The View From Your Window

Dec 27 2014 @ 5:31pm

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Woodbury, Minnesota, 7.44 am

When The Self Is Lost

Dec 27 2014 @ 4:57pm

Gracie Lofthouse investigates depersonalization disorder, which is “characterized by a pervasive and disturbing sense of unreality in both the experience of self (called ‘depersonalization’) and one’s surroundings (known as ‘derealization’)”:

Dr. Elena Bezzubova, a Russian psychoanalyst who treats people with depersonalization in California, calls it a painful absence of feeling. “A mother comes to me and says, ‘My son is in prison, I received a letter from him. I do not care, but it bothers me. Please prescribe me something to cry.’”

It might be the implications of the numbing, as opposed to the actual numbing itself, that cause the most distress. Have you ever played that game when you repeat a word over and over again until it loses all meaning? It’s called semantic satiation. Like words, can a sense of self be broken down into arbitrary, socially-constructed components?

That question may be why the phenomenon has attracted a lot of interest from philosophers.

Read On

Mental Health Break

Dec 27 2014 @ 4:20pm

Deadly but beautiful:

Lovecraft Never Dies

Dec 27 2014 @ 3:32pm

Charles Baxter explores the persistent appeal – as well as persistent racism and misogyny – of H.P. Lovecraft. He considers how his fiction represents faith, writing that “what accompanies Lovecraft’s depictions of living death is a fundamental conviction that there is something wrong with the whole idea of resurrection, mostly because there is something wrong with life itself. The greatest hope of Christianity is, in these stories, a terrible outcome fervently to be avoided”:

His three best stories, “The Colour Out of Space,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” and “The Dunwich Horror,” can all be read as inversions of Christian themes, as Houellebecq first noted. “The Colour Out of Space” contains a travesty of the Pentecost, “The Dunwich Horror” a travesty of the Incarnation, and “At the Mountains of Madness” a travesty of resurrection, which also appears elsewhere in graveyard-kitsch form in “Herbert West: Reanimator.” Whenever anybody or anything is brought back to life in a Lovecraft story, the resurrection is always botched, and the return to life is catastrophic. Since life itself is a form of sleepwalking anyway, the descent of the “foul” Pentecostal flame in “The Colour Out of Space” can only bring more destruction and misery, the God of these stories being a malicious trickster.

As for the afterlife, or the life to come, the unlucky resurrected ones dwell in various subbasements and oubliettes where they give off “a deep, low moaning” that is “hideous with the pent-up viciousness of desolate eternities.”

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Face Of The Day

Dec 27 2014 @ 2:29pm

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Philip Kirkman and Shannon McLaughlin, an engaged couple, created a calendar of NYC taxi driver pinups for 2015:

Back for year two, we hit the streets of New York to photograph some of the city’s best-humored taxi drivers. These drivers put a face to one of the most dedicated workforces in NYC, driving day and night to transport New Yorkers and our guests alike.

This year’s calendar features three returning All-Stars and 10 new drivers, and debuts our first ever husband and wife driving duo. The drivers are shown in a playful mix of work and leisure, including a playdate with nine adorable puppies from Animal Haven shelter in Manhattan and some sensuous cookie consumption at New York’s favorite bakery, Levain.

See more pictures from the series, as well as calendars available for purchase, here.

Muses Speak Out

Dec 27 2014 @ 1:19pm

Chloe Schama explains what it felt like to find herself in her ex’s novel:

I stayed up late that night and finished the manuscript, reading with a strange sense of honor. Isn’t it every woman’s fantasy, to some extent, to be someone’s muse — to feel as though her beauty, intelligence, and grace are so extraordinary that they inspire not just devotion but art? I’d never admit to desiring celebrity, but that doesn’t mean that I’d turn down the chance to be immortalized — or at least captured for a moment — by someone else. At art museums, I’ve always played a game: Matisse or Picasso, Manet or Degas, Rembrandt or Rubens — whom would I prefer to sit for?

But there was horror mixed with the honor. I’d never asked myself: Bellow or Roth, Hemingway or Fitzgerald, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky? It seemed too terrifying to be made three-dimensional — to be faced with someone else’s portrait of your psyche. If the depiction seems to miss the mark, but includes just enough to make you recognizable, then you’d have to wage an endless personal PR campaign with anyone who came in contact with the text: No, reader, you don’t know me. But if the novel contained some shades of truth — perhaps the attributes you don’t share widely (aren’t they always the most compelling?) — then you face an even scarier prospect: Yes, reader, you know parts of me before we’ve ever met.

On a related note, Karley Sciortino considers why, aside from the allure of being a muse, many of us romanticize the idea of dating artists:

Read On

The View From Your Window Contest

Dec 27 2014 @ 12:00pm

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You have until noon on Tuesday to guess it. City and/or state first, then country. Please put the location in the subject heading, along with any description within the email. If no one guesses the exact location, proximity counts. Be sure to email entries to contest@andrewsullivan.com. Winner gets a free The View From Your Window book, a new Dish mug, or two free gift subscriptions to the Dish. Have at it.

Last week’s contest results are here. Browse a gallery of all our previous contests here.

Living With Half A Brain

Dec 27 2014 @ 10:56am

Tom Stafford considers what a woman who was born without a cerebellum — and lived a largely typical life — reveals about neuroscience:

This case points to a sad fact about brain science. We don’t often shout about it, but there are large gaps in even our basic understanding of the brain. We can’t agree on the function of even some of the most important brain regions, such as the cerebellum. Rare cases such as this show up that ignorance. Every so often someone walks into a hospital and their brain scan reveals the startling differences we can have inside our heads. Startling differences which may have only small observable effects on our behaviour.

Part of the problem may be our way of thinking. It is natural to see the brain as a piece of naturally selected technology, and in human technology there is often a one-to-one mapping between structure and function. If I have a toaster, the heat is provided by the heating element, the time is controlled by the timer and the popping up is driven by a spring. The case of the missing cerebellum reveals there is no such simple scheme for the brain. Although we love to talk about the brain region for vision, for hunger or for love, there are no such brain regions, because the brain isn’t technology where any function is governed by just one part.

What Freud Got Right

Dec 27 2014 @ 9:31am
by Dish Staff

The New Republic recently retrieved from their archives a classic essay by W.H. Auden on Freud’s enduring insights. Auden, writing in 1952, claimed that even if his specific theories were disproven, Freud “would still tower up as the genius who perceived that psychological events are not natural events but historical and that, therefore, psychology as distinct from neurology, must be based on the pre-suppositions and methodology, not of the biologist but of the historian.”

As a child of his age who was consciously in a polemic with the “idealists” he may officially subscribe to AmaliaFreud (1) the “realist” dogma that human nature and animal nature are the same, but the moment he gets down to work, every thing he says denies it. In his theories of infantile sexuality, repression, etc., he pushes back the beginnings of free-will and responsibility earlier than even most theologians had previously dared; his therapeutic technique of making the patient relive his past and discover the truth for himself with a minimum of prompting and interference from the analyst (meanwhile, one might add, doing penance by paying till it hurts), the importance of Transference to the outcome of the therapy, imply that every patient is a unique historical person and not a typical case.

Freud is not always aware of what he is doing and some of the difficulties he gets into arise from his trying to retain biological notions of development when he is actually thinking historically. For example, he sometimes talks as if civilization were a morbid growth caused by sexual inhibition; at other times he attacks conventional morality on the grounds that the conformists exhaust in repression the energies which should be available for cultural tasks: similarly, he sometimes speaks of dream symbolism as if it were pure allegory, whereas the actual descriptions he gives of the dreaming mind at work demonstrate that, in addition to its need to disguise truth, it has an even greater need to create truth, to make historical sense of its experience by discovering analogies, an activity in which it shows the most extraordinary skill and humor. In a biological organism, everything was once something else which it now no longer is, and change is cyclical, soma-germasoma; a normal condition is one that regularly reoccurs in the cycle, a morbid one is an exception. But history is the realm of unique and novel events and of monumentsthe historical past is present in the present and the norm of health or pathology cannot be based on regularity.

(Photo of Freud in 1872 at age 16, with his mother Amalia, via Wikimedia Commons)

Our Bestsellers, Ourselves

Dec 27 2014 @ 7:38am

Heather Havrilesky, scanning the last 20 years of the New York Times‘ hardcover-nonfiction bestseller lists, ponders what our country’s taste in books reveals about its readers:

As I Want to Tell You by O. J. Simpson (1995) and The Royals by Kitty Kelley (1997) yield to Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore (2003) and Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward (2004), you can almost see the support beams of the American dream tumbling sideways, the illusions of endless peace and rapidly compounding prosperity crumbling along with it. The leisurely service-economy daydreams of the late ’90s left us plenty of time to spend Tuesdays with Morrie and muse about The Millionaire Next Door or get worked up about The Day Diana Died. But such luxe distractions gave way to The Age of Turbulence, as our smug belief in the good life was crushed under the weight of 9/11, the Great Recession, and several murky and seemingly endless wars. Suddenly the world looked Hot, Flat, and Crowded, with the aggressively nostalgic waging an all-out Assault on Reason. In such a Culture of Corruption, if you weren’t Going Rogue you inevitably found yourself Arguing with Idiots. …

[T]he most popular nonfiction authors of our day might be characterized by a certain overconfident swagger, the modern prerequisite for mattering in a mixed-up, insecure world.

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