“My drawings inspire and are not to be defined. They determine nothing. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous world of the indeterminate. They are a kind of metaphor.”
JUNE 29, 2011. In other articles, I’ve mentioned the potential of new invented languages that don’t adhere to the familiar patterns of subject-object-verb.
For example, languages in which nouns display action characteristics as their prime feature, without the use of adjectives.
Let’s look at the language of psychiatry. It is reductionist. It takes a wide spread of behaviors and encapsulates them under “disorder” labels. “Clinical depression,” “ADHD,” “bipolar,” “oppositional defiance disorder.”
These labels are fictions. Well, why not? A language can be composed entirely of fictions. It’s an interesting idea. However, when these labels are used to make diagnoses that then lead to the administration of highly toxic drugs, that’s another story altogether.
And when the fictitious labels are sold as expert truth, this is also troubling.
But here I want to comment on the reductionist strategy itself. It is very old, and it has always served the same purpose: making complexity simple for simple minds.
People feel relieved to learn that their child’s unpredictable behaviors can be called ADHD. A label to hold on to in a storm. An anchor.
No further investigation is necessary. ADHD comes in and saves the day and answers the question Why.
Just as naming a messiah and indicating how he will bring salvation to the yearning masses is a welcome reduction of experience.
You can always sell reduction. Selling proliferation isn’t as easy.
Here is a VERY interesting example. “The group,” which one would think is more complex than “the individual,” is depicted as the fundamental unit of social and political concern. It is made into a simpler device, by assuming that we all share identical problems and impulses. Through this assumption, there is no longer any need to consider the individual in isolation, because he is merely a copy of the next individual, who in turn is a copy of the next individual, and so on. Reduction.
An empty slogan or generality is another strategy that allows simplification. For instance, Hope and Change. A moment’s calm reflection tells you you have no clue what is actually intended. However, you are invited to plug in your own hopes and your own preferred changes—and when millions of other people do the same thing, the slogan itself operates as a reduction…because in three words, it seems to summarize what everybody wants.
Sometimes, what looks like proliferation is actually reduction. Take the case of the DSM, which is the bible of the psychiatric profession. It lists all the fictional mental disorders which have been cooked up by professional committees. At present, there are 297. The number expands with each new edition of the DSM.
But the overriding message is this: “We are the experts. We can define what is wrong with the mind of any person. You can’t understand what we’re doing, because you aren’t a professional. So let us take over. We’ll simplify your questions and concerns and treat these disorders.”
In the same fashion, the mind-numbing canons and edicts, and the linguistic somersaults that define the cosmology of the Roman Church, conspire to present a clear message: “Let your priest be the judge. He will apply whatever piece of eternal truth is necessary to lead you into a better reality. He’ll boil it down for you.”
When we get into the area of imagination, we are really being taken for a ride, if we think this faculty is simple and straightforward. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, if people have dumbed themselves down to the point where they believe everything important should be reduced to a concentrate (add water and drink), they are barred from entrance. They are applying exactly the wrong standard to penetrate what, to them, has become a mystery.
You might consider this question: in order to serve the repressed need for complexity and variety, what strategy has become most popular in modern society?
The answer is: drugs.
Interesting, though, that after a certain threshold of continued use is crossed, the person finds himself in a gray area where his mind has been REDUCED.