SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - Conspiracies & Contact
Close encounters not of the 4th kind.
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
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.
Spoiler: you can’t CMV. That’s “change my view,” noobs (I looked it up so you don’t have to).
People who sneeze loudly — Maybe it’s my jealousy over talent for turning a mundane bodily function into a hostage stadium concert, but loud sneezing is weird. There are few other uncontrolled bodily sounds that we release with as much abandon as some people release their sneezes. Men sneeze more loudly than women; extremely important research has found 32% of women hold in their sneezes while 46% of men freely admit to loud sneezing. Are these masculine sneezes an affront to feminism? Possibly. Do I feel oppressed by these stadium sneezes? Absolutely.
Leave it to Refinery 29 to lead the sneeze-positive movement.
Who hasn’t been sitting peacefully in a seemingly secure location only to have your surroundings thrown into red-alert by a scream-sneeze? Jail. Jail is the only answer for these biological weapon-wielding offenders. Perhaps we can reach a compromise by which these sneeze-assailants follow their crimes with an equally loud Scarlet Letter-esque admission of fault. I would be satisfied if every scream-sneeze was followed by the statement “Admission of Loud Sound Transgression.” Judging by the passion this issue elicits, we won’t make progress on this social injustice anytime soon.
Is this yet another instance requiring sympathy for our enemies?
Or does our impassivity only breed the radicalization of scream-sneezers?
“Unhappy man! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Herman Hugo, 1624.
Our bodies can seem to trap our true selves within them when we fall too far out of contact with the world.
Contact in Gestalt therapy — Gestalt is the rebel child of therapeutic philosophies; its genius can’t be denied but contemporary therapy is uneasy with Gestalt’s rough past. That rough past includes Gestalt’s founder, Fritz Perls — a bearded, constantly smoking, Jewish German man with no reservations about challenging his clients with early 1900s call-outs like “phony.”
I like Gestalt therapy. It’s full of strange techniques like conversing with empty chairs to shake us out of the past/future and into the now. To Gestalt, “the past is gone and the future has not yet arrived.” A mind stuck in the future or the past responds on autopilot, when we are absent from the now, the quality of our contact to the world suffers.
Low-quality contact with our world begets that outsider-looking-in, detachedness that makes you feel like you might as well be wearing a spacesuit.
Art by Scott Listfield
Contact is made through our senses — seeing the bright, red apple in our grocery basket, listening to each word as our partner retells a story we’ve already heard, the smell of sauteeing garlic for a recipe we’ve made 100 times before. Without presence, we miss these moments of contact. Yet contact is the center of our lives, a concept relationship therapist Esther Perel sums up her entire work philosophy with, “The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.” Gestalt includes contact with our environment and even to the parts of ourselves we’d rather not contact, like that tendency to eat another slice of pizza when we’re disgustingly full.
So now that you know everybody except you has been theorizing about some abstract conception of contact for over a century — what does your contact look like?
Staying open for true contact is what makes humans human.
Original Art for Spiritual Soap by Luis Colina
Good contact is a creative relationship with ourselves and our world. It’s the times we answer mechanical how-are-yous candidly and create honesty in place of monotony. Good contact requires the presence to reach for the world beyond us while having the courage to protect our individuality. It’s found between good friends at a dinner table after the second glass of wine. It’s found between partners who can see and hold each other’s vulnerability. It’s found sitting quietly with yourself, seeing all, not just past scars and future desires, but the body of flesh and awareness you are in that exact moment.
Contact is the fertilizer for life — growth and change aren’t born from the security of cement. Much like our boy Martin Buber’s Ich und Du theory, there are levels to contact; the highest level of contact is white-hot and is followed by a time-out for reflecting. Yet, as with all things that require intensity and presence…we resist. Oh boy, do we resist, both in small ways like hiding behind emojis and in big ways like being safe instead of authentic in our words and actions.
We all resist contact, though not always in the same forms; these contact resistances are formed as coping mechanisms that keep us safe in the way a child whose mother never lets him play outside is “safe.” Opening up to contact requires recognizing the coping mechanisms that once kept us safe as kids now keep us trapped as adults. You can have contact with the grass under your feet, with the cashier hurridly handing over a receipt, with the partner whose funny habits have become mundane, with your own anxiety over disappointing yourself that only disappoints you more for existing — we can choose to resist or connect.
Put down the narrative of who you should be and what you should do, put down the regrets and fears of the past, and what is left? You are the most human you will be when you stop trying to be.
We shift between levels of contact among each other, yet life without deep contact remains peripheral.
Original Art for Spiritual Soap by Luis Colina
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.