Experience and temporariness

Bernardo Tanis
 

To remember something means seeing it, in that moment, for the first time. Cesare Pavese

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To remember something means seeing it, in that moment, for the first time.
Cesare Pavese
 
The editors of the first edition of e-journal invite us to remember the inaugural gesture, summoning us to renew the exchange between analysts of every part of the world and the dialogue between the psychoanalytic community and society.
Is this just another paper in the extensive field of psychoanalytic journals?
The answer to this question might be suggested by the literary critic, Edward Said (1978): “to him, to whom we agree with, every beginning produces a singularity, but it also integrates what has already been created, the known, the heritage of language creation of humanity, concurrently with its own distinction, singular and fertile. Every beginning is an interaction of the known with the new. Many changes occurred in the world during the last decades, subjectivities have been reshaped, time and space dimensions have shortened, a dramatic rhythm of changes of which we barely notice the effects – shattering of traditions, new types of experiences, ties and affective states, maps of changing political geography, which highlight cultures previously excluded from influential centers of production of knowledge. A new magazine, an initiative of IPA together with the Federations, rediscovers the power of psychoanalysis, embracing more resolutely the diversity and complexity of psychoanalytic work in these different contexts. I would like to invoke Italian philosopher Agamben in Infancy and History (2005). He states that every culture entails an amount of time experience and that a new culture is not possible without a transformation of that experience.  That is, if we live in a time where part of the experience of time is changing, then something in our culture is also changing radically and, as psychoanalysts, we want to know how our psychoanalytic culture, our clinic and principles are changing.
Maybe this new publication can link what currently exists with what is coming; perhaps this initial and significant act is the expression of those changes.
The renowned Israeli author, Amoz Oz (1996), in the introduction of a short but fascinating book, The Story Begins, analyzes the beginning of ten stories and novels of acclaimed authors of universal literature: Kafka, Gogol, García Marquez, Chejov, Agnon, among others. With the multiplicity of styles and complex narrative strategies, Oz wonders: “What is a beginning after all? Is it possible that, in theory, there is a convenient start for any story? Isn´t there always, without exception, a beginning before the latent beginning, an event pre-Genesis?”
The cultural imaginary is full of myths, legends and stories regarding the origin: the origin of the universe, of culture, of mankind, of genres. The fantasy surrounding the origin, the beginnings, shows the original expression of humanity and of culture, just like Freud describes it in Totem and Taboo and in the idea of Urphantasien. The mythical resource bears witness, since the beginning of mankind, to the need to build an individual and a collective narrative around the mystery shrouding origins.
The dramatic progress of science, the quantic theory, the research on the Big Bang and the cosmos are not enough to appease the imaginary and implacable dimension of human subjectivity, the sensitive soul of the poet, the creative gesture in every one of us.
Without doubt, the first time refers to a temporal order, to a time before and a time after, it obeys to a chronology. Chronos: Greek and Jew Christian circular time that refers to a mythical beginning (origin) and to a destiny. Since modernity, though, this idea turned into the measured time of progress, the time of a machine, of a clock, of the quantified work. We know, however, that the temporal register does not include the psychic happenings, considering the Freudian discovery that confronted us to the timelessness of the unconscious and the après-coup (Nachtraglichkeit).
Who of us, active analysts, has not had the chance to ponder about the power of the first interview with a patient? A window being opened through which we can glimpse a throbbing subjectivity and, also an expression of suffering and pain, a battle of sexual and vital forces contained in symptoms or settings that extinguish and suppress the existence, but that, as a sparkle, revive the fire of a future project: the hope that this new analytic scene can, perhaps, contain the potential of change.
The first time condenses the space-time of the experience. The core of an expansion that radiates in multiple directions and dimensions and that questions the value and effect of the constitutive and original mark. This is the time of Aion, time of opening up to the unknown. The impact of the other is engraved in it, which enables the otherness and creation, but which can also be the origin of alienation, of the masochist submission to a destructive narcissism.
Just as there are different modalities where subject and time are inscribed, there is another category for the first time. We evoke here the rites of passage, so dear to tribal societies, religions and many other institutions. In some way they aren´t exterior to the human being, but they are inscribed as symbolic marks which serve as a link to a group, whether as something specific and particular or something collective. These rituals – even if many times they have implied certain challenges, which included acts of cruelty where the individual had to confront himself, with solitude, and test his capacity – were increasingly gaining symbolic value in the occidental world, without losing, for this, most of the common fantasy that surrounds them. However, in the passage from traditional societies to modern or post-modern ones, the value of the experience linked to the collective has been wearing away. 
Individualism imposed itself to the collective inscription of rite of passage, which was restricted to a few groups or specific institutions, and which was frequently accompanied by a return to more concrete ways where a symbolic value was reduced and the action gathered strength. Action that many times endangers the physical integrity of the individual and of the other, which serves as object so the ritual can take place. I refer here to gangs, universities student bodies, some companies, some religious sects or radical groups.
Accounting for the different temporal dimensions contained in first times, highlights its potential wealth, the multiple paths that emerge from it. There is a difference that must be mentioned, which refers to the area of relationships and meanings within first times: it is, as we will see, the difference between “lived experience” (Erlebnis) and “experience” (Erfahrung). I keep the German terminology because they refer to the Freudian use and also to the meaning Watler Benjamin (1985) gave to them, which I consider vital in our field. Erfahrung has the root fahren which refers to the movement of going through, of traveling. “Experience”, in its Latin root, already contains the radical per, which applies to the perimeter, something outside the perimeter. We are in the territory of narrative sedimentation, beginning with the temporal and generational accrual of traditions which is, in turn, updated through myths, legends, proverbs, linking generations; they possess an imaginary dimension, but this serves as context and base for the symbolic dimension. 
Erlebnis refers to the instant, to the singular, individual experience, less connected to the community of mankind.
We can emphasize the opposition between these two dimensions of human events although we might also perceive movements between them. W. Benjamin, one of the brightest thinkers of the past century, during the time between the two big wars, clearly observed the tension that opposed them. He perceived in modernity a kind of lack of narrative tradition, of possibility and place for experiencing modern society. This is observed in his research about the transformation of the city (Paris), transformation that will anticipate the transformations in our metropolis.
In the new discourse of modernity, Bejamin points out that modernity and progress are affirmed in opposition to the past, they are seen as delay. This is how the novelty is presented giving way to Erlebnis, sensorial and intimate experience of the singular that breaks through tradition. Is this Erlebnis of the men of masses, however, that can be associated – as Foucault will do later – to the caring of oneself, of the body, the pleasure, of diets and individual comfort separated from the collective, giving way to alienation and a pathology of time – a time empty of collective experience and filled with consumerism.
After this brief and necessary digression, let’s return to the first time: How should we place this lived experience and experience dialectic from the psychoanalytic perspective in the present time? Most of our patients, focused on the perspective of Erlebnis, seek, without knowing, the idealization of the encounter with the analyst as another instrument of our culture linked to the care of oneself, in a movement of collective alienation, of the transforming possibilities brought about by the encounter with fellow men. As if first time could begin and exhaust the potential of the experienced, fleetingly and momentarily, taking us, by the compulsion of repetition, to the incessant search of new first times that guarantee the reduction of boredom (sadness) which further depress the existential void. As if every session did not mean more than waiting for the next new message or Facebook posting. On the other hand, analysis has the power to link the individual with its history and with the history of the previous generations, with the culture to which he belongs to, widening and redefining the field of Erlebnisse (lived experiences), returning or introducing a, symbolic, collective time, where the old and the new will obey, not to one submission or subordination logic, but to critical movement. This may be achieved with a third perception of time in the context of analysis: Kairos, exact time, time that redefines, frantic time, however, reordering subjectivity, gaining thus state of shared Erfahrung (experience). This dialectics among multiple times, narrative and experience, is not only produced in the field of individual subjectivity; it includes the destination of the history of people, nations and also of our psychoanalytic institutions. Mourning traumatic experiences of a society is a necessary condition, without it the new cannot surface, as it will always be under the shadow of the past that has not been buried.
Finally, I would like to cite the words of the great Brazilian Author Guimarães Rosa (2001), in “Campo Geral”, spoken by one of the most important characters of the narrative, little Miguilim, who incarnate the perplexity of childhood facing the vicissitudes of the world of grownups; a boy looking for meanings.
One day, a man on a horse arrives to the town where Miguilim lives. Noticing the effort Miguilim makes to see, the man offers him a pair of glasses: Miguilim then sees – he cannot believe his eyes. Everything is clarity, everything is new, nice and different, things, trees, faces of people; he can see grains of sand, the surface of earth, little stones… Here, there, so many things, everything… (p. 149).
Inaugural moment that symbolically opens the doors of a new world. The short-sighted boy, metaphor of the limited perception, discovers a new reality; just like in the passage from childhood to adolescence infinite new perspectives are unveiled, which will design the course of his life. Like Freud when he wrote to his friend Fliess: “In this house, the secret of the dreams was revealed to Dr. Sigmund Freud.”
We are all Miguilim, we are all Freud, we are all those who seek the opportunity of a first time in something that reveals to us, so we can have the possibility of designing new paths. Psychoanalysis is today among several conundrums; we have to choose between being short-sighted analysts, or regaining the creator expression of Freudian audacity, experiencing, transiting new perimeters, traveling through the unknown paths of cultural and social transformations and, who knows, like little Miguilim and our founder father, we might discover the pleasure of perplexity before the new. I pray that the new e-journal will keep the flame of the founder expression alive.
 
Bibliography:
 
Agamben, G.(2005), Infancy and history. (H. Burigo,Trad.). Belo Horizonte: UFMG
Benjamin,W.(1985), “Experience and poverty” (1993) y “O narrador” (1936), presentes en: Benjamim,W. (1985) Magia e técnica, arte e política: essays about literature and history of the culture (S.P. Rouan Paulet,Trad.) San Pablo: Brasiliense.
OZ, A. (1996). The story begins, (A. Lisboa,Trad.). Rio de Janeiro: Ediouro
Rosa, J.G. (2001). Campo geral. In. J.G.Rosa, Manuelzao e Miguilim (pp. 27-152). Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira.
Said, E (1978) Beginnings: Intention and method. Baltimore; London; Jhons University Press

 
 

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Maureen Murphy
Thank you, Bernardo for this lovely, evocative piece.
30/09/2015 19:36:11

Maureen Murphy
Thank you, Bernardo for this lovely, evocative piece.
30/09/2015 19:36:02