Monday, March 7, 2016

“how goes it”: heartbreak

part 1: how it goes

It’s heartbreaking. “It” is heartbreaking. Yet, whatever it is, no one wants to be heartbroken. Yet, we read about what’s allegedly heartbreaking. One—“one”—reads, thanks to empathic interest. We feel a bond to others, someone whom an author notes or stories, journals, reports, or narrates.

Of course, empathy with heartbreak is less than being the heartbroken person read about. Empathy with heartbreak isn’t itself the heartbreak evincing one’s saddened condolences. Indeed, the depth of heartbreak may be kept to oneself. “I keep the pain to myself.” “I live with what feels to be beyond words.” Yet, here are words: “He was broken.” Yet, he resolved to live, to go on, “to go on,” as best he could—which is to make the “best” of it: turning heartbreak into chances to give others insight. For example, how to live with cancerous certainty of few months to live; how to be well, to be well after inestimable loss.

“How goes it” without the question mark is presumably a way of entitling how it goes. How things go, how matters go, how the times go. “In these times,” he sought to say how “it” goes, whatever.

Horrors of war, what is to be said? “What can be said?” is the look of one who survives or hides PTSD, who pretends that there is none, if only because displayed distress scares one’s children; or confuses a loved one’s love, as if words must be found to conceal what they can't understand.

A teacher sees potential that her student “fails” to feel, and the teacher fails to evince the confidence to thrive whose incipience is nightly undone at home. A pastoral caregiver sees hope that his congregant doesn’t see. A therapist faces the loss of a “client,” a self who needed too much more than an invisible love of therapeutic distance, no matter the strength of sessional alliance. Mourning at heart is so beyond being seen to mourn.

So, articulation is compensation. We can only endeavor, as best we can, to teach, counsel, or heal the lifeworld holism that cultivates and sustains confidence, hope, and persistence.

This is how it goes. And that includes articulating the distorting and distorted world that undermines confidence, hope, and persistence. It’s part of teaching prevention, learning, and healing: Know “your” dis-ease, enown it, as well as enowning your ownmost potential for being well.

part 2: how it goes with feeling

Heartbreak is an odd notion, obviously about a holism of feeling: deep sorrow, even crushing grief. Yet, a range of feelings are regarded as synonymous (M-W Unabridged Dictionary online), but hardly seem so: Sorriness is much less than heartbreak. Anguish is more and different from sorriness, and heartbreak has a mournful aura that anguish seems to lack. Affliction is more than anguish, but lacks the mournfulness of heartache. Woe lacks the mournfulness of grief, and mere grief in the wake of heartbreak is less acute than deep sorrow.

So, what’s the family resemblance of all that is vaguely synonymical belonging together in the same family of feeling? It’s absurd to say that the family is cognitive or that the relationality with one’s immanent worldtime (as days go by), integral to each, in famility together as feeling, is negative affect. Both “cognitivity” and “affect” conceal the manifold aura of feeling, which is intimately conative or expressive of self identical intentionality, Self of deep, wide feeling.

And this relativity is beyond linguistic, otherwise as if the words we have constrain us, but they do not—otherwise as if we might capture mentality linguistically. The scale of feeling implies horizons of one’s life and world, and one’s time of life—life’s time—transcends any defined sense of world.

part 3: how it goes in fat city

Consider, exemplarily for my purpose now, obesity, which is a complex psycho-metabolic condition. When I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in years, I was stunned by the degree of obesity which was not an apparent risk years ago. What happened? The sight was heartbreaking. But I had to pretend with her that nothing was really wrong. We don’t talk about it. (She alludes to her “weight” like one alludes to a minor problem—living in denial, apparently.) And I feel compelled to sustain a persona that is comfortable for her while I’m feeling desperate to understand the “elephant in the room” (no sarcasm intended) and talk about it. But I’m not her physician.

I have an “awful” attitude I keep private that relates to openness, such that I fantasize happening across an obese stranger and asking, matter-of-factly, “Why are you so fat?” The person would likely flash irately “None of your business!,” and I fantasize replying “And evidently none of yours either.” In fact, being overweight is a walking archive of dissociativeness slowly accumulating over years. It’s a mental health issue in a world where enowning mental disability can be considered degrading. Depression is a secret world of heartbreak and medication with bad “food.” And the food is what “we” eat, as marketing drives home to one, day after day after day. One’s diet (and lack of exercise, incompetent stress management, unstable sleep patterns, lack of love, etc.) is the way of one’s world: “We” bond with others through occasions of eating. “We” meet to eat, and eat to meet, such that the ecosphere of one’s life is enmeshed with maximal occasions to eat, to meet, and to medicate through each other as much as pressed time allows.

And so on. The critical folklore on obesity and diet-and-exercise feeds an industry, such that the latest medication for Type 2 Diabetes is marketed in dramatic ads of people doing everything they always did because now they have medication. Antacid “dramas” show people enjoying outrageously bad food (high in fat, salt, sugar, and spices) because they have the antacid. A new late-stage lung cancer medication ad heralds (in lights on the side of a building, with people on the street gawking happily at the message like tourists at a spectacle) a “great medical breakthrough” which extends the lives of those in late-stage cancer “40%” longer (though happy talk and fast-moving visuals aim to keep one’s attention away from mandated fine print at the bottom of the screen indicating that the 40% is relative to a chemotherapy that only extends late-stage cancer 6 months while the “great breakthrough” extends life 9+ months); and the happy talk quickly lists all the death-accelerating risks (amid cheerful music and visuals). “Talk to your doctor” is Big Pharma’s pornographic advice, because the surreality of mixed messaging is exactly confusing: barely legal, but expensively marketed. The tobacco industry fights for their “right” to push carcinogens, and Big Pharma gains customers for high-end meds that are as dangerous as they may be palliative. (A fee-for-service physician friend who was unaware of my cynicism—and specializes in obesity treatment—said in an e-mail that his colleagues joke to the effect: "Keep up the obesity, diabetes, and heart failure. We need the business!" And time for golf.)

So, to some sensibilities, consumer humanity can seem to be a chronic disease, an endless tragedy of the commons. But also not, because, after all, life is complex, anecdotal handwringing has no litigious merit, the “reality” isn’t quantifiable (what are the critical variables?), and time is like the river, as capturable as discrete feeling.

So it goes.

part 4: how the “language” of being is beyond linguistic

A philosopher might deeply lament failures of culture, education, parenting, community, government, etc. Where is the origin of heartbreak? How deep in time can one go to find the genealogy of heartbreak?

Being alive may be profoundly less about the conceptuality of an era than about the capabilities of so many lives unwittingly incurring cultural costs and “spiritual” costs, let alone economic costs, that are aggregately epochal, historical in weightiness (re: statistical portraits of quality of life). The demographic tsunami across the planet of human development displaces poverty with obesity (which is China’s “growing” issue—as it strives to turn its economic ship from export-driven growth to high growth through domestic consumption).

My improvised discussion of obesity doesn’t mean to imply that I blame the obese person for their condition. Nonetheless, many obese persons seem unusually occupied with talking about recipes, shopping for surplus food, frequenting big-portion restaurants, etc.

So, where’s the liminality in the truth of being between the life (lived) and the world (acknowledged)?

[That's got to seem like a non sequitur. But I'm thinking about the phrase "truth of being" in a recent philosophical article on Heidegger which I've linked to in a discussion of that article. And I'm thinking about how to portray the attitudes that are relevant for shaping a critique of ideology, which Heidegger was doing privately:]

Where’s the liminality between articulating an ethos and subscribing to it? Doesn’t the linguistic difference between use and mention (articulating in quote marks) matter? If I do ethnography, am I subscribing to the journalistic report? What’s the basis of a painting if the painter doesn’t sketch the scene? Is she subscribing to a given sketch simply because she made it? What is there to stand back from, for the sake of moving on better, if there’s nothing standing? Liminality (being in being) of mind may be—be?—existential, clinical, linguistic, representational, artistic, whatever—ever what?

Then there’s translation from one language to another. Textuality becomes uncanny. “Worse” yet, one person speaking to another is translation of one’s own understanding for an accessible moment, as if the speaker/writer role is essentially translation, i.e., a hermeneutical condition is integral to there being any articulation at all.

Words are so slippery that they’re commonly mere waving of one’s oral hands: cliché, euphemism, self-concealing, understatement, resonance, aura, nebula. One can be all that because being is beyond linguisticality. I can quote myself thanks to enstantiation. Authoriality impersonates an authorship across works (Heidegger plays “Heidegger,” like Kierkegaard playing two versions of a Johannes—or Nabokov playing Ada). Then there is the omniscient narrator, playing a god to other’s secret feelings. Or the anonymous voice of discourse, pretending to ontic clarity: one says, they say, how it goes.