With Care


…an ars analytica.

At the close of Faust, a feminine figure identified as Care confronts and challenges the power striving alchemist at death’s door.  He rebukes her.  She blinds him.

The image was particularly potent for me as three days before reading it, (I made note of this last week.) I had settled after months of inner turmoil on a new moral attitude, or more accurately, a new moral attitude rooted in relatedness emerged within me quite unexpectedly: care.

Now, in psychoanalytic circles, much is made of the caretaker complex and rightly so, so let me clarify what I’m getting at.

Any analysis of depth will dismantle the idealizations which, either culturally or pathologically conditioned, have sought to provide some control to our fragile situation.  But, as William James noted, “absolutism is cowardice in the face of chaos.” With the crashing of these narcissistic structures, one is left in ruins, a chaos which the alchemists called the nigredo.

Amidst this confusion, the tendency is to attempt to reassemble the scaffolding of meaning that had held one previously.  And if the transformative destruction of the nigredo is insufficient, this escape back might occur.  If the nigredo is sufficient, no return is possible, and a greiving amongst the ruins can ensue.

In the meaningless despair of the nigredo a caretaker will want to step in and interfere, save. But a skilled analyst stays the course. Amidst the ruins, a new source can sprout forth, giving the life a new orientation, and a new posture, a term which proprioceptively embodies the engagement of the new ethical attitude in life.

The image that manifest in this case, like the window box in the post referenced above, was simply sweeping the front stoop. The implications include staying within one’s reach, attentiveness and the beauty that emerges from it, a welcoming of what each moment brings, and a patience that awaits as yet unknown guests. Behind this attentiveness stands a powerful figure, the same who approached Faust and who gets amplified quite extensively in this beautiful essay: History of the Notion of Care.