Sunday, December 4, 2011

Defining Home less

'Being Homeless' by Eric Harper


The first most well known cases of the homeless are those of Christ and the Buddha. Upon discovering enlightenment, the following words by the Buddha can be read as the advocating of homelessness.
I wandered through the rounds of countless births,
Seeking but not finding the builder of this house.
Sorrowful indeed is birth again and again.
Oh, house builder! You have now been seen.
You shall build the house no longer.
All your rafters have been broke,
Your ridgepole shattered.
My mind has attained to unconditional freedom.
Achieved is the end of craving.
(Epstein 1996:75)
Similarly, to follow Christ and some Christian saints is to take up a homeless existence. In Matthew (8:18) one of scribes asked Christ, 'Master, I will follow you wherever you go'. Christ replied, 'Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'
Another example is Joseph Labre When Benedict Joseph Labre Lay in the streets of Rome Some thought he was a holy man Some thought he was a bum. (James K Baxter).
In certain Buddhist traditions, part of the daily meditative practice involves walking the countryside with begging bowls. Needless to say, this plea for alms by the homeless takes on a very different meaning in a Western context when in our busy lives we are assailed by appeals like, 'Can you spare me any change?' or when we encounter a drunken woman sleeping on a street corner.
In the Buddhist context homelessness is a means to an end - the end to the craving for attachment. This relinquishing of attachments through living with a lack leads to a new grammar of thought going beyond the site of representation - what Buddhist teachers refer to as an enlightened state. On the streets of London, however, homelessness often means the end of the road due to psychic fragmentation. The irony here are those cases of those homeless clients who believe they are Christ or the Buddha, which is not ironic, what is that like Christ and Budda they roam the streets looking for signs of care in the community.

Who are the homeless?
Homeless people are caught up in many different representations and no doubt this paper will offer yet another representation. One view is that homelessness is one of the biggest problems facing humanity at the turn of the century. Millions of people worldwide find themselves seeking refuge due to war, environmental disasters, poverty and bad homes (The New Internationalist 1996:18). In London one perception is that the big issues facing the homeless are mental health and psychological problems, substance abuse and/ or the results of previous experiences of institutional care (child care, psychiatric, prison and armed forces) (Just Ask, 1998:6).
Another perception is that of living "on the edge" (margins) of society, indulging in excessive and hedonistic life styles. Unlike the damage goods scenario in the first description living on the edge has a glamour attached to it. In fact many films, not only Hollywood, there is use this kind of representation when trying to catch the margins of existence. In this context these individuals are represented as playing with different forms of intoxication, which in turn bring about different (trance-like) states of consciousness and loss of bodily control: the cult of Bacchus/Dionysus and god (half man and bull) of divine intoxication.
It is some times seen as a savage and poetic cult in opposition to prudence and overcome by the excessive of a joyful/painful driven existence. The Bacchic ritual endeavouring to produce enthusiasm, that giddy state of being inspired and possessed (from the Greek entheos) through having the divine enter ones being. It is a pursuit that involves an act of courage and embrace, even if there is a savage sacrifice of reason.
Finally, the most common representation of the homeless is that of binary opposites, namely, a representation that privileges a particular life style and recruits individuals into a set of unexamined assumptions about having a home, job and family. Having a home, job and family seem to be aspirations so thoroughly built into everyday taken-for-granted, that it results in what Barthes refers to as the "naturalisation" of the symbolic order. The taken-for-granted manner in which these narratives and conversations take place designates and reifies having a home, job and family to the status of the unquestioned natural order of things and obliterates any (repressed) anguishing similarities there may between the marginalized group and the group representing dominant norms /ideology.
So saying homelessness as a word has existed as a predicate giving reference to something Other than itself. The word homelessness does not define what homelessness is, but rather what it is not to have a normal home. The category of homelessness functions as an enigmatic signifier of alterity, an otherness that may be our own that we want to suggest belongs elsewhere.
As if well known there exists in everyday taken-for-granted social interactions and the everyday structure of language a "truth status" attached to playing out socially ascribed roles. The homeless individual is under pressure to conform and engage in activities, which will elicit his recognition in others, within a particular discourse. Like most marginalised the homeless have suffered abuse, prejudice and discrimination of all forms throughout history due to not being able to conform and putting into question the taken for granted.
From the above we can conclude that many homeless living out a tale told by another, and in this respect can be understood as a self-fulfilling prophecy, yet at the same time it is a life style, to be explained below, which is an attempt to escape from someone else's prescription and attempt to find a voice (story) without it being subsumed into a normative structure and subject to the tyranny of being classified and pathologised. However, homelessness is not a catchall category and is particular to each individual's subjective experience.
No great therapeutic claims can or will be made for this interesting piece of work. Yet what I have described does illustrate how unexpected clinical phenomena can emerge in an unlikely setting when a certain type of listening process is put into action. And whilst the methodology used was somewhat crude and by necessity improvisational, it nonetheless adhered to certain analytic principles - a regular time, continuity of personnel, some attempts to keep a boundary, and a receptive, attentive listening stance.
The work had a tactical, strategic and ethical dimension. In the case of one woman, Jane, this allowed a genuinely moving story to unfold, which brought about some changes in her view of herself and in her personal circumstances. In a Winnicottian sense one could say that Jane 'used' me well - I made myself available to be destroyed. I survived the destruction, and this led to her transforming that which had driven her into self-destructive situations into something that she could live with as a part of the contradictions that made up her being.
With thanks to Pip Bevan, Richard Klein and Chris Oakley who supported and supervised this difficult work. Without your help this work would not have being possible.
Mark Epstein (1996) Thoughts without a thinker - Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective. Duckworth Press. London.
Freud, S. (1984) 'Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego' in Sigmund Freud Civilization, Society and Religion. Vol. 12. The Pelican Freud Library. Penguin Books. London.
Harper, E and Klein, R (1997) 'Personal Communication.' Just Ask Counselling and Advisory Service. (1998) 'A Space to Think - Review of the Pilot Counselling and Advisory Service to London Street Homeless.'
Klein, M. (1986) 'A Contribution to the Psychogenesis of Manic-Depressive States' in J Mitchell (Ed). The Selected Melanie Klein. London
Klein, M. (1986) 'Mourning and its Relation to Manic-Depressive States.' in J Mitchell(Ed). The Selected Melanie Klein
Klein, M. (1986) 'Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms.'. The Selected Melanie Klein
Klein, M. (1986). 'A Study of Envy and Gratitude.' The Selected Melanie Klein
Lacan, J. (1955-1956). 'The Psychoses. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan.' Edited by Jacques-Alan Miller. Routledge. London.
Lacan, J. (1960-61). 'Transference The Seminar of Jacques Lacan.' Unpublished.
Oakley, C (1996) Personal Communication
The New Internationalist (1996) 'Housing and Homelessness' no 276.
Winnicott, D.W. (1971). 'Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena.' Published in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, Vol. 34, Part 2 (1953) in Playing and Reality.Penguin Books. Tavistock Publications.
Winnicott, D.W. (1971). 'The Use of an Object and Relating through Identifications.' In Playing and Reality. 1971. Penguin Books. Tavistock Publications.
Winnicott, D.W. (1971). 'The Location of Cultural Experience.' In Playing and Reality. 1971. Penguin Books. Tavistock Publications
Winnicott, D.W. (1967). 'Mirror-role of Mother and Family in Child Development.' In Playing and Reality. 1971. Penguin Books. Tavistock Publications.
Winnicott, D.W. (1971). 'Interrelating apart from Instinctual Drive and in Terms of Cross- Identifications.' In Playing and Reality. 1971. Penguin Books. Tavistock Publications.
Labre was an eighteenth century saint who lived in great poverty, devoting his time to prayer and to the poor. Towards the end of his life he used to sleep in the ruins of the coliseum. "He was suffering from an oppressive feeling of guilt, of which he did not know the origin, and after which he had committed a misdeed this oppression was mitigated. His sense of guilt was at least attached to something. Paradoxical as it may sound, I must maintain that the sense of guilt was present before the misdeed, that it did not arise from it, but conversely - the misdeed arose from the sense of guilt. These people might justly be described as criminals from a sense of guilt."(Freud,S Some Character-Types Met With In Psychoanalytic Work 1916:317) One reading of this nightmare is to see individuals engaged in a slow suicide and unable to help themselves.
They are people lacking basic life skills, unable to tolerate frustration, in need of immediate gratification, very demanding and driven. These individuals cannot articulate what is troubling them, cannot identify the problem, (nor do they have adequate problem-solving frameworks) and who therefore act out what cannot be thought out. They are individuals who engage in testing out / attention seeking behaviour which becomes a problem for the practitioners working with them. They become the problem cases that are referred from agency to agency - the untouchables.
At the very moment of coming into being (via identifications with signifiers found in the filed of the Other) there is both the emergence of meaning but at the same the disappearance and fading of the subject. It is in union with the Other that the individual takes on language and finds the means to speak of his/her being, but it is an alienating intercourse. The individual represents him/herself through a chain of signifiers but something remains non represented. "I" re-presents "I" through a linking of words to preconceptions, but in the very pronouncing what "I" represents, the individual is petrified and reduced to nothing more than this pronouncement (a word). The individual is subject to language but his/her being lies forever outside any form of symbolic inscription.
In the Buddhist doctrine the individual is both self and no-self. When asked about the nature of self by Vacchagotta the Buddha remained silent. What is more, the extinction of suffering involves a fading away and extinction of the individual (who craves). A border (cf. Borderline) is an edge at which one discovers an object (a). When the subject is dropped from the edge of the stage (of language) due to systematic abuse, a forced identification with the object (a) can occur.
At this moment of depersonalisation the subject becomes nothing but an object.
The practitioner's presence offers an encounter with the Other that exists outside of the all consuming present, thus cutting into this intolerable state and enabling a response (from the Other) to contain the wordless scream. Direction of the treatment through the dimensions of tactics, strategy and policy (ethics) is an approach that is being developed by Richard Klein and myself.

Ulysses and the Sirens

By Herbert James Draper, 1909

To Be Homeless

"Becoming homeless" is a Buddhist metaphor to describe what happens to us when we learn to disidentify with our mind and its thoughts.  Become detached

Mind is the aspect of intellect and consciousness experienced as combinations of thought, perceptionmemoryemotionwill, and imagination, including all unconscious cognitive processes. The term is often used to refer, by implication, to the thought processes of reason. Mind manifests itself subjectively as a stream of consciousness, or inter subjectively through conversation.
Theories of mind and its function are numerous. Earliest recorded speculations are from the likes of Zoroaster, the Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient Greek, Indian and, later,Islamic and medieval European philosophers. Pre-modern understandings of the mind, such as the neo-platonic "nous" saw it as an aspect of the soul, in the sense of being both divine and immortal, linking human thinking with the un-changing ordering principle of the cosmos itself.
Which attributes make up the mind is much debated. Some psychologists argue that only the "higher" intellectual functions constitute mind, particularly reason and memory. In this view the emotions—love, hate, fear, joy—are more primitive or subjective in nature and should be seen as different from the mind as such. Others argue that various rational and emotional states cannot be so separated, that they are of the same nature and origin, and should therefore be considered all part of what we call the mind.
In popular usage mind is frequently synonymous with thought: the private conversation with ourselves that we carry on "inside our heads." Thus we "make up our minds," "change our minds" or are "of two minds" about something. One of the key attributes of the mind in this sense is that it is a private sphere to which no one but the owner has access. No one else can "know our mind." They can only interpret what we consciously or unconsciously communicate.

Nikos Kazantzakis quotes of a Religious Nature

“The canary began to sing again. The sun had struck it, and its throat and tiny breast had filled with song. Francis gazed at it for a long time, not speaking, his mouth hanging half opened, his eyes dimmed with tears.

"The canary is like man's soul," he whispered finally. "It sees bars round it, but instead if despairing, it sings. It sings, and wait and see, Brother Leo: one day its song shall break the bars.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Saint Francis

“When an almond tree became covered with blossoms in the heart of winter, all the trees around it began to jeer. 'What vanity,' they screamed, 'what insolence! Just think, it believes it can bring spring in this way!' The flowers of the almond tree blushed for shame. 'Forgive me, my sisters,' said the tree. 'I swear I did not want to blossom, but suddenly I felt a warm springtime breeze in my heart.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Saint Francis

“Overdraw me Lord, and who cares if I break!”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

“We are not men, to have need of another, an eternal life; we are women, and for us one moment with man we love is everlasting Paradise, one moment far from the man we love is everlasting hell. It is here on earth that we women love out eternity”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

“My principle anguish and the source of all my joys and sorrows from my youth onward has been the incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

“Truly, everything in this world depended on time. Time ripened all. If you had time, you succeeded in working the human mud internally and turning it into spirit. Then you did not fear death. If you did not have time, you perished.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

“I say one thing, you write another, and those who read you understand still something else! I say: cross, death, kingdom of heaven, God...and what do you understand? Each of you attaches his own suffering, interests and desires to each of these sacred words, and my words disappear, my soul is lost. I can't stand it any longer!”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

“When everyone drowns and I'm the only one to escape, God is protecting me. When everyone else is saved and I'm the only one to drown, God is protecting me then too.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

“You will, Judas, my brother. God will give you the strength, as much as you lack, because it is necessary—it is necessary for me to be killed and for you to betray me. We two must save the world. Help me."

Judas bowed his head. After a moment he asked, "If you had to betray your master, would you do it?"

Jesus reflected for a long time. Finally he said, "No, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to. That is why God pitied me and gave me the easier task: to be crucified.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

Kazantzakis more quotes

“Discipline is the highest of all virtues. Only so may strength and desire be counterbalanced and the endeavors of man bear fruit.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, The Rock Garden

“Freedom was my first great desire. The second, which remains hidden within me to this day, tormenting me, was the desire for sanctity. Hero together with saint: such is mankind's supreme model.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

“Reach what you cannot”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

“I said to the almond tree, 'Sister, speak to me of God.' And the almond tree blossomed.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

“All my life one of my greatest desires has been to travel-to see and touch unknown countries, to swim in unknown seas, to circle the globe, observing new lands, seas, people, and ideas with insatiable appetite, to see everything for the first time and for the last time, casting a slow, prolonged glance, then to close my eyes and feel the riches deposit themselves inside me calmly or stormily according to their pleasure, until time passes them at last through its fine sieve, straining the quintessence out of all the joys and sorrows.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

“Man is able, and has the duty, to reach the furthest point on the road he has chosen. Only by means of hope can we attain what is beyond hope.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

“What a strange machine man is! You fill him with bread, wine, fish, and radishes, and out comes sighs, laughter, and dreams.”

― Nikos Kazantzakis

“My entire soul is a cry, and all my work is a commentary on that cry.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“Every perfect traveler always creates the country where he travels.” 
― Nikos Kazantzakis

Yes, the purpose of earth is not life, it is not man, earth has existed without these, and it will live on without them. They are but the ephemeral sparks of its violent whirling.
Let us unite, let us hold each other tightly, let us merge our hearts, let us create –so long as the warmth of this earth endures, so long as no earthquakes, cataclysms, icebergs or comets come to destroy us – let us create for earth a brain and a heart, let us give a human meaning to the superhuman struggle. ”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“With the passage of days in this godly isolation [desert], my heart grew calm. It seemed to fill with answers. I did not ask questions any more; I was certain. Everything - where we came from, where we are going, what our purpose is on earth - struck me as extremely sure and simple in this God-trodden isolation. Little by little my blood took on the godly rhythm. Matins, Divine Liturgy, vespers, psalmodies, the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, the constellations suspended like chandeliers each night over the monastery: all came and went, came and went in obedience to eternal laws, and drew the blood of man into the same placid rhythm. I saw the world as a tree, a gigantic poplar, and myself as a green leaf clinging to a branch with my slender stalk. When God's wind blew, I hopped and danced, together with the entire tree.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“Beauty is merciless. You do not look at it, it looks at you and does not forgive.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“Throughout my life my greatest benefactors have been my travels and my dreams. Very few men, living or dead, have helped me in my struggles.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“We come from a dark abyss, we end in a dark abyss, and we call the luminous interval life.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“Let your youth have free reign, it won't come again, so be bold and no repenting.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“You have your brush, you have your colors, you paint the paradise, then in you go.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“I hope nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“A person needs a little madness, or else they never dare cut the rope and be free.” 
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

“How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. . . . All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

Zorba the Greek Quotes - Nikos Kazanzakis

“This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right and to realize of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.” 
― Nikos KazantzakisZorba the Greek

“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises.” 
― Nikos KazantzakisZorba the Greek

“You can knock on a deaf man's door forever.” 
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“When everything goes wrong, what a joy to test your soul and see if it has endurance and courage! An invisible and all-powerful enemy—some call him God, others the Devil, seem to rush upon us to destroy us; but we are not destroyed.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and *look* for trouble.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“Look, one day I had gone to a little village. An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. ‘What, grandfather!’ I exclaimed. ‘Planting an almond tree?’ And he, bent as he was, turned around and said: ‘My son, I carry on as if I should never die.’ I replied: ‘And I carry on as if I was going to die any minute.’
Which of us was right, boss?”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“I was happy, I knew that. While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize - sometimes with astonishment - how happy we had been.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all … is not to have one.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“If a woman sleeps alone it puts a shame on all men. God has a very big heart, but there is one sin He will not forgive. If a woman calls a man to her bed and he will not go.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“the highest point a man can attain is not Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred Awe!”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“When shall I at last retire into solitude alone, without companions, without joy and without sorrow, with only the sacred certainty that all is a dream? When, in my rags—without desires—shall I retire contented into the mountains? When, seeing that my body is merely sickness and crime, age and death, shall I—free, fearless, and blissful—retire to the forest? When? When, oh when?”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all, in my view, is not to have one.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
“All those who actually live the mysteries of life haven't the time to write, and all those who have the time don't live them! D'you see?”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“Free yourself from one passion to be dominated by another and nobler one. But is not that, too, a form of slavery? To sacrifice oneself to an idea, to a race, to God? Or does it mean that the higher the model the longer the longer the tether of our slavery?”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“Once more there sounded within me the terrible warning that there is only one life for all men, that there is only one life for all men, that there is no other and that all that can be enjoyed must be enjoyed here. In eternity no other chance will be given to us.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

“There is only one sin god will not forgive Boss, and that is to deny a woman who is in wanting ~ Zorba”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek