Solitude and Hope: Y'all Come Visit!

Publick and Privat Curiosities: Articles Related to News, Politics, Society, Gay Issues, Psychology, Humor, Music and Videos.

January 31, 2006


Eight Oscar Nominations For ''Brokeback Mountain''

Cowboy romantic bonding, a gay author biopic and the often humorous story of a transsexual woman all captured Oscar nominations Tuesday. "Brokeback Mountain" led the Academy Awards field Tuesday with eight nominations, among them best picture and honors for actor Heath Ledger and director Ang Lee. "We didn't make the film for any kind of political movement, Ledger told the Associated Press following the nomination announcement. " We never expected to change people's minds but if it does affect people's hearts, if perceptions can get altered, that's a good thing."

"Capote", the story of gay author Truman Capote while he was writing his classic "In Cold Blood" was also nominated for best picture along with "Crash," "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Munich."

"Capote" star Philip Seymour Hoffman joined Ledger in a best actor nomination, along with Terrence Howard, "Hustle & Flow"; Joaquin Phoenix, "Walk the Line"; and David Strathairn, "Good Night, and Good Luck." Hoffman has already won a Golden Globe for best actor for "Capote".

Felicity Huffman, who stars as a pre-op transsexual in "Transamerica" was nominated for best actress. Huffman has already won the Golden Globe award for best dramatic actress for "Transamerica". Also receiving nominations in the category are Judi Dench, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"; Keira Knightley, "Pride & Prejudice"; Charlize Theron, "North Country"; and Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line."

Jake Gyllenhaal, who stars with Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain" got a nod in the supporting actor category. Also named were George Clooney, "Syriana"; Matt Dillon, "Crash"; Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"; and William Hurt, "A History of Violence."
Brokeback's Michelle Williams was nominated best supporting actress. She joins Amy Adams, "Junebug"; Catherine Keener, "Capote"; Frances McDormand, "North Country"; and Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener".

For best director it was Ang Lee for "Brokeback Mountain" and Bennett Miller for "Capote". They're competing against Paul Haggis, "Crash"; George Clooney, "Good Night, and Good Luck."; and Steven Spielberg, "Munich." Lee has already picked up best director awards for Brokeback at the Directors Guild and the Golden Globes.

Brokeback, Capote and Munich also received nominations for best adapted screenplays. Nods went to Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana for Brokeback, Dan Futterman for Capote, and to Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, "Munich." Kushner is best remembered for his award winning "Angeles in America". Brokeback also got nominations for best original score.

The Oscar winners will be announced at the March 5th award ceremony in Hollywood.

January 21, 2006


Calm Solitude: III

Returning to my earlier theme of "relaxation and calm," here is the last picture in the series. One might think of it in terms of internal psychological processes. Looking closely, one imagines the interplay between shading or emotional restraint in the foreground (grass or wheat; dark and gray colors) and the emerging press to express/display/share pleasantly fulfilling emotions (the rise of pale blue in the sky).

For me, it captures the sense of calm associated with one's ongoing experiences of dialectical tension between the wish to express or gratify primary wishes and feelings, in juxtaposition, responding to a bidding to control them.

The latter dimension, the wish to constrain primary gratifications, can lead to a sense of satisfying self-confidence, which is derived from feeling sturdy and resilient regarding the ability to control them.

January 18, 2006


Brokeback Mountain Honored With Top Golden Globe Awards

Brokeback Mountain: Between Two Men

The groundbreaking film about long-term loving feelings of attachment between two cowboys took top awards at the 63rd Golden Globes on Monday, a ceremony dealing almost entirely with low-budget, art house films that have not yet broken through to blockbuster-size audiences.

Brokeback Mountain, a poetic film that spans a 20-year private romantic bond between two men, based on the short story by Annie Proulx, won best dramatic film, best director for Ang Lee, best screenplay for Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana and best song.

The film, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as the lovers, has raised the issue of the acceptance of gay relationships on screen and in wider American society. The film has been enthusiastically embraced by critics and within Hollywood....

Accepting his award, Mr. Lee saluted "the power of movies to change the way we're thinking."

In other roles that dealt with gay and gender issues, Felicity Huffman won best actress for her portrayal of a transgendered man in "TransAmerica." And Philip Seymour Hoffman won best actor in a dramatic role for playing Truman Capote, the flamboyantly gay and brazenly ambitious writer, in "Capote."

The awards were a triumph for the many smaller films that dominated this year's nominations for the Globes, which are seen as an important steppingstone to the Oscars. The 84-member Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which presents the Globes, nominated almost no major Hollywood productions for this year's awards, instead singling out an eclectic group of lower budget movies that haven't been widely seen by American audiences.

In addition to the winning Brokeback Mountain, other small films nominated for best drama were Mr. Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck," about the newsman Edward R. Murrow's battle with Senator Joseph R. McCarthy; "A History of Violence," a mobster mystery starring Viggo Mortensen; and "The Constant Gardener," directed by Fernando Meirelles.

In this main category the Foreign Press Association ignored major Hollywood productions like the director Sam Mendes's "Jarhead," Steven Spielberg's "Munich," Ron Howard's "Cinderella Man" and Peter Jackson's "King Kong."

Adapted From:
Sharon Waxman
Copyright: The New York Times
January 16, 2006

January 16, 2006


Calm Solitude: II

An Emotional State of Calm
As mentioned previously, at first I was going to present three pictures related to the sense of "feeling calm." Then I realized that, although of the same emotional genre, the pictures displayed markedly contrasting states of feeling calm.

That earlier discussion was accompanied by a picture reflecting the type of quiet, calm solitude that engenders periods of light reflection. The landscape photograph presented here, on the other hand, conveys a more outwardly expressive, lively, bright and colorfully emotional sense of calm, but still within the overall context of constructive solitude.

As before, I will be extremely pleased if this provides you with a moment, if only just a moment, of restfully peaceful calm, along with feeling of relaxation.


Calm Solitude: Light Reflections

Calm Solitude: Light Reflections
Heck..."the sound and the fury" of the holiday season is behind us, and many are in need of a sense of calm and relaxation. Cognitive behaviorists describe relaxation in terms of a set of "scientific" procedures, such as tensing and then relaxing one's muscles, meditation, breathing exercises and self-hypnotic measures.

In other words, for the behaviorists, the procedure (relaxation) always precedes feelings of release from distress. Avoiding the uncertainty and ambiguity of life, they purport to have laid claim to a scientific truth, specifically that conditioning is the "royal road" to the alleviation of emotional torment.

However, this "truth" can be viewed from other, as good as or possibly even better, perspectives. For example, "There could be certain forms of calm that can be attained without first going through the state of relaxation. Moreover, it may well be that those particular styles of feeling calm at the same time supply the sense of relaxation," (Author, 2006). I'm sure that readers can think of many other rich perspectives regarding the "truth" of behavioral conditioning (i.e., that mechanical procedures are preeminent when compared to human emotional life).

For myself, with regard to the sense of calming relaxation, I prefer the more human process of self-reflection, while interacting with pastoral scenes. The picture above is one example of those images. At first, I was going to present three pictures related to "feeling calm."

Then I realized that, although of the same emotional genre, the pictures displayed markedly contrasting states of feeling calm: (1) a calm solitude engendering periods of light reflection; (2) a lively, bright and colorfully emotional sense of calm; and (3)a sense of calm associated with one's ongoing experiences of dialectical tension between the wish to express or gratify primary wishes and feelings, in juxtaposition, responding to a bidding to control them.

The latter dimension, the wish to constrain primary gratifications, can lead to a sense of satisfying self-confidence, which is derived from feeling sturdy and resilient regarding the ability to control them.

I have written this little piece as tightly as possible (for now), hoping that it would evoke further thought for you. To conclude, I have chosen to share the picture that for me creates an experience that represents a calm sense of solitude, which engenders periods of light reflection. I will be extremely pleased if it provides you with a moment, if only just a moment, of restfully peaceful calm, along with feeling of relaxation.

January 14, 2006




Pablo Neruda: I'm Tired of Being a Man...

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

From this poetic image of total despair, one can only look upward:

"Walking Around"

It so happens I'm tired of being a man.
It so happens I enter clothes shops and theaters,
withered, impenetrable, like a swan made of felt
sailing the water of ashes and origins.

The smell of a hairdresser's has me crying and wailing.
I only want release from being stone or wool.
I only want not to see gardens and businesses,
merchandise, spectacles, lifts.

It so happens I'm tired of my feet and toenails,
my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I'm tired of being a man.

Still it would be a pleasure
to scare a lawyer with a severed lily
or deal death to a nun with a poke in the ear.
It would be good
to go through the streets with an emerald knife
and shout out till I died of cold.

I don't want to go on being just a root in the shadows,
vacillating, extended, shivering with dream,
down in the damp bowels of earth,
absorbing it, thinking it, eating it every day.

I don't want to be so much misfortune,
I don't want to go on as a root or a tomb,
a subterranean tunnel, just a cellar of death,
frozen, dying in pain.

This is why, Monday, the day, is burning like petrol,
when it sees me arrive with my prison features,
and it screeches going by like a scorched tire
and its footsteps tread hot with blood towards night.

And it drives me to certain street corners, certain damp houses,
towards hospitals where skeletons leap from the window,
to certain cobbler's shops stinking of vinegar,
to alleyways awful as abysses.

There are sulphur-coloured birds and repulsive intestines,
hanging from doorways of houses I hate,
there are lost dentures in coffee pots
there are mirrors
that ought to have cried out from horror and shame,
there are umbrellas everywhere, poisons and navels.

I pass by calmly, with eyes and shoes,
with anger, oblivion,
pass by, cross through offices, orthopedic stores,
and yards where clothes hang down from wires:
underpants, towels and shirts weeping
slow guilty tears.

Pablo Neruda

January 10, 2006


The French Quarter: Nostalgia Revived

I'm somehow quite familiar with this historic Vieux Carre' building, but can't place its exact location in the Quarter. Perhaps at one time the downstairs portion served as a bar, small restaurant or local grocery store. Nineteen years ago, the French Quarter corner building shown here served as a setting for the movie Down by Law (1986) starring, among others, Ellen Barkin and Tom Waites. This recent photograph, taken in January 2005, reveals that the building had already slipped into a relatively shabby state of marked disrepair.

This is a picture of the same French Quarter building taken eleven months later (in December 2005), which shows the severe damage inflicted upon it by Hurricane Katrina. If anyone is aware of the location of this building, please enter a comment to let me know.

January 08, 2006


Free Speech: Why Speak Up?

Free Speech
Why is Free Speech so important? Why speak up about things that don't seem to affect you? Perhaps Pastor Martin Neimoller's view, in my revised version of his quote, speaks to that question. He supported the Nazis until he realized, too late, what they were really about and was sent to Dachau concentration camp. He was one of the fortunate to be freed and lived until 1984.

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Social Democrats,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Social Democrat.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Gays,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't Gay.

Then they came for me,
but by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

This version is adapted from original information researched by University of California/Santa Barbara Professor Harold Marcuse.

January 05, 2006


The Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis: A David and Goliath Epic

I made a brief reference to The Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis in the previous discussion. There is a story of the great perseverence demonstrated by CCP that really needs to be told:

The history of the founding and process of growth for The Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis (CCP) is an intriguing and courageous one, with its earlier beginnings traced to a time when the traditional psychoanalytic institutes refused to accept non-M.D. applicants for full clinical training.

CCP was the first free-standing psychoanalytic training institute for psychologists established outside of New York City and Los Angeles. It traces its beginnings to the late 1950s, when a small number of clinical psychologists (all psychotherapists) came together to form a study group for the purpose of deepening their understanding of all aspects of psychoanalysis. This small beginning eventually evolved into what became known as "The Bettelheim Study Group." This was essentially a clinical case seminar devoted to the psychoanalytic process, and it continued in that format until 1972.

The Study Group set a precedent for the Center, seeking out psychoanalytic educators of eminent national reputations, talent, and accomplishments: teachers such as Thomas French, Heinz Kohut, Michael Serota, Ernest Rappoport, and Edoardo Weiss.

With the emergence of the Division of Psychoanalysis within the American Psychological Association in the late 1970s, several psychologists from Chicago were invited to serve on the Steering Committee of the Division. One of the first orders of business at the Committee's meeting in New York City was to focus upon the urgency of meeting the organizational and educational needs of psychologists outside of New York City, Los Angeles, and Topeka (at that time, home of the renowned Menninger Clinic).

Those who attended this historic meeting from Chicago were inspired upon their return to do what they could to further the goals of Division 39. Spearheaded by these people, an organizational effort was begun to create a local chapter of Division 39, which came to be known as the Chicago Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology (CAPP). The local chapter of the Division was thus born, dedicated to the development of psychoanalytic education and practice for psychologists.

A variety of programs within the local chapter soon engaged the energies and interests of various clinical psychologists, most of whom became involved in the Center, active as leaders and officers of the local chapter. Early in its existence, CAPP set up a yearly symposium in Chicago that attracted psychoanalytic educators and clinicians from across the country, such as Roy Schafer, Sidney Blatt, Martin Mayman, Rudolf Ekstein, Bruno Bettelheim, Hedda Bolgar and Sydney Smith for all-day workshops and symposia. These events brought out full-capacity, excited audiences and succeeded in sparking the interest of the mental health community in and around Chicago. Attendees included graduate students, social workers, psychiatrists and many clinical psychologists, both from the academic as well as the private practice communities.

In 1982, it became apparent that a more structured and sophisticated model of training was a necessity if clinical psychologists in Chicago were going to join the broader psychoanalytic community of psychologists, since it already had developed, with a reputation of considerable prestige, in New York City where the majority of Division 39 members were concentrated.

With the advice, consultation and guidance of noted psychologist-psychoanalysts from the Los Angeles Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, the Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis (New York), The Derner Institute at Adelphi University and the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, a committee of CAPP members convened, taking the first steps in setting up a psychoanalytic institute which was eventually to be known as The Chicago Center for Psychoanalytic Psychology (CCPP).

The initial step was the establishment of a small study group consisting of a carefully selected group of CAPP members who met in a series of seminars presented as an introduction to classical readings in psychoanalysis. This was followed in 1983 and 1984 by a series of intensive weekend seminars held for this study group. In 1990 the name of the Center was changed to The Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis, a title more representative of the Center's function.

The CCP faculty has included nationally and internationally renowned psychoanalytic authors and educators. It is arguable that no other analytic training center or institute in the country has ever had a teaching faculty as esteemed as that of the small CCP program. The faculty members have been the leaders of the classical, post-classical and leading-edge, contemporary relational models of psychoanalysis. It is only fair to pay homage to these distinguished faculty members from across America, who came to offer their wisdom to help transform a small group of psychologist "renegades" into what is now one of the most intellectually intense, free-standing psychoanalytic training programs in the United States.

CCP Faculty Members: 1984-2004

Elizabeth Auchincloss, MD
Virginia Barry, MD
Alan Bass, PhD
Jessica Benjamin, PhD
Harris Berenbaum, PhD
Mark Berger, MD
Bruno Bettelheim, PhD
Dale Boesky, MD
Hedda Bolgar, PhD
Christopher Bollas, PhD
Jennifer Bonovitz, PhD
Maurice Burke, PhD
Fred Busch, PhD
Bertram Cohler, PhD
Jody Davies, PhD
Muriel Dimen, PhD
Darlene Ehrenberg, PhD
Gerald Fogel, MD
Rita Frankiel, PhD
Lucy Freund, PhD
Lawrence Freidman, MD
Paula Fuqua, MD
Glen Gabbard, MD
Lester Gable, MD
Robert Galatzer-Levy, MD
Benjamin Garber, MD
John Gedo, MD
Mark Gehrie, PhD
Merton Gill, MD
Peter Giovacchini, MD
Lorraine Goldberg, PhD
Jay Greenberg, PhD
William Greenstadt, PhD
Meyer Gunther, MD
Irwin Hirsch, PhD
Irwin Z. Hoffman, PhD
Michael Hoit, MD
Marvin Hyman, PhD
Lawrence Joseph, PhD
Donald Kaplan, PhD
Louise Kaplan, PhD
Jerome Kavka, MD
Oliver J.B. Kerner, PhD
Nathan Kravis, MD
Frank Lachmann, PhD
Eli Lane, MD
Ernest Lawrence, PhD
Jonathan Lear, PhD
Robert Leider, MD
Norman Litowitz, MD
Nell Logan, PhD
J. Gordon Maguire, MD
Martin Mayman, PhD
Joyce McDougall, EdD
Stephen Mitchell, PhD
George Moraitis, MD
Dale Moyer, PhD
Kenneth Newman, MD
Donna Orange, PsyD
Edward Owen, MD
Michael Parsons
Fred Pine, PhD
Warren Poland, MD
Joanne Powers, PhD
Ellie Ragland, PhD
Leo Rangell, MD
Moss Rawn, PhD
Owen Renik, MD
Barbara Rocah, MD
Bernard Rubin, MD
Roy Schafer, PhD
Howard Shevrin, PhD
Norma Simon, EdD
Vivian Skolnick, PhD
Ignes Sodre
Donnel Stern, PhD
Nathan Stockhammer, PhD
Harvey Strauss, MD
Frank Summers, PhD
Johanna Tabin, PhD
Richard Telingator, MD
Arnold Tobin, MD
Marian Tolpin, MD
Phyllis Tyson, PhD
Judith Vida, PhD
Jerome Winer, MD
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, PhD

January 03, 2006


Chagall: Lithographe I

This is my favorite Chagall lithograph. I owned a mint-condition original of Lithographe I, which was donated a few years ago to The Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis (CCP) upon the occasion of the twentieth-year celebration of its courageous founding. A few notes about CCP will be presented later.

The image of Chagall's Lithographe I remains, for me, a source of peace and calm.

January 02, 2006


Remorse: Remarks of Interest

No Feelings of Regret
Here is a further discussion of my previous Swarzenegger posting:

If the display of Scwarzenegger's pictures had been motivated simply by purient interests, there indeed would be cause for feelings of remorse. However, his poses in all of those pictures were calculated, perfected to attract the infatuation of those involved in muscle worship, teasing them with the possibility of even more. This was the early, somewhat debased, phase of his pursuit of international notoriety, by any means needed. This necessarily required Swarzenegger to become deeply invested in the worship of his own physique and muscles. His muscular body thus became the shrine for himself that represented total devotion to the Flesh and to Muscles.

This deeper perspective, then, prompted me to think of Mishima's total allegiance to the Flesh and Muscle. There seem to be many similarities between these two men, specifically in terms of their profound worship of Flesh and Muscle, especially their own, as the source of feeling alive. The following discussion of Mishima illustrates this perspective, where the world of words is replaced by the world of flesh.

Schwarzenegger: Through the Lens of Mishima


Reading Mishima is somehow reminiscent of Scharzenegger's thirst for power and his use of the flesh and Muscle as the vehicles with which he could achieve international notoriety:

In late 1965, near the end of his life, Mishima began Sun and Steel (1968), published in serial form. His conclusion, thus expressed, was that his life had been a quest for "the ultimate verification of existence." He had concluded that words were no longer a substitute for reality and he decided that language and art were to blame for "eating reality away" and thus his sense of being alive-existence, Muscle, as he described, became the "language of the flesh." In Sun and Steel, he conceived of muscle as a proof of existence. Confronted with "lumps of steel" he wrote:

"On that began my close relationship with steel that was to last for ten years to come. Little by little, moreover, the properties of my muscles came increasingly to resemble those of steel. This slow development, I found, was remarkably similar to the process of education, which remodels the brain intellectually by feeding it with progressively more difficult matter...the process closely resembled the classical ideal of education...The steel faithfully taught me the correspondence between the spirit and the body: thus feeble emotions, it seemed to me, corresponded to flaccid muscles, sentimentality to a sagging stomach, and over impressionability to an oversensitive, white skin. Bulging muscles, a taut stomach and a tough skin, I reasoned, would correspond respectively to an intrepid fighting spirit, the power of dispassionate intellectual judgment, and a robust disposition."

Mishima: Mask and Steel


Yukio Mishima's field of war was a battlefield without glory, a battlefield where none could display deeds of valor: It was the front line of the spirit. In his finale, what Mishima was about to perform was an act in his public capacity as a soldier, something he had never previously shown his wife. It called for a resolution equal to the courage to enter battle; it was a death of no less degree and quality than death in the front line. It was his conduct on the battlefield that he was now to display (Mishima, "Patriotism").

All art is ultimately about death. In Mishima's case life imitated art. This was true in the intensity and complexity of his daily existence and in his choice of demise. A man with closely cropped hair, the commander of his private army of 100 men, the man with a remarkable physique who went from a weakling to an athlete; a man who could be the life of the party, yet a man who could be angry and hold grudges; a determined goal-directed obsessive man preoccupied with rituals and blood-signing oaths; a man remarkably traditional yet remarkably modern, a cult figure for some; a man who wanted to live forever yet a man who took his life as a martyr of heroic Japan; a man who obeyed an order "that no earthly emperor was ever again going to give"; a man who coveted the possibility of winning the Nobel prize yet in his moment of triumph was preoccupied with the urge to destroy himself-all of this, and more, was Mishima.

In 1965 Yukio Mishima was rumored to be a candidate for the Nobel Prize. In 1968, that honor was bestowed on Yasunari Kawabata who called Mishima "the Japanese Hemingway." Kawabata was the first Japanese novelist to win a Nobel Prize and said of Mishima: "A writer of his caliber appears only once every 200 or 300 years."

In November 1970, after berating a group of soldiers he insisted be assembled, he committed seppuku-a ritual suicide, an act for which he had rehearsed his entire artistic life.

Background Information

Kimitake Hiraoka, better known by his pen name, Yukio Mishima, was born on January 14, 1925. He was 45 years old at the time of his strikingly dramatic death. Mishima produced 40 novels, 18 plays, 20 volumes of short stories and essays, and was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize. He acted in the film version of his story "Patriotism" (1966), plunging a prop sword into his belly in what was to be a rehearsal for his actual suicide years later. His life was a quest for the merging of art and life-writing and action. His life and his death became high theatre. His death was personal, cultural, religious and more. To him, beauty like life is fleeting. Mishima was a patriot and fervent nationalist who mastered the martial arts of karate and swordsmanship and maintained an intense regimen of weight-lifting workouts from 1955 on. It was a quest that he described as "the ultimate verification of existence." This quest was necessary to verify his existence by the "language of the flesh"-"antithetical to words." He experienced doubt about feeling alive and sought proof of his being. He acted-no lived-these parts in daily life as well as on stage, screen, and in his own plays.

Mishima founded his own army, opposed the infiltration of Western culture in Japan, and maintained an erotic fascination with death culminating in his own ritual suicide at a time when he was unrivaled as the outstanding Japanese writer of his generation.

His first book, Forest In Full Flower (1944), written when he was 16 years old, was inspired by the poetic Japan of old-consistent with his scholarly knowledge of classical Japan-an aesthete in traditional culture as well as beauty. At the time of its publication he chose his pseudonym. Mishima is the name of a village at the foot of Mt. Fuji and the name Yukio is said to make one think of snow. Perhaps the "coldness" of this name is reminiscent of maternal loss-he was taken from his mother and reared by a sickly grandmother from his fiftieth day of life. He lived jealously coveted by this woman as a prisoner until he was 12. He learned to conceal his feelings from both mother and grandmother at a substantial emotional cost-the repression of rage and the development of a sadomasochistic fantasy world. His early environment was a dark sick room. Forest In Full Flower gives insight into Mishima's equation of beauty with the "ecstasy of death." He later wrote of "beauty's kamikaze squad," and his adolescent longing brought him into proximity with death as the supreme beauty. His emphasis on self-sacrifice was strikingly clear in the autobiographical work, Confessions of a Mask (1958).

Confessions of a Mask

Before Confessions of a Mask, Mishima had known only critical and not popular success. This novel, published in 1958, is an almost clinical description of the author and represents the "Rebel Without a Cause" of its day. At the same time, Camus had written The Stranger, which contained the same artistic elements. Mishima portrayed himself even at the age of 5 as a child with antipathy for reality and an immersion into sadism as a formidable defense against it. His death was a death in fantasy devoid of the mundane, vulgar, and loathsome aspects of the real battlefield, but nevertheless Confessions of a Mask was a therapeutic effort to attain literary and psychological survival.

He created a surrogate fantasy world in which he lived in reality. In 1948, when he wrote this novel, he had come to understand the dangers his flirtation and eventual entrenchment with fantasies of death and destruction. The suicide of novelist Osamu Dazai in June of 1948 was likely an important incident in this understanding. The spokesman of his age was a popular hero, and Mishima understood his "glorification of despair." He later wrote: "this was due to my immediate sense that Dazai was a writer at pains to expose precisely that which I most wanted to conceal in myself."

Reliving his life in Confessions of a Mask, Mishima arrived at the awareness of his latent homosexuality and his inability to feel alive or experience passion except in his sadomasochistic fantasies. Indeed his first ejaculation at the age of 12 was prompted by Guido Reni's Saint Sebastian. As Mishima wrote: "The arrows have eaten into the tense, fragrant youthful flesh and are about to consume his body from within with flames of supreme agony and ecstasy." Of Sebastian he wrote: "And was not such a beauty as his a thing destined for death?...His was not a fate to be pitied...a fate that might even be called radiant." He spoke of Sebastian's martyrdom as setting him apart from ordinary men of the earth and thus of his own destiny.

The Intropsychic Mask: Sun and Steel

In Confessions of a Mask, his experiences were objectified; they were not just an artistic device. He was attempting to analyze the root source of his "nihilistic estheticism." The mask was not designed to hide, the mask of sexual perversion was an attempt by the Mishima to discover his real face. Near the end of the novel the hero experiences the relief of hopelessness by his experience of heterosexual failure, and Mishima recognized the impossibility of his masquerade and utter hopelessness. What he needed, required, was a definition, a "diagnosis" however hopeless, so that he could, in the most literal sense to live with himself. Mishima spoke of Confessions as a "last testament" to leave behind in the "domain of death"-a "closing of accounts." This process of self-discovery was an opening of accounts and a foretelling of the future, however. This novel is consistent with the intent of Japanese literature-to provide the reader with a means to develop in himself/herself, through an immersion in the text, an ability to intuit the deep realities of life as perceived by the author.

From a psychoanalytic perspective we find that sadism, sexuality, and blood become fused, and that the artistic genius of Mishima expressed his self-perspective and "the martyrdom which lay in wait for him along the way; that this brand which Fate had set upon him was precisely the token of his apartness from all the ordinary men of the earth."

In late 1965, near the end of his life, Mishima began Sun and Steel (1968), published in serial form. His conclusion, thus expressed, was that his life had been a quest for "the ultimate verification of existence." He had concluded that words were no longer a substitute for reality and he decided that language and art were to blame for "eating reality away" and thus his sense of being alive-existence, Muscle, as he described, became the "language of the flesh." In Sun and Steel, he conceived of muscle as a proof of existence. Confronted with "lumps of steel," he wrote:

"On that began my close relationship with steel that was to last for ten years to come. Little by little, moreover, the properties of my muscles came increasingly to resemble those of steel. This slow development, I found, was remarkably similar to the process of education, which remodels the brain intellectually by feeding it with progressively more difficult matter...the process closely resembled the classical ideal of education. The steel faithfully taught me the correspondence between the spirit and the body: thus feeble emotions, it seemed to me, corresponded to flaccid muscles, sentimentality to a sagging stomach, and over impressionability to an oversensitive, white skin. Bulging muscles, a taut stomach and a tough skin, I reasoned, would correspond respectively to an intrepid fighting spirit, the power of dispassionate intellectual judgment and a robust disposition."

In this regard, Mishima saw himself as above and beyond "ordinary people" as words came before the flesh and needed to manifest themselves in the language of the body. He wrote of a "romantif impulse towards death" requiring a strictly classical body as its vehicle and source of attraction.

A powerful, tragic frame and sculpturesque muscles were indispensable in a romantically noble death. In Sun and Steel, he wrote, "Longing at eighteen for an early demise, I felt myself unfitted for it. I lacked, in short, the muscles suitable for a dramatic death." Muscles for Mishima were the existence and works of art...their function was the opposite of words. His dreams became his muscles as he planned a union of art and life and pain became the sole proof of the persistence of consciousness within the flesh, the sole physical expression of consciousness. The positive acceptance of pain and his interest in physical suffering deepened as he acquired more muscle. He consolidated his thinking by stating:

"For the cult of the hero is, ultimately, the basic principle of the body, and in the long run it is intimately involved with the contrast between the robustness of the body and the destruction that is death. The thing that ultimately saves the flesh from being ridiculous is the element of death that resides in the healthy, vigorous body; it is this, I realized, that sustains the dignity of the flesh."

The "reality that stares back at one" is death. The author has accounted for his actions-past, present and future. His "proof of existence" would only come with death. Death was the ultimate endorsement to the proof of his existence. This would be the full expostulation of the "death esthetic" of his adolescence. Mishima yearned to be a hero; this is the key to understanding Sun and Steel as Mishima's definition of tragedy as part of privileged nobility finding its basis in physical courage and keeping the "average" at a distance. By sunbathing and weightlifting he developed the attributes of the warrior and arrived at the romantic death of a samurai. "Thanks to the sun and the steel, I was to learn the language of the flesh, much as one might learn a foreign language… an aspect of my spiritual development." Early in life he loathed his body, put all his efforts into literature and sought a second language. This was his alternative to literature. The "true antithesis of words." Art and Action. But he had to die while his body was still beautiful-and he still comparatively young-the definition of his suicide.

The Finale

Mishima had begun to understand the materialistic decay of Japanese civilization. Up until the WW II era, Shinto had been the traditional religious power, superceding all other forms of belief. The Shinto priests were de facto government officials. It was the unity of religion, government and militarism that General MacArthur wished to abolish and that Mishima wished to return to. Beginning with the Sino-Japanese War [1894-1895], the Japanese government had pursued an "expansionist policy" and from that time until the end of World War II State, Shinto was manipulated by the militarists and nationalists as a spiritual weapon for mobilizing the Nation to guard the prosperity of the Throne and the Empire. Mishima advocated the unity of religion and government and emperor worship-an Emperor cult. Psychoanalytic study and developmental information are not enough to understand this man (or any significant figure) in the absence of cultural, political, and religious influence.

Mishima himself was quite critical of Western scholars in the field of Japanese studies. His death in the office of the commanding general of the Eastern Army was the result of careful planning and commitment to intense religious and philosophical ideals. In addition to the hero of "Patriotism," the protagonist in Runaway Horses (1973), a right-wing terrorist also commits hara-kiri. In 1969, in the feature role in the film, Hitogiri, Mishima played the part of the man who rips open his stomach. His death rehearsals were both repetitive and ideological. He had posed for a series of photographs for Kishin Shinoyama in one of which he posed as St. Sebastian-an image that had inspired his first ejaculation. Suspended by a rope, three arrows pierce his body. In Death of a Man there were a number of poses in which he committed hara-kiri.

Mishima's writings, life, and death reflect the fusion of his aggressive and erotic drives. For him, blood was beauty and represented the ultimate orgasm. His suicide was both culturally motivated and idiosyncratic. The Nobel Prize in literature, awarded to Yasunari Kawabata, was a narcissistic defeat for Mishima, who had spent his life compensating for underlying feelings of weakness and femininity. Having spent the first 12 years of his life in his grandmother's sick room he was immersed in sickness and death. She treated him as a girl, and his sexual identity molded by the restrictions that he only play with girls and girls' toys. Even his vocabulary became one expected of females. He appears to have felt guilty masquerading as a male and hiding his underlying feelings of weakness while maintaining his male image with counter phobic (overly-compensatory) behaviors.

His spiritual guide became the Samurai Code of behavior, thus simultaneously controlling his hostility and masking his frailty. His death in a Samurai manner allowed the expression of his hostile and sadomasochistic wishes in a culturally acceptable manner, and he avoided the ultimate body decay that comes with age, the decay he so despised. Some authors have hypothesized that his suicide was an act of restitution, creating a sense of male identity. The latter was complicated by his lack of a close relationship with his father, Azusa. In fact Mishima began and continued writing at night (throughout his entire life) so that his father would not be aware of what he was doing. He showed his manuscripts only to his mother, who saw to it that each night his writing supplies were available. Even after his marriage, he greeted his mother first after returning home and kept his childhood transitional objects in close proximity. He never came to terms with his father, and this is reflected in the patricide of his novel The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (1976). The father is destroyed and the mother is kept.

Confessions of a Mask reflected both the repression of true feelings and the idea of leading the life of a "mask," as well as the attempt to be "real" with a resulting intellectualization and creation of the "false self." In Confessions, there was also an attempt to accept his sexual feelings, which had become obsessive. Mishima's many rehearsals for death related to the cultural experiences of Japan and actual incidents, as well as to his innate masochistic needs and desire to die for the internalized father "of old"-the emperor-as well as the simultaneous destruction of the internalized father. The destruction of the father in literary work and in reality also represented the longing for the father-a fantasy from his early childhood. By destroying himself he killed the father inside himself, thus "solving" his Oedipal conflict. His association of beauty-ecstasy-with death is longstanding and sexual in his writings and his life. Eventually he desired the sunlight to replace his romantic penumbra and wrote in Sun and Steel of his need to find expression in ways other than artistic-the "language" of the body. He desired a method of integrating the "words" that he created with the "real" world-an existence of consciousness. His death involved multiple functions: To become a man-a male; to die for a loved father (the emperor); to "kill" the (real) father (internalized); to experience the ecstasy of death with its total representation of blood, pain, sexual excitement, and cultural identification; and to "solve" the oedipal struggle of his life.

Mishima, like Van Gogh, took his life at the height of his artistic achievements. As with Van Gogh, Mishima's art was a means to an end. Van Gogh "had" to paint. Especially in the cases of Van Gogh and Mishima, this need may represent a "psychotic restitution." The artistic product in each case represented a segment of internal psychological functioning that, in Mishima's case, allowed a semblance of reality functioning. While it could be argued that Mishima was megalomaniacally pursuing self-glorification using an anachronistic tradition or that his writing reflects a "paranoid stance," this may be too simplistic an explanation for a writer immersed in traditions thousands of years old living in a culture that is ego-syntonic to behaviors that appear "destructive" or denigrating to Western observers. Such judgments by Westerners are fraught with cultural contamination and value diffusion.

To be sure, even admirers of Mishima's writings, Oriental or Occidental, sense the estrangement they bring to the senses. There is an "unreal" quality to the characters that resonates with experiences of desolation and estrangement. This results in an uncomfortable feeling in the reader, which is, perhaps, one of the author's main accomplishments. His work speaks to a part of the "pathological self" that is, fortunately, not part of the everyday world. Even his reactionary political stance was more symbolic than substantial.

In the last analysis his was a battlefield of the spirit.

January 01, 2006


New Year's 2006: Any Resolutions?

First, just have a look at the many lists of New Year's resolutions, promises to make new beginnings, that are being made by others from all around the world:

Technorati Lists of 2006 Resolutions:

My Own Resolutions:

Let me think awhile...okay, here are my ideas about New Year's resolutions:

Winter celebrations have existed throughout recorded history. In more ancient times, people attributed the success of their crops to the existence of the sun. They feared that because of their misdeeds, the sun would not reappear. Therefore, their crops would not again grow and they would starve. To assure themselves of a returning sun and a replenishment of food supplies, they felt the necessity of atoning for their sins and pleading for divine forgiveness. This may serve, in part, as a mythical determinant for the widespread need to make New Year's resolutions, self-promises to make amends by changing our ways.

Christmas itself stemmed originally from festivals onto which Christian coloring was grafted. In more recent times, man has mastered the preservation of his crops and learned enough about the movements of celestial bodies that worries concerning the reappearance of the sun are known to be completely irrational. Nevertheless, infantile anxieties about starvation have not lessened. Apparently, the celebration of Christmas as primarily a holiday for children is an acceptable medium through which adults can express those fears, while at the same time attempting to deny their existence. They are able to give children gifts (food), and through identification with children, feel that they themselves are fed by a beneficent other. Perhaps this explains why it has been possible, to a varying extent, for Santa Claus to displace God as the figure to be worshiped.

Yet Christmas anxieties continue. Popular literature not infrequently portrays the hostilities that exist during that time. For example, anger often revolves around the theme of who will get the most and whether monetary sacrifices can be tolerated without harm to the givers. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" is an admonition that is necessary only because in reality man's impulses to receive rather than to give are foremost.

The holiday period extending from before Christmas until after New Year's Eve is a continuous span of culturally accepted emotional release. For varying periods of time in individual households, pre-Christmas preparations go on. At Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the family reunion and the revived conflicts surrounding favoritism and receiving and giving are at their height. After a respite of a few days, the New Year's celebration, with its socially condoned licentiousness, arrives. On New Year's Eve, psychic conflicts are frequently aroused, especially having to do with the release or potential release of otherwise disparaged impulses of all kinds, as well as collusion in an covert act of hostility (symbolically, the murder of Father Time). Thus, there is a proliferation of New Year's resolutions, often unkept, as a superficial, even humorous gesture, as an apologia for our behaviors. It is a time of transitory promises to make new beginnings.

Therefore, my own New Year's resolution is that I have no resolutions to make this year!


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