Words

Life

Category: the fall

natural law and walking dead

by Andrea Elizabeth

If Walking Dead writers are influenced by Natural Law rather than Imposed or Charismatic Law, then they are working from a place of inner empathy for other people. The heroes of the story have three questions when meeting new people, Clear1)How many walkers have you killed? 2)How many people have you killed? 3)Why? If you haven’t killed walkers for not a good enough reason you are probably self-serving somehow. If you’ve killed people, you need to have a good reason so as to not also be self-serving. This is supposed to be self-evident morality.

But then there’s sex. Adultery is obviously bad because it values self over the person’s spouse. But what if the spouse is dead? Single people can copulate with anyone they want as attraction is natural. It doesn’t hurt anyone and can be seen to help the other. I don’t think people question this on their own. Sex, like food, is good. It’s easier to common sensically rationalize how over-eating is bad since it makes you fat and leads to heart disease, diabetes, unatractiveness, etc. STD’s and pregnancy used to be the argument against unbridled sex, but modern medicine has mitigated many of these effects. Sex is more like eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason why not. Just, Thus Saith the Lord. So, monogamous marital only relations seem to be more of an example of Imposed Law than Natural Law. That is why Walking Dead doesn’t have a problem with homosex or fornication.

I think this is why they killed off Hershel before they introduced the gay people. Hershel represented traditional imposed authoritarian Christianity, and did it well. But he was old and feeble, and that’s not young and vital, especially after he’s dead. So old is bad and new is good. His wisdom was valued, and he died a hero, but he is dead. And dead men have no authority. Unless there is a resurrection, and for Walking Dead, there is no resurrection because that isn’t exactly natural. So, it’s the Resurrection that gives Tradition its teeth. I don’t like the idea of legal laws regulating sexual morality mainly because I don’t want to give the police the right to monitor people’s bedroom and take them to jail if a private consensual of-age act is against the law. If the STD’s don’t get ’em, I guess I’m content with God dealing with it on judgment day. This is also why gay marriage shouldn’t be legal. If the state has the right to say what people can do in the bedroom, then the state can teach it to our children. These things should be taught by family and the Church, and the consequences left to God. Withholding Communion should be bad enough punishment in this life.

Give me liberty or give me death! Death and the Civil War 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

To get context for the Civil War, as slavery was in America almost from the beginning of the colonies, I then watched a reenactment of Patrick Henry giving his famous speech. In addition to comparing the British to slave masters, Henry explained their actions of disarming the colonists while arming themselves for war.

“Suddenly Henry stepped out into the aisle, bowed his head and held out his arms, pretending they were chained. This is what he said: Hear It Now - Patrick Henry “Our chains are forged—their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston. The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms.” Then Patrick Henry threw off the imaginary chains, stood up straight and cried out clearly, Hear It Now - Patrick Henry “Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle?… I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” (description from here)

My first thought is, how hypocritical! How can slave owners say it’s wrong to be enslaved!? That it’s better to die than be enslaved? And then use that as a means to motivate people to kill instead? But the black lady’s commentary at the end said that this speech had ramifications Henry never expected. Instead of unequalized people thinking he was a hypocrit, black people, Indians, and women felt empowered themselves to revolt against bad treatment.

But what I think Henry did was define what it meant in our country to die well. Dying well is discussed at length in the American Experience documentary, “Death and the Civil War”, that I recommended in my last post. When the deaths started mounting up, soldiers began thinking more about what it meant to die badly. It was bad to die alone in an open field and to be left there, which is what they saw happening.

Our country was founded on the notion that freedom is worth dying for. It’s not like the founding fathers didn’t realize that there was a discrepancy with their all men are created equal words, and their treatment of people of African and Native American descent.

“Although Washington personally opposed the institution of slavery after the American Revolutionary War, he had no tolerance for slave revolts and in 1791 as President he authorized emergency financial and military relief to French slave owners in Haiti to suppress a slave rebellion.[1] In 1789 Congress passed and President Washington signed a law that reaffirmed the previous ban on slavery in the Northwest Territory; it did not free slaves already in the territory. The 1790 Naturalization Act provided a means to incorporate foreigners as United States citizens, but was available only to “free white persons” of “good moral character.” Washington signed the 1793 Fugitive Slave Law, the first to provide for the right of slaveholders to recapture slaves even in free states that had abolished slavery.” (from Wikipedia)

Apparently people get so caught up in business and in their own success that they lose sight of those they are responsible for. This tunnel vision makes one blind to reality. It demonstrates a lack of empathy with anyone other than people like you, aka cronyism. Women are said to be more empathetic than men. This is why it was mostly women, most notably Clara Barton, as well as a bereaved father, that organized care of the wounded, and then the retrieval of bodies during and after the Civil War.

One can get down on men for the slave trade, the near extermination of the American Indians, war in general, and the Industrial Revolution, which I suppose filled in the gap left by departed slaves, (and football concussions). All of this can also be laid at the feet of greedy women, but they didn’t credit or allow the women in their exclusive clubs or meetings, so…. I suppose it’s all part of the curse. When Adam was sent out to till the ground, he had to take it from something if not someone. Did it really have to be this way?

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.

Pages, pt 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

Since I stayed home from Church yesterday with a sick child, I watched some of the Sunday Morning commentary shows. I was most impressed with David Brooks on Meet the Press talking about the modern muddy sense of morality. He said we need to be scripted on what is evil and the proper response to it. What? Spontaneous, individual interpretation can’t be trusted? hmmm.

Essence and energies, fatherhood and baseball

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have explored the idea that the essence/energies distinction enables multiple objects to co-exist. One thing doesn’t get totally absorbed or annihilated in union with another. One popular way of self-preservation is to place oneself as preeminent. This has the effect of annihilating the other instead. Or one can disappear, so to speak, in order to let the other have a place. But is this spoiling the other? Or does it place too great a burden on the other to take turns so that they don’t feel selfish. Ideally both feel fulfilled in relationship. This is where needs are met without selfishness. Is a child selfish when it is receiving food and shelter from its parents? They shouldn’t feel that way. Parents seem to hold that over their head as a manipulative tool though when they imply that the children owe them for it. When someone is in need, we owe them to help fulfill it. To not do so is neglect. To do so doesn’t mean that more is owed back. “Each according to their need” is provided by the Father with human cooperation. To not cooperate is to be in a person’s debt. “Forgive us our debts,” in Orthodox teaching, is about when we don’t give to others according to their need when it was ours to fulfill it, not necessarily for a breach of voluntary contract. Selfishness is when needs are met in sinful ways. When we take things that aren’t ours.

I just saw a PBS documentary about a sperm donor and his “children”, who as older teenagers have sought him out after he revealed his donor number. He is basically a beach hippie who had been an “exotic dancer” and was also somewhat of a philosopher. He believed most things weren’t real and wouldn’t last (annihilation), but also in “I”ness (everything but me will be annihilated). He also had an icon of Mary who he considered the cosmic mother, and he regularly prayed for and blessed, after he smoked something out of a pop bottle contraption, the mothers and all the countless souls that had emanated from him. Four of the donor siblings (a fifth didn’t want to go) said they felt a positive energy after they arranged a reunion with him. And they also knew not to expect anything from him (except honesty), but felt good that he was there, nice spirited, if paranoid about conspiracy theories, and not some disembodied liquid in a frozen test tube. If he believed in the I-ness of himself and other souls and animals, it seems he did not believe in cosmic re-absorption. Maybe he believed in the beatific vision of essences that does not share energies. Regarding other things being of limited existence, he may have somewhat of a point. The children that he spawned are eternal beings whom he helped bring into the world. They have grown up with the physical gap of the lack of his presence, but did seem to have somewhat of his spirit about them, which they commented on. The California donor facility also played a part in their conception, including the rooms with the visual aids. I tried to observe any affect that had on the kids, and it’s hard to sort out if the way the girls dressed was a result of that or because almost all available clothing is of that type these days. Yet to have that be such an exaggerated aspect of their origination must do something. However, I got the sense that 20 years later, it had been diluted, if not annihilated altogether.

Regarding the mothers, they had entered into an agreed-upon contract with him to preserve his anonymity with no expectations, and desired no continued involvement. All but one, the one whose daughter had initiated the reunions, appeared at least hesitant about their children’s curiosity and subsequent actions. That same daughter was the most open to subsequent involvement while the others kept a safe, “oh, so that’s who he is” attitude.

I didn’t post this the other day when I wrote it, and now, after watching the exhausting game 6 of the World Series, I’ll tie this post into baseball. The pitcher is like the father. The best ones put a lot of action on the ball. It is not a piece of trash that they are getting rid of and don’t care about after it leaves their possession. Some pray over it, some talk to it, but all have a committed interest in how it leaves their hand and how what they do to it will affect its future. The batter is like the mother, very tuned into the pitcher and how they can best receive and also guide the ball. The outfielders are like the community who want the ball properly placed and guided back to the pitcher. Homeruns, well I guess they go to heaven. In the world, that would be that they are able to transcend all obstacles and reach new heights of achievement. It’s sad that the pitcher and batter are often on different teams. That could be like divorce or even the situation above. Teams oppose each other because of the fall and ultimately the battle with demons. Both those in your own team and those in the other’s. Either way, nothing is annihilated. Everything has eternal significance in that it influences the course of the game, even if some things are forgotten, or are very distant, for now.

Meditation while picking hundreds of sticky seeds off my skirt, one by one

by Andrea Elizabeth

A thousand years are as a day means that God doesn’t have to learn thousands of things one at a time like we do.

Saturday morning prophecy

by Andrea Elizabeth

What if in the techno age employment is unnecessary? A few geniuses program computers and robots to make all of our complex equipment and products, which we order online and have delivered to our door. Everyone is granted enough unemployment benefits to buy the latest gadgets and be informed and entertained amap. So if unemployment is paying for the gadgets, then the government must also own gadget production. How can they profit if they are essentially the buyers and the sellers? They don’t. But since they also manufacture the money, they don’t need to. It becomes a meaningless circle.

Traditional Americans value hard work and food earned. At the end of the day, if one has a full belly, filled with the fruit of one’s labor, one can rest well. But what if labor is eliminated and food is doled? One becomes a spectator of other people’s labor. The writers and the actors will be the only ones motivated to produce. But if their writing and subsequent embodiment is only paid for by the government, then, well I guess we get the 50’s all over again where the government controlled content. In the 40’s the Catholic Church controlled content. I used to enjoy 40’s movies the most, but I haven’t been able to get back into their tidy little morality schemes as much lately. Maybe with everyone so satisfied, the government wont need to worry about content. People wont care enough to do anything about the warnings about the dangers of all this. These warnings will just cause a momentary blip on our adrenaline monitors. Adrenaline used to be pumped in for fight or flight, but since everyone’s on government controlled life-support, what’s the point of fleeing or fighting?

Lost is the only modern serial I’ve gotten into, but the way that ended is increasingly unsatisfying. Everything that happened pretty much ended up being meaningless. Wouldn’t they all have ended up in the abstract church even if no one had saved the island? If journeys are so important, what about little babies that die and go to heaven?

Who knows? Somehow it’s important to pray, keep clean, eat healthy, make things and then give them away. But where do churches fit in with the government control? I think they’ll fund them because churches also keep the people satiated. There will be no bans on anything in order to prevent the people from rebelling.

In Wall-E, everyone got fat. Obesity is too negative for modern man however. I think technology will eventually eliminate it. The government will be a good parent. Vices will go out of style. I think people’s happiness will come from being healthy. They will embrace health as the end all be all. They may even become bored with entertainment and start to meditate. It will be a godless meditation though. They will meditate about their own healthiness. They will inhale their technologically bio-filtered atmosphere with a proud sense of accomplishment and go on their hikes in peace. They will have destroyed what God made and will have remade it almost the same way, but this time, they engineered it, not God.

The End

by Andrea Elizabeth

except for the Author’s Note.

In the last part of the Epilogue, Tolstoy outlaws freedom! Where he puts God in the course of human events is uncertain. He pretty much says that science has killed God, so bringing God into the equation is not acceptable. I don’t think he believes that, but he is playing by their rules regardless. Whether the inevitable course of events is destined by God or pure science, perhaps decreed by God, is immaterial to his explanation.

His contrasts of freedom and/or necessity, consciousness and reason, and causes and/or laws is quite fascinating. The part that seems to contradict his conclusions is the lack of an “or” between consciousness (where we believe ourselves free) and reason (which defines things according to existing laws). No, he is consistent in that at the end he says we have to believe what we do not feel, the same as we have to believe the new revelation that the earth is moving even though we don’t feel it.

On one hand I think his conclusions, research and observations are very valuable. There are certain laws that govern human behavior. I think he pretty much nailed the inevitableness of why people go to war and how women are dependent on men. But these are the laws of the fallen universe. And these are the laws by which I think we need to understand dysfunctional behavior so that we don’t judge others. However, there is a way out. Female monasticism demonstrates freedom from dependence on men, pacifism (apparently Gandhi was very influenced by Tolstoy) demonstrates freedom from dependence on the urge to dominate, and the higher levels of monasticism demonstrate freedom from anything except the Lord’s Supper. All three are healings of the original Curses. While reading, I was going to argue for when the sun stood still for Joshua, but then he mentions it without me understanding where he thinks that fits in. I’ll reread that part in a bit and make an edit if I understand better.

Christ shows us that God, the author of laws, is not subject to them. This is the basis for miracles, which are really evidence of how we are intended to live. We are meant to be free from laws. But initially we have to choose negatively. Fasting teaches us freedom from the law of necessity. Choosing to die as true, not prideful, martyrs also frees us from this law.

Like I say I don’t understand why he mentions the one miracle, or how we are made in God’s image, when he seems to otherwise stick with his thesis.

[2nd addendum of the day: This is the part where I thought he talked about man being made in God’s image, but I was wrong. “Man is the creation of an almighty, all-good, and all-knowing God. What then is sin, the concept of which follows from the consciousness of man’s freedom? That is a question for theology.” (p. 1202) I guess he takes the Calvinist’s answer to that.]

Waste not want not

by Andrea Elizabeth

Over the triply celebrated birthday lunch yesterday, a university hypothetical was discussed: If you purchase a semester’s (nonrefundable apparently) parking spot and find that you prefer to take your bike instead, should you? The professor’s purely economic standpoint was that it wouldn’t make any difference because it’s a “sunk cost”. A certain dinner faction agreed with him believing that you should just do what you feel like. Another faction disagreed and said it’s not right to waste your money.

I said, from my “everything’s connected” feminine standpoint that you cannot isolate actions on a purely economic basis. What about the elderly person who had to purchase the last available spot further away from the door while yours sits there unused? On thinking about it now, things probably do trickle down economically because if the elderly person’s health declines because of walking further in scorching hot, Texas heat, then either their resources, or the state’s resources, will have to be consumed.

The other scenario was, if you purchase a soft drink (again apparently unrefundable) for your daughter, then when she gets to the drink stand she decides to have water, should you let her? The two factions were consistent with their positions.

I have to say that I somewhat admire the people who don’t worry about the money spent and would rather take a bicycle and drink water. They are in reality skinny people while the vocal ones for not wasting money or food struggle with their weight. On one hand I worry about disrespecting the value of what goes into purchasing things, the hard work, natural resources, space involved, etc. But on the other, perhaps this American priority is why we have such problems with obesity. I do get upset if one of my skinny children only eats one plate at a buffet. Buffets are priced so that you really have to get at least two plates full to make it a “good deal”. Otherwise you feel like you’re wasting money. This also relates to the “starving people in China” argument which indeed never made sense to my skinny kids. “How does it affect people in China if I eat my food or not?” The counter implication is that if they saw you throw away food they’d think you were mean. But that’s because they had a lack of supply. If they had the same supply we do they would probably become obese too, as I think studies have shown on people who move here from other countries. They develop the same health problems Americans do.

When you have lived in a state of perceived deprivation, wasting becomes repugnant in a very visceral way. I suppose the American sense of deprivation could be because of our history of the Great Depression, Protestant(?) work ethic, the hardships of frontier living, and varying modern individual circumstances. So how can people in the same family not have the same reaction? I guess it depends on how much an individual “feels” this deprivation. Perhaps some genetically don’t experience deprivation in the same way. They aren’t as sensitive to dropping blood sugar, or the discomforts of walking in the heat. Or they aren’t the type to feel responsible for all the cares of the world. Is that “wrong”? I am personally often glad for their care-free attitude. Many times it has brightened my day. I guess it takes all kinds, or is my way wrong? I don’t know, but I’m pretty stuck with it. If I should change, I tend to think it would be in not buying too much in the first place.

Gogol’s The Overcoat just came to mind, as well as Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace.

Perelandra 2 and Patristic Theology 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have said before that I am a disillusioned optimist. I keep believing that there is an answer and a fix to all the mess. I can’t help myself. And I have found answers, and when I do, like in Out of the Silent Planet, I hitch my wagon to the horse from whose mouth it came. Every time. I can’t help myself. Then the horse stumbles – how could he not? C.S. Lewis did not become an Orthodox Christian, but I so wanted someone in the western tradition to speak Orthodox, and I think he comes close many times because Orthodoxy is the language we were all meant to speak and lies in potential in all of us. What is not Orthodox is foreign, and sometimes we develop foreign habits. In Perelandra, Lewis shows his Protestantism in that he believes that Christ was incarnated because of the Fall, instead of the Orthodox belief that Christ’s intention in creation was to join with us in the Incarnation from the beginning and would have happened without the Fall. So on Perelandra when the unfallen Green Lady and the King get married, it is seen as a less great thing than what happened on earth as a result of the Fall.

Then Ransom’s sacrifice is seen as an unmeritorious act I assume because of the Protestant creed of Glory to God Alone. But this causes him confusion when he sees the King’s face who is created in the image of “Maleldil”.

“You might ask how it was possible to look upon it and not to commit idolatry, not to mistake it for that of which it was the likeness. For the resemblance was, in its own fashion, infinite, so that almost you could wonder at finding no sorrows in his brow and no wounds in his hands and feet. Yet there was no danger of mistaking, not one moment of confusion, no least sally of the will towards forbidden reverence. Where likeness was greatest, mistake was least possible.”

He continues to struggle with idolatry when he talks about man-made images,

“A clever wax-work can be made so like a man that for a moment it deceives us: the great portrait which is far more deeply like him does not. Plaster images of the Holy One may before now have drawn to themselves the adoration they were meant to arouse for the reality. But here, where His live image, like Him within and without, made by His own bare hands out of the depth of divine artistry, His masterpiece of self-portraiture coming forth from His workshop to delight all worlds, walked and spoke before Ransom’s eyes, it could never be taken for more than an image. Nay, the very beauty of it lay in the certainty that it was a copy, like and not the same, an echo, a rhyme, an exquisite reverberation of the uncreated music prolonged in a created medium.”

His iconoclasm is showing, but he knows that there is something to marvel at in humanity. It is so hard when converting from Protestantism to be able to make peace between the Creator and the created. We have been so conditioned to believe that it is a sin to appreciate the greatness of creation. Proper veneration has become foreign. We are more afraid of committing idolatry than to venerate man’s intended end, and that which represents and communicates those who have accomplished deification, or theosis – icons.

But it is because of Christ’s and the Saint’s union with God that venerating them is not idolatry. God is in them, unseparated, unmixed, distinct, and undivided. To venerate the Saints is to worship God and His intention in Incarnation. Perelandra is full of What Would Jesus Do? Instead of God filling His Saints so that they can reach their potential – deification. Lewis presents a copy, but not the real thing.

Back to disillusioned optimism, less than perfect people can still impart improvements to where we are at present, so I’ll not give up on Professor Lewis. And I’ll not give up on Father John Romanides who has also let me down with this unsubstantiated ad hominem on page 90 of Patristic Theology, “If we use the criteria of the Apostle Paul and the Church Fathers such as St. Symeon the New Theologian regarding who is truly a theologian, we will see that contemporary modern Orthodox theology, under the influence of Russian theology, is not Patristic theology, but a distortion of Patristic theology, because it is written by people who do not have the above-mentioned spiritual prerequisites [that they be in theosis].” This is all he says about Russian “theologians”. I’m very disappointed and now will have to force myself to finish this book as I did with Perelandra.

I struggle with disillusionment a lot, but I know I can’t keep retreating forever from the less than perfect. Part of it is dealing with being offended and learning to forgive and have a humble attitude about how much I fail myself and require patience and forgiveness from others. But also I have read that love requires perfection, so it is ok to notice when something is not perfect and to bring it to attention when it is presented as the truth. We are easily deceived and must fight it in ourselves and others. Father John Romanides is motivating me to seek theosis through purification and illumination by prayer and repentance, so I will keep reading him even though he must be one of those ethnocentric Greek Orthodox. It just takes some of the fun out of it is all.