Saturday, November 03, 2018

Love Is The Answer, Redux

I was thinking about my favorite movies, and especially what makes them effective in terms of pathos. The writer sets up for the things he wants you to feel; he or she seeds the ground, so to speak, so that when the big climax comes, it doesn't feel forced, cheap, or silly. One of the great things about the troika of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley--better known as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy--is that those actors spent a lot of time thinking about their characters in relation to the others. What would it be like if I were this guy, and these other two guys were my closest friends in the universe? Everything you would say, or could say, changes as a result. In the greatest scene in Star Trek history--the climax of The Wrath of Khan--the whole thing was set up by another scene in Spock's quarters. Kirk just found out that someone has blocked his radio transmission with Dr. Carol Marcus, as they tried to find out who is playing games with Marcus's Genesis project. The Enterprise is ordered to investigate, and now Admiral Kirk is authorized to take command. (Captain Spock is technically in command, training Starfleet cadets.)

Kirk is emotionally invested in convincing Spock that he has no interest in poaching his command. He's possibly feeling guilt from having done so many years before, when he took command from an inexperienced Will Decker at the outset of the V'Ger probe crisis. Spock first says his first iconic axiom in response to Kirk's continued resistance to take command. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." Kirk continues his protest, and Spock says, "Jim, you proceed from a false assumption. I am a Vulcan; I have no ego to bruise." Spock tells him that his "first best destiny" is commanding a starship, and quite probably, the Enterprise. Kirk never should have accepted the promotion to Admiral, Spock says. And then Spock ends the scene with this: "You are my superior officer. You are also my friend. I have been, and always shall be, yours." Kirk takes his next steps boldly, in the confidence of that support and loyalty. When Spock later sacrifices himself to save his comrades using the same words he used in the prior scene, Kirk realizes the depth of Spock's love, for him, and for the crew. Powerful bookends.

As a side-note, many people remind us rightly that love is not a feeling, but a determined willing of the good for another. Observers often say these things in response to a perceived pervasive sentimentalism without content. Yet it is also true that strong emotions of thankfulness and affection are appropriate responses to heroic acts of love. I can recall reading a story of one of many Christians who sheltered Jews during the Nazi reign of terror. The unalloyed justice of that action overwhelms one, as well it should.

Feelings are not the whole story, but they are valuable and good. In fact, when people have inappropriate emotional reactions to reality, that can be the first sign that something is wrong. In any case, I have observed a kind of spiritualizing of stoicism. Expressing emotion is for Them, and you know how those people are. It spills into all sorts of areas in life. If I become aware of some injustice, as a matter of emotion and intellect, I should desire to address the injustice, thinking of possible ways to do that. There is no purpose in prattling on about being people of "logic" and "facts,"--unlike others--when what one intends to say is, "I don't care about this." You may find yourself morally at fault in such an admission. Yet it's better than hiding the truth. The Love that begets all other loves can free us from that fault as well.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Don't Lose Your Audience

I'm not the "Resistance," if you didn't know. For some, the presidential absurdity that is Donald Trump afforded them the opportunity to shout what they already believed even louder than they did before. One of the dangers of being politically engaged, and specifically in something that you're truly passionate about, is that you might think more people are with you than actually are. Not that what I think is--or ought to be--is determined by how popular it is, but depending on the audience, I try to calibrate what I'm saying to be at least in terms that those people will agree with, and understand. Persuasion can be an act of love, and a cooperative act of walking together, if you do it right. I'm not saying I'm good at it, but I do try.

Still, to this day, I agree with Mark Shea more than I disagree. I believe there is probably a moderate pro-life Democrat in there somewhere. Like a lot of us, he was a Republican at some point in the past, because abortion and related sex politics hangs over the Democrats like an albatross. Maybe to talk in party terms isn't even helpful, because a coherent anthropology of what a human being is and does goes beyond a party system. Since many people aren't ready to question things like classical liberalism and capitalism--and I'm still working this out on the fly--we have to interact with the political system and people in it where we find them.

I still kind of think like a Republican.

I like Republicans, mostly. I recognize myself in them. They are familiar to me. To be more direct, they are family, both in reality, and in my imagination. No matter what comes out of my re-imagining of my own political philosophy, that will remain true. That's just how it happened. If I want to persuade someone who identifies as Republican, or who once did, I will talk like I know how.

Mark Shea forgot how.

More than that, I don't blame any "conservative" person for thinking he just doesn't like them. I told him this. He told me I was a Trump cultist, and an anti-Semitic apologist. Me! He obviously hasn't been reading this blog! I could think of no more obvious proof of my accusation that he was a "clanging cymbal" than this interaction. Yeah, I was spoiling for a fight. But he needs it.

He needs to go dark, for a while. Come back when he is actually "enjoying" being Catholic.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I Pray In The Bathroom

I've always had a big bathroom. Ever since I was 12 years old, I've had a giant bathroom. It comes with the territory I guess, as a person with a disability. When I moved out of my house into an apartment in the city, I got another giant bathroom. Maybe it's not as big as the other one, but it's big enough.

Most people spend a lot of time in there, for reasons both obvious and less obvious, and it got me to thinking. I remember a music video from the time I was in high school from that pop singer, Jewel. She's singing her song in the bathroom. Actually, it's a public one as I recall, and I wouldn't say the video is worth your time, on the whole. Still, someone asked her about it, and she said, "A bathroom is a sanctuary."

She's right, you know.

When Jesus said we should go into our inner rooms and close the door, and pray to our Father in heaven, it carries a deeper meaning than simply to go someplace private. After all, you can pray anywhere. Yet a bathroom is a unique place of intimacy and vulnerability. I can think of no more Catholic notion than to do with my body what I intend to do with my soul.

I'm just as weak as any man, so I don't truly understand how much God, the Creator of the entire universe, loves me. I believe it; it's something I understand by faith that is beyond my natural capacity. Yet I long to understand it, to live in it as my experiential reality. Our conversations tend to be of the postmortem variety, because I just botched something up. They're not very formal, though. They are conversations between two friends. I can say that without hesitation. As a side note, do you think that all the people who complain about "religion" are thinking about the intimacy of addressing God as a close friend, and as "Father"?