I found my way into Et Cetera: Publick and Privat Curiosities (ECPPC) by way of a brief, eloquent tribute to the perseverance of a group of psychoanalytic psychologists in Chicago, who were determined to form the first non-M.D. psychoanalytic training institution outside of L.A. and NYC. Initially, I was struck by the author’s tone of genuine admiration and appreciation for those who persevered in this very worthy endeavor. Over the ensuing months, I’ve returned to this blog many times to sample the satisfying entries on a range of topics including current affairs, psychology, psychoanalysis, people, cultural issues, politics, art and poetry. Each time I read further in this site, I find more and enjoy more.
The publisher of ECPPC is a psychoanalyst with a strong postmodern, intersubjective bent, which isn’t an analytic model, as much as it is a way of seeing and being. Whether his posts take the form of personal reflections, comments on politics, gripping or entrancing images or poetry, he is, at once, earnest, curious and playful—qualities of mind and heart that are indispensable to the analytic endeavor. This playfulness is not only expressed in ideas, but in form, beginning with the playful spelling of the blog's title.
Rather than look to ECPPC for discursive expositions of the author’s beliefs, the reader is best served by waiting to see what emerges from the intermingling of his or her own thoughts with an accumulation of impressions gathered in this blog. These impressions defy attempts to be nailed down and final, which is a very good thing, in my opinion.
Two quotes from the site, taken together, give us a glimpse of the author’s very appealing sensibilities. Quoting Andrew Sullivan who wrote about his grandmother lost in prayer:
“Was that the certainty of fundamentalism? Or was it the initiation into a mystery none of us can ever fully understand? I’d argue the latter. The 18th century German playwright Gotthold Lessing said it best. He prayed a simple prayer: “If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand, and in his left hand only the steady and diligent drive for Truth, albeit with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process, and to offer me the choice, I would with all humility take the left hand, and say, Father, I will take this–the pure Truth is for You alone.”
He also quotes Freud, noting that
“In the history of psychoanalysis, there is hardly a more striking anecdote than a comment made by Freud in a letter to Oskar Pfister in 1910:
‘Discretion is incompatible with a good presentation of psychoanalysis. One must become a bad character, disregard the rules, sacrifice oneself, betray, behave like an artist who buys paints with the household money belonging to his wife or bums the furniture to heat the studio for his model. Without such a bit of criminality there is no real achievement.’”
I have no recollection of reading that quotation of Freud before stumbling upon it in ECPPC. It speaks to a faith in seeing over doing and seeing as becoming. Nothing blinds us more to our own being, and the being of others, than imprisonment by the 'practical,' the darkness of convention, and disdain for the odd and the eccentric. As I write and reflect on this, Flannery O’Connor’s observation comes to mind:
"You shall know the truth and it will make you odd."
Also in the same post, don’t miss the author’s observations on ‘resignation’ and the reactions of Anna Freud and Edith Jacobson to Nazi persecution. Here the image that comes to my mind is the attempted (but failed) murder of truth by nailing it to a cross. Truth transcends vulgar attempts to be nailed down by self-serving calculation, because truth is by nature, always elevated, alive and becoming rather than fixed, final and lifeless.
Perhaps I’m trying too hard to explain what must be experienced. So, let me leave off this review simply by saying that the publisher of ECPPC is a rare bird — which is in my view — the best kind of bird to be.