Sunday, April 15, 2012

Depth Beneath

Right now I feel as two-dimensional as our friends out there—in the universe, but barely aware of it. Just trying to survive…on instinct.

By the way—the next time you call me “aristocratic”…
                                         [Two quotes of the Star Trek character, Counselor Deanna Troi]

Counselor Deanna Troi, played on Star Trek by Marina Sirtis, has long been, for me, the best-known paradigm for the culture of emotion. It isn’t the facts that interest her but how the other party feels. Troi is a great symbol. First of all she is a mixture, half Betazoid, half human. Betazoids have extra powers; they are emphats and telepaths. Next she is a counselor, presumably a fully-trained psychiatrist. That profession, needless to say, is Modernity’s equivalent of clergy. Not quite last she is a woman, the gender thought best to represent the somewhat secondary feeling state—secondary because, of course, episodes where feelings are the focus are quite secondary to the more robust Make-it-sos of most of the Star Trek episodes. Not quite last, as I say, because this figure of pop culture points at greater depths beneath. I try to point toward them in the two quotes that I produce up there taken not quite at random from this source.

A while back now I managed to transcend my irritation and disgust with the culture of emotion when the realization suddenly dawned that it’s a symptom of our culture’s decadence—but the turn toward emotion is itself a positive movement, even if it isn’t quite there yet. The culture of emotion at least restores the necessary duality of our nature. We’re all half-Betazoids—and sometimes, especially when things go wrong—we know it, too. The culture elevates emotion from the status that Modernity assigns it—namely glands releasing chemical signals, when sensitized by external events, the flood of hormones, and the actions that they trigger in turn. It asserts that emotion has another dimension—without teasing out what it is and giving it a name. That it is or at least exhibits something beyond the glandular is brought home by giving the emphat telepathic powers—which modern science only marginally credits to exist in the work of its marginal side-kick, parapsychology.

Now, of course, if you were born long enough ago, and therefore you have managed to have your intuitions confirmed by society—namely that you have a soul— then the culture of emotions will appear peculiar and limited. It never seems to point beyond the physical—which is what emotions seem to be. And when it does so point, as Deanna does, in the first quote above, the words uttered are swallowed up in action. TV series don’t give us much time to reflect. But yes. We do sometimes feel two-dimensional, present in a greater world but unawarely. The traditional understanding of reality has more dimensions—and they are arranged hierarchically. Is it then surprising that Deanna Troi is thought to be aristocratic? Not at all. She represents that hierarchy. That she should oppose that classification is also understandable. She is what she is, Deanna Troi, counselor. But please treat her like any ordinary Jane.

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