Weird & Güd - When Brought to Light

The shadows we see and those we don't

I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, no hermeticism required.

File:Pillory Charing Cross edited.jpg
The pillory at Charing Cross, 1809 by Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson

It’s been too long since I’ve spoken about medieval punishment, I’m sure that’s what you’re all thinking. I completely agree, so this week lets remember everyone’s favorite form of medieval punishment, the classic pillory.

The pillory is a tool in one of my preferred genres of punishment to research, public humiliation. That sounds weird but this is Weird & Güd after all. There’s just something slightly wholesome about humans punishing humans by inventing ways to make them feel like fools in front of other humans.

Come on — would this really even be punishment with out a racous public throwing what I can only assume is a cat’s corpse at the offender?

That's what makes public humiliation as punishment so fascinating — it requires a society to function and only functions if that society’s culture syncs with the form of punishment. Our parents might have experienced the last wave of public humiliation as punishment during school in the form of those somewhat nostalgic dunce caps or standing in a corner. There are rarely any kinds of punishment today in this form, that is, unless you consider social media — but we’ll leave that for another newsletter.

That is what’s so fascinating and terrifying about the pillory — the punishment ceases to be a punishment without the public’s participation. Prisoners were essentially given an open-ended sentence that the public would determine, taking the concept of “a jury of one’s peers” to the extreme; they might take pity on a prisoner if they knew they were wrongfully accused, they might benignly pelt them with dead cats, but it was also possible the public would kill them and that was par for the course as a pilloried prisoner.

Public humiliation is one of those darker facets of what makes humans so different from all other animals. The pillory stands as a testament to our intrinsic drive towards living in societies and the fine-tuning communal living has had to undergo.

The Güd

This is a wonderful, short interview with Carl Jung; I could leave it at that and this week’s Güd would be complete, but then this would not be the maniacal rambling newsletter you have all come to love and definitely not ignore in your inbox.

Jung is famous for his creation, the archetypes, which we all know of, but don’t really know what they are. Carl Jung is a complex thinker because he was more of an artist in his approach to psychology; he said to hell with experimental replication and instead fell in love with the ways mythology, psychology, and philosophy intersect. It’s best to approach the archetypes not as a scientific theory, but as a literary analysis of personality.

Think of the archetypes as classic, primal ideas that every human can relate to and inherently carries with them from birth. Jung wasn’t down with John Locke’s tabula rasa concept; he theorized that archetypes such as the Self and the Shadow are within us all but require examination and balance to reach our highest potential.

There’s only one archetype I’ll speak on here: the Shadow. This can be thought of as a literal shadow across your personality — it’s everything about you that you’re ignorant of or choose to reject. These might be positive things like your competence or compassion, but because we generally like to like ourselves, the Shadow often obscures our capacity for darkness too.

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The later procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”

‘Growth’ by Carolina Salas

Jung believed through turning awareness to all parts of our psyche we could develop ourselves fully. When you know and admit what particular traits make you a jerk, you have a better chance to reign those traits in. When you’re ignorant about what makes you a jerk, you’re the worst jerk of all — the kind who thinks everyone except them is a jerk. Not only are these people annoying, they’re also dangerous.

Only someone who believes himself to be too skilled to fail rushes to play a dangerous game. You can see the outcome of a refusal to look at one’s shadow in our political climate today. When we see people on the right pine for more religion in government, it’s with the mindset that their institutionalized religion won’t oppress everyone like those other guys' institutionalized religion; when we see people on the left call for censorship, it’s done with the mindset that their censorship won’t ban the “wrong” things like those other guys’ censorship.

Jung warned against a society of people living in denial of their own shadows. He knew that every person carried parts of themselves they didn’t want to see, and because of this the most urgent work humanity could do was turn a light upon its own shadow.

“The only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man.”

I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.

I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.