Words

Life

Category: Others

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.

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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.

dogmatism

by Andrea Elizabeth

For the past 2.5 years I have been sort of forced to change my MO regarding the truth. Before it was imperitive to me for those in my innermost circle to abide by the truth as defined by the Church. If they didn’t, then they were relegated to the outer rings. Not sharing common tenants of faith left me little to talk about once it became clear that they weren’t going to budge towards what the Church says, provided I had it right, which position I hope my study has yielded.

2.5 years ago one of my inner circle began to get closer to people who did not ascribe to all the teachings of the Church and began to investigate their claims with an open mind, and began to wonder if it was that bad to be a little off, and weren’t Orthodox also maybe off on some things? Giving someone the space to be wrong if very difficult for me. It is also difficult for me to not be in confrontational lecture mode with those in my innermost circle, especially if I feel responsible for them, which I especially do if they are my children and not completely self-sufficient yet. So since then I have been slowly stretching what I can allow in my inner circle, forced by the unavoidable fact that one can’t control what others believe, especially other adults, and maybe not even children in that they will doubt things later and may change their mind, even if it was true and right. With this comes self-doubt about my previous mode. Was I too controlling, too closed minded, too harsh?

I am aware that pendulums often swing the opposite way. While I still believe the teachings of the Church are true, now I’m wondering how important is it to believe the right things? What about love? What about right behavior? Before I thought these things were only valid if it was a package deal, and if one had to chose, Orthodox belief is most important. But what if morality trumps correct belief? And which morals are most important? Feeding the poor? Forgiving the worst sinners? And how much error in belief and/or actions can be corrected after death?

But someone’s got to stand up for the truth! And be humbled by those of a different faith who aren’t convinced I know it and who may live it better anyway? The thing is I could be wrong about their virtue, and they could be wrong about my being wrong. While there are so many doubts, and even if I’ve been forced to quit lecturing in order not to drive people further away, the most important thing to me is still communion with the Orthodox Church. If we don’t share that, the main thing I feel is sadness. I can appreciate many other things, like a nice conversation, but they all fall short.

Pronouns

by Andrea Elizabeth

Are there just 2 choices, one right and one wrong? You or me, left or right? This may be the perception. It is more difficult to consider multiple valid options, such as up, down, front and back, with right and left, so maybe that’s why we don’t. Does that mean Hegel was lazy? Or narcissistic?

Is reality one, as Hegel suggests – a single synthesis of me and the other,

or is it one in that it is the relationship between me and the other,

or just me,

or just the other,

or is it dual as the other and how it changed me,

or multiple as all the independent others, including me,

or all the instances of relationships between each of the others, also allowing for independence and exclusiveness,

or all the relationships being mutually dependent,

or all independent beings, with their relationships being another entity, and is the nature of the independent being changed by the relationship(s)?

The above imply that reality is equal to one’s consciousness of it. Reality can also be viewed as an ontologically unchangeable thing regardless of one’s consciousness of it. But one has to leave oneself behind, as Carly learns in “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain”, to perceive this ontology that exists whether I realize it or not. 

Or is there room to believe that one’s consciousness of things also changes reality such that reality includes the dynamic of enlightenment. Enlightenment and ignorance change things. This is a common theme in literature. Pride and Prejudice is all about how ignorance leads to a set of actions that make a certain reality, and enlightenment leads to another set for a different reality. Both experienced and actualized. Ignorance and misunderstanding lead to the distance between good people with the union of not so good people, and enlightenment leads to the union of the good people. This leads to the belief  that good as a reality, is obtained through the quest for truth, which seems to be who has good character and who has bad so that I know who to unite myself to. Therefore the goal of the knowledge of reality is relationship. This is not exactly dualistic, but interpretation through a sliding scale of the worst, worse, bad, good, better and best. Dualism can still be noted in that there are still two ingredients, the good, which is to be united to, and the bad, which is to be avoided as much as possible.

Does the amount of enlightenment and the nature of the relationship change the nature of the individual? My understanding of human nature through what I’ve studied in Orthodox teaching, is that it is one and unchangeable. But a person’s participation with true humanity is on a sliding scale. It is negatively affected by sin and unconsciousness. Is a person less human who is of bad character and unconscious of goodness? I don’t think they are less in that they become something else, but I think they are smaller, as when Lewis’ Tragedian in The Great Divorce gets bigger and the man gets smaller the more he listens to him and accepts him. The man doesn’t become the Tragedian, he just disappears.

So if one person disappears, how are others affected? Is it an independent occurrence, or do the ones he is related to suffer as well? Or is it just the relationship as a separate entity that suffers? And are our multiple relationships with things compartmentalized within ourselves? I lean towards domino effects, so that one’s relationship with a small person affects one’s other relationships, but do they affect you as a person other than your perceptions and therefore future decisions? They probably do contribute to one’s personal size, or attainment of humanity. One has to decide to get caught up in the other’s dysfunction, or reject it, and how it is allowed to affect one’s view of others. This implies one needs to be more conscious of reality. One needs to be enlightened to become more human.

So is the enlightened person only concerned with the other, regardless of consciousness of relationship or of how the relationship affects him personally? The enlighten person should read his, or his actions’, affect on the other person. That is, the other person’s relationship with him. Perhaps how one is affected by another person or their actions is dependent on how big or small they are. Impassibility entails being unaffected. Loving indiscriminately. But there is the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved. There are those he considered his friends. Maybe this was his human nature. But Enoch walked with God and was no more. And Moses and David were more intimate with Him. Their relationships were results of their character, their bigness.

How conscious of ones self should one be? Carly, in “You’re So Vain”, chides you for thinking the song is about you, but isn’t it also about her? Is it ok to have it be about yourself (Narcissism), but not think that others’ songs are about you? In a certain introduction to the Psalms, in these songs, it is ok to think they are about you, sins (not other people as enemies), and Christ (who I’ll add, includes the least of the brethren). Multiple.

degrees of sociopathy

by Andrea Elizabeth

I can sort of see the appeal of imitating Dark Knight’s Joker. You never find out why he was as messed up as he was since he kept changing his story about childhood abuses, but something bad must have happened to him, at least spiritually. It doesn’t really matter, however, and in that is the appeal. He learned not to let anything matter. If you care about something, you’ll get hurt. It feels better not to care. But Joker, like his recent imitator, was smart and industrious. That level of energy and know-how makes not caring more dangerous. Depressed people are apathetic too, but they don’t have the energy to do anything about it. Sociopaths and depressed people are probably both angry. Psychologists try to understand the anger and point it at someone responsible, usually parents. This is supposed to protect the new set of people that the anger has been projected on. But finding a cause doesn’t really help, unless the cause is still actively causing, in which case protection is called for. But once the damage is done, what is the depressed or sociopathic person supposed to do? Get put on drugs to numb the pain? Act out their adrenalin induced aggression more positively? Prison and asylum inmates knitting or making license plates or picking up roadside trash comes to mind. Some turn to God. But they’ll always be damaged, I’ve come to believe. Maybe everyone’s just as damaged, but nobody’s aware of it. That may be sociopathic of me to think.

One of the victims was a 6 year old girl whose badly wounded mother calls for her when she becomes conscious. That made me cry, then I thought, why was a 6 year old at a midnight screening of Dark Knight Rises?

Another was a firefighter, Gulf war veteran, father of two children, but estranged from his wife. He died heroically sheltering others from the bullets, but why is he estranged from his wife?

There’s already talk of the death penalty for the shooter. I used to believe in that, but now it seems vengeful, though of course he can’t be free to do this anymore. There’s really no good solution when things have gotten this bad. It creeps me out to think that Charles Manson is still being fed and no doubt still messing with people’s minds. I think those type of people (there, I’ve made some sort of distinction) should be given a few vegetable seeds, a 10’x10′ fenced off plot of land where it rains (sounds to merciful but they need a chance or it’s murder), and a piece of tarp, or maybe just bean stalk seeds, for shelter, and let them survive by themselves if they want to go to the trouble.

Back to being

by Andrea Elizabeth

2/3 through Bleak House and I spoiled it by watching the miniseries. 2/3 through The Hunger Games books, a little after starting the third, and I got tired of Katniss’ attitude as well as how important she was to the two factions. Fiction started seeming too presumptuous and non fiction too dry. Cross stitching is still king.

I don’t know what got in me yesterday, however, when I picked up a Christmas present from George and found myself getting into the language of, brace yourself, A Eucharistic Ontology: Maximus the Confessor’s Eschatological Ontology of Being as Dialogical Reciprocity by Fr. Nicholas Loudovikos. Sounds right to me. The first seven pages are definitions of these terms, and how close to then how far from the truth modern philosophers like Heideger, Derrida, and Levinas came.

Here’s my take on the truth: instead of their Buddhist hyper negation of self and our ability to know the other, we should simultaneously say “I know you, I don’t know you”. This acknowledges that beings actively seek to reveal themselves and that we have a capacity to understand while being sadly and blindly limited in our understanding.

So why keep reading? Because it reminds me to open myself and seek. The challenging language makes it seem like the truth is richer and deeper somehow. It makes me want to work harder to discover “the association of eschatology with the doctrine of the uncreated logoi of beings that forms the Maximian ontology.” (page 4)

Iconoclasm

by Andrea Elizabeth

After reading the part in The Deerslayer, the first of The Leatherstocking Tales by James, Fenimore Cooper, where Deerslayer comes across an ornate chess piece in the image of an elephant, I am rethinking idolatry. Not understanding it’s use as a chess piece, Deerslayer at first thinks it’s a graven image and an idol and thus should be disposed of. Even after he understands that it is part of a game, and thus justified (not sure how that makes a difference with his logic) he does not believe it should be given to the Indians who would make an idol of it. Indeed, his faithful Indian companion, Chingachgook, is quite captivated and enraptured by it.

I understand that things are to come after God in our hearts. And I understand that the purest Saints were never attached to things, and in extremely pious cases, rejected even their mother’s milk for Communion. They were unusually attracted to God alone (setting aside the different context in which the Protestants put these two words). In most cases, however, people form attachments to things that either end up breaking their hearts, or they grow out of, or sadly don’t get past while their appetite for it increases.

My current inclination is that idol smashing can be too harshly done. Burning books, which is criticized in this story, though to me the scenario was similar; dynamiting statues; and defacing icons seem heartbreaking instead of relationship to God building. Protestants point to Old Testament examples, but like killing God’s enemies, this can be too easily and simplistically applied. I think people’s bonding to these things should be seen as immature attachments, like to a baby’s security blanket, and not so much as letting evil influences have their way, though I wont totally discount that. I believe these objects should be gently replaced, but in the case of icons, they are part of the replacement, given the proper context, which was needed and amended in the 8th Century.

Weaning too soon and too harshly wounds the person and can cause them to put up walls against the God they are supposed to believe loves them and has a better way. I believe this happened with the American Indians in the lower 48. Canada and Alaska have different stories, and in Alaska’s case, I believe that it is because their fragile hearts were more respected by the Orthodox missionaries.

Deerslayer pt 1

by Andrea Elizabeth

We were able to finish the first half of The Deerslayer in the car yesterday. I am enjoying Cooper’s philosophical approach to race issues, which is learned through conversation between people with various points of view. It is also very nice to hear him describe the American landscape before it was all cut down. His description of mental infirmity seems pretty insightful too. Yet there is the English tendency to compartmentalize and categorize everything. Before modernism, people though they could gain complete understanding by enough study. While this seems arrogant to us now, I think it is right to take a stand on things. Bullying others into assuming that same stance is another issue. Burying it in a good story is more polite.

J-O-Y, J-O-Y, this is what it means, Jesus first, yourself last, and others in-between – a song from 3rd grade private school

by Andrea Elizabeth

Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband reminds me of a few things. One is how I used to admire self-absorbed people like Cher and Barbra Streisand. Lord Goring proposes, “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” In contrast, maybe it was a facebook commenter who said recently, “people who find themselves interesting are usually boring to others,” and vice versa. I haven’t really found that to be true in the past, but their self-absorbed moments are beginning to irritate me at least. Still, ambivalent me has also loved this quote from Joe Vs. the Volcano, “I have no interest in myself. I think about myself, I get bored out of my mind.”

One is supposed to find onesself, as it were, in relation to others. Sometimes though I think one has to reset how one relates to others. What if one has a messiah complex and thinks she can fix everyone’s problems? What if one has a chronic need for approval and affirmation? During this process of resetting oneself, I think one could possibly decide to view herself sort of apophatically. She could step back and be quiet with others. She may observe that others who have chronic needs for approval and affirmation may suffer from a sense of deprivation in their past and mourn with them as a co-sufferer. She has to stop herself from adopting the person though. This can lead to enmeshment and self-absorbed co-dependence. It also involves the blame-game instead of quiet intercession. Elder Zachariah has advocated a much more passive role in other people’s dysfunction. He advocates no intervention besides intercessory prayer, which he ironically has verbalized to people who he thinks confront too much. I tend to think people, particularly one’s children, need a little more interaction than that, but I am trying to learn to give even them more space.

The one who is perfect in love and has reached the summit of detachment knows no distinction between one’s own and another’s, between faithful and unfaithful, between slave and freeman, or indeed between male and female. But…having risen above the tyranny of the passions and looking to the one nature of men he regards all equally and is equally disposed toward all. For in him there is neither Greek nor Jew, neither male nor female, neither slave nor freeman, but Christ is everything and in everything. – St. Maximus the Confessor

The Rangers, Indians, animals and women

by Andrea Elizabeth

‘He [H.L. Mencken] … conducted an epistolary debate on individualism with a socialist acquaintance that eventually appeared in book form as Men versus the ManMen versus the Man shows how his political thinking had solidified — hardened, really. The law of the survival of the fittest, he declares, is “immutable,” thus making socialism an absurdity; human progress is the product of the will to power, and all social arrangements failing to take this fact into account are doomed to failure; inequality is natural, even desirable, both in and of itself and as an alternative to mob rule; the world exists to be run by “the first-caste man.” ‘(quote in this very interesting, though sometimes disturbing, article by John Derbyshire. H/T facebook friend)

My newly awakened sense of ‘go get ’em’ in this World Series bid is leading me back to my individualistic political mindset. By the way, it is interesting to me that the article links individualism with nationalism, which is a group identity. I disagree with the point made about inequality, but see how one must accept a certain version of it to promote individualism. We do not all have the same abilities. My view on education has been that everyone can learn. I have not thought that much about can everyone think. I think my opinion about this comes largely from having a brother who was born with some brain damage. In many ways I think he was put in a category and not challenged enough. I think he could have excelled more than he did but for the “tyranny of low expectations” (G.W. Bush). I sense that tyranny in some places of the article.

On the other hand, for two of our six children it seems that most subjects come easier and more naturally to them than the other four, though of course they all excel in their own ways. The article does give a nod to people whose strengths do not match the current demand, and that this demand may change in time. For those two sons, however, it seems they have less blocks to learning. The wheels seem more greased. I think that everyone’s mind has a capacity to explore an infinite variety of subjects to an infinite degree, and some people’s bodies let them go further than others (because of the fall) in either sense. Inheritance (instead of “nature”), nurture, and will contribute to which limitations are placed on us. But we are not made to be limited. Our wills (still possibly shaped by inheritance and nurture) will keep us individuals though, even if all limitations are someday removed.

So here we are with varying strengths in varying areas. What about nationalism, which I’ll use as an affiliation with a group, and how we treat those “weaker”? Socialism seeks to even the playing field, which to some extent is the accepted thing to do nowadays. There are even new rules that keep rich baseball teams (Yankees) from buying all the best players. I don’t mind this, but what I mind more is that teams with a city’s name on them don’t have players from that area. But that’s not too irritating because I believe in adoption.

I also like the idea of the strong being able to see how far they can go. But that leads to the Yankees going to the World Series every year, monopolies, slave labor, genocide, extinction of animals and ancient trees, and women wearing burkas. Ideally strong people will be good sports and nice Christians and consider not only can we, but should we. Historically laws have to make this happen.

Back to the Rangers. On one hand I don’t like the Giants’ intimidating beards, or San Francisco’s non-Bible belt behaviors. On the other hand, I don’t want them to adopt our behaviors just to even the playing field. May the best team win, whatever that means.