Materialists, their eye on the rear view mirror

I hear that as many images have been captured in the past 3 months, as have been taken in the history of humanity to-date (paintings, drawings, films, photos etc).

There are also increasing numbers of people missing whole longed-for events because they are bound up with capturing them on their mobile phones. Unlike our grandparents we have a constant record of our past. It is re-presented to us on Facebook and by friends and family alike.

What effect is the fixing of our image having on our psyche and soul?

(It’s not a rhetorical question).

What was the life of our senses like maybe 100 years ago, and indeed for all of the development of our species until that point?

Our world would have been smelly. We each have our pheromones and scent, which are now covered, deodorised and washed away. Then, there would have been a rich scent-scape. Smell is a sense that is strongly associated with emotion. The nerves in the nose are a direct extension of the brain and feed in to the limbic system, our emotional brain. That’s why particular smells evoke such vivid memories and sensations. We now live in a relatively odour-free environment (a non-scence world?) and what smell there is from bottles rather than bodies. What difference does that make to our development?

Our world would also have been full of natural noise, and probably less of it. Birdsong, people arguing, the clip clop of horses in the street, the sound of wind in trees. (Oh yes, and sounds of pain and anguish from the diseased and dying).

Then of course, we lived hugger-mugger and would (I think?) have been constantly in- touching – literally rather than “by phone, “by text” etc…

..and our visual sense would have been present and alive rather than past and fixed. We would, I think, have perceived ourselves through the eyes of others rather than through mirrors and photos. Yes, we aged, but without the constant record and reminder of it.

A many We would, in short have been much more fully present. Here, now, alive, available to each other human to human. We would not have been waiting for the e-mail, the text, and the call. We would not have had some part of our mind in another place or another time.

We’re increasingly going backward into the future, with our eyes fixed on the rear view mirror, rather than on the road ahead or with the passengers in the car with us.

Which fixes us as materialists. The material, physical world is always in the past. Literally (see Whitehead, Process and Reality). It does not exists in the present, but is crystallised out by our free will from the stuff and limitless potential that is the future. As quantum physicists have shown again and again – everything is potential until observed. It is the act of observation that crystallises out the particular phsyical world – and by then its already in the past. As our ancestors put it, we are the sisters of Wyrd, spinning fate at the foot of the Tree Ygrdrassl.

The past, the material, is dead and done. Let’s live in the present, with each other, and look to the future.

Humanity reduced to pixels

As many images have been captured in the past 6 months, as have been taken in the history of humanity to-date (paintings, drawings, films, photos etc).

Donald Winnicott proposed that the mother establishes the sense of reality, of existence, in her infant by adapting herself to his internal world of sensation, and by acting as a mirror; reflecting back through her face – the baby’s internal sensations. (‘The Mirror-Role of Mother and Family in Child Development 1967).

On the other hand – Jacques Lacan  observed (Le stade du Miroir 1949) that “when a child looks in the mirror he sees a unified image of his own disarray”. An actual mirror – presenting back to us, as it does, a unified visual image of ourselves – is a challenge. We don’t feel ourselves to be one single unified being as represented by the image.

The point is that our sense of Self has throughout millions of years of evolution been established by social reflection – first of our interior sensation in the face of our mother and then others. The actual visible reflection of our image is an entirely new challenge to the richness of who we really are or can be.

What then is the impact of so many images, captured  by all of our mobile phones and then “tagged” and replayed to us constantly?

The self that is created in a social mirror -our sense of who we are as a sum of how we are perceived by those around – must surely be entirely different from a simple visual image. The image of our face has no bearing on the image of our person – in all its multiple facets. Is this not Lacan’s point from his 1949 paper? Now, however, we are deluged with this visual imagery – and increasingly also confronted with our ageing – because we have the record of our image from the past. Does this mean that we now construct our sense of self from the outside in – from multiple images back to who we are inside? Is this not a recipe for a plague of narcissim; and does the impact of the photograph not only steal from our other senses – but also usurp our very being?

Lacan and Winnicott were writing in the age before Facebook, YouTube,  Pinterest and the mobile phone. Is anyone investigating the change to our species of this aspect of our technological – “progress”?

As Adam Phillips puts it, the maternal mirroring process that creates the Self that is each of us…

“He (an infant) can only discover what he feels by seeing it reflected back. If the infant is seen in a way that makes him feel he exists, in a way that confirms him”

What impoverishment to have this reduced to the pixels on an iPhone..