Sunday, May 21, 2006

Living in the NOW

It's Always Only Now
Yesterday's post got off on the subject of depression in general and how depressing being depressed is and what if depression were a normal state of affairs. It got me to thinking about my own situation in terms of depression. I went online and took a depression test.

I came out with a Goldberg score of 22 "mild or moderate depression." "Wait a minute, Doc Goldberg, I'm not depressed at all. How dare you call me moderately depressed." Why not moderately happy? Like is the glass half-full or half-empty? It's pragmatic thinking. So I went a searchin' for some answers. I studied Freudian psychology in college, which in turn developed into the sociological aspects of individuals and their many psychological hangups in a collective sense. A community of psychos has to be dealt with the same as you would deal with a community of normals. I had dabbled in existentialism in college, too, but a relationship with social psychiatry studies led me to Fritz Perls and the Gestaltists. That was many years ago, and to modern psychological thinkers by now these early theories are pretty damn archaic, so I had pushed these men and women (Laura Perls and Karen Horney became leading Gestaltists in the US) to the back of my mental bookshelf until recently when I found back among the cobwebs of my archaic room this brilliant book, Gestalt Therapy, a cooperative effort between Fritz Perls (the field's originator) who contributed the manuscript; the Gestalt psychologist Ralph Hefferline, who contributed the practical applications of Perls's theories; and the brilliant writer and hippy thinker Paul Goodman (he wrote the popular Growing Up Absurb and also the wonderful thinking-person's book with his brother Percival, Communitas, a survival manual for modern city living), who wrote the second volume of this chocked-full-of experimental focusing tome; experiential in the first volume and made empirically understandable in the second volume.

Gestalt Therapy
Gestalt therapy starts from two main ideas: 1) "the proper focus of psychology is the experiential present moment" and 2) that "we are inextricably caught in a web of relationship with all things." In other words, to fully know ourselves we must know ourselves as we exist in relation to other people but also other things (animals, the earth, the job, etc.). I learned a form of this from sociologist Charles Horton Cooley's "Looking Glass Theory"--where we mirror our own images on the people we come in contact with on a daily basis--especially those very closely related to us and I suppose this could apply to the things we relate to day in and day out as well (maybe something as materialistic as the house we live in). I was taught Gestalt psychologist from the meaning of the word, Gestalt, which literally means "things seen as whole existences rather than particular existences." I made up that definition, but it implies what I'm saying correctly. It's, I suppose, deconstructionist psychology, and I view it in an even broader and more deconstructive sociological sense, that to see what's wrong with an individual, you must first view him/her from and let's compare it to an aerial map (or now those freaky satillite image maps on Google), from the whole map of a person's existence at the given moment of his/her's mental problems. Zoom out from the patient and then gradually zoom back in until you can get right on down to the "soul"--I call it the solar plexus--of his/her character. It's fascinating thinking for a fantasizer like me. I believe we all develop and evolve according to the communites we "grow up" in and to fully understand each other, we have to respect how different each of us are from each other, even, perhaps, those we are hooked up to legally, or even though, that person may be a parent. It is how each of us differs from our own kind in some perhaps minute way, but sometimes in a way that causes a huge depression in our life's pathway. Hail Mary full of grace, the Lard is with thee.

When I growl at a moderate pace, I get rather romantic. This NOW from which I communicate is not romantic. It's too cutthroat to be won over with overwhelming chivalry. One of my spiritual mentors, the late absolutely absurb but brilliant Doctor Hunter S. Thompson, found it so cutthroat and so unromantic he totally gave up on it and blew the top of his brilliant head off; he found himself an absurbly righteous man in an absolutely ferociously real unrighteous experience. This gonzo genius could find righteousness in the Hell's Angels. He found righteousness in the drug-infatuated Buddhist or Satanist thinking of the Hippy society among the merriest of men and damsels riding on a Hell-bound bus driven by one of the most enigmatic anthropomorphized literary characters ever, Neal Cassidy, Jack Keroauc's literary hero, Cody. But the good Doctor couldn't find any righteousness in today's present tense. We are being fenced in by our government's psychotic character and fencing us in will lead to national depression. Ooooh, it gets scarier and scarier when you start relating your fantastic thinking to reality. I am afraid to fantasize a future based on this point of the aerial map of our national mental state. I can only imagine horrible regimin, horrible confinement, a loss of our innate wanting to explore as far from where we are as we are possibly free to go. That's freedom; anything else is confinement.

Two good terms the Gestaltists use are "here and now awareness" and the "inneractive field." They speak of "aware relations," which they use to find the "high side of normal." I really like that. You've gotta admire their use of the language.

I have been living in the NOW, the present tense, since the 60s when I was trying to be a writer and was immersed in the writings of Gertrude Stein. Gertrude Stein wrote in what she called the continual present and she wrote with the rhythm of whatever was going on around her at the moment as she was writing (I think of John Cage as the Gertrude Stein of music). It might be the steady pounding of the rain on the skylight of her Paris atelier; or, as she related in one of her pieces on writing, once it was the lapping up of water by her poodle Basket; she liked that rhythm and wrote using it for several hours after Basket had had his fill.

A writer has to be aware of the NOW constantly, even when writing historically. Musicians, too. The NOW is everything in the constant changing of the music scene. It, I think, is much more difficult for a musician to work the past into his/her (the old feminist writers used "co" for his/her, though I never saw any of them use such in their (co) writings) present than it is a writer. A writer's NOW is much less frenzied than a musician's, though the same kind of depression can take both of them over; artistic depression, I call it. It would be your "level of artistic awareness" to a Gestaltist.
Depressing News
I watched Cynthia McKinney on teevee at noon today. She was talking about New Orleans and though Nagin won the mayor's race, there are still problems, the biggest caused by, and listen to this, NEW YORK CITY REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS (they have free reign in Manhattan now thanks to billionaire mayor and total pompous ass Mike Bloomingidiotberg) flocking to New Orleans and offering pittances for property, buying up as many blocks of desolated neighborhoods as they can bilk out of the owners or the city fathers (mostly white). Their intentions obviously are to turn New Orleans into a totally new-style city, white controlled, all the developers are white (and I consider Saudis and Commie Chinese white--they think Capitalistically white no matter the color of some of those Saudis's skins, especially the "president's" adopted Saudi brother, Prince Bandar Bush) with Wal-Mart neighborhoods mixed with Old New Orleans-style amusement parks, a la reality in Las Vegas. Yes, there will be many 50-story condominiums rising in a ring around the river's old crescent bend that gave the city its Crescent City tag. I had relatives in New Orleans since I was a kid, visited it many times over 20 years, finally living there for over a year and I never heard it called "the Big Easy." I left New Orleans when I sat at breakfast one morning with the then mayor, Vic Skiro, and Vic was discussing with a flunkie the tearing down of the French Market, in order to build a Robert Moses-type freeway along the river as a part of a beltway around New Orleans that would focus attention on the new World Trade Center, I kid you not, they eventually built at the foot of Canal and the Mississippi River. That was enough for me. They were intent on destroying the historical New Orleans for a new freeway-bound, commercialized New Orleans that would plasticized the absolutely un-American mixed cultural reality that had made New Orleans so attractive for me in those not-so-long-ago days. New Orleans was a city of poetic freedoms if not civil freedoms, and in civil rights their was hope; New Orleans was coming together when I lived there, but, not to be; New Orleans was totally controlled by criminal elements from its restaurants, its hotels, on down to its whorehouses, opium dens, and gambling holes, the biggest element of being one Carlos Marcelo, the ruling goombah of the Mafia World from Texas over to the East Coast and back in the fifties, before Castro, Habana, Cuba, and all the lusty whoring and gamblin' and nightclubin' going on down there at that time.

What's depressing is we all know intuitively these real estate developers will win. They have too much tax-free money at their disposals. They make enormous profits off these buildings they are putting up so fast and furiously all over Manhattan, in spite of how far in debt this country is. Our only hope as US "We the People" is that we just use our rights under the Bill of Rights to just turn these people out of the White House, out of Congress, out of the Supreme Court, out of Washington--why can't we do that?

for The Daily Growler

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