Words

Life

Category: asceticism

Crates seems polite

by Andrea Elizabeth

from the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy

Diogenes’ most famous successor was Crates (c.328-325 b.c.). He was a Boeotian, from Thebes, and renounced his wealth to become a Cynic. He seems to have been more pleasant than Diogenes; according to some reports, every Athenian house was open to him, and he was even regarded by them as a household god. Perhaps the most famous incident involving Crates is his marriage to Hipparchia, who took up the Cynic way of life despite her family’s opposition and insisted that educating herself was preferable to working a loom. Like Diogenes, Crates emphasized that happiness is self-sufficiency, and claimed that asceticism is required for self-sufficiency; e.g., he advises that no one is happy if happiness is measured by the balance of pleasure and pain, since in each period of our lives there is more pain than pleasure.

This description of weaving connects to another book I’ve begun, The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell. In the second chapter she writes,

The idea of the mistress and her maidens spinning at the great wheels while the master was abroad, ploughing his fields, or seeing after his flocks on the purple moors, is very poetical to look back upon; but when such life actually touches on our own days, and we can hear particulars from the lips of those now living, details of coarseness – of the uncouthness of the rustic mingled with the sharpness of the tradesman – of irregularity and fierce lawlessness – come out, that rather mar the vision of pastoral innocence and simplicity. Still, as it is the exceptional and exaggerated characteristics of any period that leave the most vivid memory behind them, it would be wrong, and in my opinion faithless, to conclude that such and such forms of society and modes of living were not best for the period when they prevailed, although the abuses they may have led into, and the gradual progress of the world, have made it well that such ways and manners should pass away for ever, and as preposterous to attempt to return to them, as it would be for a man to return to the clothes of his childhood.

Gaskell is obviously sold on civilized society, but this scathing review of the biography is more cynical in the vein of Diogenes. Though again, I wish it were more polite and did not reduce everything to sexual lust. This uncivilized place produced the Brontë sisters! Haworth was my absolute favorite part of the U.K.

In the above I learned of Charlotte’s dramatic seeking the attention of the headmaster of the school where she taught English and music. Here’s a sample of the nature of her letters. In them I hear her intense loneliness and the scarcity of finding someone, who she calls friend, that she respects. Both the above reviewers should cut her some slack. As did the headmaster’s wife; thank you, dear lady.

Was Rochester’s questioning untoward?

by Andrea Elizabeth

He would try to bring her out and set her free with his questions and was upset when she would silently pass by “as if we were strangers”. I have heard some people decry the existence of soul mates, but people can feel a unique connection.

Perhaps something I just heard about autism applies. Autistic people don’t believe other people think or have feelings. That they are the only one. What if people like Jane and Rochester are moderately autistic and believe that each other are the only ones who think and have feelings. Special connections are felt when a person is believed to be one of the only ones who thinks and feels as you do. And perhaps narcissism added to the mix makes that connection become romantic and passionate. Someone attracted to him or herself is attracted to someone perceived to be uniquely like him or herself.

Not that this is entirely bad or to be completely avoided, but maybe it is better to acknowledge why the feelings are there so as not to exalt them so high or act on them to one and the other’s detriment.

Perhaps Rochester’s probing was healthy, and if Jane had been more self-aware, they could have come to a more angelic relationship.

According to Ashley Madison, women are obsessed with passion

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just rewatched Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. It was hard to step outside of the storm and look critically at Jane’s emotional journey. What does pain make you deserve? Rochester thought it was pleasure and escape from banal people. He said he loved Jane’s purity. But was she? Leaving him because he was technically married, conveniently to a crazy cruel woman, is supposed to prove it. But her pride had been stoked by his untoward attention to her for being above banal. She said she was just like any other governess, but when Blanche comes to visit, she is obviously very jealous of their flirting because she thinks it is owed to her alone. She does not criticize his flirtatiousness, especially when directed at her. She later calls him on being deceitful about his wife, but he was deceitful to Blanche and herself as well.

This desire for his exclusive attention is stoked by her extreme loneliness. Mrs. Reed had hated her for being of a passionate nature. This nature did seem to set her apart. She was shunned because of it by everyone she had been entrusted to. She could not take being shunned by Rochester when he insisted she watch his attention being directed elsewhere. But why was romantic attention all that could ease, or if directed elsewhere, cause her pain?

I can’t find an icon I used to use as a profile picture elsewhere of a female Saint, I thought her name was Elizabeth, but not one of the famous ones. I think it was Russian. She is in the midst of a storm, clouds and her dress swirling about her, but in the corner is Christ and that is where her attention is directed. The Church gives examples of women with such a nature who went in seclusion because all the men they encountered were attracted to it. Jane loved St. John like a brother, but he desired her and would not consent to not loving/possessing her fully. She said it would kill her to live with him like that, so she follows Rochester’s voice across the stormy moors instead. I’ve heard Charlotte Bronte originally ended the story with Jane going to India with St. John as a brother. Who knows why it was changed, but it is dissatisfying. Sort of like how relieved you are in The African Queen when Katherine Hepburn doesn’t have to live with her brother anymore and finds Humphrey Bogart. Or when C.S. Lewis finds Joy after Malcolm. But Jane’s going to India as a sister does let her keep the pure reputation, instead of the convenience of the wife being mad, murderous and at last suicidal, which Rochester nobly tries to prevent. What if she had been sweet and innocent? Maybe Rochester wouldn’t have been so needy. Or maybe he would have anyway, because saintliness, in he or his wife, is hard to come by. I bet she would have had faults. But these are not excuses for where the heart goes. The heart goes places anyway. And no one wants to kill their heart. Some women, like St. Katherine, naturally and exclusively loved Jesus more than anyone.

The three eunuchs come to mind. Matthew 19:12 “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others–and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Can brains save you?

by Andrea Elizabeth

“[Cabin fever] is a slang term for the claustrophobic reaction that can occur when people are shut in together over long periods of time. The feeling of claustrophobia is externalized as dislike for the people you happen to be shut in with. In extreme cases it can result in hallucinations and violence—murder has been done over such minor things as a burned meal or an argument about whose turn it is to do the dishes.
[…]“He killed them, Mr. Torrance, and then committed suicide. He murdered the little girls with a hatchet, his wife with a shotgun, and himself the same way. His leg was broken. Undoubtedly so drunk he fell downstairs.”
“Was he a high school graduate?”
“As a matter of fact, he wasn’t,” Ullman said a little stiffly. “I thought a, shall we say, less imaginative individual would be less susceptible to the rigors, the loneliness—”
“That was your mistake,” Jack said. “A stupid man is more prone to cabin fever just as he’s more prone to shoot someone over a card game or commit a spur-of-the-moment robbery. He gets bored. When the snow comes, there’s nothing to do but watch TV or play solitaire and cheat when he can’t get all the aces out. Nothing to do but bitch at his wife and nag at the kids and drink. It gets hard to sleep because there’s nothing to hear. So he drinks himself to sleep and wakes up with a hangover. He gets edgy. And maybe the telephone goes out and the TV aerial blows down and there’s nothing to do but think and cheat at solitaire and get edgier and edgier. Finally … boom, boom, boom.”
“Whereas a more educated man, such as yourself?”
“My wife and I both like to read. I have a play to work on, as Al Shockley probably told you. Danny has his puzzles, his coloring books, and his crystal radio. I plan to teach him to read, and I also want to teach him to snowshoe. Wendy would like to learn how, too. Oh yes, I think we can keep busy and out of each other’s hair if the TV goes on the fritz.” He paused. “And Al was telling the truth when he told you I no longer drink. I did once, and it got to be serious. But I haven’t had so much as a glass of beer in the last fourteen months. I don’t intend to bring any alcohol up here, and I don’t think there will be an opportunity to get any after the snow flies.” (Excerpt From: King, Stephen. “The Shining.” Anchor Books, 2013-08-27. iBooks.)

We’ll see.

Miss Sadie Thompson 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

So many issues.

“From the 1921 theatrical adaptation of Maugham’s story through both previous films, Davidson is a figure of religious intolerance, and Sadie after her conversion is presented as a zombie, reciting by rote the religious rhetoric pounded into her by Davidson’s psychological pressure. Here, Sadie quietly and with dignity relates how she came to reassess her life. “When O’Hara walked out on me,” she says, “and I had nobody to turn to, Mr. Davidson helped me. I didn’t feel lost anymore. I’m back to myself again. Like I was, long ago.”[3] Seeing an open Bible on her dresser, Dr. Macphail, the text’s representative of “objective” modern science, nods contentedly, as if to imply, “She can’t go far wrong with the Good Book.”

After being raped by the minister (who, since a Hays Code ruling in 1928, still cannot be identified on film as a minister), Sadie’s newfound “faith” waivers. However, in the 1950s text, the tolerance Dr. Macphail urges is not of Sadie as victim but of Davidson. “You mustn’t confuse what he did with what he believed in,” he tells her. Macphail’s unprecedented defense of the lapsed theocrat is part of the text’s desperate attempt to preserve the religion already shielded by Davidson’s unofficial status. By reconstructing Davidson as an example of “abnormal” psychology (he explicitly disparages “Freud, Adler, and Jung,” the decade’s other gods), the conservative religious ideology can be upheld as being essentially correct; only individuals occasionally go wrong. As Macphail says of Davidson after the rape, “He just couldn’t practice what he preached.” Sadie closes the circle uniting the men in the text verbally as well as vocally (and politically and sexually) when she says to the doctor, “You talk just like him.” And Macphail says disingenuously, “Do I? I didn’t realize.”

As a reward for her final capitulation, the forfeiture of her anger, O’Hara miraculously returns, suddenly willing to forget Sadie’s past. He belatedly explains that there should be no double standard for B-girls and marines, putting it in acoustic terms: “Counting up all I’ve done . . . I had no right to sound off.” Reunited and reengaged, Sadie rides off, propped up on her speedboat, happily restored to spectacle status, awaiting a rosy future with O’Hara.

The most reactionary and conservative version of Maugham’s story, Miss Sadie Thompson locks the woman into spectacle on all sides. Sadie’s happiness for the first hour rests on being the prized object, prime spectacle, “the only white woman” there. In the musical numbers, she cannot capture her own voice, and when she does speak her own experience, she is either barred access (presented as “hysterically” talking to herself offscreen) or unconsciously repeats the dominant ideology, presented at every point as inevitable. According to this classical text, the woman’s submission to spectacle status in both image and voice is, finally, the only possible course.

The convulsive repressiveness we saw in response to women’s efforts to speak in the films of the forties went underground in the fifties, camouflaged by spectacle on the one hand or transmuted into hysteria and melodrama—as in Sunset Boulevard .”

One issue is that the minister expects her to return to the states to face jail. I see a problem with the legislation of morality with punitive reprisals. What else could the state do? Enforce counselling? That’s what they do in civil cases, but what hope is there in that. Ms. Lawrence doesn’t seem too fond of Jung and Freud either. It’s like the attempted stoning of the woman caught in adultery. Sadie did want to change her ways not only because of the threats of Davidson, but because of how she saw she put other people in painful situations. The men were in pain before meeting her. Her incitement gave them hope of relief. *bigger spoiler alert* Davidson commits suicide after taking it, so that didn’t work. Can Sadie change? Will O’Hara still want her once he gets her? I think the movie is pretty convincing in promoting O’Hara as her only real help as someone willing to commit himself fully to help her instead of just offering advice and referrals elsewhere.

Then there’s the issue of her zombie state vs. feeling alive when she was getting fun attention. But there are happy nuns. St. Mary of Egypt found communion in solitude. Perhaps there is a transition state of withdrawal when one quits leaning on dysfunctional fixes. Ms. Lawrence is more concerned about her being portrayed as having a dysfunctional voice. Or one that is only functional when people are allured. I was not comfortable with her submission to Davidson even though I was glad she saw her methods more critically because of him. And I found the 23rd Psalm reading pretty moving and it’s effect on her nicely portrayed. Maybe he should have just referred her to God after that instead of the reflective conversations afterward. But I’m not comfortable with committing a damaged person to solitary confinement either. Nor is everyone in this day and age ready or able to go to a monastery. I think it’s a pretty dysfunctional age and maybe God will have mercy on people’s pitiful attempts to find positive connection.

things that make you go hmmm

by Andrea Elizabeth

Reading about Millenials and Gen X made me think of Biblical references to “this generation”, most famously, the generation allowed to die out before the Israelites could enter the promised land. I’ll wager that the oppression that made them cry out for deliverance from Pharoah had worsened at the end, and that that generation had grown up in better times where they had plenty of leeks and onions to reminisce about. Joshua’s generation was born during the bad times, which produced better character and a better appreciation for and trust in God’s deliverance.

Another movie

by Andrea Elizabeth

The ethicist vs. the aesthete in person in Talk of the Town with fugitive Cary Grant, law professor Ronald Colman and caught in the middle Jean Arthur.

push me pull me

by Andrea Elizabeth

Page 402 in Either/Or and Kierkegaard is reminding me of The Taming of the Shrew, except Cordelia isn’t a shrew, or isn’t considered one, and Johannes doesn’t have marriage as his endgame. In both stories the capable man is engineering improvement in the object of his desire through pain. In this case, the pain of withdrawal. Intended or not, my reaction is to classify a guy who treats people thus as a jerk. As in someone who jerks people on a chain. Come here, go away, come here, go away. The withdrawal cuts deep, and the justification is that it is good for a person to be deepened. Maybe so, but some people can’t tolerate it. Or wont.

 

to eat or not to eat

by Andrea Elizabeth

For the aesthete, the choice is do I want physical beauty or a sensual physical experience? Compromises and deals are made in each direction. But I admire those who are committed to one or the other. Ones who are fully committed to an optimal physical appearance or to a no holds barred sell-out to food with no sacrifices. Oh, to have a whole bag of peanut (must get one’s protein) M&M’s on one side and a whole bag of Doritos on the other while sipping Dr. Pepper and looking forward to when they are done for a whole tub of Cookies and Cream. Actually I get a headache imagining that, but the lack of the exhausting struggle and deal making is attractive.

I have a similar back and forth with cleaning the house. One time I committed to keeping it clean and was not as satisfied with the result as I had imagined I would be. It wasn’t worth it. So it does not stay immaculate, but moderately neat.

I am pretty visual, but mostly touch-oriented. You’d think I’d be a touchy feely person, but I’m not. I mostly like comfortable resting places and the feeling of chewing and the taste and texture of food. Therefore the weight has slowly crept on. It would have been faster, but for mirrors and photographs. Mirrors can be tricked, however, and so can photos by someone who understands angles. Therefore one can have one’s cake and eat it too.

But I am not a committed aesthete, either. I also want what is right. It is not right to be a glutton. It is not right to be vain. It is not right to be on a roller coaster of sugar and caffeine highs and lows that exaggerate one’s negative responses to one’s family. The Fathers say irascibility is given to us to fight sin and the devil. One should not act irascible about just getting up in the morning, or to one’s family in ordering one’s house, should they? I haven’t gone into my sugar sensitivity that amplifies the above struggle.

All this to say that to avoid too much insulin production by not eating sugar, starches, or drinking caffeine or alcohol can appeal somewhat to the visual aesthete because of the weight loss, but it is a Pyrrhic victory. Male attention and female praise or envy are similar to a sugar high – fleeting and shallow.

A more stable and ramped down, calmer mood can also be seen as aesthetic as it is a pleasant feeling, but also ascetic for it puts one more in harmony with God and others. But even that is pleasant. It is inseparably mutual. Maybe I can be committed to that.

 

turn, Baby, turn

by Andrea Elizabeth

I’m on page 305, the beginning of the section called, “The Seducer’s Diary” in Either/Or, and Kierkegaard is describing how the poetic process combines reflection and, I’m reading between the lines, forgetting. You sort of forget the stark occurrence when you add the artistic touch. I’ll not go into if this on the whole is good or bad.

But it made me think of how artists aren’t bored. Embellishing is entertaining, as is making something new. Maybe some do this to stop being bored. Now if God were bored and then created, that would make him bound by time. Bored before creating, not bored while creating, then he either keeps creating, as in new situations for us to react to, or just watches us, with or without surprise. But since he does not exist in time, and knows no deficiency, then he was not bored when he created. Neither was he perpetually creating, but it may be part of a similar movement of perpetual kenosis. An overflow of his nature.

Artists do have tedious aspects of their craft, however, such as preparing the canvas, cleaning the brushes, opening and squeezing the paints on the palette, etc. What they seek is to get into “the zone” which is the closest we come to losing track of time. It is an ever moving rest.

But it is different than their product. The zone is sort of the aftereffect of getting the gears turning. It is a coasting speed. But the spectator is more interested in the new and exciting. He needs stimulation to get his gears turning. He’s interested in the unexpected, unusual and surprising. He has trouble with mundane repetition. Coasting is really only appreciated after one’s gears are already whirring. If one is in a non-moving, resting state, immediately rolling down a hill becomes a shocking, unbalanced, traumatic experience, which may be entertaining to a spectator, but not to the one experiencing it. So, the key must be to stay in the controlled, coasting state where repetition isn’t boring. One’s gears must need to be kept going fast. I think this is done by prayer. If one is praying with grace, he can endure the boring parts of life. He doesn’t have to find shocking, stimulating things to get his wheels turning.

Not that one can’t experience doldrums while praying. But if he’s addicted to externally stimulating things, he wont push through those. Should his motivation be eventual reward of bright lights, levitation, clairvoyance and bi-location? In a pinch, maybe, but love is better.

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