Just a Surface Wound
When I was fourteen I was all love for skater boys. I was from California and was completely in love with the whole skate scene aesthetic including the music. To this day, I still find time to pull out a little Suicidal Tendencies, The Specials, and Public Image Limited. Finally, my hoped-for ship came in: a cute little skater boy (who I had met at the mall) had gotten my phone number from a girlfriend of mine and called me up. He came over, and we sat in the formal living room (with my family just a wall over in the family room), and we each drank a tall bottle of Mountain Dew. After our sodas were finished it was clear we were going steady.
He was a good boyfriend, very kind. He had amazing taste and knowledge in music, and he had an uncanny ability to protect me from myself—he was somehow able to take me in hand without meeting ‘Fancy’. Fancy is my husband’s nickname for me when he or anyone else (with a few remarkable exceptions) tries to pry the experimental laser gun out of my hands or suggests it’s not a good idea to purchase a small nocturnal fox (I compromised with a prairie dog), or attempt any kind of woodworking (there was so much blood). You see if someone tries to take me in hand most of the time I turn into Fancy the Mare and I buck, rear up, and/or bolt. Of course, after I put a small wood chisel through my palm at three thirty in the morning I am totally back to being Jenn tearfully admitting that I was wrong and asking very nicely if you would please take me to the hospital. But somehow my little skater boy had all sorts of gentle and ingenious ways to steer me to safer ground without meeting Fancy.
I wanted to start with this very happy story. And while I have sketched a few exteriors, I have only really given the interior brilliance my skater boy had. People were not very kind when my skater boy and I started to run around. Many people at my school teased me about our union—especially the boys. You see my skater boy had very severe facial acne. Not even his eyelids or lips were spared. Sometimes his nose would become so overwhelmed with acne that from a distance he looked like a severe burn victim as his features seemed worn down.
To this day, I have a kind of sweet affection for anyone I see with severe acne. Due to my skater boy I find it entirely attractive.
In C.G. Jung’ classic Modern Man in Search of a Soul , Jung tackles head-on the crisis of collapsing the vertical axis in our culture. The horizontal axis is best described as the rational, quantitative, scientific, and surface exploration part of culture and mankind. The vertical axis is the interior, subjective, qualitative, and experiential aspect of culture and mankind. Science can study all the biochemical and physiological mechanisms (down to the molecule) that happens when a person has an orgasm. However, that says nothing about the internal experience of actually having one. Furthermore, there is a tremendous difference between having one by yourself, having one with a stranger, or having one with someone for whom you are wildly in love with. The biochemical and physiological mechanisms will be the same, however, the interior experience will be awesomely different. If you then throw in different ages, genders, religious beliefs, etc.… you will find that the interior, vertical axis of an orgasm is awesomely complex.
C.G. Jung (and many other scientists and philosophers) have argued and continue to argue that what has happened in our Science as Dominant Authority culture is that there is an over-dependence and an over-emphasis on the horizontal axis. However, the more we continue to pretend that one axis is dominant over the other, the more we as a society and as individuals will have critically flawed judgement regarding various issues such as health care, economics, and mating.
C.G. Jung predicted in his 1933 work Modern Man in Search of a Soul that there would be a mass epidemic of emptiness and of social isolation if society continued to ignore and make subservient the vertical axis. External validation is no small matter. Yes, its troublesome if someone believes the prettiness of the girl on their arms or the size of their castle speaks to their whole worth, however its deadly when you have a bunch of socially isolated young men without a sense of meaning who then see a promise of meaning, community and outrageous—glorious—external validation: enter Isis; enter MS-13. Our prescription drug epidemic is a kind of horrifying check mark for living without meaning—so this problem of denying or subjugating the interior aspect of being touches just about everyone.
There is hope however, and last spring at Tufts University’s TedX talk there was a young man—a senior at Tufts—that talked about how the engineering, medical, scientific, and social study disciplines are starting to see how many disastrous policies and conclusions were brought about through over-trusting quantitative data over qualitative reporting. He argued that the truth could only be found with both sides. He used the terms: ‘quantitative’ and ‘narrative’. He believed that the great leaders, scientists, and innovators in really all fields will be the ones that collect and equally respect quantitative data and narrative reporting. He explained that to understand how to fix poverty or reduce drug addiction or even how to build a safer car we also needed to listen to people tell their story.