KARL JASPERS FORUM
TA 107 (Rosen)
BRIDGING THE "TWO CULTURES":
MERLEAU-PONTY AND THE CRISIS IN MODERN PHYSICS
by Louise Sundararajan
8 August 2008, posted 16 August 2008
I wish only to add a footnote to Rosen's highly suggestive notion of Klein bottling as a process that flies in the face of the classical trichotomy of the container, the contained, and the uncontained. Expanding on the spatial imageries of Merleau-Ponty, who used the Cézannian space to illustrate the possibility of an unbroken flow from container to the contained (content) through the depth dimension (the uncontained consciousness), I cite a few examples of creativity to illustrate the Klein bottling process in the domain of emotions.
The equivalent of Klein bottling in emotional processing is a double vision, so characteristic of artistic creativity, that sees beyond the powerful focal emotions a penumbra of background-affect, such as tranquility, an ambient mood less intense but more encompassing than the focal emotions. This background affect or mood can be foregrounded in art. Consider the following lines by a fourth century Chinese poet T'ao Ch'ien (365-427):
Picking chrysanthemums beneath the eastern hedge,
[I] chance upon the Southern Mountain. ("Drinking Wine")
What does the word "leisurely" refer to ? Does it pertain to picking the mums or perceiving the distant mountain ? I believe that this relaxed mood pertains to nothing in particular -- it is a background affect, a pre-requisite for the chance encounter with the Southern Mountain. What we have here is a figure-ground reversion : the emotions associated with seeing the Southern Mountain as if for the first time are not spelled out. The poet's focus is instead on the background affect, the leisurely mood that makes this poetic perception possible. Consider another example. Cézanne was said to have "painted in deepest loneliness the simplest things in such a way that along with the things, the expanse from which they come and into which they withdraw is also there . . ." (Pöggeler, 1987, p. 283).
Therapists can also capitalize on this double vision to take note of the focal emotions of the client, on the one hand, while modulating the latter's background mood, on the other. Elsewhere (Sundararajan, 2000) I have analyzed a therapy session of FOCUSING (Gendlin, 1981) to show how a quick transmutation of emotions from tears to laughter, from anger to joy was made possible, when the therapist instilled an ambient mood of ease and comfort. This therapeutic impact of the background mood on focal emotions can be understood in light of the Heideggerian notion of the "region," which is a spatial imagery of the emotional stance called "letting be" or "releasement" (Heidegger, 1962). The region is best described by Brock as the "vast spaciousness" that "gives every single thing the warrant to be" (1949, p. 243).
Finally, this double vision is referred to by Vattimo (1988) as "the occurrence of authentic space," which consists of "the interplay between locality and region" (p. 83), or in the present context, focal emotions and background mood. The therapeutic effect of the Klein bottling process in both art and psychotherapy lies in the fact that, as Vattimo (1988) points out, through the interplay of figure and ground, our focal emotion "is foregrounded both as the agent of a (new) spatial ordering [in our emotional landscape], and as a point of escape toward the free vastness of the region" (p. 83).
Brock, W. (1949). Introduction. In M. Heidegger, Existence and being. Chicago:
Gendlin, E. (1981). Focusing. New York: Bantam.
Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. New York: Harper and Row.
Pöggeler, O. (1987). Martin Heidegger's Path of Thinking (D. Magurshak & S. Barber, trans.). New Jersey: Humanities.
Sundararajan, L. (2000). Background-mood in emotional creativity: A microanalysis. Consciousness and Emotion, 1 (2), 227-243.
Vattimo, G. (1988). The end of modernity/Nihilism and hermeneutics in postmodern culture ( Jon R. Snyder, trans.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.
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