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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Directing our longing toward the only perfect object

Love’s ladder’s God from The Immanent Frame by Patrick Lee Miller Apr 5, 2012
Platonism and Augustinian Christianity describe an ascent from sensuality to divinity, from time to eternity; together they believe that only by climbing this ladder will we find genuine satisfaction. Modern philosophers have generally been critical, even contemptuous, of this belief. Nietzsche epitomizes this contempt when he calls Christianity “Platonism for the masses"…
At his best, and most evidently in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche makes a psychological argument about Christian belief at any time, including the present. Resentment is always operative in it, he argues, because we are all weak and thus tempted to create values in order to feel stronger. But are not some strong and some weak? Why are we all supposed to be weak? In a word, we die. While we live, moreover, greedy time robs us of our finest moments. In this inexorable weakness, Nietzsche argues, we inevitably dream of another life, an eternal one, where we will escape time, cheat death, and assume the power of an omnipotent God. By focusing our energies on this fantasy of spiritual eternity, however, we divert them from the bodily life we have, here in time. By loving God in his heaven, above all, we denigrate worldly loves.
Notice how neatly this critique fits the conversation between Augustine and his mother. “Any pleasure whatsoever of the bodily senses, in any brightness whatsoever of corporeal light,” he writes, “seemed to us not worthy of comparison with the pleasure of that eternal Light, not worthy even of mention.” To this demotion of bodily pleasure he adds an implicit criticism of time. Eternal is the Wisdom of God that he and his mother touched for an instant; but “leaving the first fruits of our spirit bound to it,” he sighs, “we returned to the sound of our own tongue, in which a word has both beginning and ending.” Augustine’s phrasing thus invites Nietzsche’s attack. What’s worse, many Christians today, no less than in other ages, invite this attack. How many times has a Christian’s profession of love proven to be a covert way of feeling superior to another person, let alone the whole of bodily and temporal existence in which the unredeemed live and breathe and have their being? How often have Christians hidden this deception even from themselves? Too often. Nietzsche is right about this much: Christian belief, whatever else it may be, is an ingenious disguise for resentment.
But as so often with Nietzsche, he over-states his case. His exaggeration becomes clearest when we consider how the Nietzschean attack applies to the Platonic ladder of love upon which Augustine’s love-story is modeled. According to this critique, Plato denigrates everything lovable in this temporal world: beautiful bodies, cultivated souls, political power…
Socrates does not abandon his friends, nor even the pleasures of the body. He is at a drinking party, with food and conversation, which he enjoys more than anyone else. Nor can Augustine be advocating solipsistic asceticism. He and his mother do not climb over each other to reach the divine bliss alone. They go there together, in conversation. In my view, Plato and Augustine are instead saying that as we climb the ladder of love, directing our longing to superior objects, we do not despise the inferior objects. On the contrary, we love them better.
Thus, if you climb from body to soul, you will still enjoy sensual pleasure. Furthermore, because you will enjoy it for what it is—something pleasant to be sure, but ill-equipped to satisfy your deepest longing—you will enjoy it better. After all, your enjoyment of it will no longer be tinged with the disappointment that is bound to follow whenever you try to enjoy it as a substitute for the object of your deepest longing. Similarly, if you climb from soul to institution, law, and philosophy, you will still enjoy the company of friends. Having climbed higher than soul, now you will no longer wish that they were perfect. No one who seeks perfection from his friends can love them fully; they will always disappoint, engendering resentment. Having climbed higher than friendship, though, you could love them better—that is, without any resentment. To love them best, Plato is saying, we must climb to the top of the ladder. This applies equally to the love of our children, our parents, our spouses, and all those many people we try to embrace with our love. To perfect it at every rung, even the lowest, we must direct our longing toward the only perfect object. Plato says too little about it; Augustine says more. 

a sign of second-rate philosophy from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)
I’m just saying, it seems a bit absurd to use the question of someone’s belief or disbelief in God as one of the chef pillars of your judgment about that person’s intellectual caliber. To some extent, the parochialism of presumed atheism among Western intellectuals (i.e., everyone enters every conversation simply assuming that they can dump on religion from the first minute and everyone else will automatically agree with them) really bothers me.

Kozhikode: The CPI(M), engaged in reviewing the reverses it suffered in the Lok Sabha and the recent assembly polls, is also confronting the charges of alcoholism and immoral behaviour of the party cadres. The party, which is meeting at the 20th congress, here has cautioned its cadres against indulging in vices like alcoholism and immoral behaviour generally associated with members of bourgeois parties…
On the ills plaguing the party as mentioned in the report, Karat told reporters Thursday that it did not mean that CPI(M) was a party of alcoholics and persons with other vices. "That shows that in imposing our discipline, in correcting or taking action against party members at various levels, these are the type of charges that have come. That does not mean my party has become a party of alcoholics. I don't think that is the implication", Karat said. The report cites allegations of corruption, alcoholism, substance abuse and misdemeanour towards women that cropped up against some party cadres and recommends stringent action against such persons. Sexual harassment, alcoholism cited in CPM report of weaknesses NDTV - Monideepa Banerjie, Updated: April 06, 2012 00:52 IST
The CPM, which has more than 10 lakh members today, is worried about what it calls wrong trends among some of its party workers, including sexually harassing women, immoral activities, taking bribes, hankering for Parliament tickets, and alcoholism.

Dancing in the dark Indian Express - Piyasree Dasgupta , Nandini Nair , Dipti Nagpaul-D'Souza : New Delhi, Sun Apr 01 2012, 22:32 hrs
In the bylanes of Kolkata, in the suburbs of Mumbai and the badlands of north India, dancers are dancing. They work in unglamorous settings and pander to unruly crowds in their attempt to keep dying traditions alive. But we only see Kareena Kapoor bat her eyelids in a mujra Dil mera muft ka (Agent Vinod), Vidya Balan doing a lavani in Ferarri ki Sawari, Bipasha Basu in a nautanki-inspired number in Beedi jalaile (Omkara) or laugh at the hero’s launda-inspired dance in Luv ka the End. Bollywood might have brought these folk forms to our homes, but their true practitioners devote their lives to the art, usually aware that their children will not further this legacy. We bring you the original performers of these folk traditions…
The erotic nature of the dance form, and the fact that the performers mostly came from the bottom of the pyramid of the Indian caste system, did not go down well with the emerging middle class after Independence. By the 1960s, the cultural relevance of lavani and its performers was almost lost…
Devendra believes that the “whole structure of Bollywood is based on nautanki.” He traces the roots of the song and dance routine of Hindi cinema to this form and says songs like Salman Khan’s Dhinka chika or Bipasha Basu’s Beedi jalaile reflect the obvious influences of nautanki…
The downfall began with the dissipation of royalty under British rule, and the eradication of the zamindari system after Independence. The emergence of the middle class hit the tawaifs hard, their morality equating them with prostitutes, their private lives mostly sagas of unrequited love…
Launda dancers, cross-dressing men, are a staple at weddings, mostly in eastern UP and Bihar. They usually dance as part of the baraat (wedding procession), during the haldi ceremony of the groom and when the baraat leaves for the girl’s house… However, the one thing that needs some rehearsing is handling drunk men.

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