A Concordance Of Hearts


Around the time that the splendidly unsettling documentary Grizzly Man was released, Werner Herzog gave an interview to Psychology Today where he scoffed poignantly at our cultural tendency to overuse rational introspection as a means of trying to understand those things which, to his way of thinking, are only apprehensible through non-rational means:

Do you have any formal interest in psychology?

I loathe psychology as one of the major faults of our civilization nowadays. There’s something not right about this amount of introspection. I can only give you a metaphor: When you move into an apartment, you cannot start to illuminate every last corner with neon light. If there are no dark corners or hidden niches, your house becomes uninhabitable. Human beings who are trying to self-reflect and explore their innermost being to the last corner become uninhabitable people.

Let’s not forget that psychology isn’t just about introspection; it can shed light on other people.

No, you can understand others by other means. By dint of compassion, you understand other people, and there is a concordance of hearts. That is something different. Move away from psychology and engage in concordance of hearts.

I think that last bit especially is stunning, and true. And even though I believe our society is not nearly introspective enough, I think I know what he means. The act of examination cannot help but alter the thing which is being examined, often to its detriment. And too often, especially when whatever is under examination has been created (and is perhaps being ever-so-delicately maintained) by non-rational forces, rational observation simply destroys, in its blundering way, the thing which is being observed.

Also, because our world is so parodically self-conscious, it does sometimes seem like there’s a whole lotta introspection going on. But self-consciousness and introspection are not nearly the same thing, and what mostly ends up passing for introspection under contemporary circumstances is a fun-house mirror loop of quick-fix, self-help schemes that actually enable one to avoid the arduous process of genuine, non-excessive self-reflection in the pursuit of spiritual growth.

And here are the Mystery Dates again, coming down hard, I think, on the side of anti-introspection. This time Danny is singing, as he normally did, recorded live at CBGBs.


The Mystery Dates

I know it’s you
In the hotel
It’s a little sad
We could’ve had

When we’re together
It’s not much fun
It’s a little sad
We could’ve had

Drips splash and drips careen
They’re all over my windscreen
I don’t mean for this to sound too mean
But when the drips bash I go out for Visine®


3 Replies to “A Concordance Of Hearts”

  1. Sorry in advance for the length.

    First things first: Shamrock=best milkshake in JC.

    I like Herzog, and I like what he says about introspection, but I disagree that all of psychology is intended to provoke and justify introspection. I find it ironic that someone whose films are rife with symbols would state that the interpretation and effectiveness of (the use of) symbols could be independent of the illumination of the interpreter’s “dark corners and hidden niches.” I like the idea of a concordance of hearts too, but I don’t see how psychologic analysis runs counter to being compassionate, reaching out and resonating with another person(‘s heart). There are compassionate non-professionals and there are self-centered therapists…most of us know when we resonate and from experience, we know that when we actually think about the resonance, the sense changes, sometimes disappears. Perhaps Herzog is hinting at that strange aspect of consciouness…like when you have pain somewhere, and you forget about it for awhile, then, when you remember it, it hurts again, just like it had never stopped. Does overanalyzing (self-help, etc.) make one less likely to experience the spontaneous or in your words, the hidden sources of growth? The problem is that the symbolic dollars reside in the hidden, and we learn a lot about ourselves (in terms of real growth, I believe) when we understand why the symbols affect us as they do. I guess he (and you) would say that we learn more from the symbols when we decode them from our own experience rather than from the words that others (ie shrinks) put into our heads.

  2. Marc —

    First of all, yes, the Shamrock rules — I don’t disagree with that.

    Secondly, I think you’re absolutely right that psychology doesn’t necessarily have to mean only introspection, or a solely rational approach to genuine spiritual evolution. Good therapists employ the forces of intuition and resonance to help their patients in the areas where rational introspection is useless. Of course they do.

    I think Herzog was at least partially being deliberately extreme and provocative (look at who he was talking to) but I loved that phrase “a concordance of hearts” so much that I went back to try and reverse engineer the kernel of truth in what he said, though there wasn’t much context in the brief Q&A. That’s why I suggested the two different (though related) explanations for what I thought he was getting at:

    1.) That over-analysis can often destroy those things in life (e.g., music, romance) that arise via forces of resonance that one cannot and perhaps should not attempt to rationally explain.

    2.) The problem that so much of psychology, like so much of everything, is total bullshit.

    3.) What you wrote prompts me to add a third. You’re right in saying that we value our illuminators, for good reason. The problem is (on top of our having so many false ones) that we go too far; we don’t know where to stop and leave the mystery be.

    As I said in the post, I actually disagree with Herzog, at least as far as that I think our internet/iPod/SUV/TIVO/crackberry culture is not nearly introspective enough — pathologically un-intropective, in fact. And, scarily, dangerously, I think our culture now actively discourages introspection — speed things up, keep the volume blasting all the time, god forbid anyone stop and think about what they’re doing or why.

    But yeah, also, sometimes rational talk gets you nowhere, and you talk and talk and talk until all that talk eventually completely takes the place of the thing you’re ostensibly talking about, and then you’re completely lost. Sometimes you just have to shut up and experience things — you can’t be processing all the time.

    Last week, on the Perfect Patio in Johnson City, TN, we were sipping iced tea in the firefly dusk, strumming guitars and talking, and it was suggested that action defines character and that character is destiny. And when all is said and I done, I’d have to say that I don’t disagree with that either.

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