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.

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

Tuesday, March 07, 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"

Monday, March 06, 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.