Symbolizing Collective Remembering Otherwise


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

Encompassing the Headless Hearts and Heartless Heads through Their Dynamic Entanglement


There is increasing concern with collective memory — with how the past is remembered. This has renewed debate about how history is remembered and variously rewritten to further particular agendas (Ludmila Isurin, Collective Remembering: memory in the world and in the mind, 2017; Michelle L. Meade, et al, Collaborative Remembering: theories, research, and applications, 2017; Alin Coman, et al., Collective Memory from a Psychological Perspective, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 22, 2009).

One striking current example is new legislation in Poland penalizing any declaration that Poland was directly responsible for the tragedies there during the period of Nazi occupation (Poland is trying to rewrite history with this controversial new holocaust law, The Conversation, 16 February 2018). The events in the Middle East are variously remembered and assertively described (J. C. Goldfarb, Resistance and Creativity in Social Interaction: for and against memory in Poland, Israel-Palestine and the United States, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 22, 2009, 2). Australia is a continuing focus of what are described as the “history wars” relating to the massacres of indigenous peoples in centuries past under colonial auspices. Similar issues are evident in other countries with indigenous populations subjugated by colonizing peoples. The new government in France is explicit in its determination to reframe the history curriculum to cultivate a positive appreciation of France — thereby diminishing recognition of questionable responsibilities in times past (Chiziwiso Pswarayi, The Rewriting of History in Action: President’s Macron’s Africa narrative, Global Public Policy Watch, 8 September 2017).

The concern here is with the symbols through which collective memory is enabled, notably in the light of insights into the manner in which this has been achieved in civilizations of the past (Lynne Kelly, The Memory Code, 2016). The question is how to frame the quest for approaches of relevance to the present and the future, as separately argued (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts — for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007). This follows from earlier concern with erosion of collective memory (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory, 1980).

The exploration here exploits the metaphors through which two contrasting modes of comprehension are frequently framed — namely those of the “head” and those of the “heart”. Those of the “head” are most evident in the mode of rational argument typical of the academic, political, military and business worlds — caricatured as “talking heads”. These are a feature of the optimistic logic of ever greater integrative globalization, most readily symbolized as a sphere and commonly depicted in two dimensions as a circle. Those of the “heart” are most evident in discourse emphasizing lived experience and the associated feelings — especially of traumatic events of the past. The coherence of these feelings, especially with respect to interpersonal relations, is widely depicted with the symbol of a heart . Those identifying with that modality are typically caricatured in their turn as “bleeding hearts” — in contrast to those deprecated as being “hard hearted” in priding themselves on being “hard headed”.

These two extremes are a challenge to each other which can be usefully caricatured as a continuing battle between the “headless hearts” and the “heartless heads”. Proponents of the “head modality” deplore their lack of credibility in the eyes of those attaching far greater weight to the “heart modality”. Proponents of the heart modality regret the heartlessness and impersonality characteristic of the models and policies of those of the head modality. Arguably each modality reflects a partial insight whose limitations undermine any more integrative comprehension.

Central to that comprehension might be the nature of care as it is understood within each modality — compassion for the one, vigilance for the other. These would be matched by the nature of carelessness in each case — a blindspot with regard to the future and negligence of systemic issues beyond those which attract immediate attention, whether from a head or heart perspective.

It is of course the case that the “heads” may well experience empathy/sympathy and antipathy/animosity for each other to a degree which may be fundamental to their relationships — and giving rise to epic disputes (Knowledge Processes Neglected by Science: insights from the crisis of science and belief, 2012). Similarly the “hearts” may be called upon to “use their heads” — notably in navigating romantic affinities. The question is through what richer symbolism the two modalities might be related to enable a more fruitful mode of understanding.

The epic battle between them is now epitomized by their respective approaches to the refugee crisis, most notably in Europe. The “hearts” advocate an open-armed response — at any cost to the cultures receiving them. The “heads” express caution and increasing resistance — expressed through populism — setting aside their economic benefits from the sale of arms to countries engendering such displacement. Curiously both avoid the the long-term implications of unconstrained flow of desperate people from countries with ever increasing populations. Both are careless in that respect.

The question is whether the perspectives with which the contrasting values are associated can be encompassed by some form of “collective re-membering” of their preferred symbols — perhaps dynamically rather than statically, as can be variously argued (From Statics to Dynamics in Sustainable Community, 1998; Dynamic Interrelationship of Symbols of Coherent Experiential Representation of Nonduality, 2008; Dynamic Transformation of Static Reporting of Global Processes, 2013). Is there a minimal memorable articulation to be recognized which could serve a symbolic function meaningful to both the heads and the hearts?

As an exercise in symbolism, the approach taken here is to reconcile the geometry of the circle/sphere with that of the heart. This has been a feature of geometric exploration as a cardioid. One of the several forms of “heart curve” is indeed generated dynamically by rolling a circle around another of the same radius — although this does not give rise to the preferred form of the heart as so widely depicted. A framework for the approach is provided through previous consideration of polyamory — itself necessarily controversial as a fundamental challenge to binary traditions (Global Civilization through Interweaving Polyamory and Polyanimosity? Loving/Hating the world otherwise through contractual bonding with any significant other, 2018). The symbol preferred by the proponents of polyamory is a heart through which is intertwined an infinity symbol — possibly to be recognized more significantly as a Möbius strip in three dimensions, given the paradoxes implied.

The reconciliation of the contrasting symbols through the dynamics associated with the cardioid offers a means of highlighting a fourfold set of processes deemed fundamental to group dynamics and psychosocial cohesion — as exemplified by flocking behaviour and simulation of “boids“, as increasingly evident on social media (Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities, 2004). As framed by Jamie Davies (Life Unfolding: how the human body creates itself, 2014), these are: attraction (promising), repulsion (divorcing/alienation), searching/researching, and alignment (compromise),

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