Saturday, April 22, 2017

JUNG’S BOYHOOD FAINTING FITS; AMMONS: EASTER MORNING; 20th CENTURY WOMEN (MOVIE): WILL GOD APOLOGIZE TO US? ANTI-JUDAISM; LOVE AND OBSESSION

EASTER MORNING

I have a life that did not become,
that turned aside and stopped,
astonished:
I hold it in me like a pregnancy or
as on my lap a child
not to grow old but dwell on

it is to his grave I most
frequently return and return
to ask what is wrong, what was
wrong, to see it all by
the light of a different necessity
but the grave will not heal
and the child,
stirring, must share my grave
with me, an old man having
gotten by on what was left

when I go back to my home country in these
fresh far-away days, it’s convenient to visit
everybody, aunts and uncles, those who used to say,
look how he’s shooting up, and the
trinket aunts who always had a little
something in their pocketbooks, cinnamon bark
or a penny or nickel, and uncles who
were the rumored fathers of cousins
who whispered of them as of great, if
troubled, presences, and school

teachers, just about everybody older
(and some younger) collected in one place
waiting, particularly, but not for
me, mother and father there, too, and others
close, close as burrowing
under skin, all in the graveyard
assembled, done for, the world they
used to wield, have trouble and joy
in, gone

the child in me that could not become
was not ready for others to go,
to go on into change, blessings and
horrors, but stands there by the road
where the mishap occurred, crying out for
help, come and fix this or we
can’t get by, but the great ones who
were to return, they could not or did
not hear and went on in a flurry and
now, I say in the graveyard, here
lies the flurry, now it can’t come
back with help or helpful asides, now
we all buy the bitter
incompletions, pick up the knots of
horror, silently raving, and go on
crashing into empty ends not
completions, not rondures the fullness
has come into and spent itself from

I stand on the stump
of a child, whether myself
or my little brother who died, and
yell as far as I can, I cannot leave this place, for
for me it is the dearest and the worst,
it is life nearest to life which is
life lost: it is my place where
I must stand and fail,
calling attention with tears
to the branches not lofting
boughs into space, to the barren
air that holds the world that was my world

though the incompletions
(& completions) burn out
standing in the flash high-burn
momentary structure of ash, still it
is a picture-book, letter-perfect
Easter morning: I have been for a
walk: the wind is tranquil: the brook
works without flashing in an abundant
tranquility: the birds are lively with
voice: I saw something I had
never seen before: two great birds,
maybe eagles, blackwinged, whitenecked
and headed, came from the south oaring
the great wings steadily; they went
directly over me, high up, and kept on
due north: but then one bird,
the one behind, veered a little to the
left and the other bird kept on seeming
not to notice for a minute: the first
began to circle as if looking for
something, coasting, resting its wings
on the down side of some of the circles:
the other bird came back and they both
circled, looking perhaps for a draft;
they turned a few more times, possibly
rising at least, clearly resting
then flew on falling into distance till
they broke across the local bush and
trees: it was a sight of bountiful
majesty and integrity: the having
patterns and routes, breaking
from them to explore other patterns or
better ways to routes, and then the
return: a dance sacred as the sap in
the trees, permanent in its descriptions
as the ripples round the brooks
ripplestone: fresh as this particular
flood of burn breaking across us now
from the sun.

~ A. R. Ammons, A Coast of Trees

Can nature console us for our losses and “incompletions”? Some say we must have religion or art; nature is not enough to reconcile us to reality. But Ammons is more like Wordsworth: nature never disappoints him.

This is one of his best-loved poems. Note that he’s in the graveyard, and this is another “elegy in a country graveyard,” but with a powerful difference in the last section.

The first stanza is superb:

I have a life that did not become,
that turned aside and stopped,
astonished:
I hold it in me like a pregnancy or
as on my lap a child
not to grow old but dwell on


I suspect that all of us have a “a life that did not become.” For me it’s the life I would have had if I’d stayed in Poland, or if I’d decided to have a child. Ammons, however, is alluding to the life of his brother who died at only 18 months:

it is to his grave I most
frequently return and return
to ask what is wrong, what was
wrong, to see it all by
the light of a different necessity
but the grave will not heal
and the child,
stirring, must share my grave
with me, an old man having
gotten by on what was left


The loss of the brother stubbornly remains — there is no explaining or healing it. Ammons was secular and would certainly never say that his brother waits for him “in a better place.” And yet the brother “lives” within the speaker — that too is a mode of existence.

Then we learn that the poet’s mother and father are buried in that cemetery, and his relatives and schoolteachers. (I love the “trinket aunts.”) There they are, 

all in the graveyard
assembled, done for, the world they
used to wield, have trouble and joy
in, gone


And the mourning gets more bitter than that. The adults, so god-like to a child, could not help keep the little brother alive. In fact, they were themselves doomed to “incompletion.” In fact here the poem comes close to rage over mortality as the ruthless law of life:

I stand on the stump
of a child, whether myself
or my little brother who died, and
yell as far as I can, I cannot leave this place, for
for me it is the dearest and the worst,
it is life nearest to life which is
life lost: it is my place where
I must stand and fail,
calling attention with tears
to the branches not lofting
boughs into space, to the barren
air that holds the world that was my world

The poem could end here and be yet another “elegy in a country graveyard,” finely written but not giving us any new insight. But something surprising now takes place: the poem makes a turn toward — dare we say it? — finding something good, even wonderful. He approaches it gradually, through small consolations of the “perfect” Easter morning:

        . . . still it
is a picture-book, letter-perfect
Easter morning: I have been for a
walk: the wind is tranquil: the brook
works without flashing in an abundant
tranquility: the birds are lively with
voice:

~ and now comes something extraordinary:

I saw something I had
never seen before: two great birds,
maybe eagles, blackwinged, whitenecked
and headed, came from the south oaring
the great wings steadily; they went
directly over me, high up, and kept on
due north:

Again, the poem could end right here. But Ammons is such a lover of nature, and is so dedicated to honest detail, that he extends the scene. One of the eagles starts circling, gliding to rest its wings, and its mate comes back and they both keep circling for a while, before they resume their previous course. This, Ammons tells us, is

a dance sacred as the sap in
the trees, permanent in its descriptions
as the ripples round the brooks
ripplestone: fresh as this particular
flood of burn breaking across us now
from the sun.

The speaker doesn’t need to delude himself with the prospect of a “better place” in order to have a sense of the sacred. Watching the “sacred dance” of the two great birds is his Easter worship and, I am tempted to say, his emotional resurrection.

The aerial dance is both ancient and new as sunlight just arriving – the “flood of burn” that makes life on earth possible.

Thus, turning to nature can provide consolation for mortality, but not by giving us identity or meaning. What nature can give us is beauty and serenity when we see the persistence of ancient patterns that continue in serenity, untroubled.

It is only a partial consolation. For more emotional reassurance, we need others who are still alive and help us carry the questions. We are social animals — there is no escaping that — and we need the human community. But that’s going beyond the poem. Ammons stays with what nature can offer: its beauty, majesty, and, in the flight of an eagle, serenity.

(One of my peak nature experiences happened while I was hiking on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park in Washington. An American eagle glided past me just an arm’s length away. The bird’s eye passed by me, showing a complete lack of fear. The sense of serenity that this gliding flight conveyed is beyond words.)

IS THERE RESURRECTION IN THIS POEM?

Finally, since the title of the poem is “Easter Morning,” evoking resurrection, we need to ask if this is relevant to the poem. I think so. Now, it’s possible that in real life the speaker did go to visit his home-town cemetery precisely on Easter morning. But it’s also possible that the speaker made it Easter morning (rather than, say, a November afternoon) because he wanted to portray a resurrection — one through a communion with nature.

The setting is a cemetery. We stand in midst of graves, most likely facing the one of the speaker’s little brother, and contemplate the lost lives, the lost worlds — what Ammons brilliantly calls “incompletions”:

I stand on the stump
of a child, whether myself
or my little brother who died . . .
calling attention with tears . . .
to the barren
air that holds the world that was my world


The past is gone, unresolved, unjust: not the rich and fulfilled “rondure" but an incompletion. Tragic, meaningless, absurd; when a person dies, his or her unique, unrepeatable world is abruptly lost:


all in the graveyard
assembled, done for, the world they
used to wield, have trouble and joy
in, gone

 

But somehow the speaker stops staring down at the graves and looks up — and is seized with awe: two eagles come flying and perform the “sacred dance” that reveals their powerful bond

two great birds,
maybe eagles, blackwinged, whitenecked
and headed, came from the south oaring
the great wings steadily; they went
directly over me, high up, and kept on
due north: but then one bird,
the one behind, veered a little


~ and the “sacred dance” begins because one of them apparently needs to rest a bit.

We speak of “pair bonding” because we dare not apply the word “love” to animals. I say let’s be more daring: it’s an encounter with beauty and love that’s the emotional resurrection here. The speaker’s depression-inducing introspection ends as soon as he “gazes at the world.” And out there he sees something amazing: two great birds, their beauty and the love between them, and the implied promise of a new life. Or it might be a continuation of the same life, but seen with new eyes — after the sacred moment of watching the two eagles. 



TWENTIETH-CENTURY WOMEN (movie): TWO MOMENTS

 
Sometimes an otherwise forgettable movie delivers a moment or two of vivid connection. In this one, both were delivered by the punk photographer, superbly played by Greta Gerwig. She says to the adolescent protagonist and narrator: “No matter how you imagine your future life, it will be nothing like it.” Life takes us by surprise. And no matter how many times we’ve been through this “Surprise!” experience, there is always more of it. That’s why Oscar Wilde said that a novel can’t be like life, or it would be too unbelievable.

Another scene that stays with me is the first time the photographer and the handyman make love. She asks him that he touch her as by accident and then say, “I'm sorry.” At first he’s put off by this request: why should he says he’s sorry when he isn’t? He’s done nothing to apologize for. But the woman’s obvious woundedness finally persuades him — she needs to hear those words. So he brushes down the strap of her tank down her shoulder, then says, “I'm sorry.” After a silence, he starts saying “I'm sorry” again and again, with increasing compassion and tenderness. He touches and gently kisses her, saying “I'm sorry.”

He’s not apologizing for himself; he’s empathizing with the suffering she’s gone through, the unfair deal life has given her (she’s a cancer survivor, among other things). In a way, he empathizes with all suffering. In a movie in which a lot centers on “trying to be cool” and detached, this is a moment of true connection. 


Yet another way to understand this moment is to see the woman’s longing to hear “I'm sorry” as her desire to have god apologize to her for her life. Where she expected protection and kindness, she got abandonment, trauma, hardship. There are people who try to imagine what they’d say to god if they see him after they die. They rarely, if ever, wonder what god might say to them. But wouldn’t it be magnificent if god said, “I'm sorry”?

One solution would be to imagine a female god, the Holy Mother, who is a goddess of mercy. She’s totally non-punitive. Bad things happen, but that’s governed by forces over which she has no control. Her function is to show sympathy. Perhaps that’s why there are so many statues of Mary (and Quan-Yin, the Goddess of Mercy). The greatest cathedrals are all Mary, as are the small grottoes. She’s the one that people see in apparitions. I think the difference is that she never  punishes. 



LENIN’S BIRTHDAY

~ “April 22. The man who ought to never have been born — whose name was borne with revulsion by the city of my life, whom as a child I was told I was supposed to love more than my own parents, who was proclaimed by millions of visual propaganda items on every street corner to be more alive even in his death than all the rest of us the living, for whom thousands of hosannas were sung day and night on the radio, in whose honor on a certain number of Saturdays per year the whole vast country was engaged in some meaningless menial activity, and who lay immobile and sallow-faced with hollow eye sockets and all waxen in his black suit and extremely dead inside the eerily bright glass cube guarded by heavily armed soldiers with inscrutably cruel features in the dark while the horrified five year-old me with my hand in my old-Bolshevik grandfather's large palm was moving past that awful glass cube in otherworldly silence — that man would turn 147 today.” ~ Mikhail Iossel (who grew up in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg)


 
 

And Hitler’s birthday is April 20 — openly celebrated by the newly empowered Neo-Nazis.


Let's detox from this with art.

Rembrandt: Self-portrait with Saskia, 1636. Rembrandt portrays himself as the Prodigal Son in a tavern.



And here is Rembrandt’s drawing of himself and Saskia (1636) that I like even more



And here, by contrast, is the essence of tacky


 

So let us detox from that: April bloom at Joshua Tree; Patricia Galindo



And since we need even more detox, here is Georgia O'Keeffe's Shell, 1938




ANTI-JUDAISM

~ “What is the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism? The answer could be summarized this way: Anti-Semitism needs actual Jews to persecute; anti-Judaism can flourish perfectly well without them, since its target is not a group of people but an idea.

Nirenberg’s thesis is that this idea of Judaism, which bears only a passing resemblance to Judaism as practiced and lived by Jews, has been at the very center of Western civilization since the beginning. From Ptolemaic Egypt to early Christianity, from the Catholic Middle Ages to the Protestant Reformation, from the Enlightenment to fascism, whenever the West has wanted to define everything it is not—when it wants to put a name to its deepest fears and aversions—Judaism has been the name that came most easily to hand.

The main reason why Judaism, and therefore anti-Judaism, have been so central to Western culture is, of course, Christianity. But Nirenberg’s first chapter shows that some persistent anti-Jewish tropes predate Jesus by hundreds of years. The Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera, writing around 320 BCE, recorded an Egyptian tradition that inverts the familiar Exodus story. In this version, the Hebrews did not escape from Egypt but were expelled as an undesirable element, “strangers dwelling in their midst and practicing different rites.” These exiles settled in Judea under the leadership of Moses, who instituted for them “an unsocial and intolerant mode of life.” Already, Nirenberg observes, we can detect “what would become a fundamental concept of anti-Judaism—Jewish misanthropy.”

With his chapters on Saint Paul and the early church, Nirenberg begins to navigate the headwaters of European anti-Judaism. Paul, whose epistles instructed small Christian communities in the Near East on points of behavior and doctrine, was writing at a time when Christianity was still primarily a Jewish movement. In his desire to emphasize the newness of his faith, and the rupture with Judaism that Jesus Christ represented, he cast the two religions as a series of oppositions. Where Jews read scripture according to the “letter,” the literal meaning, Christians read it according to the “spirit,” as an allegory predicting the coming of Christ. Likewise, where Jews obeyed traditional laws, Christians were liberated from them by faith in Christ—which explained why Gentile converts to Christianity did not need to follow Jewish practices like circumcision. 


To “Judaize,” to use a word Paul coined, meant to be a prisoner of this world, to believe in the visible rather than the invisible, the superficial appearance rather than the true meaning, law rather than love. More than a theological error, Judaism was an error in perception and cognition, a fundamentally wrong way of being in the world.


The problem, as Nirenberg argues in the richest sections of his book, is that this is an error to which Christians themselves are highly prone. Paul and the early Christians lived in the expectation of the imminent end of the world, the return of Christ, and the establishment of the new Jerusalem. As the end kept on not coming, it became necessary to construct a Christian way of living in this world. But this meant that Christians would have need of law and letter, too, that they would need to “Judaize” to some degree.

That is why the theological debates in the early church, leading up to Saint Augustine, were often cast as arguments about Judaizing. Marcion, a 2nd-century-CE heretic, followed Paul’s denigration of “the letter” to the point of discarding the entire Old Testament (as the Hebrew Bible was now known); to keep reading Jewish scriptures was to miss the point of Christ’s radical newness. On the other hand, Justin Martyr, Marcion’s orthodox opponent, believed that this reduction of the Old Testament to its merely literal content was itself a way of repeating a “Jewish” error.

In other words, both Marcion and Justin each accused the other of Judaizing, of reading and thinking like a Jew. This, too, would become a pattern for subsequent Christian (and post-Christian) history: If Judaism was an error, every error could potentially be thought of as Jewish. “This struggle to control the power of ‘Judaism,’ ” Nirenberg writes, “will turn out to be one of the most persistent and explosive themes of Christian political theology, from the Middle Ages to Modernity.”

  
When Martin Luther rebelled against Catholicism, he attacked the church’s “legalistic understanding of God’s justice” as Jewish: “In this sense the Roman church had become more ‘Jewish’ than the Jews.” When the Puritan revolutionaries in the English Civil War thought about the ideal constitution for the state, they looked to the ancient Israelite commonwealth as described in Judges and Kings.

Surprisingly, Nirenberg shows, the decline of religion in Europe and the rise of the Enlightenment did little to change the rhetoric of anti-Judaism. Voltaire, Kant, and Hegel all used Judaism as a figure for what they wanted to overcome—superstition, legalistic morality, the dead past. Finally, in a brief concluding chapter on the 19th century and after, Nirenberg shows how Marx recapitulated ancient anti-Jewish tropes when he conceived of communist revolution as “the emancipation of mankind from Judaism”—that is, from money and commerce and social alienation. And this is not to mention some of Nirenberg’s most striking chapters, including one on the role of Judaism in early Islam and one devoted to a close reading of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

For all the progress the world has made since the Holocaust in thinking rationally about Jews and Judaism, the story Nirenberg has to tell is not over.

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/123971/a-world-without-jews


Rembrandt: Old Jew, 1654

Oriana:

What fascinates me most is Luther accusing the Catholic church of having become “more Jewish than the Jews.” And then of course Marx, the descendant of famous rabbis, who sees communism as a liberation from Judaism (which Marx sees as “money, commerce, and social alienation”). And how Christian theologians would accuse one another of “thinking like a Jew.”

And while Paul’s role in setting the opposition between Judaism and Christianity looms very large indeed, we must not forget the gospels themselves — and the criticism of the Pharisees and their legalistic observance. Christians tend to be ignorant of modern Reform Judaism. For them, the ancient Pharisees are still the face of Judaism.

And the way anti-Judaism is also a hidden anti-intellectualism is another interesting facet of this phenomenon.

St. Paul, mosaic in Rome. Oddly enough, "paulus" means "small"

More on the subject from the New York Review of Books

ANTI-JUDAISM AND IMAGINARY JEWS

 
~ “In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, published in 1790, Edmund Burke compared what was going on in France to previous revolutions (like England’s in 1688) that were led by noblemen “of great civil, and great military talents.” By contrast, he wrote, the revolutionary government in Paris is led by “Jew brokers contending with each other who could best remedy with fraudulent circulation and depreciated paper the wretchedness and ruin brought on their country by their degenerate councils.”

Burke certainly knew that Danton, Robespierre, Saint-Just, and their friends and enemies among the revolutionaries were, all of them, Catholics and lapsed Catholics (plus a few Protestants). They were only figurative Jews, imaginary Jews, who came to Burke’s mind, and to many other minds, “because the revolution forced him…to confront basic questions about the ways in which humans relate to one another in society. These were questions that two millennia of pedagogy had taught Europe to ask in terms of “Judaism,” and Burke had learnt the lesson well.”

A certain view of Judaism—mainly negative—gets established early on, chiefly in Christian polemics, and then becomes a common tool in many different intellectual efforts to understand the world and to denounce opposing understandings. Marx may have thought himself insightful and his announcement original: the “worldly God” of the Jews was “money”! But the identification of Judaism with materialism, with the things of this world, predates the appearance of capitalism in Europe by at least 1,500 years.

What is being explained is the social world; the explanatory tools are certain supposed features of Judaism; and the enemies are mostly not Jews but “Judaizing” non-Jews who take on these features and are denounced for doing so. I will deal with only a few of Judaism’s negative characteristics: its hyperintellectualism; its predilection for tyranny; its equal and opposite predilection for subversive radicalism; and its this-worldly materialism.

It begins in the Gospels, with the earliest attacks on the Judaism of the Pharisees. Christian supersessionist arguments—i.e., arguments about what aspects of Judaism had been superseded by Christianity—were based on a set of oppositions: law superseded by love, the letter by the spirit, the flesh (the material world, the commandments of the Torah, the literal text) by the soul. “I bless you father…,” writes Luke, “for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children.” [But] the Christians very quickly produced immensely learned, clever, and disputatious theologians of their own, who were then accused, and who accused each other, of Judaizing—thinking or acting like Jews.

Kantianism, Hegel claimed, was simply a new version of “the Jewish principle of opposing thought to reality, reason to sense; this principle involves the rending of life and a lifeless connection between God and the world.” According to Hegel, Abraham had made a fateful choice: his rejection of the world in favor of a sublime God had alienated the Jews forever from the beauty of nature and made them the prisoners of law, incapable of love. (Needless to say, Schopenhauer, in the next generation, thought that the academic Hegelians of his time were “Jews” and followers of “the Jewish God.”

The populist anti-Semitism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (what August Bebel called “the socialism of fools”) has a long history. One very early example is Saint Ambrose’s response to the emperor Maximus, who punished the leaders of a Christian mob that burned a synagogue in the Mesopotamian city of Callinicum: “That king,” Ambrose said, “has become a Jew.” What made Maximus a “Jew” was not that he defended the Callinicum Jews but that he ranked enforcement of the law over the demands of the spirit (and the religious enthusiasm of the mob).


Among modern revolutionaries, the Puritans actually were Judaizers (focused far more on the Old than the New Testament), though with their own supersessionist theology. The use of the tropes of philo- and anti-Judaism during the English civil war made some sense, even though there were no Jews in England in the 1640s. The French revolutionaries were neither Jews nor Judaizers, though Burke and others understood them by invoking the “old ideas and fears.” But it was the Bolsheviks who, more than any other group of rebels, were widely understood as “Jewish.” It is true that many of them were Jews, though of the sort that Isaac Deutscher called “non-Jewish Jews.” Judaism had nothing at all to do with Bolshevism and yet, if Nirenberg is right, the Bolsheviks would have been explained in the language of anti-Judaism even if there had never been a Trotsky, a Kamenev, or a Radek among them.

His argument is that a certain view of Judaism lies deep in the structure of Western civilization and has helped its intellectuals and polemicists explain Christian heresies, political tyrannies, medieval plagues, capitalist crises, and revolutionary movements. Anti-Judaism is and has long been one of the most powerful theoretical systems “for making sense of the world.” No doubt, Jews sometimes act out the roles that anti-Judaism assigns them—but so do the members of all the other national and religious groups, and in much greater numbers. The theory does not depend on the behavior of “real” Jews.

Nirenberg’s history of anti-Judaism is powerful and persuasive, but it is also unfinished. It never gets to the United States, for example, where anti-Judaism seems to have been less prevalent and less useful (less used in making sense of society and economy) than it was and is in the Old World—and where philo-Judaism seems to have a much larger presence. The modern state of Israel also makes no appearance in Nirenberg’s book, except for one sentence on the next-to-last page:

We live in an age in which millions of people are exposed daily to some variant of the argument that the challenges of the world they live in are best explained in terms of “Israel.”

So we have a partial discontinuity (the US) and an unexplored continuity (contemporary Israel) with Nirenberg’s history. There is still work to be done. But here, in this book, anti-Judaism has at last found its radical critic.” ~

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/03/20/imaginary-jews/



WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF WOMEN?


In a speech in 1889, Anthony noted that women had always been taught that their purpose was to serve men, but “Now, after 40 years of agitation, the idea is beginning to prevail that women were created for themselves, for their own happiness, and for the welfare of the world.” Anthony was sure that women's suffrage would be achieved, but she also feared that people would forget how difficult it was to achieve it, as they were already forgetting the ordeals of the recent past.
The tomb of Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, NY
 
Oriana:

I know this may be hard to believe, but I once met a man *of my [boomer] generation and on a college campus* who believed that the purpose of women was to serve men, and was willing to voice it. Upon hearing that I was married (I was in grad school then), he said, in class and out loud for everyone to hear, “At least you are fulfilling your function: serving a man.”

I think the ideal is mutual nurturing. Men and women should cooperate and give one another more strength. Now that would be heaven.

**

 

HUMAN SACRIFICE LINKED TO LESS EGALITARIAN SOCIETIES
 
Saying they found "a darker link between religion and the evolution of modern hierarchical societies" than has been previously suggested, a group of scientists say ritual human sacrifice promoted stratified social systems – and helped to sustain inherited class systems once they were established.

After comparing dozens of societies, the researchers found that ritualized human sacrifice was far more common in highly stratified societies than it was in egalitarian societies. Noting the high level of overlap between religious and political sectors in the societies, the scientists write, "human sacrifice may have been co-opted by elites as a divinely sanctioned means of social control."

Acknowledging that their findings might be "unpalatable," the scientists say, "our results suggest that ritual killing helped humans transition from the small egalitarian groups of our ancestors, to the large stratified societies we live in today.”

For the study, researchers looked at 93 traditional Austronesian cultures – societies that share a family of languages and span from Madagascar to Easter Island and from Taiwan to New Zealand. For each one, they noted how segmented the society was — designating them egalitarian or either moderate or highly stratified — as well as the presence of human sacrifice in their rituals.

"Common occasions for human sacrifice in these societies included the breach of taboo or custom, the funeral of an important chief, and the consecration of a newly built house or boat. Ethnographic descriptions highlight that the sacrificial victims were typically of low social status, such as slaves, and the instigators were of high social status, such as priests and chiefs.”

The study is the latest modern attempt to understand the cultural role played by human sacrifices – rituals in which people were killed in the name of a supernatural entity. As the researchers note, such practices are known to have taken place "in early Germanic, Arab, Turkic, Inuit, American, Austronesian, African, Chinese and Japanese cultures.”

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/04/473004808/human-sacrifice-is-linked-to-social-hierarchies-in-new-study


 
Hierarchies notwithstanding, I have a warm spot in my heart for the former Pope Benedict (and before then Grand Inquisitor Ratzinger) for having said that heaven and hell are not actual places but states of mind, and that Genesis is a mishmash of pagan fables. It went practically unnoticed, I know, but not by me!

“DO WHAT YOU FEAR” (Jung's boyhood fainting fits)

[In his early teens, Jung began having fainting fits.] He knew that his fainting fits were related to his fear and distaste for school. He embarked on a radical course of action. Resolving not to “give in” any longer to the paralyzing attacks, he grabbed the nearest textbook — and promptly suffered “the finest of fainting fits.” But he grimly resumed his reading as soon as he came to, and persisted in his purpose in the face of two further attacks. After an hour or two of this, he felt that his baffling illness — which he later diagnosed as a neurosis — had been defeated, and in fact, from then on, the spells abated and gradually disappeared.
~ Paul J. Stern, C.G. Jung —The Haunted Prophet

Stern states that this early experience had a profound influence on Jung, one that Stern deplores. Not only that, but Jung returned to school and got top grades “by dint of hard work.” Imagine, so old-fashioned . . . smacking of “will-power,” or, in any case, of the effectiveness of conscious intent, at least in some circumstances.

This reminded me not only of my decision not to be depressed — I don’t mean to belabor this in post after post — but also of the time when, as a result of a car accident, I developed a phobia of driving on the freeway. Because I lived in Los Angeles, this kind of phobia was seriously debilitating. I tried to use the method of “desensitization.” I’d imagine driving on the freeway and try to counter the feeling of terror with its opposite, feeling relaxed. To my surprise, the phobia got worse: I’d start having a panic attack if I merely saw a freeway overpass in the distance.

To make a long story short, in the end I forced myself to enter the freeway just for one exit, so I didn’t even have to merge into the traffic. Adrenaline flowed, my heart raced, my hands got so wet they kept sliding off the steering wheel — but very soon I was on the offramp. That first time was 90% of the recovery. I repeated that short stretch a few times, then tried a longer distance. I was still nervous, still dripping with sweat . . . but able to drive on freeways.

As any driver knows, if you drive enough, it becomes easy and natural. I drive less than the average person, but now I know: I don’t let a week go by without some driving on the freeway. I'm still somewhat nervous, but — I get places.

I suffered from that freeway phobia for a whole year, taking surface streets even if it took two hours, and relying on rides from friends, who, perhaps out of politeness, did not say the obvious: “Do what fear.” And only much later I read an article that warned that after an accident you need to get back to driving as soon as you can, and in fact try to drive a lot.

Jung’s fainting spells were of course a more severe symptom then mine, and I'm very impressed that he persisted. Today he’d have been put on anti-depressants and other drugs, needing higher and higher doses over time. I'm not on an anti-drug crusade, but I confess that I love to hear the stories of those (a few of whom I’ve known in person) who recovered because they decided to recover. The decision itself did most of the work.



 
LOVE IN THE TIME OF NEUROSCIENCE: WHY WE BECOME OBSESSED WHEN WE FALL IN LOVE

“The brain in love experiences a drop in serotonin. Serotonin provides a sense of being in control; it guards against the anxiety of uncertainty and instability. When it drops, our sense of control decreases and we become obsessively fixated on things that rattle our certainty and stability cages—and since love is by definition unpredictable, it’s a prime target for obsession. This is also why the term "crazy in love" isn't too far off the truth.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/neuronarrative/201303/love-in-the-time-neuroscience




Odysseus and Penelope, Francesco Primaticcio

ending on beauty
 
GREAT SATURDAY

No stars before the dawn of resurrection.
The night sky all white shroud.
Only Jupiter shines
through a window in luminous clouds.

Planet of luck! The “Great Benefic.”
I was told that in my chart
it ruled the house of wealth: a cruel
joke back in my pauper years.

Yet even then how rich I was
in words, in music, in horizons;
rich in mind and rich in time,
in solitude to create myself.

I think of the looters in Iraq,
how in their national museum
they unscrewed even the light bulbs —
“Greed is the failure to choose.”

True wealth possesses planets.
It watches Venus lay a path of light
on black dolphin waves.
I look away from youth’s

crucifixion. My hands in the dark
open to receive lilies.

~ Oriana


 



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