Wednesday, August 13, 2014

War and the Humanities--a vital connection?

You might think there is no connection whatsoever, let alone a vital one, but I think there is.

Cognitive dissonance gets alchemized through art into paradox. 

And when you're talking about war, that's huge, because experiences in war have a way of creating deep cognitive dissonance--
the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. 
Jonathan Shay posits that cognitive dissonance is a major contributing factor in the complex we call PTSD. We all hate cognitive dissonance. It creates riots, arguments, depression, anxiety, even substance abuse. It makes for a lot of unresolved tension.

Now let's look at a golden word used by those in the Humanities: paradox--
a statement that apparently contradicts itself and yet might be true.
Through paradox, contradictory elements are reconciled. Tension moving toward resolution, however uneasy, makes art come alive. Art allows the insufferable experience that can plague and alienate to become, as Ed Tick points out, not only processed but communalized. Many of the greatest works of art and literature stem from experiences in war--because they were the necessary footwork to do in order to recover from war.

When I put these two together--cognitive dissonance and paradox--I wanted to shout this connection from the tallest mountain, because you see, I truly do believe that this is how story heals...or at least makes life easier to live.

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