Saturday, September 17, 2011

From Albert Szent-Gyorgi, The Discoverer Of Vitamin C, To The Politics Of Home

Walking in Buda with my new friend the retired translator, talking about the peculiar nature of the Hungarian language and Hungarian thinking, we get to Szondi. A contemporary of Albert Szent-Gyorgi, the discoverer of vitamin C, Szondi was known for his idea that personality disorder was a family inheritance. You felt at home with people who looked like you, you couldn't help it. So he'd show you photos of crazy people, and when you said which you liked and which you didn't, he'd tell you how crazy you were.

I wonder how crazy I am, in the company of this man from another world who says he spent his whole life working. I am someone who almost can say the opposite. Many of these places we're passing on our long walk I haven't seen for years, are places where I said hello or good-by to my friends whose friendship went nowhere. Nothing went anywhere in my life. But does that mean I am crazy? I counter-attack: Show me the picture of Szondi, and I wouldn't like it! His theory is just more myth-making politics pretending to be science. I go on:

- I was thinking over an idea while I was waiting for you at the three benches. I called it my theory of democratic love. This was supposed to describe the last weeks I spent with my wife. I was accustomed to having no pattern in my life, letting it go where it would. And I found this wife who fit right in. There was no pattern, nothing got accomplished. She was like a politician, I decided, who sold one myth or another, to people who didn't pay attention to any facts of political life. They don't pay any attention because in this phase of modern democracy the practical aspect of government, protecting everyone from everyone else's violence, is confused with the requirements of society. Their politics is identical to their psychology: it has its origin in obscure and entirely private drives, desires, forces.

The people, if we look at them as private scientists, we don't have any data on, don't observe how they act with each other; the individual "forces" or drives that motivate them don't communicate with those of other people. Without this data, individuals cannot evaluate competing political theories. Politicians sell them one myth or another, typical stories of how life should be, that appeal to individual drives, independence, cooperation, work, etc. Once in office, politicians, likewise unable to communicate psychologically with the people who elected them, serve their own drives, usually for money and power.

With my wife it seemed like I never knew even the basic truths of what was happening, where I was going to live, what she really thought about me, about her future, our future. The result was that like an ignorant democratic I stumbled from one myth of our future to another, one dream to another. This had its romantic side. With all the different theories I had to live with, I wasn't a democrat, I was an entire democracy!

- In a way, I agree with you. Psychology hasn't been able to get beyond the 5000 year old three part division of our selves - the soul, the spirit, the body - from the Egyptians to present time, to either prove it wrong or improve on it.
- I think that is because it works well enough. I have used it myself.
- Can you say then what spirit is?
- Yes, that's easy. It is the sense of home, it is the drive, desire, motive to get back home when you have gone or been driven away. Home is an intermediary between mind and body. It is, you could say, the body of the mind, the place in the world the mind knows, and that place becoming like another body. Like the body has be maintained, so does the body of the mind. We like to get back home. Our present politics is politics of the body, when it should be politics of home.
- I've never heard anything like that.
- The idea has its home in the stories I wrote*, I've told you about them.
- Yes, I haven't had time to get to it yet.
- Anyway, the idea I was working on this morning was that absent the third part, the spirited part, the part of the soul that give us the idea of home, our democracies become plutocracies, government by the wealthy. Psychology is of forces, of work, doing things, yet politics is about the good life, which involves also feeling good. The third part includes this in the observation, makes it part of the facts which we use to judge the theories that politicians sell us to get their jobs. How we live together as a society is another kind of home.

The thing about living with my wife: I couldn't help the idea coming to mind that she was in fact doing what politicians do, selling me myths but pursuing her own desires, money and power. And it disgusted me finally, terrified me even. In other words, it destroyed my sense of home, and the third part told me: go. So that is what I did.

Whether I was a victim of my own theorizing I don't know. I guess that's what I have to think about next.

* My Wife Who Throws Me Out (An Essay On Home)
Eve (An Essay On Spirit)