I have been doing some noteworthy personal activities lately. It is amazing what a buttress is formed when one becomes enthralled with the personal. First, what do we listen to? I have been listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s lectures and podcasts. Second, what do we read? I have been reading Carl Jung, the famed analytic psychologist. Third, we do we choose not to absorb? I have rarely turned on the news, only being aware of enough of it to know that Donald Trump was not named Time’s “Person of the Year;” and to know that he is mightily pissed off about it (although, perhaps one doesn’t need the news to know that would happen). Fourth, to what do we groove? I have been listening to Paul Simon’s Graceland, the seminal 1987 album that, signaled something new on the musical landscape, and to which we can still groove to this day. Together, these varied experiences contribute to who I am, and they build joy into me, and that has a unique quality.
Besides being done in my personal life, a thread that binds these disparate phenomena together is a phrase in Simon’s song, “You Can Call Me Al,” of “hints and allegations,” which in both the contexts of the song and the reality it expresses, are not uncommon. The allegations against Trump, the hints of turning off the news, the focus on Gladwell’s show on things overlooked and misunderstood, and the rejuvenation of music that expressed the reality of a generation (Generation X) that often feels like it is skipped, are not coincidental by any stretch of the imagination. They all highlight that the very things that are overlooked are that which emerge because they have been overlooked for too long. They have escaped notice for a time, remaining only hints and allegations, in a kind of shadowy existence that disappeared into the vast unconscious realm that structures our very experience. They have faded into the background and, while serving to structure our experience, have evaded any deliberate thought put to them at all. What does this mean? Practically, it means something like habits centered around hygiene. If left unattended, or poorly and unconsciously formed, the habits will not be developed in ways that lead to thriving and abundance; instead, they will emerge later on in unwanted trips to the dentist, disorganized living, and overall poorer health. Yet the overlooked habits in human beings’ interactions with one another will also rear their ugly, destructive, and malicious effects on the world around us and within us. Unconscious habits will emerge because we have too often overlooked them, and they will appear and be treated as hints and allegations that exist on the periphery of our conscious view, with the grand temptation to push them aside because the reality from which they emerge is too uncomfortable to deal with.
The absorption into the personal and the rising to the surface of the structures of experience walk together hand-in-hand. As long as one stays in the social world, with the news blaring, with schools and churches, with creeds and doctrines, with Tweets and in the streets, these structures stay buried. It is the counter-movement of Dr. Jung to look at the individual, and thus the only certain facts of experience where we will find the truth that is made manifest. In the social world, one only sees statistical characterization and normalization, and not the realities. One sees the normalization of a good student in the social world of the school, but not good students. The hint and allegation is the appearance of depression and anxiety, themselves socialized phenomena of individuals thrown into the world and expected to deal with the myriad of expectations on their own. They have indeed been abstracted. Like Mr. Jung, we should see that the freedom of persons is predicated on the certain experience of one with her more eternal and sacred authority which acts as an alternate world than society and its so-called “reasons.” (Jung, The Undiscovered Self, 1990, p.14)
After all, the very thing the scientific, rational explanation of the world cannot admit is such an authority which has been made manifest through community, which is the realm of significant others who gain identity in dialogue with one another, as surely as a son gains his own identity when he realizes that his father is fallible. That is why the social world does its very best to undermine and eradicate any community that under girds one’s individual reality, including religion, fact, and possibly most significantly, connection.
For the next while, we shall explore the attempted extinction of the personal by a social mass that seeks to persuade us that we are autonomous. In so doing, we shall perhaps no longer overlook the very thing that has any unique reality, namely, the individual. Much of the social world has taken reality away from individuals, and instead, has become one of a mass of people who are pushed and pulled according to unseen forces over which no autonomy exists. In other words, by stringing together the music of our generation, the work of a psychologist who is often misunderstood, the turning off of the news, and by examining things poorly understood, we should indeed come to the conclusion that not only do boomers and millennials live in a false dichotomy, but that we are in the very precarious existential reality threatened by the living of meaningless lives.