Jan 2, 2011

New Year's Resolutions and Existentialism

Didn't mean to leave you hanging . . . .

So, first and foremost, Brenda, BobG, Farmchick, Pierre, Ken, Jeff M, Susan, anonymous, Barbaro—and others?—I think I have found, posted, and tried to respond to your comments from the last three weeks or so. I’m not sure what went wrong, but I think see how to prevent it in the future. Thank you for your patience, and please don’t hesitate to email me at “corndogj@gmail.com” if I ever seem to be ignoring you again.

Now back to everyone’s favorite topic, One’s Way of Being in the World. One more reason it fascinates me, I think, is that we presume for ourselves a lot of free will, maybe more in the U.S. than in other parts of the world. We are the children of Sartre; some of us even believe we chose to be born. With the notable exception of religious fundamentalists, it’s been awhile since it was fashionable to speak of destiny or fatalism.

Compared to most other parts of the world, we have political freedom, and we figure, apparently, that this translates into psychological or philosophical freedom, or freedom in planning a business, or personal finances, or diet and exercise, or selection of a career, or selection of a mate. “Billy, you can be anything you want to be. This is America.”

Evidence accumulates concerning brain chemistry, genetics and DNA; it seems to support the notion that “biology is destiny,” but we don’t like accepting limits on what we can do or become (or spend). We are 21st century Americans, still saving the world for democracy and Walmart, still living the dream.

The lady in purple is “The Communicant,” by Gari Melchers, around 1900.

A quarter-century earlier, Renoir gives us “Woman in an Armchair” (below, left). I’m imagining Lady Purple telling her shrink about her dyspepsia, insomnia, headaches, and anxiety attacks. Dr. Frood hands her an 8 x 10 postcard of Renoir’s woman in an armchair and says, “Here, be her. If you'll just change everything, your symptoms will vanish, and you will be happy.”

Can she do it? Should she try?

How much change can she impose upon her current Way of Being in the World? How would you guide and support her, step by step in the process of her transfiguration?



Banjo52 said...

I hope this doesn’t sound too elementary, but for each photo, any of you could (and so could I) jot down a rough response to this: “What are the first words that come to mind when you look at this character or scene?” (That's a common question on college recommendation forms).

If we all did that, I bet we’d be on our way to talking about each character’s way of being in the world. In each case, we’d be risking stereotype, but, being good people, we’d rise above it, in the second draft if not the first.

Brenda's Arizona said...

"Ways of Being in this World" - it takes me back to Altadena Hiker's comment a few posts back, about shifting what she carries each day.
Are we ever absolute in how we are in the world? I think we are open to changing, each and every day. Maybe the two women in the painting are the same woman? She grew up, oppressed by family, structure. She moved to Berkley - and what do you know, she became a free spirit?

I HATE when I let others define how I am in this world. A mental game that we battle every day, isn't it? A family member's snarky comment or silence can redefine anyone!

Today, we are defining ourselves as Detroit Lion fans. Even though you guys beat us a few weeks back... it is fun to watch Detroit rebound and be 'redefined' as a team we look forward to next year.

Usually, I like Thomas Gainsborough's portraits. As a kid, I bought every postcard of his work that The Huntington Library had. I knew I could be one of those lovely women!

Are you grading our essays? If so, can I submit a new one?

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Yesterday I put through a "conceptual" duchampian language based comment that showed my way of being. Your "high brow/low brow" binary system, or way of being, censored it.

; )

Ken Mac said...

I'm in love with lady in the armchair...

Banjo52 said...

PA, I didn't censor anything. Blogspot and I have together managed to screw up my visitor comments for about 3 weeks. I thought I'd said that clearly.
Are all your comments up now? I thought I'd fixed it.

Also, you're into these high-brow, low-brow, shots about binary-ness lately. Because I said Kruger is over-simplified vinegar? I hope I don't take it too far beyond our jovial jousting, but I'm going out on a limb and saying she's an example of what I meant when I talked about art and writing as being, or containing, gifts.

In my brief foray into Kruger's work, I didn't sense ANY gift, just a lot of acid attached to some overly direct messages--loud, condescending rage.

Maybe I need those messages; maybe most of us do, esp. on feminism, but I did not feel one bit helped or illuminated or edified by them. She gave me nothing, taught me nothing. Something tells me she didn't/doesn't have much effect on her targets at Wall St. and such places either. Don't most people dig in their heels when yelled at?

So forgive my suspicion: she feels better to shout and spew vinegar than to try to have something to offer those who DO want a gift in their art, whether or not "gift" is the word they'd use.

Banjo52 said...

Ken, I hear you. And she seems to be LISTENING. :) Will I pay for that?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Where did I miss Kruger? Kurger who? I was afraid to ask, but figured a laugh was deserved by all who are in the know. I have heard of Anne Krueger of the IMF, but she is hardly to be called vinegar.

Didn't you have another comment of your own here, Banjo? In it you asked me a question - and now that I have the answer, I have no reason to reply! Oh my.

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, I can't find it. Reading post and links is probably your best bet at making sense of what I was trying to say.

Hiker, I love the kind of possibilities you propose, just don't have enough science or philosophy to know what I'm talking about. Are we both onto something like, "It's bigger than your or me"?

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, that is, "the NEW POST" . . ,

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, "another comment of [my] own"???? Did I? O, lord, help me. "Words, words, words."

Brenda's Arizona said...

Do I sense Eliza Doolittle here? "Words, words, words..."
Anyway, you asked me something about the Berkley lady. Maybe if she had a phone number. Or maybe it was something about the Lions. Their kicker, Nick Harris, was a student at the high school where I taught. Nice guy, and he went to Berkley. He probably doesn't need the happy lady's phone number?

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