This is a warm winter. Strangely warm. Everyone is blaming global warming, I'm laughing at how people react to this natural condition. I remember reading an article about the rising popularity of weather monitoring in modern society. In the past, weather had never assumed so much importance, except for people in agriculture. Even then, knowledge and prediction about the weather remain mostly intuitive and primarily depend on historical records. With the rise of modernity, the increasing distance between culture (as civilization) and nature has given humankind an unprecedented confidence in knowing, predicting and governing our existence, especially protecting us from natural influences. The obsessive monitoring of weather seems like a natural consequence of the rise of modernity.
However, the obsession with weather report, weather forecast, hourly forecast, monthly forecast was a recent phenomenon. Because weather is probably one of the few things that is truly beyond our control. We check the weather every morning, adjust our outfit, schedule our days all according to the forecast. The importance of weather on our daily life is undeniable, yet so subtle.
This warm winter here in the far north thus becomes comical if you think from the perspective of how weather has shaped our sense of happiness.
Extreme and polemical weather is no longer a strange phenomenon in our everyday life. With everything that is happening around us, to learn how to live with extreme cases becomes necessary. How to live with extremity without losing a sense of control becomes the real challenge.
The picture I'm posting here is from Eason Chan's concert. A renown Hong Kong singer, a controversial figure in the public life for his extreme personality. People use "extreme anxiety", "bipolar", and "hysteria" to describe his symptoms. Yet, all of his most famous songs are extremely quiet, solitary and peaceful. After seeing his concert, I began to think about the relation between hysteria and solitude, an extreme comparison, yet one that's worth thinking about.
In Freud's early works, he used all kinds of clinical approaches to study patients with hysteria, which has a mysterious origin and stigmatizing understanding. The documentation of hysteria dated back to ancient Greece. The word hysteria in Greek means "wandering uterus", a belief that a displacement in the womb caused this pathology. It was also believed that this condition was mainly a women's health problem. With Freud's early studies on hysteria patients, he found that the symptoms could be understood as the patient expressing unacceptable desires and defending against those desires in his conscious mind. Thus the conflict is conceptualized as drives that are repressed for being unacceptable in the socialized self and for being too strong to be managed by the subject's psychic system.
Let's pause for a second and think about hysteria beyond its psychoneurotic terms. It is basically a form of acting out in circumstances where one's desire clashes with one's socialized self that constantly governs and censors the conscious self. In another word, the expression of hysteria reveals the fundamental collision between desire and acceptable behaviour. Can we also posit that in acting out and in the expression of hysteria, we actually get a glimpse of who the subject really is? Whether it's caused by repressed trauma or deep anxiety, hysterical expression offers an opportunity for us to peek into the deep desire of the subject. Let's also talk about solitude first before I attempt to offer my naive idea that hysteria could offer us an opening to the solitude of a person.
Solitude is not the state of being alone or the emotion of loneliness and isolation. Solitude is a reflexive and dialectical state that grounds the individual's deep subjectivity. Solitude is what makes a person an individual. It grounds the subject's sameness (universality) and difference (particularity).
Nowhere, Beloved, will world be but within us. Our life
passes in transformation. And the external
shrinks into less and less.
Thus, solitude is the transformation and internalization of the external world for the purpose of self-transcendence. It is what Simmel calls "in life" but also "more than life". Solitude recognizes the deep desire one has, as well as the external censors that the self has to compromise in order to be considered normal and sane. Solitude is a strong will and mental power that has the capacity to reconcile the collision between desire and the socialized self.
If we conceive solitude as the strongest expression of self with its fullness, hysteria becomes cases when the reconciliation fails, when the vulnerability of a solitary soul trembles. Only when we formulate the relation between hysteria and solitude like this could we understand Eason's songs in their fullness.