hugo :: ideas :: pomo culture
"only as an æsthetic phenomenon is
existence and the world justified"

- nietzsche

 

             
 
       
               
 
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emotus ponens picture
::: what is freedom? or, being intuitive:::

 
 


http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=1848964

Contrary to the popular idea, freedom is not found in swimming against the stream, freedom is in following the current, going with the grain of the wood, being carried along by the wind, intuiting life. The popular idea that is flawed is most fervently championed in America, the quintessence of whose identity is Individuality. The cultural chorus praises individuality and the associated notions of self-determination, and impresses upon its cultural participants many varied recapituations of this myth.

"All men are created equal."

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"Give me liberty or give me death"

"Just do it"

"From rags to riches"

"Life's short, play hard"

But I tell you that this is not the case. Myth is beautiful, and the Freedom mythos should certainly be appreciated for its romanticism and fatalism. That it is a source of inspiration should not be denied. But Myth is not Reality, and gaining an understanding of both is very important to leading an aesthetic lifestyle. Myth provides the spirit which motivates Reality; it inspires Reality. But the Freedom mythos is just that-- an inspiration. We should not be so ignorant as to think that the life and principles described by the Freedom mythos should be adopted as Letter; it should not be regarded as a formula to life.

An illustration of this is Feminism. The feminist movement seems most to lament that woman lose their right to the pursuit of life that men enjoy because they are born slaves to Motherhood. They are born as slaves because their Mothers gave up their own lives to raise the daughter, and prophetically, in so doing, the daughter is imparted with these same dogmas of slavery and perpetuate a vicious cycle. Feminists would like to break this cycle by choosing self-actualization over motherhood. Certainly there is something heroic and admirably tragic about this philosophy, and it can't be denied that this, and all equal-rights philosophies, are born out of the Freedom mythos. However, some are over-reaching in their literal interpretations of Feminism. These women actively live their equal rights philosophies to the letter, and achieving equality with men becomes a constant obsession. In every situation they encounter, their modus operandi and whole framework of understanding is geared toward the detection of inequality. What should be understood is that this sort of literalizing and obsession is in itself a form of slavery. The Spirit of everyday life cannot be seen because it is crowded out by the dominance of the Letter of dogma.

Another pathology of reifying Feminism in everyday life is that decisions are made by dogma, rather than by intuition. In many of these freedom movements, there is explicit instruction to mistrust intuition because intuition is painted out to be cultural slavery since it is acculturation which factors most into building intuition. This may be true to a certain extent, but this type of overgeneralizing truism seems to inoculate us to the real nature of intuition. It should not be mistrusted in a wholesale way. Even if how we were acculturated biases our intuition, we cannot simply throw out intuition altogether because it's the best that we've got. Intuition is closest to the essence of Self as is possible. Our unconscious and subconscious, which should be regarded as much more unique and personal than what is consciously accessible, speak to us through intuition. The communicative token of conscious experience is language and abstraction. As Lacan rightly articulated, we are "slaves of language." Language is a socially controlled and manipulated system, and as our conscious experience cartels in language, it may become unreliable. By contrast, intuition is personal, and rather unadulterated, though albeit twisted and bizarre. But we should not have any xenophobias about the idiosyncratic nature of our intuitions. The uniqueness of our intuition accounts for the uniqueness of our Self, and differentiates us from Other. Intuition is the agency of freedom.

Now it's tempting to want to point out what will seem like an obvious flaw to this argumentation: If we rely solely on intuition, and our intuition is built up by acculturation, then isn't such a philosophy for life a recipe for ignorance and not freedom? I have just caricaturized possible criticism, but I urge you to be forgiving and to not caricaturize what I have said. Of course there are nuances and no one should rely solely on intuition; in fact, that is not even possible, as anyone who does so is likely to be making a conscious decision to rely on intuition. All of this is merely meant to inspire you to be more intuitive, not meant to be taken too literally.

Coming back to why a denial of intuition is bad. Even though intuition is a product of acculturation, it should not be ignored because it's the closest thing that we have to a Self. Conscious experience by contrast, is much more easily manipulated by present social phenomena because it cartels in language, an externally constructed system. Acculturation describes the past, which does not shackle us. Our past does not traumatize and impress upon us in the absolute for eternity. Memories change too, and as we reprocess our subconscious memories and thoughts, we have incredible freedom to forget, revise, and selectively highlight memories. Even in the most sinister of past experiences, we can find truth, if we know where to look. Being intuitive can guide us there.

So what happens when someone overliteralizes feminism and uses it as a recipe to life? What happens if she fights her strong intuition to live and act in a manner that she thinks she should in order to be Free? Hoping to not come off as too psychoanalytically and theoretically detached, I'll simply say that every denial of intuition leads to mental and emotional baggage. To deny things we intuit in the long term is to repress our intuitive urges, packing each instance into mental and emotional baggage. When intuition is denied, it is because we have not adequately justified to our Self, an act or decision we consciously chose. The discrepancy between what we do and what we urge to have done is the basis of psychological baggage.

Psychological baggage is slavery. In psychoanalysis, it is said that repressed memories don't go away, but rather, they reoccur with great frequency and manifest themselves as disquiet and discomfort. And these discomforts are most bothersome because they do not cease, and are not named or explained, and thus cannot be solved (except possibly through psychoanalytic therapy to untie these knots). To be truly free then, is to not be weighed down by the psychological baggage which are a product of the denial of intuition.

It is ironic that Feminists and other freedom seekers, in their fervent overliteralization of the Freedom mythos, are actually enslaved by their attempts to escape their intuitions. Ideals are good to have, but we must acknowledge that ideals belong to Myth and not Reality, and must not overstep our expectations for them. The Freedom mythos is a source of inspiration for our lives, but we must preserve the freedom to deviate from that ideal if our intuition craves it. Intuition, going with the grain of our Self, is perhaps closest to Zen Buddhism. Being intuitive, like being Zen, means becoming a student of Nature. We listen to our Self just like we observe a flower, or the clouds with a quiet reverence and appreciation that they are what they are. To let our intuitive Selfs be expressed is to be truly free.

 

 

 

 

articles copyright (c) 2002-2004 by hugo@media.mit.edu.
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H U G O . . L I U ...
POSTDOCTORAL ASSOCIATE

program in comparative media studies, mit

the media laboratory, mit
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