11.26.2011

Moods

My favorite quote from Emerson, and one of my favorite quotes in general, is: "Our moods do not believe in each other." What's amazing about this is it undoes the sanctity, the unity, of the self: if my moods are absolute, then I am wholly different depending on said mood.

We all know this experience. We get a little depressed, or a lot depressed, and everything looks like a huge pile of shit. When we picture every possible path to the future, each leads to a pile of shit, or death, or both.  And there is no consoling that will deter us: we know that life is a pile of shit.  Other times, we feel like everything will turn up roses: we feel smart and powerful and sexy and it's as if the world were our oyster there to be shucked and sucked. 

Of course, there are any number of moods that are less extreme — confusion, anxiety, reasonableness, and so on.  But the point is: each feels as though it were right.  Even if one mood acknowledges that another mood exists, that other mood becomes, well, just a mood. And this present state becomes the truth, the way things really are.

Now, is there a mood of moods? A mood that knows that life is mooded? What might such a thing look like? And doesn't it just beg the same epistemological dilemma:  Isn't the mood of moods just another mood with no privileged access to the real way of things?

I want to say that Buddhism tries to establish such a mood of moods but the result is no mood fluctuation at all — to the enlightened Buddhist, all is a steady hum.  No manic highs, no manic lows: just a state of perpetual contentment.  Which, I have to say, sounds pretty good. Sometimes.  Sometimes it just sounds creepy and nihilistic, a kind of avoidance of the flux of life.

I had a roommate in college who decided that a diet of liquid acid, and little else, was a wise thing. After a few weeks, he became pronouncedly manic, convinced that he was the smartest, most gifted human being alive (and that the FBI was following him and bugging the walls). He was sure of it.  I mostly wanted to punch him in the face. Why? Well, because he was fucking annoying but also because he refused to recognize that he was in a mood.  But of course there is also a genius to mania, a willingness to commit absolutely to a mood. And not just any mood but a manic mood (Buddhists commit to one mood — a subdued, even if enthralled, mood).

I reach for a mechanism that allows me to navigate the flux of moods: irony.  With irony, I can articulate the state I'm in while recognizing that whatever I'm saying is full of its own kind of shit. Irony doesn't take any thing that seriously because it knows that everything is flux, everything gives way to change — so to be adamant is to be foolish, to be ironic is to be wise.  (I realize irony is often thought of as cold or nihilistic but it can also be warm, understanding, and profoundly resonant.)

When I was younger, I would commit — submit — to a mood more readily. I'd get carried away. And it was beautiful. These daze, I am less prone to get so enmeshed in one mood, this flux replaced by a more or less boring, more or less bourgeois, sense of propriety.  Even when I get lit on this or that, my mood is tempered: I know I'm just buzzed and that it, too, will pass. My irony prevails over my adamance. 

Sometimes, this feels like wisdom.  Sometimes, it feels like weakness.  It depends on my mood.

18 comments:

Lisa said...

This is interesting. I wonder what you would think of all this if you had been born a woman. Maybe you'd just be used it?
I often feel that it's difficult to be a whole person when my moods and state of reality shift sometimes violently from day to day, albeit in predictable and monthly hormonal ways.

drwatson said...

I hate to be so personal in posts, but today I had to play guitar at the funeral of one of my absolute best friends. And there were times where I experienced a "mood of moods." That sounds so clinical right now to me, but that's because of my mood. But there were moments when I became aware of my sadness, which is different than being sad. I'm not sure if that's what you mean or not.

But there were times during the service when I heard a preacher - my friend was not religious - say some crap about how in Heaven he won't be in a wheelchair and blah blah blah - and I was in this meta state - aware that I was sad a minute ago, but for a second in this other place - a place that felt as close to 3rd person omniscient as I can get.

And afterwords my buddy opened his bar up especially for this occasion and I was finally able to stop being "meta" and start just being, in my mood. What I think is so interesting about the mood of sadness is that people want to avoid it. But see - I don't. I think I owe it to my friend to be sad. And I'm just really sad, it's not hard to be sad right now. I just think sadness is a mood that reveals a lot and we often are told to avoid it - usually I certainly try to. But right now, I'm glad I'm sad.

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ Lisa: Excellent point. I'd love you to elaborate. I wonder if what you're implying is that women incorporate mood shifts into an over-arching mood, that they have a more, well, consistent understanding of the flux of moods. Or something to that effect.

@ Dr: I am, of course, sorry. I always find that institutions such as funerals, weddings, etc create this kind of meta-mood: we know there are expectations and then we also have our own experiences, our own moods. And in that discrepancy, perhaps, there is a certain knowledge.

And, yes, sad is good. To me, a mood that is thorough and well earned is beautiful and, in its way, satisfying. The horror of life is not sadness; the horror of life is foggy indifference. Enjoy your sadness. And thanks, as always, for your thoughts.

drwatson said...

Again - it always feels weird to me to be personal in writing - but thanks for your words, seriously. They are generous and thoughtful.

dustygravel said...

I imagine a meda-mood is different then a mood of moods.

@ Drwatson: please be personal, speaking from experience is powerful

Daniel Coffeen said...

I agree w/ Dusty on all points. But I'd love it if you said more about meta-moods vs. a mood of moods. Please.

dustygravel said...

Oh yeah meta-moods vs. mood of moods, thank you for asking. Of cores this things could mean all sorts of things here are just a few.

Meda-mood `a la Jacques Derrida: A mood that is thought to stand outside all other moods by which it is believed that one is able to judge or fix the free play of mood, other wise known in psychology as Dissociation; the experience of detachment from ones emotions, body, or experience. Those who have experienced dissociation/meta-mood know that this detachment is itself a kind of mood there for is always already a part of the infinite play of Différance of mood. Western philosophy/psychology assumes to be objective or outside the free flow of mood and are therefor clinically sick according to their own analysis.

Meda-Mood `a la Mcluhan: A metaphor is one thing through which we understand another thing in this instance a meda-mood would be a mood by which we come to understand other moods of "man".

Meda-mood `a la Deleuze: Metaphysics is about identity, identities are effects of difference, that is a things identity is its difference from everything else. A meda-mood then is the mood as it is different from all other moods. In this case a meda-mood or any mood is both radically singular and presumably has no problem accessing other moods because its identities are the way it understands both its self and other moods. And thats clear enough to me I mean feelin' kinda drowsy dreamy and I step into a meeting, business or band, I'm soft and cool and their all hot and heavy, but thats not the same as being able to access past moods with out totally losing my self to it.

This mood of moods thing now thats something else, to tell you the truth I think it describes my general disposition these days, I think of this one girl I loved in high school and now she's getting married and I'm single thats a mood, I think of my new job and how I don't need to wipe butts anymore and thats another mood I think of my friends or that girl I talked to at bar last night thats another mood, I think about holding off the cops at occupy thats a mood, I have access to all these moods. I walk around in the rain with lots of worm cloths on thats another mood. I feel like I'm constantly fluxuating in a washing machine of half baked expectations and my hopefulness is being tugged by these sharp shots of disappointed dreams I gave up on along time ago, but I don't know who I am but I like the surprise sometimes. The more I think about it the more I believe in everything I've ever felt. This must be a mood of moods! a mood of moods.

drwatson said...

@DustyGravel - very nice. I enjoyed reading this quite a bit.

Here's what I was thinking though - in terms of Deleuze - why would a mood be "radically singular?" I don't mean why Deleuze believes that. I mean I use the word "radical" that way quite a bit, but when I read it I take a step back. It seems that moods are personal, but there's also something about moods that isn't singular at all - we share moods when we are together. Usually in a good conversation or a collective action - anything from a sporting event to a sexual act - we share our mood - our mood expands and contracts with others. At a basketball game we feel joy simultaneously.

I know this is going in a bit of a different direction than you were - but I wonder if we're embracing difference to the point that we forgot that if I hadn't shared these moods, I actually wouldn't understand the question, Coffeen's original essay and so forth.

Again - I know I'm taking one little sentence out of context.

Thanks for the piece.

αλεθεια said...

Ever since I have given a philosophical thought to the notion of moods, I have understood moods as being ways through which we connect to the world. Just like we need language to connect to our own world, and to the world of others, we need moods, in a similar fashion, through which we can give structure to our present way of being in the world. Since we are always already in the world, from the time we are born, until the time we die, we are bound to have some sort of a mood through which we can let our non-stop interpretative process going. In this way, we humans are always tethered to some system of thought (whether it is mood or a language through which we interpret our world) and we therefore are never absolutely free because we are always interpreting the world around us. Our freedom however lies in the fact that we can switch from one mood to another.
These are some of the things that I have learned from Heidegger and Foucault, but I personally have problems accepting the fact that we, individual, egotistical beings, are the ones who choose a mood. With me it’s always the mood that chooses the way I behave rather than the other way around. No matter how much I try to connect to people in my philosophy class I always screw up because my comical mood does not show up in that class, and what ends up happening is that I make myself look absolutely stupid after saying what I think is comical but no body else laughs at my jokes!

αλεθεια said...

Now that I think about it, the reason why I can’t make well-constructed jokes in class is because I am in a shy mood. I don’t feel comfortable in that class, and one of the reasons might be that that class is ill designed. The class room itself is designed in a way where students sit in rows and so they, as a result, fail to see each others faces. And so when a student talks in that class, the other students fail to see his/her body gestures, his/her facial expressions, or the type of clothes they’re wearing. Whereas in my Yoga class, everybody is in a little more open and relaxed mood, the room is designed in a way in that it’s more open. It has windows, it is bright, my instructor plays nice music, and there are no rows of seats that you can’t move around.
Maybe moods, in addition to other thousands of things, are also determined by the overall space that surrounds us. Mine sure does!

dustygravel said...

@drwatson - Great observation, that phrases seems clunky all of a sudden, like the mood is stuberly resistent to everything else like a dream world for each and every one or something of that nature.
What I mean by radicaly singular( and I think Deleuze means) is the way that each snow snowflake is unique and different but they are also all snow flakes, that is the identity of snow flake is the diffenece betten all snow flakes. This diffenece doesn't stop at snow flakes it contiues into all crystalline forms of ice and even non crystalline forms of water. Each snow flake is a snow flack in its difference from other snow flacks from ice and water ect. all of which any given snow flack is a repetition of.

It's the way each atom or Leibnizian monad are radical singular"9. Indeed, each Monad must be different from every other. For in "nature there are never two beings which are perfectly alike and in which it is not possible to find an internal difference, or at least a difference founded upon an intrinsic quality [denomination]". Each thing is truly unique down to its most basic parts, can't get past that, but there is still unity. Like you're self Leibniz thinks unity comes through perception but for him it's the unity of radical singularities" 15. The activity of the internal principle which produces change or passage from one perception to another my be called Appetition. It is true that desire cannot always fully attain to the whole perception at which it aims, but it always obtains some of it and attains to new perceptions." Of cores he's talking about internal perceptions here but the main point I'm trying to make is that no perception is totally identical with what it perceives.
Bother atoms and monads are open to others through their singularity. That is their singularity is how they share in the unity of every thing else.
So all that explains how moods are both singular and shared through perception, but that doesn't really explain how it is that as Emerson states "our moods do not believe in each other." Which is I understand to be true. I also understand it to be a challenge to make a mood that believes in other moods, or a mood of moods, which I understand to be Coffeen's challenge in this post.

It seems to me that Emerson and Deleuze are at odds here an I can't seem to get them to work together in spite of the fact that they both seam true.

dustygravel said...

@αλεθεια - "I have understood moods as being ways through which we connect to the world. Just like we need language to connect to our own world"

I love what you say.

dustygravel said...

ACT ONE

soren kierkegaard
"what's yu doin' marshall mcluhan?"


A man holding a framed photo bergson
"what have you seen Daniel coffeen?"


a single bird chirps
and a mayflower starts tapin' his foot
clasp clasp clasp
his soul separate from the bottom of his boot
and slaps back


"hay where'd every one go?"

Daniel Coffeen said...

Excuse my silence. One, I was enjoying the exchange. It's the best discussion on the subject I've ever witnessed. Ever. And I thank you all. And, two, I've been crazy fucking busy.

So: the distinction between meta moods and mood of moods is brilliant. I particularly like the mood of moods being a mood that enjoys all other moods. It's almost nostalgia -- nostalgia being an insidious mood I do t quite understand yet.

And I love moods being the way we interact with the world. I'd push this and say moods are always relational (a mood is internally a relationship of affects and is an external relation with the world, as well). We are indeed always already enmeshed with the world, always already mooded.

As for moods being radically singular, I share Dr's concerns. It seems to me that experience is radically singular but mood is, like affect, a transpersonal state. Relational is the word we used. And yet this state, this relation, can be radically singular.

I think the question is this: are transpersonal states of mood, perhaps of affect, categorical or singular or both -- which is to say, are they repetitions (repetition being a singularity that is categorical)?

drwatson said...

I really like the term "transpersonal." It makes me want to use the phrase "transpersonal intercourse" in a sentence. Pretty much so I can giggle. This may or may not have something to do with Beavis and Butthead being back on television.

But seriously - I don't quite get the question at the end of your post. Most of this is because I have not made it as far through Difference and Repetition as I wish I had. Pardon if these questions are off based - but I don't see a problem with something being singular - like it's mine - I own it - but also categorical - you can understand it too because you've been through something similar.

I mean I think people are like 98% the same - so the differences make huge differences. I mean we all negotiate most of the world in a similar way - we order coffee, we piss, we open doors, we order booze. Right? So while something is singular to me, it's also categorical. Again, I think I'm just missing some distinction that's in your head that's not in mine.

Daniel Coffeen said...

I was afraid I'd been too pithy and cryptic. Perhaps this is deserving of a longer piece about exemplarity. Hold tight, if you would.

Tamari said...

i loved this entry. i am also noticing that the intensity of my moods are decreasing as time passes, and more i realize and miss the beauty of the extreme, there's no going back - types of moods that i was used to having when younger.

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ Tamari: Thanks. And I am with who — somehow, over the years, the impression of moods has lessened. For me, it's a combination of wisdom, indifference, distraction, and malaise. And, maybe, the taste buds deaden a bit — and so, to experience extremity, we need the herring and onions of mood. Or something.