Posts Tagged ‘Sigmund Freud’

I wanna be, I wanna be a secular Jew

October 30, 2016


Been searching through philosophy
To find the one that’s right for me
I meditate and think and read
I finally found the perfect creed:

I wanna be, I wanna be
A secular Jew
I really love the Bible
But I don’t think it’s true

The Christians stole their book
Then they said it was old
We give them ghettos and pogroms
They give us comedy gold

Do the Jews have a Pope?
Cuz I was wonderin’ could he
Make me real funny
Like Groucho and Woody?

I wanna be, I wanna be
An outstanding thinker
Like Einstein, Freud, and Popper
Or that hairy-headed Pinker

Anybody out there
Think they got a solution?
Can I appropriate the culture
And skip the persecution?

Where do I sign?
I’ll gladly pay the fee
Is this a club
That would ever welcome me?

by Richard W. Bray

What Was I Thinking?

January 31, 2016


And I wonder sometimes, what is it in me that hates me?

Richard Wilbur, Complaint

What was I thinking?
Am I insane?
I wonder what happens
Inside my brain

Boss took me out
To announce my promotion
I puked on his shoes
And got a demotion

Whenever life hands me
The perfect shot
It ties up my tongue
In a perfect knot

She asked for my number
I was ready to score
Why did I tell her
She looks like a whore?

Whenever I’m offered
A True Romance
I flub all my lines
And ruin my chance

My mind is an iceberg
I just see the tip
I cannot control
What comes across my lips

by Richard W. Bray

Some Thoughts on Rosemary Agonito’s History of Ideas on Women

October 5, 2013



All classes must be deemed to have their special attributes; as the poet says of women, “Silence is a woman’s glory,” but it is not equally the glory of man.

Aristotle (54)

It is only the man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual impulses that could give the name of the fair sex to that under-sized, narrow shouldered, broad-hipped, and short-legged race.

Arthur Schopenhauer (199)

Emily Dickinson’s parents would have preferred her to read less. In a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, our greatest poet notes:

My Mother does not care for thought—and Father, too busy with his Briefs—to notice what we do—He buys me many Books—but begs me not to read them—because he fears they joggle the Mind.

Although this sounds barbarous today, Mr. and Mrs. Dickinson were in alignment with over two thousand years of Western thought regarding the wisdom and feasibility of educating women.

As Rosemary Agonito demonstrates in her invaluable sourcebook History of Ideas on Women, the dominant perspective in Western philosophy from Aristotle to Freud is that women are childlike, feebleminded creatures, unsuited to function in the man’s world of action and ideas.

Nineteenth century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel argued that women are inherently unfit for anything beyond the domestic sphere:

Women can, of course, be educated, but their minds are not adapted to the higher sciences….Women may have happy inspirations, taste, elegance, but they have not the ideal. The difference between man and woman is the same as that between animal and plant….If women were to control the government, the state would be in danger, for they do not act according to the dictates of universality, but are influenced by accidental inclinations and opinions (167).

Another German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), tells us that women are basically children. By infantilizing women and feminizing childhood, male philosophers invent false polarities that preserve the status of men:

Women are directly fitted for acting as the nurses and teachers of our early childhood by the fact that they are themselves childish, frivolous and short-sighted; in a word, they are big children all their life long—a kind of intermediate stage between the child and the full-grown man. (194)

Unlike so many of the men who have shaped Western thought, Immanuel Kant (Prussia, 1724-1804) genuinely liked women. (There is much misogyny in the suppression of women, but misogyny is not a crucial ingredient.) Kant loves women just the way they are so much that he worries about what will happen if women endeavor to worry their pretty little heads over the affairs of men. (Some might argue that this is itself a form of misogyny.)

Laborious learning or painful pondering, even if the woman should greatly succeed in it, destroy the merits that are proper to her sex, and because of their rarity they can make of her an object of cold admiration; but at the same time they will weaken the charms with which she exercises her great power over the other sex (131).

The three ugliest villains in History of Ideas on Women are Paul the Apostle, Augustine of Hippo, and Thomas Aquinas.

Here’s Agonito on Paul:

There is evidence, consistent with Jesus’ example, that women played an important part in the earliest days of the new church, even engaging in such evangelical work as teaching the faith and converting large numbers to Christianity. Whatever the reason, Paul explicitly objected this new turn, and his reactionary efforts in the matter of women succeeded in setting the tone for thinking about women that would be continually reinforced in the intellectual and practical tradition in the West for the next two thousand years (68).

Paul thought women were pretty icky, and it was best to stay away from them:

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

(1 Corinthians 7:1-2)

Like many contemporary Muslims, Paul felt that women should cover their heads in public in order to emphasize the greater glory of men:

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man
(1 Corinthians 11:7)

According to Augustine, man derives his superior status over women directly from God. (See Genesis, Adam and Eve).

And indeed He did not even create the woman that was to be given to him as his wife, as he created the man, but created her out of the man, that the whole human race might derive from one man (75).

Like many influential Western male thinkers including Sigmund Freud, Aquinas sees women as an inherently defective, naturally subordinate creatures.

As regards to the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material disposition, or even from some external influence; such as the south wind, which is moist….woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates (85).

John Stuart Mill, David Hume, Ashley Montagu, and Herbert Marcuse are the only male thinkers in History of Ideas on Women whose ideas on women are not appalling by today’s standards. History of Ideas on Women is mostly a dismal read. But it’s an indispensable book.

by Richard W. Bray

Ghosts of all my Lovely Sins: Some Thoughts on the Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker

June 9, 2012


As Dorothy Parker once said
To her boyfriend, “Fare thee well”

Cole Porter Just One of Those Things

Years ago I was up late reading a poetry anthology when I came across a familiar passage from Wordsworth:

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and oh,
The difference to me!

I put the book down and thought, “You poor, poor man.” I was briefly flooded with empathy for Lucy and her chronicler. And this sensation connected my life and my various heartaches and disappointments with the turbid ebb and flow of human misery. (Soon I remembered that the people about whom I was reading had been dead for over a century. I picked up my book and went on to the next poem.)

Reading The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker, a women who “wore [her] heart like a wet, red stain,” I am reminded of the sage* who informs us that “Happiness is a sad song” (10).

Although I’m no stranger to heartache and self-pity, Mrs. Parker obviously possesses, to paraphrase Emily Dickinson, a heart not so airy as mine.

The sun’s gone dim, and
The moon’s turned black;
For I love him, and
He didn’t love back.

Just about every human being who has ever lived has had a similar experience. But how many of us could condense so much feeling into eighteen beautifully collocated metrical syllables?

(A note on Light Verse: Kurt Vonnegut complained that critics mistook Science Fiction for a urinal, and that’s how I feel about this dismissive term often applied to rhymed poetry which possesses a healthy meter. Even when, for example, Phyllis McGinley writes of serious topics like nuclear annihilation, critics belittle such poetry by classifying it as light verse. This is why I am heartened by the growing presence of poets such as Mrs. Parker and Ogden Nash in the anthologies.)

Of course, the poetry of Dottie Parker would be a dreary place were it not for the courage she demonstrates by climbing back on that horse no matter how many times it throws her.

Better be left by twenty dears
Than lie in a loveless bed;
Better a loaf that’s wet with tears
Than cold, unsalted bread

And the existential vivacity of the tender heart which continues to grab life by the horns for all its gusto is heroic indeed.

For contrition is hollow and wrathful,
And regret is no part of my plan,
And I think (if my memory’s faithful)
There was nothing more fun than a man!

Perhaps not coincidentally, the tenacity of Mrs. Parker’s amorousness is matched (if not bested) by the ferocity of her malevolence.

Then if friendships break and bend,
There’s little need to cry
The while I know that every foe
Is faithful till I die.

Dorothy Parker is a legendary hurler of insults
who penned several composites of enmity which she calls “hate poems.” Here are some of her more artful derisions:

(Serious Thinkers)
They talk about Humanity
As if they had just invented it;

They point out all the different colors in a sunset
As if they were trying to sell it to you;

(Free Verse)
They call it that
Because they have to give it away

They are always pulling manuscripts out of their pockets,
And asking you to tell them, honestly—is it too daring?

The Ones Who Made Shakespeare famous. (246)

Where a Freud in need is a Freud indeed,
And we can all be Jung together

(Overwrought Dramaturgy)
Of the Play That Makes You Think—
Makes you think you should have gone to the movies.

(Married “Steppers-Out”)
They show you how tall Junior is with one hand,
And try to guess your weight with the other.

People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;
God, for a man who solicits insurance!

They’d alter all that they admired.
They make me sick, they make me tired.

(Past boyfriends)
The lads I’ve met in Cupid’s deadlock
Were—shall we say—born out of wedlock.

*Schultz, Charles Happiness is a Warm Puppy

by Richard W. Bray