Monday, May 23, 2016

A Sickness Unto Death

Soren Kierkegaard (drawing by Neils Christian Kierkegaard)
Are the proliferation of recovery programs, a sign that addiction is growing? And is that growth caused by an increased need to achieve states of euphoria, which will cover the spiritual void left by the death of God? Or has awareness and a certain openness merely brought these matters out of the closet? Has the shame factor lessened, now that alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual compulsiveness and overeating are considered diseases? The fact that we live in a time when people wear their problems on their sleeves  would give credence to the notion that there's more openness in dealing with things that formerly were hidden from public view. But let’s consider the possibility that hedonism has replaced a vanishing spirituality and that this accounts for the holes in many souls (and sometimes literal soles, when there's protracted soul searching going on). Jung said the "craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness."The problem with using so called pleasure to fill the gap is that it only makes matters worse. What happens to teeth are a perfect example. If you eat too many sweets you get cavities. With respect to the psyche, the spiritual cavity or crevice or chasm only widens. Relying on the senses is a Sisyphean task since the ante is always raised and gratification is by definition elusive. If material pleasure is the lingua franca, satiation will be compromised. You always want more. Look at JFK. He had a seemingly endless chain of liaisons with some of the most beautiful women in the world. Yet if you read the recent obituary of the famed Madame Claude, you will find that he was one of her most prominent customers ("Fernande Gaudet, 92, Dies; Ran High-Society, Call-Girl Ring as 'Madame Claude,NYT, 12/23/15). Perhaps there're no coincidences as the recovery people like to say. Could it be that all the programs are a response to an increase in the problem. Kierkegaard referred to The Sickness Unto Death. Perhaps this particular plague is reaching epidemic proportions.

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