Pathology is the study of pathos is the study of the passions, especially that of suffering; the study of the abnormal, or the study of diseases. I think the common denominator here is 'suffering'.
If what is 'normal' is also non-suffering, or pleasant, where do we find a cycle that is both normal and pleasant? Childhood development is an ideal place to look. Let's represent the cycle as a sine-curve (see Essay 2) and see the stages of a child's consciousness followed by some examples of adult consciousness:
1. resting in the known (womb, nature, house, intellect,
2. going out into the unknown (exploring, working, reading, corresponding);
3. knowing when to quit (stopping without prompting; before straining one's back, wearing out one's welcome, straining one's eyes, getting on someone's nerves)
4. returning to the womb (taking a nap; taking a break, going for R&R) or the 'known' for rest and a chance to assimilate new experiences.
It seems to me that this cycle is not just normal (a condition we have to supply) but rather 'natural.' Other terms we can use to describe it is 'biological' in that this cycle conforms to the human being's biological strengths, the expending of energy to learn something and then recovering that energy by eating, drinking and resting. We can also use the term 'genetic programming' because children go through this cycle without anyone teaching them to do it.
There might be infinite variations on what is 'normal' or 'natural' not only based on each individual but due to the circadian changes within that individual. We can do so much more 'work' or exploration in the morning as children, than we can in the afternoon. Anyone working a 9-5 job in an office or any kind of factory situation will know that cycle of efficiency.
We may enter into a semantic debate here whether what is 'natural' is also ideal. This is the point where Dr. William Theaux, the father of Plural Analysis, comes out shooting from both hips, yelling 'ideal' and 'phantasm' and 'maradise'. And I just look outside my study window onto the river valley below my hay-field and wonder if there are trees where William lives: don't they turn their leaves yellow and stop synthesizing chlorophyl for the winter? What's wrong with that 'ideal'? It happens every fall, but it not a 'meme'. There is no pathos in that scene because the leaves and the vegetation die without any hint of suffering!
Everything that strains or disrupts the natural cycle and causes suffering is pathological by definition. Is it good/bad, right/wrong, sick/healthy? As long as we remain observing nature, whether plant life or a child's development, we have not yet even entered that range of abstraction where we have to make a value judgment. While observing, I am still at the level of 'action' or 'doing' or 'experience'.
Let's say that I am working and I don't take a break, don't go outside for a breath of fresh air, don't shut down my mental faculties, but keep on working, breathe shallow, don't take in any water, and begin to feel 'bad', or suffer. Making decisions about what actions I will be taking is where 'pathology' can begin. But most of the time I act without thinking and without making any conscious decisions! Then I am stuck with the consequences of my actions. And the moment I begin to analyze why I won't take a break, I enter into the abstract and bring others into the realm of phantasm. For all practical purposes, analysis of any kind declares open season on making value judgments.
Let's say that I am afraid of what my boss would say if I took a break. There we have what I thought would be a 'phantasm'. I 'assume' or 'know' that my boss suffers from the pressures the CEO places on him and it is tearing him to pieces. On the one hand I am afraid that he will fire me if I don't put into this project all the available time. On the other hand if I begin to look haggard and have headaches and feel miserable, then I am functioning of his level and he will know that I am doing my best.
The basic pathology was that I stopped taking breaks, stopped breathing regularly and stopped drinking water and caused myself suffering. The rest is phantasm. You can call me 'stupid' for refusing to take breaks, etc., you can warn me that I'll make myself 'ill', but the fact is that phantasm piles up the pathologies: each level of abstraction makes my discomfort or suffering greater and greater. Psychoanalysis deals with phantasms. If I were able to bring an analyst down to the reality that if I take a rest break, get some exercise, take deep breaths and drink water then I'll lose my job and not be able to pay the mortgage and starve, the analyst would say 'that's not a realistic projection.' The analyst would take me back into phantasms.
I am still not talking value judgments. I am showing different realities. My question is not 'Which is right or wrong, good or bad?' My question is "Can I return to the 'natural' cycle and still get my work done without worrying whether my boss will think the worse of me for remaining healthy, happy and efficient?" Do I have the moral fortitude to look after myself so I can be of greater help to others?
If we let people make their own choices as to what lifestyle they wish to follow and what price (suffering or pathology) they are willing to pay for it, then there is no value judgment involved. Value judgment, however, enters the equation the moment I give up responsibility for my choices. Let's say I accuse my boss of 'making me work through my break by the unspoken threat that if I don't look as haggard as he does, then I am not doing my work.' That is transference and that is paranoia and that is evil! I thereby transfer his pathos onto me and give up my responsibility to him. To say that 'transference' is normal is to say that cold weather kills the leaves of trees. It 'seems' to be true, but it is a 'wrong' or 'false' assessment: the tree withdraws the essence of the leaves into its roots so it can rest and survive the winter. So what does the human being have to do to avoid pathology? Take a break. We are hard wired for periodic rest. Our hardware is set up to empty the lungs of stale air and to wash throughout our cellular structure with fresh water. Is it evil not to breathe deeply? or not to drink enough water? or to sleep too little? Perhaps yes, perhaps not, but blaming it on external factors is wrong: not only is it transference, it is also elevating a physical act onto an abstract plane.
There is no cultural or Government control over how I breathe, how I eat and drink (if I am aware of the influence of advertising), how I sleep. As long as I can own my choices and remain responsible for their consequences, my relationship to culture and control can be mutually beneficial, without suffering, without pathology. The moment I begin to fight culture, begin to compete, someone has to suffer (lose) and the cycle changes from one of rest - work - rest to suffering - pleasure - suffering (the pathology and the pleasure principle as obsessions). As long as 'work' remains a learning experience, it is pleasurable and there is no suffering.
So when I go back into childhood development and see a
child's unbounded enthusiasm and love of exploring (a child's 'work') and
then catalog the ways in which parents and culture interfere with that
childhood exploration and turn the learning experience into suffering,
that is what I call pathology.
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