Logos and the Eros

One could say an extreme mediocrity exists in much of the masculine in America today, characterized by emptiness, impoverished relational capacity, an overblown or under-developed sense of self, and a life with others that is often devoid of meaning.  Such men are filled of things like excess television, excess video games, excess sexual focus, emotional shallowness, and the man’s agenda at the expense of others.  No words for feelings.  Violence.  Privilege for privilege sake, which results in decadence, and in the end decay, and finally death.  The Western world, which in bell hooks’ terminology, is inherently white, supremacist and patriarchal, is currently experiencing this decadence, decay, and death.  The great psychologist of the twentieth century, Carl Jung, gave a clear and also fear-invoking expression of the masculine and the feminine.  In Jung’s conception the masculine is symbolized by the logos, which he referred to as the power to make meaning, to be meaningful, and to be experienced as meaningful by loved ones and by the collective humanity around us.  Not the super-rational Western man, incapable of emotion and in fact regret, but a man who lives deeply, loves well, and is well loved.  A question then rises, how many men do you know who are experienced as meaningful in their relationships with women, with their children, with others?

Now this brings me, in a postmodern sense, to the good involved in multiple views, and also to the Jesuit and Quaker notions of the need for persuasion rather than coercion, listening rather than over-talking, and the idea that among many “goods” the essence of the mature person is to seek “ultimate good.”  I think we can branch Jung’s typology out and encounter some of the current complexities that exist in human relations by noticing that all of us have both masculine and feminine within us, and the extent to which we hide or subdue either of these, we suffer.  Jung himself pointed out this tenacious aspect of human fallibility, that when we deny our faults, we are consumed by shadow.  When we are consumed by shadow we in effect project our shadow onto the world with harmful results—we refuse to take responsibility for life and in fact block others rather than inviting them to help us change and become more whole.  To be more whole is to be more capable of honoring the feminine and the masculine in ourselves.  For Jung, when we choose denial, instead of living a responsible life of responsible love and appropriate power with others, we fall into blaming our own mediocre life on others, the environment, or God.  Jung felt denial (the inability and in fact unwillingness to recognize our own faults and change) was the most stubborn of all human faults.  But we protect ourselves with good reason, he said, because to look at our own evil or our own shadow directly, is, Jung felt, self-shattering.  Therefore we avoid it at all costs.  And if we decide to face the shadow, we must do so with great care.  Even so, Jung said the way to better ground is relatively simple.  In order to heal our fear of our own shadow, and heal our inability to love and serve life deeply and well, we must have two things: insight and good will.  In the language of family, we need understanding and love.  At this crossroads of understanding and love, according to Jung, the human and the divine are one.

Jung conceived of the feminine as the eros, but not the blown-out glammed and glitzed porn culture of American media and overblown masculine agendas.  Rather, he conceptualized the eros as the womblike existence that gives peace, the life-giving sacrificial essence willing to undergo almost anything in order to preserve life, the wild mystery at odds with all who might try to come against the the child, the family, or the future together.  For me, Mochis comes to mind, the Cheyenne woman warrior whose ferocity is legendary.  After the Sand Creek Massacre in the late 1800s in which US Cavalry slaughtered Cheyenne elders, women, and children and mutilated their bodies, Mochis took up the ax and fought as a warrior and killed many for 11 years until she was captured and shipped by train to Florida where she was incarcerated by the United States Army as a Prisoner of War.  My mother comes to mind, with her bravery and her heart of irrevocable forgiveness, and my wife with her vitality and her essence that is more fire than water.  Not to mention my Czech grandmother.  In our family, we call her the Great One.

I think we can see today that often the masculine has tried to subdue and in fact overtake the feminine.  The masculine is infatuated with a pseudo eros, an eros he himself has pumped up to proportions that amount to oblivion.  That brand of masculine cannot face its own feminine, for to do so would shatter him and he would then have to integrate the feminine, honor the feminine and in fact truly love the feminine in order to be healed and whole.  In like fashion the feminine has often usurped the masculine, setting itself against the masculine through bitterness, anger, and condemnation that amounts to giving the man pariah status, sometimes claiming not only in the core of relationships, but also at national and international levels, that the man is meaningless and in fact absurd.   That form of feminine cannot face its own masculine, for to do so would be too shattering and would then require the feminine to integrate the masculine, to take him in with care and enduring affection, to truly love in order to be healed and made whole.  In my experience working with women and men as a systems psychologist for the past 15 years, we carry mutual disintegration in our hands.  Understanding and love are required if we are to embrace and love both the feminine and the masculine, inside ourselves, and in our relationships with others.

The story collection, American Masculine, delves into the mystery some, and depicts men who are often desolate, void, violent, and at odds with the feminine and in effect, at odds with themselves.  These men, like myself, and many men I know, desire to move and change and become capable of giving and receiving love.  But to become humble sometimes requires being humbled.  I know such men, whose shadows extend and do harm, and who have sometimes been graced to come into a deeper and more redemptive love, and who have wept at the beauty that exists when they let themselves be shattered and let themselves emerge from that long journey into something new.  I admire them, and hope to be with them when the dawn comes.

4 thoughts on “Logos and the Eros

  1. Hi Shann, great article. What a massive call we’ve got for listening today. I’m in Wisconsin, where so much is at stake in the collective bargaining disputes in the state capitol, and the tempers are raging. Seems to me we have a story of the near success of what Bob Moore calls the high chair tyrants. Anyway, probably not a good place to start a conversation, but I found your blog and I send you my regards and blessings for success.
    Peace,
    Mike Saatkamp

    • Thank you Mike.
      So true, the ethos of listening is a steady undercurrent in all movements of legitimate social change.
      Thoughts from you, on the nature of moving the dialogue from tyrant based to mutual power and mutual care?
      There is something real and worthy of discernment below the rage, and I find that discernment a difficult and humbling place.
      I wish you every success as well.
      Shann

  2. Hi Shann,
    Yes, I do have some thoughts, but first a short story about my daughter, Maren. Maren was born 1 lb. 13 oz’s, and has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. At a family meal a week or so ago, the conversation got around to cuts in funding at our local schools, and Maren figured out (we tried not to upset her) that one of the first funding cuts would be of the aids who help out the kids in wheelchairs. Maren is out of high school now, but she understood that other kids might not be able to go to school if no aids are available. She wept for the whole evening, real terror, for the kids in wheelchairs who wouldn’t be able to get help changing their diapers, or holding their books. My point is, there is raw threat to social survival happening, and Maren’s response is deeply honest. The disabled kids have almost no voice in the matter. Families with disabled kids are going to struggle a lot more than they already are now, so I’m pretty scared about the outcome of this dispute on their behalf. Shelly (my wife) and I have been lucky – I have a good job, and our marriage is stable. That’s not so for many families with brain injured kids, the mom’s are raising the kids alone a lot of the time, and the fathers often help very little or are gone altogether. Without school aids, they will have to keep their kids at home, with all the challenges of holding a job and staying sane that come with 24/7 care of a disabled child.
    As far as thoughts on maturing the dialogue, I think we’re in an intense period of social chaos, and all sides seem to be looking to stabilize their (my?) psyches with accusatory gestures and scapegoating. Are you familiar with Rene Girard?
    He has some wise words on violent scapegoating and it’s rapid imitation through communities, point being that the social chaos we’re feeling here in Wisconsin (or anywhere) only has a few possible remedies; Find a scapegoat (Obama, Walker, the Unions, the Koch Brothers, or some other) and keep the fighting fresh, or come to the table together, look each other in the eye and say ‘forgive me, I don’t know what I’m doing, and don’t have any idea what to do next’. We may be at the historical end of how economies have been managed, and a new way may have to emerge. To my mind, we ought not continue on a path that allows the wealthiest 400 folks in the country to control more wealth than the lowest 160 million. How do we do that? We enter a dark wood, where there is no path.
    I have more to say, but it’s late here, and my brain is fuzzy, so I’ll come back and finish tomorrow.
    btw, I saw the basketball clips you put up, so we share a passion for basketball!
    I once ran rings around Kiki Vandeweigh and Reggie Theus. Then they grew 7 inches, and I didn’t!!
    Peace,
    Mike

    • Powerful comments Mike, by you and by Rene Girard.
      The nature of accusation as a front for the fragile self; the nature of violence as a positional avoidance of intimacy; the nature of reactivity rather than listening as a cloak over the injustice we do to the least privileged of society by our unconscious and conscious privilege.
      Wow. Blessings of peace to you and your wife and your daughter, and all the families to be effected by these crucibles that run so deep. Reminds me of Victor Frankl’s piercing comment “what is to give light must endure burning”, and he has the courage (and some type of transcendent grace, I think) to say this after the fires of the concentration camp had taken so many, his beloved parents included.
      His book “Man’s Ultimate Search for Meaning” (not the more popular “Man’s Search for Meaning”) was his favorite of the 39 he wrote, and that one is an intellectual and psychological powerhouse that confronts the apathy and violence and distancing patterns of the world with a profound intimacy that heals and makes whole.

      Good company you kept with Kiki and Reggie. Amazing ball players!

      Strength to you and yours,

      Shann

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