Category: transcendent virtue

Happy New Year

by Andrea Elizabeth

In keeping with my New Years Resolution explained above, I will endeavor to not waste as much time not writing, for one thing. I will take the opportunity now as I elevate my swollen travel ankles. I need to get some circulation socks I guess.

So many thoughts spurred by the road trip where three of my children and I went to see our newborn granddaughter/niece. Thoughts about family, technology, idealism, feminism, humility, philosophy, psychological trauma, idolatry, ambivalence, beauty, and nature. I could list details about each one, but their numerousness makes me want to find unity instead. To unscatter them. That would be the Jesus Prayer. This seems a copout, but I guess since the working conversation was already had, the solution seems more important. Oh, another theme was universalism, which is a similar solution to the Jesus Prayer. We started The Chimes by Charles Dickens, who was a universalist, and in it I could hear what I have termed on this blog, Respectivism. I believe in respectivism, but I am not a respectivist. I have too much contempt. Contempt is a defense mechanism against disappointment, hurt feelings, and fear. Respectivism is regarding everyone as precious. Dickens, and United Kingdomites in general, have uniquely precious ways of speaking as you can hear in George Cole’s narration of The Chimes. There is a warmth there that it seems Americans don’t naturally have.

In my ancestry studies I found a lot of Scandanavian, and Norman influence in England’s way back times, but even though these invaders sought to take over the lineages, the Island’s warm Celtic, or was it St. Columba’s? charm survived. You can hear a dutch influence in the Scottish accent, for example, but the temperature between the two is opposite.

Apparently I have analytical edginess that doesn’t come across very warm. This feedback surprises me because what I most feel is bondedness to my children. There is a lot of fear and problem attacking that I don’t realize can be louder.

Back to lineages. The Puritans don’t seem the warmest lot, and they were English. Luther’s influence? He was a contemptivist for sure. I refer to the video in the post previous.

More Twilight

by Andrea Elizabeth

Whether we immoralists do injury to virtue? – Just as little as Anarchists do to princes. It is only since princes have been wounded by shots that they sit firmly on their thrones again. Moral: We must wound morality by our shots.

– Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

But he lived after the French Revolution, but maybe he doesn’t think they count? Would he amend that now?

 The disillusioned speaks. – I sought for great men; I never found aught but the apes of their ideal.

Maybe too true of many, but not all.


by Andrea Elizabeth

In between reading and writing about Amy Lawrence’s Echo and Narcissus, I’ll interject some other thoughts on the value of women. The hedonistic view (not necessarily the author’s) is described in the controversial French writer Michel Houellebecq’s novel, The Possibility of an Island:


“Women in general lack a sense of humor, which is why they consider humor to be one of the virile qualities…. women who are interested in comedians are getting old, nearly forty, and are beginning to suspect that things are going to turn bad…. In other words, there was nothing arousing about them…the interest goes. They weren’t all that old, either; I knew that as they approached fifty they would once again long for something reassuring, easy, and false—and of course they wouldn’t find it. In the meantime, I could only confirm to them—completely unintentionally, believe me, it’s never a pleasure—the decline of their erotic value; I could only confirm their first suspicions, and instill in them, despite myself, a despairing view of life: no, it was not maturity that awaited them, but simply old age; there was not a new blossoming at the end of the road, but a bundle of frustrations and sufferings, at first insignificant, then very quickly unbearable; it wasn’t very healthy, all that, not very healthy at all. Life begins at fifty, that’s true; inasmuch as it ends at forty.”


Even the sample pages of this novel have very crude depictions (…), but there is a verifiable point of view in them. I must say that I find similar crudity, though not sexual like Mr. Houellebecq’s, but gory, in his favorite author, J.K. Huysmans (1848-1907), who recounts his conversion to Catholicism in La-Bas (Down There), describing Christ’s crucified body:


“Durtal’s introduction to this naturalism had come as a revelation the year before, although he had not then been so weary as now of fin de siècle silliness. In Germany, before a Crucifixion by Matthæus Grünewald, he had found what he was seeking.

He shuddered in his armchair and closed his eyes as if in pain. With extraordinary lucidity he revisualized the picture, and the cry of admiration wrung from him when he had entered the little room of the Cassel museum was reechoing in his mind as here, in his study, the Christ rose before him, formidable, on a rude cross of barky wood, the arm an untrimmed branch bending like a bow under the weight of the body.

This branch seemed about to spring back and mercifully hurl afar from our cruel, sinful world the suffering flesh held to earth by the enormous spike piercing the feet. Dislocated, almost ripped out of their sockets, the arms of the Christ seemed trammelled by the knotty cords of the straining muscles. The laboured tendons of the armpits seemed ready to snap. The fingers, wide apart, were contorted in an arrested gesture in which were supplication and reproach but also benediction. The trembling thighs were greasy with sweat. The ribs were like staves, or like the bars of a cage, the flesh swollen, blue, mottled with flea-bites, specked as with pin-pricks by spines broken off from the rods of the scourging and now festering beneath the skin where they had penetrated.

Purulence was at hand. The fluvial wound in the side dripped thickly, inundating the thigh with blood that was like congealing mulberry juice. Milky pus, which yet was somewhat reddish, something like the colour of grey Moselle, oozed from the chest and ran down over the abdomen and the loin cloth. The knees had been forced together and the rotulæ touched, but the lower legs were held wide apart, though the feet were placed one on top of the other. These,beginning to putrefy, were turning green beneath a river of blood. Spongy and blistered, they were horrible, the flesh tumefied, swollen over the head of the spike, and the gripping toes, with the horny blue nails, contradicted the imploring gesture of the hands, turning that benediction into a curse; and as the hands pointed heavenward, so the feet seemed to cling to earth, to that ochre ground, ferruginous like the purple soil of Thuringia.

Above this eruptive cadaver, the head, tumultuous, enormous, encircled by a disordered crown of thorns, hung down lifeless. One lacklustre eye half opened as a shudder of terror or of sorrow traversed the expiring figure. The face was furrowed, the brow seamed, the cheeks blanched; all the drooping features wept, while the mouth, unnerved, its under jaw racked by tetanic contractions, laughed atrociously.

The torture had been terrific, and the agony had frightened the mocking executioners into flight.

Against a dark blue night-sky the cross seemed to bow down, almost to touch the ground with its tip, while two figures, one on each side, kept watch over the Christ. One was the Virgin, wearing a hood the colour of mucous blood over a robe of wan blue. Her face was pale and swollen with weeping, and she stood rigid, as one who buries his fingernails deep into his palms and sobs. The other figure was that of Saint John, like a gipsy or sunburnt Swabian peasant, very tall, his beard matted and tangled, his robe of a scarlet stuff cut in wide strips like slabs of bark. His mantle was a chamois yellow; the lining, caught up at the sleeves, showed a feverish yellow as of unripe lemons. Spent with weeping, but possessed of more endurance than Mary, who was yet erect but broken and exhausted, he had joined his hands and in an access of outraged loyalty had drawn himself up before the corpse, which he contemplated with his red and smoky eyes while he choked back the cry which threatened to rend his quivering throat.

Ah, this coarse, tear-compelling Calvary was at the opposite pole from those debonair Golgothas adopted by the Church ever since the Renaissance. This lockjaw Christ was not the Christ of the rich, the Adonis of Galilee, the exquisite dandy, the handsome youth with the curly brown tresses, divided beard, and insipid doll-like features, whom the faithful have adored for four centuries. This was the Christ of Justin, Basil, Cyril, Tertullian, the Christ of the apostolic church, the vulgar Christ, ugly with the assumption of the whole burden of our sins and clothed, through humility, in the most abject of forms.”


Not in the earliest icons I’ve seen. Crudeness seems pagan to me, but maybe that’s Puritan of me to say. I’ll admit I’m more critical of this type of realism than I am of idealism. To me Eastern icons with their passionlessness are the ideal. I have heard of another conversion story stemming from looking at a graphic Catholic crucifixion and which eventually lead a famous person to Orthodoxy. God meets western people where they are. I say western because our cultural makeup makes us respond to certain things in a certain way.

Along this line, some people get married and have children because of the appeal of the small and the weak and compellingly suffering to the strong. It’s better than not getting married and having children or becoming a Christian, but, like I alluded to in the previous post, having immaturity and in this post hedonism and/or suffering as a necessary component to relationship misses the mark. Not that the nature of the ideal female body can only be an object of hedonism, which is not a Puritan thing to say. I’ll not even say that its sole purpose is childbearing. Beauty can be appreciated in other ways.

Naturalistic (back to) crudeness is scientifically materialistic. Beauty incorporates the transcendent. Devotees of honesty and realism will revel in crudeness, but I think it, like sin, is transitory and thus should be treated as a phantom. This is why eastern icons of the crucifixion have Jesus as majestic and serene. The above depiction may have been witness-able by “objective” observers, but it is not the whole, nor enduring story. Even in this licentious age, I think the possibility of a veil can be used when assessing people. Not to cover reality, but to see them more timelessly; as what they may become in the future.

Oh yes, I forgot to comment on how much weaker Mary was than John. Of all women, she was probably the emotionally stronger of that pair.

Sleep Murder and Hallelujah Corner

by Andrea Elizabeth

In searching for an audible version of Agatha Christie’s Mrs. Marple to listen to while I cross stitch, I came across a dramatized podcast of “Sleep Murder” very well done on Old Time Radio on iTunes. The main character is from New Zealand with quite a fitting accent. I just love Mrs. Marple’s quiet, sweet, unassuming clarity, which is just the perfect accompaniment to “The Lady and the Unicorn” iced-in weekend cross stitching.

So I subscribed to Old Time Radio Dramas (there’s also Thrillers, Mysteries, Comedies, Detectives, Westerns and Adventures) and then listened to the first thing that popped up, Lux soap’s “Hallelujah Corner”. I just noticed it has no popularity bars. I’m glad I didn’t know that before. The acting and voicing are really well done, but the characters and plot are not very likeable. I could also appreciate the nuances actors gave to the story-telling. I want to hear what the emotions sound like, at least these old-timey ones. As much as I’ve tried to wean myself from my melodramatic formation, it’s still home to me. It’s also interesting how you can hear a character’s virtue in the actor’s voice. I wish the podcasts told when the productions were made. All I know is this one is made in South Africa. Hey, Memory Eternal President Mandela! I kept listening to this one because despite it not being likeable, it was well written. The two good characters are sort of alone in their goodness, but the one says he likes the poor, simple, desperate people of Hallelujah Corner. He says they never really had a chance. But yet he and the other good character came from there, so what was their chance at goodness?

It was so different from the charming Agatha Christie story, which also shows her typical prowess in creating so many diverse characters. In it there was only one bad person. The rest were likeable, if also pitiable. They all have a defect, except the sleuth, but it is so lovingly explained and really only adds to their charm, except for the murderer, whose unforgiveable defect is not understanding and seeing the charm of the victim.

A recurring piece of advice in “Sleep Murder” is, shouldn’t you let sleeping dogs lie? Investigating murder is usually very upsetting, and do you really need to put yourself through it? The main character thinks the deceased victim needs her to, and the New Zealand lady is eventually helped by it, but uncovering trauma is very traumatic. This is why people are cautioned when beginning the practice of the Jesus Prayer. It can uncover old wounds. Repression is sometimes a mercy, but it is not health. Still we need a cushion. If not the cushion of distancing ourselves from the memory, then the cushion of a companion and helper alongside us to help us face it. I suppose grace is the imparted strength, comfort, and forgiveness of another. Miss Marple is good at that.

das Es, das Ich, unt das Über-Ich

by Andrea Elizabeth

Another thing now-Metropolitan Kallistos Ware brought out in The History of Orthodox Christianity is that in today’s world a person’s Orthodoxy is less about the circumstances of one’s birth and more about a conscious “commitment”. Today’s Orthodox Christian needs to know much more about the details of theology and anthropology and to more consciously follow the Tradition. This subject of consciousness is much within my thoughts lately. I wrote in “Problem Solving” of self-consciousness and goal-consciousness, and careless abandon in “Christmas Spirit”. Others’ thoughts about being observant and employing onesself are also circulating.

The problem I have with the lack of goal orientation or problem solving is the problem of unfinished business. We are to run the race, as St. Paul says. Our goal is Christ, and He has worked this into our own individual teloses. I suppose one has to navigate between acquiring notches on one’s belt and only doing things when one feels love or some other motivating feeling in doing things well. And in doing things well, one needs to love the telos of others. This focus on others leads into the idea of abandonment. Careless abandon is reckless and inconsiderate. We are not to lose consciousness, but to remain vigilant and aware on a very deep level. If we are employing ourselves, we are concentrating deeply on an object besides ourselves.

This gets more tricky when one is looking in a mirror. The refectory bathroom at Holy Archangel’s Greek Orthodox Monastery does not have a mirror. I understand the admonition against vanity, but I believe it can be considerate to others to look in a mirror. I am bad at head coverings, which are required there, and had to have a friend rescue me from having a particularly silly arrangement that would be distracting to others for different reasons that not wearing one would be. However, learning to depend on one’s friends may make not having a mirror of greater benefit. But some friends aren’t bothered by spinach and such, so is it vanity to not want others distracted by things that they may not consider bothersome? Maybe so.

Continuous prayer takes great concentration and vigilance. Yet there are moments where it is not supposed to just seem like work. Great caution is mandated in such experiences though. They can easily lead to prelest and emotionalism. Some people cut them off on purpose. It is also interesting to me how personal most of the prayers are. We not only worship who God is in our prayer, but much attention is given to personal confession (the “me, a sinner” part), crossing ourselves (some people call this blessing ourselves), and petitioning Psalm-like things for ourselves. We are not annihilated in our relationship with God.

If I may expand upon a general impression I’ve had converting to Orthodoxy that I am drawn towards. It does have a sort of self-centered focus. This is the criticism many non-Orthodox have about Orthodox monasticism in particular. A person withdraws from the world and others in order to save himself. The outcome of this is supposed to be that one finds union with God and thus becomes automatically (and unselfconsciously) a more effective intercessor for others, either directly in contact with visitors and fellow monastics,  or what can be misunderstood as indirectly.

It is this idea of indirect contact that can almost seem gnostic. I have not worked this out yet. Today in researching Fr. John McGuckin’s film project, Sophia, Secret Wisdom, I find that there haven’t been any updates on the websites since 2008, except for one reference to a name change to Living with God: Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer. I wonder if they came under criticism for any perceived associations with Bulgakovian Sophiology or gnosticism.

One other floating thought about my criticism in my last post of The History of Orthodox Christianity regarding ecumenism. I do sometimes want  to stress the common humanity of people with other faiths, but also worry about compromise or dilution. The Greek Church may be able to navigate those mysterious waters. Many look on nervously while even the Orthodox Church in America’s primate, Metropolitan Jonah, seeks to find common ground with the Anglicans. He is a bit more obvious about stressing several points that wont be compromised, like the ordination of women and homosexuals and Calvinism, but still there is the worry that some of the more subtle differences will be glossed over. Perhaps this worrying is a lack of faith in the cleansing power of the Spirit in the Orthodox Church.

Still, to relate again to the ideas in “Christmas Spirit”, and to discussions of Western Rite Orthodoxy and Celtic Christianity, even if some Christmas Carols are “Orthodox enough”, it seems that the errors that occurred contemporaneously in the communions from whence they came may creep in through the cracked door. My thought on Celtic Christianity is that at the time it was Orthodox, but that much of the context in which those Saints worshiped has been lost (reading their lives would still be as valid and in context as reading eastern Saints lives, imo). There may have been an abiding strain in continuing Anglicanism, but trying to extract it requires unbaking the cake or such microscopic dissection that one is not left with an intact body. Eastern Orthodoxy is still intact, and the fullest expressions have been preserved mainly by monastics who are the most serious about saving themselves.

[update: I was speaking of Christmas Carols not being appropriate for Liturgical, not “secular” settings. I do not discount that realizing the Orthodoxy in one’s favorite western carol can be a helpful bridge to Orthodox hymnography however. As I have shared, my first visit to an Orthodox Church was in a Western Rite where they sang Handel’s “He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd” and I felt my first Orthodox feeling of presence while my long nagging cough went away. If I’m not being too polemic, I could justify that Handel’s libretto is solely comprised of Scripture verses. It’s been a while since I heard the whole thing, but I think there may be an emphasis on substitutionary atonement towards the end though. I’ll save comments about western classical style for later, but would meanwhile defer to Father Seraphim Rose, His Life and Works for how to contextualize a love for Bach or Handel. I’ll just say I don’t think he played it in the Temple.]

Why we can and can’t just be ourselves, but pigs can

by Andrea Elizabeth

Virtue does not mean being “nice” and “proper” in an isolated act or ommission. Virtue means: man’s being “is” right, and this in the supernatural and natural sense. Here we find two dangerous possibilities for perceiving the notion of virtue within the Christian common consciousness itself: first, there is the possibility of moralism, which isolates the action, the “performance”, the “exercise” and makes it independent from the living existence of a vital human being; and second, there is the possibility of supernaturalism, which diminishes the value of the natural well-lived life, of vitality and of natural decency and integrity. Virtue is also, very generally, an essential enhancement of the human person; it is the fulfillment of human potential – in the natural as well as in the supernatural domain. This is how the virtuous man “is”: by the innermost tendency of his being he realizes the good by doing it. (from “A Dead Word?” by Joseph Pieper)

First and foremost, a presupposition must be clarified and then accepted, namely, the belief that a man “ought to”, in other words, that not everything in his action and behavior is well and good just as it is. It makes no sense trying to convince a pig it ought to act and behave “like a real pig”. That the rude line by Gottfried Benn – “The crown of creation: the pig, man” – can be spoken at all and, further, hold true in such terrible ways: this fact alone shows that humanity must still realize the truly human in the domain of lived realities; it means man, as long as he exists, “ought to”. […] the human being ought to become what he is (and therefore not already (eo ipso :”is”); that one can speak of all other earthly creatures in the indicative, in simple statements, but of man, if one wants to hit upon is actual reality, one can only speak in the imperative – to him who cannot see this or does not want to admit to its truth it would be understandably meaningless to speak at all of an “ought to” and it would make no sense to give instructions on obligations, be it in the form of a teaching on virtue or otherwise. (from “Ought To” by Joseph Pieper)

He speaks against moralism, so to me “is” or being is less action centered and more along the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, and long-suffering. I suppose we still have to prove our love and long-suffering through action, but in transfigurations, the light and warmth of being in communion are what unifies more than unforgotten forms.

What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?

by Andrea Elizabeth

The fascinating comments about how to take modern Orthodox philosophers and theologians on Reading Notes will have to wait until I finish my taxi duties. On my last run I listened to a very good talk given by Mother Gabriella on Acquiring the Virtues, not unrelated to philosophy, and will listen to the next one on Benedict Seraphim’s list of her podcasts here today.

“On the Soul and the Resurrection” V

by Andrea Elizabeth

The next section relates the fate of the souls and atoms of the departed. St. Macrina through an explanation I’ll not relate, makes distinctions between our perception of “up”, “down” and “under” and where the soul and invisible beings reside. Hades is “down” because of the quality of those in it, rather than because it is physically below us. Same with heaven being “above” us. She also points out that God encloses all of existence, likening it to atmosphere surrounding the earth, so that what is down for one side of the earth, is actually in the middle of the sphere. Therefore a soul does not depart existence.

She then explains that the soul will remember which atoms composed her body, and be able to reassemble them upon the resurrection. She doesn’t seem to take into account (yet) the possibility of the atoms migrating into another person, then whose is it? This also doesn’t take into account that we are constantly shedding our atoms and cells and making new ones out of what we eat and drink. So it’s really more about DNA than specific atoms. However I like the focus on how our bodies come from the earth and return to it. (As an aside, this connection to the earth reminds me of the movie, “Sweet Land” which the Ochlophobist recommended. I really enjoyed it.)

St. Macrina then explains the nature of the Rich Man’s and Lazarus’ modes of existence. The former spent his short life on pleasure, and the latter in pain, and thus each inherited the opposite for eternity. She puts in the realm of choice though. I don’t remember Lazarus choosing poverty and sores, but maybe those resulted from making decisions for integrity.

This is the reason, I think, that the name of Abraham’s bosom is given to that good situation of the soul in which Scripture makes the athlete of endurance repose. For it is related of this patriarch first, of all up to that time born, that he exchanged the enjoyment of the present for the hope of the future; he was stripped of all the surroundings in which his life at first was passed, and resided amongst foreigners, and thus purchased by present annoyance future blessedness. As then figuratively we call a particular circuit of the ocean a “bosom,” so does Scripture seem to me to express the idea of those measureless blessings above by the word “bosom,” meaning a place into which all virtuous voyagers of this life are, when they have put in from hence, brought to anchor in the waveless harbour of that gulf of blessings.

She next makes an interesting point about fleshly attachments. It seems “nice” that the Rich Man is concerned about his relatives, but St. Macrina categorizes this worry as fleshly feeling as well. And that Lazarus had no such care or anxiety for things, people, or feelings of the material world, but left all behind for the “unpalpable”. Perhaps blessedness is not a feeling, and Abraham’s comfort is higher than what we with limited experience can relate to. She makes a distinction between desire and attainment. After attainment is reached, desire is no longer present, then only enjoyment and lack of want. It will dwell in perfect love.

To get to this state though, painful purging of fleshly attachments must take place, but, “Then it seems, I said, that it is not punishment chiefly and principally that the Deity, as Judge, afflicts sinners with; but He operates, as your argument has shown, only to get the good separated from the evil and to attract it into the communion of blessedness.”

The description of the painful process of purging can put the fear of God in a person. That it is impossible for any selfishness or sin to be compatible with the divine life and will prevent one from entering into it. How often are we convinced that we are cute enough even with our “little sins”? How much should we tolerate in ourselves and our environment? Is monastic single mindedness absolutely required for God to be all in us? Then all these overwhelming details can overcome one’s consciousness in contemplating possible contaminants on TV, uncharitable attitudes, what food to eat, and other ways we let ourselves escape and get distracted from God. And how much to expect of our children?

This is getting long, so I’ll continue later.

Allegory of Love 10

by Andrea Elizabeth

Lewis on p.56 then discusses that polytheism is naturally replaced by monothiesm where the One is more powerful than the Many. “The best minds embrace monotheism. What is to be done with the gods of the popular religion?… The gods are to be aspects, manifestations, temporary or partial embodiments of the single power”. Sort of like colors are manifestations of different frequencies of light. “They are, in fact, personifications of the abstracted attributes of the One… They are the necessary stage in the life of ancient religion and the poet in attempting to depict them, is giving expression to the deepest experience of his age. It is [Statius]’s mythological treatment of Bacchus which is purely literary and derivative in its allegorical treatment of Bacchus and of Mars which is alive.” The One “is the Whole (or God, or Nature, or Cosmus) of the Stoics; the [greek word] of Marcus Aurelius, the Natura of Seneca; the ancestress of Alanus’ Natura and Chaucer’s Kinde.”

The allegorization of the pantheon… depends upon a profound change in the mind of antiquity; but this time it is a change of moral experience rather than of thought… For us moderns the essence of the moral life seems to lie in the antithesis between duty and inclination… All our serious imaginative work, when it touches on morals, paints a conflict: all practical moralists sing to battle or give hints about the appropriate strategy. Take away the concept of ‘temptation’ and nearly all that we say or think about good and evil will vanish into thin air. But when we first opened our Aristotle, we found to our astonishment that this inner conflict was for him so little of the essence of the moral life, that he tended to thrust it into a corner and treat it almost as a special case. The really good man, in Aristotle’s view, is not tempted… the truly temperate man abstains because he likes abstaining. The ease and pleasure with which good acts are done, the absence of moral ‘effort’ is for him the symptom of virtue.

Now when we turn to the moralists who lived under the Roman Empire, all this is changed. I do not know whether they were better or worse than the contemporaries of Aristotle; but they were certainly more conscious of a difficulty in being good. ‘Fight the good fight’ – how oddly the words would sound in the Ethics! Under the Empire, they are on every moralist’s lips. The examples which could be drawn from the writings of St. Paul alone would be enough to prove a far-reaching change. But the phenomenon is by no means a result of Christianity, however much Christianity may have done to deepen and perpetuate it. Here again, as in the case of monotheism, we have to do with a characteristic, not of Christianity alone, but of the whole period from which the Christian empire emerged.

He then gives examples of poets and Stoic philosophers contemporary to the Epistles who emphasize fighting against passions.

If they had not discovered the moral conflict, had at least discovered in it a new importance. They were vividly aware, as the Greeks had not been, of the divided will… But to be thus conscious of the divided will is necessarily to turn the mind in upon itself. Whether it is the introspection which reveals the division, or whether the division, having first revealed itself in the experience of actual moral failure, provokes the introspection, need not here be decided.

Previous to this thought, Lewis distinguished between innocence and virtue. Innocence is yet untried.

Whatever the causal order may be, it is plain that to fight against ‘Temptation’ is also to explore the inner world; and it is scarcely less plain than to do so is to be already on the verge of allegory. We cannot speak, perhaps we can hardly think, of an ‘inner conflict’ without a metaphor; and every metaphor is an allegory in little. And as the conflict becomes more and more important, it is inevitable that these metaphors should expand and coalesce, and finally turn into the full-fledged allegorical poem. It would be a misunderstanding to suggest that there is another and better way of representing that inner world, and that we have found it in the novel and the drama. The gaze turned inward with a moral purpose does not discover character. No man is a ‘character’ to himself, and least of all while he thinks of good and evil. Character is what he has to produce; within he finds only the raw material, the passions and emotions which contend for mastery. That ‘unitary ‘soul’ or ‘personality’ which interests the novelist is for him merely the arena in which the combatants meet: it is to the combatants – those ‘accidents occurring in a substance’

Transubstantiation again.

– that he must attend. Nor will he long attend to them – specially if he has had a Roman training in the schools of rhetoric. For such a man allegory will be no frigid form. It is idle to tell him that something with which he has been at death-grips for the last twenty-four hours is an ‘abstraction’; and if we could be free, for a little, of our own Zeitgeist, we might confess that it is not very much more abstract than that ‘self’ or ‘personality’ on whose rock-bottom unity we rest so secure and of which we would so much rather hear him talk. (p.61)

I believe he’s saying that the novelist is too distracted by these passions whom he has personified. That perhaps Aristotle had it better when he considered passionlessness a more natural state, and thus more bedrock to our personality. I agree that I would rather the novelist had dwelt on that. I wrote a story of an innocent once, but I was told that it lacked conflict, and thus content. I am tired of conflict. I want it to be shown how it is to dwell correctly related to onesself and one’s environment. So many stories end at the defeat of evil, but hardly any show what life is like after that. What’s it like dwelling in the warm, glowing sunset? It’s as if it is too boring to speak of. The death of the story is when the characters actually get together. Stories that go on after that are only barely kept alive by new conflicts, or a new generation of apart people who will eventually come together. I’ll try to get my story ready for display and maybe make a “page” out of it for my header.

My Reckless Mind

by Andrea Elizabeth

(New points added)

This is the first thing I read about Lilla and Derrida:

The Reckless Mind (paperback)

Intellectuals in Politics

By Mark Lilla

European history of the past century is full of examples of philosophers, writers, and jurists who, whether they lived in democratic, communist, or fascist societies, supported and defended totalitarian principles and horrific regimes. But how can intellectuals, who should be alert to the evils of tyranny, betray the ideals of freedom and independent inquiry? How can they take positions that, implicitly or not, endorse oppression and human suffering on a vast scale?

In profiles of Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Alexandre Kojève, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, Mark Lilla demonstrates how these thinkers were so deluded by the ideologies and convulsions of their times that they closed their eyes to authoritarianism, brutality, and state terror. He shows how intellectuals who fail to master their passions can be driven into a political sphere they scarcely understand, with momentous results for our intellectual and political lives.

1. I confess a selfish use of Derrida for my own personal edification.

2. I do not have a broad understanding of his views about politics and religion. I am using his works as a motivational and rhetorical vehicle to express my own views, as well as a way to think about things I haven’t thought of before, or knew other people ever thought about, but it seems my conclusions still relate to my previous ones so I’m not sure how much I’ve changed. My most recent change was becoming Orthodox, but I think that was actually a realignment of my theology with my pre-existent intuition, which as I’m beginning to believe, Derrida would like – that my intuition was more transcendent than my intellectual and conceptual understanding, though I was influenced by the latter as well.

3. I have a shallow understanding of Marxism and Fascism, though I know Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hirohito were bad, ok maybe I’m not quite that simplistic about them, but I’m definitely not an expert.

4. I don’t trust the tone of the above review of Derrida because of his statements in the movie Derrida about how he, a Jew, was marked by Antisemite segregation and marginalization as a child. He said he was in an odd position after he was forced to go to a Jewish school after the segregation. He did not feel a Jewish solidarity. I think he felt more a man without a country. I don’t think he was a nationalist, Algerian or Zionist.

5. I believe there is a common view that the French contribution to Russian Communism corrupted Marxism to a further degree. I’m not a proponent of the French Revolution, and getting less of one of the American Revolution the further I get into Orthodoxy. Bloody revolutions are dialectic to the extreme. Fraternity is mocked when you have to kill your brother to achieve it. Thus I don’t think anti-dialectic Derrida is guilty as charged.

6. All that said, there may be a destructive outcome to naivete, which I’m not ready to accuse Derrida of yet, but the inflamatory nature of the above makes me not want to read Lilla’s The Politics of Jacques Derrida.

7. Back to my own views, there is a dialectic between good and evil, but what’s helping me not totally condemn and want people dead is that, as I have read from Orthodox sources, it is the devil inciting the person to evil deeds. But I believe in free will, so I don’t totally hold the evildoer as a victim. I’ve thought about Hitler in particular in the famous evil person category. I see him as made/marked by his experience in WWI, the history of Germany, the previously allowed boundary/territorial wars that used to be more common, common antisemitism in Europe (which I quit reading Ivanhoe for), a history of dialectics between races, and a previously less mobile time which induced more identity-centered Nationalism. I wont get into Marxism or Mein Kampf as I haven’t studied them. Why he stands out so much amidst this common atmosphere I think has to do with his personal upbringing (I think there were some extreme issues with his father, I forget), and individual talents. Plus as I just wrote in a comment in another post, there is a common trait of at least being half Jewish in these influential, for better or worse, geniuses – Derrida, Hitler, Bobby Fisher, Einstein and The Three Stooges to name a few.

8. I’m still in a transitional state regarding self defense and entering war for defense purposes. I used to be pro-capital punishment and pro-war, but a lot of Orthodox aren’t so I’m not sure the best way to handle when evil forces oppress others. I don’t think this external oppression is quite as devastating as I used to, as is evidenced by our Martyr Saints, so I’m not as scared of it as I used to be. The movie Friendly Persuasion is an interesting discussion on that from a Hollywood Quaker point of view, but I know in western Pennsylvania many Quakers were killed from not defending themselves against the “Indians” even before the Civil War. But wasn’t it an act of aggression and landstealing to settle there in the first place?

9. I do not see Derrida as a slave to his passions. From what I know so far he stayed married to the same woman till his death, not sure about his faithfulness to her, and does not come across as angry or hateful in the least, unlike this characterization of Lilla’s pov.

10. My dialectical relationship with the above review, the Three Stooges, and certain other people in my past may make me a hypocrit in what I’ve said. This is most obvious in the fact that I’m divorced with an A vs. G heading in my divorce papers. I have withdrawn from certain other situations, like watching the Three Stooges and conversations with certain people. I think this speaks more to my relationship with my own heart rather than with these other people. My heart is in a state of feeling traumatized and certain situations make it feel more so. I think the right way to view my withdrawal is that I am sick and in the hospital (not in the strictly literal sense in case that’s unclear) and am not strong enough to transcend the many variables that make dealing with these people more directly too difficult, cop out though that may be. But I believe that there is a certain attainable transcendence that Saints have that make them able to love in the face of opposition or temptation, but even many of them had to flee, and some like St. Nicholas even struck back. There’s room in Orthodoxy for everything. But killing another… Father Hopko says under no circumstances ever have anything to do with weapons, even designing them. I’m not to that point yet.

11. Derrida’s “dialectic”: I believe Derrida challenged and differed from previous thinking, but I see a distinction in that it seems he was looking deeper into the reality of previous philosophers, taking their background and influences into account when considering their works. So I don’t think he considered them wrong so much as incomplete. This sometimes caused offense anyway, which saddened him.

12. Totally irrelevant point, or is it? In Princess Bride when Vizini is considering which goblet to drink from, he was right. He could clearly not choose the goblet in front of himself or Wesley. He should have trusted his instincts.