Friday, March 25, 2011

Significant Moments: The Individualist and the Mob

Albert Rothenberg, M.D. first described or discovered a process he termed "homospatial thinking," which consists of actively conceiving two or more discrete entities occupying the same space, a conception leading to the articulation of new identities. Homospatial thinking has a salient role in the creative process in the following wide variety of fields: literature, the visual arts, music, science, and mathematics. This cognitive factor, along with "Janusian thinking," clarifies the nature of creative thinking as a highly adaptive and primarily nonregressive form of functioning.

There is a section of my book Significant Moments whose manifest content quotes Hermann Hesse's novel, Demian.   An interlinear presence is the metaphor of viruses and contagion.  A type of virus, the retrovirus, alters the host cell's genetic makeup when it infects a cell.  The virus causes diseases, such as AIDS and cancer; but it's ability to change the cell's genome enables it to be used for genetic engineering, to insert beneficial genes into the cell.  The retrovirus is neither all good nor all bad.  It exists Beyond Good and Evil.

          "Well, I think," he went on, "one can give this story about Cain quite a different interpretation. Most of the things we're taught I'm sure are quite right and true, but one can view all of them from quite a different angle than the teachers do—and most of the time they then make better sense. For instance, one can't be quite satisfied with this Cain and the mark on his forehead, with the way it's explained to us. Don't you agree? It's perfectly possible for someone to kill his brother with a stone and to panic and repent. But that he's awarded a special decoration for his cowardice, a mark that protects him and puts the fear of God into all the others, that's quite odd, isn't it?""Of course," I said with interest: the idea began to fascinate me. "But what
other way of interpreting the story is there?"
          He slapped me on the shoulder.
          "It's quite simple! The first element of the story, its actual beginning, was the mark. Here was a man with something in his face that frightened the others. They didn't dare lay hands on him; he impressed them, he and his children.
          We can guess—no, we can be quite certain—that it was not a mark on his forehead like a postmark—life is hardly ever as clear and straightforward as that.
          It is much more likely that he struck people as faintly sinister, perhaps a little more intellect and boldness in his look than people were used to. This man was powerful: you would approach him only with awe. He had a 'sign.' You could explain this any way you wished. And people always want what is agreeable to them and puts them in the right. They were afraid of Cain's children: they bore a 'sign.' So they did not interpret the sign for what it was—a mark of distinction—but as its opposite. They said: 'Those fellows with the sign, they're a strange lot'—and indeed they were. People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest. It was a scandal that a breed of fearless and sinister people ran about freely, so they attached a nickname and myth to these people to get even with them, to make up for the many times they had felt afraid—do you get it?"
          "Yes—that is—in that case Cain wouldn't have been evil at all? And the whole story in the Bible is actually not authentic?"
          "Yes and no. Such age-old stories are always true but they aren't always properly recorded and aren't always given correct interpretations. In short, I mean Cain was a fine fellow and this story was pinned upon him only because people were afraid . . .
     Hermann Hesse, Demian.
               . . . afraid he might . . .
     Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle.
                           . . . infect them with the same . . .
     Kevin Trent Bergeson, Greyhound Bus Trip Forces Salt Lake Man to Confront Existential Void.
                                  . . . unorthodox . . .
     Peter Radetsky, The Invisible Invaders: The Story of the Emerging Age of Viruses.
                                           . . . outlook on life . . ."
     Kevin Trent Bergeson, Greyhound Bus Trip Forces Salt Lake Man to Confront Existential Void.
          The story was simply a rumor, something that people gab about, and it was true in so far as Cain and his children really bore a kind of a mark and were different from most people."
I was astounded.
          "And do you believe that the business about killing his brother isn't true either?" I asked, entranced.
          "Oh, that's certainly true. The strong man slew a weaker one. It's doubtful whether it was really his brother. But it isn't important. Ultimately all men are brothers. So, a strong man slew a weaker one: perhaps it was a truly valiant act, perhaps it wasn't. At any rate, all the other weaker ones were afraid of him from then on, they complained bitterly and if you asked them: 'Why don't you turn around and slay him, too?' they did not reply 'Because we're cowards,' but rather 'You can't, he has a sign. God has marked him.' The fraud must have originated some way like that. . . ."
     Hermann Hesse, Demian.

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