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Category: idealism

happiness, idealism and death

by Andrea Elizabeth

I deleted half a post on my other blog, which I wrote during post-epic trip blues while dealing with several times that “I died that day”, as the Princess Bride said. It was also about how I’ve made a sort of peace with “get[ting] used to disappointment”, as Wesley said. And about how I’m not a saint because I don’t have lively joy, but have settled for peace. One reason is that to be joyful is to submit to the belief that those bad times were necessarily that way and for the greater good. To be bitter and angry is the other extreme where you hate God and life for cheating you out of what should have been yours. For me, to have peace is to recognize that things have gone wrong, but will be made right in heaven, and probably not on earth. Joy would be if they were right/perfect right now.

Therefore Saints are happy with the future/death and don’t mind that the present isn’t that way yet, because they are not passionately attached to it. I still mind, but I’m almost done with my temper tantrum.

Idealism is being deluded that things are right right now, but at least they believe in things being right.

Some people are happy with things being wrong. They are the, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, “you’re only human”, “you only live once”, “I’ll enable your sin if you enable mine”, “things are exactly as God originally intended” type people.

I’m more happy in nature where things are righter than than they are amongst men, which is probably because of me, so I still have some purging to do.

Why do you increase your bonds? Take hold of your life before your light grows dark and you seek help and do not find it. This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.

– St. Isaac the Syrian

2— Constructing a Woman’s Speech: Words and Images: “Miss Thompson” (1921), Rain (1921), Sadie Thompson (1928)

by Andrea Elizabeth

(cont from here) I’m halfway through Chapter 2 in Amy Lawrence’s Echo and Narcissus. In this chapter she gets to the meat of Maugham’s story, and also provides a plot and character summary. Victorian influences survive as deep motivations.

*spoiler* “The only scene always left unrepresented is the final one between Sadie and Davidson. This is both the climax of the story and the ultimate taboo, but in the play it is displaced by a supposedly “greater” event—Sadie’s acceptance of O’Hara’s marriage proposal. Sadie and Davidson remain structured as a series of oppositions based on class and gender: Davidson as authority (religious, military, political), and as a man with physical and vocal superiority. Sadie is sub-working-class, “vulgar,” without political power, exploited and female. Davidson’s views on sex are puritanical (the conversion of sexual energy into work results in profit), the supposed opposite of Sadie’s, who exploits sex for direct access to cash, exposing the work ethic as an exchange of sex for money. Sadie’s and Davidson’s names are virtual inversions of each other, the initials of which indicate their positions as representatives of the Marcusian bipolar opposites, eros and thanatos, or Sex and Death (the sexual woman and the puritanical minister, the prostitute and the suicide). Or as Barthes might have it, “S/D.” O’Hara is at every point inserted as the middle ground between their antithetical positions. It is through O’Hara that Sadie is reconciled to men and middle-class monogamy.”

The association of chastity and giving into temptation with death is an interesting one. Davidson had been coercing her into facing jail, which is like death. He initially convinced her, and that is when she became “zombie-like”, but peaceful. O’Hara’s marriage option is a compromise, putting sex in its proper context. But as Lawrence describes, it is too tidy a resolution to something of a fight to the death where there is no middle ground. I have read accounts of monastics who achieve so much joy and fulfillment in their relationship to God alone, that this type of chastity does seem like a higher life, and not death. But one must die to self to achieve it.

Another point she addresses is heteroglossia, or the embodiment and speaking of different points of view. Lawrence seems to dismiss Hegelian synthesis in favor of maintaining diversity. The neutral character, Dr. Macphail, eventually has to take sides, but then bounces back to the other. She posits that O’Hara seems a too convenient fix for the tension.

An author and an actor achieve distance between clear points of view that are not representative of their own. Do they synthesize them? If not, how is peace achieved? Don’t people have to take a stand? Willful ignorance is one way to handle it, which Macphail initially employs. And this may be advisable for a time because who can know another’s point of view unless they have walked in their shoes and tries to basically learn all about them? Is it even possible to ever know all about someone, or even ourselves? I think we must do our best to understand, and act on it, while recognizing there is always more to learn.

Ariel’s song

by Andrea Elizabeth

Kubla Khan had Xanadu, Coleridge had German idealism. Did they both have the truth? The truth of another country? Apparently Hegel was a German idealist, which brings us to the dialectic method. Wikipedia says

“The purpose of the dialectic method of reasoning is resolution of disagreement through rational discussion, and, ultimately, the search for truth.[5][6] One way to proceed—theSocratic method—is to show that a given hypothesis (with other admissions) leads to a contradiction; thus, forcing the withdrawal of the hypothesis as a candidate for truth (see reductio ad absurdum).

Another dialectical resolution of disagreement is by denying a presupposition of the contending thesis and antithesis; thereby, proceeding to sublation(transcendence) to synthesis, a third thesis.

It is also possible that the rejection of the participants’ presuppositions is resisted, which then might generate a second-order controversy.[7]

Fichtean Dialectics (Hegelian Dialectics) is based upon four concepts:

  1. Everything is transient and finite, existing in the medium of time.
  2. Everything is composed of contradictions (opposing forces).
  3. Gradual changes lead to crises, turning points when one force overcomes its opponent force (quantitative change leads to qualitative change).
  4. Change is helical (spiral), not circular (negation of the negation).[8]

The concept of dialectic existed in the philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus, who proposed that everything is in constant change, as a result of inner strife and opposition. Hence, the history of the dialectical method is the history of philosophy.”

Back to Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and Coleridge’s violently dialectical relationship to paradise (also from Wikipedia),

“Although the Tartars are barbarians from China, they are connected to ideas within the Judaeo Christian tradition, including the idea of Original Sin and Eden.[77] The account of Cublai Can in Purchas’s work, discussed in Coleridge’s Preface, connects the idea of paradise with luxury and sensual pleasure. The place was described in negative terms and seen as an inferior representation of paradise, and Coleridge’s ethical system did not connect pleasure with joy or the divine.

“… The narrator introduces a character he once dreamed about, an Abyssinian maid who sings of another land. She is a figure of imaginary power within the poem who can inspire within the narrator his own ability to craft poetry.[84] When she sings, she is able to inspire and mesmerise the poet by describing a false paradise.[75] The woman herself is similar to the way Coleridge describes Lewti in another poem he wrote around the same time Lewti. The connection between Lewti and the Abyssinian maid makes it possible that the maid was intended as a disguised version of Mary Evans, who appears as a love interest since Coleridge’s 1794 poem The Sigh. Evans, in the poems, appears as an object of sexual desire and a source of inspiration.[85] She is also similar to the later subject of many of Coleridge’s poems, Asra, based on Sara Hutchinson, whom Coleridge wanted but was not his wife and experienced opium induced dreams of being with her.[86]

The figure is related to Heliodurus‘s work, Aethiopian History with its description of “a young Lady, sitting upon a Rock, of so rare and perfect a Beauty, as one would have taken her for a Goddess, and though her present misery opprest her with extreamest grief, yet in the greatness of her afflection, they might easily perceive the greatness of her Courage: A Laurel crown’d her Head, an a Quiver in a Scarf hanged at her back”.[87] Her description in the poem is also related to Isis of Apuleius’s Metamorphoses, but Isis was a figure of redemption and the Abyssinian maid cries out for her demon-lover. She is similar to John Keats’s Indian woman in Endymion who is revealed to be the moon goddess, but in Kubla Khan she is also related to the sun and the sun as an image of divine truth.[88]

In addition to real life counterparts of the Abyssinian maid, Milton’s Paradise Lost describes Abyssinian kings keeping their children guarded at Mount Amara and a false paradise, which is echoed in Kubla Khan.”

It seems to me that Coleridge and Milton hate loving earthly, temporal, muse-inspired paradise. They can’t seem to get over it. I am wondering if there is a way that they are “fearing fear where there is no fear”. C.S. Lewis seemed to make peace with the Abyssinian maids in his Space Trilogy and The Great Divorce. Let them sing, I say.

Interpersonal relationships in Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky

by Andrea Elizabeth

Orthodox Interventions mentions Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky in its introductions about existentialistic experience. I complained about how the rest of the intros seemed to dismiss western work on interpersonal relationships with the traditional monastic God-focused source of homeostasis. Since they did mention these two authors, I would like to think for a minute about the personal life of Kierkegaard and the characters in Dostoevsky.

There is a funny but naughty characterization of Kierkegaards writings as the Regina Monologues. I do not point this out dismissively as I do think that not having a relationship can actually lead to intensive study about what one is missing instead of taking their supposedly successful experience for granted thinking they have arrived. I came to this observation after listening to a Catholic celibate priest talk surprisingly wisely about marriage. I thought, how does he know? Some might say he was idealist, but I think studying can give one a vision for how things are supposed to be when those closer to it can perhaps not see the forest for the trees, as it were. That said, Kierkegaard seems to have come to a bad end, almost like Edgar Allen Poe’s dying alone in a gutter. I think they needed more personal relating than they got. But would we have such great literature if they had? Suffering yeilds greatness, I suppose.

The world failed Dostoevsky too. His characters’ relationships are soooo tenuous. If you’re looking for a secure, happy ending, you will be disappointed. Shakespeare’s tragedies are different in that external forces are keeping worthy people apart. Dostoevsky’s characters implode on themselves. But Dostoevsky read Shakespeare, and I’ve heard Dickens. I saw somewhere that there is a legend that the two D’s met, but the exchange was brief and uneventful. Was their influence on each other? The Russians even though listening to the west seem to have kept their own identity and distinctions. It’s almost as if their glances to the west are sideways. I also read about how Russian romanticism is different than western, but I can’t remember exactly how – it’s not as faithful to the other. It’s almost inherently tragic in its nature. I’m going to let you down, but love me anyway if you want, or don’t. That sounds too cold, but I think the detachment is right. They are willing to suffer and to cause suffering.

And the world failed Dickens, but he thought he could fix it. His books are persuasive arguments to improve, and I’ve heard he helped. But I don’t think he saw how much more complex the problems would become once a certain kind of suffering – squalor – was corrected. Well maybe he did with Honoria Deadlock and Lady Haversham. I don’t get the impression he thought these two wealthy women’s lives would have necessarily been better if they’d gotten the relationships they wanted. He doesn’t really respect their subsequent ruin nor particularly blame the men or circumstances even if the women do.

Tim Burton I think has the answer in Corpse Bride. He resurrected the phoenix.

This world is not my home

by Andrea Elizabeth

“I’m just a passin’ through”, as the song goes.

I’ve been thinking (“a dangerous past time, ‘I know'”, as another song goes, [from Beauty and the Beast.]) about the relationship between matter and consciousness. Since I don’t really know the relationship, I’ll just list some observations in the order I remember or think of them.

Imagination and dreams are very compelling. Who can live without literature and now movies?

Stories draw from knowledge of material things.

Death separates us from material things. Resurrection will some day reunite us with an altered form of them.

Meanwhile, we are to strive for a healthy detachment from passions associated with material things. The attachment itself is at first immaterial, but it usually seeks a material consummation.

The Church consecrates material and immaterial things that we can properly attach to. Monastics commit to these being their only attachments. People in the world may attach to a broader number of things, which St. Paul says leads to inevitably being burdened by worldly cares.

Even monastics are encouraged to read stories, like those of Charles Dickens, which are mostly about people in the world. But since they are fiction, Dickens can achieve an immaterial relationship with them. Our relationships with immaterial concepts so depicted undoubtedly influence our relationships with material beings and things in our physical circle. If there is conflict between our conceptualized desires and our immediate circumstance, we seek escape from the latter. Perhaps this is not bad in itself. Perhaps our unfulfilled (meaning not yet materialized) desires are valid, and worthy of being dwelt upon in a desire for harmonic perfection of our inner and outer states. But we should stay open to the process required to bring about such harmony. Our circumstances, and our selves, are rough hewn rocks that require much chiseling. Actual escape is usually a premature burial of what could have been. But I will say that some stones are too unwieldy, and should be scrapped.

What happens if our culture, by becoming less human, makes it more difficult to achieve inner and outer harmony? Isolation occurs, but perhaps it always has. One is never alone who doesn’t seek to be, however.

I’m not dead yet

by Andrea Elizabeth

While I’m impressed with the Saint stories of their miraculous healings and the inability of their torturers to kill them the first or second time, I think I’d rather just get it over with. I guess it’s a better witness of the grace in their lives being stronger than evil powers, but in our culture of justice and revenge, it seems an incomplete victory. The heavenly kingdom must be different.

Want the moon? I’ll lasso it for you

by Andrea Elizabeth

When Obama effectively killed the space program, I was thinking it may be a temporary ending contingent on his 4 year term. Now that Newt is promising us the moon, the oddness of it makes it seem like we’ve lost the vision on a deeper level. Last night on Rock Center, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said that people are no longer talking about a hopeful future in our country in general, and that it is tied to the death of the space race. It does seem the two are related. “Why build a moon base” and “why go to Mars” seem more valid questions. Additionally, other futuristic technology such as rocket type cars, food replicators, and dome dwellings have gone by the wayside. Instead we are wanting to teleport ourselves into our handheld smartphones, disregarding the real world around us.

And can the real world compete? If we’ve lost our hope of improving it, and are stuck with very questionable results of our past efforts, what else is there to do? I say, ‘Get thee to a monastery.’

looking for space

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have been reminded by a couple of people this week that the Church has never really enjoyed a blissful earthly existence. Our greatest Saints are those who had their tongues cut out  by the Church and who died in exile. They never rejected the Church, however, even in the midst of personal persecution. These stories are common knowledge, but I think the common perception, at least in my case, is that these Saints endured in order to fix problems and to define the faith once and for all in the Seven Ecumenical Councils so that we can rest in their accomplishments. I think some of Orthodox propaganda perpetuates that myth, “Come and see the Church that Jesus built.” Yes the faith has been preserved and revealed in the Orthodox Church through their struggles, but when one enters, one does not find that all is accomplished. One still has to battle for one’s salvation and sadly, become disillusioned with the leaders. Even if one or two of them are Saints, that’s not impossible, one may have an idealistic view of what a Saint is. Some Saints are that because of one extraordinary act. The rest of their acts may have been less than ideal. I sometimes have the notion that Saints sinned when they were young, but that they got over it. Maybe some of them keep sinning. But I don’t feel qualified to declare new Saints anymore. The opposite outlook sees corruption everywhere. I think this is just as deluded. I don’t know how much should be put up with, but right now, I just need to back off of my expectations and let them go. Trying to justify them  isn’t working for me either. I just need some space to deal with reality.

Who do we say He is?

by Andrea Elizabeth

To explain my idea of Theology First, since teased by the Intro to GHD by Dr. Joseph Farrell, I propose that being made in the image of God makes the primacy of theology inevitable whether one is an atheist, pagan, or Christian (not going so far as to distinguish between the east and west at this point). I believe all try to live by What Would Jesus Do, and that unbelievers merely substitute another deity, an admired person, or his own ideal self, based on his ideas of a good person, in Christ’s place. An atheist is his own god who invents the universe as he sees fit.

Therefore a person’s understanding of God guides his pursuits in other disciplines. If he believes God is strict, he’s conservative. If he believes God is lovingly lenient, he’s liberal. If he believes sometimes and both, I guess he’s moderate.

There are a few more things I’d like to quote from the Introduction to God, History, and Dialectic (which can be read in its entirety here). (btw, I found the quoted text in my posts align better if zoomed in)

Theology — not philosophy, literature, geography, economics, politics, law, art,
music, or science — was and is the mainspring of our culture and history. It is that which
set it in motion, and maintained its cohesion and harmonious movement. When the
theological unity of Europe was fractured in that original break of 1014, the movement
became disjointed, with the Two Europes tied together like racers in a three-legged race,
tied together in the leg of a common history, but now with two “minds” and two different
sets of historical time operating. This Geistesgeschichte is therefore an unabashedly
theological work based upon traditional Eastern Orthodox dogmatics. But this should not
be taken to mean that it is merely about theology. It is rather about the consequences of
theology, both heretical and Orthodox, in all areas of culture: law, politics, constitutional
development, philosophy, and science. (p. 6. the unlocked version has different page numbers. This is probably around p. 12 in the sample.)

About the autonomy of culture within the Church, where God is truly first,

Orthodox Christian Tradition is its core essence, and because of that cultural autonomy, it is able to
transplant itself into a variety of vernaculars. It is able therefore to create in Russia a
nation whose origins and national culture do not depend on the simultaneous transmission
of Graeco-pagan culture in any sense, even in the sense of the transmission of that pagan
heritage that became typical of the Second Europe after Augustine and down to our own
day. (p. 8 )

I tend to view Church and then family culture as all important. I’m not sure how secular culture fits in exactly, (Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and such) but like I say, one’s view of God affects how one behaves in and responds to society.

And regarding if the hellenic god is the same as the Christian God,

Augustine the Hellenizer erected a system founded upon a continuity of theology with
Greek philosophy, a continuity of incalculable enormity: the identification of The One(to
en) of Greek philosophy with the One God and Father of Christian doctrine. That
marriage of Theology and Philosophy occurred not at some secondary level of doctrine,
but at the core, at the height, of all Christian belief, the doctrine of God Himself. So long
as this cohabitation went undetected and unchallenged, so long did its hidden
implications take root, grow, and eventually overwhelm and choke the Christian
component. Our current moral and spiritual crisis is the result of that marriage, and will
not be resolved until the churches which persist in it, beginning with Rome, repent and
recant the error. For Augustine saw discontinuity with that Graeco-pagan world, but the
theologians, philosophers, and humanists who came after him and who were the heirs of
his system, came increasingly to see continuity. (p. 9 out of 10)

I have had a softer, more from Mars Hill, view of this in that I’ve thought that pre-Christian ideas about God were less detailed and less accurate, but that they were the best ignorant people could do, short of the revelation of Christ. He may even have given them a clue, being their Father too. However, we are created for his revelation and communion, so one should not minimize the distinction between those who have properly entered into Christ through the Church, His Body, and those who have not. Nor about who people rightly or wrongly say Christ is.

Tangled and Grey Gardens

by Andrea Elizabeth

Continuing with meaning and doors. Tangled is worthwhile, imo. It is probably the most Disney World of all the movies, but there was insightful character portrayal of “mother seduction” mixed with undermining (which I read about after watching Grey Gardens. Here’s another article on it. btw not for children.) that can lead to daughters developing Borderline Personality Disorder, or to at least have the angst which is so well portrayed in Tangled. Some may also say it’s a critique of over-protection or even homeschooling. Not too long ago I would have gotten defensive over the homeschooling part, but I think the problems in the relationship have more to do with mother-seduction and undermining and would happen whether the child went to public school or not. Edie Beale (Grey Gardens) went to school, except for the year or two she was kept at home. One would have to vilify cloistering in general to make that claim, which I think is too simplistic. See St. Macrina and her mother for a more positive example. Over-vilification of the outside world is also the problem, which leads me to the doors.

There was a symbolic scene in Rapunzel’s tower where she paints over the only religious symbol in her room. What she replaced it with was a worthy symbol of human communion, but the message is that true human love is the only thing you can count on, not God. Additionally, there is also a message that scary people in bars, the other doors, are the true saviors. I can’t help but think that is just wishful thinking. I remember in my rebellious years thinking that the “lower sort” were more real and true than Christians, but they turned out to bite me too. You really can’t put your faith in a type of person. I almost said, ‘don’t trust in princes or the sons of men’, and that is true, but I trust and need George so I can’t really make a blanket, unqualified statement like that.