We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, December 28. 2006
Shrinks, Thoreau, Pencils, and Freedom
One of the pleasures of getting into this blog world a bit is seeing, with my own eyes, how many bright people there are out there who see things the way I do. For a Boston person, that's consoling enough, but to find people in my general profession - which tends very liberal and pacifist, if not intellectual/passive - who have arrived by similar paths to a somewhat shared current thinking is plain wonderful.
If we are all wrong, at least we can be wrong and stupid together. I am thinking of such psychologically-minded folks as Neo-neocon, Shrinkwrapped, Dr. Sanity, Assistant Village Idiot, and SC&A.
And One Cosmos. Gagdad Bob's thoughts on Thomas Sowell's recent piece is an example of the kind of applied psychological take on things that gives me delight. One quote:
Indeed, it takes a village to make a pencil, but not an African village, and not a village in Afghanistan or in the jungles of Ecuador. A special kind of village, with certain kinds of values and motivations and cultural structures, knowledge, interests, and freedom of opportunity.
I especially enjoy the famous pencil example because, as you may recall, Henry David Thoreau's family made their money from their pencil factory. Henry worked there for a while, and apparently made some significant improvements in the manufacture of the Thoreau Pencil, until he decided that he didn't want to work on Maggie's Farm no more, and decided to be a writer and a public intellectual, living off his family's money.
In addition, of course, the pencil was the original keyboard. Quill pens must have been terrible to write with, and I am sure they scratched the heck out of the monitor screen.
It has been a wonder to me that so many folks in the mind and soul-treating professions are so non-freedom-minded, when these professions are designed to free people from their inner demons which restrict their taking on life freely, cheerfully, and energetically, in the way they see fit, and taking their own chances and making their own choices - in free societies. Freedom is what they are all about, and why psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are never permitted in totalitarian states.
Does every human have a slavish, dependent side to them? Of course. Many days I wish to be nothing but a pampered pet, with a simple life - except I'd be bored in 40 minutes and begin doing something I wasn't told to do. The wonderful possibility is the possibility of governing oneself according to aspirations for higher levels of maturity and autonomy. And that, Dear Readers, is a culture-specific aspiration, rooted in Protestantism; in the notion of "every man his own King," (and every man his own priest as well).
And, with the keyboard, "every man or woman his own pamphleteer," like the wacky Sons of Liberty, pasting our visions of freedom to the walls of the alleys of the world, hoping some passerby will stop and read.
On the same subject, see our recent Liberty, Who needs it?, or, even more recently, Give me Liberty or Give me Health.
Equality is for farm animals. While Orwell remains one of my political guiding lights, Huxley really nailed the danger of "well-intentioned, rational" soul-crushing tyranny in Brave New World. Pure, soul-less logic requires tyranny, as the wise Plato said.
Our blogging shrink friends remember that psyche means "soul," not mind, as Bettelheim made so clear in Freud and Man's Soul. The soul needs space!
I will conclude today's rambling sermon with a Dylan quote from My Back Pages:
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Our Essays, Politics, Psychology, and Dr. Bliss at 19:17 | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)
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thanks for the excellent read--but I'm concerned about the unmentioned 5th pencil raw material--the little brass (tin?) crimp band that holds the rubber to the wood. If I may ask, what did it do wrong to be so hurtfully ignored?
It hasn’t been ignored. It’s very much appreciated but just occasionally misses the ‘point’. Needs a fun family holiday writing exercise to uncrimp a bit.
Tho I dasn't tell such a rude joke, this thread is about as close as I'll ever come to a segue to the constipated mathemetician who worked it out with a pencil.
Apologies--but it was then or likely never. Tough call, but I went for the blabbermouth option. No discipline, alas!
That’s a redeeming quality, in this case. Pencils are supposed to be communicative.
It is for a fact astonishing, when one thinks of it, that a bunch of little sqiggles marked down by a hand directed by a thought in a mind can then anywhere in time or space enter through an eye into another mind and tell it the thought. It's a miracle akin to walking on water.
I received my BA at a very senior age. Many of my classes had been in accounting. When I began to think about life after school at the age of 57, I decided that what I would love to do was to be a forensic accountant for the FBI.
I called the FBI and told them what I wanted to do and asked about the proper procedure. The response was thus:
1. we cannot hire you because we are required to issue a piece to every employee--we don't issue guns to anyone over 38 (first time issue).
But, I said: I just want to come to work with .05 mm mechanical pencil!
My beloved understood--but the fed didn't get it!
Excuse the length of this...I have a rare vacation day but of course woke up at my usual work hour and dread the list of household chores my family expects me to get through on my day "off."
I suspect that all those of us who love to write have mugs full of pens and pencils all over the house...but I have found in recent years that I no longer use them. First my trusty clunker Dell desktop then a succession of laptops have lured me away from my favorite pens and pencils. When I used to take my kids to buy school supplies, they would have to drag me away from the Dr Grips and the gold gel pens I wanted to write Christmas cards with, etc. "Get away from the pens and pencils, Mom, keep your hands where we can see them..." These days it's "Get away from the tech toys, you don't need another laptop...."
I suspect that everyone who writes a lot loves and obsesses over their tools. In our heart, we know that we would happily scribble with a piece of charcoal on whitewash in a jail cell, if that was all we had to express ourselves with...But since we are free for now, we get so much pleasure out of this fancy palm or smartphone or laptop or grandmother's fountain pen. Just as the hunter cherishes his gun collection and is always wanting to add to it...
Forgot to say, JB, good piece.
But can't resist reminding you "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose!" Don't you wish JJ had been one of your patients?! Maybe you could have got her to go to AA and saved her...and she would be a fat, depressed suburban housewife now with no sex life...maybe better that she died when she did...
Also, altho my ancestor penned those famous words about life, liberty, etc. it is my belief that, tho conformist and enslaved by consumerist debt, most Americans today actually put too much emphasis on their personal freedom and not enough on personal responsibity. I know that I am always whining about how I am not happy, how my work and responsibilites burden me, how I want to be free, etc. YAWN says the world. God cares more about our holiness than our happiness. n Or our health. Or our liberty. He created us to do His will, not bounce about in blissful freedom to do whatever we pleased.
My kids' high school has an unutterably silly motto about freedom with responsibility that in practice means that the kids smoke dope in front of classroom windows with a cop nearby and nothing happens. I think freedom is something you earn by showing that you can manage it responsibly. For example, I love the Bible stories about men who earn their brides by working seven years...You can bet that they appreciated their beloved when they were finally free to kiss them...
We are all just miserable sinners who can't be relied upon to do the right thing without much exhortation, accountability, reminders from our church, our friends, our obnoxious relatives, and those pesky state troopers who don't like me racing down I91 at 95 with Wagner blasting. Some freedom is the necessary spice that makes life edible. But as a steady diet it is unhealthy. I think I am at my best when I am doing the things I don't want to but which are required of me by my employer, demanded of me by ungrateful kids, expected of me by spouse, etc. When I do what I feel like I might just play on the computer, go hike 20 miles and take a gazillion pictures, come home and cook up a storm, read into the wee hours...And everyone would be right to consider me mightily irresponsible for exercising my freedom to do as I please...
As for you Apple Pie, it is just the FBI's loss. What a cool idea that was of yours! Follow the money, that's how you really catch the criminals...
Great links--this blog has the best thematic linking on the internet, I think. The big themes, with a master's degree worth of great links. And it has Retriever, who writes these little autobio gems. Entertaining & edifying--the great combo--thanks!
Riccardo and Adam Smith figued this out a long time ago.
Division of Labor.
However it can all go down the tubes if we fail to keep trade routes open:
Decline and Fall
What about the shrinking, Thoreauly schitzy, pencil-sized, free dom types profess-ors who know they’re superior to the rest of us while cleaving unto humility? Do they really know liberty and will the more poorly washed artistic types among us ever know Heaven?
It's so hard to know!
A Fanfaronade to China’s Pigs
One little piggy cursed and lamented his fate.
All packed with his brothers in a loathsome state.
He hatched a plan for escape by the pigpen gate.
Conditions dictated his getaway would have to wait.
Wun Hung Lo said, “You are not fat enough for my plate!”
While corpulence is indeed a piggy trait,
One must not underestimate piggy’s brain of weight.
Little piggy cursed and snuffled, “I’ll not be butcher’s bait!
We all must collect our might before it is too late!
Come, comrade piggies, let us plot and pick a date.”
They snorted, kicked, and farted so - such anger would not abate.
The piggies stormed, stomping hooves ‘gainst the protective grate.
Their combined desire for liberation nary a force one could rate.
They escaped! Oh marry me to freedom! My future is surely great!
Oh joy! Oh oink! We have seen the last of pork-chop Hell.
We give our thanks to our new master, Sir Piggy Orwell.