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Category: Romantic Literature

Why women don’t like Kierkegaard

by Andrea Elizabeth

Inspired by yesterday’s article, this morning I again, after a long hiatus, picked up Either/Or Part II. Part I was from the point of view of the aesthete, and Part II is from the point of view of the ethicist. Aesthetics by nature are more interesting than ethics. Do is more interesting than don’t. Do opens the realms of possibilities, don’t closes the door. This is probably why Part I is a lot thicker than Part II. I think I must have quit reading after this: “but there is one thing for which I thank God with my whole soul, and that is that she is the only I have ever loved, the first, and there is one thing for which I pray to God with my whole heart, that he will give me the strength never to want o love any other.” (page 9)

To all who find themselves in this ideal arrangement, good for you. Preach on against those of us who did not. Club us over the head for our instability, recklessness, waywardness, dangerousness, immorality, and deservedness of being shunned. There, that was a self-indulgent pity party.

The third reason I’ve put this book at arms’ length is that Kierkegaard was never married. He courted Regina for four years, finally proposed, then dropped her immediately after she accepted. How can he preach about marriage?

But, he is a complicated fellow and deserves more query. Maybe he’s chastising himself as the aesthete? Maybe Part I is his loving himself and Part II is his hating himself? If that’s so, I can be more sympathetic. But this goal, “But now to the subject. There are two things that I must regard as my particular task: to show the esthetic meaning of marriage and to show how the esthetic in it may be retained despite life’s numerous hindrances.” (page 8) Have your cake and eat it too? Sounds like a women’s magazine cover article on keeping your marriage sparkly. So did he break off his own engagement because he didn’t think the aesthetic immediacy of attraction could really be retained? Was this next part himself?:

“You, however, actually live by plundering; unnoticed, you creep up on people, steal from them their happy moment, their most beautiful moment, stick this shadow picture in your pocket as the tall man did in Schlemiel and take it out whenever you wish. You no doubt say that those involved lose nothing by this, that often they themselves perhaps do not know which is their most beautiful moment. You believe that they should rather be indebted to you , because with your study of lighting, which magic formulas, you permitted them to stand forth transfigured in the supernatural amplitude of the rare moments…. If one dared to hope that the energy that kindles you in such moments could take shape in you, distribute itself coherently over your life, well, then something great would certainly come of you , for you yourself are transfigured in such moments.” (page 10-11)

My current theory is that Kierkegaard did try to sustain the transfigured energy – but he chose to do it through philosophical writing, not marriage. I don’t think he liked the physical as much as the intellectual, thus his decision not to marry her, but to devote himself to his work. But he did have an emotional bond to her, which he found that he could sustain without marriage. He believed in constant transfiguration, and for a while had the patience for it. But eventually he fulfilled this prophecy, “you who once wrote to me that patience to bear life’s burdens must indeed be an extraordinary virtue, that you did not even have the patience to want to live. Your life disintegrates into nothing but interesting details like these.” And this is why he died so young after getting more and more negative. Why do the brightest lights die so young? I do like Kierkegaard.

 

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According to Ashley Madison, women are obsessed with passion

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just rewatched Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. It was hard to step outside of the storm and look critically at Jane’s emotional journey. What does pain make you deserve? Rochester thought it was pleasure and escape from banal people. He said he loved Jane’s purity. But was she? Leaving him because he was technically married, conveniently to a crazy cruel woman, is supposed to prove it. But her pride had been stoked by his untoward attention to her for being above banal. She said she was just like any other governess, but when Blanche comes to visit, she is obviously very jealous of their flirting because she thinks it is owed to her alone. She does not criticize his flirtatiousness, especially when directed at her. She later calls him on being deceitful about his wife, but he was deceitful to Blanche and herself as well.

This desire for his exclusive attention is stoked by her extreme loneliness. Mrs. Reed had hated her for being of a passionate nature. This nature did seem to set her apart. She was shunned because of it by everyone she had been entrusted to. She could not take being shunned by Rochester when he insisted she watch his attention being directed elsewhere. But why was romantic attention all that could ease, or if directed elsewhere, cause her pain?

I can’t find an icon I used to use as a profile picture elsewhere of a female Saint, I thought her name was Elizabeth, but not one of the famous ones. I think it was Russian. She is in the midst of a storm, clouds and her dress swirling about her, but in the corner is Christ and that is where her attention is directed. The Church gives examples of women with such a nature who went in seclusion because all the men they encountered were attracted to it. Jane loved St. John like a brother, but he desired her and would not consent to not loving/possessing her fully. She said it would kill her to live with him like that, so she follows Rochester’s voice across the stormy moors instead. I’ve heard Charlotte Bronte originally ended the story with Jane going to India with St. John as a brother. Who knows why it was changed, but it is dissatisfying. Sort of like how relieved you are in The African Queen when Katherine Hepburn doesn’t have to live with her brother anymore and finds Humphrey Bogart. Or when C.S. Lewis finds Joy after Malcolm. But Jane’s going to India as a sister does let her keep the pure reputation, instead of the convenience of the wife being mad, murderous and at last suicidal, which Rochester nobly tries to prevent. What if she had been sweet and innocent? Maybe Rochester wouldn’t have been so needy. Or maybe he would have anyway, because saintliness, in he or his wife, is hard to come by. I bet she would have had faults. But these are not excuses for where the heart goes. The heart goes places anyway. And no one wants to kill their heart. Some women, like St. Katherine, naturally and exclusively loved Jesus more than anyone.

The three eunuchs come to mind. Matthew 19:12 “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others–and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

what else is there?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Kierkegaard’s admiration of Scribe, who is a real playwright after all, is so cute. I’m not sure if he believes in this “in love” business. His description of it sounds like deluded, obsessive infatuation. On the woman’s part it is enabled by illusion, on the man’s by mystique. The woman can be easily drawn in by replicating her illusions, and the man upholds this illusion by not revealing his true nature.

When this is successful in the play, Kierkegaard’s conclusion is that since none of it is based on reality, that they are left with nothing, even though the right people got together. I see it more as providence protecting people from themselves. He works with what he has. Therefore it is good that people get together, even if for the wrong reasons. But what about when and if they find out? Should they despair? There must be a higher reality that can be sought after within the framework.

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.

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.

Roxane and Queen Victoria

by Andrea Elizabeth

Why would Roxane (from Cyrano de Bergerac) and Queen Victoria determine to be widows instead of nuns? And how widowy were they while being entertained by Cyrano and Mr. Brown? Are there people who really can’t be nuns, or were they deceived by imposing romantic notions that made God seem like an intruder?

Are alphas born?

by Andrea Elizabeth

My new thought on western romanticism, mostly born out here in posts on C.S. Lewis’s Allegory of Love, where it is claimed that courtly love began around 1100 a.d. (which seems timely with the schism between east and west, imo), is that it is very tied to alpha male and alpha female ism. I believe most people identify with lead characters in stories of dashing heroes who save beautiful princesses. Even if we do not believe ourselves to be as dashing and beautiful as the people in the stories, we probably hoped that we would be when we were children, and that hope may still be unhappily buried throughout life. I am thinking that this may be a western phenomenon.

In western chivalry, all spoils go to the victor who rules over the kingdom, from where he selects the most worthy lady to co-rule with him. Those who lose in this struggle either die or become meaningless servants, valued for their tributes only. Thus the appeal of western romanticism is to identify yourself as the victorious, special male or worthy, special female, even vicariously. I’m also thinking this plays into the American dream of individual home ownership. “A man’s home is his castle.” There’s really no room for equal community in this scheme. Even supporting American laborers are allowed some measure of this individual alpha identification after hours.

From what little I know of Russia and Russians, where Eastern Orthodoxy has been most largely played out, I do not get the same sense of order. It seems that things were mostly a free for all, even though strong men and women held sway. But it was not because they were the most romantically worthy. They best not go to sleep because anyone could take back from them at any time. Individual conquering men do not seem to have been held in the same savior role. Individually strong characteristics may push harder than others, but I don’t think the whole person was glorified in the same way.

This difference may affect how the east views spiritual fathers and elders. A western convert, or even a western influenced cradle Eastern Orthodox, may bring in the western romantic idea of a spiritual father being their alpha savior to whom they can pledge allegiance, and perhaps through whom they can become the alpha queen equivalent (don’t get too literal about gender here) in their own realm. This idea may need adjustment.

I believe the proper view of a spiritual father is that they can guide one on the path to becoming united to Christ through passing along the three fold path of salvation: purgation, illumination, and theosis. He is a guide who serves, not a romantic savior. I think this confusion also influences how we view veneration of the Saints. To view them as chivalric saviors is idolatry. To see them as guides to the proper worship in and belief about God is to see them as helpers. They should also identify with us as equally created fellow humans, not as special alpha people.

I think this unhealthy romanticism also influences how people, especially women and perhaps some men, see mentoring in general. It should not be about the personal association with an alpha male, it should be about guidance in the truth of how to be with God.

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.

Musical accompaniment to the delimma below

by Andrea Elizabeth

Handel’s “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale”

Part 2

Discernment Delimma after reading Chaucer’s “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale”

by Andrea Elizabeth

I would use a Pithless graph, but I can’t figure out how to draw on here. Picture four circles that overlap across and down, but not diagonally. Top left, Pleasure. Top right, Construction. Bottom left, Destruction. Bottom right, Pain. Where Pleasure and Construction overlap, Heaven or Prelest. Where Pleasure and Destruction overlap, Temptation. Where Destruction and Pain overlap, Hell or Prelest. Where Construction and Pain overlap, The Bitter Pill.