Over the past week, I’ve had an intriguing and productive email conversation with J.T., the host of Saving Eve, covering some phenomenological interpretations, and possible applications, of Csíkszentmihályi Flow. I’ve cherry picked the gold nuggets from our correspondence to form this post.
There were essentially three topics that we covered.
- Flow as a Manifestation or Vehicle of Blessing
- The Bifurcated Path to Bliss
- The Red Pill is a Toolbox for Inducing Flow in Marriage and Feminine Sexuality
Flow as a Manifestation or Vehicle of Blessing
JT: I was glad to see that you were interested in the concept of Flow, and enjoyed the post you did on it the other week. Especially the idea of the connection between Flow and eternity. I too have been fascinated by the topic for the past year or so.
I had a few observations and hunches about Blessing, Flow and spirituality…
SF: I think it is important to put together a full, concrete description of Blessing, because this is one of those nebulous concepts that few people, even Christians, understand. It took me decades to figure it out, and I’m still not very confident about what I understand about it.
JT: Eastern Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart writes an interesting footnote in his New Testament translation after choosing to translate what is normally rendered ‘blessed’ as ‘blissful’:
makarios: ‘blessed’, ‘happy’, ‘fortunate’, ‘prosperous’, but originally with a connotation of divine or heavenly bliss.
JT: Perhaps there is a connection between what the Bible describes as being ‘blessed’ and what we would call being in a state of Flow?
SF: Blessing and Flow both have spiritual and eternal characteristics. I can totally believe that experiencing Flow, and reaping the benefits thereof, is one important manifestation of being blessed. Flow could even be a propitious vehicle of blessing. (Not sure which, maybe both.) However, there are many other ways to experience Blessing, so I am hesitant to believe that they are synonymous, that is, that Flow is the same as being blessed. I wouldn’t say that if a person doesn’t get into Flow, then they aren’t blessed.
JT: I agree. Perhaps it would be helpful to distinguish between objective and subjective aspects of Blessing? For example, a man could be objectively blessed with a beautiful and sexually eager wife. But until he learns to reach that inner Flow state, he is not fully experiencing the subjective benefits of his Blessing.
SF: ‘Objective and subjective aspects of Blessing’… Yes, that’s it. Also, I thought of differentiating between the STATE of being blessed (there’s a long theological word for this that I can’t remember), and the EXPERIENCE of being blessed.
The Bifurcated Path to Bliss
JT: The Apostle Paul makes a clear distinction between the joy of married life and the joy of remaining single. Hence his recommendation that if you had the same ‘gift’ [of celibacy/singleness] as Paul did, it is best to remain unmarried, as you cannot effectively blend the two desires.
This sharp distinction between marriage and singleness only makes sense to me from a Flow perspective. Flow is an immersive experience, but constant interruptions would break the state.
It seems to me that Paul is suggesting that some people have the ability to experience a state of Flow solely from their relationship to God. But having a wife would interrupt that Flow.
Sexual men, on the other hand, would experience this state of Flow with their wives… which symbolizes the relationship of Christ with the church. And this state would only occasionally be interrupted by times devoted to prayer.
SF: Two elements of Flow include ‘intense focus’, and ‘freedom from distraction’. There is wisdom in preserving both of these elements in order to maximize the Flow experience. One interesting aspect of Flow, is that as long as one is in a state of Flow, one remains unconscious of that fact. But at the moment one stops to ponder their experience of Flow, one falls out of Flow. This summarizes the dilemma of ‘overthinking’ anything, as well as the hazards of multitasking.
If we take the relationship between God, man and wife as a linear hierarchy, as described by Snapper in his post, Marriage Geometry, then a man’s relationship with God is a focus ‘upward’, while the relationship with a wife is a focus ‘downward’. It’s difficult to ‘look up’ and ‘look down’ at the same time, without becoming cognizant of one’s focus, and thereby losing Flow. So I think St. Paul is just saying that there is no way to get around this dichotomy and have the best of both. You just have to choose one or the other and build your life on that.
JT: The ‘upward’ vs. ‘downward’ focus concept is a great way to explain it. The downward focus is more about representatively living out the heavenly joy of Christ and His bride (the church). The upward focus is about experiencing the communion directly and personally with God.
SF: You’ve described the spiritual significances of the ‘upward-downward’ thing well. Either way, it’s about glorifying God with one’s life.
The Red Pill is a Toolbox for Inducing Flow in Marriage and Feminine Sexuality
JT: Both Proverbs 5:19 and the Song of Solomon suggest that a married man should be in a state of sexual Flow. There is much more than simply ‘doing the deed’. There is challenge, disorientation, a loss of a sense of time, a high level of concentration, subconscious direction, etc. In other words, it seems that God’s desire is that a married couple remain in perpetual state of arousal and sexual bliss which symbolizes eternity.
It’s not too difficult to get a man on board with having lots of sex. But a woman is easily deceived and derailed from this state of happiness. But through the Red Pill, we are (re)discovering what makes a woman tick. Perhaps the ideal Biblical goal of Red Pill philosophy is not merely to deal with our ‘woman problems’, but to remove her from the folly of the world, and draw her into a state of perpetual marital bliss.
SF: Funny you should mention this. Just this morning, I had the idea that the whole goal of the Female Imperative, and by extension, Feminism, is a misguided attempt to maximize the female experience of Flow, Blessing, and Spiritual Efficiency* surrounding sexual relations and procreation, which are the two things most central to a woman’s identity.
The Red Pill not only picks apart the mechanics and motivations of the Feminine Imperative, but also points out all the costs, faults, sins, and mistakes inherent in the Feminist viewpoint, and shows that man is needed to impart a holy, successful, accurate, and balanced pursuit of the comprehensive Spiritual Efficiency between a man and woman in marriage and resulting family. The main fault of the Female Imperative and Feminism, is that it selfishly seeks to maximize the joys and benefits to women, without considering the overall costs to men and society. It therefore fails the Spiritual Efficiency test.
One problem with the proposed implementation of Red Pill theorems to induce a state of blissful, sexualized Flow in a female partner, is that not all women can, or want to be drawn into marital bliss, and to make matters worse, the influences of Feminism destroy the ‘raw materials’ of joyful wifehood coming right off the ‘production line’.
I would agree, of course, that Red Pill seeks to remedy this state, but as of now, we’ve only made advances in understanding the problem. But on a more hopeful note, identifying the problem is half of the solution. I believe that it’s only a matter of time before younger generations get enough Red Pill insights to see how it supersedes Feminism in both theory and application, towards achieving Flow, Blessing, and Spiritual Efficiency for all, including sex and marriage!
* Spiritual Efficiency is another topic that is covered in a separate post, Wisdom, Spiritual Efficiency, and Flow (January 26, 2018).
Sigma Frame: A Study of Csíkszentmihályi Flow (December 29, 2018)