Category: asceticism

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.

by Andrea Elizabeth

“There is nothing worse than a monk who does not consistently do his spiritual tasks. The people in the world love present life, and by partaking in its pleasures, they deceive themselves and enjoy it. The ones who deny worldly life and its pleasures for the sake of spiritual life, experience true joy and divine pleasures which cannot be compared to anything.

However, those monks, who left the world for the sake of spiritual life – for which they give their monastic vows – and neglect their spiritual tasks, are the most miserable people. For they do not enjoy any worldly pleasures, and even if they desire them, it hurts their consciousness as they go against their promises. If by any chance, their disposition is inclined towards worldly pleasures and finally they indulge in them, they cannot even feel the fake happiness like the rest of the people, as their conscience does not permit them to do so. Since they d not do their spiritual work, they cannot experience spiritual satisfaction either. As a result, they live a terrible life, unable to feel either the joy of worldly pleasures like the people of the world, or experience spiritual fulfillment like the spiritual monks.” Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, pg. 140.

sick child-sitting on Sunday morning

by Andrea Elizabeth

I forgot how much I missed Kripke’s storytelling after he left Supernatural after season 5. Revolution combines old time westerns with Indiana Jones and the complexities of Lost, seeing as J.J. Abrams is also contributing. It’s fun to see some of the Lost actors again, too.

My only conceptual gripe – ok I wasn’t going to but I’ll also lament the survivalist female tanktop wardrobe, the boys can always find nice, loose Tshirts – is that electricity is the only goal because that will give us our digital pictures of our kids, keep bad guys contained, and give us access to life-saving medicine.

The reason survivalist shows are so interesting is that people are forced to dig deeper into themselves and evaluate what’s important. This is why electronics are not allowed on spiritual retreats. So I’m not sure that the ratio of good guys to bad would be that disproportionate without electricity. Gunpowder, which is heavily controlled in this show, is a more interesting and pivotal ingredient to me. At first the Indiana/Tommy Lee Jones guy didn’t have any and that was a much more aesthetically pleasing sword fight than those after he got a gun. Shooting someone somehow provides an emotional catharsis of revenge and closure. But stabbing someone is so much harder to do that it costs the killer too much to provide relief. He or she has to struggle more to get close, and then feel the resistance of the flesh, which we are much more averse to. Bad guys don’t care, but again, I’m not convinced that harsh conditions would breed 90% bad guys.

Do “third world” countries have 90% bad guys? Civilized countries didn’t have electricity till 125ish years ago either. Armies/police are what kept law and order. I wonder if an evolved society could do without either. That’s probably not possible. Even The Village had its threats of monsters to keep everyone behaving, and that didn’t work so well either.

It’s all about lust of power. Even babies and women exert power by crying or by being cute. And nice people want the power of making others happy. This isn’t totally depraved, however. It is good to relieve pain. But this can’t be a blind goal. Sometimes pain is necessary, of course.

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.


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