This banner that greeted me when first I started my journey at Interlochen Arts Academy that you also see at the outset of this post has sintered me with something like an unwavering condition.
However, I never knowingly and explicitly put the assertion into practice until this podcast; that school's stated goal is also one of this podcast's chief goals.
I have discussed before in this blog my notion that part of what makes the arts uniquely suited to such a project is that their concern is with consciousness itself, which is a most generalizable and indeed universalize thing, rather than any narrow specificity of place or person.
Yet in a most paradoxical interest, it is often through the most specific of means that the universal can even be entertained.
Authors of artwork have quite idiosyncratic experiences of consciousness and their biases are usually rooted in a particular language in culture.
I remember a quip of Tom Wolfe's where he said that "people love regionalism", referring in particular to the Liverpool region as playing a role in the wide and beloved reception of The Beatles, even by people that know nothing of Britain but knew that this band was from Liverpool and that seemed to matter and was therefore "cool" in some way (or at least cool in way that would not be possible were The Beatles to appear to be generic and from no country or region in particular.)
And for me it is a matter of logic: if consciousness is the primary and fundamental reality, and the subject of all art is consciousness itself, then art is pretty important.
The reason is so simple: the subject of all art is consciousness, consciousness is real and universal and thus we are all involved with the arts in one way or the other by virtue of being conscious. QED
What is meant by friendship and world?
There is so much in this essay, and always in Emerson , it is so nuanced, thus leaving inevitable responses of misinterpretation from some quarters.
And, of course the prose is beautiful, which for me is practically all that matters.
"I ought to be equal to every relation. It makes no difference how many friends I have, and what content I can find in conversing with each, if there be one to whom I am not equal. If I have shrunk unequal from one contest, the joy I find in all the rest becomes mean and cowardly. I should hate myself, if then I made my other friends my asylum."
"I do then with my friends as I do with my books.
I would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use them. We must have society on our own terms, and admit or exclude it on the slightest cause. I cannot afford to speak much with my friend. If he is great, he makes me so great that I cannot descend to converse. In the great days, presentiments hover before me in the firmament. I ought then to dedicate myself to them."
And last but not least.....
"We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken.
Barring all the selfishness that chills like east winds the world, the whole human family is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether. How many persons we meet in houses, whom we scarcely speak to, whom yet we honor, and who honor us! How many we see in the street, or sit with in church, whom, though silently, we warmly rejoice to be with! Read the language of these wandering eyebeams.
The heart knoweth…"
There is no more I could add to such prose, really.
But investigations into human relations don't always have to be so elevated.
One of the more important scientists of the recent past, anthropologist Robin Dunbar came up with an actual number for the limits of how many people to which we can be very close.
Dunbar's number of 150 has become a famous one in current scientific research.
I take its value as reminding us that we will always go astray if we "spread ourselves too thin."
But does this research pose a problem for the more inclusive and universal of human relations? How about love for the whole world?
I have struggled immensely with all relationships my whole life.
If I were to get more personal I could torment the reader with plentiful and long (but never tall) tales of genuine failures on my part on this score.
Recently I have come to understand this is partly explained by the way the world reacts to an autistic person as much as it has to do with my qualities.
But given my conviction that life is one big school and a school with no final graduation this situation can never be wholly negative.
My research into human relationships has taken me into some unusual territory.
He developed his novel and still unappreciated theory of individual personality differences and how such values differences are the decisive causes in all human, social life.
Indeed I became so immersed in his system that I contemplated becoming some kind of certified teacher in it, but quickly abandoned that idea because I remembered I never wanted anything to do with the field of psychology to begin with and that studying such material was merely a joy of mine as part of my abiding interest in intellectual history, because I knew my other priorities would always come first.
This is not the time or place to teach Reiss' theory but one thing he taught me was that every individual has a unique values profile and that these values exist for their own sake and not to satisfy any other overarching value, and that people can also score so low in a value that they almost don't possess it and, conversely, that a value can be the most important thing to a person to the point of obsession.
Reiss felt that the worst aspects of humanity were a result of some kind of imbalance of basic values rather than having any wholly bad value. An obvious example is a person whose sole motivation is vengeance or competition at the expense of all else.
I find it supremely difficult to summarize Steven Reiss's innovative psychological theory.
For one thing it is a newer approach to psychology; for another it is respectful of each individual's uniqueness and in our culture we habitually tend to see people in terms of larger groupings: psychology especially is very fond of larger typologies and, above all, whether these typologies are healthy or not.
Psychology tends to tell us what we ought to do. Reiss wanted to get an accurate portrait of what is.
Reiss says there are these 16 basic desires that govern human thought and action.
I will take a brief example to show how each of these desires is a world unto itself, distinct from and not to be confused with the others, and that each individual human being can score low, average, or high in the intensity of these.
This doesn't vary much from cradle to grave.
For example there is idealism and honor which are often confused by lay people. Honor means something like basic right or wrong or ethics.
The value Reiss labels Idealism means being a social justice activist, wanting to change the world. Some people score very low in honor but high in idealism and these are the people who can become political fanatics or even terrorists.
Conversely, others can be wonderful to the people they know, even charitable to the people they don't know and yet never even vote in elections: these people would score high in honor but low in idealism. It gets even more nuanced in that people can score high and then low in two different values that we assume to be dependent upon one another or not distinct.
If you score high in romance, that does mean you have a higher than average sex drive.
But you could also score low in family at the same time, which only means you have little interest in having children of your own. Children are a common result of romance. (You can score high in family too - love your own children "a lot" - and dislike your own parents!) If you think about it Reiss' work explains a lot of the conflicts inside families and, above all, in couples.
Curiosity is most interesting.
Having a high level of curiosity not innate nor equally distributed among the world's population.
Reiss felt that the problem with our education system is that it assumes everybody has a high level of curiosity. Teachers often do but his research showed that a large amount people have low curiosity. Reiss liked to say that our society is "one size fits all."
The reason I went into such detail about Reiss is because I did almost consider going deeper into the system than I did. It was discussed as to whether I wanted to become a "master" or not. In the end I decided against pursuing it further.
Maggie Reiss - Steven's wife - and their son continues the work, from what I understand. In the mid 00s I was especially into this, making it a sizable part of your host's journey.
On the other hand I could have just as easily discussed other related subjects that have been most important to me.
How does any of this relate to the podcast ?
Well, for one thing every artist or guest on here is an individual and some of what I have gleamed from these investigations I inevitably and invariably bring to each episode.
Speaking more simply there have always been, for example what used to be arts exchange programs too, often involving festivals and concerts.
I remember that when involved in a collaboration with other musicians, especially when those musician were from far away, in my case this was rotten Eastern Europe, the focus on the universality of the music made other matters fall away or become much less important.
I include a photograph here of a harpist with what was then the Prague Radio Orchestra, bringing a cake she had prepared to a recording session.
You could say that both music and food played a role here as well.
And that is one of the main points of this podcast.
Come be our guest, in the spirit of friendship and connection, and listen to our catalogue of episodes, here: https://anchor.fm/mitch-hampton
A sampling of learning & inspirational links for you to further explore and enjoy, some of the ideas, artists and scholars mentioned in this article can be found here:
Mitch Hampton: https://mitchhampton.bandcamp.com
Prague Orchestra: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prague_Philharmonic_Orchestra
Journey of an Aesthete Podcast: https://anchor.fm/mitch-hampton
"We are all on the journey.....together......"