attempts at living

to make a system out of delusions

Tag: narrative

Life and psych

Two problems get collapsed on each other in this blog. The problem of the concept of Life and the problem of knowing human lives. They are borne from the desire to know Life, but also for the more pragmatic desire to explore the pragmatics and the limits to a narrative approach to psychiatric work.

I wonder what would happen when the horror of life and the impossibility of knowing it were transferred onto psychiatry.


The New Aesthetic

i demand nothing. the new aesthetic? this tired old modernist obsession with ‘the new’… how monotonous… look at it, it’s even about collections and is linked to object-oriented philosophy#s obsession with lists/litanies… just putting things, any old things, down next to each other and hoping against hope it’s interesting, shocking or innovative.

monotony as form. the conscious self-deception that there is no ‘new’ on the horizon, that if ever such a seduction tickled its tongue on the ballsack of our aesthetic intellgibility then we broke that frame along time ago and found out that it wasn’t a frame at all… it was just some bits of wood hammered together.

the absence of a manifesto… that’s just an invitation to all the amateur manifesto writers. it’s impossible to say nothing; everything that is silent must be spoken for. chattering imbeciles, we write boos, documents, essays, blurbs and blog posts.

We had art to save us from truth but its gone awry. now we need truth to save us from art… the most fully developed market of banal illusions.

black bloc

the institute for experimental freedom hosts a series of short pieces by members of the much maligned (and not just in recent times) ‘black bloc’ anarchist phenomena.

Read them here.

An extract:

We accept our conditions and get organized accordingly. Compared to the fatal and fatalistic strategy employed by school shooters, terrorists, and isolated individuals marked as insane, the black bloc, rioting, and flashmobs are collective and vital forms of struggle. The Left is obsolete—rightfully so, as it still clings to this collapsing society at war with its population. Society is decomposing and nothing will or should bring back the the good ol’ days—the days of slavery, hyper-exploitation of women, apartheid, homophobic violence, Jim Crow. We wager that organizing our antagonisms collectively and attacking this society where we are positioned, without anything mediating our force, is our best chance for a life worth living.

If I still believe in any vision of politics this is it. I have written that we live in an age of Exhaustion and what is required is a vitality…a vital poltics… and this is one that is necessarily one of rage, joy (although a perfectly good human passion) is still to easily captured by capital to be a political force. A rage motivated by a despair and a need, with knowledge that utopia is a child’s dream, to do something to alleviate the sufferings that can be alleviated.

And another extract. Perhaps the most important aspect of the black bloc is summed up in the following quote. Time and again liberalism captures the discourse of difference that post-structuralism celebrated and tried to mobilise as a political force. Time and again that narrative was absorbed, because it forgot one thing: generic humanity. Or, and I would say even better, the Generic of the Living:

Allow me to elaborate from our side of the barricades.

The black bloc is an anonymous way of being together. Anonymity allows me to shed the mask I have to wear at school, at work, in your parents’ house, in casual conversations at the bar. The black bloc enables us to interrupt the processes that make us into subjects according to race, gender, mental health, physiological health. Here, we can cease worrying about how power will extract the truth from us, and we can reveal truth to each other.

I have written before about opacity being one of the only tools left in a hyper-surveilled society, and here the author even invokes the beautiful image that Foucault had of the Iranian revolution, what he called ‘doubling’…except that here there is an aesthetic of genericity. The different mobilising itself as the Same. A negative image of the same, draped in deindividualising black…just as the anarchist flag unfurls in favour of no particular colour (red, pink, green).

While remembering the lessons of various anti-essentialists it is time that we returned to a minimalist sense of human nature; it is also time we drew on the biological and emotional commons that psychiatry believes it has the legitimate mode of organising.

Perhaps the black bloc is the only partisan left.

Lingis and the arousal of narrative

The concept of representation is obscure and misleading. Words do not simply stand for, stand in the place of, things that are absent. They do not simply stimulate our minds to produce images of things. I was very struck by Heidegger’s statements about how words invoke and summon forth things. (I think of the words of the medium who summons the dead to appear in the room.) When he speaks of the bridge over the river Rhine, we do not simply attend to an image or concept of the bridge in our own minds; instead we attend to the bridge itself where it is, on the Rhine. The words of a novel lay out a landscape, a situation, events about us. (We do not simply look at the words and imagine the object each word refers to.) (Nor do the words simply direct attention to a landscape we have already imagined.) With the words that name the protagonist and some details of the setting, the whole protagonist and the complex setting form about us.

– Aphonso Lingis, Interview with Tom Sparrow.

Read in full here.

In our self-narratives we typically speak of representing ourselves, our situations, our lives: this is the meaning of autobiography. But instead, and eschewing confabulation and self-deception, we arouse ourselves. We are aroused out of our stories. We are aroused in a dual sense; at once evoked and agitated, as if in a physiologic sense. There is something structuring, construing, constructive and again affective, unsettling, disturbing. So autobiography lulls us, makes us recognisable and stable objects to ourselves and others, and also refashions us in lesser or greater degrees (biographical disruption being among the chief operations of autobiography).

With new people there is a sense that we ourselves are somehow transformed. I recount my life to L. and, within limits (both linguistic and extralinguistic, that is material and ontological) I not only recount myself but evoke myself. Not an image of myself but my self itself.


Dreaming darkness

A short extract from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which perfectly captures the ‘tragedy of translation’, the failure of any of us to give a full account of ourselves in and through language:

‘Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream- making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams…’
He was silent a while.
‘…No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s exisence,- that which makes its truth, its meaning- its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream- alone.’

Immediately following this the primary narrator of HoD immediately refers to the gathered listeners of Marlow’s tale, and we immediately become aware of ourselves- as readers- as also members of that group, although impersonal and hovering above it like scientists living among primates. The ‘alone’ that Marlow concludes with is as ambiguous, as mysterious, as anything else in HoD’s at times supernatural atmosphere.

‘The Recovery movement is a social justice movement’: narrative psychiatry

Psychiatrists seems to be catching up with psychiatric nurses (ie: the Tidal Model).

In our image

Last night it took a long while to get to sleep. On the cusp of it a thought came to me that tasted markedly Feuerbachian: having no memory of our birth, and lacking the possibility to witness our own deaths, we are experientially without beginning or end. Is it so strange we might invent God? A concept that whatever else it does expresses these moments that fundamentally escape our autobiographical narration in its most potent form; memory. The figure of Christ, of the God-made-Flesh, becomes the trope of wakefulness, the trope of all mortality.


I rather like the term ‘tragedy of translation’. I apply it to narrative, to my own and to those of others. Of the truth of my story and of yours I can’t make final declarations. Yet why is this so tragic? Don’t we do something to each ourselves, to each other, with every tale we spin? What we can say of an object is what that object is. In my ‘About’ page I wrote that ‘all poetry is performance’. Generalising things, isn’t it true that all narrative is also performance and that such performance is always doing something, even if only disrupting some other object, only if disrupting itself? From this a general assumption:

The proper study of narrative includes a pragmatism.

Hennessy Youngman explains post-structuralism and narrative

Indulge your pessimism? Collapse: ‘An intellectual horror movie’

I propose a new maxim for a narratological age:


Collapse (2009) documentary trailer:

Collapse, directed by Chris Smith, is an American documentary film exploring the theories, writings and life story of controversial author Michael Ruppert. Collapse premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2009 to positive reviews.
Ruppert, a former Los Angeles police officer who describes himself as an investigative reporter and radical thinker, has authored books on the events of the September 11 attacks and of energy issues. Critics[who?] call him a conspiracy theorist and an alarmist.
Director Smith interviewed Ruppert over the course of fourteen hours in an interrogation-like setting in an abandoned warehouse basement meat locker near downtown Los Angeles. Ruppert’s interview was shot over five days throughout March and April 2009. The filmmakers distilled these interviews down to this 82 minute monologue with archival footage interspersed as illustration.
The title refers to Ruppert’s belief that unsustainable energy and financial policies have led to an ongoing collapse of modern industrial civilization.
The film does not overtly take a perspective on the validity of Ruppert’s positions[citation needed] and critics have alternatingly described the film as supportive and as critical of Ruppert’s views. Smith himself, speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere, said that “What I hoped to reveal was … that his obsession with the collapse of industrial civilization has led to the collapse of his life. In the end, it is a character study about his obsession.” [Emphasis added].

– Taken from Wikipedia entry.

Full movie:

Perhaps Mister Ruppert should be assessed for hopelessness?