Last day in Appalachia

Last day in Appalachia. Mountain birds, tall grasses, more horses.

Sing something, will you? Sing of a feather clinging to a window? Of the nights spent tossing words into the fire? Of the mornings spent meditating in calm? Of two young deer headed, in late spring, up the driveway?

Looking young and perplexed, the pair stood and looked around; estranged, amazed, regaining their bearings, they headed down the hillside.

We follow them until the woods get thick and then, on our own, go down as the mountain waters flow down to its source.

The water flows from its source and returns to its source and is changed along its course.

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Marx’s error and our own

Final days in Appalachia. Reminder of Marx’s error, of ours since Francis Bacon.

Tao Te Ching 29 (Feng and English translation): ‘Do you think you can conquer the universe and improve it? / I do not believe this can be done.’ The second stanza unearths the source of our error. ‘The universe is sacred. / You cannot improve it. / If you try to change it, you will ruin it. / If you try to hold on to it, you will lose it.’ Sacred, in a deflationary sense, meaning: be gentle, follow along.

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A felicitous realization about recurrence and impermanence

Final days in Appalachia. A felicitous realization. So long as we live, each day will recur, varying only slightly from the last. We will work and rest, eat and sleep, think and speak. We will incline or be supine; sit down or get up; touch or be touched; be around others or be alone. As Plato knew and as Beckett showed us, sometimes the order of these basic human categories will change and sometimes the order will not change. When they do not change, rituals will spring forth. Mostly, though, each day will recur, until it does not, varying only slightly from the last or from our last.

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Talitha Stevenson’s ‘Mind field’: A synoptic review of DSM-5

‘Mind Field,’ a short review published in the Financial Times on May 24, 2013, seems to me the most succinct, insightful review of Diagnostic Statistical Manual-5 to date. In well under 1000 words, Talitha Stevenson points out the limitations of DSM. My summary of her points runs as follows:

1. That the DSM seeks to make a firm, clean distinction between ‘normal’ and ‘disordered’ behavior (a criterial conundrum);

2. That it multiplies unduly the number of categories to the point of absurdity (an epistemic conundrum);

3. That it has successfully transformed a set of tools or constructs–themselves dubious–into pseudo-scientific claims (a conundrum about the scope of an object domain);

4. That, over time, the theory of chemical imbalances has come to seem self-evidently true; (an evidentiary conundrum)

5. That there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that drug therapy is anymore effective than placebos in the treatment of depression (which begs the question about the hegemony of drug therapy);

6. That the pharmaceutical industry has gained too much power over our mental lives (a question of power);

7. And that it fails to grasp the fact that human beings, in virtue of being the complex creatures we are, would feel grief over the loss of a beloved (a conundrum concerning the excised ‘bereavement exclusion’).

Stevenson concludes,

The most curious aspect of the status quo in psychiatry, though, is how a scientific-looking manual put out by a small organisation with no public accountability has come to be viewed with such reverence. Not for nothing is the DSM known as “the psychiatric bible”. Perhaps its bullet-pointed diagnoses do satisfy a religious need, the old existential ache for reassurance that “even the hairs of your head are all counted” and there’s no reason to be afraid.

Becoming radiant is hard, being radiant is easy

You write that ‘radiance is virtue manifested in the keys of natural eloquence, graceful action, and a gentle demeanor…’ So, does radiance consist of three different things that, once combined, make up a whole, or are these three names for the same thing? 

The latter. Radiance is not a part:whole relationship (fingers:hand) or an arithmetic relationship (1 + 1 + … + = n). Radiance is the same thing manifesting itself fully in three different ways.

When the radiant person acts (or rests), he acts (or rests) in the right sort of way. When he speaks (or is silent), he speaks (or is silent) in the right sort of way. When he demeans, he demeans in the right sort of way. The last is concerned with the kind of presence he conveys. It may be that his absence (or ultimate absence) also leaves others uplifted, as if he were still present in the right sort of way.

Being radiant is hard, then?

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