[-empyre-] of pain and others

Jonathan Marshall Jonathan.Marshall at uts.edu.au
Mon Oct 29 09:32:18 EST 2012

Let us be clear that i am not attempting to denigrate anyone's pain, or say it is not valid, or say that it is not worth expressing, or say that i understand it.

All i'm trying to do here is suggest that pain, misery depression etc are not the only inexpressable states of being

>No emotion can be perfectly expressed, but unutterable pain or death can't
>be expressed at all it's different - it's why there are tests, as long as
>one can answer them.

My point (and examples) where to suggest that other states also cannot be expressed.

and while we are at it, lets not forget zen.... which is always precisely about the non-expressable and the hope that the 'art' and practice can induce that realisation of something else.

>> What i would say is that maybe i've had experiences of sheer joy a
>> couple of times in my late teens early twenties. The amount of art i
>> have experienced, which can help recall those experiences, or sustain
>> them is miniscule when compared to the amount of art which can sustain
>> or induce the sense of depression, meaninglessness, pain, pointlessness,
>> negation etc. (especially post mid 19th Century art)

>Again, this is taste; I can name any number of artists who give me joy
>from that period. There's no verification procedure here; even someone
>like Rimbaud can be read as ecstatic or depressive.

i did not mean to write 'all'....  so the example does not negate what seems to be to be a trend - when compared to other times and places.

Personally i think that the denigration of the comedic/joyous/ecstatic probably began during the reformation period - let's blame the calvinists :)
but others might date it earlier

>> So my conclusion would be that it is far easier (or considered
>> important) to 'do' art around pain (in our world anyway).

>Bad sociology! First you're using your reactions to the work and then
>making a sociological generalization from them. 

If i cannot use my own reactions to art to write about those reactions and about art, are those reactions being defined as illegitimate? 
what else do we generalise from?

And again you are also reading an all statement which is I'm not trying to make.

>> That it is not to say that it is easy to do art that maintains empathy
>> or overcomes state barriers or exclusions etc (which is a different
>> issue). That i think is very hard (and very worth attempting) and is why
>> songs with the potential to raise pity and self questioning are roughly
>> banned. There is perhaps no other defense - but the banning *can* add to
>> the potency, because it may make us listen harder to find what led to
>> the banning.
>Confused - other than that Israeli song, I can't think of any that were
>banned. Even pop stuff, listen to Morrissey or the old U2 - none of this
>stuff was banned.

I believe that there were many attempts to ban songs during the arab spring, there were many banned songs during the French Revolution. According to a story I was told once, in the in early stages of the American war of independence whistling 'yankee doodle' was considered insubordination....

but the 'song' aspect is more or less irrelevant; the point is that art that depicts the enemy as human, or as worthy of empathy tends to have a difficult official life.

Again does every song have to be banned before we can talk about the logic of  banning art, or of attempts to repress of empathy?

And are we really suprised that Morrissey and U2 were not banned in the US?

>> But quite frankly, how do i 'know' what anyone means, or is attempting
>> to convey?
>You don't which is why one take on language from AI is that it's the
>"mutual orientation of cognitive domains" which doesn't mean they're
>mappable or convey the same.

Indeed, I take it seriously - nothing has to map, or convey the same.
everything is potentially inexpressible to someone and by someone.

>> Perhaps the more complex the statement, or the art, the more this is the
>> case. And indeed the more 'real' the art, the more it seems like it
>> stands on its own , being so rich in what it can provoke/say

>Again, I don't understand your aesthetics; I don't know what "the more
>'real' the art" means at all, what it means for art to stand on its own,
>etc. etc.; to quote badly Foucault, art is a discursive formation.

I'm not so sure i would reduce all art in that kind of way. 

Or insist on people having a aesthetic theory to be able to talk about art (that is really making art a discursive formation!)

After all the conversation then becomes fruitless - to make pain more of a problem for art because it is inexpressible is a discurisive formation, indeed it could be simply to say that we  cannot deal with pain, and pain only, within a particular discursive formation, and then universalise it and valorise it to make it a 'fact of life'. 

For me, if (for someone or other) art is does not make something 'real' in any way at all (perhaps fictively-imaginally as i have been saying), or if it does not open something, or convey something, then it is a bit pointless. 

It is because it does have 'power' that it becomes taken as art - within the language game that states that something is art, as opposed to politics etc.

>> Ultimately i probably don't understand anyone, but at the same time if i
>> work (and art and communication require empathetic work from the
>> audience, even if it is only beforehand), i may gain an inkling.

>Depends what you mean by "understand" - there's no "ultimately" but there
>is consensus enough so that, if I visit you, as I did, and say something,
>we can actually have a conversation.

I'm not sure though that we are writing a conversation? it seems to me that there is largely mis-takes all the way through. gliding past one another - but that is also pain of living online to return to one theme

>> and that is true of anything not 'just' pain. Pain brings the
>> incomprehension to the fore, makes it harder to ignore, but it is always
>> there.

>Argh, again pain is different, as is death. Think for a second,
>incorrectly, of pain as "just this side of death" - maybe that will help.

We might think of ecstacy, or the 'joining with god', as "just this side of death" too, whatever that kind of experience refers to

I cannot dismiss other states of the inexpressable - even if i have no idea of what they might be referring to. 

But I do not mean pain is the same as these other states, or mean to suggest that because other things are inexpressible pain, finality and death are not significant. why else would i write about pain online?

>> However, of course, if we (as a moral decision) may want to act towards
>> the pain of others for alleviation or sympathy or coaction etc, then we
>> may decide those in pain need/require (not the right words, but let
>> communication fail) our attention and work more than those in 'harmless'
>> joy.... but let us not think that joy is easy to express and may not
>> separate.

>I agree with the first part, not the second. Even popularly "Laugh, and
>you laugh with others; cry, and you cry alone." "Joy is contagious."

I'm sorry but i do not think this is true at all

In the theatre pain and misery is contagious as well. 

And in everyday life.... we have contagions of suicide and depression. 

think of the death of princess diana in the UK as a contagious outbreak of people crying together.

i believe it is the case that communities in which people have suffered trauma, can resonate with that trauma, so that children receive it even if their parents were not those traumatised, and this can go on for generations - depending on cultural/social organisation. People constantly suffer together and maintain that suffering (through art and other means - just as art can challenge the displacement of suffering onto that culture's outgroups). 

That is why attempts to relieve suffering can be socially beneficial, can be politically significant.

(to some extent repression of the arousal of empathy is only important because we can suffer together - not suffer the same of course - and we can decide that this suffering is not 'right' or necessary)

>Mirror neurons! Empathy!

is mirroring empathy? does it generate empathy? does moving along with a body in suffering induce a sense of suffering? an interesting question


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