestic or foreign policy. Unrestrained surveillance was used to further the investigations leading to these detentions, and the Bureau of Investigation — the forerunner to the F.B.I. — eventually created a database on the activities of individuals. This activity continued through the Red Scare of the period.

In the 1950s, during the sad period known as the McCarthy era, one’s political beliefs again served as a rationale for government monitoring….I was among those blacklisted for my political beliefs. My crime? I had signed petitions. Lots of them. I had signed on in opposition to Jim Crow laws and poll taxes and in favor of rent control and pacifism. Because the petitions were thought to be Communist-inspired, I lost my ability to work in television and radio after refusing to say that I had been “duped” into signing my name to these causes.

By the 1960s, the inequities in civil rights and the debate over the Vietnam war spurred social justice movements. The government’s response? More surveillance. In the name of national security, the F.B.I. conducted warrantless wiretaps of political activists, journalists, former White House staff members and even a member of Congress.

Then things changed….In 1978, with broad public support, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which placed national security investigations, including wiretapping, under a system of warrants approved by a special court. The law was not perfect, but as a result of its enactment and a series of subsequent federal laws, a generation of Americans has come to adulthood protected by a legal structure and a social compact making clear that government will not engage in unbridled, dragnet seizure of electronic communications.

The Bush administration, however, tore apart that carefully devised legal structure and social compact. To make matters worse, after its intrusive programs were exposed, the White House and the Senate Intelligence Committee proposed a bill that legitimized blanket wiretapping without individual warrants….

I have observed and written about American life for some time. In truth, nothing much surprises me anymore. But I always feel uplifted by this: Given the facts and an opportunity to act, the body politic generally does the right thing. By revealing the truth in a public forum, the American people will have the facts to play their historic, heroic role in putting our nation back on the path toward freedom. That is why we deserve our day in court.”

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Nude Brooklyn Playwright in Times Square: Gestures for Recognition by Another

Words Left Unspoken

Yesterday, I posted an article about the fellow strolling around Times Square in a state that, I think, would make most people feel intolerably vulnerable to suffering the anticipation of meeting hurtful reactions from others, which in turn would engender a sense of humiliation, disgrace and degradation. The underlying tone of my own article was one of feeling stunned and “agog.” I should have known better than to react in that manner, because in retrospect I think that he was making a grand gesture. The fellow from Brooklyn was making a gesture, a public gesture, in the hope that someone would recognize his need so that he could know it, so he might discover what really matters to him.

Last week, I posted an article that suggested:

The process of paying real attention to the other involves having the experience with/of the other perceived as outside the self, as well as an experience with/of my subjective conceptualization or impression of the other. But beyond attention, we have both a need for recognition by the other, as well as wishes to be able to recognize the other in return, to experience a cherished other and have a co-constructed personal involvement that is distinctively characterized by a sense of nourishing, mutual recognition. However there is an inevitable tension between connection and separation, the self’s wish for absolute independence conflicts with the self’s need for recognition. In trying to establish itself as an independent entity, the self must yet recognize the other as a subject like itself in order to be recognized by it. This immediately compromises the self’s absoluteness and poses the problem that the other could be equally absolute and independent.

Each self wants to be recognized and yet to maintain its absolute identity: The self says, “I want to affect you, but I want nothing you do or say to affect me, I am who I am.” In its encounter with the other, the self wishes to affirm its absolute independence, even though its need for the other and the other’s similar wish give the lie to it. The need for recognition, then, leads to a fundamental paradox; in the very moment of realizing our own independent will, we are dependent on another to recognize it. At the very moment we come to understanding the meaning of I, myself, we are forced to see the limitations of that self. At the moment in which we come to understand that separate minds can share similar feelings, we begin to find out that these minds can also disagree.

The ideal resolution of the paradox of recognition is for it to continue as a constant tension between recognizing the other and asserting the self. sustaining contradiction is an ability that is enhanced to the degree that we are willing to appreciate, preferably embrace, the uncertainty that is inherent to our involvement in everyday life, to the choices that we make and to what might possibly emerge from those choices.”

Unfortunately, the particular gesture that the Brooklyn guy felt compelled to employ in order to reveal in public his needs for recognition was fated to be self-defeating and destined to fail. This, of course, reveals that he is almost paralyzed by feelings of ambivalence about his wish to be recognized by another or others, which would lead to him being forced to admit to the limitations of the self, to a degree that is even greater than he already experiences.

As an aside, at this point, it is commonplace for people to make public displays of their wish to be recognized, perhaps epitomized by strolls through Times Square. These wonderful photographs of people sauntering around Times Square are captivating illustrations of this:

Times Square One: Eyebrow

Times Square Three: Our Chests

Times Square Two: Scarves

Times Square Two : Our Colored Ties

Photography by: Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

The genuine issue raised for all of us by the Brooklyn guy’s stroll through Times Square, then, is the need to discover the nature of the particular sources of ambivalence about revealing one’s wish for recognition by others.

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Staring into the Mirror: Surging Technology and the Essential Self

Staring into the Mirror: Surging Technology and Humanity

Staring into the Mirror, She Wonders….

Photography by: Richard Avedon

Tereza is staring at herself in the mirror. She wonders what would happen if her nose were to grow a millimetre longer each day. How much time would it take for her face to become unrecognizable? And if her face no longer looked like Tereza, would Tereza still be Tereza?”

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera

Concerns about the Exponential Advances in Technology

In recent years, a growing number of observers have voiced their concerns about the huge leaps that have been made in the area of scientific knowledge, as well as about the exponential advances that either have been achieved or are said to be forthcoming in the related, but usually distinct field of technology. In particular, there has been an increasing sense of alarm that technological advances have not only changed how we carry on with everyday life, but that the very nature of our sense of humanity is in the process of being irrevocably changed by those ongoing advances.

According to a number of writers and academics, most people just don’t pay enough attention to what they perceive to be crucial issues associated with the ever-accelerating pace of technological development, tending instead to think of it as a powerful substratum in our lives, but moving along at a glacial pace. In this way, commentators suggest that we’ve been acting like sleep-walkers, moving somnabulistically through a world of rote perceptions in the face of rapidly surging technological change. We have failed to face up to the grave implications of what is happening. We are sleepwalking and need to wake up. This way of thinking argues that human life is being so radically transformed that our very essence as human beings is under seige; at some point our very ability to recognize who we our, our sense of “self” or “identity, ” will be threatened and challenged.

Therefore, a failure to become more acutely aware of some of these implications of technological advances will leave us conducting our lives as though we aren’t constrained by the crucial social demands of “The Law of Holes.” “The Law of Holes” is one of life’s more important golden rules for survival, declaring that when you find that you’re in a hole, quit digging!

The Genius of Humanity: The Capacity to Withstand Radical Challenges

Some observers, on the other hand, state that even the most radically transformative technologies have not had the indomitable impact we might have anticipated. The “electronification” of everyday life that has taken place over the last few decades has not fundamentally changed the manner in which we relate to each other: feelings of love, envy, kindness, anxiety, hatred, ambition, bitterness, and joy still appear to have a remarkable resemblance to the emotions people had forty or fifty years ago. Ray Tallis points out that, “The low-grade bitchiness of office politics may be conducted more efficiently by email, but its essential character hasn’t changed. Teenagers communicating by mobile phones and texts and chat rooms and webcams still seem more like teenagers than nodes in an electronic network. I have to admit a little concern at what we might call the “e-ttenuation” of life, whereby people find it increasingly difficult to be here now rather than dissipating themselves into an endless electronic elsewhere; but inner absence…is not entirely new, even if it is now electronically orchestrated. It just becomes more publicly visible….Of course, people are worried about more invasive innovations; in particular, the direct transformation of the human body. And this is where the gradualness of change is important, because as individuals we have a track record of coping with such changes without falling apart or losing our sense of self entirely. After all, we have all been engaged all our lives in creating a stable sense of our identity out of whatever is thrown at us.

Tallis contends that humans are unique among the animals in having a coherent sense of self, which begins with our appropriating our own bodies as our own. This is our most pivotal human achievement, the transformation of our pre-personal bodies into the foundation of our personal identity. From a dispassionate perspective, the bodies beneath our skin are not terribly human; indeed, they are less human than our human technologies. Accordingly, he maintains that there is very little in our purely organic bodies that we could speak of as a self or a me.

Tallis summarizes his somewhat more optimistic approach to thinking about the challenges that are inherent in an increasingly technological society, explaining his belief that:

“At the root of humanity is…the sense that ‘I am this’; our appropriation of our own bodies as persons who participate in a collective culture. Even at a bodily level, this intuition withstands quite radical changes. And by this I don’t just mean coping with a wooden leg or a heart transplant, or being able to reassume ourselves and our responsibilities each morning when we wake up or when we come round from a knock-out blow. I mean something more fundamental – namely, normal development. We grow from something about a foot long and weighing about 7 pounds, to something about 6 foot long and weighing about 150 pounds, and for the greater part of that period we feel that we are the same thing. We assimilate these changes into an evolving and continuous sense of our own identity.

This is possible because change happens gradually and because it happens to all of us. Gradualness ensures continuity of memory alongside an imperceptible change in our bodies and the configuration of the world in which we live. That is why my earlier reassurances emphasised the gradualness of technological advance. If I look at myself objectively, I see that I am the remote descendent of the 10-year-old I once was, and yet my metamorphosis is quite unlike that of Kafka’s man who turns into a beetle. My dramatic personal growth and development is neither sudden nor solitary; and this will also be true of the changes that take place in human identity in the world of changing technologies.

Yes, we shall change; but the essence of human identity lies in this continuing self-redefinition. And if we remember that our identity and our freedom lie in the intersection between our impersonal but unique bodies and our personal individual memories and shared cultural awareness, it is difficult to worry about the erosion of either our identity or our freedom by technological advance.

If, as I believe, the distinctive genius of humanity is to establish an identity which lies at an ever-increasing distance from our organic nature, we should rejoice in the expression of human possibility in ever-advancing technology. After all, the organic world is one in which life is nasty, brutish and short, and dominated by experiences which are inhumanly unpleasant. Human technology is less alien to us than nature (compare: bitter cold with central heating; being lost without GPS and being found with it; dying of parasitic infestation or spraying with pesticides). Anyone who considers the new technologies as inhuman, or as a threat to our humanity, should consider this. Self-transformation is the essence of humanity, and our humanity is defined by our ever-widening distance from the material and organic world of which we are a part, and from which we are apart.

In short, do not be afraid.”

Technology: Modern Times

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Articles from Monday, October 08, 2007

“Some Time for Young People: Images of Multiple Worlds.” This is a photo-gallery that turns our attention toward looking at the lives of teenagers, both through the years and from around the world.

These beautiful photographs are truly memorable ones, and are presented in stunning high-resolution. Music audio accompanies this photo-gallery.

[tags: young people, teenagers, the lives of teenagers, photographs, music]

Saturday, Larry Craig (NOT GAY-R) enters The Idaho Hall of Fame. No one wants to be sitting next to him, now a man of infamy. With Senate Republicans, colleagues they like are retiring, and the one they eagerly want to leave won’t budge. A Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” debate on Craig turned into an incomprehensible exchange. Photographs and very interesting videos are included.

[tags: Larry Craig refuses to leave, sex, sexy studs, sexy hunks, gay, photographs, videos]

See the Rest of My Articles at Blue Dot

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On Listening, Paying Attention, Recognition and Loving Relationships

Thoughts on Recognition and Loving Relationships

Edward Hopper: Summer Evening

Recently, I pointed out an article that Peggy Noonan had published in The Wall Street Journal.  She noted that, “Barack Obama has a great thinking look.  I mean the look he gets on his face when he’s thinking, not the look he presents in debate, where they all control their faces knowing they may be in the reaction shot and fearing they’ll look shrewd and clever, as opposed to open and strong.  I mean the look he gets in an interview or conversation when he’s listening and not conscious of his expression.  It’s a very present look.  He seems more in the moment than handling the moment.  I’ve noticed this the past few months, since he entered the national stage.

While Noonan was talking about her observations within the context of a political perspective, for me her comments resonated with the more personal issue of developing a loving, mutually reciprocal relationship.  Noonan pointed out a capacity to listen, to hear the other, to pay attention to the other.  The process of paying real attention to the other involves having the experience with/of the other perceived as outside the self, as well as an experience with/of my subjective conceptualization or impression of the other.

But beyond attention, we have both a need for recognition by the other, as well as wishes to be able to recognize the other in return, to experience a cherished other and have a co-constructed personal involvement that is distinctively characterized by a sense of nourishing, mutual recognition.  However there is an inevitable tension between connection and separation, the self’s wish for absolute independence conflicts with the self’s need for recognition.  In trying to establish itself as an independent entity, the self must yet recognize the other as a subject like itself in order to be recognized by it.  This immediately compromises the self’s absoluteness and poses the problem that the other could be equally absolute and independent.

Each self wants to be recognized and yet to maintain its absolute identity: The self says, “I want to affect you, but I want nothing you do or say to affect me, I am who I am.”  In its encounter with the other, the self wishes to affirm its absolute independence, even though its need for the other and the other’s similar wish give the lie to it.

This confrontation with the other’s subjectivity and the limits of one’s self-assertion is a difficult one to mediate.  The need for recognition leads to a fundamental paradox; in the very moment of realizing our own independent will, we are dependent on another to recognize it.  At the very moment we come to understanding the meaning of I, myself, we are forced to see the limitations of that self.  At the moment when we understand that separate minds can share similar feelings, we begin to find out that these minds can also disagree.

The ideal resolution of the paradox of recognition is for it to continue as a constant tension between recognizing the other and asserting the self.  It is for this purpose that carrying on a co-constructed, mutually reciprocal loving relationship with another necessarily entails ongoing practice in the sustaining of contradiction.  The latter is an ability that is enhanced to the degree that we are willing to appreciate, preferably embrace, the uncertainty that is inherent to our involvement in everyday life, to the choices that we make and to what might possibly emerge from those choices.

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Articles from Friday, October 05, 2007

Some political commentators are noticing Obama’s capacity to deeply engage in contemplative observation and introspection. This kind of thoughtfulness anchors political action in core decency and hope through reflection about the details of the underlying issues. This is what is needed to shatter The Trance, the current air of political inevitability.

Photographs of Barack Obama by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz are included.

[tags: Barack Obama, The Trance, politics, news, photographs, Annie Leibovitz]

“Photo of the Day: Heavenly Stoner Toes.” What we have here is a photograph of some stoners’ absolutely beautiful, heavenly, divine, sexy toes. Someone needs to make a bronze cast of these gorgeous, luscious pinkies!!

Presented for you here in stunning high-resolution. Enjoy!!

[tags: Photo of the Day, Photograph of the Day, Heavenly Stoner Toes, toes, sexy, photograph, art]

When charged in an airport men’s room gay sex sting, Sen. Larry Craig said that he’d resign on Sept. 30. Then Craig said that he’d stay in office pending an appeal. The Minnesota judge rejected Craig’s appeal, but now Craig says that he’ll stay in the Senate anyway!!

This article includes a detailed description of the the events, photos and videos.

[tags: Senator Larry Craig, Craig refuses to resign, politics, sex, gay, photographs, videos]

“Britney Spears Performs “Gimme More” with Godawful Stripper Pole Action.” Or one might say, godawful stripper pole action galore. Or godawful stripper pole action galore, and not really much more. Don’t believe me? Then please take a look for yourself!

The posting includes Britney stripper pole dancing photographs and the music video.

[tags: Britney Spears, music, Gimme More, stripper pole dancing, stripper, sexy, photographs, YouTube video]

See the Rest of My Articles at Blue Dot

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