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Finding One’s Center – Fr. Romano Guardini

April 18, 2014
Many people don’t know that Pope Francis planned to write his thesis on Romano Gurardini the distinguished theologian and liturgist who had a profound influence on Joseph Ratzinger.  Ratzinger even named one of his most important books with the same title as that of one of Guardini’s (The Spirit of the Liturgy) (We need to read and apply what Ratzinger wrote now more than ever, by the way.) Magister corrected his own entry which now reads: "It was precisely on Guardini that the Jesuit Bergoglio was planning to write the thesis for his doctorate in theology, during an academic sojourn in Germany in 1986 at the philosophical-theological faculty of Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt: a plan that was later abandoned." Pope Benedict, the day he stepped-down, quoted Guardini twice in his final speech as Pope.

Many people don’t know that Pope Francis planned to write his thesis on Romano Gurardini the distinguished theologian and liturgist who had a profound influence on Joseph Ratzinger. Ratzinger even named one of his most important books with the same title as that of one of Guardini’s (The Spirit of the Liturgy) (We need to read and apply what Ratzinger wrote now more than ever, by the way.) Magister corrected his own entry which now reads: “It was precisely on Guardini that the Jesuit Bergoglio was planning to write the thesis for his doctorate in theology, during an academic sojourn in Germany in 1986 at the philosophical-theological faculty of Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt: a plan that was later abandoned.” Pope Benedict, the day he stepped-down, quoted Guardini twice in his final speech as Pope.

From the book Romano Guardini: Spiritual Writings

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If young people were to read my memoirs, they would surely be amazed that someone could be as unclear about himself as I had been. The primary cause for this confusion lay above all in me, in the complexity of my personal being which only slowly found its center point.

What brought about my own religious life was also what put great pressure on my religious life until my university years. I was always anxious and very scrupulous. For a young person, this condition is more difficult than an easygoing sense of life. An easygoing sense of life is at least a life, while the self-preoccupation of the anxious conscience is destructive. Help for this condition can properly come only from an older person who sees the anxiety.As a youth, however, I did not meet such a person. Added to this condition for me was the tendency toward depression which later became acute. Nevertheless, this tendency was also a source of creativity for me.

My scrupulosity and tendency toward depression could have led even in my early years to an intense inner life, full of strong experiences. But this did not happen. When I look back on my life, I am not able to see the entire time up until my university years. Nothing comes to me from my early childhood memories — memories which usually make the beginning of an autobiography worthwhile. I do not want to suggest that those years were empty. What unfolded later in my life must have had its roots in my early years.

But everything from my childhood lies as though under water. I have never had the sense of a happy childhood nor the desire to return to my childhood. I would not like to return to my childhood. I wish to add, however, that my parents truly loved us, and we them. We four brothers were closely united despite all conflicts, tensions, and difficulties, and it has remained that way even to this day.

When I finally arrived in Freiburg in 1906, I experienced an indescribable despondency. The prospect of becoming a priest threw me into a dark depression. I no longer understood myself. Today I know that what expressed itself in this despondency was the resistance of an entirely unlived out nature to the necessary deprivations of the priesthood.

Also, since birth, I have borne the inheritance of the depression that my mother experienced. Such an inheritance is not in itself bad; it is the ballast that gives a ship its ability to travel deep seas. I do not believe that there is creativity and a deep relationship to life without having a disposition toward depression. A person cannot eliminate it, but must include it in his or her life. As part of this, one must accept it in an innermost way from God, and must try to transform it into a good for other people.

I did not have this insight into depression when I went to Freiburg. After I arrived there, the flood waters of depression climbed so high in me that I thought I was sinking, and I considered putting an end to my life. I found peace in a few specific places; this sounds pathetic, but it is true. In Freiburg’s cathedral, the Munster, the altar for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament stood to the right of the main altar. When I knelt on the steps of this side altar, the despondency lessened — only to return soon afterward. How long the depression continued I no longer know. In my memory it seems endless. It was in fact not more than a couple of weeks. But it is not only the external duration which makes time seem long.

One day I was going to St. Odilien Church, where a natural spring of water bubbles up, which is a pleasure to watch. On the return way, on the beautiful street that passes the Carthusian house, I prayed the rosary. The sadness lessened, and I became peaceful. It was my first encounter with this prayer, which I later prayed so frequently. Since that moment I have never doubted my call to the priesthood. The dark flow of depression has always continued in my life, and more than once it has climbed very high. It was clear to me, however, that I was being called to the priesthood, and I have kept this conviction into the present.

I must say more about Wilhelm Koch, who was one of our professors of theology in Tubingen. Above all, I must recall that Koch was the person who freed me from the demands of scrupulosity. As I said earlier, scrupulosity had afflicted me since my childhood; during my first semester in Tubingen, I became unbearable. I attribute this senseless self-preoccupation in good part to the fact that my nerves were so sensitive and have never entirely healed. Scrupulosity is connected, too, to my tendency toward depression, and it can to a certain extent have a positive effect because it makes one serious.

But it can also destroy judgment and energy, to say nothing of the danger of inner panic that can drive anxious persons in the wrong direction so that they throw aside all moral and religious restraints.

In any event, Koch had the custom of hearing the confessions of a few students. Some of us — Karl Neudorfer, Josef Weiger, and I — asked him for this favor, and he agreed. He heard someone’s confession in the following manner. At the agreed upon time, the confessee arrived at Koch’s room, and walked back and forth with him in the room. This allowed the penitent to tell all that he had on his heart — whether about studies or practical matters, religious questions or moral issues — and to say what he thought about these things.

Then Koch put on his stole, asked the penitent to give a summary of all that was discussed, and then gave the absolution. In this way, I experienced what a wonderful source of life the sacrament of reconciliation can be when it is performed properly. I learned to stand at a distance from my anxieties, to distinguish unimportant concerns from important ones, and to see the appropriate tasks of my personal and religious formation.

Since Koch was a good person, he offered us some advice that we followed. At that time, we had no knowledge of human sexuality, and he saw how this ignorance burdened us. So he sent each of us to a professor of psychiatry, who was empathetic to us and recommended a good book about sexual matters. This endeavor was a bit risky since Professor G. was not a Christian. The book was entitled Die sexuelle Frage (The sexual Question), by Forel. It treated sexual matters with a matter-of-factness and detail that served us well. We read the book aloud together and found that the whole subject became demystified.

These steps to inner freedom had the net effect of turning the semester into a good experience. I cannot say that my anxiety totally disappeared. Since it is really part of my very makeup, it always runs as a possibility beneath the surface of my life. I have attained however, a critical distance from it and now am able to distinguish among its demands and assess each of them.

In the course of my last year at the University of Bonn, I was invited to accept a faculty position at Bonn in practical theology and liturgical studies. I had the intuition, however, that I should not deviate from my inner sense of direction, and therefore that I should not take this position. As I mention this, I would like to say that, since the awakening of my spiritual life, I had come to trust my inner orientation, and I have made my life’s various decisions concerning professional, spiritual and personal matters on the basis of this inner sense of direction.

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CRAFTSMAN: Raymond Carver – George Packer

April 17, 2014
That was the end of Bad Ray and the beginning of Good Raymond. He had ten more years before a lifetime of smoking finally caught up with him and he died at fifty, in 1988. During that decade he found happiness with a poet. He wrote some of his best stories and escaped the trap of self-parody that had begun to be called minimalism, turning to more fullness of expression in the service of a more generous vision. He became famous and entered the middle class. He received prestigious appointments and won major prizes, a literary hero redeemed from hell. He walked with the happy carefulness of someone pardoned on the verge of execution.

That was the end of Bad Ray and the beginning of Good Raymond. He had ten more years before a lifetime of smoking finally caught up with him and he died at fifty, in 1988. During that decade he found happiness with a poet. He wrote some of his best stories and escaped the trap of self-parody that had begun to be called minimalism, turning to more fullness of expression in the service of a more generous vision. He became famous and entered the middle class. He received prestigious appointments and won major prizes, a literary hero redeemed from hell. He walked with the happy carefulness of someone pardoned on the verge of execution.

A few pages from George Packer’s The Unwinding, a nonfiction work that plumbs the dissolution of American lives over the past thirty years and the gradual decline of what Charles Krauthammer calls the social compact of family, Church, and community – be it the schools, the Boy Scouts, the Lions Club, the Grange, whatever: neighbors-helping-neighbors. There has been nothing left in the ravaged remains of secular America except the government. Raymond Carver was the chronicler of much of that in his short stories of people set adrift. One  of my most popular posts on payingattentiontothesky was a retelling of his short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

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Ray was a drinker. He picked it up from C.R., his father. C.R. was a saw filer at a lumber mill in the Yakima Valley and a good storyteller. Ray picked that up, too. C.R. could go for months without sipping a beer, then he would disappear from home for a while, and Ray and his mother and younger brother would sit down to dinner with a sense of doom. That was how Ray drank: once he started, he couldn’t stop.

Ray grew up in the 1940s and ’50s. He was a tall, fat boy. He stood hunched over, with an arm or leg bent at a bad angle, and his eyes had a fat boy’s hooded squint even after he lost the weight. His pants and shirts looked like gabardine, what an unemployed forty-year-old would wear. He spoke in a faint mumble so you had to listen close, but it often turned out that he had said something funny or sharp.

The Carvers lived in four rooms in a seven-hundred-square-foot box of a house on a concrete slab. There was nowhere to be alone and they lived together like strangers.

Ray loved to shoot geese and fish for trout along the Columbia River. He liked to read the pulps and outdoor magazines. One day, he told the man who took him along hunting that he had sent a story to one of the magazines and it had come back. That was why Ray had looked nervous all morning.

“Well, what did you write?” the man said.

“I wrote a story about this wild country,” Ray said, “the flight of the wild geese and hunting the geese and everything in this remote country down here. It’s not what appeals to the public, they said.”

But he didn’t give up.

Ray saw an ad in Writer’s Digest for the Palmer Institute of Authorship in Hollywood. It was a correspondence course. C.R. paid the twenty-five-dollar enrollment fee and Ray started doing the sixteen installments, but he ran out of money for the monthly payments. After he received his high school diploma, his parents expected him to go to work in the sawmill. That wasn’t how things went.

Ray got a pretty girl named Maryann pregnant. She was going to study at the University of Washington, but Ray and Maryann were crazy about each other, so they got married instead. In 1957 their daughter was born in a hospital two floors below the psychiatric ward where C.R. was being treated for a nervous breakdown. A year later a baby boy arrived. Ray was twenty and Maryann was eighteen, and that was their youth.

They began to wander. They had great dreams and believed that hard work would make those dreams come true. Ray was going to be a writer. Everything else would come after that.

They moved around the West and they never stopped. They lived in Chico and Paradise and Eureka and Arcata and Sacramento and Palo Alto and Missoula and Santa Cruz and Cupertino. Every time they started to settle in, Ray would get restless and they would move on to somewhere else. The family’s main support was Maryann. She packed fruit, waited tables, sold encyclopedias door-to-door. Ray worked at a drugstore, a sawmill, a service station, and a stockroom, and as a night janitor at a hospital. The work was not ennobling. He would come home too wiped out to do anything.

Ray wanted to write a novel. But a man who was trying to wash six loads of clothes in a Laundromat while his wife was serving food somewhere and the kids were waiting for him to come pick them up somewhere else and it was getting late and the woman ahead of him kept putting more dimes in her dryer — that man could never write a novel. To do that, he would need to be living in a world that made sense, a world that stayed fixed in one place so that he could describe it accurately. That wasn’t Ray’s world.

In Ray’s world the rules changed every day, and he couldn’t see past the first of next month, when he would have to find money for rent and school clothes. The most important fact of his life was that he had two children, and he would never get out from under the baleful responsibility of having them. Hard work, good intentions, doing the right things — these would not be enough, things would not get better. He and Maryann would never get their reward. That was the other thing he understood in the Laundromat. And somewhere along the way, his dreams started to go bust.

Without the heart to write anything long, which might have brought in real money, and with the deep frustration of seeing no way out, he could write only poems, and very short stories. Then he rewrote them again and again, sometimes over many years.

The stories were about people who did not succeed. That had been Ray’s experience, and those were his people. His characters were unemployed salesmen, waitresses, mill hands. They lived nowhere in particular, in bedrooms and living rooms and front yards where they couldn’t get away from one another or themselves and everyone was alone and adrift.

Their names weren’t fancy — Earl, Arlene, L.D., Rae — and they seldom had more than one, if that. Nothing like religion or politics or community surrounded them, except the Safeway and the bingo hall. Nothing happening anywhere in the world, there was only a boy fighting a fish, a wife selling a used car, two couples talking themselves into paralysis. Ray left almost everything out.

In one story, a wife learns that her husband, just back from a fish trip with his buddies, left the brutalized corpse of a girl lying in the river for three days before reporting it.

My husband eats with good appetite but he seems tired, edgy. He chews slowly, arms on the table, and stares at something across the room. He looks at me and looks away again. He wipes his mouth on the napkin. He shrugs and goes on eating. Something has come between us though he would like me to believe otherwise.

“What are you staring at me for?” he asks. “What is it?” he says and puts his fork down.

“Was I staring?” I say and shake my head stupidly, stupidly.

His characters spoke a language that sounded ordinary, except that every word echoed with the strange, and in the silences between words a kind of panic rose. These lives were trembling over a void.

“Most of my characters would like their actions to count for something,” Ray once said. “But at the same time they’ve reached the point — many people do — that they know it isn’t so. It doesn’t add up any longer The things you once thought important or even worth dying for aren’t worth a nickel now. It’s their lives they’ve become uncomfortable with, lives they see breaking down. They’d like to set things right, but they can’t.

Ray was doing things the long, hard way, going against every trend of the period. In those years, the short story was a minor literary form. Realism seemed played out. The writer Ray brought most quickly to mind, Hemingway, was at the start of a posthumous eclipse. In the sixties and seventies, the most discussed writers — Mailer, Bellow, Roth, Updike, Barth, Wolfe, Pynchon — reached for overstatement, not restraint, writing sprawling novels of intellectual, linguistic, or erotic excess, and high-octane journalism. There was a kind of competition to swallow American life whole — to mirror and distort in prose the social facts of a country that had a limitless capacity for flux and shock.

Ray, whose hero was Chekhov, moved in the opposite direction from literary trends and kept faith with a quieter task, following Ezra Pound’s maxim that “fundamental accuracy of statement is the one sole morality of writing.” By paying close attention to the lives of marginal, lost people, people who scarcely figured and were rarely taken seriously in contemporary American fiction (if they appeared anywhere, it was in the paintings of Edward Hopper), Ray had his fingers on the pulse of a deeper loneliness. He seemed to know, in the unintentional way of a fiction writer, that the country’s future would be most unnerving in its very ordinariness, in the late-night trip to the supermarket, the yard sale at the end of the line. He sensed that beneath the surface of life there was nothing to stand on.

In the early seventies, Maryann got her degree and began to teach high school English. That freed Ray to put his effort into writing and finding a college teaching job. He began publishing stories in big East Coast magazines. The Carvers bought their first house, in the future Silicon Valley. There was a nonstop party scene with other working-class writers and their wives in the area. Things were looking up for the Carvers. That was when everything went to pieces.

The children became teenagers, and Ray felt that they now held the reins. Ray and Maryann each had an affair. They went into bankruptcy twice. He was convicted of lying to the state of California on his unemployment claim and almost sent to prison. Instead, he went in and out of detox. His drinking turned poisonous, with long blackouts. Maryann tried to keep up in order not to lose him. Ray was a quiet, spooked-looking man, but with the scotch he grew menacing, and one night, after Maryann flirted with a friend, Ray hit her with a wine bottle. She lost 60 percent of her blood from the severed artery by her ear and was taken to the emergency room while Ray hid in the kitchen.

A few months later, in 1976, his first book of stories, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? — written over nearly two decades — was published in New York. The dedication page said: THIS BOOK IS FOR MARYANN.

Ray was a drinker and a writer. The two had always gone along separate tracks. What the first self fled or wrecked or rued or resented, the second stared into high art. But now his writing dwindled to nothing.

“The time came and went when everything my wife and I held sacred or considered worthy of respect, every spiritual value, crumbled away,” he later wrote. “Something terrible had happened to us.” He never intended to become an alcoholic, a bankrupt, a cheat, a thief, and a liar. But he was all those. It was the 1970s, and a lot of people were having a good time, but Ray knew ahead of the years that the life of partying and drinking poor was a road into darkness.

In the middle of 1977 he went to live by himself on the remote California coast near Oregon. It was fear for his writing, not for his own life or the life of his family that made him take his last drink there. Sober, he began to write again. In 1978 he and Maryann split.

That was the end of Bad Ray and the beginning of Good Raymond. He had ten more years before a lifetime of smoking finally caught up with him and he died at fifty, in 1988. During that decade he found happiness with a poet. He wrote some of his best stories and escaped the trap of self-parody that had begun to be called minimalism, turning to more fullness of expression in the service of a more generous vision. He became famous and entered the middle class. He received prestigious appointments and won major prizes, a literary hero redeemed from hell. He walked with the happy carefulness of someone pardoned on the verge of execution.

The turn to flash and glitz in the eighties worked in his favor. During the Reagan years he was named the chronicler of blue-collar despair. The less articulate his characters, the more his many new readers loved the creator. If the sinking working class fascinated and frightened them, they could imagine that they knew its spirit through his stories, and so they fetishized him.

The New York literary scene, hot and flush again, took him to its heart. He became a Vintage Contemporary alongside writers in their twenties who had learned to mimic the austere prose without having first forged it in personal fires. He posed for jacket portraits with some of the old menace, like a man who had wandered into a book party from the scary part of town.

“They sold his stories of inadequate, failed, embarrassed and embarrassing men, many of them drunkards, all of them losers, to yuppies,” one of his old friends said. “His people confirmed the yuppies in their sense of superiority.”

But every morning, Good Raymond got up, made coffee, sat at his desk, and did exactly what Bad Ray had always done. After all, they were the same craftsman. The distractions were different now, but he was still trying to set down what he saw and felt with utmost accuracy, and in the American din, that small thing was everything.

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Song to the Moon – Renée Fleming

April 16, 2014

The incomparable Renée Fleming sings Antonín Dvořák’s Měsíčku no nebi hlubokém (Song to the Moon) from the Opera Rusalka.

Silver moon upon the deep dark sky,
Through the vast night pierce your rays.
This sleeping world you wonder by,
Smiling on men’s homes and ways.
Oh moon ere past you glide, tell me,
Tell me, oh where does my loved one bide?
Tell him, oh tell him, my silver moon,
Mine are the arms that shall hold him,
That between waking and sleeping
Think of the love that enfolds him.
May between waking and sleeping
Think of the love that enfolds him.
Light his path far away, light his path,
Tell him, oh tell him who does for him stay!
Human soul, should it dream of me,
Let my memory wakened be.
Moon, oh moon, oh do not wane, do not wane,
Moon, oh moon, do not wane…

The Czech words you are hearing:

Měsíčku no nebi hlubokém,
světlo tvé daleko vidí,
po světě bloudíš širokém,
díváš se v příbytky lidí.
Měsíčku, postůj chvíli,
řekni mi, kde je můj milý!
Řekni mu, stříbrný měsíčku,
mé že jej objímá rámě,
aby si alespoň chviličku
vzpomenul ve snění no mne.
Zasvit mu do daleka,
řekni mu, kdo tu naň čeká!
O mně-li duše lidská sní,
af se tou vzpomínkou vzbudí!
Měsíčku, nezhasni, nezhasni!

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Disinterestedness – Fr. Romano Guardini

April 15, 2014
The saint is the person in whom the false self has been wholly conquered and the true self set free. Then the person is simply there without stressing himself. He is powerful without exertion. He no longer has desires or fears. He radiates. About him, things assume their truth and order.

The saint is the person in whom the false self has been wholly conquered and the true self set free. Then the person is simply there without stressing himself. He is powerful without exertion. He no longer has desires or fears. He radiates. About him, things assume their truth and order.

From time to time I feature examples of moral values that Fr. Guardini wrote about in his little book, Learning The Virtues That Lead You To God. Taken from a review: “Guardini’s gift is that he can penetrate the indoctrination, distractions and ultimately, the lying of our age and pierce through to the bedrock of our spirtuality, the nature of man, and man in relationship to God. His writings bring man back to what is essential, and strengthen him in trying to live by these precepts. One of Guardini’s purposes in all that he did was to shore up the faith in an age that attacks it mercilessly, and in an age that tries to falsify the nature of man (in advertising, media, manipulation, etc.) This is a wonderful book. It is the holy stratosphere surrounding the throne of God. Highly recommended.”

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Perhaps this title surprises the reader, for who is likely, at present, to consider disinterestedness a virtue; that is, an example of moral value?

There is a proverb which comes from ancient China and which states that the fewer interests a man has, the more powerful he is; that the greatest power is complete disinterestedness. But that idea is foreign to us. The image of man which has become the standard since the middle of the past century is quite different. It presents the active man who moves with decision in dealing with the world and accomplishes his purposes. This man has many interests and considers himself perfect when everything that he does is subordinated to the goals that he sets up for himself.

That such a man accomplishes much would not be denied even by the teachers of that ancient philosophy. But they would probably say that most of it is superficial and bypasses that which is really important.

How, then, does the man live who is ruled by his interests? In his associations with others, such a man does not turn toward another person with simplicity and sincerity, but he always has ulterior motives. He wishes to make an impression, to be envied, to gain an advantage, or to get ahead. He praises in order to be praised. He renders a service in order to be able to exact one in return. Therefore he does not really see the other as a person; instead, he sees wealth or social position, and then there is always rivalry.

With such a man we are not at ease. We must be cautious. We perceive his intentions and draw back. The free association in which true human relations are realized does not develop. Of course, our life with its many needs also has its rights. Many human relations are built upon dependence and aims. Consequently, it is not only right but absolutely necessary that we should seek to obtain what we need and should be conscious of doing this. But there are many other relations which rest upon a candid and sincere meeting of persons. If interests and ulterior motives determine our attitude in such cases, then everything becomes false and insincere.

Wherever the essential relations of “I” and “thou” are to be realized, interests must give way. We must see the other as he is, deal simply with him, and live with him. We must adapt ourselves to the situation and its demands, whether it be a conversation, collaboration, joyfulness, or the enduring of misfortune, danger, or sorrow.

Only in this way are true human values made possible, such as a real friendship, true love, sincere comradeship in working, and honest assistance in time of need. But if interests become dominant here, then everything atrophies.

A man who keeps interests in their proper place acquires power over others, but it is a peculiar kind of power. Here we approach the ancient aphorism of which we spoke in the beginning. The more we seek to gain our own ends, the more the other person closes up and is put on the defensive. But the more clearly he perceives that we do not wish to drive him, but simply to be with him and live with him — that we do not want to gain something from him, but merely to serve the matter at hand — then the more quickly he discards his defenses and opens himself to the influence of our personality.

The power of personality becomes stronger in proportion to the absence of interests. It is something quite different from that energy by which a man subordinates another to his will, and which is really a very external thing in spite of its dynamic quality. The power of personality stems from the genuineness of life, the truth of thought, the pure will to work, and the sincerity of one’s disposition.

Something similar holds true of a man’s relation to his work. When a man who is dominated by his interests works, then his work lacks precisely that which gives it value; that is, a sincere service to the thing itself. For him the first and chief consideration is how he can get ahead and further his career. He knows very little of the freedom of work and the joy of creation.

If he is a student, he works only with an eye to his vocation, and very frequently not even to that which really deserves the name of vocation, which is a man’s feeling that he is “called” to a certain task within the context of human society. Rather, he works with an eye to that which offers the most opportunities for financial gain and for prestige. He really works only for the examination; he learns what is required and what the professor in each case demands. We must not exaggerate; these things, too, have their rights. But if they are the sole motives, then the essential thing is lost. That kind of student never has the experience of living in the milieu of knowledge, of feeling its freedom and its greatness. He is never touched by wisdom and understanding; his interests isolate him. What we have said of students also holds true of other forms of preparation for later life.

Naturally, we repeat, these other things have their rights. A man must know what he wants; otherwise his actions disintegrate. He must have a goal and must orient his life to that goal. But the goal should lie mainly in the object to which be devotes himself. He will pay attention to remuneration and advancement, since his work gives him the means of which he and his family have need and gives him wealth and the esteem of others. But the real and essential consideration must always be what the work itself demands, that it be done well and in its entirety.

The man who has this attitude will not let his actions be determined by considerations extrinsic to the task. In this sense, he is disinterested. He serves, in the fine sense of the word. He does the work which is important and timely; he is devoted to it and does it as it should be done. He lives in it and with it, without self-interest or side glances.

This is an attitude that seems to be disappearing in most places. Persons who do their duty in sincere devotion, because the work is valuable and fine, seem to be becoming rare. Actions are increasingly based upon utilitarian motives and considerations of success apart from the real matter in hand.And yet disinterestedness is the only disposition which produces the genuine work, the pure act, because it frees man for creativity. It alone gives rise to what is great and liberating, and only the man who works in this way gains interior riches.

What we have said also opens the way to the final essence of humanity — selflessness. One of the most profound paradoxes of life is the fact that a man becomes more fully himself the less he thinks of himself. To be more precise, within us there lives a false self and a true self. The false self is the constantly emphasized “I” and “me” and “mine,” and it refers everything to its own honor and prosperity, wishing to enjoy and achieve and dominate.

This self hides the true self, the truth of the person. To the extent that the false self disappears, the true self is freed. To the extent that a man departs from himself in selflessness, he grows into the essential self. This true self does not regard itself, but it is there. It experiences itself, but in the consciousness of an interior freedom, sincerity, and integrity.

The way in which a man puts away the false self and grows into the real self is that which the masters of the interior life call “detachment.” The saint is the person in whom the false self has been wholly conquered and the true self set free. Then the person is simply there without stressing himself. He is powerful without exertion. He no longer has desires or fears. He radiates. About him, things assume their truth and order.

Shall we say, with reference to essentials, that that man has opened himself for God, has become, if we may use the term, penetrable for God? He is the “door” through which God’s power can stream into the world and can create truth and order and peace.

There is an event which reveals this marvel. When St. Francis had lived through the long loneliness on Mount La Verna and had received the stigmata of Christ’s Passion in his hands, feet, and side and returned to his people, they came and kissed the wounds in his hands. Francis, so basically humble, would have, in former times, rejected with horror these marks of reverence. Now he permitted them, for he no longer felt that he, “the son of Bernardone of Assisi” was their object, but Christ’s love in him was. His exterior self had been quenched, but the real Francis shone – he who no longer stood in his own light, but was wholly transparent for God.

Every genuine virtue, as we have seen before, not only pervades the whole of human existence, but it reaches beyond it to God. More correctly, it comes down from God to man, for its true and original place is the divine life. How does this apply in the case of disinterestedness? Does not God have interests — He, through whose will everything exists and whose wisdom orders all things?

We must be careful not to confuse meanings. To “have interests,” in the sense in which we have used the term, means something other than being active. Every activity has a goal, an end to be attained; otherwise, there would be chaos. In this sense, God looks toward the goal He has set, and directs His activity toward it. It is a different thing when the person acting is not simply looking toward the other person or the work to be accomplished, but regards himself, wishes to be recognized, and to secure an advantage. How could God intend anything of the sort? He is the Lord, Lord of the world, Lord of the divine life and existence. What could He need? He has — no, He is — everything!

When He creates the world, He does not do so as a man would make something, in order to boast of it or to serve hisown needs, but He creates through pure, divine joy in the act.We may use the term joy here, in its highest sense. He creates things so that they may exist, that they may be truthful, genuine, and beautiful. We cannot conceive of the freedom and joyfulness of God’s creative activity.

But what of the government of the world, that which we call “Providence”? Doesn’t God have purposes? Doesn’t He guide man, every man, and all the events of his life, to the end that He has proposed? Isn’t the life of one man arranged in a certain way because the life of another is connected with it in this manner? Aren’t the lives of all men oriented toward each other, and isn’t the whole of existence arranged by divine wisdom according to God’s plan?

Again, we must distinguish the meanings of words. Supreme wisdom does not will “interests” which accompany and are extrinsic to the essential thing, but the very meaning of that which is willed, its truth, and the fulfillment of its nature.

This divine will is the power which binds one thing to another, refers one event to another, brings one person into relation with another, and brings every man into relation with the whole. This does not constitute interests, but wisdom, the sovereign wisdom of the perfect Master who creates human existence as a woven fabric in which every thread supports all the others and is itself supported by all the others.

At present, we do not yet see the pattern. We see only the reverse of the tapestry and are able to follow certain lines for a short distance, but then they disappear. But someday the tapestry will be turned, at the end of time, at the Final Judgment; then the figures will stand out brightly.

Then the question never fully answered (or not answered at all) in the course of time — “Why”: Why this sorrow? Why this privation? Why can one do this and not another? — and all the questions of life’s trials will receive their answer from the wisdom of God, which brings it about that things are not a mere mass of objects and events, are not a confusion of occurrences, but that all these together constitute a world.

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The Inspiration and Inerrancy Of Scripture – Karl Rahner

April 14, 2014
Just as by the very nature of the case there is an analogy of faith which is a hermeneutical principle for the correct interpretation of individual statements in the official teaching of the church, so that the individual statement can only be understood correctly within the unity of the church’s total consciousness of the faith, so too and in an analogous sense, or as a particular instance of this principle, there is also an analogia scripturae or an analogy of scripture which is a hermeneutical principle• for interpreting individual texts of scripture.

Just as by the very nature of the case there is an analogy of faith which is a hermeneutical principle for the correct interpretation of individual statements in the official teaching of the church, so that the individual statement can only be understood correctly within the unity of the church’s total consciousness of the faith, so too and in an analogous sense, or as a particular instance of this principle, there is also an analogia scripturae or an analogy of scripture which is a hermeneutical principle for interpreting individual texts of scripture.

A few pages from Rahner’s magisterial work, Foundations of Christian Faith. Which has been called “a brilliant synthesis flowing from an incomparable mastery of Scripture, the Church Fathers, the great medieval theologians, the ‘theology of the schools’, and contemporary thought.”

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In the documents of the church it is said again and again that God is the auctor (author) of the Old and New Testaments as scripture. The school theology, which is at work in the encyclicals of Leo XIII and up to those of Pius XII and tried time and time again to clarify by means of psychological theories how God himself is the literary author or the writer of Holy Scripture.

And it tried to formulate and to clarify the doctrine of inspiration in such a way that it becomes clear that God is the literary author of scripture. This, however, did not deny (and the Second Vatican Council affirmed it explicitly) that this understanding of God’s authorship and of inspiration may not reduce the human authors of these writings merely to God’s secretaries but rather it grants them the character of a genuine literary authorship of their own.

This interpretation of the inspired nature of scripture which we have done no more than sketch can of course be understood in such a way that even today one does not necessarily have to accuse it of being in mythological. We would have to recall in this connection what we said in the fifth chapter about the unity between transcendental revelation and its historical objectification in word and in writing, and about the knowledge of the success of these objectifications.

In any case it cannot be denied in the Catholic Church that God is the author of the Old and New Testament. But he does not therefore have to be understood as the literary author of these writings. He can be understood in a variety of other ways as the author of scripture, and indeed in such a way that in union with grace and the light of faith scripture can truly be called the word of God.

This is true especially because, as we said elsewhere, even if a word about God is caused by God, it would not by this very fact be a word of God in which God offers himself. It would not be such a word of God if this word did not take place as an objectification of God’s self-expression which is effected by God and is borne by grace, and which comes to us without being reduced to our level because the process of hearing it is borne by God’s Spirit.

If the church was founded by God himself through his Spirit and in Jesus Christ, if the original church as the norm for the future church is the object of God’s activity in a qualitatively unique way which is different from his preservation of the church in the course of history, and if scripture is a constitutive element of this original church as the norm for future ages, then this already means quite adequately and in both a positive and an exclusive sense that God is the author of scripture and that he inspired it .  [Yes, you may read that again slowly.]

Nor at this point can some special psychological theory of inspiration be appealed to for help. Rather we can simply take cognizance of the actual origins of scripture which follow for the impartial observer from the very different characteristics of the individual books of scripture. The human authors of Holy Scripture work exactly like other human authors, nor do they have to know anything about their being inspired in reflexive knowledge.

If God wills the original church as an indefectible sign of salvation for all ages, and wills it with an absolute, formally pre-defining and eschatological will within salvation history, and hence if he wills with this quite definite will everything which is constitutive for this church, and this includes in certain circumstances scripture in a preeminent way, then He is the inspirer and the author of scripture, although the inspiration of scripture is “only” a moment within God’s primordial authorship of the Church.

Inerrancy of Scripture
From the doctrine that Holy Scripture is inspired theology and the official doctrine of the church derive the thesis that scripture is inerrant. We can certainly say with the Second Vatican Council (Dei Verbum, art. 11): “Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be considered to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, we must profess of the books of scripture that they teach with certainty, with fidelity and without error the truth which God wanted recorded in the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation.”

But if because of the very nature of scripture as the message of salvation we acknowledge the inerrancy of scripture first of all in this global sense, we are still far from having solved of all of the problems and settled all of the difficulties about the meaning and the limits of this statement which can be raised because of the actual state of the scriptural texts.

The inerrancy of scripture was certainly understood earlier in too narrow a sense, especially when inspiration was interpreted it sense of verbal inspiration, and the sacred writers were only regarded as God’s secretaries and not as independent and also historically conditioned literary authors. That difficulties still exist here in the understanding of and in the exact interpretation of the church’s doctrine on the inerrancy of scripture is shown even by the history of the conciliar text just cited. It follows from this history that the Council evidently wanted to leave open the question whether the phrase about the truth which God wanted to have recorded for the sake of our salvation is supposed to restrict or to explicate the meaning of the sentence.

We cannot of course treat and answer all of these questions and difficulties in detail here, especially since we cannot go into individual scriptural texts which raise special difficulties with regard to their “truth. We shall have to leave them to the introductory disciplines and to exegesis. Nor can we go into the question here whether in the papal encyclicals of the last century and up to Pius XII the doctrine on the inerrancy of scripture was not understood here and there in a too narrow and materialist sense. It is also obvious that much of what was said elsewhere in this book, for example, about the inerrancy of Christ and the inerrancy of real dogmas in the teaching of the church, can have its corresponding validity in this question too.

We only want to say here very briefly: scripture in its unity and totality is the objectification of God’s irreversible and victorious offer of salvation to the world in Jesus Christ, and therefore in its unity and totality it cannot lead one away from God’s truth in some binding way. We must read every individual text within the context of this single whole in order to understand its true meaning correctly. Only then can it be understood it its real meaning, and only then can it really be grasped as “true.”

The very different literary genre of the individual books must be seen more clearly than before and be evaluated in establishing the real meaning of statements. (For example, in the New Testament stories it is not impossible in certain circumstances that we find forms of midrash and that they were originally intended to be such, so that according to scripture’s own meaning the “historical” truth of a story can be relativized without any qualms.) Scriptural statements were expressed within historically and culturally conditioned conceptual horizons, and this must be taken into account if the question of what is “really” being said in a particular text is to be answered correctly.

In certain circumstances it can be completely legitimate to distinguish between the “correctness” and the “truth” of a statement. Nor may we overlook the question whether the really binding meaning of a scriptural statement does not change if a particular book has its origins outside the canon as the work of some individual, and then is taken into the totality of the canonical scriptures.

Just as by the very nature of the case there is an analogy of faith which is a hermeneutical principle for the correct interpretation of individual statements in the official teaching of the church, so that the individual statement can only be understood correctly within the unity of the church’s total consciousness of the faith, so too and in an analogous sense, or as a particular instance of this principle, there is also an analogia scripturae oran analogy of scripture which is a hermeneutical principle for interpreting individual texts of scripture.

If there is a “hierarchy of truths,” that is, if particular statement does not always have the same objective and existential weight which another statement has, then this has to be taken into account in interpreting individual scriptural statements. This does not mean that the statement which is “less important” in relation to another statement has to be qualified as incorrect or as false.

If we grant the validity of and apply these and similar principles, which follow from the very nature of the case and from the nature of human speech and are not the principles of a cheap “arrangement” or a cowardly attempt to cover up difficulties, then we certainly do not inevitably have to get into the difficulty of having to hold that particular statements of scripture are “true” in the meaning which is really intended and is intended in a binding way, although a sober and honest exegesis might declare that they are incorrect and erroneous in the sense of a negation of the “truth.”

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Noah By Charlotte Allen

April 11, 2014
It is the themes of faithfulness and optimism that give the biblical Noah story coherence. Without them you have -- as with Mr. Aronofsky's two-and-a-half-hour movie -- a vast and dreary expanse of time, space and meaning to fill.

It is the themes of faithfulness and optimism that give the biblical Noah story coherence. Without them you have — as with Mr. Aronofsky’s two-and-a-half-hour movie — a vast and dreary expanse of time, space and meaning to fill.

A ‘Noah’ for Our Secular Times Hollywood’s latest story of the Ark is more Gnostic than Jewish, Muslim or Christian. Ms. Allen is the author of “The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus” (Free Press, 1998).

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Director Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” is being touted as not your grandfather’s Bible movie. That’s true — but the film is also a quintessential example of the kind of biblical story you get, and the kind of biblical “hero” you get, in a secular culture that has lost all connection to what the story means.

Mr. Aronofsky’s Noah, played by Russell Crowe, isn’t merely a warts-and-all version of the “righteous man” from the Book of Genesis, who at God’s command builds an ark that saves his family, along with the world’s birds and beasts, from the flood that is God’s punishment of a human race that has grown corrupt. In Genesis, Noah has his faults, as when he shames himself in front of his sons by passing out drunk and naked after the flood has subsided and they have left the ark.

But Mr. Aronofsky’s Noah is a homicidal monster, part religious fanatic, part Zero Population Growth progenitor. In Mr. Aronofsky’s twist on the Bible, Noah is determined to exterminate his own offspring as well as the rest of mankind, all supposedly in God’s name.

This Noah ruthlessly abandons a young woman — the girlfriend of his teenage son — to be trampled to death by a mob. He then takes it upon himself to murder his newborn granddaughters in their mother’s arms. An all-is-forgiven ending, with Patti Smith singing “Mercy Is” on the soundtrack, does little to mitigate Noah’s general repulsiveness.

All filmmakers of biblical subjects take fictional liberties with their material — as do the makers of biblical plays, novels, operas, paintings and sculptures. Biblical narratives, as literary critic Erich Auerbach observed, are notoriously skimpy with information about their characters’ thoughts, feelings and motivations. Filmmakers step in to supply complex and often conflicted human beings — Judas, King David, among others — out of the bare outlines the Bible provides.

Like other adapters of Bible stories, Mr. Aronofsky has drawn on extra-biblical sources: the apocryphal Book of Enoch, in this case, and likely Gnostic texts that present the biblical God as evil. Throughout “Noah,” God is referred to simply as the “Creator” — a title that calls to mind the “demiurge,” the sinister lesser divinity who, according to the Gnostic cosmology, fashioned the material world.

The liberties that Mr. Aronofsky has taken, however, run counter to nearly every religious interpretation of Noah ever made, from the commentary by Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish contemporary of Jesus, to Dino de Laurentiis’s 1966 movie spectacle, “The Bible: In the Beginning,” with John Huston portraying Noah as a genial patriarch who swats the animals on their behinds to keep them moving into the ark.

In Philo’s view, and in the rabbinical writings that followed, the story of Noah signified God’s continued solicitude for the human race despite its past depravity, and his willingness to start afresh. In Genesis, Noah’s three sons are grown men with wives and, later, numerous children. God honors Noah by making a covenant never again to destroy the planet with water, offering the rainbow as a sign of that covenant.

In Jewish thought, Noah is a precursor to Abraham, another righteous man with whom God makes a covenant promising countless offspring. In Islam, Noah is one of the earliest prophets.

Early Christian writers used this theme of God’s reward for human faithfulness as an allegory of Christian salvation, with the window of the ark symbolizing the wound in Christ’s side from which had poured his redemptive blood. The story of Noah was thus an inspiring story of a world begun anew. It was a favorite theme of medieval mystery plays, which embellished the tale with humor: Noah’s wife was often portrayed as a comical battle-ax who had to be dragged into the ark by her husband and sons.

Benjamin Britten turned one of those plays into his 1957 opera, ” Noye’s Fludde.” Michaelangelo painted scenes from the Noah story onto the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Other artists — from Jan Breughel the Elder in the 17th century to the American primitivist Edward Hicks in the 19th and Salvador Dali in the 20th — delighted in portraying the ark and its pairs of animals

It is the themes of faithfulness and optimism that give the biblical Noah story coherence. Without them you have — as with Mr. Aronofsky’s two-and-a-half-hour movie — a vast and dreary expanse of time, space and meaning to fill. The director strives his frenetic best. He gives us giant fantasy creatures that look like Transformers, except that they’re made of rocks. He gives us, as a substitute for religion, the creeds of animal rights and environmentalism, in which the gravest sins are eating meat and mining. He gives us knifings, arsons and impressive computer-generated battles.

But as a determined secularist in a determinedly secular world, he can’t give us the one thing that the Noah story once stood for: hope.

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SEX 2 From Roger Scruton’s An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy

April 10, 2014
Life in the actual world is difficult and embarrassing. Most of all it is difficult and embarrassing in our confrontation with other people who, by their very existence as subjects, rearrange things in defiance of our will. It requires a great force, such as the force of sexual desire, to overcome the self-protection that shields us from intimate encounters. It is tempting to take refuge in substitutes, which neither embarrass us nor resist the impulse of our spontaneous cravings. The habit grows of creating a compliant world of desire, in which unreal objects become the focus of real emotions, and the emotions themselves are rendered incompetent to participate in the building of personal relations. The fantasy blocks the passage to reality, which becomes inaccessible to the will. In this process the fantasy Other, since he is entirely the instrument of my will, becomes an object for me, one among many substitutes defined purely in terms of a sexual use.

Life in the actual world is difficult and embarrassing. Most of all it is difficult and embarrassing in our confrontation with other people who, by their very existence as subjects, rearrange things in defiance of our will. It requires a great force, such as the force of sexual desire, to overcome the self-protection that shields us from intimate encounters. It is tempting to take refuge in substitutes, which neither embarrass us nor resist the impulse of our spontaneous cravings. The habit grows of creating a compliant world of desire, in which unreal objects become the focus of real emotions, and the emotions themselves are rendered incompetent to participate in the building of personal relations. The fantasy blocks the passage to reality, which becomes inaccessible to the will. In this process the fantasy Other, since he is entirely the instrument of my will, becomes an object for me, one among many substitutes defined purely in terms of a sexual use.

The intentionality of desire is the topic for a book, and since I have written that book, I shall confine myself here to a few remarks. My hope is to put philosophy to its best use, which is that of shoring up the human world against the corrosive seas of pseudo-science. In true sexual desire, the aim is union with the other, where ‘the other’ denotes a particular person, with a particular perspective on my actions.

The reciprocity which is involved in this aim is achieved in a state of mutual arousal, and the interpersonal character of arousal determines the nature of the ‘union’ that is sought. All desire is compromising, and the choice to express it or to yield to it is an existential choice, in which the self is, or may be, in danger.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the sexual act is surrounded by prohibitions; it brings with it a weight of shame, guilt and jealousy, as well as the heights of joy and happiness. It is inconceivable that a morality of pure permission should issue from the right conception of such a compromising force, and, as I argue in Sexual Desire, the traditional morality, in which monogamous heterosexual union, enshrined in a vow rather than a contract, is the norm, shows far more sensitivity to what is at stake than any of the known alternatives.

If it is so difficult now to see the point of that morality, it is in part because human sexual conduct has been redescribed by the pseudo-science of sexology, and as a result not only robbed of its interpersonal intentionality, but also profoundly demoralized. In redescribing the human world in this way, we also change it. We introduce new forms of sexual feeling – shaped by the desire for an all-comprehending permission. The sexual sacrament gives way to a sexual market; and the result is a fetishism of the sexual commodity.

Richard Posner, for example, in his worthless but influential book entitled Sex and Reason (but which should have been called Sex and Instrumental Reason), opens his first chapter with the following sentence: There is sexual behavior, having to do mainly with excitation of the sexual organs.’ In reality, of course, sexual behaviour has to do with courtship, desire, love, jealousy, marriage, grief, joy and intrigue. Such excitement as occurs is excitement of the whole person. As for the sexual organs, they can be as ‘excited’ (if that is the word) by a bus journey as by the object of desire. Nevertheless, Posner’s description of desire is necessary, if he is to fulfil his aim of deriving a morality of sexual conduct from the analysis of cost and benefit (which, apparently, is what is meant by ‘reason’). So what are the ‘costs’ of sexual gratification?

One is the cost of search. It is zero for masturbation, considered as a solitary activity, which is why it is the cheapest of practices. (The qualification is important: ‘mutual masturbation’, heterosexual or homosexual, is a form of nonvaginal intercourse, and its search costs are positive.)

Posner proceeds to consider hypothetical cases: for example, the case where a man sets a ‘value’ of ‘twenty’ on ‘sex’ with a ‘woman of average attractiveness’, and a ‘value’ of ‘two’ on ‘sex’ with a ‘male substitute’. If you adopt such language, then you have made woman (and man too) into a sex object and sex into a commodity. You have redescribed the human world as a world of things; you have abolished the sacred, the prohibited and the protected, and presented sex as a relation between aliens: ‘Th’expence of spirit in a waste of shame’, in Shakespeare’s famous words. Posner’s language is opaque to what is wanted in sexual desire; it reduces the other person to an instrument of pleasure, a means of obtaining something that could have been provided equally by another person, by an animal, by a rubber doll or a piece of Kleenex.

Well, you might say, why not, if people are happier that way? In whose interest is it, to retain the old form of desire, with its individualizing intentionality, its hopeless yearnings, its furies and jealousies, its lifelong commitments and lifelong griefs?

Modern philosophers shy away from such questions, although they were much discussed in the ancient world. Rather than consider the long-term happiness and fulfillment of the individual, the modern philosopher tends to reduce the problem of sexual morality to one of rights — do we have a right to engage in, or to forbid, this or that sexual practice?

From such a question liberal conclusions follow as a matter of course; but it is a question that leaves the ground of sexual morality unexplored. This ground is not to be discovered in the calculus of rights and duties, but in the theory of virtue. What matters in sexual morality is the distinction between virtuous and vicious dispositions. I have already touched on this distinction in the last chapter, when considering the basis of our moral thinking. I there emphasized the role of virtue in creating the foundations of moral order. But it is also necessary, if we are to give objective grounds for the pursuit of virtue, to show how the happiness and fulfilment of the person are furthered by virtue and jeopardized by vice.

This, roughly speaking, is the task that Aristotle set himself in the Nicomachean Ethics, in which he tried to show that the deep questions of morality concern the education of the moral being, rather than the rules governing his adult conduct. Virtue belongs to character, rather than to the rules of social dialogue, and arises through an extended process of moral development. The virtuous person is disposed to choose those courses of action which contribute to his flourishing – his flourishing, not just as an animal, but as a rational being or person, as that which he essentially is. In educating a child I am educating his habits, and it is therefore clear that I shall always have a reason to inculcate virtuous habits, not only for my sake, but also for his own.

At the same time, we should not think of virtue as a means only. The virtuous person is the one who has the right choice of ends. Virtue is the disposition to want, and therefore to choose, certain things for their own sakes, despite the warring tendency of appetite. Courage, for example, is the disposition to choose the honorable course of action, in face of danger. It is the disposition to overcome fear, for the sake of that judged to be right. All rational beings have an interest in acquiring courage, since without it they can achieve what they really want only by luck, and only in the absence of adversity.

Sexual virtue is similar: the disposition to choose the course of action judged to be right, despite temptation. Education should be directed towards the special kind of temperance which shows itself, sometimes as chastity, sometimes as fidelity, sometimes as passionate desire, according to the ‘right judgement’ of the subject. The virtuous person desires the person whom he may also love, who can and will return his desire, and to whom he may commit himself. In the consummation of such a desire there is neither shame nor humiliation, and the ‘nuptuality’ of the erotic impulse finds the space that it needs in order to flourish.

The most important feature of traditional sexual education is summarized in anthropological language as the ‘ethic of pollution and taboo’. The child was taught to regard his body as sacred, and as subject to pollution by misperception or misuse. The sense of pollution is by no means a trivial side-effect of the ‘bad sexual encounter’: it may involve a penetrating disgust, at oneself, one’s body, one’s situation, such as is experienced by the victim of rape. Those sentiments express the tension contained within our experience of embodiment.

At any moment we can become ‘mere body’, the self driven from its incarnation, and its habitation ransacked. The most important root idea of sexual morality is that I am in my body, not as a ‘ghost in the machine’, but as an incarnate self. My body is identical with me: subject and object are merely two aspects of a single thing, and sexual purity is the guarantee of this.

Sexual virtue does not forbid desire: it simply ensures the status of desire as an interpersonal feeling. The child who learns ‘dirty habits’ detaches his sex from himself, sets it outside himself as something curious and alien in the world of objects. His fascinated enslavement to the body is also a withering of desire, a scattering of erotic energy and a loss of union with the other. Sexual virtue sustains the subject of desire, making him present as a self in the very act which overcomes him.

Traditional sexual education also involved a sustained war against fantasy. Fantasy plays an important part in our sexual doings, and even the most passionate and faithful lover may, in the act of love, rehearse to himself other scenes of sexual abandon than the one in which he is engaged. Nevertheless, there is truth in the Freudian contrast between fantasy and reality, and in the belief that the first is in some way destructive of the second. Fantasy replaces the real, resistant, objective world with a pliant substitute – and that, indeed, is its purpose.

Life in the actual world is difficult and embarrassing. Most of all it is difficult and embarrassing in our confrontation with other people who, by their very existence as subjects, rearrange things in defiance of our will. It requires a great force, such as the force of sexual desire, to overcome the self-protection that shields us from intimate encounters. It is tempting to take refuge in substitutes, which neither embarrass us nor resist the impulse of our spontaneous cravings.

The habit grows of creating a compliant world of desire, in which unreal objects become the focus of real emotions, and the emotions themselves are rendered incompetent to participate in the building of personal relations. The fantasy blocks the passage to reality, which becomes inaccessible to the will. In this process the fantasy Other, since he is entirely the instrument of my will, becomes an object for me, one among many substitutes defined purely in terms of a sexual use.

The sexual world of the fantasist is a world without subjects, in which others appear as objects only. And should the fantasy take possession of him so far as to require that another person submit to it, the result is invariably indecent, tending to rape. The words that I quoted from Richard Posner are indecent in just the way that one must expect, when people no longer see the object of desire as a subject, wanted as such.

Sexual morality returns us, then, to the great conundrum around which these chapters have revolved: the conundrum of the subject, and his relation to the world of space and time.

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