Intellectualism, Soul and Sensuality.

I came across D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover not too long ago. I had no idea how much I’d learn from it (besides the fact the unexpurgated version was the subject of a lawsuit for obscenity in 1960).  It sparked some wonderful conversations with a dear internet friend, and has heavily influenced my thinking and what I want to cultivate more of in my life. And I’m not talking about the forbidden sex outside marriage taboo. I’m really talking about the dangers of living too much in one’s head, oppressive social norms and constraints which inhibit natural expressions of self, and missing out on a life fully lived and causing so much mental distress, anxiety and physical illness.

I truly believe in Nathanial Branden’s Honoring the Self has some key points as to why we miss out on a life fully lived.  There are

“…various forces of our culture – familial, educational, religious, ethical, social-that subvert the evolution of self and self-esteem and foster self-disowning, self-alienation, and destructiveness of life. I propose to demonstrate that not selfishness but absence of self that is the root of most of our evils, that selflessness is our greatest personal, interpersonal, and social danger and has been so throughout most of our history.”

The reason I believe can be gleaned from D.H. Lawrence’s works:

From Wikipedia

“His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, and instinct.”

An excerpt from Lady Chatterley’s Lover which beautifully illustrates my point:

“I wasn’t talking about knowledge…I was talking about the mental life,’ laughed Dukes. ‘Real knowledge comes out of the whole corpus of the consciousness; out of your belly and your penis as much as out of your brain and mind. The mind can only analyse and rationalize. Set the mind and the reason to cock it over the rest, and all they can do is to criticize, and make a deadness. I say all they can do. It is vastly important. My God, the world needs criticizing today…criticizing to death. Therefore let’s live the mental life, and glory in our spite, and strip the rotten old show. But, mind you, it’s like this: while you live your life, you are in some way an Organic whole with all life. But once you start the mental life you pluck the apple. You’ve severed the connexion between the apple and the tree: the organic connexion. And if you’ve got nothing in your life but the mental life, then you yourself are a plucked apple…you’ve fallen off the tree. And then it is a logical necessity to be spiteful, just as it’s a natural necessity for a plucked apple to go bad.”

I am an extremely intellectually curious gal, having worked in the STEM field for 12 years, and as a stay at home mom of gifted young girls, I have been advancing my own education through the philosophers and psychologists and neuroscience researchers whose works I read.  The bulk of people today don’t really have interest in cultivating deep friendships, just spouting off on their own views and engaging in debate to show off their superiority, without actually sharing any personal struggles.

It’s strange, for as much as we pretend to be have progressed, and particularly so in the area of human sexuality (how many taboos have been supposedly lifted as evidenced in the tv and movie portrayals of sexuality), we are still very much repressed as a culture.  It’s strange how many still favor disowning the body in favor of the brain.  How empty and dead we are inside, and how many rush to fill in the emptiness by over-eating, over-spending, and over self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.  Would we need to if we felt and experienced life through our senses more deeply?

I received Roger Housden’s Soul and Sensuality: Returning the Erotic to Everyday Life. I had to import it, because it’s not available here.

It’s a pretty amazing book. The American culture for the past few hundred years has caused a great self-alienation, divorcing the pleasure and pains of the physical life from the life of the soul.

I’ve realized (with the help of a dear friend of mine and our literary journey) MOST of our problems arise because we are too busy being properly civilized and repressed. I don’t mean just sexual repression, but repression of self. All those literary and philosophical giants we now look upon so fondly were oftentimes struggling to be accepted by their contemporaries. Go figure. Sounds AWFULLY familiar to me.

Housden’s words complements English novelist D.H. Lawrence’s reflections quite nicely.

“We do not exist separately from our bodies.  Neither do we exist in our brain cells alone, as if the rest of our physical being were a mere appendage to carry us about and gratify our desires.  Our body is a dimension of who we are, an integral part of our humanity.  To contract our sense of identity into one end of it, the head, is to follow the compartmentalized view of reality that is the legacy of the eighteenth century Enlightenment.  That legacy has given us the billiard ball model of existence, in which people and objects are separate packages which bounce off each other without any relational existence.  In this view, the body is simply another object.  “We” are the light of reason and we live in the splendid isolation of the cortex.  The more we retreat like this into a corner of ourselves, the more we live and experience life like a clenched fist.”

…..

“Pysche and soma are so subtly implicated in each other that a psychic sense of emptiness or unfulfilment naturally constellates into the thought that an empty stomach is needing to be filled.   A preoccupation with the accumulation of material goods is an extension of the same need.  The roots of greed are deep indeed.”

….
“Overeating anaesthesizes us to the life that wants to move through our body.  It is anti-erotic; it subdues what we really want, the feeling of life in our veins.”

********

To live a full life is to be open to the joy and the suffering that is a part of our lives.

Herman Hess wrote in Demian:

“Ich wollte ja nichts als das zu leben versuchen, was von selber aus mir heraus wollte. Warum war das so sehr schwer?

translation: All I really wanted was to try and live the life that was welling up inside of me. Why was that so hard?”

Yeah, I wonder why.

And I understand a little better why it’s so very hard…from reading D.H. Lawrence (who died in 1930, by the way) and from readings of others who came after, like Roger Housden:

“Without relationship, there is no connectedness, no feeling, and no valuing of the other person.  There is no soul.  There is only sensation, for its own sake.  Sensation is only skin-deep; its effects are immediate and short term, and like a ride on the big dipper, it’s risks are mostly hypothetical, rather than real.  Sensation, unlike the erotic, lets us off lightly.  There is nothing to give, except the cost of the ride.  To skim the surface of life, however, leaves us on our own, and ultimately lonely.  Far from being an erotic culture, we are probably one of the most disembodied and anti-sensual cultures of all times.”

If you are trying to live the life that is welling up inside you, yet find few others that want to, you feel this discrepancy.  You feel this great lack of deep connection.  You aren’t content to skim the surface of life.  But you may only be surrounded by those who are.

I’m here to live a full life, rich in meaning and  I write publicly to share my views as to what constitutes a full life. For me, it comprises intellectual thought AND soulful, sensual experience.  I’m hoping that by writing my thoughts out, I might share with others (and my husband too) what I believe constitutes a healthier approach to life.

Advertisements

About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in D.H. Lawrence, Hermann Hesse, Inspirational quotations, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Nathaniel Branden, Personal growth, Roger Housden, Seeking the sacred, Sensuality. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Intellectualism, Soul and Sensuality.

  1. Joshua says:

    The quote from D.H. Lawrence (especially the part that says, “To contract our sense of identity into one end of it, the head, is to follow the compartmentalized view of reality that is the legacy of the eighteenth century Enlightenment”) reminds me of what Ken Robinson said about how the education system avoids educating the entire individual: “We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting? Truly what happens is when children grow up, we start to educate them from the waist up, and then we focus on their heads and slightly a bit to one side.”

    You write how the environment–the culture around us–can repress the self and how the individual can CHOOSE to “disown the body in favor of the brain,” but I wonder if you also think biology plays any role in this. In other words, can a person be born with a predisposition to loneliness (or social disconnection)?

  2. Yes, I thought of that same thing when I watched Ken Robinson.

    I think that a certain group of people are predisposed to loneliness and social disconnection. I’m reading a book called Strong Willed Child or Dreamer: Understanding the Crucial Differences Between a Strong Willed Child and a Creative-Sensitive Child.

    I think that while there is a constellation of qualities that make up a personality, the creative-sensitive “dreamer” child will be more apt to be very idealistic and will have a high level of standards for others and for themselves. A lot of gifted children fall into the creative-sensitive type. I am like this, and so is my middle daughter (who is the most creative/most sensitive of my daughters, though they are all creative and sensitive in various ways). We have very definite ideas of what ‘should be’ and are quite aware when reality falls short. We also tend to pick up subtle nuances in others that signify potential judgment/rejection. And, oftentimes, we reject them before they reject us. Sometimes we have a choice, sometimes we don’t.

    Pearl S. Buck has a beautiful quote on creative minds and sensitivity –

    “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that
    without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

    So, yes, I do believe biology plays a part in this. Creative-sensitive types will desire connection just like any other person. However, if there is no feeling of safety, understanding and acceptance, then a creative-sensitive person will not be able to connect. The majority of people don’t realize how callous they are being…because whereas the slings and arrows of life barely penetrate their psyche, the creative-sensitive type will be fairly devastated by them. And, well, let’s face it, in this day and age, too many individuals lack depth and sensitivity because they’ve been conditioned to ‘dumb down’.

    We creative-sensitive types are almost always autodidactic. We will seek out sources of intellectual stimulation (as well as sources of beauty) because we know there is something more to life than what we’ve been told. We seek certain types of stimulation and perhaps spiritual growth, but social challenge is not one of them.

    For me, it was easier to seek out friendship when I was younger. I had more resilience and time to spend on less than edifying friendships. I rarely had friends that could really challenge me. I had a few friends who were nice, non-threatening but oftentimes not very stimulating. When I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of requirements for friendship. I sought out the quietest person in the room oftentimes because I’d know I’d be safe with them. I avoided any people that resembled my family members who were quite judgmental and hurtful to me.

    Now, as I’m older, more introspective than ever, I’ve experienced a LOT of things that ordinary people don’t experience. So, I’m really in need of fellowship and mentorship. In real life. I can find wonderful sources of fellowship and mentorship through the internet…which is a real blessing to me. But it would really help to have a once- or twice-monthly face to face meeting with someone with more wisdom than I. It’s very, very hard to find a thoughtful, philosophical, humanistic, non-judgmental person who I can bounce ideas off of in real life – I mean OTHER than my therapist. They HAVE to exist, somewhere, in real life. However, as I told an internet friend recently, people like that aren’t going around wearing t-shirts saying “I’m a philosophical dreamer, how about you?” Though…I’m thinking of designing one.

    In the meantime…I might have to think about getting one of these

    http://www.mentalfloss.com/store/T-Shirts

    But, yes, it’s a struggle to find and nurture edifying friendships. I also think, the longer one goes without edifying friendships, the deeper the hunger for it goes. I think this is where mindful acceptance has to come in. It’s very hard. It’s painful. It shouldn’t be this way. But it is for some of us.

    My blogs are away to create a sense of community and fellowship. I also contribute to a social website for gifted individuals at http://mygiftedlife.org/. There’s others out there experiencing some of the same things I am. Yet, I think some of them are still too shy to come forward and talk about their experiences.

  3. This is one of those great posts that I come across only very infrequently, because I relate to it so strongly. The works of D. H. Lawrence seem to have affected me the same way they affected you and I thank you for the recommendation to Roger Housden’s book which I have just ordered. I lived in my head most of my life and it took, D. H. Lawrence, Jung, my wilderness mentor and others to push me in a new direction.

    • Casey says:

      I’m glad. I love D.H. Lawrence and Jung, too. Did you know of the interesting influence of Sabina Spielrein on Jung and Freud? Fascinating history…I think they just relatively recently uncovered more of her writings not to long ago.

      I’m interested to know how you came upon a “wilderness mentor”. It didn’t happen to be Paul Rezendes, was it?

    • Casey says:

      I can related to living too much in one’s head. It was the safest place I could be for the longest time. I still spend too much time there, as I’m a dreamer from way back when…

      And I’m sure you’ll love the Housden book. I hope you’ll let me know how it strikes you…

Would you like to share your thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s