I see this quote and I feel like shouting at dead Jung, “Hey, dead maverick psychologist: judge much?!”
Welcome to Day 8 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.
If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.
Here is today’s:
“The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”
― C.G. Jung
End the post at 1195. Please.
I feel like this quote swings between sense and nonsense.
I suppose though it’s up to me to determine if I’m going to include a quote but I’m not going to be arbitrary. I’m taking this stuff as it comes.
Ok. Context. Let’s make some stuff up: nonsense.
Sense and nonsense: news reports. They tell us lots of stuff, most of it completely immaterial to our daily lives. They mostly report on what has already happened. If you watch the news where I live it goes like this:
“A newborn baby was discovered in the lion’s den at the National Zoo today; it was speaking in tongues, no one knew what it was trying to say; the baby was unharmed but the lion was hidden in the corner whimpering and shaking; anyone with knowledge of this baby is asked to let the lion know that it was nothing personal.”
“A fire broke out today in the cotton candy district; firefighters struggled for hours to get the blaze under control; the Department of Public Works expects the town to be sticky and smell bad through Memorial Day weekend dampening the spirits of many Revolutionary War re-enactors.”
Really? I’m being
a bit totally smug about this, but there’s not much we can do with the news that the news reports. To me, that’s nonsense. To watch the news is nonsense. To me.
Recycling: I do it. I don’t waver between sense and nonsense or right and wrong on this. It makes sense to me do what I can to assist in the slowing of our planet’s eventual death. This is verging on political (nonsense) so I will stop (sense).
I was watching a Discovery Channel show, “North America” today and they had a ranking of the top 10 best places for natural wonders on the continent. The Sequoia National Park was in the top three I think. I see those big old trees and I get totally emotional. I can’t explain it and I don’t think I need to. They are majestic — absolutely humbling and they deserve every ounce of our respect. Is that nonsense? Is that sense? Is that right? Is that wrong? I don’t obsess over it, but I care. I move on. I have Cap’n Crunch to eat after all.
Another snapshot: our health. Do you think about your health? Maybe thinking is the issue; maybe what Jung is getting on to is that when we think we don’t really act; maybe that’s the sense versus nonsense he’s talking about.
I know that when I think about my health, I look at all of it: genetics, what I can and can’t do or stop, what I need to get going on again, and whether it will make me healthier or at least keep me from getting less healthy. Is that nonsense? It’s sensical, right? Up to a point. Eventually, if I just talk about it, as I eat an entire box of Cap’n Crunch at once and then complain that the Cap’n three-stripe yellow bits in the cereal are manifesting on my midsection and my skin is taking on that creepy yellow Fritos glow then eventually even I want to slap myself with a spatula. Yesterday I complained; today I got on the ergometer and humiliated myself. I’m out of shape. But not for long.
What about conflicts with people? We can think and think ourselves to death about the conflict or we can take action. So I’m thinking that the perpetual thinking (the pendulum) is the nonsense; in order to make sense of it we must follow up with action? So in terms of conflict: I can think about my role in it; my ability to continue the role in it or my ability to say no more and make a choice. Then that choice must be followed by action.
Does it mean I’m right if I choose one way over another? No, it just means I’ve reached my limitations about something and I need to change course.
See, this is where this quote jacks me up. I see where the pendulum swinging can be a real drag; so what I think he’s talking about here, but it wasn’t included in the quote because enough people thought like everyone else and didn’t include any context is that action is what makes the difference. It goes back (as far as I’m concerned anyway) to Day 5 when Jung said that we are what we do, not what we say we will do.
I don’t feel as though there’s much more I can do with this quote. I feel as though our minds are mostly within our control; we can choose to be sensical or nonsensical. I find the latter to be annoying at times, but completely necessary in order for us to rest, rewire and recharge. What do I consider to be nonsense? “30 Rock”; “Bruce Almighty” any classic, old Looney Tunes cartoon involving Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Sylvester; “Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail”; “Tropic Thunder” a game of corn holes, a game of any kind. A run, a long run with my amazing dog who JUST THIS MOMENT stepped up to greet me with a wet nose on my forearm.
Murphy says it’s time to stop trying to make sense of this quote and I totally concur. The sky is partly cloudy today and it’s almost 80 degrees. Time for a walk. Time for some nonsense.
On a personal note, I hope you are enjoying this series. I do hope you’ll stick around because the next few quotes are HUM-DINGERS and naturally, I’ll be on vacation, so I’ll be “working” from the beaches of Canada. Yes, they have beaches in Canada. Maybe when I’m all done with it I can look back and see how I’ve changed some of my perceptions and if I still want to beat the crap out of poor Carl Jung.
Please comment! Argue with me! Tell me you like Chex cereal!
Hmmm, I think you put your finger on the meaning of this quote when you wrote: “So I’m thinking that the perpetual thinking (the pendulum) is the nonsense. . .” In my experience, my mind generates a countless stream of thoughts, some useful most not in response to a “problem” arising. In my opinion, sometimes the best option is to do nothing!! In other words “don’t do something, just sit there 😉
Right! Do something. I feel that’s what he’s saying. I like the quote, and now that I’m done with that one, I can feel better about its lack of context.
I like the part Wayne quoted above. For me, that is the nonsense. When you let someone else take up time in your head, worry about things you have no control over, keep replaying conversations in your mind…it’s all a waste of energy, time, emotions. Sometimes it is good to just turn it off. That’s what meditation, flow, concentrating, reframing and all of that good stuff is for. I think, in some ways, perseverance is a lot like referred pain. The mind just gets stuck. So, we have to do something to unstick it. That might mean going for a run, forcing yourself to think about something else, or even making a decision.
You so didn’t get that quote at all…..And your right…Carl Jung is a bad ass….
The meaning is very simple…you very much over complicated it…
Just because humans have a wonderful language doesn’t mean that it describes a real world….or that it even can describe the real world…….in the real world…there is no language…or at least the language does not make sense….it is just sound,….really even just sound in your mind…..you should try to convince your monkey mind ego of that.
What he is saying is that the mind can only really try to make sense of this unspeakable world we live in…..and even if we could make sense of the world…that would have to come first and be complete before we could think about so-called right and wrong.
This quote is just a low level explanation of how the mind really works….how a bad ass psychologist would see it…
Jung…God Bless Him….knew and understand Eastern thought…the Dao….Buddhism….meditation….It’s difficult for people solidly in the western mindset to understand what he means..you have to be awakened….enlightened…freed from egoic entrapment to know what he means…..
BTW…its a great quote….and I do very much appreciate that you have attempted to dismantle it.
Thanks Jim! I’ll read the post again and see how much I’ve changed; if if did get the quote wrong, I pass the blame to Goodreads… 😉
When you wrote “unspeakable” regarding the world we inhabit, I propose that it, that ineffable sense, can also relate to its beauty … At least I hope it does. I just returned from a beautiful row on the flattest and most glorious water beneath a sky rivaling the best cloudless skies in history. I remain absolutely grateful for my inability to express any verbal appreciation.
Thank you so very much for your comments and enthusiasm. I plan to read some Jung, a layman’ version I hope, soon so I can have a stronger and more complete appreciation of his badassness. 😊