Thursday, July 23, 2009

Know Thyself

To return to this idea a little bit, S.B.'s (Saul Bellow's) characters do indeed minutely and perceptively deconstruct their own lives and the world at large. The problem, of sorts, is that these characters may see how they have been shady or off track or however you want to euphemize what is essentially a bit of immorality or weakness of character (philandering and cheating on wives and girlfriends in SB's and his characters' cases), but even as they see themselves they feel they are helpless to change who they are. James Atlas, in his good but seemingly overly scathing biography of SB, always comes back to this idea of the passivity that Bellow expresses. Always, no matter what the problem (and it's mostly the girl trouble) he can't change anything. He can't help that he's attracted to voluptuous younger (increasingly through his works and life much younger) women, and so because of this helplessness he gives in to the impulses.

I guess the point is that helplessness in terms of self is a put on to both the self and others. We're, none of us, totally helpless. That's not entirely true, although the absoluteness of qualifying helpless with totally makes it probably pretty close but whatever. It just occurred to me as I was reading Altas's Bellow that there is a difference between realization and actualization. Or it occurred to me that this was and is something I've long struggled with personally. I've always been really good at seeing my own faults, and I've always been really terrible at corrective action. Lately, I've been working on that, and it does seem that consciousness does play a huge role in actualizing change. You have to see yrself not just intellectually but in a more holistic way and attend to the vast corners of the conscious and unconscious.

And it's a bit of a biofeedback process as the more you are present and attend to the self the more you are able to notice and bring awareness to the problems and solutions to problems. Okay, so this is turning into self-help-like babble just a little bit so I'm gonna break off, but the essential point is good. Stay aware and in the moment and the ability to change even the most long ingrained of bad habits becomes possible. Yah.

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