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  proteany again
pro-tee-an-E : protean-ness

gary e. davis
June 2020
Modernly, to be protean (lexically, Merriam-Webster Unabridged) is:
4 : displaying great diversity : possessed of infinite variety.”

“possessed…displaying”; possessed—and?: “ : ”—displaying.

From the infinite comes great variety?

I suppose there’s no one who’s altogether a notable literary artist, psychoanalyst, master teacher, and who casually hides their colors in order to be a reliable friend who’s just fun. Yet, it’s appealing to imagine such a comprehensive character, like prospecting human potential across high domains.

How comprehensive, how polymathic can one be colorful?

Earlier in the etymology of ‘protean’, the notion was more modest: “3 : capable of acting many different roles.” Is the more-ambitious characterization (4 above) isomorphically to be capable of sustaining many different acts, each with many different roles?

A good partner in life surely involves many different roles in that singular and complex drama of making a life with someone. Likewise, at best, in being a good parent, being an excellent professional, and being an exemplary citizen: at best, sustaining many colors per singular character of one’s complex life of multiple characters (s/p-differentiated modes of Selfality): partner, parent, professional, friend, family-of-origin member, citizen,…

And also one’s life apart from all of that?: artist, researcher, wanderer.

One person exemplifying all of that second continuum admirably is feasible, though unlikely. The ideal is certainly virtuous: to be exemplarily admirable manifoldly.

And that’s certainly appealing to prospect: How to live “up” (to grow nearer) to such an ideal—how to be able to actually be a living paragon. The prospective appeal is generative for higher individuation.

It’s not an appeal of possible perfectibility because that appeal is ultimately gener-ative, too, in receding, appealing horizons of living time.

We sometimes call a phenomenal contemporary a “renaissance” person (renais-sance man: I don’t recall anyone saying “renaissance woman,” though they are too): “to be enthusiastic and vigorous…along literary, artistic, and cultural lines” (Unabridged)—lines?—“by an increasing pursuit of learning and by an imaginative response to broader horizons generally.”

Earlier still in the etymology, being protean was “2 : readily assuming different shapes or forms”—readily multifaceted, as if being metaphorical about colorful polymaths.

Most delightful is the origin of the term: “1 : characteristic of or resembling Proteus,…legendary sea god in the service of Neptune who had the power of assuming different shapes,” which has fascinated me for over a decade:
  …the classical Greek origin projectively (as a god) indicates that appre-ciation of our manifold psychality is deeply historical. … In fact, cult-ural hybridization happened first and foremost with seafaring civili-zation (maritime empires). Psychal complexity arose from cultural hybridization, led by seafaring culture. A man back from sea could be forever changed, as if possessed by other gods. The deepest god of that power of transportation was the sea itself, the landscape of the waters giving forth the medium of transportation (Proteus) that men embod-ied, the spirit of shape-shifting men reborn from the sea. Proteus is an Odyssean man [2020: Proteus transformed into Odysseus] who has re-turned home [in the guise of the Odysseus that was first known, as pretense of return is, to Itself, the finding of home for the first time, as sings T. S. Eliot in Little Gidding]. He is filled with plural perspectives, thus capable of astounding changes of mind and heart, as if possessed with multiple selves [because he is that now].

A hallmark of Homer’s god from The Deep is that he’s virtuously wise with Time: “the immortal old man of the sea who never lies, who sounds the deep in all its depths” (Wikipedia). Proteus names a manifoldness of idealized humanity of
yet-unknown evolutionary Deep Time allegorized through ancestral saga.

Now scientifically (I noted last month), we’re “traced back to the evolution of re-cursive (self-formative) intelligence, advancing anthropologically by highly indiv-iduating (autogenic) lives that gain lasting influence across thereby-evolving culture,” though a proteany of that belongs most to traditions of artistry (espec-ially literary creativity) echoed by Analytical Psychology’s venturing senses of “high pluralization of self (or ‘plural psyche’) that can shape itself in the second half of creative lives” (“protean self,” 2009).

Northrop Frye influentially advanced Jungian archetypal thinking in literary theory (I prefer ‘archetropal’), and Hayden White advanced archetropal thinking
in theory of historiology (especially through the graduate program in History of Consciousness that he created and led for decades at UC Santa Cruz).

“Individuational capability for perspective (or for better differentiation)” which begins life as the manifold modules of intelligence (Howard Gardner)—“the auto-matic capability for self-differentiating experience that is intrinsic to neonatal psychality” (psychality again)—may flourish into manifold modes of inquiry,
such as the exemplary career of Robert J. Sternberg whose anthologies of others’ research turns modes of psychological life into manifold discursive convenings, addressing conceptions of mind, intelligence, giftedness, cognition, competence, personality, love, practicality, insight, creativity, wisdom, and the plurally unitarian nature of psychology as such.

A telic cohering of Selfidentical singularity finds itself wedded to appeals of
ever-receding horizons—Our plural evolving—through interplays of voices.

next—> prospecting a scale of appealing comprehensiveness



  Be fair. © 2020, gary e. davis