16 March 2018

Adorno and snow

How innocently we thought that this was it, winter was well on its way to outer Lapland or wherever. Little did we know. The wind has turned yet again from west to east and rain is slowly looking like snow.

This winter has done something to me, I can't put my finger on it yet. But I feel I've crossed into a new terrain, a sense a resignation. I couldn't tell what it is that I've lost but I feel it. The loss, a gap, like taking a breath and not getting any fresh air, just standing there waiting for it.

My immunologist called me four times in as many days with instructions and results from our last appointment. Because. The treatment of shitty-diseases-that-will-not-go-away follows protocol. And I tend to question some most aspects of it. As in: why should I have to take a prophylactic antibiotic that is contraindicated for people - such as myself - with a known history of gut inflammation? And being the good doctor she is, she assures me that this will be discussed with the experts and in the meantime, I better not take it. So we go back and forth in our merry ways.
This morning I almost asked her, what do you really want to tell me, but of course that was all in my mind. After a night of dramamine-induced swirling in space, I tend to be a tad otherworldly.

Anyway. Spring. Can't get its act together yet. So I am stuck with winter thoughts. And I was reading Colette's post about visiting a psychic and briefly, I encouraged various ideas of the metaphysical and the spiritual and the religious world.

I was raised by atheists and in my teens, experienced a short-lived infatuation with baptists, the benign European variety. After a few months, it got too tedious, no heavenly father ever spoke to me and getting up early every Sunday lost its appeal. Also, my parents took no notice at all, which somewhat dampened my enthusiasm. But I still know most of the songs!

My secondary education was heavy on philosophy, ancient philosophy, Plato's cave allegory and so on. I was not too keen, at age 15, my mind was on other things. But I went through the motions and yes, it does something to you. The concept  of a rational mind, reality and illusions. And before you know it, religion becomes something irrational, fed on myths, unconsciously experienced 'certainties', read tea leaves.

After a while longer, this happened:
I realised that there is no god. And not because my father always said so. And it got worse. I realised that the belief in a person-like god tempts us hand over our responsibility for our life and our world to some imaginary institution beyond our understanding. In other words: a cop out.

But there is something I would - for lack of words right now - call the god-like principle, the good that is incarnate in humans. (And in turn, there is no devil, no hell, only bad deeds done by humans.)
I admit that we cannot exclude metaphysics. It's actually exciting. I adore the thought that that there is something beyond our limited concept of reason, our rational and careful experiences. If we need to call it anything (yet I think we maybe should not have to) I suggest something along the lines of "always question yourself".
Because we, and we alone are responsible for this life. That's our terrible freedom. I can understand that this can be unbearable for some, at times I wish I could cop out, too.

Once we had regurgitated the classic philosophers for seemingly ever, we jumped to the critical theorists and Adorno in particular. I may have missed out some stage in between, I was often extremely tired in class for obvious reasons. But I managed to stay awake for an entire term dedicated to watching and discussing the replay of a seemingly ancient televised debate (1965) between Adorno and one of his adversaries (Gehlen) on the nature of human suffering and human violence. First they go back and forth for ages defining this and that in their clever words - the language and terminology of philosophers and sociologists is out there with Finnish or Hungarian (no offence), i.e. quite impossible to grasp.

 And at some stage half way through, Adorno said this:

I have a particular conception of objective happiness and objective despair, and I would say that, for as long as people have problems taken away from them, for as long as they are not expected to take on full responsibility and self-determination, their welfare and happiness in this world will merely be an illusion. And will be  an illusion that will one day burst. And when it bursts, it will have dreadful consequences.

And that's my credo, has been ever since.


37paddington said...

I believe in love. And I know what you mean about winter, and resignation. But perhaps spring will bring something else, a renewal, more energy and light. I hope this for us both.

A said...

The Adorno quote certainly packs a punch. Pretty bracing.

liv said...

Our terrible freedom. Yes.
To embrace and lament all at the same time.

Ms. Moon said...

One of my absolute favorite songs ever written. What a beautiful rendition of it.
Oh, Sabine. I wish for you all that science and nature can provide. I would wish that for all of us, but right this second, mostly. for you.

JO said...

Like you, I reject the construct of a god. Which means I have to work out an ethical code for myself. It goes something like this: if I help the next person who needs it, he or she is more likely to be kind to the next person they see ... and the world is basically a better place for people being nice to each other.
It’s not complicated, but it works for me.

Colette said...

I love that quote, Sabine. That is something I can believe in.

Roderick Robinson said...

I'm with Adorno (and you) there. Responsibility for oneself as well as for others had a smoothing effect on our lives; it identifies what is important, as opposed to what is speculative, and over time brings a sort of warmth which we ourselves may dimly recognise but are not tempted to discuss. An inner strength perhaps. Self-determination promotes the idea that we are in the end alone and more or less in charge of our moral destiny. Wherever possible we must test things (especially ourself) and - ideally (it's not always possible) - articulate them. Turning the vagueness of our thought-out ideas into written-out words brings it own special benefits. Thanks on my behalf for staying awake during that one.

ellen abbott said...

I wasn't raised atheist but I rejected christian theology in my early 20s, entertained judaism for a few years because of their focus on doing good in this life but eventually left that behind as well. still the big daddy in the sky with all its attendant rules. spent many years reading about the origins and evolution of religion. read about mysticism, new-age, theosophy, reincarnation, cosmic consciousness. still don't consider myself atheist but I don't think we can possibly comprehend the source or the 'all that is' any more than a cell of our bodies can comprehend us. we exist, life exists and I believe everything is conscious. there is no intervening deity and our lives are what we make of them...good, bad, indifferent. humans are capable of the worst and the best. there are no absolutes.

it is fully spring here though the past tells us we could have a deep freeze even this month. it was a long wet overcast dreary winter though not so long as yours. so sorry you suffer from autoimmune disease. did we humans create this with our adulteration of the food supply and our pouring poisons in the air and water?

My life so far said...

I don't believe in a Judaeo-Christian version of god but I do believe that the divine does exist. Nor do I believe that the divine would require a gender. The divine is love I think. Both the love that exists within us and the love that exists in the universe. I also believe that this human journey is only a small part of the journey of our souls. And who knows? Maybe we're all right, maybe we're all wrong. It makes no difference. We will all die and none of us knows what will happen beyond the grave. But it brings me comfort to know that love exists.

Sabine said...

No, autoimmune diseases have been around before pollution and fast food, people just died early of unknown causes.

Now with various treatment options, we just live longer and occasionally quite well.

Causes are still speculated but genetic research has identified several congenital predispositions, which when triggered by bacterial or viral infections or certain drugs (antibiotics) can cause a 'software' error in the immune system.

In my case, I cut my foot while hill walking in Turkey, followed by septicemia and penicillin treatment, which in turn triggered my genetic predisposition and so on.

It was a fabulous walk, though.

am said...

More than usual, I am moved by this particular post of yours. I love that song. I love what everyone wrote.

"To each his ("their" would be my translation) own, it's all unknown." (Bob Dylan).

Your topic of beliefs stopped me dead and then I couldn't stop thinking about it until now. God is a topic that John Lennon gave much thought to:


After the song, he says, "I'm prepared for death because I don't believe in it ..."

Searching my heart in the last few days since I first read your post, it seems that I don't have beliefs that are metaphysical, spiritual or religious -- or even non-metaphysical, non-spiritual or non-religious, for that matter. Belief isn't a word I find useful. Instead of saying "I believe ____," I say to myself, "I have experienced ____," and I have experienced what I understand as God's love in the company of babies and the ocean and redwood trees and friends, among many other experiences. I don't expect my problems to be taken away by someone or something else, and I take full responsibility for my self-determination, and I have experienced that I am not alone in that experience.

There are some things I have gathered from the experiences of my life and I realized that they are in the sidebar of my blog, including quotes from Vincent van Gogh, Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin Buber, Robinson Jeffers, Alfred Molano, Warren Zevon and John Muir.

Sending love to you, as always. This has been a long winter and has taken its toll. Still, my flowering quince is flowering on my porch, and the Amaryllis on the table next to desk where I am writing will be blooming soon, as will the garden you and R have nurtured with such love.

"Oh no, I've said too much" (-:

Anonymous said...

I wish our species hadn't made up the stories about gods. I think about this so often. I often wonder what we humans would be like if we hadn't constructed such myths so powerful that we would kill and die for. I was raised in a non-religious Jewish household. My father was an atheist. It helped us to look more closely at our humanity to find a source of inspiration. We are a speck of dust in the universe, and I cannot tell you how much comfort I take in that fact. I would love to sit with you someday and laugh mightily about it all. Take care, Sabine.

Anonymous said...

A great quote there from Adorno! I found myself getting excited about philosophy not so long ago when Sarah Bakewell's book, At the Existentialist Cafe came out. It really encouraged me to think about philosophy. It's got me reading Sartre and I want to read de Beavoir. It got me interested in phenomenology, too.