Lassoing Artemis Out of the Mosh Pit

“So you run away, Shootafar? You let Poseidon have all the honours, and give him victory for nothing? Silly fool, what is your bow for? A windbow – useless! Don’t let me hear you boasting again in our Father’s hall before all the family, how you will stand up to Poseidon and fight him!”

Apollo made no answer to this, but Hera did; and she scolded the Archeress roundly:
“How can you dare to put yourself against me, you bold bitch? You will find it hard to face my wrath, in spite of the bow you carry, for women are your prey; Zeus has made you a lion among the women and lets you kill any you like! You had better go and show your prowess in the mountains by killing savage beasts and wild deer, and leave your betters alone. But if you want to learn the art of war, I’ll show you I am the stronger when you set yourself against me!”

One of the more profound things I’ve learned from reading in the wisdomsphere is how many human acts and interactions – and particularly those very acts viewed by moderns as arbitrary (typically religious) accretions – are actually baked right into humans and human nature. Moderns tell us they can hull away authority, morality, even art in order for us to better taste the sweet little pea underneath. But it’s all a lie.

And so I wonder if another one of these baked-in’s is liturgy: a “work of the people” ritualizing communal acts of worship and setting apart that which is sacred. Since we have hulled away our gods it only makes since to hull away the liturgies as well, right? But professing to be wise, we have become fools. And by unmooring liturgy from a religious context, we the people have only shifted our work, our rituals, our sense of sacred from gods to stupidities. I’ve met dredheads and Deadheads who could number the months and divide the seasons according to the music festival scene (yes, I swear it’s a thing). And its a rare heretical American who doesn’t participate “at least culturally” in the liturgical season of SuperBowl.

Well, there’s been a lot of discussion recently about superheroes and their modern portrayal. I’m not as interested here talking about a particular superhero (cards on the table I don’t think I’ve been to the movies, any movie, since 300. So what the heck do I know?). But, more generally, I have been wondering if another baked-in of humans is a desire, a longing for, superheroes: those incarnations of the Hope (the Imago Dei?) that the good, the true, the beautiful can and should and will conquer evil.

Hegel, in his Introductory to Aesthetics(*), hints at the notion that Christianity has made art impossible. He hints at this because for him, art is to some extent a portraying of the universal, particularly. And, so he argues, for the Christian the highest sublimity is the Universal in the Particular of the Trinity. The Christian “knows” this, intellectually, but can in no way portray this.  Christian art then is impossible, and Christian attempts at portrayal simply become devotional, not artistic. Once this argument is conceded (not that I am), it’s easy to see how substance becomes dwarfed as technique is elevated. And the carnival commences.

And so, has Christianity made superheroes impossible? The Christian knows that The Good, the True, the Beautiful has conquered, right here and right now.  Therefore, Christian superheroes become devotional allegory or caricature.  But we don’t go to the movies for devotions.  And the carnival commences: superheroes become inherently pagan, because for the pagan this-worldly stakes are extremely high:  the good, the true, the beautiful is this earth and this life, and it’s quite possible to lose. That doesn’t mean (necessarily) that Christians can’t view modern pagan superheroes, any more than it means Christians can’t (necessarily) view modern pagan art more generally. But certainly pagans arent any more Monolithic regarding their view of the good and its liturgical worship than Christians are. And particular pagans, who have a particular warped view of the good, are quite naturally going to portray their superheroes fighting for this warpery.  These are good pagans, and they are very concerned about losing. Christians obviously can discern the Good hidden in all the garbage, but we should be careful.  I suppose we can also project our particular trials and battles onto the programs of particular superheroes, but how interesting is that ultimately if we cannot project the War?  And we cannot project the War because the War has already been fought and won.  When there’s no longer a War, to what extent are superheroes even ours to repair?

 

* Reading Hegel at recommendation from Dr. Bertonneau and others at the Orthosphere.  Looking forward to follow up discussion over there shortly.

 

Pills Red and Yellow, Black and White

A Red Pill to the Unknown God.

Hear what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.
Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending,
Leaps to things not understood.

Here in outward signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things, are all we see:-
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine;
Yet is Christ, in either sign,
All entire confessed to be.

They too who of Him partake
Sever not, nor rend, nor break,
But entire their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousands eat,
All receive the selfsame meat,
Nor the less for others leave.

Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food;
But with ends how opposite!
Here ’tis life; and there ’tis death;
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.

Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains
What was in the whole before;
Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form,
The Signified remaining One
And the Same forevermore

Lo! upon the Altar lies,
Hidden deep from human eyes,
Angels’ Bread from Paradise
Made the food of mortal man:
Children’s meat to dogs denied;
In old types foresignified;
In the manna from the skies,
In Isaac, and the Paschal Lamb.

Jesu! Shepherd of the sheep!
Thy true flock in safety keep.
Living Bread! Thy life supply;
Strengthen us, or else we die;
Fill us with celestial grace:
Thou, who feedest us below!
Source of all we have or know!
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the Feast of Love,
We may see Thee face to face. Amen

Saved By the Bell

If you love me, keep my commandments.
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One ages old criticism leveled against the Catholic Church (oddly enough, quite often by Catholics themselves) is the Church’s purported obsession with rules.  The criticism seems to be that all these rules are hindering our relationship with God.  We should stop, so goes the argument, being so focused on rules and start realizing how much God loves us and that Jesus died for us.  In the shadow of the cross, rules schmoolz.
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I’d like to offer a different (non-exhaustive) perspective on rules and relationship.
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“Be home by 10pm.”  This is a rule.  Handed down by an authority.  Easy enough?  Well, its extremely easy for the kids who never leave their parents’ home on Friday night to go gallivanting around town.  But for us not so good kids (mea culpa), we tend to complicate the issue a bit.  Does 10pm mean, literally, 10pm on the dot?  Or in the ballpark of 10pm?  And whose dot and ballpark are normative here?  Does “home” mean in the driveway finishing up a conversation on the phone?  Or does it mean both feet through the front door?  In each questioning of the rule, the rule becomes more precise – but its precision comes into focus because the kid is putting the rule to the test.
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Way back in the day my own temperament was toward the bad kid end of that spectrum, and so it’s easy to see how this particular rule gets characterized as “geez my parents are such big fat sticks in the mud” or “clearly my parents don’t trust me; if they trusted me there wouldn’t be this rule.  My parents are hindering a relationship with me because of all their rules.”  The good kid version may have even been something like “I’m a daddy’s girl/momma’s boy and he/she loves me unconditionally.  I bet he wouldn’t mean 10pm if there was something really important going on that I wanted to do.”
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As we get older, we start to see that while the rule was there for all sorts of practical and didactic reasons (from the “because I said so!” and “nothing good happens after 10pm” to the less obvious: our parents have been to more funerals than we have) it is also the case that our parents – nearly incomprehensibly – loved us bratty kids.  And while we were out gallivanting around town they would be worrying – they would be restless – until we are back home.  No matter what is going on with them, be it a nap or a late night movie together as parents, there will continue to be quick and side-eyed glances at the clock as 10pm nears.
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It’s understandable to read about all those Catholic forms and matters and intentions and conditions for indulgence and which masses count – it’s understandable to read about the rules – and wonder, “But where’s the love?!?”  The love is where “I gotta get home by 10 or my dad’s going to get mad and punish me” becomes “my dad will worry about me until I get home.  He’s worked hard all week.  I’m going home early tonight, so he can stop worrying and get to sleep earlier.”  Love certainly has a way of showing how we shall bend the knee.  Both Jesus and Delilah said, “if you love me…”
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And so when we decry rules as hindering our relationship with God, I wonder if what we are also decrying is our own narrow-mindedness, our inability to wonder about the Rule Maker’s side of the rules.  God is merciful, and if we show up at 1030pm its likely that the house won’t be boarded up and the locks changed (although they certainly might).  But it is entirely possible that – particularly because of the cross – those big fat stick in the mud Catholic rules are there because our Father won’t stop worrying, won’t stop being restless, until we are back home safe and sound in His house.

Our Lord and His City

“A lover of wisdom, then, and high-spirited in temper, and quick and strong, will be the one who is to be a good and true guardian of the city?”
“Most assuredly indeed,” he said.

The Republic, Plato

Our Lord, our fathers, yes, even our popes. Authority, guardians, of a particular city. We destroy authority by destroying our guardians: And how dreary, how bratty, how fake is such a world.  Our Lord, quick and strong, will protect His city.  We attack Authority at our peril.

O Christ Jesus, I acknowledge Thee King of the universe. Exercise over me all Thy sovereign rights.

America as Prom Queen

It seems that for some people the very existence of a hellhole like North Korea is justification for liberalism. Whew at least we’re not starving our own people and shooting those who try to leave (except, of course, when we do.). That is obviously a false dilemma. It’s like arguing that atheism *just has to be* ok because there’s a Westboro Baptist Church.

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Well, has anyone seen “Carrie”? You know how everyone in that movie is pretty much an awful whore except Carrie and her weird kooky mom? The weird kooky mom wants to protect Carrie from the whores. And some of the whores want to protect Carrie from the weird kooky mom. And everyone is trapped making false dichotomies becasue they only compare their particular position to the terrible people on the other side. And that sounds nice and all until the gym explodes and everyone burns to death? Liberal America=whores. North Korea=weird kooky mom.

Boiling in Blood. But Only on Weekends and Special Occasions.

Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body.
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One of my jobs at one point or another was to inform people that – in the eyes of Big Brother – a “smoker” is defined as “a person who has smoked 100 cigarettes in his lifetime.”  If you have reached that pinnacle of 100 cigarettes – whether reaching that pinnacle took you a week, a year, or 4 decades of weekend warrioring and ringing in the special occasions with the smokes – and no matter how long ago your last cigarette was in the benevolent eyes of Big Brother you are, forever, a smoker.  Sure, you may be a former smoker.  That’s nice; but former smokers get cancer and heart attacks.  So, YMMV.
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It’s easy to dismiss this as, “ah silly, government bean counters.  You’ll just do anything to raise my insurance premiums, won’t ya!”  And then one reads Dante’s Inferno.  Reading about souls forever boiling in lakes of blood has a tendency to rid the mind of cant.  When do we, after decades of “only” sinning on weekends and special occasions, become forever identified with a particular sin?  When does Billy, who only occasionally fornicates, become Billy the Fornicator?  The Liar?  The Flatterer?  The Usurer?  The Impure?  So many of us treat these sins, these things we do, as if they are only out there.  Acts committed outside of us and ultimately viewed by God as entities separate from us.  These sins, these “separate entities,” can be easily handled and viewed by all the relevant parties prior to making any drastic decisions, right?  Maybe we shacked up with our girlfriends for a year before getting married.  But surely by getting married we are letting God know that wasn’t an ideal?  And surely after years and years of marriage and a couple of kids its all water under the bridge?  Perhaps.  But is this so?  Isn’t it rather that sin isn’t just out there like a simple stain on our t shirt; it is also quite seriously in us?  As a wound.  And the more grave the sin, the deeper the wound.
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See, much like with “becoming a smoker,” it is entirely possible that at some point we are wounded too much for it all to be just water under the bridge.  And, much like smoking, it really doesn’t matter how long ago that last sin was.  Each and every cigarette has tremendous existential importance, as the smoker inches closer and closer to “Smoker.”  How many times do we get?  How many sins can occur before the wounds are so deep, that – no matter how long ago it occurred – the scar will always be visible?  There are many things we are told that lead to the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness.  Unfortunately, the 8th Sacrament isn’t Time.  I fully believe that the Lord forgives us – as often and as grievously as we fail Him – through (a worthy reception of) the Sacrament of Penance.  But it is frightening to think that the Lord isn’t just forgiving Billy who has committed fornication.  He’s forgiving Billy the Fornicator.
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Fortunately, Dante didn’t end with the Inferno.  And Billy the Fornicator should not despair.  Sure, it’s also terrifying; but how glorious it must be for Billy the Fornicator, after passing through the trials of the Purgatorio, to once again stand before his Lord as simply Billy.

Give Me Gumballs or Give Me Death

One of the issues that gets brought up frequently when discussing liberalism is the (false) notion that liberalism – the political doctrine that maintains that the liberty of its citizens is the primary function of government – does this “prioritizing the freedom of its citizens” by “restricting its authority over its citizens.”

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But this is is not how liberalism works. Liberalism “works” to some extent by confusing a (intentionally narrow view of) “having more options” with “government that restricts its own authority over its citizens.” But the two are not the same – quite the opposite. I hesitate to use these two examples given the emotional baggage they tend to come with but consider the issue of transgenders choosing which bathroom to use or a man choosing to “marry” another man. In each case it appears there are now more options. But this is just an appearance and not fact. It appears to mean more options only if we look at this from the standpoint of the transgender who is looking for a bathroom and not from the standpoint of the WalMart that wishes to manage its own bathrooms. In the case of “having more options” far from being the case that the government is just a passive observer, in fact the government is actively, authoritatively ensuring these options, deciding these options, discriminating between those who disagree about these options. And so this gets back to one of the fundamental criticisms: that when we say “government restricts its own authority” we are simply saying “the government is actively and authoritatively deciding what is good for its citizens, allows them this good as an option, and puts the dissenters in jail.”  Its like thrilling that there are ever and ever more pretty options in the gumball machine without ever questioning where the quarters are coming from.

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I should say these are the thoughts I had working through a defense of liberalism at the blog of Winston Scrooge. Indebtedness to Zippy should be obvious.