Friday, 25 January 2008

Persephone's Box: In Praise of Degradation

Persephone's Box: In Praise of Degradation

I've written before on how objectification has a place in society, that it's not necessarily sexist or offensive. As I reiterated at a recent post, I hate when sexual gets confused with sexist. But today I want to get right into degradation.

Significant ancient rites of passage almost always have a place for degradation, destruction, and/or humiliation. In moving from one type of person to another, the old self must be destroyed. Neophytes are made to destroy their old clothes and give up their names. Then, after challenges have been completed, in rising up into a more exalted status, the new self must be brought back down to earth with the others. A tame example of this profaning is the tradition of "roasting" the bride and groom at the reception party with embarrassing pictures from childhood for all to see.

We tend to look at life in dichotomies: creation is good, destruction is bad; life is good, death is bad. Ritual is useful to remind us of the Truth that both creation and destruction are necessary for life to flourish, and therefore, both are good. Imagine if nothing ever died or was destroyed, only created. Life would be like a perpetual mosh pit, jostling our way to the bathroom or kitchen. Ritual reminds us that there's beauty in death, and there's growth to be had from destruction. Some forests can't maintain themselves without an occasional burning down and renewal. When people close to us die, we're saddened partly because we're used to looking at life in a linear path instead of cyclically.

....I used to be a serious disciple of Eisler's, and I still use sections of her works in my classes. But in the past few years I've been reconsidering some premises of her arguments.

In a nutshell, she insists that the fact that people in this society actually find violence arousing indicates that our society is sick and in need of healing. I personally find violence arousing, so I was all over this, reading all her books in hopes to change the world and thus save my own damaged self in the process. But then I started reading Jung and Hillman and Moore (whom hooks also references) and Nietzsche (whom she doesn't). And I've come to believe that the mix of pleasure with pain (viewed or experienced) isn't necessarily disturbed, but is instead a connection to basic archetypal experiences.

Life is all about living and dying and pain and joy and suffering and mind-blowing orgasms. The connection to the destruction and desecration of life is within us all no matter how much we fight to repress it. Jung suggested that the less we acknowledge this consciously, the darker is our sub-conscious world. We need to synthesize our shadowy hidden bits typically in the recesses of our mind with our consciousness instead of continuing to repress what we perceive as evil within ourselves.

So, when I think of that hideous rape scene from A Clockwork Orange, it hits me on a gut level of disgust and aversion, but it's also mesmerizing as my thighs begin to get warm. Like a traffic accident, it can suck us in even as it's turning us away. I used to reject these feelings and refuse to tend to them, thinking of myself as one sick puppy, but I've come to accept it as just the way I work.




alterisego said...

Oh man, I know exactly what you mean about Clockwork Orange.

Trinity said...

That wasn't me, that was Sage.

But yes, that scene was brilliant. Doesn't quite tie in to my own dark fantasies of that nature, but... yeah, pure brilliance.

I remember once in high school, taking a Spanish class. The teacher was very keen on making sure we understood more than just the language and tried to introduce us to some of the darker bits of history in various Spanish-speaking cultures, violent themes in art produced by them, etc.

And I still remember one day, me sitting there, my SM fantasies like a lump in my throat or a cancer in my chest, something black and oily and fearsome that no one could see

and she finished up talking about Goya or whoever it was and then said...

"la violencia realmente nos atrae"

and I sat there, feeling as if lightning had hit me right there on the spot: she knows.

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