Words

Life

Category: asceticism

pa pa pa pa pa pa pa

by Andrea Elizabeth

Kierkegaard (in Either/Or, to page 84, the second stage, seeking, after dreaming) says Tamino in Mozart’s Magic Flute is a pointless, boring character. I suppose this is A’s estimation of the ethicist. Papageno is the alive character who is an active seeker rather than a passive rule-keeper. Tamino keeps the silence while Papageno continually fails that trial. Then A says something very interesting about insanity and music in the context of Tamino, after saying his fluteplaying is a waste of time meant to drive away thoughts while he keeps his vow of silence.

“Music has been used to cure insanity and in  a certain sense this goal has been attained, and yet this is an illusion. When insanity has a mental basis, it is always due to a hardening oat some point in the consciousness. This hardening must be overcome, but for it to be truly overcome the road to be taken must be the very opposite of the one that leads to music. When music is used, one is on the wrong road altogether and makes the patient even more insane, even if he seems not to be so anymore.”

Indeed it pacified but did not cure Saul. It satisfies the desire of the insane. hmmm.

The Magic Flute is the fourth most performed opera in the world. I can see how women would like it better. Pamina and Papagena are pure, beautiful, and wholesomely desirable characters who must be won by the men overcoming trials. The men are sold on them and are not playing around with lots of other women. Men may feel this is unfair, as well as a romantic illusion, but they want their wives, mothers, and sisters happy, so they will take them to see the delightful Magic Flute instead of Don Giovanni.

Don Giovanni

by Andrea Elizabeth

Don Giovanni is considered the greatest opera by many great men, including Kierkegaard and Tchaikovsky. However, it ranks 10th of most performed operas. I would say that this is because women don’t like it as much. It’s not so much that it makes them look bad, but because their best and happiest choice isn’t their first choice. When the women submit to their proper lot, thankfully tension is relieved. The dogged devotion of the one available woman, Elvira, is pretty pitiful.

But Kierkegaard is about keeping the tension. I read a preview in another review of the opera that Kierkegaard tributes Don Juan with giving life to milktoast people, “The desperate Don’s comeuppance, though, strikes me as unfair. As Kierkegaard noted in Either/Or, Don Giovanni is the opera‘s erotically animating presence. “His passion resonates everywhere; it resonates in and supports the Commendatore’s earnestness, Elvira’s wrath, Anna’s hate, Ottavio’s pomposity, Zerlina’s anxiety, Mazetto’s indignation, Leporello’s confusion. As the hero in the opera, Don Giovanni is the denominator of the piece.” Take him away and you’re left with the bourgeois moralising of the opera’s epilogue – an epilogue that any director worth their salt would cut were it not for Mozart’s music.”

Further down in the same article, ” “I see this piece as a study of man’s fear of death,” said Guth, when asked what is modern about this opera about an 18th-century rake.”

Zerlina comes off pretty well since she protested before it was too late, even though she was initially tempted. She came to terms with her own thirst for fire, and through her fiance’s indignation and willingness to fight, she was convinced and found resolution. To her, being satisfied with her husband was not death. To Donna Anna, Don Juan had to die. To Elvira and Don Juan, her not having him, and his not having all women, was death. They were too far gone.

This attributing life-giving properties to Don Juan almost sounds like saying evil is necessary. It is true that conflict enlivens a story and that worthy opponents are the most satisfying. But Orthodox don’t go there. And we don’t know what the alternative could have been. But can we only enjoy heaven if we have to overcome the temptations of this fallen world? Is heaven really boring on its own? Surely not. I think boredom is also a product of the fall.

sometimes allelujah

by Andrea Elizabeth

There is a terrible paragraph in Diapsalmata (Either/Or by Søren Kierkegaard) where A says that he despises people. I’ve almost quoted it several times, but it is so horrible. It’s on page 40. Again, does he really despise people? He also says he doesn’t do them wrong, for then he would have lost. He stays aloof in order to keep from hurting them. When he’s happy, it’s as if the jinn of joy danced around him, not human people. I’ve read that he talked to people constantly, but I think he was interviewing them, actually. I saw Stephen King interviewed by Paula Zahn and he read her like a book and played her. So when relating becomes research it loses its personal connection. “You don’t want to know what I really think. To find that out, read my book.” But the writer knows that the character he creates is a morphed version, and not the essence of the inspirer, even if the person’s motivation is nailed. If it is. Therefore it is not an injustice.

Back to page 72. Writing is reflection, but not the immediate. Music captures the immediate, but it is sensual. The spiritual is also immediate, but not sensual. Words reflect on the spiritual after the fact.

“Allelujah” is the most spiritual, immediate word I can think of. But actually, it is musical. It is speaking in tongues, as it were. But one has to mean it, which makes it prayer.

But what about heated exchanges? I suppose they are reflective when one is recalling injustices, for instance. But what about reflexive outbursts? No! I suppose that is more musical too.

Words of praise are reflective, but when spoken there is an immediate effect on the hearer. But it is recalling the past. But what about an effusive verbal reaction to someone’s immediate presence? An uninhibited, Wow! Again, musical.

I am wondering if he’s separating the sensual from the spiritual too much. Yes, we strive towards imageless prayer, but yet we rely heavily on icons. We strive for silent prayer, but we unceasingly repeat the Jesus Prayer. We remove our sensual response by unemotionally chanting from our prayer books. Chanting is akin to singing. All of this is given to us, though, and we don’t rely on our senses to generate it. We use our nous to listen and obey the Church instead.

The aesthete who tries to be ethical

by Andrea Elizabeth

Half-way through Don Giovanni, and a question I read on Either/Or in Wikipedia is in my mind. “Don Juan is split between the esthetic and the ethical. He’s lost in the multiplicity of the “1,003 women he has to seduce”.[21]Faust seduces just one woman. Kierkegaard is writing deep theology here. He’s asking if God seduces 1,003 people at one time or if he seduces one single individual at a time in order to make a believer.”

Then I also thought of St. Augustine, whose Confessions I am about half-way through listening to, though distracted while driving. He was a bit of a Don Juan in his younger years, but settled down with a single mistress. I couldn’t remember why he didn’t marry her, and in looking it up, I came upon this sad reflection about how he couldn’t get from St. Ambrose what he wanted:

“Nor did he know my own frustrations, nor the pit of my danger. For I could not request of him what I wanted as I wanted it, because I was debarred from hearing and speaking to him by crowds of busy people to whose infirmities he devoted himself. And when he was not engaged with them–which was never for long at a time–he was either refreshing his body with necessary food or his mind with reading.

 But actually I could find no opportunity of putting the questions I desired to that holy oracle of thine in his heart, unless it was a matter which could be dealt with briefly. However, those surgings in me required that he should give me his full leisure so that I might pour them out to him; but I never found him so. I heard him, indeed, every Lord’s Day, “rightly dividing the word of truth” among the people.”

I will not judge if St. Ambrose failed him, but maybe it is the nature of a writer to write in his frustration. Prolific Kierkegaard may have been similarly frustrated with not having the right person to talk to, so he wrote instead. And wrote and wrote and wrote. I came across a neat quote from Teddy Roosevelt about writing:

“Write no matter how tired you are, no matter how inconvenient it is; write if you’re smashed up in the hospital; write when you are doing your most dangerous stunts; write when your work is most irksome and disheartening; write all the time!” from a letter to his son, Quentin.

Back to St. Augustine, “I was enamored of a happy life, but I still feared to seek it in its own abode, and so I fled from it while I sought it. I thought I should be miserable if I were deprived of the embraces of a woman, and I never gave a thought to the medicine that thy mercy has provided for the healing of that infirmity, for I had never tried it.” The Aesthete.

But I wont dismiss it completely as that. “My mistress was torn from my side as an impediment to my [entering] marriage, and my heart which clung to her was torn and wounded till it bled. And she went back to Africa, vowing to thee never to know any other man and leaving with me my natural son by her.”

I read elsewhere that a marriage to her, after 10 years of living with her, wouldn’t have suited his station in life. While I commend St. Monica’s devotion in prayer for her son, I don’t commend her ambition for him to reach his potential. I don’t agree with him either that his bond with this woman was just an affliction. Couldn’t she have been the help-meet described at the beginning of Genesis?

from misunderstanding to unconfused union

by Andrea Elizabeth

Is Kierkegaard operating in the dialectic, albeit rejecting Hegel, of the mind vs. the heart? from Wikipedia:

“Love itself has an ethical and an esthetic element. She declares that she loves and has the esthetic element and understands it esthetically; he says that he loves and understands it ethically. Hence they both love and love each other, but nevertheless it is a misunderstanding. Stages on Life’s Way, Hong (Letter to the Reader) p. 421″

Stages on Life’s Way is the sequel to Either/Or.

One characterization of western theology by the east is that the west uses a forensic approach where it is necessary to divide and closely examine in order to understand. The east uses a more holistic, organic approach which St Maximus and Chalcedon describe as the uniting of heaven and earth, male and female yet “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He were parted or divided into Two Persons, but One and the Self-same Son and Only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ”

I stretched the combination of Maximus and Chalcedon a bit in the male and female union. Nevertheless, we of western heritage are used to a certain style of education and who are not yet deified may find our minds and hearts in a separated state, and who better than Kierkegaard to explain to us the state of the disunion? Yet he is known as a Christian. I have theorized that western Protestants are in the stage of engagement to Christ, if one believes that being received into communion in the Orthodox Church is marriage to Him.

Eric Hill

by Andrea Elizabeth

I know I didn’t impress anyone when I revealed I watched Dancing With the Stars this season. I justify it by saying, it’s because of the respectable Olympic skaters, Davis and White, whom I’ve followed for 5 years, that I watched it. But watching people deal with asceticism/hard work mixed with interpreting music, has actually made me think I shouldn’t dis the other contestants either. As with skating, or almost any art-form actually, one has to turn away from the more salacious aspects.

Now I will let my reputation sink further by revealing that I have now succumbed to watching the Bachelorette. This doesn’t have hard work to justify it, except for how hard it is to have a relationship. I’ll tell you that my fascination is to find out why men love women. I’ve always wondered. My observations after watching 3 of the 4 episodes so far:

They want acceptance, if not being impressed, comfort, and encouragement, simultaneously with that beautiful girl needing them for protection. I’ve often thought that a love interest is someone who somehow doesn’t shatter your suspension of disbelief that they are a suitable object of devotion. It almost seems unreal, misplaced, or even idolatrous how a person can expect everything to be ok if that man or woman will connect with him on a certain level. Many of the men seem wounded, and look to Andi to heal them, not that people can’t be instrumental in that. A sad case was a contestant who revealed to another contestant how devastating it was that his dad had never been in the picture, his sister died of an overdose, then his brother had a tragic accident and was in a coma before dying. The saddest part to him was the total devastation of his mother who was left prostrate on the hospital floor beside his IV. He broke down telling it, then said he really wanted Andi to know about it. When he finally gets his chance, it’s anti-climactic. He’s already told the world “what few people know about him,” and I can’t see how she wouldn’t have already known, as well as known how it was almost too important for him to tell her in particular about it in that he was one of 25 guys that she’s barely spent any time with. She seemed very nervous about her reaction being therapeutic enough. But it seems to me like most of the guys, as well as her, are genuinely putting their hearts out there.

Enter Eric Hill. He had the first one-on-one date with her. Ok maybe I’ve seen all 4 shows? It was a very adventurous snow boarding, sand-castle beach building, helicopter ride adventure in which they both hit it off. They were cute together. Then she had to give everyone else a chance and he never understood why. He was very hurt by this. They had one good conversation the last evening where she felt like they cleared the air and after saying he wasn’t open enough. He then, almost desperately, revealed that he had been raised Mormon, but had left the Church, had been afraid his family would reject him, but was very glad they didn’t. She asked some good questions, but you could tell by her stiffening and facial expression that someone who considered religion so seriously wasn’t her cup of tea. He finally had had it later last night and accused her of being “poker faced”. She lost it and pretty much told him to get lost. I have found that conversations where you want someone to like you better usually don’t go well. You hold on to a moment in the past where they seem to have liked you like you want to be liked, and you can’t believe it didn’t last. He took it personally, but really, he was too deep for her. He was a missionary and Peace Corp type person. She seems like a corporate human resources type person, which can be helpful to a point.

There is someone whom she seems the most relaxed around, but I don’t remember his name or what his background is.

Back to Eric. I thought he seemed too desperate to recapture their moment, but if you think it’s the culmination of all your hopes and dreams, I guess you can’t let it go until it’s hopelessly dashed. He seemed to realize that and wanted to be in control and reject her before he didn’t get the rose that night. That way he left under his own steam. That was the last scene before they made the announcement that that was his last appearance on the show, and that he tragically died a few weeks later in a paragliding accident where his wing collapsed in Utah. Shocker after shocker. Here’s a tribute to him from his sister.

Is it just romantic idealists who set such stock in their dream life? Is it just the ones who have a lot going for them, or likewise the arrogant ones, who aim their expectations too high?

Andi does sort of have a poker face around the ones she hasn’t let go yet. I think she genuinely likes them and wants to give them a chance. But you can’t really help who you gravitate towards, as insulting as that may be.

The end of “The 4400″

by Andrea Elizabeth

We finished watching The 4400 last week. I blogged about the series half-way through here. In that post I mentioned being perplexed about the series being cancelled. *Spoiler alert* The problem started for me when the show begab centering around Promicin shots instead of the original 4400 people, each with unique special abilities, who had been abducted by the people of the future and sent back in 2004 to save the world from their fate. Promicin is the extracted chemical that is found to have given the 4400 their abilities, which if injected in the population will give half of them abilities, but will kill the other half. The first couple of seasons had the original 4400 trigger ripple effects for change in ordinary people. Then it became about Promicin envy and conspiracy theories.

I much prefer personal stories to the over-arching conspiracy stories, which I have trouble following anyway. I watched X-Files for the individual phenomena, not the smoking man stuff, which I still don’t understand. I liked the first book of The Hunger Games when it was about Katniss and her family and friends better than the second when it got all professional. I still haven’t finished the third global book.

I have a theory that stories mirror the writer’s theology. If a character has a positive arc, then usually it means that the author believes hard times can make good people stronger. They believe in free will. And that God is sort of mean for either allowing or causing bad things to happen, but it will all work out in the end. This is western stories. I haven’t thought about if Russian stories are like this. There are obvious messianic messages in The 4400. The abilities are like miracle-working. At the beginning there were the Chosen who were sent to bless the world. But then when they extracted the Promicin, it was more like evangelization where the 50% who were injected were made into “Christians”, and the other 50% died of a leaking brain hemorrhage, even though they wanted to be “Christians”. This seems Calvinist to me, except they would say no one wanted to be Christians, but some were made so anyway and to the others the message was lethal.

Let’s see, how would a free will person view it? I suppose Christianity is sort of like being injected with the Holy Spirit and the mysteries of the Church. And there are lethal side effects. You have to learn to die to yourself. If you do, maybe you’ll become a miracle worker that will help people. If you stay selfish you’ll either make people stumble or become an example of what not to do, which can still motivate people to change. Their choice.

The ending had one person develop the ability to subject everyone with whom he came into contact, and increasingly beyond his proximity, to the effects Promicin so that half the people died instantly and the other half developed abilities. I suppose it was a little like judgment day, except there didn’t appear to be any difference in anyone’s character, sort of like Calvinism, only they were all innocent seeming.

The third post on cultural relations

by Andrea Elizabeth

It seems that cultural relations historically start out with the need to acquire goods or land. In the case of Greece and Troy, it was the need to acquire a woman, which can be the same thing. This is also what caused The Fall. So if relations are initiated by a feeling, justified or not, of deprivation, and sustained by certain laws to prevent murder and promote fairness or by the need to be loved in return, which can also be viewed as a result of deprivation, we must have been created with a vacuum. Appetite is not necessarily bad, though I do not understand how Eve could have felt deprived, except by just having the command not to eat of the one tree. That, incited by the devil, was probably enough. His suggestions were logoi that we should not listen to. Therefore perhaps our feelings of deprivation are not real, but warped deceptions.

But we cannot totally escape our need for food and a family or monastic community. Paradise is partaking of them in obedience.

It’s about time

by Andrea Elizabeth

Today is the 1 year anniversary of the passing of my much loved Mother-in-law. I didn’t have her death in mind as the reason for my coincidental sabbatical to a new blog, but perhaps it is fitting that the anniversary signals the time to return.

I have noticed with other people that major life decisions can follow the passing of a loved one, even if one is not conscious of the timing. I have wondered if it is a result of stress, but maybe we take more stock in what is truly important when we become more acquainted with death.

Today is also the first Monday of the Nativity Fast for Orthodox Christians. The Scripture reading for today from Colosians 2:

16
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,
17
which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
18
Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
19
and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
20
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations –
21
Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,
22
which all concern things which perish with the using – according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
23
These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
1
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

The first thing that comes to mind is the Protestant criticism of our Church calendar with its feasts and fasts and veneration of angels. But to reject them totally would be to deny the Scripture, “when you fast” and would tend towards gnostic denial of material things, and thus the Incarnation. So I suppose we read this as a reminder that Christ is the goal of the observances, and not an independent adherence to rules.

A blessed fast to us all.

Progress and masculinity

by Andrea Elizabeth

Chapter 3 of Atlas Shrugged is very painful to read because it is difficult to totally vilify technology and efficiency. If something is ineffecient, it is usually because of negative reasons such as poor construction, poor planning, or misguided goals. Rand goes too far in saying that nature is less efficient than technology. Slowness isn’t the only criteria for inefficiency. Tolkien provides the antidote for this mistake of hers, but even he gets impatient with the Tree Ents. Still, I can’t help but find this passage compelling:

“What she [Dagny Taggert] felt was an arrogant pleasure at the way the track cut through the woods: it did not belong in the midst of ancient trees, among green branches that hung down to meet green brush and the lonely spears of wild flowers – but there it was. The two steel lines were brilliant in the sun, and the black ties were like the rungs of a ladder which she had to climb.”

Manifest Destiny and Immanent Domain both seem tied to the above. There is something inevitable about “progress”, at least to the western mind. However stone age cultures quickly adapted when they were introduced to iron age tools.  But they were content before that, and didn’t seem to sense the importance of progress.

The above passage also makes me ponder the idea that nature is feminine and progress is masculine. Villifying progress seems to vilify masculinity. Indeed, one might characterize the expansion of the railroad as rape. But does that make men in “uncivilized” cultures feminine? No, they exert their energies towards territorial disputes and raiding. The same characterization can apply there too. What is the difference between the Genesis command to “fill the earth and subdue it”, and that characterization? The former requires permission from the feminine first, I suppose. Can you ask a tree what it wants to be used for? I believe so, but it takes an artist and a poet to properly hear the answer.

And there is also the issue of communication, which is a very human and natural thing. We crave access and sharing, which technology makes easier. Too easy in some cases, I’m sure. But to be against it is to close oneself off and make oneself unavailable. One may not like the invasive nature of railroads, telegraph and telephone lines, and highways, but even the pony express cut through Indian lands requiring the building of forts in the western frontier to protect them. White man’s communication trumped the preservation of Native American life. We should have befriended them and asked them to send smoke signals for us. And paid them for it. In higher technology?

This chapter also gets into international trade with Mexico. The argument for being our brother’s keeper is criticized very strongly. Again the vagueness of who our brother is is brought out. As is the amount of state control instead of free enterprise said brother is under. I believe in private property, so in that way I agree with Rand. But her heroes don’t come across as greedy, which I think is a side effect that needs to be addressed. They may say they only care about money, but their lifestyle is much more spartan. Resentment and envy is the greed of the less fortunate. Characterizing the less fortunate as lazy and inept sounds too harsh, but I wish the left would sound more like they valued hard work and that they believed laziness is a vice. Laziness and ineptitude alone do not account for poverty, however. There are tons of other variables in the equation. But to blame it all on rich people’s self-serving policies sounds too deflective.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers