“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Shame Less

I've written before about OOO and melancholia (my black metal shipmates coined the term melancology, brilliant). But some more reflection on shame, favorite affect of those seeking to think community, inspired me to post this.

Sure Levinas, Derrida and a host of others including restoration ecologist William Jordan, and some in queer theory, to name a few, rate shame.

But if we're going to get phenomenological--I don't see how we can't when we talk about affect--and even Derrida gets
phenomenological when he talks about shame--then I reckon we should trust some of the pioneers of introspection, the contemplatives of this world.

They tend--and I'm drawing the net widely here around the likes of Rumi, John of the Cross and Milarepa, Julian of Norwich and Machig Labdron--to see shame as a hard kernel, yes. But there is more. Open up the kernel and you find sadness, a far less dualistic state of mind.

Shame depends on my picture of your picture of me. Sure it's intense. So intense that most intellectuals take it for an affective atom, uncuttable. It also has the advantage of not being guilt, which sounds too theistic (nay Abrahamic) for most
intellectual tastes.

But sadness only requires mirror neurons. And 1+n coexistents. Put another way, You want basic? My two year old son still has no shame (quite right too). But he has sadness aplenty.

Why does simple reasoning about early mind states not happen with the shame fans? Is it perhaps because shame is a little bit meta--it appeals to our intellectuality, in a slightly S&M-y way? Watching yourself watching yourself...

Sorry Tarkovsky, shame is not the emotion that will save mankind (Solaris). If you want an eco affect, you need sadness.


Unknown said...

So is shame a sort of narcissistic voyeurism?

Timothy Morton said...

I'm not sure. I think I'd rather not pathologize it--in some ways narcissism has been assaulted too much these days. I think the problem is not so much that it's narcissistic, but that it's narcissistically wounding. It's interfacing with an already-formed ego structure. Sadness is more basic.

Unknown said...

would you please explain what is S&M-y way?
Thank U

Timothy Morton said...

enjoying the intensity of pain while not enjoying it: seeing oneself at a distance experiencing intensity