Memories are Fossils

WalkAway

Memories are fossils, she said,

And left him on the strand

The carnival was whirling around

Food, family and dancing

On the Day of the Dead

He walked to the sand

And ran for miles, apocalypso miles,

Tumbling down to the exposed bone,

Curving bone that rims the sea

And there memory came as a tsunami

And all the fossils on the shore

Were particles of I;

After love has swept by,

Memories are fossils and I

The Experience of Being Alive

Chapter 12 of Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press, available on Amazon and B&N.

TheWriter_CoverPJ produced a new piece about intuition. “As you know, I’ve made a study in quest of the meaning of the word: intuition. And I came to understand that it begins in childhood unconsciously, and it is a totally unconscious process; nobody knows anything about it. In other words you’re in a situation and the issue is stated and right away your reaction is instant, and positive. But people can spend the rest of their lives trying to rationalize what they did. Did I explain that clearly?”

“You do,” I said. “Very well.”

PJ’s new definition of “intuition” as integral to human motivation and behavior interested me. He showed its operation in his own life in The Writer.

At thirty one, the young artist made a decision, known to him at the time but unknown during an interim of years until the writer reminded him of it. At that early age, when most young men are seeking a profession which will pay them well, the young man determined that he would never again work for money.

He lived by that resolution, too, while in the competitive society in which he found himself. He did later work on salary. But that was for bread, the landlord and the utilities. He lived to learn that there is no money in living “for the joy of it.”

Then youth to old age, with intuitive perception, he lived for the experience of being alive.

“This phrase, intuitive perception,” I said to PJ, “how can that work with your new concept of intuition?”

***

In the church’s front office, I picked up a book, Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker. He summarized Kierkegaard’s “lie of character” as being “built up because the child needs to adjust to the world, to the parents, and to his own existential dilemmas.”

Not very specific, but it was a summary after all. Becker went on, “It is built up before the child has a chance to learn about himself in an open or free way, and thus character defenses are automatic and unconscious.” Then the person “becomes dependent on them and comes to be encased in his own prison, and into himself … and the defenses he is using, the things that are determining his unfreedom.”

Isak Dinesen, though, said there are ways to escape this prison, this slavery to the accreted self, and create one’s self anew and form new identities at will.

PJ felt he had been forced to create new identities. In each identity he found “a clean slate.” Studying his own identity, he began to think about the adjustments children make.

“Now, presume that a child begins life innocent and amiable and feels no guilt,” he said, “until the first time someone punishes him. Then the child feels anger and guilt. Although later, he may learn to mask hostility with an amiable appearance, there will never be a time of complete amiability again. The hostility may be disguised so well that the person does not know he experiences it himself.”

“So the cause of hostility,” I said, “is that rebuke to your innocence.”

Yes, he nodded.

“Isn’t there one more ‘station’ between impulse and action?” I quoted Voltaire: “’I believe that with the slightest shift in my character, there is no crime I could not commit.’”

He smiled. There was a last stage one’s reactions go through, he said. “You see, character gives a temper point, having something to think about, argue about.”

I liked the way PJ’s theories were specific and not sterile, incorporating emotions such as love and anger, and the palpable senses of guilt and innocence.

A New Definition of Intuition

In our modern scientific world, the idea that great thoughts and insights can come from a person who simply uses his mental capacity to study and gain understanding of human nature (or the human condition) has receded into the realm of legend: Aristotle, Socrates, Plato (The Greek pantheon), Rousseau and the French pantheon, Hume and the English/Scottish philosophers, Laozi, and countless others from many parts of the world.

In the 1960s through the late 1980s, Paul Johnson (PJ), a Greenwich Village artist and writer, made his own journey to study the way in which we develop our intuition, how we use our perception and intellect, and how we relate to one another based on these.

PJ discovered that the “intuition” is not ESP, or some magical process, but a rational one. In the “building of the intuition” the use of reason is elemental. Beginning before consciousness or at least consciousness of memory, a child interacts with his body, other people and the environment, beginning to learn of the effects of his actions and reactions.

There is a qualitative value assigned to each experience. At its most fundamental, this can be expressed as either positive or negative. Human beings’ interactions with others and the environment are fraught with emotions, impacts on self-development and image, and one’s sense of “being a good person,” that is, innocent. Placed in a compendium are both the positive or amiable, and the negative or hostile experiences.

Thinking of his childhood and observing others, PJ was able to describe how the “intuitive program” begins. Seeing a child punished in the park for picking up a piece of glass, he said, “That child was amiable when he was born. He felt no guilt. Until someone slapped his hand and said, No, don’t do that! And he felt hostility for the first time.”

“The little one is beginning to make up his own program. He builds up an unconscious memory bank of what would do him the least harm of his actions and reactions.”

This collection, or breviary, of amiable and hostile experiences may be given the name: intuition. The intuition, PJ explained, determines one’s response to a situation as either an amiable or a hostile one. This response is instantaneous and unconscious (although one can become more attuned to it). The intuition is only an intermediary between stimulus and response. It directs the nature of the response.

All of this happens below the level of consciousness. British professor Guy Claxton states that the intuition is “a mental process which is non-conscious, but nevertheless rational.” That is, it follows certain implicit rules. 1 (Claxton uses the word “non-conscious” to separate it from the Freudian concept of the “unconscious.”)

As PJ did, Claxton recognizes the levels of consciousness, and the need as well as the ability to access these levels. PJ came to his conclusions through “tapping into the subliminal stream of consciousness.” In this way he was able to discover his motivations, and to evaluate his actions and their consequences.

This paper will be followed by others on Memory and Intuition, Guilt and Innocence, and Perceptive Intellect.

PJ’s story is told in Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press, 2013. Available on:

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1 Han Baltussen, 2007. Did Aristotle have a concept of ‘intuition’? Some thoughts on translating ‘nous’. In E. Close, M. Tsianikas and G. Couvalis (eds.) “Greek Research in Australia: Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial International Conference of Greek Studies, Flinders University June 2005,” Flinders University Department of Languages – Modern Greek: Adelaide, 53-62. Archived at Flinders University: dspace.flinders.edu.au. This paper is available on academia.edu

Is life a series of delusions?

Paul Johnston (PJ)

Paul Johnston (PJ)

In his Village habitat, PJ tapped his fingers on the papers piled next to his typewriter. “I’ve wondered if time moves so swiftly that we can remember only a tiny fragment of what happens,” he said. “Do we make a selection from these fragments, and if so, do these selections form a series of delusions with which we live throughout our lives?”

“That would explain my life,” I said.

Later, he wrote: “Time moves so swiftly that memory cannot retain an infinitesimal fragment and a person has to stop to make a selection consciously or unconsciously, evaluating by using an innate mental faculty, choosing what seems to enhance his inner security, but was only part of his reality, and so it was a delusion. This is the first in an uncountable number of delusions.”

“At the same time,” he said, “is it possible that each person contains all the memory of human consciousness from the beginning of human existence? How would that affect the perceptions of events, and the process of selection?”

These are excerpts from Tally: An Intuitive Life, by Mary Clark, All Things That Matter Press, available at Amazon as a print book ($16.95 or less) or Kindle ebook ($5.99). Purchase the print book and get the Kindle for just $1.99!