Directing Desire

BMcC: There is a beautiful book of the architect Louis I. Kahn's writings: John Lobell, "Between Silence and Light". I had a copy but it is either buried in a box in the basement of the house I am currently living but not dwelling[1] in, or else I no longer have it → due to my lifeworld having been destroyed[2] around 2007 by an unwanted house move to which I let myself be subjected because I do not have the strength of character to be a hermit.

In Lobell's book there is a quote from Kahn to the effect that a city is a place where persons live a life formed by desire not by need. Such a city has nothing to do with anthropoids reproducing like proverbial rabbits (current population of Cairo Egypt: 9.12 * 10 ** 6; Las Vegas Nevada: 6.6 * 10 ** 5 ...). Desire, in Kahn's sense, is aspiration for something meaningful and beautiful in living, what skilled hand and knowing mind create in universal culture, not just reproducing individual and species life in banausic parochial tedium of necessary labor (aka: need).

Kahn defines a city as a place where a small boy (it could also be a girl, but I think Kahn died before the word "man" was corrupted by Political Correctnessers to privatively mean: old white male privilege to be expropriated by the Political Correctnessers' parochiality: once upon a time in a lifeworld long since gone, the word "man" could have referred to living human individual in an honorific sense, not to "rich old white males" as being the loci of all evil in a social surround where the destructors of civilization gorge themselves by eating the hand that feeds them: the rich old white males' accomplishments (some of these Last Persons[3] get paychecks from established universities or bank checks written on parents' inherited wealth accounts).

End of digression: For Louis Kahn, a city is a place where a small boy, going from the workshop of one master craftsman to another, may find something he wants to do for his whole life. Again: what the small boy is looking for is not freedom of enterprise to exploit employees and freedom to breed promiscuously, but rather freedom to do something meaningful with his (or her or other...) life. This need not, as was the case in Kahn's case, be anything academic: A master potter who never read anything other than Bernard Leach's pottery how-to books but who had studied clay at the highest level, would qualify well. laborare est orare.

For Kahn, desire is a vector toward meaningful living in an honorific sense, living devoted to creating works of lasting value. For himself, this was architecture: Building edifices in which persons would not just metabolize to excrete Marxian surplus value and their telomers shorten as they aged, but rather buildings in which persons would find deep satisfaction in activity producing works of lasting value to share with others in mutual enjoyment. Buildings that would nourish the spirits of the persons who live and move and have their being in them[4], not just decorated sheds for Culture Criminal faux-architects to secretly mock them (ref.: GUILD HOUSE, 1963; Venturi, "Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture", p. 116, from imperfect memory).

Let your light so shine before men....

Wilfred Bion wrote that social customs are shared hallucinoses, aka social psychoses. Beliefs are semiotic viruses that need/use people as host cells to reproduce themselves (like Covid-19 germs, but infecting the soul in addition to the corporeal body). People reproduce and their so-called societies eat the people (e.g.: as casualties of wage-labor and wars). I (BMcC) have found, however, that some contents of social customs can be constructively recycled. I wish to do that with one Christian dictum here:

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt 5:16)

I (BMcC) interpret this in a perhaps idiosyncratic way. I do not believe in any God; I am currently agnostic, because no God has spoken to me, either in respectful civil discourse or in bully-terrorization (as did the Judeo-Xian Deity in such cases as Adam and Eve, Job and the Master Builders of The Tower of Babel). But I do believe in a father which is in Heaven: the unknowable source of human creative acts. "No man knows from where the words come from in the upsurge of meaning from the depths into the light" (quoting from imperfect memory, George Steiner, quoting Schiller, "After Babel", p. 147, if I remember correctly). So here's my take on this little quote: Think, feel and act in your life in such a way that you light up the surrounding darkness [of what is not honorific civil, peer-to-peer discourse].

A lighthouse. Light shining in the darkness to keep ships from crashing into the land or getting lost at sea. No lighthouse can help toadying fops like Francesco Schettino (Captain of the Costa Concordia), who steer for applause from the passengers, not for any port of destination,

Be a lighthouse, so that persons' lives will not shipwreck in the benighted / befogged darkness of Bion's social psychoses ("Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori", etc.). Glorify the source of meaning (Steiner's unknowable), not the biological prick that happened to inseminate your uterus of origin. That may sound crude, and for some persons it is perhaps not an accurate description of their infancy and childhood. But such grace is not where I (BMcC) came from. In that less-than Lifeworld (I call it: Abwelt), "desire" meant only hormonal stimulation which was to be hidden in shameful darkness [especially from its outputs aka: children] but nonetheless engaged in by self-righteous prigs (adults) who were in unwitting darkness, in broad daylight, and even if an ophthalmologist would not have detected any organic pathology in their ocular orbs. My (BMcC) childrearing was in occupied territory (A Sorrow and pity) into which the only light that shone was electromagnetic radiation in the 380 to 700 nanometers range, and I was kept occupied.

They knew not of such things as Henri Matisse's art (if they did see it, some of it would surely have offended them, item: his Blue Nude). So, my reader, let your light so shine before men (and women and others, in the current (2020) Political Correctness anthropological period) that they may see your good works and glorify the light of the mind which is the light of the world which is your true Father as a reflectively self-conscious being, and all may have Matissean Joy of Life. Why would God have created the world if not for Joy, unless He was some kind of nasty perma-toddler such a Martin Heidegger describes in his book "The Principle of Reason", toying, without ethical scruples, with everything and everybody He can get his oafish mitts on: "Es gibt" ("It is what it is"). "It's over, Debbie" (JAMA. 1988;259(2):272. doi:10.1001/jama.259.2.272)?


In Kahn's sense, desire is not greed, and neither is is self-sacrifice. It is win-win. That is what I (BMcC), desire. (The BBC often has something pertinent to say about just about anything. Tolle! Lege!) And yourself, my (BMcC[18-11-46-503] / our APtS?) reader?

Buddhist temple dry garden, Daitoku-ji, Kyoto (Japan). I (BMcC) was meditating (lower case), looking at just such a garden when the Abbot sat down beside me and tried to seduce me. Desire is, for myself, best paired with tranquil and literate leisure, in the company of good friends.


A poem


Mares tails above.
The setting sun shining through the
        Western pines.
For how many more seasons
will I be able to see watch the[5] evening sky?
                        10 Apr 05

+2024.02.16 v051
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  1. Martin Heidegger has an essay: "Building, Dwelling, Thinking". Dwelling is not just metabolizing. Dwelling is what comes from authentic building which leads to authentic thinking: "For questioning is the piety of thinking" / "What endures in thinking is the process of thinking" (Heidegger, again). Dwelling is a "place" where the process of thinking takes place.
  2. In "The world of yesterday", Stefan Zweig describes that in his life his lifeworld was destroyed and he lived on for some years after it, reconstructing largely from memory. I (BMcC) am not at Zweig's level, obviously, but I have experienced the same catastrophe at a lower socio-cultural level, at least twice. I think I am different in another way from Stefan Zweig: What he lost seems to have been something he had been graced with by his lifeworld of origin. I built upon a childhood that was already WASTE, so I was climbing up out of a tel (archeological mound of detritis from an extincted civilization) of semiotic garbage into which I was childreared. Ph.D.: Piled Hgher and Deeper, in upscale Levittown inanity. Also I had a job which largely destroyed my memory and made me want not to wake up each morning when I went to bed in the evening. An real-life antipode of desire.
  3. Reference is to Friedrich Nietzsche's "Last Man", who has sunk so low that he (she or other...) is no longer even able to despise himself.
  4. If Louis Kahn had known about the work of the psychoanalyst / pediatrician Donald Winnicott, I think Kahn would have loved Winnicott's concept of "the holding environment".
  5. 22 Jul 20. Alternate word here: "this". "The" refers to mortality. "This" refers to living across the street from where I was watching the sky when I thought this poem. At the time, I was probably thinking of mortality. I had no idea how soon my beloved home and the life I was building there was soon to be ripped away from me by wife's desire for more square feet just before (POTUS №43) George W Bush's economic aneurysm burst.
  6. Formatting on this page in A place to study does not reflect hand-written original, which I wrote on endsheet of Ronald Bruzina's "Edmund Husserl and Eugen Fink" (Yale, 2004). I rediscovered this poem there 22 Jul 2020, and shortly after that discovered Prof. Bruzina died 2019. Original formatting of poem: All my all capital-case handwriting, where capital letters indicated by making letter taller. Only one taller letter in original: "For". Showing poem here in all caps would make something quiet loud; using all lower case letters would look diminished. So much for socially normative text formatting, which is fine for printed books but not for calligraphic text.
  7. A puzzle: In my social surround of origin (2nd half of 20th Century white middle-class USA), men – by that I am referring to normative males, not generic humans – were basically (9 to 5) x 5 paycheck earners. Presumably they had emotions, and thoughts, but business was business. Maybe for my father vendere est orare? How is it possible that men(sic) could be creators of immaterialities? Maybe the art of an ad man, maybe the poetry of an eloquent lawyer's closing rguments or a preacher's sermons, or an architect desoigning a split-level house or an office building. But those were boundary conditions, not common. I see a photograph of Wassily Kandinsky cradling his pet cat. He looks like a man, indeed, a bourgeois man dressed in a suit – OK, an intellectual: intellectual males just shuffle a different kind of paper, don't they? But his spirit was in some ontological region not the same as the men in suits of my social surround of origin (including teachers). Their Compositions would be impeccably tailored suits. There are mysteries and there are mysteries about mysteries. And they are esoteric, except that I also read of wholly unschooled men (again, normative males; in this case "rednecks"), who could invent a song about "their country's" military conscription: "It ain't me you're talkin' to", which also is more than a single standard deviation from what I think is the normative suburban Saturday lawn mower (ambiguity of last word intended).
  8. This present sad little poem is bearing a heavy burden of footnotes. The original has a whole hardcover printed book (YUP) endpage all to itself.
  9. Another poem:
    In the morning twilight,
    small birds twitter and chirp,
    not knowing what Donald J. Trump is up to.
                (26.vii.2020; Trump is POTUS №45)


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