Below, with the date I originally wrote it, is yet another entry from my philosophical journal concerning the first volume of Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Theweleit, p. 306:
At this point [14th and 15th centuries], according to [Norbert] Elias [in The Civilizing Process(New York: Urizen Books, 1978)], the elaborate system of “self-restraints,” which the developed bourgeois ego later learned to direct against its own desires, was not yet in force; or, rather, its evaluation was still confined to small sections of the population. In the absence of direct intervention by external authority [this being after the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire but before the development of multiple “central powers” in the domains of the old Empire], people had little reason, and probably lacked the ability, to set up barriers against possible new, pleasurable expansions of bodily boundaries–even when their lives depended on it.
The emphasis above is mine, meant to highlight the phenomenon, familiar to me in my own experience with alcoholism and recovery, of first needing to develop such capacities as being able to “let go,” for example, or, in general, to have any “self-control.”
But the end of the road of self-control is itself, as monasticism can teach us, the (re)liberation of free flow: by changing one’s desires themselves, one comes eventually to a point of being able to “cut oneself loose” again, we might say–to trust oneself again, to let one’s desires flow freely again. And, what is more, that “again” is also a for the first time: Now one no longer lacks the ability to “control” oneself, but, rather, cannot choose not to exercise that ability–Shakespeare’s “power to hurt that will do none,” that is, power as power at last.