The White Nightgown Mindset (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 180)

William James warned his students that a certain kind of mindset was approaching the West—it could hardly be called a way of thought—in which no physical details are noticed. Fingernails are not noticed, trees in the plural are mentioned, but no particular tree is ever loved, nor where it stands; the hair of the ear is not noticed. We now see this mindset spread all over freshman English papers, which American students can now write quickly, on utterly generalized subjects; the nouns are usually plurals, and the feelings are all ones it would be nice to have. The same mindset turns up on the Watergate tapes, and working now with more elaborate generalizations, in graduate seminars in English, in which all the details in Yeats’s poems turn out to be archetypes or Irish Renaissance themes. It is the lingua franca, replacing Latin. The mindset could be described as the ability to talk of Africa without visualizing the hair in the baboon’s ear, or even a baboon. Instead the mindset reports “wild animals.” Since the immense range of color belongs to physical detail—the thatness—of the universe, it is the inability to see color. People with this mindset have minds that resemble white nightgowns. For people of this mindset, there’s not much difference between 3 and 742; the count of something is a detail. In fact the number they are most interested in, as James noted, is one. That’s a number without physical detail.

WIlliam James observed this approaching mindset and associated out from it sideways. He noticed the mindset resembled the upper class of Boston. They too disliked the sordid details—the hair in the ear of religion, the smells of the Irish entryway—and preferred the religion of the One. Naturally, they became Unitarians. If the “cultured people” move into this mindset, a curious thing happens; the upper (spiritual) half of life and the lower (sensual) half of life begin to part company. One part ascends; the other part, no longer connected to the high, sinks. The gaps between grom wider and wider. The educated class has the Pure One, the working class people are left with nothing but the crude physical details of their lives—the husband’s old pipe and the spit knocked out of it, the washing tub, the water and slush from the children’s boots on the entry floor, the corns on the feet, the mess of dishes in the sink, the secular love-making in the cold room. These physical details are now, in the twentieth century, not only unpenetrated by religion, but they somehow prove to the unconscious that “religion is a nullity.” James emphasized that perception, and Stevens grieved over the insight all his life. For the working class there’s nothing left but the Emperor of Ice Cream. The middle class is now the working class, and so the majority of people in the West are worse off than they were in the Middle Ages.

A Little Book on the Human Shadow

Robert Bly          1988

Millie and the Most Important Thing of All (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 177)

Millie (age 9) said “So, what is marking? How does someone mark a pet or a person?” and after a sparked involuntary chuckle, Jody’s body gradually recessed into the corner of the sofa and seemed to brace itself for whatever might come. As she did so, her expression whispered to me “well here we go you madman, this ought to be good. . . are you really going to have a college graduate level discussion with my baby girl on behavior and psychology?. . . I can’t even imagine how this is gonna go, but I guess I trust you, you crazed and certifiable lunatic.”

After a long and detailed conversation of what needed to be said and discussed to answer Millie’s question appropriately, she tilted her head to the side with playful comprehension and triumphantly inquired of me, if such a thing can be done, “So, you should never mark anything with fear, right?”

And my smile refused to be caged by any constraints as I replied “That’s right Millie. You got it, you got it! You never mark anyone or anything with fear. It is not easy and it can be very very hard not to accidentally do, but you should never ever mark anyone or anything with fear. That is the most important thing of all.”

Cribb          2017

The Pervasive Myth of Economic Gluttony vs. the Inescapable Context of Humanity (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 175)

The faulty assumption that scarcity-based economic thinking is somehow the de-facto human approach to questions of supply, demand, and distribution of wealth has mislead much anthropological, philosophical, and economic thought over the past few centuries. As economist John Gowdy explains, “‘Rational economic behavior’ is peculiar to market capitalism and is an embedded set of beliefs, not an objective universal law of nature. The myth of economic man explains the organizing principle of contemporary capitalism, nothing more or less.”

Many economists have forgotten (or never understood) that their central organizing principle, Homo economicus (a.k.a. economic man), is a myth rooted in assumptions about human nature, not a bedrock truth upon which to base a durable economic philosophy. When John Stuart Mill proposed what he admitted to be “an arbitrary definition of man, as a being who inevitably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessities, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labour and physical self-denial,” it’s doubtful he expected his “arbitrary definition” to delimit economic thought for centuries. Recall Rousseau’s words: “If I had had to chose my place of birth, I would have chosen a state in which everyone knew everyone else, so that neither the obscure tactics of vice nor the modesty of virtue could have escaped public scrutiny and judgement.” Those who proclaim that greed is simply a part of human nature too often leave context unmentioned. Yes, greed is a part of human nature. But so is shame. And so is generosity (and not just toward genetic relatives). When economists base their models on their fantasies of an “economic man” motivated only by self-interest, they forget community—the all-important web of meaning we spin around each other—the inescapable context within which anything truly human has taken place.

Sex at Dawn

Ryan and Jethá          2010

Won’t You Not Play the Game with Me? (The Veterinarian)

For those who might be interested, this is a short poetic note about myself and some of the stressful forces which impact upon the practicing of my profession and the owning/operating of my veterinary hospital. I often fancifully refer to the hospital as the Castle. May these words be taken in the spirit of which they are offered; for greater understanding and the hope that we may all come together to work towards what is the most nurturing and best balanced system for all.

It disgusts me how much the corporate world stands in my shadow, deceptively and manipulatively sucking out almost all of the revenue I can generate in my trade by being a fair and ethical small business person. These entities figured out a long time ago how to put “face men” out there to disguise the intricate ponzi scheme of their diffuse market possession and “behind the curtain” price control they impose on all consumers. The current “capitalistic” system is designed for us to be nothing more than masked puppets for these juggernaut parasites. It equally disgusts me how much the government rapes me over and over in exponential fashion. The amount of taxes I pay for my income and property is egregious, insane, and unfair.

It would seem to me that the underlying lesson taught by both the government and the corporate world is that a man of independence and ethical preference is suppose to break himself of these tedious tendencies and desires. . . because, as they say, “you gotta make a living” or “you gotta make your fair share” or “you gotta play the game like everyone else, that’s just the way it is.” And sooner or later, maybe the system will take me out. I have been close a number of times, much closer than you probably believe, but if it happens one day, it just happens, because you see, I can’t play the game. A game that turns me into a relentless lying and tax evading prick or a bastardized up-selling unethical DVM corporate puppet that has to screw my customers over to generate a decent income for my effort and expertise, has at its victory the death of my honor, the loss of all of my integrity, and ultimately, the suicide of my humanity and the values of existence which make it worth experiencing. This I remind myself.

So, I just wrote a check to the United States Treasury for an absurd amount related to estimated taxes while I’m doing my best trying to get caught up on all of my other bills that cannot be paid from that extracted/allocated amount, but my day goes on with the Castle roof above my head and the Castle gardens flourishing all over the grounds. The magic is alive around here. . .you can feel it; it always holds up pretty good against the petrifying spell of money’s love potion and the wicked withering brought about by its whispered and temptable chants.

There is enough magic everywhere for everyone, but it isn’t to be found in a upsold suicidal game of plundering.

Won’t you not play the game with me?

Cribb          2017

Money is what God used to Be (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 169)

In a crude, boyish way, he had begun to get the hang of this money-business. At an earlier age than most people he grasped that all modern commerce is a swindle. Curiously enough, it was the advertisements in the Underground stations that first brought it home to him. He little knew, as the biographers say, that he himself would one day have a job in an advertising firm. But there was more to it than the mere fact that business is a swindle. What he realized, and more clearly as time went on, was that money-worship has been elevated into a religion. Perhaps it is the only real religion—the only really felt religion—that is left to us. Money is what God used to be. Good and evil have no meaning any longer except failure and success. Hence the profoundly significant phrase, to make good. The decalogue has been reduced to two commandments. One for the employers—the elect, the money-priest-hood as it were—”Thou shalt make money”; the other for the employed—the slaves and underlings—”Thou shalt not lose thy job.” It was about this time that he came across The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and read about the starving carpenter who pawns everything but sticks to his aspidistra. The aspidistra became a sort of symbol for Gordon after that. The aspidistra, flower of England! It ought to be on our coat of arms instead of the lion and the unicorn. There will be no revolution in England while there are aspidistras in the windows.

Keep The Aspidistra Flying

George Orwell          1936

Awareness as a Human Being or Not (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 165)

But think in terms of individual men, women, and children, not of States, Religions, Economic Systems and such-like abstractions: there is then a hope of passing between the horns. For if you begin by considering concrete people, you see at once that freedom from coercion is a necessary condition of their developing into full-grown human beings; that the form of economic prosperity which consists in possessing unnecessary objects doesn’t make for individual well-being; that a leisure filled with passive amusements is not a blessing; that the conveniences of urban life are bought at a high physiological and mental price; that an education which allows you to use yourself wrongly is almost valueless; that a social organization resulting in individuals being forced, every few years, to go out and murder one another must be wrong. And so on. Whereas if you start from the State, the Faith, the Economic System, there is a complete transvaluation of values.Individuals must murder one another, because the interests of the Nation demand it; must be educated to think of ends and disregard means, because the schoolmasters are there and don’t know of any other method; must live in towns, must have leisure to read the newspapers and go to movies, must be encouraged to buy things they don’t need, because the industrial system exists and has to be kept going; must be coerced and enslaved, because otherwise they might think for themselves and give trouble to their rulers.

The sabbath was made for man. But man now behaves like the Pharisees and insists he is made for all the things—science, industry, nation, money, religion, schools—which were really made for him.Why? Because he is so little aware of his own interests as a human being that he feels irresistibly tempted to sacrifice himself to these idols. There is no remedy except to become aware of one’s interests as a human being, and, having become aware, to learn to act on that awareness. Which means learning to use the self and learning to direct the mind. It’s almost wearisome, the way one always comes back to the same point. Wouldn’t it be nice, for a change, if there were another way out of our difficulties! A short cut. A method requiring no greater personal effort than recording a vote or ordering some “enemy of society” to be shot. A salvation from outside, like a dose of calomel.

Eyeless in Gaza

Aldous Huxley          1936

The War Against Acknowledging and Embracing the Force of the Female Sex Drive (Love vs Sex 241)

In 1850, the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal declared masturbation public enemy number one, warning: “Neither plague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor a crowd of similar evils, have resulted more disastrously for humanity than the habit of masturbation: it is the destroying element of civilized society.”

Children and adults were warned that masturbation was not only sinful, but very dangerous—sure to result in severe health consequences, including blindness, infertility, and insanity. Besides, these atrocities intoned, “normal” women has little sexual desire anyway.

In his Psychopathia Sexualis, published in 1886, German neurologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing declared what everyone already thought they knew: “If [a woman] is normally developed mentally and well-bred, her sexual desire is small. If this were not so, the whole world would become a brothel and marriage and a family impossible.” To have suggested that women enjoyed, indeed needed regular orgasmic release, would have been shocking to men and humiliating to most women. Perhaps it still is.

While the anti-masturbation frenzy has roots deep in Judeo-Christian history, it found unfortunate medical support in Simon André Tissot’s A Treatise on the Disease Produced by Onanism, published in 1758. Tissot apparently recognized the symptoms of syphilis and gonorrhea, which were considered a single disease at the time. But he misunderstood these symptoms as signs of semen depletion due to promiscuity, prostitution, and masturbation.

A century later, in 1858, a British gynecologist named Isaac Baker Brown (president of the Medical Society of London at the time) proposed that most women’s diseases were attributable to overexcitement of the nervous system, with the pudic nerve, which runs to the clitoris, being particularly culpable. He listed the eight stages of progressive disease triggered by female masturbation:

  1. Hysteria
  2. Spinal irritation
  3. Hysterical epilepsy
  4. Cataleptic fits
  5. Epileptic fits
  6. Idiocy
  7. Mania
  8. Death

Baker Brown argued that surgical removal of the clitoris was the best way to prevent this fatal slide from pleasure to idiocy to death. After gaining considerable celebrity and performing an unknown number of clitorectomies, Baker Brown’s methods fell out of favor and he was expelled from the London Obstetrical Society in disgrace. Baker Brown subsequently went insane, and clitorectomy was discredited in British medical circles.

Unfortunately, Baker Brown’s writing had already had a significant impact on medical practices across the Atlantic. Clitorectomies continued to be performed in the United States well into the twentieth century as a cure for hysteria, nymphomania, and female masturbation. As late as 1936, Holt’s Diseases of Infancy and Childhood, a respected medical- school text, recommended surgical removal or cauterization of the clitoris as a cure for masturbation in girls.

By the middle of the twentieth century, as the procedure was finally falling into disrepute in the United States it was revived with a new rationale. Now, rather than a way to stomp out masturbation, surgical removal of large clitorises was recommended for cosmetic purposes.

Recent estimates by the World Health Organization suggest that more than 100 million girls and women are living with the consequences of genital mutilation.

Before the war on drugs, the war on terror, or the war on cancer, there was the war on female sexual desire. It’s a war that has been raging far longer than any other, and its victims number well into the billions by now. Like the others, it’s a war that can never be won, as the declared enemy is a force of nature. We may as well declare war on the cycles of the moon.

If psychiatrist Mary Jane Sherfey was correct when she wrote, “The strength of the drive determines the force required to suppress it” (an observation downright Newtonian in its irrefutable simplicity), then what are we to make of the force brought to bear on the suppression of the female libido?

Sex at Dawn

Ryan and Jethá          2010