Monday, 21 February 2011

Catch up with added Wittgenstein

Well, howdy y'all.

It has been a while since I sat down to write a proper post. Those that read my last post may recall that I had some notion of posting an academic essay of mine. I've since changed my mind. For starters I'm not at all happy with it, it's dry as a bone and despite the hours of work and weeks of stress and reading and more stress it doesn't read all that well and the ideas I've tried to discuss are too important to me to make a half-arsed job of conveying them to those outside the fold.

The essay tried to explore the concept of self-deception through the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the role of Existential Psychotherapy in bringing self-deceptions to light and challenging the beliefs that make it seem so necessary. Not to mention how my own self-deceptions blind me in my work with my clients. Wittgenstein's work has inspired me in a way that few Existential philosphers have. His exploration of language as the building blocks of our world and its implications are as profound as they are overlooked. His writing is devoid of jargon and yet is immensely challenging to the Western mind, all the more so nowadays in a world where science and empiricism rule supreme. Where theories of mind/behaviour are postulated with all the force of holy writ.

Anyway, not posting it. It rather sucks. Which is a shame because I don't think I've ever worked harder on an essay in my life. I take some comfort from the knowledge that I picked a real bastard of a topic that is so very difficult. I'm not done with Wittgenstein though, I'm currently reading his Philosophical Investigations and struggling with it. The truth be told, his philosophy demands discussion to really understand it but alas, I've yet to find a discussion group. Yes, I'm sure there are groups online but that isn't what I meant. I meant a real, face-to-face discussion group with like minded souls. The accessibility of the internet has robbed us of that. Why meet when we can 'meet' online?

But there is so much more to language than words! So much that is lost when we write rather than speak face-to-face. Hypocrite? Yes, I suppose I am. Here I sit writing furiously while bemoaning its very real and severe limitations. But to refuse even dirty, brackish water in the desert is rather churlish and self-defeating I think. If writing is my only outlet then I must use it and equally must acknowledge its limitations.

More to language than words? Oh yes, yes, yes. Gesture, facial expression, posture, tone and rythm often say more than the words we may choose to use. And have you noticed how universal they are? Have you ever stopped to think about how weird it is that facial expressions, gestures etc. convey meaning so accurately across cultures and languages? I'm aware that there are some elements of body language that are unique to particular cultures and yet, given time, can be explained to an 'outsider' in such a way as to open it out to him/her. There is no such thing as a private language, this is a central thought in Wittgenstein's philosophy.

The Western world is convinced of the idea that words are representations of objects in the world and that a child learns what certain sounds refer to and so learns to speak. Is that really the case? Wittgenstein shows that it's a fiction that holds sway over the more delightful reality. That words are part of a web of language that incorporates words and all that I've mentioned above. Children don't learn a language in the mechanistic sense so beloved of the Scientific mind, they are initiated into language. A process taking many years and certainly beyond their school years.

I could go on and on but you really must have a look for yourself. His most accessible book is probably On Certainty. Accessible doesn't mean easy, it's really hard work but well worth the effort to engage with. Philosophical Investigations is also well worth the time to struggle with. For those who have an interest in the therapeutic application of his philosophy (and he believed his philosophical method to be therapy) you need look no further than John Heaton's excellent book, The Talking Cure.

I suppose that's as close as I can really get to show where I've been for the last few weeks. I've barely scratched the surface of what I've been wrestling with, and continue to wrestle with, but it will have to do for now. Please forgive my laziness, it's hard to find the right words in the right order to convey clearly what I've learned but I'm really tired and it's important to me to get it right. I will try again. It has had the most extraordinary effect on my work with clients. I suspect my next essay will also be focussed on Wittgenstein.

So, onto other things. Reviewing and interviewing has suffered a slowdown while I was in essay country and I'm having a hard time getting the creative juices flowing. I've got an interview to write with Dan Abnett and it's proving extremely difficult. All the authors I've interviewed to this point have been relatively new talent, what the hell do you ask the man that has done everything?! There's a little hero worship going on here and any regular readers of this blog will have heard his name mentioned in hallowed, reverent whispers. First things first, I have to write the give you some perspective Mr. Abnett is a remarkably humble and down-to-earth person who is going to be challenged by my glow-in-the-dark intro which will likely compare him favourably to the great heroes of the past. That's one hurdle I know I can overcome...I think.

It's the questions that have me stuck, what do I ask him? I know he's really involved in Marvel Comics but it's not a part of his work that I've really engaged with but I'm sure he'd love to talk about it. Also he's been writing almost as long as I've been alive so a fair few of my interview classics are going to have to be put to one side. Truth be told I've got to stop moaning and just get on with it. That creative vacuum from which ideas spring is a painful place to be and one in which I've spent a great deal of my time lately. I suppose I must buckle down and get back to it, I have to remind myself that when the flow inevitably hits I'll be loving every minute of it.

In other news, I'm skint. I've lost one of my part time jobs which means that money has been extraordinarily tight. I knew this was coming, I knew there would be a time of transition from 'trainee' therapist to qualified therapist which would require the building of a practise. I knew it would take time and leave me rather skint for a while and guess what? Knowing all that hasn't made it easier, not even slightly. I've been unable to fly for a while, though that's just as much to do with the awful weather as it is my cash strapped state.

Ooh, exciting news! Those lovely people at Black Library have added me to their reviewers list! This means that every two months they send me a box with one of every release...WOOHOO!!! This is a really exciting development that has gotten a little lost amidst my essay/cash preoccupations but I'm really pleased I was able to remember while writing this post.

For me it's a real validation of what I've been doing over the last year for BSC Review, speaking of which, my angel of an editor has offered me a payed writing gig for the site which only adds to my sense of WOOHOO! I had to turn it down because I was deeply mired in writing academic nonsense but she made it clear that the door was open if I decided it was something I wanted to do. I'm mulling it over at the moment, I hope that the review I'm working on (in the loosest sense of the word working) and the interview will give me a creative boost that might tempt me into taking up the post. It isn't a lot of money, it's more about the recognition that the offer of payment implies. I'm really rather pleased with myself (a rare event).

Still on the BSC topic, author Aaron Dembski Bowden has now started writing for the site. This is something in which I played a small role which I now mention for a brief moment of preening show-offiness.

And with that dispensed with I think I'm done for now. Bloody nora that's a long post, sorry about that. I hope you feel it was of some interest.

It has certainly served to remind me of how much I enjoy writing :)