25 July 2016

Inspired by Tonight's Playlist

The Rolling Stones sing,
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, you just might find,
You get what you need.
     I have always taken that sentiment to heart (even for myself at times), espoused the admonition as if it were gospel to any number of people who bemoaned their unfulfilled longings, and tried to manage my wants and desires so that when I might try, sometimes I could get what I needed.
     We educate our children for what they need, and for some time I thought I knew of what that might consist. I offered the classics as classics. Knowledge of these was a necessity and was what was needed. I was passionate and adamant. About some of these classics I probably still am so. Just ask my long-suffering, usually patient children for whom I continue to purchase the books and music they absolutely must know and even learn. But over the years in my public classrooms I have ceased advocating a pedagogy of need because I no longer presume to know what that might ever be for others. I do think that my students, if they try sometimes, well, they get what they need, but I’m never sure what that might be for any one of them at any one time.
     And whenever I hear the Rolling Stones sing “You can’t Always Get What You Want” I inevitably recall the earlier statement by Bob Dylan in "Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again). He sings,
When Ruthie says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon
Where I can watch her waltz for free
’Neath her Panamanian moon
An’ I say, “Aw come on now
You must know about my debutante”
An’ she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want”
     And I wonder how Dylan’s invitation differs from that of the Stones. And I think Dylan’s Ruthie offers fulfillment of Desire—what I want. What I need represents only what I know, but what I want satisfies my sense of Being. This private Self, which Winnicott says is the ultimate source of all creativity, must be retained and kept personal and secret; it is revealed only in action: in the use of objects created because they are there to be created. That private self must remain always unseen¾completely concealed¾ though I think it is always available to be witnessed in play: the experience of all imaginative living. Winnicott says “It is joy to be hidden but disaster not to be found” (1990, 186). What I need is discoverable but what I want is forever hidden. Terry Eagleton argues that “Desire makes us what we are;” and this desire,  Eagleton adds, after St. Thomas and Jacques Lacan, “acts as the organizing principle of all our actions,” and is the yearning for happiness. However, as humans we cannot achieve happiness because we live in this world that demands self-contradiction and compromise. What we want derives from our True Self, our Core Self, that must be protected and kept isolate by the necessary false selves that develop to protect that Core. None of us live in Eden and we all drape ourselves with leaves. Our False Selves¾that polite and socialized selves¾are inevitable and exist to defend our True Selves. Adam Phillips argues that “Obedience is the unforbidden pleasure that gives us something by forbidding us something else¾something of ultimate value.” Obedience facilitates getting what we need, but cannot fulfill what we want. We derive our earthly pleasures—our needs--by creating a forbidden world that has its source in our Core Self—that part that remains omnipotent, free, and out of communication with the rest of the external world. It might be realized in our creativity but must never be seen in itself for fear of its corruption.  In his essay. “On Communication,” Winnicott theorizes that that Core is forever isolate. Winnicott suggests that, “In health there is a core to the personality that corresponds to the true self of the split personality; I suggest this core never communicates with the world of perceived objects, and that the individual person knows that it must never be communicated with or be influenced by external reality.” This core self may address subjective objects¾those it has found [even created] wholly within¾but it may not be communicated with by external objects at risk of its being altered. “Although healthy persons communicate and enjoy communicating, the other fact is equally true, that each individual is an isolate, permanently non-communicating, permanently unknown, in fact unfound.” One defends, Winnicott says, against communication in order to protect the core (True) self. He says, “I am postulating that in the healthy (mature, that is, in respect of the development of object-relating) person that there is a need for something that corresponds to the state of the split person in whom one part of the split communicates silently with subjective objects” (184). That split part is the True Self and it must be carefully defended to remain True.
     Ruthie knows me because she knows herself. But she doesn’t really know what I want: she knows that I, like everyone else, wants.  


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