ESR 10 Blog August 2021: Anna Fech

Laughter is the best medicine

“What kind of bag is this?” My family asked me and bent over with laughter when taking me to the bus station for the second part of my research trip. I didn’t pay attention to what bag I grabbed in the rush to store my food provisions for the trip. I looked closely, and the label showed an arrow on me with the words ‘Health Carrier’ – on the other side it said, “Laughter is the best medicine” – an advertising slogan for a health insurance company.

To be fair, it takes a lot of humor and serenity to follow through with this trip – for example when the car gave up on the first trip after 3500 km in Vienna and therefore one has to deal more with formalities on how to get from one country to the next rather than anything else. I compared the whole thing to a relay race, in which the stick has to be passed on every time, only that it’s a stick that the medical test centers put into your nose or mouth before it is sent to the laboratory. Then, within a distinct period of time, the result has to be delivered and the border has to be crossed.

The Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno still fits in my suitcase. The chapter ‘Formal Constituents of Political Thought – Ignorance and Confusion’ suggests that when evaluating the political statements contained in interview material, the widespread ignorance and confusion of the subjects on political issues must be taken into account. If people do not know what they are talking about, the term opinion, which is the basis of any consideration of ideologies, loses its meaning.[1]

I wonder how it is possible to get out of a state of ignorance and confusion? How to distinguish between appearance and reality? How to “penetrate the essence”[2] of our surroundings in a period of so much confusion?

In this area it might be interesting to analyze what exactly the term “confusion” means. One theory would be to look at the different states of consciousness of the brain – Adorno is talking about the everyday state of beta frequencies (13 Hz and 12 Hz), however, the current collective frequencies might be more in the range 21 Hz to 38 Hz, which describes a permanent alarm condition. In this state, concentration is increased, but perception is limited and focused on stressful situations; objective judgment is difficult, and mental blocks occur. One possibility is to access information and evaluation that the brain opens up to us when we are in other states of consciousness, such as the theta state (3 Hz -8 Hz) or the delta state (0.4 Hz -3 Hz). What if we started a global experiment and before people make a beta judgment, we put them in a theta or delta state? Would the individual decisions then turn out differently, and correspond more to the “essence” of the events around us?

At the Baltic Triennale in Vilnius one of the first large-scale installations in the entrance area on vinyl prints is by Aleksandra Domanovic with the title Things to come (2014). It shows not only technical achievements that have to do with space technology, but first and foremost a wheelchair and a prothesis. A video work by Uli Golub with the title Notes from the Underground (2016) shows a digitally reconstructed apartment that is completely littered with rubbish. The accompanying voice mentions in chronological order, but without revealing the year, that this garbage has become necessary for survival when electricity fails, the water flows irregularly or when the neighbors try to break into the apartment because they do not have enough to eat.

The information that is made available to us in the states of consciousness other than the beta state cannot be deciphered in the present, but it only makes sense during a later period of time. So, it is probably important to leave this information as it is without judging it – as it evades any kind of rational analysis. For this reason, I would like to mention here the notes of my sister Katharina that she took during our stay in Warsaw on 12.09.2021 in the theta state:

“I was lying on a small stream. The water washed around me. I became more and more one with it until I turned into a dark blue night – limitless, full of harmony. From this state, it was difficult for me to get back into something material until a small, beautiful butterfly picked me up. I flew after her, also with beautiful wings. The butterfly informed me: Just Be! Be beautiful! Be Light! Back on the floor, she sat right on top of my heart. A very wonderful feeling. The journey continued: there was a large tree right by the stream. I got into a cave through a hole in the trunk. I met a lot of little dwarfs there. Together we buried a black, heavy cloud. The dwarfs hopped over my body and romped around. Finally, each one handed me a glittering star. I went out of the cave. The glittering stars turned the whole world into a sparkling fairytale forest. Everything was very colorful. I met many bright, colorful, glowing animals, such as a squirrel, an owl and a peacock. I rode through this magical forest on a unicorn!”


[1] Theodor W. Adorno, Studien zum autoritären Charakter (Suhrkamp Verlag Frankfurt am Main, 1995), p180.

[2] ibid.

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