Saturday, October 10, 2009

Heavy Bored Cyborg: Attunement and Addiction (2/2)

What follows is the continuation of the paper I presented at the first annual conference of the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT). Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

The beginning of the paper can be found here

of Berryman's heavy boredom, and what, if anything, can we glean from this about addiction today?

In reviewing the literature concerning addiction I came to wonder what Berryman would have though of being characterized as having a pathological loss of reason, which is how the earliest attempts at understanding habitual drunkenness characterized this state of affairs. This pathology was also understood as a collapse of moral reason.1 In many ways this sentiment remains in place and as a cornerstone of recovery treatment in Alcoholics Anonymous, where those seeking recovery must announce that their best thinking got them to this point.2 The medical model of addiction subsumes personal agency and suggests that there is a pathology but what the causal mechanism is has yet to be determined. Thus, if we accept that addiction is simply a chemical problem we necessarily must accept, then, that the addicted individual is no longer culpable for their behaviors. The mechanistic model, for all of its empirical merits, however, falls short in explaining addiction because addiction, as Davies points out, is a question of both one's physiology and volition, which are mutually exclusive:

Addiction, impossibly, seeks to make these accounts complementary; something they cannot be. The notion invites us to apply a rational/decision making frame-work to our fellow men/women, up to the point where they start to encounterproblems with their drug use, and then to switch to a view of man/woman as machine.3
Although the the term addiction ultimately has been abandoned – over the past twenty years – in favor of chemical dependence and substance use disorder – what has remained is the insistence that those using substances of abuse ultimately must subsume themselves to the authority of medical-style interventions.4 While those in neuroscience (particularly neurodegeneration) no longer use the term addiction, the top journal for substance abuse is still called Addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse features prominently on their website a section called Addiction Science where those curious can learn the story of why drugs are bad. At the intersection of the Public and the Private is the ongoing development of drug use literature. Like literature, as Avital Ronell points out, whether it's the criminal justice system, the local AA meeting place, those that come under the eyes of the Authorities-That-Be cannot be allowed to go into the public without covering over the wound of non-being, thus the subject becomes interpellated as a re-covering addict. This recovering over of the subject clearly is suggestive of Freud's “Mourning and Melancholia” as this recovering is a covering over of the ways of being that we develop as we apprentice in our drug using careers. We are, in recovery, learning to forget that life prior to the intervention. Clearly also in the formulation of the drug use career or trajectory (apprenticeship-disorder-recovery) is the question of thinking (erfahrung) which leads this paper to discussing Heidegger.

According to Heidegger, Being in the modern era is concealed by the growing purveyance three attitudes: In the recent calls for the “Responsible Use of Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs by the Healthy”5 society at large demonstrates once more its succumbing to the trap Heidegger foresaw has as its goal the concealing of Being itself in boredom.6 According to Heidegger, Being in the modern era is concealed by the growing purveyance three attitudes:

  1. Calculation – which he calls the basic law of comportment and is the prerogative of the principle of organization.7 Perhaps we can think here of the speaking machine. Sprachmaschine, as we are told, completes the metaphysics of technological Ge-stell (enframing). Self-deception, warns Heidegger, is the inexorable direction of the Sprachmaschine, “the superficial impression is still maintained that the human being is still the master of the language machine. But the truth might well be that the Sprachmaschine puts language into its service and in this way masters the essence of the human being.”8 Isn't, at the heart of addiction the earnest belief that we can control the dose such that, like the Sprachmaschine we maximize the efficiency of its employment without simultaneously destroying ourselves? Central to Heidegger's thinking on the matter is man's relationship to time.
  2. The second element concealing Being is acceleration – the phrase is “not-being-able-to-bear the stillness of hidden growth; it is necessary to forget quickly.9 Heidegger states it thus, “the geneuine restlessness of the struggle remains hidden. Its place is taken by the restlessness of the always inventive operation, which is driven by the anxiety of boredom.
  3. The third prevailing attitude is the outbreak of massiveness – not just “the masses” but the rapidly stacking up of the calculable towering over us and so rending us blind to the unique as it is not accessible to “the many.”
  4. The result of these three is thus the “divesting, publicizing, and vulgarizing of all attunement.”10
Because of Being and Time many believe that our anxiety in awareness of our finitude is the fundamental attunement that can be attributed to Dasein (the Being-there of humans being). It is from the disclosure of Dasein that we are able to apprehend the richest possibilities of our being. But anxiety is not the only nor solely privileged attunement which can be attributed to Dasein; Heidegger also finds that being in the state of profound boredom also discloses Dasein. Heidegger develops this discussion of boredom in the 1929-30 lecture course published as Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics11 so as to illuminate what separates the human animal from all other animals (as Kuperus has written recently).12 Dasein is absorbed with all its responsibilities, tasks, appointments, and in completing these, we have become an indifferent one, as in “One would think to do this differently,” or, “One wishes it could be otherwise.” We are lost to ourselves in the things of our living. Our identity has been lost in the beings with which we occupy ourselves. We have become – as Heidegger himself expresses it – an “undetermined I.” The common link between technology and profound boredom is in how one relates to time.

Heidegger outlines three forms of boredom: 1) becoming bored by something – as in killing time while waiting for the train, 2) being bored with something and its associated time – a recognition, in his example after the fact, that the events of the evening were in the end boring, and 3) profound boredom – the phrase he uses is
es ist einem lanweilig, “It is boring for one.” We experience this profound boredom as indifference, the “It” of “It is boring for one,” is, “the title for whatever is indeterminate, unfamiliar.” This “It” should be familiar as it is who we are, this profound boredom has left us standing there acutely aware of the universe's complete anesthesia to our being as this coming and going. Similar to the first form of boredom, but unlike the second, we are fundamentally incapable of engaging other beings in this state of profound boredom, in fact being itself refuses to be engaged, this telling refusal is the mark of profound boredom. And, just as Berryman's mother (repeatingly) admonishes us all: to confess that we have such boredom is to admit an emptiness.

It is in this emptiness of profound boredom and the narcosis that is being-on-drugs that I am most intrigued. We revisit Berryman's poem in light of this question, how do we transform being heavy bored into an affirmation of being's possibilities? The profundity of profound boredom is in the revelation of the emptiness of the universe. It is in this manner of thinking that I am tempted to imagine the Heidegger that would reflect on shunyata (
ku,), emptiness. And in my intoxication with this imagining, I recall Fukushima Keido Roshi telling us one evening that LSD-zen is not the same zen that he has cultivated and that he can transmit. Fukushima does not deny that one might experience something profound under the influence of a technology such as LSD, but perhaps he has in (no)mind something similar to Heidegger. The essence of the development and use of technology in the last two centuries has been to achieve given ends in the most efficient manner while expending minimal resources – the principle resource to be spared being time itself. The result of the promotion of technological innovation, as Thiele has stated, “This victory over time bears a price: humanity comes to relate to time as an obstacle and antagonist, as a recalcitrant force that demands harnessing. The effect of technological innovation, in other words, is not so much the saving of time as its conquest.”13 This antagonistic relationship to time is problematic for both Fukushima and Heidegger as our being is a dwelling14 in time. There is no room in this essay to discuss in any appreciable depth, unfortunately, how Fukushima might discuss the problem, but we can further explore Heidegger's thinking.15

Time weighs most heavily on the bored. Thus Nietzsche asks in proposing the eternal recurrence, that heaviest burden, how will we be disposed to ourselves and our lives in this light?16 We
typically counteract boredom through busy work and preoccupations. In so doing we are passing the time in order to become masters over time. Our attempts to kill time, an attempt to drive boredom away, is actually a driving on of time.17 But any effort to kill time obscures the essence of our being, which is defined as a being-in-time. In profound boredom we cannot simply go about business as usual, as Heidegger states, profound boredom “brings the self in all its nakedness to itself as the self that is there and has taken over the being there of its Da-sein. For what purpose? To be that Dasein.”18 This telling refusal of beings as a whole is a calling: to consummation of this emptiness that is the foundation of being and its fundamental responsibility to being as a whole.19 Rather than the self care that anxiety provokes in Being and Time, with all the attendant problems of how to face the Other (as, say, Levinas points out); profound boredom, like Heidegger's later works on Gelassenheit, is a call to responsivity rather than responsibility.

Being-as-a-whole's telling refusal of our
Dasein in the state of profound boredom is not only the medium by which our Dasein returns to itself as responsible to itself, it is also an expression of Nature's being-there. Thus they are mutually implicated in a hyperbolic sense of freedom as my freedom can only be understood in a relationship to nature and its ultimate disinterestedness in my busy work. We cannot discuss Being-as-a-whole's disinterestedness in us as a production of our personal taste; while it may be a calling, it is not a calling to overcome nature's fundamental disinterestedness. Finding ourselves in this state of profound boredom, as Ross has stated recently, “reveals nature within its 'ownness.'”20 What's more, profound boredom calls upon us to poeisis, such that we poetically dwell in the world as the world reveals itself to us in its own terms, no longer mediated by our preoccupations and busy work. In this way, can we understand the problem of the social phenomenon that we call addiction not as a failure of an individual's decision making capabilities but of a mutual inability to understand the conditions and interwoven events that lead one to cover over the profundity of our interrelatedness?21

Heidegger's discussion and development of this profound boredom helps us to intimate an orientation towards ourselves in an expanded sense such that who we are is mutually implicated and consummated in our relationships to the world as itself. Chief among Heidegger's concerns was man's relatioships to technology, promoting a return not to a simpler time without technology, as a neo-Luddite, but a return to the world as the primary site of wonder. Thinking in this manner about addiction shifts our prescription from a focus on an individual that is responsible for its choices to an investigation of the conditions among us that facilitate or encourage narcosis. Sharing Heidegger's call to reminding us of the profundity of identification in the face of technology, D.W. Winnicott, in his essay “Struggling Through the Doldrums”, announced that in the long shadow being cast by the development of atomic warfare our society can no longer justify harnessing the energy of its youth toward military use as a given and thus we enter the Teen Age. He speaks of this in terms not unlike a recovering drug user, “we have lost something we have been in the habit of using, and so we are thrown back into this problem,”22 of being. Winnicott's contribution to developmental psychology was to expand our understanding of children and in doing this he pioneered the use of group therapy. Whatever is the psyche of the teen it is certainly also the psychology of the group: they form groups on the basis of the most inconsequential uniformities, theirs is the struggle for an identity, the struggle to feel real. The constant frustration of the adolescent is phrased in terms of drive:

One member of the group takes an overdose of a drug, another lies in bed in a depression, another is free with the flick of a knife. In each case there are grouped a band of adolescent isolates behind the ill individual whose extreme symptom has impinged on society. Yet in the majority of these individuals, whether or not they get involved, there was not enough drive behind the tendency to bring the symptom into inconvenient existence and to produce a social reaction. The ill one had to act for the others.23

Winnicott states that the problem of the adolescent is not only that is terrifying to be an adolescent and to do battle with the pervasive gnawing of being trapped in unreality, but the problem cannot be contained in one person: it hurts those of us that have yet to have successfully negotiated our own adolescence. Like Heidegger, Winnicott suggests to those that would hear that telling refusal of this uncanny world, that unreality where our tasks and ambitions are of no consequence, the way out of this labyrinth is not through slaying minotaurs, it's in our ability to heed his directions home. This paper is a call to a sense of hyperbolic responsibility in those that would listen: to promote the self-consummation that one is challenged by in the terror of profound boredom.

1Berringer, Virginia. “Morality and Medical Science: Concepts of Narcotic Addiction in Britain, 1820-1926.” Annals of Science 36, no. 1 (1979): 19.
2Hoffmann, Heath C. “Recovery Careers of People in Alcoholics Anonymous: Moral Careers Revisited.” Contemporary Drug Problems, no. 30 (2003): 37.
3Davies, J. B. (1998). “Pharmacology versus social process: Competing or complementary views on the nature of addiction?” Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 80, 268.
4May, Carl. “Pathology, Identity, and the Social Construction of Alcohol Dependence.” Sociology 35 (2001): 17.
5Henry Greely, Barbara Sahakian, John Harris, Ronald C. Kessler, Michael Gazzaniga, Philip Campbell, Martha J. Farah. “Towards Responsible Use of Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs by the Healthy.” Nature 456 (2008): 702-705.
6Heidegger, Martin. Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning). Trans. Parvis Emad & Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indian University Press. 1999. §76.
7Ibid. §58.
8Heidegger, Martin. Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens. Ed. Hermann Heidegger. Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1983. Vol. 13 of Gesamtausgabe. 149. Reference from Charles Bambach. “Heidegger, Technology, and the Homeland.” Germanic Review, vol. 78, September, 2003.
9Heidegger, Martin. Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning). Trans. Parvis Emad & Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indian University Press. 1999. §76.
11Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts in Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 1995.
12 Kuperus, Gerard. “Attunement, Deprivation and Drive: Heidegger and Animality.” In Phenomenology and the Non-Human Animal, edited by Corrine; Lotz Painter, Christian. New York: Springer, 2007.
13 Thiele, Leslie Paul. “Postmodernity and the Routinization of Novelty: Heidegger on Boredom and Technology.” Polity 29, no. 4 (1997): 505.
14According to personal communications between Joan Stambagh and Eugene Gendlin, Heidegger himself sees the phrase Befindlichkeit in his later work as wohnen (dwelling).
15We might start by talking about killing time instead of killing the Buddhas we meet on the road.
16Nietzsche, Friederich The Gay Science with a Prelude in German Rhymes and Appendix of Songs. Ed. Bernard Williams. Trans. Josefine Nauckhof and Adrian Del Caro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003. §341.
17Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts in Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 1995. 95-6 §23.
18Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts in Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 1995. 143 §31.
19Hammer, Espen. “Being Bored: Heidegger on Patience and Melancholy.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 12, no. 2 (2004): 286.
20Ross, Andrew Peter. "Rethinking Environmental Responsibility: Heidegger, Profound Boredom, and the Alterity of Nature." Dissertation, Queen's University, 2007. 46.
21Here I'm thinking of that most boring hunk of rock in Rilke's “Archaic Torso of Apollo.” It's just rock, but bursting forth from it is a star and so we are told that in witnessing this we must change our lives. Rilke consummates not just the ancient sculptor's vision of a complete body, but also the entire process of stellar evolution. He comes to know, in the profound boredom of the procession of history – which could careless about this sculpture – that our Being must always be revisited so as to be attuned to being-as-a-whole.
22Winnicott, D.W. “Struggling through the Duldrums.” Deprivation and Delinquency. New York: Rouledge 2000. 150.
23Ibid. 153.

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