Friday, March 24, 2017

Budweiser and other Brews

My parents made sure that my siblings and I were exposed to ballet, opera, plays, a monster truck rally, robo-wars, and bullfights (which are totes legal in California - matadors from Spain and South America come to California to train in bloodless bullfights and they are AMAZING). Catholics are a "yes, gimmie that...and that...and OH HELL YES, ABSOLUTELY THAT!!!" kinda culture. We're highly inclusive; we engorge ourselves on being.

Evil is when something that should be lackless has some lack. It follows that anything truly human is truly Catholic, since to be authentically human is to be more what we were created to be (Imago Dei).

But there is a tension between the high-brow and low-brow forms of enjoyment - a conflation that the closer you are to God the more refined your tastes (particularly in art) should be on earth. The more otherwordly and dispassionate, the better (except for The Passion - that's ok)!

Thus it is, for example, that pious religious art drivel is put out and an implicit claim is made that such fare is better for us than movies with no religion in them and characters who do naughty things and perhaps (quelle horreur) show naughty bits.

It is true that man is a rational animal our excellence is acting in accord with right reason, i.e. in loving God and all that naturally flows from that.

It is not true that this entails that it is wrong to desire and enjoy lesser goods.

It is also not true that something which treats of refined/heavenly/rational things imbues it with a certain excellence or necessary priority.

It is, further, not true that a lack of refinement/explicit religious sentiment makes for wickedness.

If I want to kick back with a Budweiser and turn on a mindless anime series, where is the harm in that? There are better things I could be doing - better things I could be enjoying - but that is not the measure by which we measure. The eager convert who jumps straight into seminary is positively salivating for a higher good -- but is it good *for him* and *at that time*?

Life can still be full low-brow stuff like this or high-brow stuff like this. Or a whole range of things in between!

We're affective corporeal creatures with a shared destiny. We don't have to pretend that we like only explicitly-religious things or that we don't have passions that wax and wane and occasionally cause us to explode in a puffball of expletives that stand in contradistinction to the virtue-types proffered by religious films. There is some virtue in madness if it's at the right time, place, etc. It's good to be riled up about some things (abortion, death penalty, euthanasia, unjust wars, etc.) and to express that through various mediums (da solo, in a group, in art, etc.). We also don't need to ignore that there are aspects of human actions that are unsavory, bawdy, or vulgar -- and that sometimes such things are funny (*cough* Chaucer's Wife of Bath *cough*).

If a movie, if a play, if a book, if an event, if a thing leads us closer to understanding those aspects of human nature in its myriad of expressions and motivations - and if our enjoyment of that does not contravene God's laws - then we are better equipped to penetrate deeper into reality, into truth, into being. At least, so I'd contend (with a healthy quantity of caveats and conditions as regards the particular individual and object of their appetite).

We should not despise things that are low-brow or not explicitly Catholic -- or instances where we experience and express human passions -- it might have some worth to it, some goodness, some being. It might be Catholic, just not in name.

As Catholics, we want ALL THE THINGS that are good and we want ALL THE PEOPLE to get to heaven. Budweiser and top-shelf booze are both welcome.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

World Poetry Day - A Poem for Today

Interior, by Dorothy Parker

Her mind lives in a quiet room,
A narrow room, and tall,
With pretty lamps to quench the gloom
And mottoes on the wall.

There all the things are waxen neat,
And set in decorous lines,
And there are posies, round and sweet,
And little, straightened vines.

Her mind lives tidily, apart
From cold and noise and pain,
And bolts the door against her heart,
Out wailing in the rain.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Be Not Afraid

Nietzsche once wrote, "To have joy in anything, one must approve everything." While Nietzsche was a rather sad and disconsolate figure in the annals of history (really, the poor sod never struck me as being happy; if what you do doesn't lead to happiness then what even is the point?), he was going in the right direction with that bit. We should not be afraid to embrace the unfamiliar if it is good, to take delight in it however preposterous or foreign it might seem -- to cast out into the deep unknown waters.

For deep calls unto deep.

We are always on guard against the snares and wickedness of the devil. And rightly so - it's not like, pffffffffft, there's eternal beatitude or damnation at stake, right?! Yet, sometimes we are so much on guard that not even goodness slips past our watchful gaze. If something new presents itself, we dredge up a list of criteria it must meet in order to be considered a legitimate good and worrisomely tick off every pass or fail as we gnaw critically on a pencil. Our first concern is not whether the object is good of itself but whether it meets our notions of good.

Younger children, if they get a chance, will often harshly impose rules of right and wrong on even smaller children. Maybe it's because they are finally in a position to tell rather than be told -- or perhaps it's because we are creature of habit, structure, and laws. The unknown makes us uncomfortable; if something doesn't fit our notions, how should it be categorized? It's easiest to err on the side of caution and stricture.

St. Francis would strip naked and roll around in the snow - I'm pretty sure that if I saw something like that going down I'd give it some serious side eye. But what seems like a violation of modesty in human eyes is a challenge to a deeper understanding of purity. *cough* Abraham and Isaac, anyone? *cough*

God is not encompassed by our notions of good. He constantly pushes, stretches, and opens us up to new vistas if we allow Him to. Our notions are shattered, remade, then shattered again as we see what is good, stagger after it, and realize that all along we've been holding only a few pieces of something so big that not even all the hands in the world could grasp it.

We should not be hasty to judge negatively or be fearful when something new presents itself. We should be eager to cast out into the deep. That doesn't mean being dumb and heading out without an analogical life vest on, setting aside what we know of good. But it does mean that we should not immediately assume something unknown is from de divil.  Evil preys upon good, not the other way round. We are told to assume the best of people - and that same assumption should extend to other aspects of life.

Sometimes, the object is bad either for us or of itself. But if it is good then it can enrich our experiences and give us a few more glimpses of a reality that refuses to fit into our own categorizations.

And that is why I really enjoy things like the clip below (ohhh, segue, didn't see that coming!), where there is a joyful affirmation of different forms of dance, without any begrudgement, by artists from very different understandings of movement and tradition. The classic and the new are encompassed by a reality with space for both.

Really, this post is just an excuse to share this wonderful video as an example of old and accepted territories versus new and what some people would dismiss immediately as a lesser or stupid dance:

Montreal Swing Riot 2016 - Vintage vs Modern Street Dancers - Part 1 of the Invitational Battle from Alain Wong on Vimeo.

Friday, March 17, 2017

From the Corporeal to the Spiritual

A consecrated virgin friend of mine sent me a sweet email about how she fondly remembers that one time I hid a can of Guinness under my coat and discreetly passed it off to her at the Angelicum - amidst all the priests, sisters, and seminarians. I have no memory of this - smuggling beer to religious people is apparently not enough out of the ordinary for me to even note.

Food is one of the many ways in which I express my love. If I like you, I will feed you. If I don't like you, I will take those last few curly fries and make intense and uncomfortable eye-contact with you as I eat them - the sort of eye-contact babies make with you when they poop their diapers.

A friend was recently over, sad and in need of comfort. Instead of hugging her, I listed off every single food item I had that she could conceivably eat, racking my mind to suggest something that might tempt her appetite. Then I hugged her. Then I suggested she talk to a priest.

When we're very sad, we tend to abstain from food because our taste for life and all it entails is dulled. Eating becomes mechanical rather than sensual; there is no joy. This is mirrored in our spiritual lives when we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist - it's like some huge fist has flattened out the entirety of our experiences so that even the most profound one possible to man agitates no response.

The urge to feed someone isn't misplaced. We need physical and spiritual food; you only become more energized when you have energy to spend and you only get energy through eating. Even though what we receive may seem unbearably and unpalatably dry, it's necessary for recovery. Eventually, things might (might!) begin to taste good again and we can lift up our drooping heads and laugh.

Perhaps the order should be a hug, then food, then a good spiritual talk. One thing that I admittedly need to work on is being more demonstrative in my emotions - they run too deep to have an easy outlet. But without external signs, how are people to know that you even care?

For now, I will simply keep trying to feed the people I care for - it is a sign that I know how to give -  and work my way up to expressing human empathy in a way that's more relatable.

But Jesus did ask Peter to feed His sheep - perhaps a little bit of Guinness can lead to God.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Soeur Christine and I used to eat our lunches together in the garden of the Angelicum. We'd sit there on the garden benches, birds chirping in the bushes, Dominican brothers lazily taking their post-lunch strolls - and we'd quietly discuss mundane bits life, switching between French and English, talking about classes.

Through it all, we very rarely discussed God. God was there embracing the garden, penetrating our friendship, breathing life and grace into simple joys. To talk about God would have been redundant.

Flannery O'Connor wrote "I distrust pious phrases, especially when they issue from my mouth. I try militantly never to be affected by the pious language of the faithful but it is always coming out when you least expect it."

When I hear people perpetually bringing things back to a spiritual context, or being overly dramatic about life's connections to God, or speaking casually about spiritual things (particularly if they're 'trying to discern God's will' -- that line deserves to die a thousand deaths), I find myself instinctually becoming unsettled. At first, it seemed that maybe my spirituality was lacking in some respect. These people HELLA went to Church and Holy Hour and Bible Study and Praise and Worship and then TALKED ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME afterwards. Holy Hotcakes! Then it seemed like such people couldn't possibly keep that up ALL the time. Where was human-time? Did they human? Then it turned into active mistrust.

With all their thoughts fixed above, they forgot how to bring it down on earth. Faith and works are the PB&J of Catholicism. These people were so caught up in seeing God that they couldn't see God's visage in man. Often enough, I've found myself injured in some way by individuals like the above who rationalize away a lack of compassion and empathy, minimizing your pain by giving it some spiritual spin - either to themselves or when presenting it to you.

The roommate could justify showing an appalling disregard for your personal belongings or comfort because she was doing *good things*! This man could be callous because he's discerned something and, guess what, homie - you're not part of that so scoot because God's will! Oh. Did you think he'd TELL you that? Hah. No. You were supposed to figure that out on your own! This woman could practice her flagrant spirituality during Mass, even though it's distracting and affects those around her, because That's How She Worships.

In all of these instances, the individual places themselves not in the service of others but in service to their own inclinations, wrapping them in a cloak of holiness, sitting back happily content that they did nothing wrong. The poor people in the pews are simply not holy enough to see how this loud spirituality doesn't hurt them! The poor woman dropped like a hot potato was insignificant since she no longer figures in the grand scheme of things for this individual. She'll be ok because God has other plans for her!!! The poor roommate comes home to find her belongings haphazardly shoved into a little cupboard because some priests were coming over for dinner - and did you know priests are coming over for dinner!? Sorry, did you have to study and wouldn't appreciate that? Do you hate God or something?

The priest at my local parish just held a healing Mass. He looked out over his congregation and began to cry at seeing our pain: he was with us, he was compassionate, we were not insignificant. And he had only a few simple words for us - that it was good, Lord, that we were here. No telling us that suffering was good for us because heaven and stuff. He simply affirmed our reality, our brokenness.

Pious language just stinks to high heaven of rationalization to me. People are there, people are breakable, and people deserve the most human response you can possibly give to what they're going through or might go through because of your actions: a Christ-like response. Love is what actualizes us - our very beings are ontologically oriented towards Love Itself. We must act in love - we must live the truth if we are to be human.

Josef Pieper wrote:
"Reality is the foundation of ethics. The good is that which is in accord with reality. He who wishes to know and to do the good must turn his gaze upon the objective world of being. Not upon his own 'ideas', not upon his 'conscience', not upon 'values', not upon arbitrarily established 'ideals' and 'models'. He must turn away from his own act and fix his eyes upon reality."
-Living the Truth
That is why I distrust people who regularly use pious language - because it makes me fear that the proper order is subverted and I am flinching in anticipation of the possible people who will fall victim by the wayside. Except that not all people who fall will have a Good Samaritan in their lives to help them up and put them back together.

Don't justify things first by appeal to ultimate ends. That's consequentialism. Justify things because in there *here* and the *now* it is the Christ-like human thing to do in relation to the final end, because it is the thing that is best for both you and others.

And, even though I constantly violate this (I'm pretty sure I will not let someone merge on my commute today...even though it would be better to...), it's still something to strive for.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spiritual Go Fund Me

This time of the year is always a rather reflective time for me.

Six years ago, on March 11th, I woke up and knew something was dreadfully wrong. It was still dark and I quietly hobbled into the bathroom, trying not to wake my roommates, flipping on the lights to reveal the visage of a disease that has no cure: mixed connective tissue disease. A few days later, I was officially diagnosed.

Autoimmune diseases are chronic, mysterious in origin, and poorly understood. The immune system goes haywire and begins to attack its own tissue and organs. The symptoms range from mildly uncomfortable aches and malaise (in mild cases) to organ involvement and complete debilitation (in severe cases). I fall somewhere in the middle.

Usually, I'm really quite fine. My disease is managed with medications but, occasionally, the disease does flare up and gifts me with horrible fatigue, crippling bouts of nausea, inflamed joints, and - what bothers me particularly - sausage fingers. Most of these symptoms have no external sign which makes for a hidden fragility.

Last month, shortly after President's Day, I drove myself to the emergency room because the disease flared up suddenly after being relatively quiet for a long period of time. Discouragement settled on me as I labored to breathe and, after six hours of monitoring and tests I was released to go home and cry while my friends went out and danced. I’m still not over this flare.

Many women deal with a whole host of insecurities about their bodies. Mine are much more extreme and far-reaching. Will I ever be able to not fear my body? Will friends fall away if I cannot consistently be there for them? Will I be rejected because of this? … Will I become a burden on those I love?

Suffering is my daily companion; I endure its presence forever in this life.

Suffering is said to be one of the strongest proofs against the existence of God. Not because it is the soundest argument as proofs go against the existence of God, but because arguments seem insufficient held before the face of human misery. Do you DARE to say to someone who is grieving over a lost one, to someone crying quietly at night from pain, to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness, that God is *loving* and *merciful*?

Each day, I pray to be healed. The hardest thing to pray is "Blessed be God in all His designs" and "Thy will be done." Why do His designs not include my health? Why does His will exclude this? If He only said even a -word- I would be healed.

And yet, I must pray these things.

To believe that suffering has no purpose, that life ends in this world, and that it is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” would hurt me more than to disbelieve that there is justice in the next world – bodies made sound, injustices righted, and an eternity of happiness to exchange for a life of misery. When I ask God why there is suffering, why *I* am suffering, I speak to a face that reflects and holds my pain, to someone else who prayed for a cup to pass, to someone who, out of love, became united with us in our humanity and, through voluntary suffering, re-set the disorder that creation had fallen into. Suffering is no longer pointless; in our commonality with Christ it is turned to some good as we take what pittance we have, our very lacking, and give it to Him. It is no longer a bleak landscape without a horizon but a weary pilgrimage to a better home.

I am Catholic. These things I firmly believe – not out of weakness or because it is a pretty fairy tale to soothe away mental or emotional anguish – but because it is the only thing that makes sense to me. I don’t understand why me and I do not need to.

“God has mysteries. Only the devil has secrets.”
–Alice Thomas Ellis

If you are Catholic and feeling charitable, I’d ask that you join a Spiritual Go Fund Me: say a novena to St. Joseph the Worker for my healing and for all those who suffer from chronic illness. We need your prayers.

Let It Be / Do No Violence

I find the notion that people should run around with an overt attitude of disrespect/dismissal towards ideas/propositions that they assume, prima facie, to be false...somewhat gauche. This attitude is widespread, and I think it's because the wee-punks who run around believing it's terribly deep to be contrary on dicey issues but have never opened themselves in such a way as to be formed by things that are beautiful, deep, and true. Ironically, they're not the radical free thinkers that they think they are. They are caaaayyyyeeeeged in their own 'eads.

For example, one gentleman (who I met once - don't run around thinking I'm a terrible, horrible gossip!) and I had a discussion about "Wuthering Heights." I made some general, interpretive remark, and the gentleman forcefully asserted that the reason the woman married the man she did was because she was obsessed with power! Not a word I could say, not a textual basis I could provide to the contrary, would budge this man from his firm conviction that the woman in Wuthering Heights was a power-hungry wench. Eventually, he simply said "look, I KNOW I'm right." Next, this gentleman (well, perhaps I should say "barbarian") told me that MUCH of literature is about power-hungry women.

Perhaps he'd been reading M. Bovary earlier that day? Anyway, the gentleman was very happy with his neatly reasoned argument, and left satisfied that he'd, er, convinced me (I'd given up trying to speak with him and reverted to mundane pleasantries).


You see, a thing should be allowed to be the thing that it is. Do no violence to a work of fiction, to an idea, to others. Love, oddly enough, entails letting the people whom you love be who they are, and helping them flourish and grow to be more themselves. When you force something onto them (say, making a friend take a calligraphy class with you because you think it is so t'eh awesome - which it is, but some people prefer to keep their admiration for art at a distance from the actual practice of that art), you're not letting them be.

Take this poem from Dorothy Sayers for example:
They hail you as their morning star
Because you are the way you are.
If you return the sentiment,
They'll try to make you different;
And once they have you, safe and sound,
They want to change you all around.
Your moods and ways they put a curse on;
They'd make of you another person.
They cannot let you go your gait;
They influence and educate.
They'd alter all that they admired.
They make me sick, they make me tired.
While I am not quite in accord with D.S. here, on the subject of men in general, I must say that she has put her finger on an attitude - many people do not immerse themselves into an idea but impose themselves onto that idea. One finds many screeds on the internet regarding Catholicism that amount to someone thinking something couldn't possibly be true and then reasoning backwards, twisting dogmas or arguments to fit the conclusion. Of course, if that's your 'tude, you WILL NOT actually arrive at an idea itself because you cannot get past our own head.

Consider conspiracy-theorists - nothing you can say will make them change their minds. They have decided to interpret the world through some specs that they have fashioned. They are not encountering reality or ideas. They cannot LET a thing BE ITSELF. And why not? Because they don't want to. And you, trying to convince them otherwise, are simply a cog caught up in the mechanism of some diabolical propaganda machine.

Disrespecting ideas as a held-attitude is appalling not because there is, necessarily, anything respectable about some particular idea. There are some really terrible ideas. Dismissing ideas/propositions without due examination is appalling because it does not permit a man to act freely within the world. I wouldn't consider a man to be acting freely when he is operating off of false information. But we are operating off of false - or, at best, limited - information if we do not permit things to be what they are. If you're so stuck in a world of your own making, you're never going to be a liberal thinker. To be a liberal thinker entails an attitude of respect towards ideas or propositions in some way - even those you reject vehemently as false  - because, otherwise, you would never be GET anywhere IN thinking. You would not be reasoning but assuming, dismissing without basis: you will always arrive at the conclusions that you had in the first place (or what those conclusions entail), you will never experience true curiosity, you will never, ever, be free.

Let ens be. Don't be violent. #SpreadTheTruth

Thursday, March 09, 2017

From implacability of thought, good Lord deliver us!

What most people mean by "true" is something close to "empirically verifiable," or, at, at least, some form of knowledge that is based in the actual sense-experience. All knowledge is, in some way or other, dependent on actual sense experience, but "truth" in the above sense is closer to "demonstrable." Hence, people say "I will not believe in a god until that god proves his presence to me in a way that does not admit of doubt" and by that they mean something like "I will not believe in a god until that god comes and kicks me in the shins."

How can the statement "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light" really be tested for its truth? I say that other beliefs are not enough for me - by that I mean they don't really encompass all of my human experience in a way that does not do violence to them. My GUT tells me that there is good and there is evil - not because I was raised that way, but because things are that way and the reality of that being forces its attention on me. When Christ says He is the Way, when His reality thrusts into my life, I can't but say "My Lord and my God."

Some people are better than others at saying "look! X is Y!" This is particularly the case when it comes to witnesses/testimony who ask you to believe without providing causal/verifiable evidence. You might not be able to prove it, but that does not imply either that it is true or that it is false. An analogy (albeit very faulty): some people are better at picking out, by ear, the right note. They might not be able to say "that's wrong because it's a G-sharp," and what they say could be either true or false, but some people do have the ability to pick out what's true and what's not even if there's no empirical backing to support it. Edjication can help you develop a sense of truth and falsity - but only the right sort that asks the student for deliberate, rational thought, that makes the student sensitive and humble before the immensity of truth (and, ultimately, of The Truth). There is a certain implacability of thought in the way many people operate; a closed receptivity to the truth of all things.

The Truth is out there. I want to believe. I do believe.

Young Boll Weevils

Oscar Wilde is credited with saying: "Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

Beware. Quotes should be put into context if you're using them to bolster some thesis. Wilde also wrote "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it." It's actually Dorian, the bad guy, who mouths the words. Are you really going to take an maniac as a basis for argument, rhetorical or otherwise? But, I'm not using the above quote as a basis for argument because 1. I don't know where it's from and 2. I disagree with its import. Constancy is highly exciting in ladders, friends, and people in general. Perhaps Wilde never had to deal with an inconstant plumber who airily tra-las: "but don't you see, old chap - constancy is so unimaginative! I prefer to surprise my customers."

However, I've often sort of twisted the quote in my head to "swearing is the last refuge of the unimaginative." I don't mean the sort of swearing that happens when you glance at the rear-view mirror of your UHAUL truck and find its back is open and suitcases are flying out while other drivers try frantically to dodge them and you drop an "OH SH**!!!" or ten. I don't mean the sort of swearing that men/women do when around their own sex necessarily). I don't mean the sort of absent-minded swearing many people do now and then.

I do mean the sort of swearing that's become so integrated into a way of being that a person can no longer but swear and uses it to express emotions, insult others, and chat about the weather. It's not...interesting.

What a little sh*t ------ frightful young excrescence/pestilential poop/unbalanced young boll weevil.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Beauty as a Road to God

"In our post-Fall condition, even with a built-in hunger for goodness, our minds are often enough alienated from goodness, too. We are divided against ourselves in this respect as so many others, like a person so griefstricken at the thought of his dreadful drinking habit that he has to comfort himself with a whisky...If goodness were presented directly to a person divided against himself, through preaching or philosophical argument, in the form of exhortation of any kind, that person might well just turn away in disbelief or despondency. But goodness presented to the senses is a kind of stealth bomber. It flies in under the radar of the reason to have its effect on desire, without a preemptive strike on the part of reason to stop it. By prompting pain in us, even pain of a redeemed or transcended sort, or by giving us the kind of love of goodness which is joy, beauty perceptible to the senses moves us to the goodness of God, who is himself beautiful, if we only have heart to see it." - -Eleonore Stump, "Beauty as a Road to God"

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Kicking Ass for the Lord

"We hear many complaints about the prevalence of violence in modern fiction, and it is always assumed that this violence is bad thing and meant to be an end in itself. With the serious writer, violence is never an end in itself. It is the extreme situation that best reveals what we are essentially, and I believe these are times when writers are more interested in what we are essentially than in the tenor of our daily lives. Violence is a force which can be used for good or evil, and among other things taken by it is the kingdom of heaven. But regardless of what can be taken by it, the man in the violent situation reveals those qualities least dispensable in his personality, those qualities which are all he will have to take into eternity with him; and since the characters in this story are all on the verge of eternity, it is appropriate to think of what they take with them."
-Flannery O'Connor

Action movies/tv series seem to be getting more brutal, gritty, violent, and downright nasty. You can see it even in the color palettes that are chosen for films - desaturated, devoid of color, grey. "This is what life is," the films seem to say before some casual murder and mayhem ensue...and then we're invited to giggle darkly at the next clever pun that comes along (perhaps to take the sting out of what we just saw or to give us permission to enjoy/downplay it via a character's response) or react with awe to the spectacle of the creator's genius as the camera jumps around some meticulously orchestrated gratuitous scene. It's like Kill Bill, only less artistic.

And there's some subtle guile-y off-feeling to it that sets my spider senses tingling.
When violence does not act as a trigger for some moral moment, but *is* the focal point, it becomes kinda gross. No upper/outer dimension, no conundrums, no moral pokey bits that unsettle you -- simply spectacle that appeals to our morbid fascination with death and destruction. For example [[spoilers!!!]], in Logan, a decent sweet and innocent family is murdered one by one -- and each family member's death is seen in an order: the child's death by the mother, the mother's death by the father (in a sense), and, finally, the father himself. The scene is somewhat extended and doesn't go anywhere. That is, it doesn't (a) establish something about the villains that we didn't know previously [does not reveal essential character of villains] or (b) serve any purpose within the narrative as a point of action for the protagonists [does not reveal essential character of protagonists] or (c) present some interesting moral dilemma for the watcher to resolve. It was there only to make us feel an exquisite horror, clutching our pearls and having tingly feels and gasping "oh wasn't that HIDEOUS!?" Many movies and tv series are falling into this, imo, selling it as cheeky, edgy, brutal, gritty, more 'mature.' Shyeeeeaah. Fart jokes might be more mature than feeding gruesome fixations.

In Plato's Republic, there's a telling quote (Book IV, 439E):"Leonitus, the son of Aglaion, was going up from the Piraeus under the outside of the North Wall when he noticed corpses lying by the public executioner. He desired to look, but at the same time he was disgusted and made himself turn away; for a while he struggled and covered his face. But finally, overpower by the desire, he opened his eyes wide, ran toward the corpses, and said: 'Look, you damned wretches, take your fill of the fair sight.'"

We accept the reality of a film that we enter into - the basic premises, the super-powers, the weird movie-logic - so perhaps it hinges on the reality that the film presents and how it frames it. Does this movie treat moments of violence as something ultimately meaningless one way or the other? If so, then it does a disservice to anyone watching it by training us to think of violence in a similar way - or even to enjoy it because of the emotions the sights elicit.

Not all violent movies give me that same off-feeling. The movie 300, for example (or the Evil Dead series or some campier films), I thought was a great fun lark. Maybe it was because there was some greater purpose that imbued their ludicrously serious performances (Yaaay! They'll all die tragically but heroically!! And they have muscley-muscles!! Glorious!) -- or perhaps it was because the violence was so stylized that it seemed removed from any possible reality -- or perhaps it was because there was a solid anchor of Good and Bad and you could cheer a side without reservations.

Not that movies need a stark contrast of Good and Bad - people are mixed bags, with mixed motives, even if there is some general orientation in one direction or the other. Movies should not be flippant in the attitudes that it adopts towards violence.