The yoke of intellectuality
I apologize that this will not and cannot apply but to a few readers, but I think within our social spheres it is important to attempt to understand and empathize with all personalities, so that we can better live with one another and care for one another.
In that justification and in a need just to explain things to myself (which I believe is why I say everything that I talk about and write about – I work through ideas by communicating them. Just ask Michelle, the most patient listener to random mind-spews in the world)…
What was I saying? Oh, right. The yoke of intellectuality. By way of introduction, I am reading a fantastic biography of Einstein by Albrecht Fölsing, translated into English. I love it for it’s command of both biography and easy way of explaining the physics and science in a way that helps you to understand it per se, as well as apply it to what it meant Einstein himself.
In the midst of rising success in the early 1910s, we find Einstein and his first wife Mileva and their two children moving around the German and Hungarian empires (pre-WWI), from their favorite home of Zurich, to lonely Prague, where German-speaking people were a minority, back again to Zurich.
Even in the early days, just after Albert and Mileva finished college, when Albert received his doctorate and Mileva, also a physicist, was denied hers in the final examination, and we see her take a sad but understandable turn toward depression and insecurity. Not only had she worked for years for something she did not obtain, but Albert’s parents were also strongly against the relationship. Being with Albert tended to isolate her from other positive relationships. Even so, she seems to have been a very dedicated and loving mother to their children after their marriage. Their first child, conceived a while before they were married, ended up being given up for adoption because of how poor Albert nudge Mileva were at that point in their lives. To this day, no one has been able to find out what happen to Albert’s first daughter; she has disappeared from history. One can only imagine how the loss of a child in such a way plagued their souls.
Much later in their relationship we see signs of a “schismogenesis”. That’s a good technical word for when two people or groups start to split apart. “Completmentary schismogenesis” is when (if you ever want to sound really smart) one person or group reacts in a manner that makes the other group react in an opposite manner and these reactions increase in severity over time. For example, when some people want to be listened to they will speak louder, others will speak softer to draw attention. When these two types of people talk to each other and feel that the other is not listening, one will begin to talk louder and louder and the other softer and softer. Our different ways of reacting to the same circumstances is a cause of a lot of conflict, especially when you take into consideration that one party doesn’t understand why the other party reacted in that way and therefore does not empathize, but gets more frustrated by the “failure” of the other party to react properly.
This is how it played out in Albert and Mileva’s relationship it seems. Albert was extremely driven and focused and responded to stress by working harder. He was self-assured, but not overly so. Mileva, being very insecure, was extremely jealous of any one else Albert spent his time with – and not just women, but the male friends Albert had as well. At one point, Mileva’s outbursts almost caused an international scandal. As she became more and more dependent, Albert wanted to be more and more independent. He started to perceive her as a hindrance to his work. She was depressed and ostracized by his family. Such problems might have gone on for years, because Albert had a strong sense of duty to her, but, as it often goes, he became interested in someone else. The pull from one side and the push from the other ultimately ended his first marriage.
Misunderstanding Each Other – Intellectual Aggression and Depression
Depression is something I have struggled with intensely in the past, and I have written blogs on those experiences. However, now I want to discuss an issue pertaining to Albert Einstein.
Now I am no Einstein, but I understand his strong inclination to his work, to his strong personality which felt little guilt and lingered over regret rarely, and his ultimate desire to be happy and do what he wanted at the same time. In this I have seen in him, in myself, and in others like me in this way, a desire to place an unnatural faith in one’s intellect and self-will: a belief in the ability to transcend emotional and spiritual pains, consequences to ourselves and others be damned.
I’m saying that there is a turn toward an abuse of our own emotions, inflicting a false apathy onto our pasts’ and our present selves, because we have justified in our own minds how we are stronger than that. I say this is a false apathy because even within it, like within my darkest episodes of depression, is a rejection and hatred of it which comes out into our physical lives in many ways: as anger, as coldness, and terror, as sadness, as anything but a calm rationality that is “beyond” emotion. We are never beyond emotion; proof of this is the very frustration emotion causes in our lives, a frustration compounded when we try to bury emotions instead of learning to deal with them appropriately.
I truly believe that the most genius people who repress their emotions and glide over the realities of internal battles and problems in themselves and their relationships are far worse off than those who have never experienced a reality beyond those emotional/spiritual needs, yet have dealt honestly and persistently with them. Stripped from honest dealings with emotions, intellectuality will eventually tear you apart in doubts and destroyed relationships.
In the midst of sky-high depression rates amongst college kids – children who are not taught nor have seen an emotional adulthood that deals honestly with emotions – I fear that secular slogans of “intellectual or self-empowerment” and an obsession with “objective facts” which somehow exist in a vacuum beyond humans dealing with them are all pushing students toward a transcendence of themselves and their relational problems which in reality does not exist. And that’s part of the reason for such confusion and devastation in us and in our relationships. We are trying to force ourselves beyond our ability, to jump into a pool of self-empowerment which simply does not exist. Humility is of the utmost importance as a virtue because it is the humble person who deals with themselves and others in the reality of where they really are, not in the prideful unreality of where they “should be”. This is the yoke of intellectualism that is choking us to death, pushing our faces to the dirt under an apathetic, inhuman burden we have put onto ourselves and that the older generation has been lumping on the younger in order to lighten their own load and guilt. Pushing ourselves to be something we are not, and to want something we do not want, ends no where else but in a personal explosion or implosion.
I wonder how different Albert and Mileva’s relationship would have been if it had been in a time where they could seek help in dealing with serious emotional immaturities; a time in which depression is a term used and at least has begun to be understood (and I know just how poorly). Mileva might have gotten help, but Albert? I wonder whether our world would even see any problem in him, or if they would, as history does now, simply champion an ends over means approach to life and science. I will also say that such an uncaring Albert did in no way exist. His struggles with relationships and with the consequences of his own scientific endeavors on others was constant and painful for him. Conscientious and emotionally unsure Albert is not the Einstein we meet in popular histories, where it is the no holds barred Einstein that is reconstructed to encourage the high-school and college intellectuals among us. There is a real man behind all of that, complete in all his successes and failures.
Until we see a retuned focus to relational, emotional and spiritual issues as important and not “base”, “vulgar”, and “beneath” intellectual pursuits, but rather vital for a true vitality of life in a world where we constantly have to deal with ourselves and others, we will be burdened. Until we remove our obsession with a “freedom from” others to say and do whatever we want, which is simply not the state of the interconnected world, we will be burdened under this yoke.
As a final note, some intellectuals put up a false fear of feeding the rampant “anti-intellectualism” in America in which those without some experience therefore find no worth in it. The irony of that perspective is anything but laughable. It is the desire, not intellectual demand, to meet each other and ourselves at a common level that makes any sort of cliquishness seem petty and pitiable.
A Path Out?
Our society is trying to fix mental illness and “rediscover” relationships while embracing some of it’s causes and symptoms. Not the physical causes which are certainly there, but the social exacerbations of these issues. “Mind” is a tool, not an end, just like emotions. They are on the same level, but with different functions. The end is a faith in and knowledge of God, to be quite honest. Without God, I constantly see a reversal of putting “mind” as God and God as subservient to “mind”. This type of self-glorification is a symptom of the very self-imposed yoke of intellectualizing ourselves, separating ourselves into parts and rejecting the whole – then doing the same to our heroes and then chasing after a figment of our imagination instead of learning from real lives.
There is no freedom from people around us, but that’s okay. Peace doesn’t come by accident, and it doesn’t come by making everything we think is “bad” in others illegal. Christianity is unique in this, that it teaches that its communities must strive to the point of its members giving up themselves and their wants in order to maintain a general unity of purpose. It teaches that through faith in Christ we can be free for the sake of each other: to encourage, to admonish, to push each other to be the best possible, and to catch those who fall to the lowest depths. That’s what I want, not just an intellectual sharing of ideas, though I desire that strongly as well. We need to try to understand each other’s reactions and then try to understand what we, individually, and we, as a society, are doing to either encourage depression and aggression, or dispel such in community.