The Book!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Canada 150



The Canada 150th Anniversary celebrations are coming in a few days, and of course, the media have to find some First Nations angle. And it has to be a complaint.

So CBC informs us that some aboriginal Canadians will not be singing “O Canada.” Canada Day, apparently, celebrates colonization. It commemorates “150 years of forced segregation, assimilation, cultural genocide.”

“Drawing attention to and celebrating Canada's 150th year, or any other anniversary of Confederation, completely ignores the history of Indigenous peoples —a group that's been here for more than 150 years, said Real Carriere.”

Uh, no. Apparently neither the aboriginal people interviewed nor the reporter, nor the CBC editors, actually know what Confederation was.

It was not a moment when a large ship appeared from Europe disgorging people with white skin. My ancestors have been here for more than 150 years too. The non-aboriginal ones, that is. Are they being ignored too?

We need to teach better history in the schools.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

All of Us Command?






I am grateful to the Canadian Senate for throwing a wrench into the attempt to change the words of the Canadian national anthem, from “true patriot love in all thy sons command” to “true patriot love in all of us command.”

The argument for changing it is, of course, that referring only to “sons” is sexist.

I have written on this before:

But consider what is happening here: men are being commanded, given orders. Is it really a greater subjugation for women not to be subjugated?
And again, they are being given orders by Canada. Is Canada male or female? At a minimum, why assume she is male? I have always assumed she was female in this anthem. Like Marianne, Britannia, Athena, and Columbia.
If it were a male giving the orders, and women who were to obey his commands, would the feminists be happier?

But my reason for objecting to the change is not this: this merely demonstrates that the change is not meaningful.

My problem is with the poetry of the thing.

Concreteness, specific detail, evokes images in the mind. This is a big part of how poetry works. “Sons” evokes an image. “Us” does not. These new words are the words of a bureaucrat, not a poet. They deaden the song.

Then there are the sound values.

“All thy sons command” is strong and euphonious. Notice, those who have ears to hear, how the succeeding initial consonants, “th,” “s,” and “c,” move the tongue progressively further back in the mouth, like an orderly march. It is the second best bit, poetically, in the anthem, next to “true north strong and free.” “All of us command” is just words.

People do not hear or care, because people these days do not understand poetry. But we have little enough poetry in our lives.

And too much politics.



Friday, June 23, 2017

Of Freud and Oedipus





Oedipus and the sphinx

There are obvious similarities between the story of St. Dymphna and Freud’s “Oedipus complex,” which he proposes to be the root of all mental illness. Both involve the idea of parent-child incest. Both involve the death of a parent.

As Freud introduces his central idea:

“While he is still a small child, a son will already begin to develop a special affection for his mother, whom he regards as belonging to him; he begins to feel his father as a rival who disputes his sole possession. And in the same way a little girl looks on her mother as a person who interferes with her affectionate relation to her father and who occupies a position which she herself could very well fill. Observation shows us to what early years these attitudes go back. We refer to them as the ‘Oedipus complex,’ because the legend of Oedipus realizes, with only a slight softening, the two extreme wishes that arise from the son's situation―to kill his father and take his mother to wife.”

Sounds like the Dymphna story.

Surely this is important evidence that Freud was right?

But not to be too hasty, why is it that Freud hits upon the Oedipus story in the first place as the key to mental illness? With the Dymphna story, it is straightforward: we have the warrant of tradition. Obviously, her story said something somehow to the mentally ill. But the case for Oedipus is less plain. Why should we suppose this is what the ancient play is about? What distinguishes his play from thousands of others as being the final word on neurosis?

Freud answers, firstly, that he commonly finds similar motifs in the dreams of his neurotic patients. This would indeed seem good evidence; if we had it. Unfortunately, we do not. Unless we are practicing psychiatrists, we have to take Freud’s word for it.

What other warrant does he have?

Freud next appeals to the enduring popularity of Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex as demonstrating that something in it strikes a psychic chord, resonates with our own experience:

“If the Oedipus Rex is capable of moving a modern reader or playgoer no less powerfully than it moved the contemporary Greeks, the only possible explanation is that the effect of the Greek tragedy does not depend upon the conflict between fate and human will, but upon the peculiar nature of the material by which this conflict is revealed. There must be a voice within us which is prepared to acknowledge the compelling power of fate in the Oedipus, while we are able to condemn the situations occurring in Die Ahnfrau [a German play by Grillparzer, 1817] or other tragedies of fate as arbitrary inventions. And there actually is a motive in the story of King Oedipus which explains the verdict of this inner voice. His fate moves us only because it might have been our own, because the oracle laid upon us before our birth the very curse which rested upon him” (Interpretation of Dreams, p. 85).

True enough, if true; but doesn’t this apply equally to a baker’s dozen or more ancient plays that have remained just as popular for just as long? Antigone, Medea, Prometheus Bound, The Birds, and so on? Does Oedipus obviously stand apart in this regard? At least, did it, before Freud singled it out? Clearly, Oedipus Rex left a special mark on Freud; but is there evidence that this reaction is general?

Jocasta and Oedipus


This is not clear.

Third, Freud points out that the play itself makes direct reference to its central motif being encountered commonly in dreams:

“In the very text of Sophocles’ tragedy there is an unmistakable reference to the fact that the Oedipus legend had its source in dream-material of immemorial antiquity, the content of which was the painful disturbance of the child’s relations to its parents caused by the first impulses of sexuality. Jocasta comforts Oedipus―who is not yet enlightened, but is troubled by the recollection of the oracle―by an allusion to a dream which is often dreamed, though it cannot, in her opinion, mean anything: - For many a man hath seen himself in dreams His mother’s mate, but he who gives no heed To suchlike matters bears the easier life” (ibid., p 86).

Here is the same passage in Watling’s more modern-sounding translation:

Nor need this mother-marrying frighten you; Many a man has dreamt as much. Such things Must be forgotten, if life is to be endured” (Oedipus Rex, Watling, trans., 1947).

The point may be that this is a common dream—or it may only be that the oracle is as meaningless and random as a dream.

Freud further maintains that the thing is proven by the fact that we all ourselves, as we all well know, commonly have this dream—of marrying our Mum and killing our Dad.

“The dream of having sexual intercourse with one’s mother was as common then as it is today with many people, who tell it with indignation and astonishment” (Interpretation of Dreams, p. 86).
“It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father. Our dreams convince us that this is so” (ibid., pp. 279-280).

They do? We do? We all have this dream?

The reader knows best if this is true for themselves. I have never had such a dream. Honestly. Am I unusually unoedipal in my concerns?

I ran a little survey, on my web site and on my Facebook page, simply asking whether anyone had ever dreamt of either killing or having sex with a parent. Response: nobody. Zero. Never. Of course, Freud would point out, most might be ashamed to admit it. But responses were anonymous.

But then, how could Freud for his part know if it was a common dream? Whom did he survey? 

Oedipus in old age.

I suppose that we can assume from his assertion that he found such dreams to be common among the mentally ill, and perhaps also among his psychiatric colleagues. Who else might he have asked, in the Victorian age, without the Internet? Are those he might have asked likely to be representative of the general population?

But never mind; if this does not signify, Freud has more evidence. Freud’s final point is that the same motif, of killing one parent and marrying the other, is common in literature. He refers to the work of his disciple Otto Rank, a classical scholar, as demonstrating this.

We will leave Rank’s work for another time. For now, this at least and at last gives us some objective evidence we can look at: literary sources. It makes our first and best bit of evidence thus far for Freud’s Oedipal theory its similarity to the legend of St. Dymphna―this being the sort of “literary” example Freud is appealing to.

Very well then. Does the Oedipus Complex fairly describe what we find in the story of Dymphna?

No. There are problems with it. Although critical elements are the same—death of a parent, incest―the tale of Dymphna and Freud’s Oedipus also diverge on essential points.

It is the very pivot of the Dymphna story that the Irish princess does not want sex with her father. Her father wants sex with her―and she dies rather than permit it.

Not much of a wish fulfillment, surely?

Freud would no doubt argue that this is a matter of repression by the superego. Perhaps; but we are left unable to trust any evidence at that point. If up can mean down, in can mean out, and yes can mean no, who can ever say what anything means? By such rules we can have no evidence at all. Aristotle had a point: either a thing is, or it is not.

According to Freud, while wishing sex with one, the child wants to murder the other parent. In the Dymphna legend, the parent murders the child.

It begins to look on the face of the evidence as though Freud got the thing backwards.

But then, take another look at the tale of Oedipus. It looks as though Freud got that backwards as well. The actual play, and the Greek legend, so far as we know it, conforms better with the Dymphna legend than it does with Freud’s analysis.

With the sphinx


Freud himself acknowledges, in a backhanded way, that Sophocles’s play does not match his posited complex. He writes, as if in explanation, that the play itself is a “modification of the legend” (Freud, op. cit., p. 247). But in fact, although some tellings have been lost, none that survive conform with Freud’s reconstruction. Elsewhere he writes, “Otto Rank has shown in a careful study how the Oedipus complex has provided dramatic authors with a wealth of themes in endless modifications, softenings and disguises―in distortions, that is to say, of the kind which we are already familiar with as the work of a censorship” (Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis,1916-1917). So by his rules, anything that resembles his Oedipus complex, he is able to appropriate as evidence, even if valences are reversed.

Yes, Oedipus kills his father and sleeps with his mother. So far, Freud is right. But like Dymphna, and counter to Freud, Oedipus does not want to do either. There is no wish, and so no wish fulfillment, involved, on the literal reading of the tale. Like Dymphna, Oedipus goes to extreme lengths in the opposite direction. Having been warned by the oracle that this was his destiny, he flees home and family to prevent it. Like Dymphna, he chooses exile instead.

“At this I fled away, putting the stars Between me and Corinth, never to see home again, That no such horror should ever come to pass” (Watling translation).

The motif of exile, at least, appears in both legends. Yet Freud’s theory does not register this. The motif of strongly resisting the murder-incest is a match; yet Freud’s theory denies it.

With Oedipus as with Dymphna, it is the parent who wants to kill the child; the child does not want to kill the parent. Damon beheads Dymphna. Laius and Jocasta want to kill Oedipus, and try to twice, although they fail.

A good reason to become traumatized. On its face, a better reason to be traumatized than a mere repressed desire to kill your Dad.

Laius and Jocasta try to kill Oedipus when he is born. In The Phoenician Women, Jocasta gives a brief account:

“He, [Laius] yielding to his lust in a drunken fit, begat a son of me, and when his babe was born, conscious of his sin and of the god’s warning, he gave the child to shepherds to expose in Hera’s meadow on mount Cithaeron, after piercing his ankles with iron spikes; whence it was that Hellas named him Oedipus” (Coleridge trans.).

Jocasta’s report of the event in Oedipus Rex (Watling trans.):

“As for the child, It was not yet three days old, when he [Laius] cast it out (By other hands, not his) with rivetted ankles To perish on the empty mountain-side.”

Hence the name “Oedipus” (swollen foot): the character’s name suggests that this act of being exposed as a child, of being the victim of parental rejection and attempted infanticide, is definitive of his nature. Oedipus is perhaps the archetype of the rejected child.

Yet Freud makes nothing of this.



As to sleeping with his mother, in the story, neither Oedipus nor his mother Jocasta want this. They were both unaware of the true situation. Jocasta was simply awarded as spoils, with the throne, to whomever could answer the riddle of the Sphinx.

But if either could or should have been aware, it is Jocasta, not Oedipus.

While Oedipus does not know why he has a wound in his ankle, Jocasta might have guessed, having been present when it was inflicted. It is the sort of thing—a birthmark – that, in many another tale, establishes the identity of a long-lost relative. His name even puts the evidence in her face. Odd, then, that she suspects nothing. She is even, according to the play, aware of some physical resemblance of Oedipus to his father. Asked by Oedipus what Laius looked like, she answers, “about your figure” (Watling trans.) “In shape he was not all that unlike you” (Johnston trans.) (https://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/sophocles/oedipustheking.htm). On top of this, Oedipus declares it “public knowledge” that the oracle had predicted he would kill his father and bed his mother.

No, no. It’s public knowledge. Loxias
once said it was my fate that I would marry
my own mother and shed my father’s blood
with my own hands (Johnston trans.)
The prophecy matches that given to Laius. Jocasta must have known of both prophecies. Can she have been so blind? Could Sophocles have missed such a big plot hole?

Hence, if there were any incestuous feelings, they were again coming from the parent. Oedipus, never before having consciously set eyes on father or mother, categorically cannot have been guided by such feelings.

As if to drive the point of murderous intent home, Laius tries to kill Oedipus a second time, albeit they do not recognize each other, when they meet at the Davlia crossroads. It seems clear here that Laius is the aggressor.

This is Oedipus’s account (Watling trans.):

The guide there tried to force me off the road—
and the old man, too, got personally involved.
In my rage, I lashed out at the driver,
who was shoving me aside. The old man,
seeing me walking past him in the carriage,
kept his eye on me, and with his double whip
struck me on the head, right here on top.
Well, I retaliated in good measure—
with the staff I held I hit him a quick blow
and knocked him from his carriage to the road.
Laius’s driver tried to force him off the road, and Laius sucker-punched him on the way by.

Granted, we have only Oedipus’s account; and he is not an impartial witness. But the truth of his report is supported by the circumstances. Would a solitary traveller on foot, and even perhaps slightly lame, have started the fight, against six armed and mounted men?

So if the two stories indeed speak of the inner workings of the psyche, the freight of the Oedipus legend, as of the Dymphna legend, is that parents often have an innate desire to destroy their children, or to own them utterly, or both.

And not vice versa.

The guilt of Laius, the father, might have been much clearer to Oedipus’s first audiences than to Freud. Sophocles’s Oedipus was not the first ancient play to deal with the descendants of Laius. There was already Euripides’ Phoenician Women and Chrysippus, which covered some of the same ground. There was a trilogy by Aeschylus, which won the Athenian drama prize in 467 BC: Laius, Oedipus, and Seven against Thebes. Note that for Aeschylus, the story of Oedipus was, so to speak, the middle act. 



Unfortunately for us, most of these earlier plays—this context familiar to the original audience, on which Sophocles was relying—have been lost.

But we can see ourselves there must be important earlier bits to the story. Where did that sphinx come from? Why was she blighting the polis when Oedipus first arrived?

She came thanks to Laius. Laius is the first cause, in all of this.

We know from surviving fragments and references that Laius, before he ascended the throne of Thebes, had been taken in as a guest by the royal house of Pisa (Elis). He was made tutor to the royal prince, Chrysippus. Unfortunately, Chrysippus being unusually good looking, Laius developed a homosexual attraction to his student. When Chrysippus rejected his sexual advances, Laius kidnapped and raped him, “while still a boy.” Some sources (e.g., Euripides) say Chrysippus then committed suicide for shame; others say he was killed on orders from his stepmother, who resented him.

This was, of course, a profound violation if Laius’s moral duties as a guest and as a tutor, a profound violation of hospitality and of proper gratitude. One might well say this was the action of someone who sees other human beings as mere objects, there to satisfy their wants and desires. Laius’s character is thus established. His actions at the Davlia crossroads reinforce this portrait.

As a result of this crime, Pelops, the king of Pisa, cursed Laius with being in future killed by his own son. The goddess Hera reacted, independently, by sending the sphinx (Apollodorus, 3.5.8).

Here we seem to have a third version of the Dymphna complex. Take “teacher” here as equivalent to parent—as we commonly consider it; we say in law that teachers function in loco parentis. Then Laius’s rape of Chrysippus was equivalent to another parental incest.

Presumably, after all, the trauma here does not depend on being assaulted by one’s parent, specifically, but by someone with near-absolute control over you, from whom you are supremely vulnerable and from whom you expect and need instead help, support, and the nurturing of your own individuality.

And, in one version of the story, Chrysippus too, like Dymphna and like Oedipus, was killed (or, in the case of Oedipus, murder was attempted) by a parent.

By this repetition of the motif, it is doubly emphasized that Laius is the cause of it all, of all that follows; for he is the guilty party in both. Oedipus and his infantile subconscious had nothing to do with it.

Even within Sophocles’s surviving play, Tiresias makes the guilty parties plain: “A swift and two-edged sword, Your mother's and your father's curse, shall sweep you Out of this land.” It is the fault of the parents, not of baby Oedipus.

This doublet of Oedipus in Chrysippus also suggests that killing one’s child and having sex with them are not opposite tendencies, but expressions of the same tendency—as they are in Dymphna’s legend. Like Damon, Laius does both. Both are the exercise of absolute ownership, absolute possession; of seeing the child as object. Just as an old Southern slave master might, as he preferred, either rape or kill his property.

And, in this Chrysippus doublet, as in the Dymphna legend, we see what seems a clear connection with depression, if not with other forms of mental illness: in the one version, Chrysippus commits suicide as a result.

Depression is portrayed plainly enough in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex as well; even if Freud does not remark upon this. Oedipus seems to be the model of the depressed person in Greek legend generally. When Homer, long before Sophocles wrote, mentions Oedipus, in the earliest known reference to the character, he concludes “he remained king of Thebes, in great grief for the spite the gods had borne him” (Odyssey, XI.271ff). Euripides introduces Oedipus in The Phoenician Women as “that awful sufferer,” and adds that “his misfortunes have unhinged him.” Depression is apparently the traditional and expected denouement of the action. Self-blinding and self-exile seem to be visual representations, what Eliot called “objective correlatives,” to make the emotions more dramatic, more presentable on the stage. The metaphorical darkness is represented by a physical darkness.

But Sophocles ably depicts the experience if depression in words as well. After Oedipus discovers his true identity, “his torture’s more Than man can suffer, as yourselves will see” (Storr trans.):

Dark, dark! The horror of darkness, like a shroud,
Wraps me and bears me on through mist and cloud.
Ah me, ah me! What spasms athwart me shoot,
What pangs of agonizing memory? (Storr trans.)
O dark intolerable inescapable night
That has no day!
Cloud that no air can take away!
O and again
That piercing pain,
Torture in the flesh and in the soul’s dark memory. (Watling trans.)
Where is there any beauty
For me to see? Where loveliness
Of sight or sound? Away!
Lead me quickly away
Out of this land. I am lost,
Hated of gods, no man so damned (Watling trans.)

He wanders “A thrall to sorrow worse than any slave” (Storr trans.)

You get the picture: that is depression.

But here again we have a problem for Freud’s analysis of the tale.

Freud’s proposed solution for neurosis, for depression, for “mental illness” generally, was to talk it out and reveal its roots. Psychoanalysis is often called “the talking cure.” You analysed, with your analyst, and together tracked things back to that first trauma. And knowing and acknowledging this freed you from its effects.

Rather as happens in the play.

Indeed, Freud saw the unravelling of the Oedipus riddle as the very model of analysis. “The action of the play,” he writes, “consists simply in the disclosure, approached step by step and artistically delayed (and comparable to the work of a psychoanalysis) that Oedipus himself is the murderer of Laius” (The Interpretation of Dreams, p. 85).

Unfortunately, the action of Sophocles’s play produces the very opposite of the claims of psychiatry. Oedipus himself is doing well, so long as he knows nothing of his childhood abuse. The play even underlines this:

Till now the storied fortune of this house
Was fortunate indeed (Storr trans.)
He is loved and respected by everyone; he is a king on his throne, the saviour of Thebes.

We judge you
the first of men in what happens in this life
and in our interactions with the gods. (Johnston trans.)

It is the analysis, the revelation of his childhood abuse, which causes his neurosis—more than the fact of the abuse itself.

Oedipus’s immediate reaction to the revelation of his upbringing is to of blind himself: he has seen too much.

Her dress was pinned
With golden brooches, which the King snatched out
And thrust, from full arm's length, into his eyes―
Eyes that should see no longer his shame, his guilt,
No longer see those they should never have seen,
Nor see, unseeing, those he had longed to see,
Henceforth seeing nothing but night ... To this wild tune
He pierced his eyeballs time and time again,
Till bloody tears ran down his beard – not drops
But in full spate a whole cascade descending
In drenching cataracts of scarlet rain (Watling trans.).
Not a great ad for analysis.

Freud writes, “King Oedipus, who slew his father Laius and wedded his mother Jocasta, is nothing more or less than a wish-fulfilment―the fulfillment of the wish of our childhood.” (Freud, op. cit.) But if this were so, why would Oedipus not be happy at the end of the play? Why would he suffer instead? He has had his wish fulfilled. And, if the worry was public or social disapproval, no matter. As he is king, nobody can gainsay him. Ask Laius. He is one of life’s great winners: he has pulled a royal flush.

On the basis of Freud’s own chosen evidence, unfortunately, the very worst thing you could do for someone suffering from mental illness would be to put them under psychoanalysis.

As Tiresias observes, as if assigning a moral to the play, “when wisdom brings no profit, To be wise is to suffer.” Better not to know.

Till now the storied fortune of this house
Was fortunate indeed; but from this day
Woe, lamentation, ruin, death, disgrace,
All ills that can be named, all, all are theirs (Storr).

Oedipus dies, one play later, without being cured of his manifest depression. At the point of death, he still speaks of being “enslaved to misery Far worse than any other mortal man.” (Johnston trans.) If there was a cure for his suffering, it clearly was not just talking things out.

Freud misses altogether, perhaps because it violates his theory, another important point of similarity between the Dymphna and the Oedipus narrative. Both Dymphna and Oedipus are presented as moral paragons. Freud reverses this by making Oedipus’s subconscious ultimately responsible for his own suffering.

Dymphna is, after all, a saint of the Catholic (and Orthodox) Church. She chooses exile and death rather than dishonour. But more—with the money she took from her father’s treasury, according to legend, she set up a charity to aid the poor (http://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/saints/saints-stories-for-all-ages/saint-dymphna).

Oedipus is shown throughout Sophocles’s drama as selfless. “To help his fellow-men With all his power,” he observes at one point, “is man’s most noble work.” When petitioners approach him at the opening of the play, he assures them, “I would willingly do anything to help you;… while you suffer, none suffers more than I. You have your several griefs, each for himself; But my heart bears the weight of my own, and yours And all my people’s sorrows.” Indeed, had he been content with his own happiness, and ready to leave the common people in their misery, he never would have come to grief.

When Creon asks if Oedipus would rather hear the oracle in private, he responds, indicating the populace, “Their plight concerns me now, more than my life.” It is his very generosity and selflessness that brings his own curse upon him:

“Nor do I exempt myself from the imprecation:
If, with my knowledge, house or hearth of mine
Receive the guilty man, upon my head
Lie all the curses I have laid on others.”

When the chorus urges that he pardon Creon, he concedes this with the words “let him go; even though it mean my death Or exile in disgrace.” When Tiresias warns that following up this matter may lead to “Your great misfortune, and your ruin,” he responds, gallantly, “No matter! I have saved this land from ruin. I am content.” Others always come first.

This, surely, is intended as a telling contrast to the selfish actions and attitude of Laius, who thinks of himself first, and of others not at all. To miss it is, it seems, to miss something utterly central to the legend.

As well as being exceptionally moral, Oedipus and Dymphna seem to be exceptional in general; exceptional in several ways.

Both, of course, are of royal blood; and so is Chrysippus. All are princes and princesses. It could be that this indicates that the problem here described is especially common in prominent families. After all, they say that the homes of the great are commonly haunted. And this makes some obvious sense: those who tend to be self-aggrandizing are those who, in the natural course of events, are most likely to gather to themselves an excess of wealth and power. And so they are those most likely to treat their children as their possessions. Portraying the parent as a king or queen may also be an outward symbol of their own self-importance: they think of themselves as the rightful kings of all that they survey. It then follows that their child is a prince or princess. But it is also true, and probably sufficient explanation, that being noble makes one a more suitable subject of a story. It is more or less required to be the hero of a tragedy. Although one wonders here which comes first: the dramatic requirement, or some reality that spawned it.

It is part of the essential legend of Oedipus, at least, that he is also exceptionally intelligent: he solves the impossible riddle of the Sphinx. This seems significant, because we have studies indicating that a higher IQ is related to a higher likelihood of suffering depression. Medical Daily cites a study, for example, finding that those who earned straight As in high school are four times more likely than the average to experience “bipolar disorder,” a.k.a. manic depression. “More than 30 studies have linked higher intelligence to mental health disorders including major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others.” (Matthew Mienta, “Why Smarter People Are More Likely To Be Mentally Ill,” Medical Daily, Feb 24, 2014, http://www.medicaldaily.com/why-smarter-people-are-more-likely-be-mentally-ill-270039). So it seems there is a link; reflected too in the old saying that “Genius is next to madness.” The Oedipus legend seems to be aware of this, and perhaps to explain it.

It is tempting to think, and some have proposed it, that being intelligent simply predisposes one to depression because the world is, seen right, depressing. But, based on the legends we have here, this seems to give intelligence too much prominence. Oedipus is exceptionally intelligent: but there is nothing of this in the legends of Dymphna or Chrysippus. Moreover, it is not only in intelligence and in morality that Dymphna and Oedipus excel. Dymphna is also exceptionally beautiful; and so is Chrysippus. As the Catholic Encyclopedia recounts the legend, “After the death of her mother, who was of extraordinary beauty, her father desired to marry his own daughter, who was just as beautiful.”

I once signed up for a depression encounter group in Toronto, summoned by an ad in a local paper. I looked around at the first meeting, and was struck by one overwhelming fact: this was an awfully good-looking group of people. Most also turned out to be artists.

Great place to pick up chicks.

Oedipus and Chrysippus are also exceptionally athletic: Oedipus kills six trained men, even after they have gotten in the first blow. The remarkable nature of this feat is underlined by an initial claim that the deed was done by a “band of robbers.” Creon reports of the one retainer who returned from the encounter, “His story was that robbers―not one but many―Fell in with the King’s party and put them to death.” It is, in other words, too much for most to believe it was done by just one man. Chrysippus is a competitor in the Olympic Games.

So the point is not that the child is exceptionally intelligent, but that he or she is exceptional in general. Indeed, the fact that the child is exceptional is plainly presented as crucial to his or her fate. Dymphna’s beauty is why her father is drawn towards her. It is why Laius is drawn to Chrysippus. The oracle that Oedipus will slay his father implies that he will, full grown, be the greater man. And we see that his exceptional morality and his intellectual curiosity are the keys to his destruction. In the Dymphna legend, her generosity also plays a part: agents of her father are able to track her down by the Irish coins she has given to the poor.

Why would this be?

It stands to reason that, to a self-centred parent, the fact that the child stands out as exceptional would be a red flag. If possessed, it makes him or her a more valuable possession. If released, it makes him or her an existential threat. Should he/she threaten to eventually eclipse the adult—that is intolerable. It suggests the parent is not the centre of the universe.

Hence, perhaps, the two alternative reactions to the gifted child given by the myth: either incest, total possession, or murder, total elimination.

The tendency has more than once been noted by analysts for the best and brightest within a family to suffer most from neurosis. I once had a professor who quoted often the saying that “the neurosis rides the strongest horse in the stable.” I have been unable to trace it; he claimed that it came from Freud. One also thinks of Alice Miller’s study, The Drama of the Gifted Child. She sees giftedness, although she defines it very broadly, as a precondition for mental illness.

There is another striking point of similarity between our legends. Freud’s interest, of course, is how to cure “mental illness.” But neither Dymphna nor Oedipus are “cured.” Both simply suffer and die.

But they both cure others. Their suffering, it seems, is redemptive. Both are saviour figures.

Dymphna ministers to the poor in life. After death, presumably by dint of her experience, she is able to intercede, as a saint in heaven, for others who suffer.

Oedipus is presented, even at the very start of Sophocles’s play, as a saviour; someone with special powers to help others. He saves Thebes from the sphinx. When the petitioning chorus approaches him at the outset of the drama, they refer to him as “the first of men in what happens in this life and in our interactions with the gods” (Johnson translation): he is held to be a prophet or a shaman. After the action of the play, in Oedipus at Colonnus, he says, “The words I say have visionary power.” Wherever he goes, he brings blessing:

By remaining in that land I would bring
advantages to those who welcomed me
and ruin to the ones who drove me out. (Oedipus at Colonnus, Johnston trans.)

If there is healing here, it would seem to be in the stories themselves; the legends. In learning them, repeating them, and in appealing in veneration for the help of the honourable figures of Dymphna, Oedipus, and Chrysippus, we sufferers in the audience can be healed.

This indeed, according to Aristotle, was what tragic drama existed to do.

Unfortunately, Freud and psychoanalysis seem indeed to have gotten it all backwards. The root of “mental illness” is not unresolved infantile sexuality, but abuse by a parent or parent figure. They have probably been doing more harm than good.

Oops.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Of Romeo Saganash and Absurdity

Front page of the missionary-produced Kamloops Wawa newspaper.

NDP MP Romeo Saganash is currently irate that the House of Commons could not provide simultaneous translation when he chose to speak to the House in Cree. Not, of course, as he ably demonstrated to eager reporters later, that he is incapable of expressing himself in English or French.

“Hearing this ruling from the Speaker,” he told the House, “was the most terrible thing I have heard in this chamber in the six years that I have been sitting in this place.” 
“This is frustrating, not to say insulting, because my language has been spoken for 7,000 years.”

Let us be clear on what Saganish is asking for here. But first, let us be clear that Cree as he understands it has not been spoken for 7,000 years. Were this relevant. Even English, with a fixed written form, is unrecognizable to modern speakers from as recently as 1,000 years ago. Have a go at this passage:

An. M.LXVI. On þyssum geare man halgode þet mynster æt Westmynstre on Cyldamæsse dæg 7 se cyng Eadward forðferde on Twelfts mæsse æfen 7 hine mann bebyrgede on Twelftan mæssedæg innan þære niwa halgodre circean on Westmyntre 7 Harold eorl feng to Englalandes cynerice swa swa se cyng hit him geuðe 7 eac men hine þærto gecuron 7 wæs gebletsod to cynge on Twelftan mæssedæg 7 þa ylcan geare þe he cyng wæs he for ut mid sciphere togeanes Willelme ... 7 þa hwile com Willelm eorl upp æt Hestingan on Sce Michaeles mæssedæg 7 Harold com norðan 7 him wið gefeaht ear þan þe his here com eall 7 þær he feoll 7 his twægen gebroðra Gyrð 7 Leofwine and Willelm þis land geeode 7 com to Westmynstre 7 Ealdred arceb hine to cynge gehalgode 7 menn guldon him gyld 7 gislas sealdon 7 syððan heora land bohtan

How did that work out for you?

Having a written form prevents languages from changing. If entirely oral, they are untethered.

Cree had no written form until one was created by missionaries in the 9th century—1840s, if I recall correctly. Like any dialect, it would have been, up to that point, as fluid as mercury running through your fingers. It probably changed dramatically generation to generation, and would have been a different language three or four hundred years ago, incomprehensible to Saganish. But of course, we can really have little or no idea what it was like: no written records.

So that “7,000 years” is nonsense.

But that is not the real problem with Saganish’s demand. There is more than one aboriginal language in Canada. Although just about all Canadian Indians can speak English or French, most cannot speak Cree. Surely Saganish does not want simultaneous translation only for Cree. Why would Cree deserve some special privilege?

There are 54 Indian dialects in Canada today, plus 20 Inuit dialects. We are not speaking of minor variations: they are often linguistically unrelated, as different as Turkish and Chinese. That’s 76 official languages in the House of Commons, all requiring a simultaneous translator to be on duty at all times the House is sitting; the translators would almost crowd out the sitting members.

The Lord's Prayer in Micmac, using the ideograms invented by Father LeClerq

This would still not quite be simultaneous translation. Everything would still have to be translated at least twice: first from X into English (or French), then from English into Y. Otherwise, the number of translators grows exponentially: it is 72 to the second power. If my math is right—a big if—that comes to 5,776 nice cushy government jobs for some lucky aboriginal speakers.

To benefit how many? Dividing the number of languages by the number of aboriginals, Indian languages in Canada have on average fewer than 4,000 speakers.

That’s not “native speakers,” mind you. That includes all those able to speak them. And virtually all Canadian Indians, and certainly any sitting in the Commons, probably also know English or French.

So there is, in sum, no actual benefit to anyone from this massive expense.

But then, it could not properly end there. How would that be fair to speakers of other languages? Are they all second-class citizens? How many of the languages or dialects spoken on Earth don’t have at least a few hundred speakers in Canada?

We would also need simultaneous translation for Maltese, Sinhalese, Punjabi, and Visayan.

Saganash cites the United Nations, and says, if the UN can do it, Canada can too. But in fact, they don’t do it. The UN recognizes only six official languages. That is nothing to what Saganash is demanding.

Are there really no more pressing needs for Canadian taxpayers’ money?

Are there really no more pressing needs among Canadian First Nations?

If so, they must be doing remarkably well.





Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Aboriginals and Immigrants



Canadian Governor-General David Johnston

So now I hear our Governor-General, no less, is in trouble for speaking an obvious truth, and one meant to bring Canadians together: that we are all, including the “indigenous” people, immigrants.

I hear that some commentators have since been demanding his resignation.

Even though he is obviously right. Our best science tells us nobody is indigenous to Canada. Some of us simply came before others. What on Earth can be valid grounds for objecting?

In a Tweeted apology, Johnston said “I want to clarify a miscommunication. Our Indigenous peoples are not immigrants. They are the original peoples of this land.”

This makes no sense. The dictionary definition of immigrant does not exclude the “original” inhabitants of a place. Merriam-Webster: “a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence.”

So what can possibly be the problem?

But even if the term did exclude the original inhabitants of a place, it is quite unlikely that any Indian groups qualify as anything but immigrants on these grounds. Just about everyone supplanted somebody else, even, for the most part, during historical times—which is to say, since the first Europeans have been here.

Let’s put that another way, to make it clear: some European groups, notably the French, the English, the Scandinavians, and the Irish, are more genuinely aboriginal to Canada than most “First Nations.”

Some of us, it seems, have become confused by a euphemism. What we really mean, here and elsewhere around the world, when we refer to a specific group as “aboriginal” or “indigenous,” is “primitive.” That is, “aboriginals” are people whose culture has not advanced over time in material or organizational terms, and is well behind those around them technologically.

In about the Sixties, people decided this term sounded pejorative and unpleasantly “judgmental,” as we said then, and so they substituted the nicer-sounding “aboriginal.” The latter term was never literally true, and nobody thought it was.

It still isn’t.


Monday, June 19, 2017

It Was 50 Years Ago Today







In honour of the album’s 50th anniversary (I grow old; I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers belled) Rolling Stone or somebody recently did a modern “update” to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album cover. If they were to do it again today, whom would they add?

Their choices seem dull and predictable. J.K. Rowling. Rosa Parks. Boring and pious and politically correct. The original point, I think, for the Beatles, was to be quirky.

Here is the original list:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_images_on_the_cover_of_Sgt._Pepper%27s_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band

But it makes a fun parlour game. Or Facebook game.

Rules: 50 figures. They must be your own most important personal influences. Ideally, you also want faces that are distinctive when seen small on an album cover. They must be fairly recently alive: say, recent enough that there are existing photographs.

Here are mine.

Leonard Cohen
William Kurelek
Lucy Maud Montgomery
Stephen Leacock
Ian Tyson
Buffy Ste. Marie
Thomas D’Arcy McGee
Joni Mitchell
Pierre Trudeau
Stephen Harper
Richard Halliburton
Salvador Dali
Anton Gaudi
Andy Warhol
Buster Keaton
Stanley Kubrick
Alfred Hitchcock
Walt Disney
George Orwell
W.B. Yeats
Samuel Beckett
T.S. Eliot
Lewis Carroll
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
J.D. Salinger
Stan Lee
Pope John Paul II
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope John XXIII
Pope Paul VI
Saint John Bosco
Saint Bernadette Soubouris
Lauren Bacall
Grace Kelly
Sharon Robinson
Raymond Collishaw
Billy Bishop
Billy Barker
Red Kelly
Eddie Shack
Maurice Richard
Jean Beliveau
Jacques Plante
Johnny Bower
Ezra Levant
Mark Steyn
Kate McMillan
Kathy Shaidle
The Thing
Iron Man


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Miriam Umm Eisa Mosque



Mary's new mosque.

You want good news? Here’s good news. As of last Wednesday, The Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE has been renamed Mary, the Mother of Jesus Mosque.

This is no small gesture on the part of the government of the UAE. The Sheikh Zayed mosque was formerly named for the UAE’s founder. Almost like renaming the Washington Monument.

Interior.

And this was done by the UAE government in the name of harmony among the world’s faiths. It is a reminder of what Christians and Muslims share.

Maria Kannon, Tacloban

Mary also unites Christians and Buddhists. In the Philippines, there are several memorial gardens to Maria Kannon or "Madonna of Japan," donated by Japanese Buddhists. The premise is that Filipinos and Japanese are united by their love of Mary, here and often elsewhere identified with the most important Buddhist Bodhisattva, Kannon (Japanese), Kuan Yin (Chinese), Kwanseum (Korean) or Avlokitesvara (Sanskrit). As a matter of fact, I think there is a strong historical argument that they really are one and the same person.

Ave, Maria!

Shrine of Maria Kannon, Corregidor.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Monkeying with Darwin





My left-wing friend Xerxes is always giving me ideas. His latest column is a celebration of “evolution,” as opposed to “creationism.”

It is fascinating because, although he thinks he is a Darwinist, it is clear that he is not.

He begins by saying evolution is not a theory, but a “reality.”

This depends what you mean by “evolution.” And it is a fundamentally unscientific thing to say.

If you mean the simple proposition that things, including species of plants and animals, can change over time, this indeed comes pretty close to being a self-evident truth. It is almost as obvious as saying “things change,” which few anywhere would disagree with. Parmenides, I suppose, and maybe nobody else ever.

This is not, however, a “scientific truth.” There aren’t any. Strictly speaking, science can prove nothing, and never claims to. What science does is disprove faulty hypotheses. It disproves things.

But simply because a hypothesis has not yet been disproven can never establish it as a truth. Black swans may come to roost.

To suppose otherwise is the most fundamentally anti-scientific thinking. Science is all about testing everything, repeatedly, and taking nothing on authority.

Xerxes mentions gravity as an example of a proven scientific truth. Bad call. Ironically, Newton’s Law of Gravity has been more or less systematically refuted by Einstein. As to gravity itself, the physical experience, of course people were fully aware of this and how it worked, in practical terms, before Newton. This is not science. You did not suppose, dear reader, that Newton was first to discover that apples fell, did you?

Just so, Darwin did not invent evolution in the sense of realizing that things change over time. Including dogs or horses. Everyone always thought this. Augustine assumed that species changed into other species. Aquinas assumed this. Aristotle assumed this. Ever read Ovid?

Granted, some modern Protestants deny it—but this is a very recent thing. It is a reaction to Darwin, not a traditional idea.

Darwin’s theory, the “Theory of Evolution,” was about how these changes happened; about the mechanism behind the observed experience. Darwin’s theory is that evolution occurred by natural selection of random mutations in a general struggle for survival.

This is the science. And it is and will always be at least as vulnerable to refutation as Newtonian physics. Indeed, it is all rather dubious.

Xerxes points out that “not one scientific discovery has disproven evolution.”

There is a more fundamental question: what experiment would, given a specific result, disprove it? What hypothetical evidence conclusively would?

If there is none, it is not, in fact, science. As Karl Popper pointed out, the essence of science is “falsifiability.” If you cannot conduct an experiment to test the hypothesis, you are not doing science.

This is a common charge against Darwin’s theory: that as phrased, no plausible experiment can be done, and no evidence advanced, that would disprove it. If this is so, it must either be self-evident—and it clearly is not—or it is an article of faith. And an article of faith in a sense that even, say, Christianity is not. For Christianity could indeed be falsified, theoretically, if the corpse of Jesus were ever found.

Darwin, acknowledging the issue, proposed “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.”

In response, Behe and others have cited many examples of what they call “irreducible complexity,” complex biological structures that seem indeed impossible to develop by stages, given that each intersecting stage must by itself have some survival value. But “impossibility” here is an impossibly high bar. It is almost no test at all. Who is to say it is impossible for unicorns to appear in yonder birdbath within the next five minutes?

Darwinism has always seemed to defy common sense and probability. Observe the humble giraffe: does it seem likely that he came into existence, just as he is, by a series of random chemical reactions? Does it seem likely, as the famous example goes, that a thousand monkeys, at a thousand typewriters, would sooner or later type out the complete works of Shakespeare?

“Of course,” answer the Darwinists, “given enough time.”

But are a hundred thousand years really enough? We are causing Occam some vertigo here.

Richard Dawkins, who has pretty obviously elevated Darwinism to his religion, has more recently been challenged on this point: what evidence, if ever found, would disprove Darwin? He responded with something from J. B. S. Haldane: “fossil rabbits in the Precambrian.” That is, a fossil appearing in an impossibly wrong place in the rock strata.

Problem: such fossils have indeed been found, and not infrequently.

And they have never been accepted as disproving evolution.

There are, after all, always alternative possibilities―like some disturbance to the sedimentary layers in later years. Or deliberate fraud. Or the simple possibility that, “it appears that rabbit evolution was not as we thought it was.” Without touching the overall thesis.

If it is not impossible, by this bar, Darwin must be right.

This would, moreover, not even address Darwin’s actual theory, but rather the more basic contention that species change over time. Which is not Darwin’s theory, and is not generally in dispute.

So the argument begs our attention: is Darwin science?

The creationists object especially to the Darwinian claim of “randomness.” (“Natural selection of random mutations.”) How can something ever be demonstrated to be “random”? What, in scientific terms, does it even mean? Isn’t the whole point of science to discover how things happen, to discover “laws” or “rules” nature follows? Isn’t saying it is “random” just an admission of failure? Wouldn't "I don't know" be more honest and accurate?

But then, if it is not random, but follows some kind of design―this becomes strong prima facie evidence, if not itself flat proof, of creation—of intelligent design. Can you have a design without a designer? Can a design be random? Isn’t this a contradiction in terms?

Darwinism then, as Dawkins proposes it, is such a crazy idea that almost nobody really believes it.

And, clearly, Xerxes does not.

He says, in his praise of evolution here, that “evolution never goes backwards.” This presupposes that evolution has a direction, a goal, a plan: that it is teleological. Which his to say, that it is a design. For if Darwin is right, there is no such thing as forwards or backwards.

He says “evolution always moves from the simple to the complex.” This indeed seems by observation to be so, and it is indeed a remarkable fact. Because by itself it disproves Darwin. If Darwin were right, it would not be so. Mutations persist because they have survival value. There is no survival value in being complex over being simple. Ergo, given Darwinism, organisms should evolve equally often in either direction: sometimes becoming simpler, sometimes becoming more complex.

Yet, in general, as Xerxes rightly notes, they do not.

Xerxes also says “evolution never puts all its eggs in one basket. It never relies on a single solution.” He says that evolution never makes a mistake. He says that “evolution always moves toward healing.”

However you slice it, he is here personifying “evolution” and thinking of it as a designer. He is imputing a plan and an intent. He is even imputing omniscience to it, and a moral purpose. Darwin disallows this. It is theism, the awareness of a personal God, yet for some reason insisting on calling God “evolution” instead of “God.” Others have resorted to the term “nature,” “the environment,” “Mother Earth,” or “Gaia.”

In other words, literally in other words, Xerxes is a creationist, and rejects the theory of evolution. He just does not know it.

Just like just about everybody else.

What is gained by substituting the word “evolution” for the word “God”?

I think the payoff for those who do is the tacit implication that Nature, or Evolution, or whatever else you call him, her, or it, is pagan. Which implies that, unlike the Judeo-Christian God, she or he or it has no interest in sexual morality. You can just “do what nature intends,” as some might say.

This means we are justified in indulging the pleasure principle. Lots of easy sex without guilt. A big plus to a lot of people.

Unfortunately, this comes with a downside. The same denial of moral order justifies and justified the social Darwinism of the Nazis. It can just as easily rationalize murder or rape as fornication, or anything else you like. Survival of the fittest, after all, eh?

Not a primrose path down which I want to tread.

To be fair, and to be clear, there is ultimately no necessary contradiction between Darwinism and monotheism. It all depends on what you mean by the word “random.” The Catholic Church, and some scientists, if not Dawkins, understand “random” here to simply mean that the “random mutations” do not appear specifically to meet some evolutionary need; that they are instead later selected for this. It does not necessarily mean that they are random in any wider sense. They might still be pre-programmed in some way.

If so, however, Darwinism is no longer of any use to those who want to dispense with Christian morality.



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Of Lust, Pride, and Other Deadly Sins



The subtle dignity of a Gay Pride parade.

A piece by Graham Thompson in the National Post and in the Edmonton Journal (and Calgary Herald) condemns some Wildrose Party members as “intolerant,” “homophobic,” and “bigoted”--Thompson’s words—for objecting to a party functionary marching in Edmonton’s “Gay Pride” parade. To be more precise, the Wildrose Legislative and Outreach Assistant, Cody Johnston, had sent out a post on Facebook asking party members to support him in a “Pride Run” for the “Institute for Sexual Minority Studies.”

Members objected that this gave the public impression that the Wildrose Party supports such things. I do not know if they used intemperate language. If so, no examples seem to have been publicly offered. The worst Johnston has offered to the public as examples are “What kind of crap is this that you’re mailing out in the name of the Wildrose party?” and “Do not give the viewers the impression that this is Wildrose approved.”

Party leader Brian Jean has since spoken out: “There is no place for hate and that kind of speech within our party. There just isn’t.”

Hate speech?

Problem. This demonstrates that the average person cannot tell the difference between tolerance and active support. If you are not prepared to openly support a position, you are now intolerant.

As the Catholic Register put it recently:

Most people today equate tolerance with approval. Therefore, when many demand or ask for “tolerance” what they really demand is approval.

Bad news for Canadian Christians still reticent about converting to Islam.

Amsterdam does itself proud.

Or anyone concerned about freedom of thought in Canada.

Both homosexual sex and pride, both promoted by such parades, are sins—not only to Christians, but to just about anybody, of any religion. So, leaving aside homosexuality, is lust. Some people currently may be of the opinion that there is nothing sinful about either lust, homosexual sex or pride, that traditional morality is in error here, but they have no business demanding that everyone else think the same. They are free to make those arguments, so long as they do so in their own name. And so long as they respect the absolute right of others to disagree.

This has nothing to do with whether homosexuals should be discriminated against by the state because of their preference for homosexual sex. A moral person would have no difficulty in accepting that this is a private matter, and the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. But that is not the issue here. The very point of the “pride” parade is to refuse to keep such things private, and to demand public endorsement.

For a party leader, public official, or party functionary to march in such a parade really ought to be offensive to most Canadians, including “homosexual” Canadians. If our instincts are now the opposite, so much the worse for our cities of the plain.




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To Hell with the Rich



Brueghel, Sermon on the Plain

Are the rich all going to hell?

I resist the suggestion. Not because I am rich myself; I am certainly not. Because it seems obviously unjust. Surely it depends on how you got the money, whether honestly, by providing a real service to people, or dishonestly.

Okay, there is that bit about the needle’s eye:

“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23-26).

This seems to mean pretty plainly that the rich are going to find it harder to get into heaven. But not impossible. They will need God’s grace. But then—so do we all.

I can also see the principle, elsewhere expressed, that where your treasure is, there your heart is also. The rich may be less inclined to spend their time with God. Material things are a distraction to what matters. And so, fair enough, more blessed to be without material things in great abundance.

But then there is Luke, in the Sermon on the Plain:

Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Matthew sounds more reasonable: he says “blessed are the poor in spirit.” So I suppose you can have lots of stuff, so long as you are not unduly attached to it.

But it is not licit to pick and choose. The plain words are there. Blessed are the poor; woe to the rich.

It seems the materially successful, the respected, those who in general have a happy life, go to hell. They get no reward in heaven.

Anyone who has significantly more stuff than his neighbour goes to hell.

Well.

That seems too harsh to me. And if it seems to harsh for a hypocrite like me, surely it is too harsh for a loving, infinitely merciful God.

Yet God is also infinitely just. Accordingly, for those who suffer more than the rest of us in this life, there must logically be compensation in the next.

So it seems to follow: suffering in this life leads to a higher status in heaven. Jesus does not say, here, that only the poor and the sad will get to heaven: he says that great will be their reward IN heaven. The rich then may be there too, but will have a lower rank somehow. If the rich and the respected do not go to hell, they will, on balance, be sorry they were not poor and reviled when they see the celestial alternative.

And this is, in the end, not unjust. Being rich is, in the end, a conscious moral choice. They are not unfairly being discriminated against.

Just as Jesus says to the rich young man, they could, at any time, have shared their wealth with those who needed it more. Even if it was justly theirs. Even if you justly have more than your neighbour, reflect that we are all brothers. In a good family, a properly functioning one, love compels us to share all we have with our children, our brothers, our sisters. Nobody hoards significantly more than their share.

And the same is true of reputation; of having “everyone speak well of you.” It is, in fact, improbable to be a good, moral person and have everyone speak well of you: as Confucius said, if a man has no enemies, before appointing him to high office, it is necessary to make enquiries. The way to preserve a consistently good reputation, ultimately, is the way chosen by the Vicar of Bray.

A moral person is going to upset some—the immoral. Moreover, they could, and would, at any time, have sacrificed their high reputation in the eyes of the world by standing up in defense of someone else, or some other group, being unjustly harmed.

Hence, I suppose, this blog.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Oedipal Dreams





Okay guys, there ought, in theory, to be triggers here, but it's for science.

Freud believed that all mental illness came from an unresolved Oedipal complex: that is, from a desire to kill your parent of the same sex, and mate with your parent of the opposite sex.

He claimed to find this in the dreams of his neurotic patients. But he also said we know this is so because our own dreams tell us so.

In other words, he based his faith in the Oedipus Complex on the contention that all of us commonly dream of killing one parent and having sex with the other.

So do we? Let's prove or disprove Freud.



Have you ever dreamt of killing a parent?

YES
NO
Poll Maker


Have you ever dreamt of having sex with a parent?

YES
NO
survey tools

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tao Te Ching





The lay that can be laid is not the eternal lay.
The thing that can't be said--
That is all I have to say.
-- Stephen K. Roney



Bernie Sanders and M 103






Bernie Sanders’ recent hostile interrogation of Russell Vought for his religious views shows why the recent Motion 103 in the Canadian parliament was a dangerous precedent.

It is clear that the average person, even a well-educated person like Sanders, does not understand the difference between discriminating against someone because of their religion, and disagreeing with their religious views. To Sanders, Vought is unfit for public office because he believes Muslims “stand condemned” for not accepting Jesus Christ—presumably meaning that they will go to Hell.

This is, to be absolutely clear, not my view, nor the view of the Catholic church. But one has a perfect right to hold such a view.

Passing a motion condemning “Islamophobia” encourages this confusion.

It is wrong to discriminate against Muslims. It is right to discriminate against Islam—if you find it false. Indeed, it is one’s moral duty.

We must, therefore, be very careful to always distinguish the two.

Accepting the view of Bernie Sanders, and of M-103, ends freedom of speech, ends freedom of thought, and ends freedom of religion.