Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Drive to Know: Living Beyond Love and Hate -- or The Transmission on a Mission

From an episode of Seinfeld:

Jerry is in his apartment, Kramer enters.

Kramer: Hey. I got some bad news for you, buddy. I think your car got stolen again.

Jerry: What are you talking about?

Kramer: Well you parked it on eighty-fourth and Columbus, right?

Jerry: Yeah.

Kramer: Yep, well I just walked by there and that car is gone.

Jerry: Oh yeah, I know.

Kramer: Well, where is it?

Jerry: What's the difference?

Kramer: Well, there's no difference, you know, I'm just curious.

Jerry: You always have to know everything that's going on, don't you?

Kramer: What happened to the car?

Jerry: If I don't tell you it will kill you, won't it?

Kramer: Yeah, yeah, it'll kill me.

Jerry: You have to know, you must know.

Kramer: I must know.

Jerry: Well, I'm not telling you.

Kramer: Oh, come on.

Jerry: Nope. I don't think so.

Kramer: Well, please?

Jerry: Not today, pal.

Kramer: Okay, I beg you.

Jerry: Now see? Just saying beg doesn't make it a real beg. You gotta put some beg into it.

Kramer: Okay, please! Please tell me!

Jerry: Alright, I'll tell you, but your begging needs a lot of work.

I live in a psychic world that lies beyond love and hate.  I don't love anyone, but then, I don't hate anyone either: at least not consciously.  I am reminded of a passage from Freud's study of Leonardo.   According to Freud, Leonardo's "need to know," his inquisitiveness, trumped the passions of love and hate.  I certainly don't have Leonardo's intellectual gifts, but I have something of his disposition.

Freud wrote: "His affects were controlled and subjected to the investigation impulse, he neither loved nor hated, but questioned himself whence does that arise, which he was to love or hate, and what does it signify, and thus he was at first forced to appear indifferent to good and evil, to beauty and ugliness. During this work of investigation love and hatred threw off their designs and uniformly changed into intellectual interest. As a matter of fact Leonardo was not dispassionate, he did not lack the divine spark which is the mediate or immediate motive power—il primo motore—of all human activity. He only transmuted his passion into inquisitiveness. He then applied himself to study with that persistence, steadiness, and profundity which comes from passion, and on the height of the psychic work, after the cognition was won, he allowed the long checked affect to break loose and to flow off freely like a branch of a stream, after it has accomplished its work. At the height of his cognition when he could examine a big part of the whole he was seized with a feeling of pathos, and in ecstatic words he praised the grandeur of that part of creation which he studied, or—in religious cloak—the greatness of the creator. Solmi has correctly divined this process of transformation in Leonardo. According to the quotation of such a passage, in which Leonardocelebrated the higher impulse of nature (“O mirabile necessita…”) he said: “Tale trasfigurazione della scienza della natura in emozione, quasi direi, religiosa, รจ uno dei tratti caratteristici de manoscritti vinciani, e si trova cento e cento volte espressa….”

Leonardo was called the Italian Faust on account of his insatiable and indefatigable desire for investigation. But even if we disregard the fact that it is the possible retransformation of the desire for investigation into the joys of life which is presupposed in the Faust tragedy, one might venture to remark that Leonardo’s system recalls Spinoza’s mode of thinking.

The transformation of psychic motive power into the different forms of activity is perhaps as little convertible without loss, as in the case of physical powers. Leonardo’s example teaches how many other things one must follow up in these processes. Not to love before one gains full knowledge of the thing loved presupposes a delay which is harmful. When one finally reaches cognition he neither loves nor hates properly; one remains beyond love and hatred. One has investigated instead of having loved. It is perhaps for this reason that Leonardo’s life was so much poorer in love than those of other great men and great artists. The storming passions of the soul-stirring and consuming kind, in which others experience the best part of their lives, seem to have missed him."

My last psychiatrist, Dr. Jama told me that I needed to let go of my anger toward my former employer, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.  Does anger drive my obsession with the firm?  I don't think so.  My obsession with the firm is rooted in inquisitiveness, not anger.  I want to know the firm's secrets.  Again and again in my letters I tell people: "Tell the authorities what you know!"  I need to know.  It will kill me if I don't know!


Gary Freedman said...

It does not speak well of a psychiatrist that he was unable to identify and appreciate the importance of a person's drive to know, his inquisitiveness. It suggests that the psychiatrist himself was lacking in inquisitiveness--which is not a good disposition for any scientist.

Gary Freedman said...

What is it that Mummy and Daddy do when they are alone together? I need to know!

Gary Freedman said...

The child's dyadic relationship [with the primary caregiver] slowly merges into the oedipal triadic relationship with the parents by the end of the fourth year, ushering in a severely conflictual situation for children of both sexes. If identification with the parent of the same sex has been proceeding well, this identification now serves as a stabilizing force, facilitating the temporary surrender of incestuous wishes and the modulation of hostile aggressive wishes towards the parent of the same sex. Sublimation of the sexual and aggressive drive derivatives can now proceed, with curiosity directed towards other areas. A significant landmark during latency is the gradual emergence of a scientific approach to learning and thinking. The why and wherefore of things become very important: concepts of the world and people begin to expand, and the development of reasoning steadily advances. Curiosity about sexuality gives way, under reasonably adequate psychological conditions, to curiosity about the wider aspects of the world, a sublimation of a portion of sexual as well as aggressive wishes that continues into adult life unless inhibitions arise because of psychological conflicts that were insufficiently resolved during the pre-oedipal and oedipal periods. Galenson, E. "Comments." In: Ostow, M. Ultimate Intimacy: The Psychodynamics of Jewish Mysticism, pp. 144-150 at 150 (Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc.: 1995).

Gary Freedman said...

People say "Oh he must hate Akin Gump" that he goes on and on for 20 years about this.

That, I am afraid, is a projection.

My behavior can also be seen as being driven by a scientific disposition: curiosity and a need to know.

But then, most people don't have a scientific disposition -- at least not at the level where they would risk involuntary commitment to satisfy their curiosity.

Columbus risked falling off the edge of the earth, Marie Curie was poisoned by radiation -- and I almost got locked up at DC General. It's all the same case.

Then there are people like Freud who are driven by scientific curiosity -- and a powerful desire to be famous. Now those people you really need to stay away from!