ACCOUNTING FOR PSYCHOPATHS
Before one can be a “good” human, one must be a good mammal/primate. This means taking care of one’s body, which may or may not be a temple, but is certainly an instrument, one’s symphony of cells, the only way to read the music. But one can be a healthy animal without being a brainiac. Still, our human superiority to animals is not based on being different as in entirely apart, but on having something anatomical added, at least potentially: the pre-optic cortical lobe. I wish there were a better name for it.
This human brain addition that makes our foreheads bulge can be present but not operative, maybe due to experience that disabled it or maybe to some kind of dementia. The result is psychopathy. We’re learning a lot about it.
This is a twitter from “Diggity Dog Fabrics,” an on-line shop for animal-printed cloth.
“Psychopaths are sadistic. They have trouble feeling anything because their neural network is so simple (also no executive function as a result) they suffer anhedonia, (failure to feel pleasure), and boundary pushing, risk taking, making others suffer is how they feel. It’s an addiction — escalates.”
The executive function and the aesthetic function are both in the pre-frontal cortex. Both can be missing or distorted. The result is ruthlessness and ugliness. This tweeter is talking about replacing them with adrenaline-surfing — using danger and sadism to replace them. Now the pandemic has swept over us, revealing who seems to enjoy the possible sadism, the blocking of executive action, and the danger of being caught. It’s a perversion of enjoyment, a way of finally feeling alive. We’ve been watching this play out in our Capital and White House. It’s become cultural. Stories keep being more sensational. It takes explosions and grisly deaths to hold our attention.
Pleasure and vitality are whole-body functions, the sensory intake that the brain turns into identity.. Those who think a person and a computer are equivalent ignore this. A brain in a bucket of nutrients is not alive; even if it were rigged up with intake gizmos, what could it do? Even if music, the stroking of skin, the familiar faces are taken in as cybercode, a computer still cannot kiss or laugh or rub your feet.
As we begin to understand this and leave some of the uber-rational versions of dominance, the stories change. I mix vids and books. Most recently I watched “The Sinner”, a remarkable murder mystery series that concentrates on motive. https://www.usanetwork.com/the-sinner By accident I watched the third season first, which seems to be about men, betrayed and exploited, isolated and self-challenging. They are anhedonic, feeling nothing. This time there was no therapist, neither the old man with the beard nor the brisk middle-aged professional woman.
Instead there was an artist, a painter of nude men — some of them life-sized — as a means of understanding them, becoming attuned to their inner lives. She is equally interested in the detective character and the murderer he pursues. I don’t know who actually painted the portraits but they are excellent and the artist ought to be credited somewhere. They are as revealing as any therapy notes. In real life Lucian Freud the painter speaks to me more than Freud the analyst.
A main thread in the plot of this third series is that of admiring Nietzsche. An old roommate in pursuit of the ideal of the “Ubermensch”, the superior man, has come to the conclusion that the test is defying death — in the process becoming obsessed and trying to impose it on his former friend. He’d have done better to cultivate a rampant mustache. Ayn Rand, who cannot grow such a mustache, has spread this college sophomore attitude of seeking power into new popularity though she’s not in this story. Young men are appalled by the tragedy and wickedness of the world, try to evade it, try to surpass it, and become broken old men. One thinks of the Republican senate, cynically and hypocritically praising “God” and the nation.
Nietzche is the one who declared “God is dead,” but he also said “Art as the single superior counterforce against all will to negation of life, art as the anti-Christian, anti-Buddhist, anti-Nihilist par excellence.” (Not everyone would group these categories as despairing existentialism.) This is the more useful idea and the one in the story that has an artist instead of a therapist. My prejudice is that art works better in “embodiment” theory if the mediator to time/space force is not any person but rather the planet and our attachment to it through our senses. The wife of the murderer sells scents, oils of herbs and spices.
This modern catastrophic political development forces our attention with violence. The Nietzsche admirer turns to defiance and the attempt to destroy all authority so that violence seems justified on both sides. In this story we are constantly reminded of the innocents who are drawn into danger. In fact, Nietzche himself broke down in the end, unable to achieve the kind of peace that comes from simple existence.
I’ve never studied this man but there’s a ton of info on Wikipedia, which is run by males who admire the idea of the Ubermensch and enact it in a mild way by running the website which pretends it is written by others.
The idea I follow is in part the recovery of embodiment as a source of thought as researched by the scientists of neurology and as recorded in my own life. When I describe making love in the sweetgrass and beebalm along a rez creek while the horses graze nearby, it’s not just a memory. It’s a source for which I am grateful. But I’m also grateful now as an old woman napping in the slanted afternoon sun with a cat warming my lap, half in and half out of awareness so that memories echo what I think I’m reading .
My reading chair is between two floor-to-ceiling bookcases stuffed with all kinds of books. I’m saving Paul Ricoeur in case I ever figure him out. If the inevitable earthquake happens while I’m dozing or reading there, I’ll be doomed. it’s worth the risk. Living is what we do before death. No need to hurry.