Archive

English I

Brief, brief thoughts on, responses to, and analyses of various texts of or relating to existentialism.

The Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard

(For ease’s sake I’m simply using “Kierkegaard” as opposed to “Kierkegaard through the mouthpiece of Anti-Climacus” or “Anti-Climacus.” Not sure what the accepted stance on this is anyway.)

Particularly striking in Kierkegaard’s categorization and explanation of despair was his concept of the dichotomy and synthesis of finitude and infinitude. Synthesis itself is an essential category to Kierkegaard’s understanding of the self as he defines selfhood as being the synthesis of two opposing elements in relation to a third element (the “positive third” of the “spirit”). In examining the makeup of the self according to this definition, Kierkegaard puts forward a number of dichotomies, which must, necessarily, be synthesized in the creation of a self. The first of these is finitude/infinitude, a category almost as resistant to interpretation as selfhood itself. Upon first reading, the vague definitions I took away of Kierkegaard’s concepts of “finitude” and “infinitude” were that finitude dealt somehow with the facts of being a human (what a man is in terms of his capacities, abilities, situation, and environment, in the most factual senses) and that these facts were limitations upon man and then that infinitude was essentially the opposite of this: instead of limitations, infinitude meant imagination, possibility, everything that dealt with the non-factual side of man and rather with his hopes and dreams. Read More

Advertisements

A head, tongue pinked and hanging loose, tensed                                                                                                                                         For the moment when, knowing I knew, he                                                                                                                                                           Should spring to shade: momentary bunker                                                                                                                                                    Beneath an unremembered bit of trunk                                                                                                                                                              Cut to widen the path on which I stood.                                                                                                                                                              His tail outstuck; I watched it twitch, uncertain.                                                                                                                                                If not for that I might have let it be,                                                                                                                                                                   But that quick promise drew me in, waking                                                                                                                                                     Violent inquisition. Unthinking,                                                                                                                                                                             I rolled the log aside, beaded eyes’ spark                                                                                                                                                         Expecting. Yet when I looked, two halves spilled                                                                                                                                              Their carmine gore across the path. Tail stilled.                                                                                                                                                  I looked and stayed a beat, transfixed, til from                                                                                                                                                   Further down the path my brother’s yell approach’d.                                                                                                                                          And on I walked, determined not to think.

The Orestiad: Epiphany

Bright, white, boring, and hideously feminine. No one prepared me for that part of death. If they had, I never would’ve been so on board with the “glorified deaths are the height of honor” mantra and I certainly would never have entered into anything liable to send me to this monotonous, ladies’ perfume-scented hellhole any sooner than the date I actually arrived here. Of course, I knew about the Asphodel beforehand. Who didn’t? But I never really thought about ever being completely surrounded by the ghastly stuff, let alone being surrounded by it for all eternity.

Yes, eternity. A large word for a large concept. It makes me laugh when I remember how the living used to complain of people or things taking an “eternity” to be completed or to do something. They have no idea. No one has any idea of eternity until they have died and are forced to exist, bodiless, amidst this sea of whiteness. And still, the dead know only a fraction of what eternity truly is unless they, like me, are forced to wear their regrets like chains for the rest of it.

Read More

When Selfless Turns Selfish: Or Does Selfless Even Exist?

About two days ago, I was listlessly sitting at the piano in my living room, banging at the keys occasionally to make it sound like I wasn’t doing precisely what I was, and staring at the bookshelf to my left. I must have stared at those same thirty or so books for half an hour before I actually got around to reading their titles and then finally, their authors. Brushing past various tomes of Henry James, Charles Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Anton Checkhov, E. M. Forster, and even Charles Kingsley (who are all great men in their way, but did not write the kind of thing you just randomly decide to open in order to entertain yourself while supposedly practicing Clementi), I lighted on a name which ever since fifth grade and my first encounter with The Importance Of Being Ernest has been synonymous with a sharp wit and a good laugh: Oscar Wilde.

All too often have I professed myself to be a great fan of Wilde, but really in all fairness, I was a fan of The Importance of Being Ernest, not of Wilde for I had not read enough of his work (having only read the aforementioned play and Lady Windermere’s Fan). With this in mind (as well as the promise of a laugh that would free me from the constraints of a long-dead composer’s legacy which I had been forced to stare at on and off since the ripe old age of seven) I pulled The Happy Prince and Other Tales down from the shelf.

The moment I read ‘High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince” (Wilde, 1), I remembered a conversation with my mum about this very story in which she had told me that every time she read it, she cried. “Wonderful,” I thought sarcastically, “and just when I was looking for a laugh.” But for some reason, I can’t say what, I decided to read it anyway.

For those who don’t know, Oscar Wilde was not only a playwright, but also a writer of fairytales (and even one novel). The Happy Prince (a sadly ironic title) was one of his fairytales, as was made quite clear by the language and style it was written in. However, half a page in I started to notice that Wilde’s use of Anderson-esque speech was not in all seriousness, but rather a parody of the traditional method. This became more and more apparent as I continued and the story conveyed fewer and fewer traditional fairytale themes in that flowery but simple language and more and more of Wilde’s political, social, and in general world views.

Read More

The idea for this comes from the story of God’s test of Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Things Never Happen the Same Way Twice

It was the fourth night now. The fourth night in a row. The fourth time she had started up, sweating, surprised by the darkness. The fourth time she had woken with that voice in her head. Always the same one. The same bright white light, the same voice… the same words.

Slowly and cautiously letting herself down onto her elbows, Laura glanced at the clock. 4:57 a.m. Too early to wake Claire, but too late to fall properly back to sleep. Reaching across the bed, she nearly knocked her grandmother’s cracking, old lamp off the table in the process of yanking the stiff cord which—nine times out of ten—would turn the light on. The sudden light emitted by the fading bulb was enough to blind her for a moment; a reminder of The Dream. Lights popping before her eyes, Laura felt around for the book on her bedside table. It was old and dog-eared, full of fading post-it notes, and hard to read for all the hand-written annotations covering the text in many places. There were entire sections that were highlighted in yellows or blues (and sometimes both) and in one or two places even newspaper clippings or what looked like internet articles were paperclipped in. The title was only just recognizable beneath the name “Laura Moran”. She traced it absentmindedly with a finger as she opened the book and a folded newspaper clipping from 1974 fell out onto the coverlet.

Read More

Who Are You to Play God?: God’s Power to Dole out Rights

Vegetarianism is a trend that most think of as being relatively recent, and as such is often frowned upon for being ‘new’ and ‘innovative’.* Whenever I heard this in the past, I would scoff at such narrow-mindedness (for really these people are just clutching at straws if this is their reason for eating meat) and deliver a long lecture about innovation, change, and, inevitably, animals’ rights.

Yesterday, after completing my assigned reading from Genesis, I felt some slight triumph in the fact that I had yet another argument to add to my list: God decreed vegetarianism on Day Six, along with the creation of humankind. And if that didn’t constitute ancient, I wasn’t sure what did. However my elation was short lived, for just a day later I completed reading Genesis chapters eight and nine with a sense of nothing short of outrage.

For those who aren’t familiar with this section of Genesis, it describes the great flood and Noah’s (and the rest of mankind’s, though they are ignored beyond the fact that they were ‘wiped out’) tribulations. After Noah and his family have exited their ark safely, God speaks to them saying “. . . you shall not eat flesh with its life. . . For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life” (Gen. 9.4-5).

Now honestly, I had to read this about six times in order to discern any meaning, but once I thought I had figured it out, I felt like yelling “Hypocrite!” to the heavens. One quick check with the Oxford experts confirmed my ideas as correct. God’s character really is revoking His earlier command of vegetarianism, allowing people to take the lives of animals in order to get a little of their aggression and violence out and as some kind of payment for allowing humankind to survive. How sadistic is that?

Being vegetarian and someone who thinks all beings are created equal, I’m completely biased in this matter, but really I think that what God does in this situation is like the president of the United States suddenly deciding he had the power to say that it was acceptable to hunt Californians for food. Oh, and actually he wants you to kill them in order to pay him for allowing your state to survive. So go kill some Californians. Alright, so maybe that analogy was a little extreme, but I think I got my point across.

Of course God created the animals, but this means He was the one who gave them hearts and minds and feelings.  For Him to just decide that they are inferior to humans and therefore should suffer for the transgressions and mistakes of the human race is insane. If they were beings enough to be exempt from killing before, what now has changed besides God’s whim? Nothing. The animals are still the same, but God’s special creation has disappointed Him, so someone must suffer. But mankind? No. They shall suffer for a mere paragraph in the history of the world, for they were created in God’s image. However animals (who look nothing like God—or so we are told) shall bear the burden of the humans’ crime for the rest of eternity.

If I were talking about anyone else, I would be asking the question: “Who are you to play God?” Of course, in my situation this makes absolutely no sense, so instead I’ll go a step further. Who gave God the power to say who got what rights? Why is God allowed to hand some their basic rights and look at the others and say “Sorry, there weren’t enough to go around”? Why is it different for God than for anyone else? Isn’t what God did in this situation similar to what Hitler said about the Jews? So why is it different?

And to everyone who just read that and thought “They’re just dumb animals,” I say: “So what? You’re just a dumb human. Can I kill you now?”

*However absurd this may sound, I know it to be true as I am a vegetarian myself and have encountered many such geniuses.

A/N: I have absolutely nothing against California.

Divine Megalomania: God’s Self-Obsession

God is generous. God is forgiving. God is loving. And God should be worshipped unequivocally. Every two-year-old knows it. But what if every two-year-old knew the definition of megalomania? If every Christian two-year-old in the world knew that a megalomaniac is someone obsessed with their own power, might they not question whether God wasn’t one of these egoists? I do, and I’m not two years old. Just the fact alone that God “created humankind in His image” (Gen. 1.27) proves that He enjoys self-glorification. The idea that mankind is modeled after God is even stressed in the Bible—appearing four times in just two verses in most translations—underlining God’s tendency toward self-exaltation.

And this is not the only example. Throughout the Bible, there is talk of the glory of God, various people glorifying God, and essentially how wonderful God thinks He is. A prime example of this is the hymn “Gloria In Excelsis Deo” (Latin for “Glory to God in the Highest”) from the lines “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2.14). Again, we are asked to glorify Him, to lift Him up (as if He needs to be any higher!), and to revere Him—along with no one else. It is unquestionable that God has power; in fact He has quite a lot of it. But such obligatory adoration is quite unnecessary and only serves to make God look power-obsessed.

The way in which Creation is presented in Genesis suggests that God created the universe in order that He might be worshipped completely by His creations. This is particularly prominent in the Genesis Chapter 3 during which Eve explains that God has told her that “you shall no eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die” (Gen. 3.3). To this the serpent replies, “You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3.4-5). Of course the Bible presents this in such a way that it seems that the serpent is twisting God’s words only to trick Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, but it cannot be denied that the end result is precisely what the serpent predicted. Adam and Eve gain the ‘divine knowledge’ of good and evil and God subsequently drives them out of Eden.

Why, though, would God see the need to throw His own creations out? I see three possibilities. First, that He intended to anyway, and was merely playing with Adam and Eve. Second, that it was merely because they flouted his decree regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And third, that He really was afraid that they would become His equals (or that they already were). All three of these evidence God’s sublime megalomania. In the first case, God demonstrates that He enjoys having power over others (or really everything). In the second, that He is so obsessed with his power that He cannot stand to have anyone cross Him in any way. And in the third, that because of His love for His own power, God fears the idea of another becoming his equal as Adam and Eve might’ve done if they had been allowed to remain in Eden. Based off of the serpent’s comment that Adam and Eve would “be like God” if they ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, the last seems the most likely to me, though any really could be possible.

Really, throughout the Bible, God doesn’t give people a choice. There isn’t a “worship God, or don’t worship God” message, instead it proclaims: “worship God or burn in Hell”. And though there may be an ‘or’ in there, I really don’t consider that much of a choice. If God weren’t self-obsessed and afraid of losing His power, then He wouldn’t feel the need to require people to worship Him. But as He does, I feel justified in dubbing Him a megalomaniac. But then, what god isn’t?