Lutheran Rick Steves criticizes the evolution of luscious passion in Italian religious art, justifiably, then goes on to praise the plain, common man on the street in subsequent Protestant art. How about we call it the praise of the development of the secular state? There is a third option!
What if everything bad that happens is the man’s fault? If this is true, I find it inconsistent for modern men to blame feminists for taking their jobs away, for example. If this is a legitimate problem, it’s still the man’s fault, or he has no right to say men are the rightful job holders if he was unable to keep the jobs from women in the first place. Maybe the women would have stayed home with the kids if they had had better husbands/fathers/providers. If they didn’t, then whose fault is that? Could it be the previous fathers and not the mothers?
I’m not proposing that women are sinless, nor that they have nothing to confess, nor that they can’t do damage. But what if hierarchy is necessarily functional and not just an arbitrary rule of order? What if Adam had real responsibility for Eve’s preceeding his fall into sin, and not just patronizing, noble taking of responsibility? What if Eve requires this acknowledgment as a weaker vessel? What if her sin was from his not providing for her weaker nature that made her vulnerable to temptation?
But many women often assume responsibility when things go wrong. And many men let them. Perhaps this is where anger, violence, and descrimination against women starts. But Mary is a protectress. How can she be if women can’t overcome masculine violence? Because of her Savior. Christ is responsible for her strength.
So if you feel your mother done you wrong and let you down, then could it be your father’s or her father’s fault? Or your father’s father’s fault? Maybe this is why God had to be born of a woman. And this is why God had to be a man. If the fault lies with men, men have to fix it.
So if men are ontologically stronger, and thus responsible, and Christ is the strongest man (who took the blame and died [doesnt have to be Protestant atonement theory]), and the Orthodox Church is the Body of Christ, then we should man up and take the blame for the schisms (divorces) that have happened in the Church. We blame the Protestants on the Catholics, but could/should we blame the non-Chalcedonians and Catholic partings on ourselves? We may have been right in the disputes, but was there already alienating neglect or abuse that preceded them, that made them vulnerable?
And now 1500 and 1000 and 500 years later, is the Orthodox Church ready to take that responsibility and fix it? Listen to this interview with Rick Warren, who wrote the very popular, Purpose Driven Life, is the go-to pastor for presidents, like Billy Graham was, and started Saddleback Church, which has 20,000 members. In this interview he says he (in a reverse Hunt For Red October way?) has invited our Patriarchs to visit him. I don’t think they’ve taken him up on it. Perhaps Metropolitan Hilarion is the one he needs? If they don’t, could they be neglecting an opportunity to heal the schism with the Protestants and then the Catholics who would surely take notice, as would the non-Chalcedonians. Are we ready for this?!
I had occasion recently to read a bit of the western Christian, St. John of the Cross, whose poems are of eros between Christ and the Church, or at least the author. Rather than analyze it, I will speak to him.
St. John, as I must call you even if you are not canonized by my Orthodox Church, I wonder if much of your poetry could be said to a human. Or maybe our best love songs are better directed to God, and may speak more of a longing for him, the best fulfiller of our desires. But my problem lies with the nature of our desires. Could these desires be fallen? But what of Song of Solomon?, you say. To that I feel more comfortable saying that in as much as we desire erotic love, God is more. But erotic love is our best earthly analogy. I think Theosis is different and less base. So as we have to do with everything we love, we have to forsake that which is less than divine. To think that our expectations of erotic love will be better fulfilled by God than man is to miss the mark, I think. It wont be just more, it will be different.
I don’t mean it will be different in a transcendent, otherworldly way either. That is gnostic. Incarnation is something different filling creation. Peace that passes understanding. Peace on earth and good will towards men. I am wondering if some of this erotic fancying that goes for prayer is escapism. But then I may be avoiding intimacy.
There’s a new phone commercial advertising better resolution for its camera zooming. This capability will insure that parents don’t clobber each other while trying to get close enough to take pictures of their children at recitals. So better technology is the answer for passionate people who otherwise can’t keep themselves from being barbaric to each other? The parents with the new phone are calmly and serenely sitting in the back. But surely we’re not supposed to live with grainy pictures of our children! Nor are we to be expected to take two hand-held devices, one being a good camera, to recitals! Stomping is inevitable without better cameras on our phones!
The parents with the new phone seem to have something more going for them than just a better camera-phone. They probably never get in those messy situations because of their superior decision-making in general. You also don’t get the impression they’re hyper about doing research or that they spend a lot of energy shopping. They just seem to glide through life with the right priorities. It’s almost as if they don’t even need pictures of their kids. Could there be good, calm parents in the back of the room not trying to take pictures? Don’t they know how important it is to capture the moment for the future? To own this information without relying on a decaying, faulty memory? Knowledge is control, don’t you know, and the more perfect the knowledge, the more control you have.
But as much as I love cute pictures of my kids, I will say that a person can live on after devastating losses of photographs due to fire, divorce, or poor resolution. I wonder how much we’ll care to remember the details of this life in the next one. Especially since the eternalness of a person’s soul always stays with you, whether you are conscious of it or not. It is also noteworthy that icons of Saints often survive fires and floods.
Since becoming Orthodox my political views have changed. I’ve become less political. I used to be addicted to Fox News, but now I don’t see politics as the main way to solve problems. I thought President Putin’s letter in the New York Times may help though. One of his points has received a lot of criticism from Americans,
“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
One objection was that President Obama doesn’t have access to Russian newspapers. I don’t know if that’s true anymore, but even if it is, I wonder if the American system is really all that superior. Do we really have freedom of the press? Media bias controls a lot of content, and even they are worried about rights to privacy that are eroding in this country. Democracy is not proving such a great thing in the Middle East if most of the people want an oppressive, cruel government. The Puritans and the Founding Fathers set things in motion here for a different outcome, at least for Europeans. Not so much for the Indians or slaves. Things may now be easier for everyone in the U.S., but doesn’t that lead to disproportionate use of the world’s resources with resulting obesity and with such saity, boredom? And that leads to stress and depression.
I have never spent any substantial time in another country, but I have heard that people who have are very glad to come back to the U.S.. Sure things are easier, but also, don’t people always prefer their own home? I feel that way after I return from trips to other states or even to nearby cities.
But if life is more oppressive in other countries, it is probably because they don’t have as much space, resources, and their governments are older. Russia is 1000 years old. Where will we be in 800 years? I bet things will be much different. Especially if Russia’s best export, their faith, takes hold here.
Quote from William Hurt’s Rochester, which is actually directly from the book Jane Eyre, “You are not naturally austere, any more than I am naturally vicious.”
In the book Rochester explains that Jane’s upbringing at Lowood School punished her into being austere, and Rochester’s being tricked into marrying the insane Bertha made him vicious.
“I see you laugh rarely; but you can laugh very merrily: believe me, you are not naturally austere, any more than I am naturally vicious. The Lowood constraint still clings to you somewhat; controlling your features, muffling your voice, and restricting your limbs; and you fear in the presence of a man and a brother–or father, or master, or what you will–to smile too gaily, speak too freely, or move too quickly: but, in time, I think you will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be conventional with you; and then your looks and movements will have more vivacity and variety than they dare offer now. I see at intervals the glance of a curious sort of bird through the close-set bars of a cage: a vivid, restless, resolute captive is there; were it but free, it would soar cloud-high.”
But is this freedom all it is cracked up to be? Adele and her mother are shown to be coquettishly free and un-admirable. Was not Jane too bold before Lowood? But are the choices then to badly be onesself or to goodly squelch onesself? Is there no good self besides the negating of onesself? Perhaps when one sees another too boldly being themselves, they can shirk from such self-expression.
Rochester thinks he would have been a good man if he had better circumstances, but even so:
‘”Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good man, Miss Eyre; one of the better kind, and you see I am not so…. You would say, I should have been superior to circumstances; so I should–so I should; but you see I was not. When fate wronged me, I had not the wisdom to remain cool: I turned desperate; then I degenerated. Now, when any vicious simpleton excites my disgust by his paltry ribaldry, I cannot flatter myself that I am better than he: I am forced to confess that he and I are on a level. I wish I had stood firm–God knows I do! Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse is the poison of life.”‘
So now he sees himself as a sinner instead of a good man. Maybe some need to fall in order to gain humility? Was Jane, who believed herself good, unjustly punished into being better? If good comes from bad circumstances, to me it is Calvinist to say it had to be so, justifying the evil doers. To me it is more like God can (had to?) work salvation through this, but woe to him through whom it came.
So, if most help is personal, and most harm is personal, at least in my experience, and I’ve heard that most violence is domestic in nature, then I think we waste much of our time focusing on public policy. Or private policy in a public way. It’s not that I don’t believe in enforcing moral laws, it is that I think we’ve surrendered our personal responsibility to love our neighbor and our families and even ourselves to the government. As long as we are law abiding citizens we feel good about ourselves, if we agree with the laws. This is the wrong focus. The government is not the authority on loving neighbors and self. The Church should be. I don’t want to go into policies regarding Church and state, and indeed policy puts it in the realm of laws again. Wrong focus. We should as individuals seek out what the Church says about loving God, neighbor and self – giving alms, fasting, and praying. If everyone did that they would receive instruction and grace to love God, neighbors and self and all would be well.
I recently decided to have my 8 year chronic back pain evaluated. After the MRI, the doctor said I have a protruding and desiccated disc between lumbar vertebraes 4 and 5. He suggested physical therapy or yoga. Yoga appeals to me because my pain is definitely worse when I am tense. I recently discovered through reading online that the 2 psoras muscles line the last thoracic vertebra and all of the lumbar ones, terminate in the upper femur, and are indirectly connected to the diaphragm. If one side is tighter than the other, then many things get messed up. Imitating the poses in this youtube video really helps my back feel more relaxed, flexible, and pleasantly warm.
One of the explanations for why we have trouble with this area is that this muscle is very sensitive to our fight or flight response. Perceived threats, either physical or psychological, will cause us to tighten this muscle. If we feel under threat all the time, or if there is actual trauma, it can lead to disc problems. I don’t know which is the case for me. Disc dessication is a degenerative problem that usually happens in people older than me. I was a nurse lifting heavy bodies, for a year while going through divorce, I drove a school bus with a seat that severely tilted down to the right, and 8 years ago, I was under a lot of stress regarding some relationships not in my immediate family.
So now I’m trying to learn to relax and strengthen my back. Some people warn against yoga because of its tie to Buddhism. I can see a temptation to adopt a head in the sand, nothing is real mentality. But at the same time, I see value in letting go. Maybe it’s my stage of life as my nest is emptying that I need to learn to let go. But, I also believe everyone is commanded to be anxious for nothing. I wonder at the nation’s constant obsession with 24 hour coverage of distressing events. I don’t think we should ignore these things, but at the same time, I think we do need to learn to give them to God. I am leaning away from activism for many reasons.
One, it seems that these godless, chestless days are prophesied, and therefore inevitable. Two, I think living by example is more convincing than arguments or confrontation (so what is this, ha ha). Three, I think stories are more influential than arguments. Four, I think most of society’s problems stem from a religious point of view, not a social theory, though that is influenced by religion too. Five, I think that personal relationships are the only way to help people, not a vacuously constructed government entity. Six, too much focus on problems will tighten your muscles too much. Seven, God is bigger than the boogey man, as Vegie Tales say. An Orthodox clergyman said, as the world gets worse, heaven gets stronger. Therefore, I think we should learn to let it go to God, and if I’m wrong, and changing laws is the answer, I’ll let go of the shame of your bad opinion as well. God bless you.
Come go with me on a rabbit trail, a rabbit trail, a rabbit trail.
Come go with me on a rabbit trail; are we the rabbit or the hunter?
Either way we have to move fast.
If Christ is more excellent than the angels, what about the angels? Are we to pay any attention to them? Are they thus nothing? If there is a movement to dis them, and to focus only on the most excellent, then where did that come from? Plato? Protestantism? Modernism which disses all heirarchy?
Maybe the last two come from Plato. If he espouses the one over the many, then the many get reduced to nothingness. I’m not saying he totally does, but he does seem to lean in that direction. From Wikipedia:
One-over-many: For any plurality of F things, there is a form of F-ness by virtue of partaking of which each member of that plurality is F.
Self-predication: Every form of F-ness is itself F.
Non-self-partaking: No form partakes of itself.
Uniqueness: For any property F, there is exactly one form of F-ness.
Purity: No form can have contrary properties.
One/many: The property of being one and the property of being many are contraries.
Oneness: Every form is one.
The concept of forms itself ridicules its own examples. A table only exists as a shadow of the higher, immaterial form of tableness, for example. Therefore any lesser beings are meant to be transcended above to contemplate the One. The one who can do this has left the cave, as it were.
Let’s take the example of excellence, since Christ is more excellent than the angels. According to Plato, the form of excellence must be contemplated, and if we must stumble through the angels and then to Christ, we would see that he is a better example of the form of excellence than the angels, and so, why waste your time on them?
But one would have to know the person of Christ to understand the nature of excellence. Excellence does not pre-exist Christ. If He is most excellent, what does he do? He sustains every insignificant part of creation for one thing. He makes his ministers (the angels) spirits and his servants flames of fire.
Hierarchy does not exist alone. We can qualify this as a choice instead of necessity.
What about other forms, like tallness? One can say that tallness is more excellent than shortness, but isn’t there only room for infinite tallness to exist? Everything else comes up short, and there you blow the purity qualification. So are the angels shorter than God, and thus disqualified as excellent?
No, he is more excellent. That does not mean that by being less excellent, that angels aren’t excellent. But does that also mean we stop qualifying things in order to make angels feel less inferior? No, hierarchies are our friends. Is there a self-existing form of hierachy? No again, God as Trinity and his heavenly host pre-exists the notion.
So, since we are in a hurry, we must just conclude by saying, give angels and saints and rabbits and dust their due.
Yesterday’s Q&A after coffee hour with Metropolitan Jonah combined with my intense reading of Ruth has made me want to explore painful emotional responses, aka, psychic pain (also known as mental pain, emotional pain, social pain, spiritual or soul pain, or suffering. It is sometimes also called psychalgia. [from wikipedia]) I say intense reading of Ruth because in order to get into a book, I have to very closely relate and sympathize with the main character. This seems to happen most easily with 19th Century literature. The British may be somewhat off in their theology, but I cannot ignore how I’m wired, whether it be by nature or nurture. I think there is much to redeem about this literature anyway, evidenced by the monk telling the novice to read David Copperfield, because if you don’t have a handle on Christianity 101, you are not ready for hesychasm.
Metropolitan Jonah talked about how sins and passions are means we use to console ourselves from psychic pain (my paraphrase). He said this pain is caused mainly by resentment and anger. In order to deal with it, if one is ready, you have to look to the original source of the pain, then divide away the other person’s sin to be forgiven, and find your own. It was sort of a short answer, and now that I’ve had a day to think about it, I am wondering if some of the pain is just from the wound, causing an existential state that is there even if one has dealt with the cause. But certainly the original cause must be dealt with.
*spoiler alert for Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth)*
Ruth is an “at risk” teen who falls in love with a thoughtless young man. He convinces her to run off with him when she seems to have no other recourse. It is more like the path of least resistance when she was too weak to resist more. Eventually he tires of her and abandons her. She runs after his coach to no avail and almost kills herself in her extreme despondency. There are several other people who have let her down up to this point, but one very nice Dissenting pastor, who was vacationing there, takes her in to live with himself and his sister and their maid. Shortly thereafter they discover she is pregnant and decide to pretend she is a widow to protect her child’s social standing.
Ruth is very humbled by her new situation, to say the least, and devotes herself wholeheartedly to repentance. But about 8 years later she accidentally comes back into contact with her former lover. Mrs. Gaskell is very adept in laying the groundwork for this very emotional scene. Ruth felt forced into meeting him after he discovered the truth about their child, and she only agrees to meet him privately out of fear that he will take her son away. Mrs. Gaskell doesn’t make him into a total villain, though in his thoughtlessness he did make it seem that he was threatening her. He really wasn’t, and ends up asking her to marry him, but she’s in such a panicked state by this point that she responds in vehement anger about if he were the last man on earth and so forth. He leaves her alone.
I will say that I find it puzzling when these patronizing characters offer Ruth and the minister money or other charity, and they refuse it. It seems like these patronizers are doing the right thing, and almost like Ruth & c. are being proud to not accept. I wonder if Mrs. Gaskell is very sensitive, as a minister’s wife herself, to the concept of being bought off by parishioners who are jockeying for position with their donations. She will not compromise for them.
I’ll skip to the end now and mention Mr. Benson’s (the minister) anger when he ends up confronting Ruth’s child’s father and is glad he has no claim on the child. While I’ll not argue with keeping distance from patronizing, thoughtless, selfish people who do not seem to want to find fault with themselves, the emotional reaction, resulting from the psychic pain of being traumatized by them seems like an intermediary response, and not a concluding climax, which it was in this book. It reminds me of how Meggy, in Thorn Birds, finally tells off Luke: “And futhermore, you can’t make love worth toffee!” It was cathartic when I read it as a young woman, but now, years after my divorce, I want something more than a big tell-off. That is just revenge. I’m rejecting you instead of you rejecting me.
Again, I’m not advocating acceptance as the answer. I’m not ready for that and am not convinced of the need for it. I can’t judge whether Mr. Bellingham would have been saved by being included in raising his son, or if he would have brought more harm than good. If you balk at the idea, I don’t think it should be forced on you out of false guilt or an overactive sense of obligation. But balking is usually the result of pain.
Let’s take a burn as an example, since it shares the connotation. In general, close contact with fire should be avoided. If someone has had a bad burn, maybe by accidentally burning their own house down, they may have a panicked reaction if they see a match. I won’t say it’s totally PTSD, because the heat from just a match may actually hurt sensitive scars. But what if their lifestyle includes lighting matches? They will need to face their pain, and learn to find a way to deal with matches. They may find a way of protecting their scars so that it doesn’t hurt, but what if they can’t? What if it hurts every time? It isn’t even the same match that did the initial damage. They can forgive the match manufacturer and even the perpetrating match itself, and not want to ruin their reputation, tell them off, or even discourage others from using them. But at the same time, I think the person wants others to know that it hurts them every day when they use a match. Every single live long day. They can tell themselves not to react. They can stop their hesitation. They may even keep it burning as long as they can, even after their candle is lit, just to prove something to themselves. “I’m not going to let the pain control me.” But it still is. No matter what. Whether one chooses never to light a match again, or if one decides to set the world record for how long they can hold the short little things, their pain is still controlling them.
So, what if all God has to work with is a reaction-to-pain controlled person? What if he can use this reaction? Or we can, rather, or together, etc. The pain can be a call to prayer. It is much easier to use it to trigger a consoling sin, but we can probably train ourselves to seek God instead. Relief with sinful habits is not only more easily obtained, but indulging in them also provides quicker fixes. Additionally, just as in exercise when it takes more and more repetitions to get one’s heart-rate up, so also in prayer, it takes more and more prayer to achieve an ease of the pain that used to take just a momentary turning to God.