The Book of the Unconscious

When C.G. Jung was in his late 30’s, he passed through what he called his creative illness. During this time, he composed a book concerning the content of his dreams. He mentions this book in his writings, but very few people have ever seen it; after his death, the family locked it in a vault…and so it has been under wraps for nearly 100 years.


However, for whatever reason, they’ve decided to release it to the public! This is the diary of one of the fathers of psychology as he passes through a psychological illness (he realised what an opportunity it was that he was able to observe the process and record it). The book itself is fantastic; it’s bound in red leather (he called it The Red Book) and looks like someone cross-bred Blake and Tolkien.

See a NYT article on the book and its release here or here is another shorter article

Illusions of Humanity

Humans make reality; or, rather, we build our society and psychology based on notions of what reality is or should be. These notions are generally understood to come from individuals; the citizens of a “free” country are the masters of their own destinies. They are capable of making decisions that shape everyday life and the future. Thoreau and Edwards contend the issue is more complex. In Walden, Thoreau proposes these decisions cannot be made freely unless the individual chooses a life and manner of thinking that allows for freedom; a century and a half later in Free to be Human, Edwards questions whether the structure of society and economics allows for intellectual freedom at all.

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I’m re-reading Thoreau’s Walden for my course; he describes how young insects tend to eat more than their adult counterparts then goes on to make a comparison:
bq. The gross feeder is a man in the larva state; and there are whole nations in that condition, nations without fancy or imagination, whose vast abdomens betray them.

Reading Walden is a delight (though I had forgotten how Mr. Thoreau tends to ramble. Still, a delightful ramble). I’ve wondered how things would be different had people actually taken his words to heart or, were he writing today, what his advice would be per the situation we are in.

But, those thoughts are moot. I somehow doubt we are any better equipped to hear such words today than a century and a half ago. It is not the time or society that squelches wisdom—it’s the deafness of our own nature.

My hope is that some larva do become butterflies.

Quote of the Day–Freire

I’m reading Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed for my core course in the MSc. It’s brilliant; however, the translation reads like someone absorbed a bunch of Marxist literature and decided that the key component for successful writing is plenty of verbiage. For instance:

In general, a dominated consciousness which has not yet perceived a limit-situation in its totality apprehends only its epiphenomena and transfers to the latter the inhibiting force which is the property of the limit situation.

Why do people feel compelled to write this way? I can understand what it means (after a bit of parsing); however, the major theme of this book is collaborative work with the masses of people who are dispossessed and have little access to “traditional” education. What good are these thoughts of they are only accessible to people who have a high level of literacy? (I realise this argument is moot as Freire’s works have definitely proved themselves over the past 30 years; perhaps I should learn Portuguese and read the original texts.)

Fast Food Nation II

I saw the film version of Fast Food Nation last night (with a Czech audience of about 10). It was patently disappointing; after reading the book, I felt informed and indignant. After watching the film, I felt utterly bored (actually, boredom set in about 30 minutes into the experience). The film just didn’t bring out the strong messages of the book. Structurally, it opened up multiple storylines without satisfying resolution; also, for a topic that was covered so comprehensively in the book, the film felt very confined and contained. It was as if we were trying to view Australia looking down from two meters off the ground.
I thought Linkletter’s Waking Life was excellent; however, A Scanner Darkly was lacklustre and this third film was just forgettable. All three films consisted of people standing or sitting around talking. Which, for Waking Life worked perfectly; in Fast Food Nation it felt like a parody of old PBS documentaries (it would have been a much better use of resources if he had made a documentary that had the liberty of traversing more time and space). The dialogue was forced out upon the audience in a very “we have something important to say so let’s just have everyone exposit as much as possible” fashion. Especially bothersome was the cliché student activist group!

This was an important topic that should be opened up to public debate; however, mediocre elitist drama is not the way to accomplish any such goal. I would imagine many audiences were drawn to the film from the trailer (which erroneously leads one to believe the film is a comedy), then forced to sit through a ponderous two hour exposition on what’s wrong with everything. This, I would imagine, has not endeared many people to the cause.

(I thought it ironic though that the film was set in Cody, Wyoming. This was were I first had food poisoning.)

Fast Food Nation

The first time I had food poisoning was from a hamburger in Cody, Wyoming. It was not pleasant; I ended up hospitalised. I do not know what circumstances contributed to that particular instance. Was it improper washing of a dish; mishandling of the ingredients during preparation; bad meat from the wholesaler; improper packing or slaughtering? From my plate (it was a plate; we ate in a “family-style” restaurant) to the beast that provided the raw material, there is a line of potential mishap. At one time, during the middle part of the 20th century, the instance of mishap was abated by government regulation and the fact that most of the meatpacking industry consisted of well paid, unionised, career meatpackers. This is no longer the case.

I have just finished reading Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation: What the All-American Meal is Doing to the World. It is a thoroughly researched account of the history, marketing, employment practices, safety issues (both the food itself and the people working with it), economic ramifications (from the “farm” to the counter), and worldwide reach of the fast food industry.

I’ll not rattle off statistics here; however, it’s enough to say that a particular fast food restaurant’s logo is now more widely recognised worldwide than the Christian cross. Its mascot is more trusted by children than many other given authorities. It is the largest purchaser of beef and potatoes in the United States and one of the largest employers. With this power, it has vast influence over agricultural practice and government policy concerning wages and the environment.

The book is a bizarre and, at times, harrowing account of what goes on behind the facade of happiness promoted by the fast food giants (after reading once chapter in particular, I broke down into tears). This is a truly unpleasant book to read (certainly not for the weak stomached). It is not a tirade against any particular company or industry. If anything, it is somewhat sympathetic to men who were the original pioneers of this phenomenon; they were living out the opportunity of the American Dream. What is does do is trace the results of dreams when compounded with massive amounts of money and the unchecked openness of American society to allow corporate growth (and the self-regulation of these corporations).

I have had food poisoning several times since that first incident in Wyoming; this is to be expected, I’ve travelled all over the world to some fairly dodgy places. However, the dodgy places are not where I’ve been poisoned. Except for one instance, it’s all been in the States. After reading this book, I’ve a better understanding of why that may be.