Words

Life

Category: Don Quixote

Is insanity better than despair?

by Andrea Elizabeth

I don’t know why The Next Three Days  only got 50% on Rotten Tomatoes unless the critics didn’t like the large gaps in the story telling that didn’t get filled in until after an unusually long time. I found it intriguing and trusted that I wouldn’t have to keep guessing the whole movie. Russel Crowe is good a playing smart, think outside the box, people. Consider this quote:

John Brennan (Crowe): So, the life in times of Don Quixote, what is it about?
Female College Student: That someone’s belief in virtue is more important than virtue itself?
John Brennan: Yes… that’s in the there. But what is it about? Could it be how rational thought destroys your soul? Could it be about the triumph of irrationality and the power that is in that? You know, we spend a lot of time trying to organize the world. We build clocks and calendars and we try to predict the weather. But what part of our life is truly under our control? What if we choose to exist purely in a reality of our own making? Does that render us insane? And if it does, isn’t that better than a life of despair?

The movie speaks more to belief than irrationality, unless some find them to be synonyms. Do you believe in the system and utter submission to it, or are we free to choose an alternate code to live by? And is it just men who are free, or are women free too?

the object of our affection

by Andrea Elizabeth

7. When the Christian poets, like St. John of Damascus, say,

Truly all things are vanity
Life is but a shadow and a dream…

They, by no means, think like a Buddhist nihilist. With their visionary spirit they contemplate the real and endless life of heaven, compared with our transitory sojourn on earth which is indeed like a passing shadow and a night’s dream. They call vanity all worldly knowledge, wealth and pleasure, by which carnal men try to attain truth and happiness.

9. [I did not skip 8] But this world cannot be an illusion, since its Creator is a true God. How could that which is false flow from the source of all truth, since it cannot be found in the source? The world may seem to be an illusion to him who seeks to find in this world what this world has not, and is not. Could one find the moon in the water just because it appeared to be there? (The Universe as Symbols and Signs, p. 20)

This (along with the comments) addresses my concerns from yesterday. I’m starting to see how its a matter of prioritizing the uncreated over the created. And this isn’t a taking turns kind of thing, but is more incarnational and simultaneous. We have to constantly be looking for God in created things, like the moon in the water. Seeking darkness in prayer is for the spiritually advanced as I believe it leaves our souls vulnerable to deceptive forces. The tangible Church, icons, and readable prayers safeguard us from these negative forces. They also show us the best use of created things. It seems that when St. Nikolai is talking about created things as symbols, he’s talking about nature rather than eventually immortal humans.

The next chapter, “Minerals as Symbols”, provides another example,

1. Stone symbolizes, first of all, Christ Himself. The prophets declared this even before the evangelists. The fourth kingdom, which King Nebuchadnezzar saw in a dream, as composed of iron and clay, was the Roman Empire. The stone, cut out without hands, broke that Empire as well as the other three into pieces, and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:35) This stone is the symbol of Christ, the founder of the new Kingdom of kingdoms, which shall stand forever. So beheld that great visionary, Daniel. (p.21)

And he goes on to describe in more detail the “Messiah, a stone of stumbling”, the Chief Cornerstone, the stone as Peter’s faith, gold as the symbol of truth, frankincense the symbol of obedience, and myrrh as the symbol of love. These remind me of the Jewish way of teaching rather than the abstract Greek way. However, the concepts represented by nature are more abstract. We have to make a decision it seems. What do I want, gold or truth? We have to hold the gold lightly to grasp the truth.

If I may interject a little Quixote (up to page 124), our knight errant is constantly seeing people and things as more glorified and lofty than they “really” are. I like his faith.

knights errant

by Andrea Elizabeth

After Don Quixote had satisfied his stomach, he picked up a handful of acorns, and, regarding them attentively, he began to speak these words.

“Fortunate the age and fortunate the times called golden by the ancients, and not because gold, which in this our age of iron is so highly esteemed, could be found then with no effort, but because those who lived in that time did not know the two words thine and mine. In that blessed age all things were owned in common; no one, for his daily sustenance, needed to do more than lift his hand and pluck it from the sturdy oaks that so liberally invited him to share their sweet and flavorsome fruit. The clear fountains and rushing rivers offered delicious, transparent waters in magnificent abundance. In the fissures of rocks and the hollows of trees diligent and clever bees established their colonies, freely offering to any hand the fertile harvest of their sweet labor.

N0ble cork trees, moved only by their own courtesy, shed the wide, light bark with which houses, supported on rough posts, were covered as a protection, but only against the rain that fell from heaven. In that time all was at peace, friendship, and harmony; the heavy curve of the plowshare had not yet dared to open or violate the merciful womb of our first mother, for she, without being forced, offered up, everywhere across her broad and fertile bosom, whatever would satisfy, sustain, and delight the children who then possessed her. In that time simple and beautiful shepherdesses could wander from valley to valley and hill to hill, their hair hanging loose or in braids, wearing only the clothes needed to modestly cover that which modesty demands, and has always demanded, be covered, and their adornments were not those used now, enveloping the one who wears them in the purple dyes of Tyre, and silk, martyrized in countless ways, but a few green burdock leaves and ivy vines entwined, and in these they perhaps looked as grand and elegant as our ladies of the court do now in the rare and strange designs which idle curiosity has taught them. In that time amorous concepts were recited from the soul simply and directly, in the same way and manner that the soul conceived them, without looking for artificial and devious words to enclose them. There was no fraud, deceit, or malice mixed in with honesty and truth. Justice stood on her own ground, and favor or interest did not dare disturb or offend her as they so often do now, defaming, confusing, and persecuting her. Arbitrary opinions formed outside the law had not yet found a place in the mind of the judge, for there was nothing to judge, and no one to be judged. Maidens in their modesty wandered, as I have said, wherever they wished, alone and mistresses of themselves, without fear that another’s boldness or lascivious intent would dishonor them, and if they fell it was through their own desire and will.

But now, in these our detestable times, no maiden is safe, even if she is hidden and enclosed in another labyrinth like the one in Crete; because even there, through chinks in the wall, or carried by the air itself, with the zealousness of accursed solicitation the amorous pestilence finds its way in and, despite all their seclusion, maidens are brought to ruin. It was for their protection, as time passed and wickedness spread, that the order of knights errant was instituted: to defend maidens, protect widows, and come to the aid of orphans and those in need. This is the order to which I belong, my brother goatherds, and I thank you for the kindness and hospitality you have shown me and my squire. For, although by natural law all men are obliged to favor knights errant, still, because I know that without knowing this obligation you welcomed me and treated me so generously, I wish, with all my goodwill, to thank you for yours.”

This long harangue – which could very easily have been omitted – was declaimed by our knight because the acorns served to him brought to mind the Golden Age, and with it the desire to make that foolish speech to the goatherds, who, stupefied and perplexed, listened without saying a word. (From the so far delightful Don Quixote, translated by Edith Grossman, p. 76-78)