God’s anxiety. Therapeutic concerns in Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theology of anxiety

•October 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Hans Urs von Balthasar’s “The Christian and Anxiety” was partly written in response to Kierkegaard. Rather than focusing on the ex-ante anxiety which resides in the freedom to choose sin, Balthasar advances an ex-post theory of anxiety as rooted in original sin. Along the way, Balthasar’s theology of anxiety occasions a highly original therapeutic method, far remote from popular faith-based therapies.

Balthasar theology of anxiety is centered around the notion of God’s own anxiety, as a full, absolute expression of anxiety. Within human anxiety he further distinguishes between anxiety associated with a bad conscience and transfigured anxiety. Rather than commanding that Christians drop anxiety altogether, what God desires from sinners is that they recognize the transfiguration of their anxiety by Christ. The transfiguration of anxiety, it’s new form long with its new meaning, involves merely the surpassing of anxiety’s unholy aspects.

Anxiety is, writes Balthasar, the suffering of the infinitely Pure One, the infinitely Righteous One (who is also God) when confronted with all that God abhors and that can reveal its full hideousness only to the Pure One (who is also God). It is, furthermore, the vicarious suffering of this Pure One for all the impure, that is, experiencing that anxiety which every sinner by right would have to go through before the judgment seat of God and in being rejected by him. It is, finally and most profoundly, the anguish that God (in human form) suffers on account of his world, which is in danger of being lost to him—which, indeed, at that moment is an utterly lost world. So as to be able to suffer this anxiety and therein to demonstrate humanly how much the world matters to him in his divinity and how concerned he is for the world’s sake: for this purpose he became man. It is an anguish he wanted to have without any consolation or relief, since from it was to come every consolation and relief for the world. Therefore it is, in the proper and strict sense of the word, the absolute anxiety, which undergirds and surpasses every other anxiety and thus becomes the standard and tribunal for all. This anxiety is drained to the dregs upon the Cross in the actual abandonment of the Son by the Father. Since the subject who endures this abandonment in bis human nature is divine, it is an absolute forsakenness and therefore the absolute measure of the abyss and of every other abysmal experience. Only the Son knows exhaustively what it means to be forsaken by the Father, for he alone knows who the Father is and what the Father’s intimacy and love are (The Christian and Anxiety, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000, 52).

Balthasar’s conception plays out several therapeutic functions:

First, to recognize anxiety’s transfiguration, along with the transfiguration of everything human, is an easier command than that of a direct and wholesale, and targetted surpassing of anxiety. While pressure is a psychological source of anxiety, the Christian faces less pressure.

Second, we are comforted that someone fully understands the unique quality of our feelings of anxiety (understands what it is like ‘for me’ to be anxious). If Christ felt all of the anxiety, he must have felt mine also. We feel less alone.

Third, we understand that Christ-God had more of this than each of us can feel. We are “protected” by our own limited nature. Our anxiety feels smaller and less important by comparison to God’s anxiety.

Fourth, one’s anxiety is not necessarily the result of one’s personal historical sin since God suffered from it as well, while he was sinless. The apparent unfairness associated to the spillover effects of sin, the fact that a person’s own anxiety is not necessarily linked to her own personal historical guilt, is compensated by each person’s anchoring to God’s grand subjective meaning, and weaves metaphysical ties around an initial Frommian separateness.

Fifth, anxiety is given a positive social meaning, that of uniting humans in Christ’s anxiety. While not all humans suffer from anxiety, the suggestion is that each human should have feelings of anxiety in their transfigured form. Additionally, Christ-God’s anxiety purges man’s anxiety of the associated shame and anomalous character and further weakens the feeling of separateness.

Balthasar’s theology of anxiety is philosophically remarkable.  It claims therapeutic success yet it does not pivot on the religious promise of personal salvation.

Jean Baechler’s gene of death and repentance as offsetting vital force

•October 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Sociologist Jean Baechler’s “Strategic Theory” of suicide (1979) illuminates the death seeking behavior we witness in Bleach. The most recent example of character carrying his own death, is “D”, the clownish “Lethal Dose Death Dealer” (Bleach Chapters 601-2). D says: “when I think about [my power], I’m always feeling like I’m close to dying”.

Baechler defines suicide as a type of human behavior, a way of life rather than a circumscribed act. He advances a theory of suicide as one of five strategic solutions to “existential” problems – problems perceived to affect the whole of one’s existence. Existential problems are natural for reflexive beings, beings that distinguish between the subjective “I” (the abstract, devoid of content and irreducible self of the first person perspective) and the “Me” (the biological and social composite identity).

According to Baechler there are five possible solutions to existential problems. All five responses are “natural” in the sense that they are immediately and continuously available to the subject: reflexive beings are continuously carrying them inside along with the problems themselves. The five types are

1) a bargaining between objective conditions and subjective aspirations which ends up producing a compromise solution,

2) an imaginary obliteration of the objective data and construction of a private world,

3) a real or imaginary obliteration of the subject (real or the symbolic suicide, the obliteration of  the “Me” by the “I”).

4) removing one of the elements in the objective situation (crime or misdemeanor), and

5) suppression of both sets of data, objective and subjective (the “apocalypse”).

Using Baechler’s example of five possible responses to the objective condition of unrequited love, the pool of solutions is 1) renounce one’s affections and bestow them elsewhere, 2) convince oneself that one is loved but the beloved is forbidden to declare it, 3) kill oneself, 4) kill the other, 5) kill the other and then kill oneself.

Out of the five, only the first behavior exhibits adequate “vital capacity”. Vital capacity is defined as capacity of integrating oneself in a present typical network of solutions, the capacity to tinker and work out more or less imperfect fitness or compromise between the two sets of data, subjective and objective. The other four are connected to a lack of adequate equipment, a genetic “vital incapacity”.

Vital capacity can reveal itself as deficient either by a shortcoming or by excess. If it appears as a shortcoming, it condemns the individual to live perpetually below the level of his real possibilities, it renders him incapable of seizing the opportunities available to him, and it prevents him from creating a personality that would allow him to make his way within the career he has  embarked on (…). These are all the cripples of life, incapable of creating solid and satisfactory bonds, of succeeding in their job, of making their way in the world. If there is an excess of vital energy, the consequences are no better; in fact, the individual is obliged to live below his potential, to go off the beaten track, and to make his way as a renegade. As he is no longer supported and helped by the net of typical solutions, he is forced to invent a personal plan for life and to expend considerable energy bringing it about. The risks of defeat are enormous because he is running into [ever higher] obstacles (Baechler, A Strategic Theory).

This classification of solutions reveals Urahara as “the great tinkerer”. His humanist humility and ethics of inviolability of persons place him in the service of generic life as fitness. He exemplifies strategic behavior one. His corrupted version, Kurotsuchi Mayuri, is a trespasser. He moves from behavior one to behavior four. Mayuri is a strategic tinkerer fascinated with diversity but displeased with the idea of inviolability of persons.

The problem to which these solutions respond is inadequacy between two sets of data, subjective and objective. The main antagonists in Bleach, such as Aizen or Juha Bach, have a greater than adequate vital capacity. Their subordinates, a smaller than adequate. (Loyalties are then easily explained by the desire to compensate: Sternritters are naturally attracted by Juha Bach just as Arrancars are naturally attracted by Aizen.)

But all theories have to face the hard cases. All theories of personality and behavior applied to Bleach must face the exceptional Ichigo. Ichigo holds a power greater even than Juha Bach’s, who is a monster literally beyond comprehension (his name’s other reading is hallowed or untold – “Yhwach”). In theory his vital capacity is deficient by excess. His inadequacy should rush Ichigo toward his own demise. Why then does Ichigo integrate so well within his family, highschool, Soul Society?

One possibility is that his humbling feelings of guilt connected to his mother’s death tame that power and thus place it in the service of life. All great prophets in the Old Testament subject their super-natural powers to this type of self-limitation. For instance Moses performed miracles sufficient to kneel the Egyptian nation (Exodus) and yet Moses was the most humble man on the face of the Earth (Numbers 12:3). The prophets’ humility is not an arbitrary choice, but grounded in irreducible feelings of shame and guilt before God.

The idea of humility and repentance finds its most extensive scope in the Christian tradition. For Christians the norm of humility becomes universal. God is humbling himself before God (God the Son before God the Father, and possibly the Father before the Son in His recognition that his Old Law, Old Plan failed to elevate man), and God is humbling himself before man (God the Son incarnates as Jesus). In imitation, man should also humble himself before God as well as before man.

The function of the universal norm of humility is to offset death. Judeo-Christians have a simple explanation for death: it is the fulfillment of sin. As a consequence of original sin, which is a manifest excess of vital capacity, humans become unfit to the holy life built for them (Genesis 3:3). Once sin begets death humans carry death within themselves until their death matures (James 1:13-15). In Demons, that process is more intense and the end more impending. Demons’ excess vital capacity is at once suffocating feeling and rush for death (Mat 8:29-32).

For Judeo-Christians the offsetting force against this rush is repentance. Since this world is the world of sin, an adequate equipment to tinker and successfully compromise between subjective and objective data is adequacy to the world of sin, and thus, the perfect fulfillment of death (Colossians 3:3). Vital capacity, the gene of fitness to ungenuine life, is, for Christians, not only ineffective against the genuine gene of death, but adulterous with it (James 4:3-10; James 5:1-3). Conquering death requires a different equipment. The  gene of genuine life is adequacy to God’s subjective meanings. The sign of its fruition is  humility based on repentance.

The same offsetting force could explain the equilibrium in Ichigo. As the rush towards his own demise is the fulfillment of his excess vital capacity, Ichigo’s offsetting “constant rebirth” is the constant fulfillment of his repentance. Remarkably, while both contemporary psychology and Christian theology are similar in their therapeutic advice to concentrate on what humans share rather than on their relative differences, theology makes the exception the rule. From this perspective, Ichigo’s exceptional case is important because it’s “normal”.

Secular psychology on the other hand points to behavior one, to livelihood, to Karakura town and to Urahara as a role model. Secular psychology denies the relevance of monstrous exceptions such as Ichigo as fictional. In response, religion would claim that since a secular humanist behavior of type one is as arbitrary as anything centered in man, it risks emptiness. Urahara, for all we know, displays a secular and humanist humility which, from a religious point of view, is vulnerable to that emptiness. Upon becoming captain, Urahara “decides” to care about the 12h Division, basing that decision “in himself”. From a religious point of view, if Ichigo’s or Rukia’s inner sunk worlds are not yet the rule, then they should be, at least more than Urahara’s. These characters are consumed by guilt but constantly refreshed by repentance, Ichigo in connection to his mother, Rukia in connection to Shiba Kaien.

Surely for a humanist this normative suggestion is as intolerable and exaggerated as religion itself. Is there a way to arbitrate between the two views? I don’t know; using Bleach to arbitrate seems at once an extravagant compliment paid to humanism and a sign of humility. But one observation is that more viewers identify with Ichigo and Rukia than with Urahara. Their intuition is that Karakura town is too vulnerable as principle or center of life.

The simple Chopin model of love relationships

•October 29, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Here is the simple model of love relationships we formulated during that long talk in the Chopin airport. We did not explicitly use it when describing the relationship between Guts and Griffith but it certainly was at work. Insofar as love is lending itself to judgment and choice, the model can serve as a guide in our judgments and choices of love relationships.

The model is combining Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love with your intuition of what we can and cannot achieve at the same time in a relationship.

The model has two parts: the holy trinity and the unholy trinity: the holy trinity of components and the unholy trinity of ideals.

The holy trinity of components:
(the three components of a love relationship)
1. passion,
2. intimacy,
3. commitment.

Passion and commitment are easy to understand. Intimacy is a profound exchange of emotions, thoughts, gestures in Robert Sternberg’s words. Different kinds of love would comprise different combinations of these components. Romantic love is intimacy plus passion. Fatuous or foolish love by commitment and passion, and complete love by all three components.

The unholy trinity of ideals:
(the three ideals we crave for in a relationship)

1. intensity
2. long-term
3. evolution

Intensity involves a high degree of reciprocal expectations, getting and giving. Long term means being able to continue the relationship for a long time. Evolution stands for granting and being granted a significant degree freedom to experiment and change; granting and being granted space or room for evolution. The trinity is unholy because it is inconsistent. We can only have at most two out of three. For example intensity, which involves pressuring the other, is at odds with evolution.

Adlerian and existentialist meanings of life in Berserk

•October 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This is a summary of our conversation on how the concept of Adlerian meanings of life helps us make sense of Guts’ reasons for leaving Griffith and of how Guts’ and Griffith’s dramas are connected.

Adlerian meaning

At least one level of analysis (breakdown) of the self is necessary to distinguish between what we called “Adlerian meaning or Adlerian dream” and “existentialist meaning”, that between unconscious self and reflective self. The two parts of the self are the sources of two different “meanings of life”.

I mainly used “meaning of life” in Adler’s sense, as a deterministic drive. Adlerian meaning of life is not something consciously chosen. It is something determined in the first years of childhood. If for instance you are feeling physically inferior to a bigger brother and that’s the dominant part of your emotional life in those first years, then you may unconsciously make your purpose in life, and meaning of life, to prove that strength is not important. Important is intellect. And you struggle to get a PhD. Guts’ Adlerian meaning is a relationship of mutual attachment. Griffith’s is to become king. In the Adlerian sense living a meaningful life means looking forward to the next day within the logic of your meaning of life. It means seeing that every day that you spend you spend it by progressing towards, by working towards achieving the goal that you’ve been set to achieve by your unconscious in its infantile stage and pressed to achieve by your evolving unconscious. In this sense, your meaning is your destiny, your drive, your religion, your obsession, your “god” or your “demon” (Griffith calls dreams “gods”; Guts asks whether they’re not more like demons; Griffith answers it makes no difference). Living a meaningful adult life is simply to see that you are fulfilling that meaning or destiny. However, Adlerian meanigs can easily become destructive (become demons) if projected on the wrong object / if unfolded in and entangled with the wrong circumstances. Adler says there is not much room for choosing meanings or radically reforming: the recipe or the basic constraints for happiness, are already given to your reflective self. The indeterministic, or “existentialist” meaning is a project consciously chosen and worked out by your reflective self. Another “existentialist” variant is merely the conscious continuous denial of one’s Adlerian destiny even in the absence of a positive replacement: at the least, embracing the absurd (Camus). This is actually what Guts only succeeds in doing. In your words, one becomes a “martyr of his own existentialist dream”. The two types of “meanings of life” come charged with discordant theories. However, in these theories’ weak versions one life can include both types of positive meanings.

Guts’ options

We were saying Guts faces three options when Griffith becomes unreliable.
a. Leave Griffith and become “a martyr of one’s own existentialist meaning”: wrenching from an Adlerian meaning become destructive (projected on the wrong object, Griffith). This is what Guts does.
b. Leave but create an idol: secretly “hang Griffith’s icon on his wall” without contacting the person Griffith, and keep faith that after a time they could come together again.
c. Maintain or reestablish contact with Griffith, become open to a formula-free relationship and be ready to fight both his and Griffith’s “demons” (i.e. both his and Griffith’s Adlerian destructive meanings) hopefully with Griffith’s help.

Which one of them is the least of evils?

The good thing in a: Guts wrenches himself from what is most certainly a losing bet. Staying with Griffith in an asymmetric position is a losing bet because Guts’ Adlerian meaning / dream cannot be fulfilled alongside Griffith under the complacent circumstances. An Adlerian meaning becomes destructive when projected on the wrong object. It is a losing bet not only from his Adlerian meaning of life point of view, but in general: near Griffih he can hardly develop a new meaning.

The disadvantages with solution (a): Life becomes emptied of meaning. Recall Guts training moves when he is by himself and away from Griffith? A ridiculously mechanic and repetitive up and down with a huge sword. This denotes emptiness because we are talking about the most skilled warrior in Midland here. Griffith’s was his inspiration. Life is also tormenting: Guts’ Adlerian meaning is continuously pressing from below to make a connection with Griffith. Not to mention that by the time Griffith and Guts evolve following the shock of separation (if they do at all), it would probably be too late for them to get back together.

The good thing about b: having faith in that idol with the knowledge that it is my creation denotes independence and a victory of the conscious self who merely uses the “religious potential” for one’s own sake and without yielding to anyone.

The problem with b: Guts cannot fool himself and double think for too long. If Griffith is an idol, then what is the justification that Guts-the-reflective can give to Guts-unconscious for not contacting Griffith? That the idol is not “ready” for a meaningful relationship? That would mean the “idol” is not worthy enough for Guts-unconscious to adopt / absorb.

The good thing with c. C would obviously be an end to repression. Guts and Griffith are yearning for each other’s presence and objectively do badly in life without each other in the narrative.

Solution c’s drawback: As long as Griffith’s reflective self does not credibly choose sides, Guts is overpowered by demons on both sides. Guts could appeal to an argument from reciprocity or universal morality and claim that the logic of the relationship he proposes to Griffith is “better” because it is one of equals, while the logic Griffith wants to impose is a master-slave relationship. However, as you pointed out, the argument would be rendered moot by Griffith, because Griffith would feel enslaved in a morality of equals. He cannot help feeling otherwise because his Adlerian meaning (and his perceived authentic self) is to become king. Guts could only reestablish connection only after defeating his own demons first (developed new meanings of his own or learned to comfortably live without any); but isn’t that the point when Griffith would no longer “need” to defeat Griffith’s?

Your evaluation, which I accept: out of these three, option (a) is the one holding the greater chance of psychological development for Guts, even if small in absolute terms.

Between brackets, being left alone is a chance for Griffith’s development too, even though in the narrative Griffith does not bring that chance to fruition. In the narrative, the night Guts leaves, Griffith loses control (he loses “ambition”, as forewarned by Zodd) and carelessly seduces the princess, as if to rush his dream of becoming king while proving Guts to be irrelevant. Under the circumstances, Griffith only manages to get caught, tortured and maimed for a year, until Guts returns to physically save what is left of him. In a word, manages to throws away everything he had built and more. During that year and after Guts’ return, Griffith is gradually succumbing to his demons. He is blaming Guts for everything, unable to critically scrutinize his Adlerian meaning and the circumstances that made it destructive (his long time denial that he needs Guts in a different logic than that of master-slave). He blames Guts for everything and in the end he sacrifices Guts. This completes the tragedy and finally seals his own psychological stagnation.

Generalizing on option (a), the existentialist fight with one’s own Adlerian meaning amounts to creating room for, or creating the premisses for the development of a new and yet unspecified meaning. Fighting one’s Adlerian meaning when that meaning has become entangled with the wrong circumstances / projected on the wrong object, is an active opening to the coming, the creation or the discovery of new meanings. The creation of something strong enough to become a truly functional meaning (something capable of bringing fulfillment if followed) is however contingent upon the discovery of some kind of unconscious soil for a consciously cultivated meaning. That is, it is contingent upon the existence of some secondary Adlerian meaning formed alongside the main one in the early childhood. Berserk is tragic and its characters are simplified models but if there is some hope for some of us, that hope often comes to rest with such secondary meanings.

Dreams and relationships in Berserk. Dialogue.

•October 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Ion:

<<

Guts.
The unreliable care-giver in early childhood and mid-childhood is the determinant of his personality. Guts’ drive is then to find someone worthy enough to be faithful to. Work hard to be liked by a particular person, to be liked so much that he would not be abandoned ever again. People like Guts try hard to grow worthy due to the false but persistent belief they were abandoned because they are unworthy.  People like Guts do not want to gather numbers of “fans”, not even friends in a large network of support. Numbers do not matter. If numbers mattered, fans would be replaceable, those who come could be replaced by those who go. But for people like Guts a fan going can not be replaced by a new fan. For people like Guts losses accumulate, or deepen an existing wound. People like Guts want one person to be gained once and for all, to redeem all that left in the past. People like Guts want commitment and are ready to commit all for it.

That losses accumulate means regeneration is hard. Loss must be compensated with raw strength, which can grow through training. People like Guts are dependent-prone personalities at bottom,  and if they grow strong, they do so because they develop a strong mask. At first their struggle is selfless. But in the process they realize they become their own care-givers.

They could become their own reliable care-givers in two ways: 1. accumulated losses also show that others are unworthy (morally unworthy for instance). By comparison they start hating themselves less.  2. They learn that they are not physically needy. Guts says: on the battlefield it doesn’t matter whether someone else cares about you. You are the only one who can take care of yourself. On the one hand, while on the battlefield, he feels less tormented. There, he can go berserk. But that’s only while in the midst of battle. On a deeper level though, his reason for stepping into battle is gaining the redeeming reliable caregiver. The means is showing  that he is worthy, so worthy that he can do it all by himself, so worthy that he does not need to be cared for. His dream, or his meaning of life in Alfred Adler’s sense, is still finding a reliable care-giver.

Can he change his meaning, his reason to live? Guts does not fully succeed in changing it. However, Guts manages to see that his old meaning must be abandoned. That is what his struggle becomes after being marked on the neck by Griffith’s demons: wresting away from the old meaning. His struggle is now to negate his own predicament.

Why doesn’t he change the object of desire but keep the same predicament / logic? That is, why doesn’t he move from Griffith to someone else? To some extent Guts does move to another object of desire, Casca. The relationship could work, possibly within the same old logic, possibly within a better logic. But moving is not easy, because it is in the nature of losses to accumulate. It’s hard to accept, “oh Griffith doesn’t want me, I’ll move on” because accepting it would be unconsciously absorbing a new reinforcement of his unworthiness. Accepting one’s unworthiness as a prerequisite to moving on to someone who proves worthiness makes no psychological sense because the unconscious seems to operate with an intrinsic or objective theory of worth.

Griffith.
Of course, people like Griffith have their own drama. They suffer too, as Guts acknowledges when killing the demon in the first episode.
People like Griffith need others too, and they need them in a logic that makes them feel proud. The logic of that relationship is poisoning them though since they can’t keep others close while at the same time being open they want the relationship to be asymmetric.

An error common to Griffith and Guts:
Each of them falsely believe that it is just more strength that they need in order to achieve their goal. Guts: become stronger and worthier of Griffith’s love. Griffith: become strong enough to justify the asymmetric character of the relationship with Guts. On that dimension however, strength, they are both good. What they need in order to be more stably happy is something else. A change in the meanings of their lives. And if that is not possible, then we simply witness, and live, tragedies.

>>

Milosz:

<<

To me, the central theme is interplay between „dream” and „relationships/love”.
Griffith.
Griffith was not able to integrate these two aspects.
He was not able to accept his dependency, the fact that he needs others. He denied, repressed and mis-represented this.
What did not allow him to keep important others? Not lack of strength. But his ‘logic’ AND misrepresentation of his needs. How so?
First, what keeps others away is the fact that he would recognize only an „equal” as friend. And the way he characterizes the equal/friend shows that they are totally independent, totally free. But then this is again a denial of dependency, of attachment. And is that relationship a friendship? Well, it is a form of friendship, but  one where there is a significant distance. But it evidently does not satisfy Griffith’s emotional needs. And even if he speaks of such friendship with some longing, it looks more like an intellectual idea, than a desire. The only other option for Griffith is to treat important others as „HIS THING”. He is so obviously emotional and so unclear when he says this. The useful people are more than just tools – he wants to respect their freedom. But it is not clear what they are then… They just need to be around, under his control (despite the fact that he always says they follow him of their own free will)
– So in the end, he has no formula for relationship with Guts. He is not able to recognize him as equal, and to respect his freedom, because of his possessive desire (and this shows that distanced ‘friendship’ is not what he needs and desires). Then he feels he became ‘controlled’ by Guts. He is just being kept torn by emotions, and in the end concludes that „only you made me forget that dream” – and in order to protect this dream, he sacrifices Guts.

Another connected problem for Griffith is how to deal with „sacrifices” entailed by his dream. I would say again: he REPRESSES and denies feelings of guilt. And that in the end leads him to a fatal error. He succumbs to demons’ lies.

It is NOT true that throughout his life he sacrificed the people who followed him. What he fails to see – and what Guts see clearly – is that these people follow their dreams. They are just too weak to do it alone, so they gather around a bigger „fire”. They also make compromises (as Judeau and Corkus point out). So in fact Griffith WAS objectively giving them a fair deal – they could follow him of their own free will; they risked their lives doing so, but in return they had a chance to realize their dreams – maybe with some limitations, but maybe even more wonderful than they expected. This is why Band of the Hawks survived Griffith’s capture.

Griffith does not see it for a variety of reasons. First, he is egocentric – he thinks people follow him and die for his dream, when in fact their dreams overlap with his (with the possible exception of Caska and Guts. But Caska too starts to realize her dream is to be with Griffith, not just serve him; and Guts realizes he is buried and then leaves). Second, because his feeling of guilt is so crushing, he denies it hastily, and so he never thinks through this. Thirdly, because he never spent much thought on how people depend on one another.

A few more words on demon’s deceptions. The first was to equivocate on „sacrifice”. Yes, Griffith’s dream caused deaths, but as I said – it was a fair deal. There are also circumstances peculiar to Griffith. He hasn’t started the war; he entered a war that was already going on for a century – so most of his people would die in war anyway… Griffith is so much less guilty than the kings who start wars and force the people to fight. Leading people to risk their lives voluntarily for a common (/overlapping) dream is totally different from condemning them to die for one’s dream. The second lie was „this is you, so you need to keep doing it”. That actually played nicely on Griffith’s desire to be „authentic” and to „discover his destiny”. But here at least the existentialists are right – we are what we choose. We can say no to our past or our ‘nature’.

Parenthetically, not every dream entails the risk of negative consequences for others.

So, to conclude with the meaning of life. You said „What they need in order to be more stably happy is something else. A change in the meanings of their lives. And if that is not possible, then we simply witness, and live, tragedies.” Well, not a total change. Make it more complex; integrate various desires; integrate others into it in a logic beyond the master-slave logic. „Castle in the sky” – this is so poor, and empty, and childish. By the way, in his inner world, Griffith remains a child.

>>

Ion:

<<

Indeed, the theme is the interplay between dream / meaning and relationship. While Griffith was not able to integrate them, Guts’s dream / meaning — and Casca’s too — is that it is ITSELF the development of a relationship between deeply co-attached equals. The dream itself is the relationship.

In Griffith’s eyes that is a mark of inferiority, because officially, his own dream does not require other people, or if it does, it requires others to be in positions of inferiority, with himself in a position of detached superiority.

Actually though, you observe, while living together with people like Casca and Guts, Griffith develops a new meaning in his life, one similar to the one that Casca and Guts have: the fulfillment brought by the mutually reinforcing attachment in a relationship. This meaning grows along the old one in Griffith. Unfortunately Griffith is only able to conceptualize it as a compromise to his older dream which, in his flawed view, is supposed to be necessarily unique and overarching. And in the end he decides it’s an unacceptable compromise. Your suggestion would be for Griffith to accept this new meaning / dream as legitimate, as worth pursuing along the old dream, and to try to integrate the two.

And if Griffith took your suggestion, I add, then maybe after a while, after attachments are secure, Guts could develop a new dream / meaning alongside the old, a dream that would not require new deep attachments, a dream less “in need” of others. In this scenario of honest reflection and patience, the differences between Guts and Casca on the one hand, and Griffith on the other could completely tone down and simply reduce to “timing”. Guts can have the “attachment” dream first, alongside which he could develop the “independent” dream, Griffith can have the “independent” dream first, alongside which he could subsequently develop the “attachment” dream.

>>

On giving up the man behind The Canyons

•September 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Don’t watch it. It’s a gut exploitation film experience with a negative sign.

All cross-overs from hollow-like state to emotional vulnerability are too trite and all too predictable. Characters make no understatements and I wonder what is the point of minimalism if not to handle understatement. Why make art at all if not for what lies behind zombification? If all you want is chastise indie film-making, prepare an interview, not a script. You want to deride the resilience of the human spirit, do more than fall to show human falling.

After Lunar Park I wished for something else than a falling from Ellis the man; that is why I read Imperial Bedrooms with disappointment. Now the Canyons reveal even a smaller soul hiding behind the old pre-Lunar Park recipe. It has never been easier for me to look away from an Ellis work.

After The Plague

•August 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

On bleachphilosophy we deal in the night of the soul with the conceptual tools of the owl and sometimes the reverse, use a lens of the soul to bound a theoretical conception. Through Bernard Rieux, among other things, the book asserts the value of healing over that of teaching and supports that assertion in a number of ways which include an existentialist justification. I point to the genealogy of this theoretical conception in an attempt to bound its range to a psychological contingency.

At the end of The Plague Camus hints at Rieux’s failing love relationship. Bernard Rieux and his wife are said to have „blindly groped for that pact, so slow and hard to come by, that in the long run binds together ill-assorted lovers”. The lesson of healing over teaching is one I have taken. But lest it engulfs too much of man, I try to bound that lesson to its genealogy. If the bounding succeeds, then I shall keep Rieux’s practical philosophy as a way of coping with historical ends, a sense of an absence of history or the expectation thereof, but not as my universal personal ethics.

The opposition between paternalistic teaching and the existentialist philosophy of healing lay down different assumptions about the future. One justification for healing – call this the existentialist justification – views the future as closed, ultimately equates future with death, and draws the conclusion that teaching is a waste of time. One should acquire a taste of the present as present if one does not yet have it. When do teachers fail? Teachers assume responsibility for trading off another person’s present for that person’s future. Since the future cannot be tasted as present, their only recourse is faith or a taste of the future as future. But if there is no future, the teachers’ is the losing bet. When could healers fail, if ever? When futures are possible but healers repress their capacity to build them.

The dispute is thus being referred to a conception of the future. A distinction between time and history may help shape that conception. Personal time is continuous from birth to death. Histories, of which there can be many in succession during one lifetime, are narratives one builds for oneself, personal narratives that structure personal past, present and expected meanings. The death of history is the death of meaning. The birth of a new history is the rebirth of meaning. Alain de Botton’s metaphor for past love relationships is the folded accordion. We can borrow that metaphor here. Multiple histories are tied in the line of personal time like accordions. At the end of one of the histories during one’s lifetime, but before a new accordion starts playing, one is deafened by the ending note of the past accordion. The din is sometimes reeling. One literally lives the death of history with an intensity that leaves no room for experiencing anything else. But as another accordion forms and extends, the old one will fold.

According to the one-time-multiple-histories view the closing notes of past accordions plague future life with their death. The existentialist is right about that. However, once the new accordion plays, he would be forced to admit that personal time proves supportive of a new history. If new personal histories are possible, then there is also room for hope.

The distinction between time and history brings together healing and teaching, by putting their complementarity in perspective: a healer insulates from wounds of past history. A teachers shows the way to a yet unwounded one. Together they make the fertile transgression to a new history.

The distinction also makes justice at the same time to the validity of the Epicurean argument for the irrelevance of death (I cannot experience the end of my personal time, because by hypothesis I won’t be there anymore to experience it) and to some people’s cognitive immunity to that validity (because fearing the experience of the death of history is indeed reasonable).

The single-time-multiple-histories view has an anti-sisyphic implication. (Remember Grand’s book within the book, an existentialist metaphor of human projects: cyclical, fragile, meaningless.) If a personal project survives the death of all personal histories, to be only ended by death proper, the death of personal time, that project will have been with me for all the relevant eternity, which is personal eternity. If the unavoidable death is irrelevant and the relevant deaths are avoidable then nothing inevitably closes my personal future. My future is open.

The one-time-multiple-histories view shows a possible alternative to the existentialist notion of happiness, the notion of being continuously tuned to the ghastly din of the past and future historical deaths: the hope in a future happiness whose expectation brings present nourishment. Surely this is no refutation of existentialism, only an alternative way of seeing things. Genealogical relativization of the existentialist philosophy behind healing to a personal historical death is a metaphilosophical argument, which means it is philosophicaly non-compelling.

But that doesn’t make genealogical relativization illegitimate for purposes other than strictly conceptual. A genealogy of Rieux’s healing-philosophy-as-backed-by-existentialism may tie its range and domain to contingent psychological origins for humanistic purposes. This is a philosophy of post-destructiveness and the problem with post-destructive movements is that they still incorporate too much destructiveness. Sometimes to the point at which healing itself becomes sisyphic. Bounding that destructiveness is not a philosophical purpose but it is a legitimate purpose.

Would Camus of The Plague support the approach of genealogical bounding of existentialism-behind-healing? At least the mentioning of Bernard Rieux failing relationship and that saving piece called Rambert are indication that he would. With Rambert’s help, both Camus and Rieux seem to tie the practical philosophy of looking failure in the eyes to their personal unlucky histories. When Rieux says to Rambert, „Courage!, it is up to you now to prove you’re right.”, they are both handing on the torch to the love relationship, hope, and luck that rest with that character.

I tried to bound the philosophy of healing as backed by the existentialist justification to contingent historical stages and contingent personal histories and found that it is a way of coping with the absence of history. That is its strength but also its weakness because to look failure in the eyes means not to raise anchors from a past dead history. If future histories are possible, and personal future is open, then this is not a universal ethics. If we accept the distinction between time and histories, salvation could come from death itself. The plague imperils everything, but the plague itself is imperiled by its own ending.

I read The Plague with a legitimate fear of death, the fear that by the time I finish it, my present history ends. I was right. By that time the vines of my love relationship had been cut off: intimacy, passion, commitment. I read the second half in brief evening episodes after exhausting days, each time reprising an experience whelmed in tears of loneliness and abandonment. Yet some were tears of realization and fulfillment. It is now Rambert’s turn.

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.