Ja, vi bør glemme …

Det er på tide, at det enkelte menneske glemmer alle guruerne for derved at se sin egen virkelighed, se sit eget liv, skabe sin egen historie.

Sådan åbner jeg en kronik, der bl.a. handler om psykologen Svend Brinkmann, lidt om Freud, en anelse mere om Deleuze og om at handle således, at du kan gentage dine handlinger.

Læs kronikken her.

The rites of play

“Play, not work, is the end of life. To participate in the rites of play is to dwell in the Kingdom of Ends. To participate in work, career, and the making of history is to labor the Kingdom of Means.” – Michael Novak, The Joy of Sports (1976)

Byung-Chul Han is a Korean-born professor of philosophy and cultural studies at the University of the Arts in Berlin as well as a popular contemporary social analyst. During the last two decades, he has published numerous book-length essays dissecting contemporary society. Han uses several catchy terms to define contemporary society, including  burnout, tired, positive, pornographic, intimate, transparent, control and information society to name a few.

His essays draw a dualistic map, that is good vs. bad, and the distinction can, at times, have an either–or character, for example, seduction versus porn, knowledge versus information, negative versus positive, consumers versus users, etc. In his newest book, titled The Disappearance of Rituals, Han turns to rituals to overcome the erosion of community. As symbolic acts, Han suggests that rituals can bring closure. Han also looks to rituals to “stabilize life” and make “life last.”

According to Han, closure and stability are needed because everything has been “colonized by the economic.” He observes that “in consuming emotions we do not relate to things but to ourselves. What we seek is emotional authenticity. Thus, the consumption of emotions strengthens the narcissistic relationship with ourselves.” Thus, the corrosion of community is related to narcissism. 

Han illustrates the ever-present narcissism that can be found even in so-called positive movements or slogans that focus on change: change yourself by doing this, change the world by buying or consuming this product. The problem is two-sided: to walk around in a vegan t-shirt or shoes requires money, and second, all that matters is the symbolic value. However, having a Buddha statue in your garden does not really bring people together or bring you any closer to having true insight. The problem is that some symbols have become shallow. They don’t “establish relations, only connections.” 

Han doesn’t use the concept of authenticity in an existential way but sees it as a neoliberal concept of production. “You exploit yourself voluntarily in the belief that you are realizing yourself.” Or, when everyone “is producing him- or herself in order to garner more attention … the compulsion of self-production leads to a crisis of community.” The crisis is characterized by “echo chambers,” where people mainly hear the voices of those who share their beliefs and opinions.

Thus, communication without community is compulsive and narcissistic, whereas rituals consist of narrative processes.” Another way of describing the corrosion of communities is that contemporary rituals have become “as-if-rituals,” in other words, shallow. 

The rituals that Han refers to aim to stabilize identity, to make one “at home in the world.” He refers to the Hungarian writer Péter Nádas who describes a village with an ancient pear tree at the centre, which for Han is an example of “a ritually closed place”. Under the pear tree the villagers gather and contemplate silently. In his work, Nádas unfolds a collective consciousness that “creates a community without communication.”  

Han is aware that his ideas are closely related to modern-day nationalism, but with the help of Hegel, he claims that the “spirit is a closure, an enclosing power which, however, incorporates the other” but without changing the culture that Han sees as something original, fixed and even sacred. For the same reason, he postulates that societies seek closure, or a clear identity, which for him is a “society of rules,” where such “rules rest on agreement.” Yet he doesn’t explore the difficulties in establishing rules in societies inhabited by narcissistic cultural, racial, gender, and other group identities. He paints his critique with broad strokes and, equally vaguely, states: “We must defend an ethics of beautiful forms.” 

The kind of rituals that Han proposes are rituals of closure, for example, religious festivals. For the same reason, he claims that culture unfortunately has been made profane. For Han, “culture is a form of closure, and so founds an identity.” 

I would disagree with him and claim that a closed cultural identity is a fiction. Cultures change, yet Han is persistent, for instance, when he sees danger in Deleuze’s and Guattaris’s concepts of becoming and rhizome. Unlike the two French philosophers, Han operates with a metaphysics of being. Again, I would disagree with Han by suggesting that the problem of today is related to an idealized or normative notion of being, and the result is that most people seek the same thing and do the same thing to gain attention, prestige and status or to gain followers and likes (cf. the echo chambers). There is a lack of critical thinking because people would rather feel protected and at home, that is, identified. Finally, when Deleuze and Guattari speak about becoming, it is never about the point from which something originates (e.g., cultural identity) or the point at which it arrives. Their concept of becoming is closer to “play,” which Han leans toward at the end of his book, perhaps to overcome the risk of appearing too nostalgic in his urge for rituals.

In Homo Ludens (1955), Johan Huizinga summarizes play as “free activity … an activity connected with no material interest … a voluntary activity.” Play is intrinsically valued. Later, with the Enlightenment, play was contrasted with work. Work was serious, play was unserious—a waste of time. Still, some philosophers suggest otherwise—and here Han could have improved his book by consulting more recent literature about sport and philosophy. 

Yet, to gain closure in Han’s argument, readers might be curious about what play can offer. “Thinking has the character of play” because there is no thinking without eros—or joy and freedom, I would add. 

Play is related to seduction, and with this concept, Han succeeds in tying play to rituals as something exterior, something that is repeated as when Kierkegaard’s seducer turns up at the same place every day in Cordelia’s life. Seduction also requires dwelling or time as duration because it requires a secret—a transparent person is never seductive—because all narratives are fed by a secret story. That secret might even be related to why so many people play, or watch other people play which, according to Novak (see epigraph), might have something to do with play being real, honest, and true.

Thus, what is the secret that brings people together? Play, rituals, seduction. 

After reading a few of Han’s books, you know what to expect: more of the same. To his credit, he adds a little extra each time to stimulate new readers. In this book, it is rituals and play, although he could have spent more time exploring these concepts, especially the latter. 

Still, Han’s books can awaken an appetite for a more critical approach to society—for both students and critically orientated citizens. 

Finn Janning, PhD, philosopher and writer – review first published in Metapsychology

How do make yourself a body without organs?

I just published a paper in Ramon Llull Journal of Applied Ethics.

Here is the abstract: “The concept of “the body without organs” takes up a great part of the oeuvre of Deleuze and Guattari. Yet, it is difficult to answer their question–“How do you make yourself a body without organs?”–or to understand their answer. In this paper I propose that the body without organs is an ethical concept. To support this assertion, I relate, especially, Deleuze’s thought on the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård’s auto-fictive project, My Struggle, suggesting that My Struggle can be read as a body without organs. By doing so, I aim at two things: first, to illustrate a possible application of Deleuze’s ethic, and second, to show how such an ethic may guide us regarding what we ought to do.”

The paper can be read here – enjoy!

Traveling with train

The connection between writing and traveling – more specifically, traveling by train – has been on my mind for a while. This connection addresses the relationship between stillness and movement. I guess it has to do with the change of the pace of society.

Read the rest of the in Backstage Talks

A mindful philosophy

“The artist is a seer, a becomer,” wrote the philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the psychiatrist Félix Guattari in their book, What Is Philosophy?

I thought of this quote the other day, when a student of mine asked me, “What are you: a meditator or a philosopher?”

I’m not sure whether there is—or has to be—a difference, I told her, “I’m a philosopher who meditates. I guess like a carpenter, schoolteacher or football player sometimes does that, too.”

“So to philosophize is, in a way, to meditate,” she said.


I’m certain that no one philosophizes without paying attention. The philosopher is a seer, I believe, or to put this in simpler, less romantic terms: To think requires us to be aware of what’s happening inside ourselves as well as outside in society.

Let me share a few thoughts from Deleuze that may show how philosophy is related to mindfulness or meditation. Let’s call it a mindful philosophy.

The writer as artist

The writer as artist has seen something—something that he or she passes on, in a way, that gives the reader enhanced access to this world.

For instance, a novel or a memoir is a communication of experiences that typically involve ethics and knowledge. A novel answers the question of how a person acts, reflects, thinks and feels during certain circumstances. This is why literature can be a way of gaining experiences that make us more mature, as it allows us to experience other forms of life.

Like the philosopher, the writer as artist is a seer and he or she confronts the reader with his or her ethical limitations. Deleuze states that “In the act of writing there’s an attempt to make life something more than personal, to free life from what imprisons it.” (from Negotiations)

To write is to resist

This means, among other things, resisting the urge to follow the dominant fantasies and ideas controlling our lives—just think of status anxiety. And yet, to resist means, first and foremost, to resist death.Report this ad

For this reason, you write to give the unborn a possibility to live freely; that is, to live a healthy life. The writer is affirming life when he or she sets free what lives.

“To affirm is to unburden: not to load life with the weight of higher values, but to create new values which are those of life, which make life light and active,” Deleuze stresses in Nietzsche & Philosophy (italics in original).

To release, set free and create values in life—this is why we want to spend time with certain writers. They extend our boundaries.

Writing and meditation

Now, let me be even more specific. I meditate so that my life can become meditative; that is, so I can let life pass through me while I try to pass on or affirm what lives.

The writer is generous when he or she passes on life. This idea also indicates that to produce art (or think philosophically), there has to be something at stake—a matter of life and death.

“A creator who isn’t grabbed around the throat by a set of impossibilities is no creator,” Deleuze says in Negotiations.

So, just imagine being grabbed by the throat. It’s not necessarily a nice image, but it’s essential. To breathe is to live. It’s basic.

Through meditation or writing (and perhaps other activities, as well), I confirm on a daily basis my intention to affirm what lives, to actualize that which is in the midst of becoming alive. And I do see this as a kind of resistance.

The capacity to pay attention

Today we live in a world in which people exploit themselves in their quest for status, prestige and power. We live in a world in which some repress and discriminate against others due to differences in race, gender, sexual preference and more.

Inequalities are growing. People are scared. The news is fake.

And yet, what I propose is that we, through meditation or philosophy, cultivate our capacity to pay attention to what we don’t want to pass on (for instance, discrimination), but also to what’s worth affirming (such as love and friendship).

Seeing means making contact with what happens and being connected with life. Becoming sensuous is also related to our capacity to be affected, which is crucial to experiencing, but also to experimenting and transforming—creating alternative ways of living, feeling and thinking.

Today, we need to do more than just address inequalities. We need to create lives that are lived beyond any rigid identities, whether we’re speaking of race, gender or some other identifier. It’s here that mindfulness can help people become more sensible and aware.

I don’t wish to claim that we, as artists, meditators or philosophers, are better than others—of course not. We can all learn to “see” and philosophize, with a little help from meditation and maybe some encounters with Kierkegaard along the way.

Once we begin paying attention, we also begin to question things, so it turns out the student questioning me was already ahead of me. That being said, I guess I’m just a student who’s occasionally disguised as a teacher!

First published in The Mindful Word

Quiero saber qué es el amor

“Quiero saber qué es el amor”, cantó la banda de rock británico-estadounidense Foreigner en los años ochenta. Estaban lejos de ser originales. Por el contrario, el amor ha sido elevado, cuestionado, estereotipado, usado y mal utilizado desde el comienzo de la existencia humana. En la cultura popular, el concepto de amor se ha trivializado hasta el punto de que podríamos sorprendernos cuando, a veces, nos enamoramos de todos los clichés y el sentimentalismo. Aunque la banda de rock puede no ser original, todavía plantea una pregunta universal.

Lee el resto de mi texto “Kierkegaard y el concepto del amor como fuerza política” que presenté en al Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, Ecuador.

Kierkegaard: Love, literature & life

“Loving people is the only thing worth living for.” – Søren Kierkegaard

I will be participating in the “Ciclo de conferencias ‘Europa en la cultura'” held at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Ecuador.

The conference takes place next week.

Tuesday the 10th of December, I will be given a talk on “Kierkegaard and the concept of love as a political force.”

“Everything I do I do with love, and so I also love with love,” Kierkegaard writes in Either-Or.


The following two days, the 11th and 12th respectively, I will be organizing two seminars or lectures on “Philosophy, literature and a new therapeutical approach to life.

During these seminars, I will relate my thoughts to philosophers such as Deleuze, Weil, Murdoch and Wittgenstein to both problematize our current achievement society, as well as proposing possible escape routes. To strengthen my argument, I will–briefly–refer to artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Karl Ove Knausgård, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf and Roberto Bolaño.

If you happen to be in Quito, Ecuador, you’re welcome!

Luften i Catalonien

De catalanske seperatisters adfærd er sadistisk, mens de ekstreme højre-kræfter i Spanien er masochister. Og modsat , hvad nogen tror, så er sadisten ikke interesseret i masochisten og omvendt.

Drengen er ni år gammel. Når han synger, kan man se, at han mangler to tænder, og allerede har tre plomber. Jeg stirrer ind i den åbne mund, mens han brøler “som gent pacifica”, hvilket er catalansk, og betyder “vi er et pacifistisk folk.”

Drengen har, som så mange andre børn – også yngre – været til demonstrationer med sine forældre. Nogle gange kun den ene part, hvis den anden part ikke er separatist.

Sådan er dagligdagen i den spanske region Catalonien – både politiseret og polariseret. Flere lærere bærer synlige politiske symboler, og de lærere, som ikke ønsker at deltage i en demonstration, mister anseelse blandt de andre. Hele tiden dette mentale pres.

En lærer fra mine børns skole, hvor hovedparten af forældrene er tilhængere af uafhængighed, fortæller mig, at børnene i skolegården leger politi mod personer, en variant af politiet mod røverne. Blandt tilhængere af uafhængighed er politiet de slemme. Der er altid denne klare dikotomi i regionen. Intet er til debat, der er ingen tvivl eller usikkerhed. Spanien er de onde, mens selvstændighed er løsningen.

Læs resten af kronikken i Berlingske.

Kronikken var åbenbart mere end “la Generalitat de Catalunya” (Den nordiske delegation), kunne klare. De valgte i hvert fald, at kontakte Berlingske for at fortælle, at mine eksempler ikke bare var forkerte, simple og trivielle, men også, at de, selvfølgelig, kunne være avisen behjælpelige med de “rigtige” fakta. Et glimrende eksempel på, hvordan politiske institutioner prøver at manipulere, hvilket svarer til hvad filosoffen Gilles Deleuze kaldte “kontrolsamfundet.” Eller hvad mange blot vil kalde patetisk ynk!

Is this the right way?

Late one August evening in a small provincial town, a woman steps out her front door. In her hand, she holds a slim leather briefcase, probably containing a laptop. When she steps down from the small landing in front of the door, a mild breeze fills the air, gently tousling her long blond tresses. She tries to pull her hair back behind her ears without any luck. From the back pocket of her jeans she pulls out a bandeau and ties those unruly locks into a simple ponytail. Now, with no hair interrupting her vision, she looks first to the right and then to the left before turning around to lock the door behind her. After checking twice that the door really is locked, she rotates to face the street for the second time. 

This time she looks to the left first. Actually, at this point, her whole body shifts as she evaluates the possibility of going in that direction. 

Is this the right way? 

Read the rest of the essay in Terse Journal.

Nietzsche and Psychotherapy

It looks like the 21st century will become one of philosophical therapy.

Philosophy has moved out of the ivory tower and back into the public sphere from where it began. At times, this trend enhances the public debate and, at others, only populates philosophy to make it more marketable. The latter is often disguised self-help literature.

Another, more important reason for the awakening of philosophy is that many of today’s illness cannot be graphed using psychology. Stress, burnout, borderline, and depression can no longer be regarded as individual diagnoses. Rather, they are symptoms of a sick society. Among the philosophers who are often used in philosophical therapy, is the late Wittgenstein and his mantra “meaning is use,” or existentialist, especially when they are dealing with a pallet of powerful concepts, such as false belief, anxiety, authenticity, responsibility, freedom, and perhaps most popular, stoicism, which some used to overcome their vulnerabilities and attain peace of mind. For example, the stoic tries to eliminate the passions that cause a person to suffer. Stoicism is closely related to religious or spiritual thinkers in that they operate based on a kind of salvation, a stage in which they no longer suffer from pain or loss.

Then, there is Nietzsche.

Psychotherapist Manu Bazzano has written Nietzsche and Psychotherapy. Unlike the stoic, Nietzsche saw suffering and loss as a part of what makes a life worth living. A full and flourishing life has something at stake. For example, my love for my wife and our children makes me vulnerable because I could lose them.

Nietzsche and Psychotherapy can be read as a Nietzschean experiment that brings some of the German thinker’s concept, including joy, becoming, will to power, etc., into psychotherapy.

Bazzano shows how radical and powerful a thinker Nietzsche is, as well as how psychotherapists can learn or be inspired by his thoughts.

 For example, he tries to compare the life-affirming and life-denying approach by taking what works from psychotherapy and adding a dose of Nietzsche where these practices do not work. “In person-centered therapy it is assumed—rightly, I think—that the person receiving therapy is in a states of incongruence… It is also generally assumed—wrongly, I think—that ‘successful’ therapy means the coming together of organism and self-concept” (p. 31).

The first is right, according to the author, because those who suffer from a crisis indirectly are inviting creative experimentation into their lives. However, they do not do so to find themselves but to overcome. The self is not found; rather, it is achieved or created.

According to Nietzsche, philosophy starts in fear. For example, fear in today’s performance or achievement society has reduced education and therapy into punishment. Here, Bazzano tries to liberate psychotherapy so it becomes more creative and less judgmental. “Therapeia means, after all, healing…The nihilistic, life-denying influence of our culture has made sure that psychotherapy replicates these principles, thus functioning as a mouthpiece for a pervasive ideology of resentment” (p. 134). Instead of a passive nihilistic approach to life, Bazzano suggests the adoption of an “active nihilism” that turns therapy into a kind of entertainment, a term that originally means  “holding together” (p. 150).

Holding what together, we might ask. A myriad of interpretations of what it is that actually is holding life together (or potentially might hold it together), and how intense it is doing so, etc. The approach related to Nietzsche goes against a mechanical, teleological or strictly normative approach; instead it opens for a more intuitive, poetic and liberating relationship to and with life. “Where you can guess, there you hate to deduce,” Nietzsche is quoted for saying. Bazzano call it “therapy without prejudice” (p. 82).

In a psychotherapeutic setting it “means that the criteria of true and false no longer have primacy and are superseded by new criteria of high and low, noble and mean. What begins to matter more is the sense and value of what one thinks, feels and says” (p. 165). In his book on Nietzsche, the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze said something like that we have the thoughts and feeling we have due to our form of life.

Reading Nietzsche and Psychotherapy, you instantly notice that Bazzano is a man with an agenda. He exemplifies Nietzsche, where the German said: “Every talent must unfold itself in fighting” (p. 50).

The book is not a critical inquiry into Nietzsche, but one using Nietzsche to conduct a critical inquiry into psychotherapy, yet always trying to do so in an affirmative way. I would not recommend the book to readers with no knowledge of either Nietzsche or psychotherapy. However, if the reader has some experience in these areas, the book is inspiring. Furthermore, the book is full of illuminating quotes by Nietzsche and Deleuze, which actually make it archaeological.

The writer ends, “We go on digging. The conversation is infinite.”

Review published in Metapsychology, Volume 23, Issue 24

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