Words

Life

Category: Repentance

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.

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.

 

current thoughts on providence

by Andrea Elizabeth

It is an interesting question, how do free will and God’s providence and sovereignty co-exist?

My current thoughts are that God places highest priority on our free will. There are natural laws and other rewards that contribute to positive and negative reinforcement for the types of decisions we make and act upon. God’s number one will for all of us is that we will become one with him in theosis. Most people ambivalently want and don’t want this because there are hard steps to take to get to that blissful state. I am thinking that every step towards God that we agree to leads to a softer heart and often more difficult steps. Every step away, and indecision and procrastination are most often negative votes, contributes to a harder heart and often easier steps. Going down is easier than going up. One reason I admire athletes, is that they are not afraid of difficult, painful steps.

I guess I’ve already explained how God hardens people’s hearts, making them become vessels of wrath, which I believe are used to provide difficult steps for those seeking a tougher workout in order to have their hearts softened and thus conformed to God’s.

example: glutton, with either jealous malice or ignorance, offers (hopeful) ascetic rich food, who gets stronger by either saying no thank you, or more humble by either not wanting to rub it in the offerer’s face and eating a small amount with him, or yeilding to temptation and realizing his own weakness and dependence on God’s mercy, which will hopefully make him more resolved in the future when he realizes the emptiness of the temporary satisfaction. The glutton will become angry and resentful at the temporariness of the satisfaction and will escalate his efforts to maintain it by seeking more and more thrills in quantity and quality, which will make his heart harder and harder.

observer effect

by Andrea Elizabeth

They say observation causes phenomenal changes on the thing being observed. So even flies on the wall have a butterfly effect, as it were.

In quantum physics and in Schrodinger’s box, they say things exist in multiple places or states until they are observed. While classical people say the cat is either dead or not dead even before this is known, I will submit that things need to be known and that this has an effect on the thing waiting to be observed. Yes, when we travel to a “new” moon and find a “new” hill on it, the hill will show signs of age, but since it is now a mapped hill, it will exist in a different state.

But this is all in your mind. It is an observer-oriented paradigm, and not an ontologically independent philosophy.

No, it is a relational paradigm. No man is an island. Neither does one man exist only in the mind of another man. But one man’s existence is very much dependent on being known by another. If he is not known, he will exist in limbo, an unsteady state.

Let’s say that’s true. But doesn’t being known by an unstable person also introduce instability?

Yes it does. But surely closure is possible. This is why the nuns pray for those who died alone in a field, or fell off a cliff, or were lost at sea. Somehow this brings those poor wandering souls closure.

Does the closure depend on the stability of the nun?

Somewhat, but they guard against it by saying, “and for those who have asked us to pray for them, unworthy though we be.”

Then how can they bring closure, and an unstable person can’t?

Because they are doing it in obedience, humility, and in love. The unstable person is the murderer who seeks chaos. I saw a true cold case show about a man who murdered his ex-wife in front of his identically twin brother, who did not help her, and then hid her body. I believe her soul did not find rest until the twin, moved by thinking of how she looked at him for help before she died, finally confessed what happened, bringing closure to her look. Her brother in law went from unstable non-support to stabilizing in that moment. And his act had to be demonstrated, believed and acted upon by the detective who couldn’t let the case stay cold. Then she could rest in peace.

What a stitch can say

by Andrea Elizabeth

Today I made a wrong stitch that went through a right one so that it could not easily be unstitched nor untangled. One of the fibers of the right stitch was hopelessly entwined. Therefore I had to snip its little fibrous attachment instead of trying to find the exact path through which the wrong one had gone, which would most likely have made a permanent knot.

Here comes the deep thought of the day. When we are passionately attached to the wrong thing, we tend to think it is a major artery that has to be severed; that we will die like a conjoined twin who shares a single heart. But the passion isn’t a vital part of us. It is a foreign object that needs to be removed. Yes, we’ve grown an attachment to it, but it is just a little fiber that, even if too damaged to reattach, will lay back down next to the right thing, and live just as well.

What did Christ come to save us from?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Instead of focusing on salvation from God’s wrathful condemnation to hell, Orthodox focus more on being saved from sin and death. Not so much the punitive consequences of sin, but the existential reality of being separated from God. Repentance from sin prepares him room, but then we have to cultivate Christ’s presence to fill the space. Lord Jesus quickly come before something else does!

 

Color theory

by Andrea Elizabeth

I do not think that the solution to “race relations” is to be color blind, nor to ignore cultures of origin and just say everyone is American and only identified by their first name. There is name politics too, or else immigrating people wouldn’t have changed their last names. A lot of things have improved over the last 50 years, but there is still a lot of sensitivity, at the least.

I just noticed that in my last post I started out giving the two lead men first and last names, then the two women were identified by possible country of descent and hair color. The men’s heritage was evident in their last names, however. The “unblonde” lady’s name doesn’t help, she’s Carla Hall. The blonde lady’s name is Daphne Oz, ooo, that doesn’t help either. There is a fine line between stereotyping and recognizing tendencies. I don’t think that anyone should stick to their evaluations of tendencies and claim to know people without having an open mind about how everyone is different. Color isn’t exactly a universal, but it can be compared to one, and individuals are particulars. Both have meaning and play off of each other. And there is a difference between one who is blonde by nature, and one who is blonde by bottle. And even blondes by bottle vary. Are they trying to get more attention from men, or are they artists seeking expression, or did their hair get mousy and it is less distracting with their skin tones than other colors? I said Daphne was persnickety because the one time in a long time I watch the show, she mentioned how she likes to host Thanksgiving because she gets to pick the foods she likes, and she gets to keep the leftovers she likes. It’s all about what she likes. Now one can like certain colors more than others. One can like certain cultures more than others. These can be associated with each other. But having the going priority in life being what I like and what I don’t like is very selfish. And prejudiced. 

But racial sensitivity isn’t just about likes and even value judgments. There is also inherited relationship. There is history and hurt feelings. And it goes both ways. I feel judged as a white person for devaluing black people. A lot of it has to do with my inherited skin color and natural connotations with my history of deep southern descent, though I think my family was too poor to own slaves, but one set of grandparents did have “help”. 

I don’t know why exactly, but I have always been drawn to black people. I am a first generation Texan and one of my earliest memories is of watching a C.A.R.E commercial and wanting to go to Africa to help. This goal continued through young adulthood when I went to nursing school to go to Africa and feed “little brown babies”, as Ingrid Bergman says in Murder on the Orient Express. Yet, since I feel that they feel that I look down on them, I tend to be self-conscious about it and work harder than I should to be nice to them. It’s probably patronizing.

I have been happy to be friends with a handful of black women over the years in my predominantly white communities. Their color made an impression on me, but then after a while, it isn’t the loudest thing about them. But it continues to be interesting to me. Pardon me for staring. My ancestors are all typical UK, long time ago immigrants, except for my paternal grandfather whose parents both came from Germany a little before he was born. Germany isn’t that interesting to me, but I do like to go to Oktoberfest type restaurants. And Fahrvergnügen is a cool word. But that’s just selfish preference, and maybe some anti-Nazi carry-over prejudice.

I find it sad but fascinating that American black people are about 33% white, but their affiliation is usually black because it is such a dominant color. But substantially they are pretty European. I saw a documentary on it, where the black host discovered he’s partly Irish, and he goes to Ireland to a bar to sit with his peeps. The contrast is so striking between his appearance and his distant cousins’. It’s hard to get over to see sameness. But I look pretty hard for that too. Perhaps it’s the facial hair, and the thinner facial features.

And I wonder about inherited personality tendencies. I heard an American black man say that there are no bungee jumpers in Africa. Nor skydivers. That black people care more about their personal safety. Good for them! People point out western progress, which I am very critical of, compared to the mindset of “tribal” cultures. But why are Asians known for their “advances” in gunpowder and such, but their descendents, the American Indians, whose culture I am also very curious about, not?

In short, contrasting individuals to their communities is very interesting to me, and my fixation on it probably can be too invasive to some people. Please forgive me.

But color does matter. I have capillaries close to my skin and blush very easily. I think there are also psychological reasons. I know this tendency causes a reaction in other people, and that makes it more uncomfortable for me. I don’t expect them to ignore it, but I would like for them to try, not too hard or it gets worse!, to understand it.

Color matters. In the Church green is the color for the Holy Spirit, purple and black for repentance, red stands for resurrection, and gold for glory, which is another reason why people want to be blonde! As in all things, when one becomes Orthodox, they have to exchange their own individual, particular meanings for the Church’s universal ones.

Be ye perfect

by Andrea Elizabeth

Lately I’ve been wondering if God is a perfectionist. A perfectionist rejects and disdains imperfection. When a Protestant I believed He was. And that Jesus had to cloak our disgustingness with His robe of righteousness. I still felt dirty underneath.

An alternative is to believe our innate goodness, good intentions, or even our willingness to bear Him will make us attractive enough to win His favor. If Christ is so much better, well intentioned, and devoted, how can we be enough?

The homily Sunday was about not asking why God loves us, but how it is important to believe He does. If unworthiness doesn’t prevent it, is God blind? Or extremely condescending? But don’t we condescend to our children and pets because they are attractive to us? But enemies aren’t attractive, and loving them is the true test of Christianity. But aren’t our efforts to love them usually based on forced obedience? I don’t think God loves begrudgingly. If our sins make us enemies of God, do we have to get over feeling so lovable? That’s the opposite of self esteem. Yet He loves us freely. It still seems that we are to find our enemies lovable, or it wouldn’t be love. Love implies desire, not just detached servitude. Is it then a contradiction to say unworthy lovable-ness? Seems so to me. The pure see God in the unworthy somehow, and that’s how they love them. Is their unworthiness cloaked over? I don’t think so, I think their distinctness is part of the attraction. I think understanding why they are imperfect, if even that is accurately seen, helps make them lovable. But we are to strive for perfection and repent of all of our unrighteousness. Do we have to be completely successful? Believing so is motivating, fear of God and all, and I think safer.

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.

Three things that are giving me pause

by Andrea Elizabeth

to some extent.

1. A possibly unintended gesture. It regarded something being flipped over when I wasn’t expecting it. It was like a speed bump jerking me out of the moment. It could be interpreted as a teaching lesson for my tendency to be too flippant. “Oops” accompanied this gesture. It could be a sarcastic oops. It ended up making me think of how I don’t feel sufficiently penitent about my sins. My tears are usually about grieving over what has been done to me rather than what I have done. It’s not that I don’t take my sins seriously, but I don’t know how to contextualize them. I have a tendency to think that what I do wrong ruins everything. But I can’t go around being dysfunctionally paralyzed and act as if everything is always ruined. So I have to dismiss it and keep going anyway. This dismissive posture can seem flippant. Should I so easily let go of my sins with a casual, “oops”, when I dwell on the sins of others so seriously, attributing such gravity to them? I think that what they do ruins things too. Even though I act like I’ve dismissed my sins, the thought of them comes back to haunt me frequently. And I try to correct them. I just wish I was more grieved about my sins than others’ sins. Maybe I don’t trust that they are trying to correct theirs, thus not giving things a resurrectional chance to not be ruined anymore. But my slowness in correcting mine probably appears the same way.

2. Anger. Words against the passion of anger, as distinguished from the righteous indignation often mistaken for it, have come up in two places. This made me take my frequent feelings of frustration under consideration. The above sentence sounds flippant. I think I have been trivializing, cute-ifying and justifying my irritableness and quickness to pounce on things I don’t find tolerable. I need to pray for the fruits of the spirit.

3. Words better left unsaid. If a person has a sinful passion, such as anger or lust, sometimes expressing it leads to a chain of events that will lead to cleansing and healing. I tend to lean in this direction. I don’t think holding things in is healthy. But this tendency can also be self indulgent and hurt others. Confession is the proper venue for expressing it. But there is a process of refinement of expression and discernment that I think is a prelude to confession. Discernment is an advanced skill. I don’t trust that even by prayer that I can attain it on the spot before I say anything. I don’t know the rightness or beneficiality of anything I say, for that matter. I’m ambivalent about just about everything. Lord have mercy.