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Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Discovery of the Unconscious By Henri F. Ellenberger (1970): Summary of Chapter Two

Chapter Two: The Emergence of Dynamic Psychiatry

1.     The emergence of dynamic psychiatry can be traced to the year 1775 when the physician Mesmer clashed with the exorcist Gassner. Father Johann Joseph Gassner (1727-1779) was a very famous healer and his exorcisms were carefully recorded. In 1774 he published a pamphlet explaining his method.
a.     There are two kinds of illnesses: natural ones which require a physician and preternatural ones (e.g. imitation of illness caused by devil, effect of sorcery, or diabolical possession)  which required exorcism. 
b.     He entreated the demon to manifest the symptoms of the disease. If the symptoms were produced he concluded that it was the work of the devil. If they were not produced he sent the patient to a physician.
2.     Gassner had many supporters but many adversaries as well. His opponents included Catholic and Protestant theologians but mainly representatives of the Enlightenment. There were inquiry commissions established to investigate his authenticity. One such commission invited a Dr. Mesmer, who had claimed to discover the new principle of "animal magnetism" which enabled him to perform cures. He was reportedly able to elicit in patience the appearance and disappearance of various symptoms. This was essentially Gassner's approach without the theological backdrop of exorcism. This demonstration essentially ended Gassner's career and began a new stage in the development of dynamic psychiatry.
3.     Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) was forty-years old (1774) when he discovered his new treatment approach. He was working with a twenty-seven year old patient, Fraulein Oesterlin. He studied the periodicity of her symptoms and became able to predict their reoccurrence. At the time some English physicians were treating certain diseases with magnets. He attempted to provoke an artificial crises in his patient by means attaching magnets to her body. She reported that she felt a mysterious fluid running through her body and she was cured after several hours. He viewed the magnets on her body as an auxiliary means of reinforcing and directing his own innate magnetism. Hence the term "animal magnetism". Eventually he dispensed with the use of magnets.
4.     Using this method he was able to affect many marvelous cures and gained fame and high acclaim. He was nevertheless met with resistance from the medical establishment in Vienna. He moved to Paris where he privately magnetized patients.  There, in 1779, he expounded his system of healing, which can be summarized as follows:
a.     A subtle physical fluid fills the universe and forms a connecting medium between man, earth, the heavenly bodies and between man and man.
b.     Disease originates from the unequal distribution of this fluid in the human body; recovery is achieved when the equilibrium is restored
c.     With the help of certain techniques, this fluid can be channeled, stored and conveyed to other persons
d.     In this manner, "crises" can be provoked in patients and diseases cured
5.     While Mesmer's private practice thrived and he established a society and disciples to spread  his teachings he was never accepted in the scientific and medical world. Like Gassner, commissions consisting of world-class scientists and personalities (one included Benjamin Franklin) were formed to investigate Mesmer's theory. Possible therapeutic effects were not denied, but were ascribed to "imagination," not a mysterious physical fluid. Mesmer was also disturbed by his disciples developing magnetism in ways that he did not intend. Mesmer was an extremely charismatic and authoritative personality who was convinced of the epoch importance of his discovery and sought to control his "intellectual property" [compare to Freud].
6.     Although Animal Magnetism seems world away from dynamic psychiatry, there are many similarities:
a.     The therapeutic agent of the cures is the magnetizer himself
b.     To make healing possible the magnetizer must establish "rapport," a tuning-in with his patient
c.     Healing occurs through crises — manifestation of latent diseases produced artificially by the magnetizer
d.     It is better to produce several weaker ones than one severe crises
7.     Mesmer's most important disciple was Marquis de Puységur (1751-1825). One of his first patients was a 23 year old peasant by the name of Victor Race. Victor was suffering from a mild respiratory disease and Puységur magnetized him. Unlike Mesmer's patients he did not have convulsions or disorderly movements. Rather, he fell into a deep sleep in which he appeared to be more awake and higher functioning than his normal waking state. Puységur found that while in this state Victor was able to diagnose his disease, foresee its course and prescribe treatments. Upon awaking from this state of  "perfect crises" the patient did not remember it. Demand for Puységur's treatment was so great that he organized collective treatment around magnetized trees. It was reported that within one month he cured 62 out of 300 patients using his collective treatment. Puységur organized a society in Strasbourg to train magnetizers, which was successful, and they published case histories.
8.     Based on his clinical experience Puységur conceptually diverged from Mesmer:
a.     Most important, Puységur rejected Mesmer's "physical fluid theory" and adopted a psychological theory. The primary agent of magnetism was the magnetism's commands
b.     He also simplified Mesmer's techniques
c.     The "perfect crises" seemed remarkably similar to "somnambulism" and was thus called "artificial somnambulism". Later this would be renamed "hypnotism"
d.     Patients, like Victor, would be more comfortable telling secrets when in magnetic sleep
9.     Charles Richet considered Puységur the true founder of Mesmerism and stated that the "new" discoveries in hypnosis in the mid-to-late 19th century was already contained in Puységur's writings. Following Puységur, around 1812, new concepts and methods were introduced to magnetism.
a.     Abbé Faria, a Portuguese priest who came from India, taught that certain individuals were more susceptible to magnetization. His technique consisted of seating his patients in a comfortable chair and fixate on his raised hand after which he commanded "sleep!" Once the patients were in a magnetic sleep he would produce visions in them as well as posthypnotic suggestions. Janet viewed Faria as the ancestor of the Nancy school (see below)
b.     Deleuze was successful in spreading magnetism in France. He published a textbook on the subject and warned against potential dangers. Alexandre Betrand sought to study magnetism in a scientific manner and convinced Noizet of the fallacy of the fluidist theory of magnetism. They both emphasized that the human mind conceives of thoughts of which we are unaware and which can only be recognized through their effects. Other French students of magnetism (Charpignon, Teste, Gauthier, Lafontaine, Despine, Dupotet, Durand) emphasized the role of rapport — the reciprocal influence between the magnetizer and the patient — as the central component in magnetism. Despite the clinical experience and scientific approach used by these magnetizers, the French scientific authorities did not accept magnetism. 
10. The situation in Germany was quite different. The German mesmerists included men of intellectual distinction. The German Romanticists were attracted to Mesmer's theory of a universal fluid since they viewed the world as a living organism. They were also excited about the "sixth sense" or extra-lucidity of magnetic somnambulism since it provided a way for the human mind to communicate with the World Soul. Thus, magnetism, for the Germans, was experimental metaphysics.
a.     Kluge, in his textbook on animal magnetism, proposed a phenomenology of magnetic somnambulism, including six degrees: 1) The Waking State, with a sensation of warmth, 2) Half-sleep, 3) Inner Darkness, referring to sleep and insensitivity, 4) Inner Clarity, which includes lucid perception and consciousness of one's body, 5) Self-contemplation, where the patient is able to perceive with greater accuracy the interior of one's own body and that of those with whom he is put into rapport, and 6) Universal Clarity, where the veils of time and space are removed. There were many extraordinary subjects in Germany during this time who displayed paranormal phenomenon. Among the most famous were Katharina Emmerich and Friedericke Hauffe. The latter was made famous by the poet-physician Justinius Kerner (incidentally, who also influenced the Rorschach tests) and aroused enormous interest among the German elite (e.g. Shelling and Schleiermacher) and masses.
11. Magnetism was met with resistance in England until 1840-1850. It reached the United States early on through the French city of New Orleans. One American adherent, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, understood that the true agent of healing was suggestion and practiced "mind cure." One of his patients, Mary Baker Eddy, became the founder of Christian Science.
12. The history of Magnetism went through successive stages of positive and negative phases. The first phase took place during Mesmer's activity in Paris from 1777-1785). The second phase began in 1815 into the early 1820's. The third phase was from 1840-1850. Braid coined the term "hypnosis" in 1843. Following 1850 Positivism and scientific rationalism dominated and Magnetism fell into disrepute. Between 1860-1880 a physician would end his career by openly practicing magnetism and hypnosis.
13. At the same time, though, there was a huge interest in Spiritism and parapsychology, beginning in the 1850's and continuing to the end of the century (the Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 by Fredrick Myers and Edmund Gurney, in England). The study of mediumship led to new techniques with which to study the unconscious (e.g. automatic writing, divining rods).
14. Auguste Ambroise Liébeault (1823-1904) was among the few physicians who openly hypnotized patients during this time. He lived near the city of Nancy and his school of therapy was known as the Nancy School. He maintained that hypnotic sleep is no different than normal sleep except that the former is induced by suggestion of the hypnotizer. His method of inducing hypnotic sleep was to look into the eyes of the patient while suggesting that he was getting sleepy. While hypnotized he would suggest that the patient was cured of his symptoms. Although tales of medical miracles circulated, Liébeault was considered a quack by the medical establishment. This changed when Hippolyte Bernheim (1840-1919), a renowned professor who lived in Nancy, met Liébeault in 1882. He viewed himself as Liébeault's pupil and friend and introduced his ideas and methods to the medical world. In 1886 he published a textbook on hypnosis.
a.     Bernheim believed that hypnosis was easier to induce in people who are used to passive obedience. He had poorer results with people of the upper class.
b.     Bernheim maintained that hypnosis was the product of suggestion. He defined suggestion as "the aptitude to transform an idea into an act."
c.     Unlike Liébeault, Bernheim only utilized hypnosis when he thought it had a good chance of success. Eventually, Bernheim limited his use of hypnosis and maintained that the same effects could generally obtained by suggestion in the waking state. This was called "psychotherapeutics" by the Nancy School.
15. The Nancy School consisted of a loose group of psychiatrists and it had a vast international influence (e.g. Mortin Prince in America). By 1900 Bernheim was considered by many to be Europe's greatest psychotherapist (but by 1910 he was almost forgotten). Among those who visited Bernheim and Liébeault were Auguste Forel, who was the director of the Burghölzli mental hospital (where Jung would work for nine years) and Freud. Freud was particularly interested in Bernheim's belief that posthypnotic amnesia was not as complete as assumed and the patient could remember what occurred during hypnosis.
16. However, Bernheim's assertion that hypnosis was not a pathological condition unique to hysterics was the cause of a long struggle between himself and the greatest neurologist of the time, Jean-Martin Charcot (1835-1893). Bernheim also denied Charcot's theory of hysteria.

17. Charcot was the chief physician of the massive Salpêtriére hospital. The hospital houses four to five thousand women. In the years 1862-1870 he made the discoveries that made him the foremost neurologist of his time. However, beginning in 1870 Charcot began investigating hysterical patients who, like epileptic patients, displayed convulsions. He gave a description of a full-blown hysterical crises (grande hystérie) which will be described in detail later.  In 1878 he began exploring hypnosis and experimented with hysterical patients. He found that they developed the hypnotic condition through three stages of "lethargy," "catalepsy," and "somnambulism." Charcot read his findings in 1882 to the Académie des Sciences, giving hypnotism a new prominence in the established scientific world. However, Bernheim and Janet disputed the three stages of hypnosis. In 1884-5 Charcot investigated traumatic paralyses, which he replicated using hypnosis. Thus, Charcot grouped hysterical, post traumatic and hypnotic paralyses under "dynamic paralyses" as opposed to "organic paralyses." Likewise, in 1892 he distinguished "dynamic amnesia" from "organic amnesia." Charcot as nicknamed "Napoleon of Neuroses" and his public lectures attracted laymen, physicians and foreign visitors (included Sigmund Frued between 1885-6).  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sippur Yetziat Mitzraim, Narrative Therapy and Amalek

As humans we are constantly creating narratives about ourselves and the world. At times those narratives can be limited or limiting; we only tell half of the story, minimizing or maximizing aspects, and sometimes never aware of significant dimensions of the narrative. Narrative therapists pay special attention to the stories we tell, and invite people  “to take a new look at their own lives and to find significance in events often neglected, to find sparkling actions that are often discounted, to find fascination in experiences previously overlooked, and to find solutions to problems and predicaments in landscapes often previously considered bereft.” 1


Thus, the story-telling on Passover night is not merely an act of remembrance; it is a creative redemptive force. It is through telling the story of our exile and redemption - delving into and exploring our history year-in and year-out -  that a more full, true, and pristine Vision emerges. The Sefat Emet (Pesach 5635) explains:


"It is stated in the Haggada that 'All those that tell the story at length are praiseworthy,' for story-telling [sippur] leads to knowledge [da'at], as the verse states 'and that you may tell in the ears of your son, and of your grandson...  that you may know that I am the Lord.' Since the Exodus from Egypt is written in the Torah and the Torah was given to Israel, it has the potential to awaken the force of redemption, for the redemption moves from potential to actual through story-telling. This is similar to the relationship between the Written Torah and the Oral Torah through which Israel creates new understandings of Torah. This comes through the power of language, which reveals hidden reasons.

“The Tannaim [R. Yosi the Gallilean, R. Eliezer, and R. Akiva] mentioned in the Haggada accomplished this when they expounded that each plague consisted of four or five plagues and at the splitting of the sea two-hundred and fifty plagues. These plagues were hidden in the plagues [explicit in the narrative], and the Tannaim brought them from potential to actual. This is the meaning of  'All those that tell the story at length are praiseworthy,' that they increase and expand the miracles through recounting the Exodus.

“The final redemption will emerge when all of the hidden aspects of the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt will become clarified. The initial redemption included within it the future redemption. This is why the Sages stated that ‘All the days of my life’ comes to include the Messianic era, since through remembering and recounting the Exodus it will bring the Messianic era.”

However, there is an insidious danger in viewing our current narratives as incomplete, contingent, and malleable. It can lead to the destructive view that all narratives are relative, subjective, socially constructed, and ultimately meaningless. This outlook maintains that there is no such thing as Reality, Truth, and Objectivity; all narratives can be deconstructed and subverted. In fact, it was this perspective of Amalek that confronted Israel when they first left Egypt. The Sefat Emet continues:


“When Israel left Egypt it was intended that this would be the final rectification, with the revelation of God is One and His Name is One. However, the wicked Amalek confused Israel, as it states: '[Amalek] cooled you [the Children of Israel] on the way'. Therefore we must remember our hatred of Amalek for all time since they caused all future exile. Only through telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt every year will the ultimate rectification emerge and the name of Amalek erased little by little.”

Amalek, the primal cynics, injected doubt into the minds of Israel. The philosophy of Amalek expounds that all life just “happens” and is lacking any telos and purpose. All that is precious and sacred is targeted by Amalek’s cynicism. In a moment of weakness, Israel’s confrontation with Amalek led them to question the absoluteness of their redemption. It placed a question mark on their narrative and they were thus open to doubt if “God is in our midst or not” (Exodus 17:7).


Since then we have been struggling to piece together the complete story year after year, knowing that we cannot capture the full picture in our current state but that through asking the questions and being open to new answers we can slowly awaken to the full Vision of Redemption.


“Every time we ask a question, we're generating a possible version of a life” 2


“Why is this night different than all other nights?...Next year in Jerusalem!”


1 Retelling the Stories of Our Lives: Everyday Narrative Therapy to Draw Inspiration and Transform Experience, by David Denborough, p. x, quoting Michael White

 2 David Epston in,Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities, Jill Freedman and Gene Combs, p. 113

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Discovery of the Unconscious By Henri F. Ellenberger (1970): Summary of Chapter One


Chapter One: The Ancestry of Dynamic Psychotherapy

1.     Primitive healing theory and techniques display many similarities to modern psychodynamic theory and techniques. This has been recognized by Charcot, Levi-Strauss, Aldous Huxley, and Oskar Pfister, among many others. As will been shown in chapter two there is also a historical continuity between primitive healing and modern psychotherapy.
2.     Forest E. Clements distinguished five main aspects of primitive disease theory and healing:
3.     Disease-object intrusion -> Extraction of disease object
a.     Loss of the soul -> To find and restore lost soul
b.     Spirit intrusion -> Exorcism, mechanical extraction of foreign spirit or transference of foreign spirit into another being
c.     Breach of taboo -> Confession or propitiation
d.     Sorcery -> Counter magic 
4.     Loss of soul is related to the dynamic concept of patients being "alienated and estranged" from self, or an "impoverished ego" which needs to be reconstructed.
5.     There are three general types of possession (see Oesterreich):
a.     "Somnambulic possession" where the individual loses consciousness of self and speaks with the "I" of the supposed intruder vs. "Lucid possession" where the individual feels a "spirit within his own spirit"
b.     Spontaneous vs. artificial possession. The latter is not a disease but a voluntary mental technique
c.     Overt vs. Latent possession. It is latent when the patient is unaware of the spirit. The exorcist's task is to make the possession manifest.
6.     The modern possession/exorcism case of Gottliebin Dittus and the Reverend Blumhardt (1842/3) has been the subject of much discussion from a psychiatric standpoint (e.g. Michaelis, Benedetti).
7.     Other primitive healing techniques included:
a.     Healing through (public) confession: In modern terminology this is known as a pathogenetic secret and it being made conscious. This played a role in hypnosis and was emphasized by Moritz Benedikt in 1864. This greatly impacted Breuer/Freud,  Pfister, Janet, and Jung. 
b.     Healing through gratification of frustrations
c.     Ceremonial healing: There are many different types but sometimes they take on the character of psychic shock therapy or psychodrama. They might re-enact a trauma or a myth. They often included song, art and rituals.
d.     Healing through incubation: This was usually part of a larger ceremony but this segment consisted of spending a night in a cave or sanctuary. Therapeutic dreams or visions were the healing agents.
e.     Healing through hypnosis: It is not clear if this was a therapeutic agent or a side effect of other procedures.
f.      Magical healing: There are many different practices and types of magic but it is understood that suggestion plays a large role in its efficacy.
g.     Rational therapies: This includes diet, massage, oils, bathing, light work, sleep schedule, abstinence from alcohol etc.
h.     Philosophical psychotherapy: The Greek schools of philosophy were not merely proponents of philosophical systems but were organized sects. This included mental training, mode of living, education, discipline, and written and verbal exercises to develop control over emotions. It has been suggested by R. de Saussure that Stoicism is found in the Adlerian and existential schools of psychotherapy, Platonism in the Jungian school and Epicureanism in Freud's school.
i.       Religious healing and "Cure of souls":  This consisted of confession and moral theology taught by priests, and use of the charismatic personality of a pastor.

8.     Modern dynamic psychotherapy derives from primitive medicine with an uninterrupted continuity. As will be shown in next chapter, exorcism developed into magnetism, magnetism into hypnotism, and hypnotism into the modern dynamic schools.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rebbe Nachman and Pierre Janet: Entering the Delusion

A prince once became mad and thought that he was a turkey. He felt compelled to sit naked under the table, pecking at bones and pieces of bread, like a turkey. All the royal physicians gave up hope of  curing him of this madness. The king grieved tremendously.
A sage arrived and said, “I will undertake to cure him.”
The sage undressed and sat naked under the table, next to the prince, picking crumbs and bones.
“Who are you?” asked the prince. “What are you doing here?”
“And you?” replied the sage. “What are you doing here?”
“I am a turkey,” said the prince.
“I’m also a turkey,” answered the sage.
They sat together like this for some time, until they became good friends. One day, the sage signaled the king’s servants to throw him shirts. He said to the prince, “What makes you think that a turkey can’t wear a shirt? You can wear a shirt and still be a turkey.” With that, the two of them put on shirts.
After a while, the sage again signaled and they threw him pants. As before, he asked, “What makes you think that you can't be a turkey if you wear pants?”
The sage continued in this manner until they were both completely dressed. Then he signaled for regular food, from the table. The sage then asked the prince, “What makes you think that you will stop being a turkey if you eat good food? You can eat whatever you want and still be a turkey!” They both ate the food.
Finally, the sage said, “What makes you think a turkey must sit under the table? Even a turkey can sit at the table.” The sage continued in this manner until the prince was completely cured.
- Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, The Turkey Prince
 
Another of [Pierre] Janet's first patients in Paris was Justine, a forty-year-old married woman...For several years she had a morbid fear of cholera and would shout repeatedly, "Cholera...it's taking me!" which would signal a hysterical crises. As a child she already had a morbid fear of death, probably because she sometimes helped her mother who was a nurse and who had to watch dying patients. She also once saw the corpses of two patients who had died of cholera. Janet treated Justine as an out-patient for three years and achieved one of his most celebrated cures with her. Here too psychological analysis could not be separated from the therapeutic process.

Janet began by analyzing the content of the hysterical crises. It was useless trying to talk to Justine during her crises. She did not seem to hear. Janet therefore entered the private drama of her crises and a second actor. When the patient cried, "Cholera! He will take me!" Janet answered, "Yes, he holds you by the right leg!" and the patient withdrew that leg. Janet then asked, "Where is he, your cholera?" to which she would reply, "Here! See him, he's bluish, and he stinks!" Janet could then begin a dialogue with her and was able to carry it on throughout the crises and gradually transform her crisis into an ordinary hypnotic state. Later he could easily elicit hypnosis directly and obtain a full description of her subjective experience during the crises. She saw two corpses standing nearby, one of whom stood closer to her, an ugly naked old man of greenish shade with a stench of putrefaction. Simultaneously she heard bells tolling and shouts of "Cholera, cholera!" Once the crises was over, Justine seemed to  have forgotten everything but the idea of cholera, which remained constant in her mind. Janet elaborated on how hypnosis could be used in such a case. Commands given to the hypnotized patient were of limited usefulness. The breaking down of the hallucinatory picture was more effective but it was a slow procedure and also had limitations. The most effective method proved to be substitution, that is, suggestions of a gradual transformations of the hallucinatory picture. The naked corpse was provided with clothes and identified with a Chinese general whom Justine had been greatly impressed to see at the Universal Exposition. The Chinese general started to walk and act so that instead of being terrifying his picture became comical. The hysterical attack changed in that it now consisted of a few cries followed by fits of laughter. Then the cries disappeared, and the visions of cholera persisted only when she dreamed, until Janet expelled them in turn by suggesting innocuous dreams. This result had required about one year of treatment. But the fixed idea of cholera persisted both on the conscious and subconscious level. Sometimes Justine was observed whispering the word "cholera" while her mind was taken up with some other activity. Attempts with automatic writing produced nothing but endless repetitions of the word "cholera, cholera..." Janet now directed his attack against the word itself, and suggested that Cho-le-ra was the name of the Chinese general. The syllable cho was associated with other terminations until the day arrived when the word "cholera" lost its evil connotations.

-Henri F. Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry, p. 369

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Time Consciousness and the Mesorah

"Thus a situation has developed which is quite paradoxical in human terms: The barriers of the past have been pushed back as never before; our knowledge of the history of man and the universe has been enlarged on a scale and to a degree not dreamed of by previous generations. At the same time, the sense of identity and continuity with the past, whether our own or history's, has gradually and steadily declined. Previous generations knew much less about the past than we do, but perhaps felt a much greater sense of identity and continuity with it."
Hans Meyerhoff, Time in Literature. Quoted in Zachor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, p 79 by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi
 
"When I sit down to learn, the giants of the masorah are with me. Our relationship is personal. The Rambam sits to my right, Rabbenu Tam to my left. Rashi sits at the head and explains, Rabbenu Tam asks, the Rambam decides the halakhah, and the Rabad objects. All of them are with me in my small room, sitting around the table…. Learning Torah is the intense experience of uniting many generations together, the joining of spirit to spirit, the connecting of soul to soul. Those who transmit the Torah and those who receive the Torah are invited to meet one another at the same historic juncture."
Rav Soloveitchik, U-vikashtem Mi-Sham, p. 232

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lech Lecha: Go into yourself!


"God did not guide Abraham. He bewildered him; He completely mystified and confounded him. He told him to move on, to go forth "to the land which I will show you." Is the land to be found in the east or the west? No hint was disclosed to Abraham. God willed Abraham to guess, to find out intuitively, to somehow smell the fragrance of the land, to feel the pull that the land exerts, to be attracted to the land spontaneously, so that the heart was Abraham's compass and lodestar. If Abraham had been mistaken in his adventurous selection of the land, everything would have been lost; Abraham would not have been the charismatic chosen leader and patriarch."
R. Soloveitchik, Abraham's Journey, p. 74


"So it is too that in the eyes of the world it is dangerous to venture...and to venture in the highest sense is precisely to become conscious of oneself."
Søren Kierkegaard, Sickness unto Death, p. 52 (Lowrie edition)


 "You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse."
 Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, p. 16 (Norton edition)

 

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Bm'ei ha'daga Production: haunting portraits of the homeless


Music by 8th Day - "Beggar Woman"

Today, she was sitting on the street
Sorrow in her eyes, a tin can at her feet
Holes in her stockings and holes in her shoes
She’s an old beggar woman no stranger to bad news

So I reached in my pocket to give a bill or two
In my heart I was trying to see what I could do
She thanked me for the money, I turned to walk away
But I waited for a moment as she began to say

(Chorus:)
G-d loves the widow and the orphan and the blind 
The old and the needy who haven’t got a dime 
G-d loves the sickly in his eyes we’re all the same 
And G-d he loves you too in the sunshine and the rain. (You just call upon His name)

I don’t know where she came from, don’t know her at all
But the wrinkles on her face, they kinda tell it all 
So reach in your pocket and give a bill or two 
And you can thank G-d in Heaven that the beggar isn’t you.