…on why I should stop cleaning my house; but, shan’t

Dedicated to Jackie, and enlisting the wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Domestic Life.

My house is always clean; some marvel at the sterility of its condition (not to be mistaken with its appearance; more later); however, I diverge from Gethyn’s perception: that it is a museum; nor do I concur with he and others who regard it germless (an impossibility outside of a select few settings, where this is a necessity); and with certainty, I aver that my…asepsis (!) is neither for show; nor the benefit of would-be and expected visitors. Should I cease this activity?

“With these ends housekeeping is not beautiful; it cheers and raises neither the husband,- the wife, nor the child; neither the host nor the guest; it oppresses women. A house kept to the end of prudence is laborious without joy; a house kept to the end of display is impossible to all but a few women, and their success is dearly bought.”

Ooh, one may think, “perhaps.” For every step taken to maintain our homes, something else must deteriorate in equal measure: fine dining at the expense of an orderly home; well-cared-for children at the cost of hospitality, and so on.

“Beyond its primary ends of the conjugal, parental, and amicable relations, the household should cherish the beautiful arts and the sentiment of veneration.”

There exists a fine line between housekeeping and means. Our homes, and the articles within them, should reflect the character of the inhabitants; and the dilemma regarding domesticity at some levels is that its perseverance demands wealth. Emerson reminds us, “we are artists ourselves, and competitors each one, with Phidias and Raphael in the production of what is graceful or grand.” And further asks why we should afford vases and paintings the power of enticing friends? A Raphael is beyond my means financially; however, I am advantageous in that I possess the artistic capacity to recreate works I favour. In this manner, those items in my home are reflections of me: my character, my spirit, my heart and my life’s calling. Virtue and character, warmth and truth, love and magnanimity achieve this effortlessly. Good friends are the grandest treasures bestowed upon any house.

“The ornament of the house is the friends who frequent it.” My home, its contents and cleanliness shall hold me sacred; rather than chasing validation in the same from outside. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced by the same as “Bouquet”) may not be pleased; however, I am self-assured in my actions and motivations; for those who visit my home and benefit from my affability are testaments to my veracity, forbearance and warmth.

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My “life’s calling:” I cannot afford an original Raphael; therefore, I create my own

 

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…I saw a stained glass window

“The eye is the best of all artists.”

It is no secret that I appreciate the visual arts; both as a creator and beholder; and readers of this site may also be aware that I am favourably inclined toward the work of David Hockney.

“In the woods in a winter afternoon one will see as readily the origin of the stained glass window with which the Gothic cathedrals are adorned in the colours of the western sky seen through the bare and crossing branches of the forest.”

—  Ralph Waldo Emerson, History

Hockney’s “Yorkshire Wolds”

When I first contemplated “Yorkshire Wolds,” I distinguished a stained glass window; to me, the parallels between this work of art and an additional art form are palpable. So they were for Emerson. That is to say, these assuredly would have existed were he to have viewed the painting today. It begs the question of what Hockney contemplated in a winter sky whose continuity was fractured by barren trees, or whether he predicted the observer to glimpse the same in the scene; conceivably, did he envisage that two divergent people existing in two different generations would discern the same…image?  And, for that matter, how many countless others?

“The roots of all things are in man. It is in the soul that architecture exists.”  History

In excavating ever more deeply, we reach the true awareness that the roots of all things exist in nature; and that man’s experiences and consciousness of nature manifest into art; in this manner, the foundations of things are in man; however, he must accept merely a secondary office in this chain of being.

To wit: “The trivial experience of every day is always verifying some old prediction to us, and converting into things the words and signs which we have heard and seen without heed.” History 

…on: are we not cats?

H/t: to Theo’s BFF, Jerry Coyne, for the following on Frans Hals:

“I love Hals and his quick brushstrokes that were almost impressionistic in some paintings. He also painted this, “A Young Man with a Cat”, in 1635, which goes to prove my theory (which is mine) that cats could not be depicted properly by many of the world’s great artists. Look at that travesty! What’s with the cat’s mouth? (As often happens, the cat has a humanlike face.)  And you can’t fob it off on Hals being young, as he was 53 when he painted it.”

And now the…offence:

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Is this not art?   I renounce that to the eye of the beholder.  This started when I (I cannot recall if I spied it or if JAC did!) encountered a medieval painting of a “cat,” which carried with it limitless hilarity; he/she/it resembled not – even in the smallest degree – Theo…or any other cat I have yet glimpsed for that matter. A Google search then yielded finds likewise peculiar. One friend hypothesised that artists hadn’t grasped how to…grasp implements such as paintbrushes or palate knives; another – similarly to me – that it is an unattainable endeavour to persuade a cat to remain immobile; however, I have ultimately contemplated the unavoidable inference that these people just didn’t like cats!

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion…”

— RWE, Self Reliance

To wit: jeezaloo man! Just be content with being…The Joker!

Follow Jerry: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/

…on why Ralph Waldo Emerson was an atheist

“Our own Ralph Waldo Emerson, although he had a thousand opportunities to hear Methodist clergyman, scorned the means of grace, lived to his highest ideal, gave to his fellow men his best and truest thought, and yet his spirit is the sport and prey of fiends tonight”

– RG Ingersoll, Eternal Punishment, c. 1885

Ingersoll was a forthright atheist (or as per 19th century parlance: agnostic), who wrote prolifically on the subject; and also a Republican, who was politically vigorous and espoused other candidates; however, a run for the Presidency was put to him as unsustainable, as his atheism would have cost him votes; he affirmed he desired honesty above all.

Emerson was a Minister in his early life, and was his father; therefore, to our perception, the prospect of his being an atheist – outspoken or not – may seem infinitesimal; and his serene deportment being what it was understood to be, would he have kept such sentiments to himself?  Perhaps; a life-long friend, John Lowell Gardner said of him:

“He was so universally amiable and complying that my evil spirit would sometimes instigate me to take advantage of his gentleness and forbearance; but, nothing could disturb his equanimity.  All that was wanting to render him an almost perfect character was a few harsher traits and perhaps more masculine vigour.”

– Oliver a Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1884

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On the subject of religion and indoctrination

The controversial Divinity School Address was delivered on 15 July, 1838 (what I like to call a red-letter day for atheists and Emerson lovers); herein, he cast doubt on the miracles presented in the bible and maintained that one’s morality was borne out of one’s intuition (the primary intellect), and as such, superior to that which is steeped in scripture.

Emerson asserted that Jesus was – to quote my friend, Jackie – “a pretty cool guy,” and that he professed human life to be miraculous (this was unmistakably misrepresented); science palpably controverts the notion that life is a miracle of any kind; that notwithstanding, Emerson’s assessment of Jesus belies the notion of any divine intervention; extraordinary or otherwise.  Furthermore, to influence a worshipper thus is unutterably cruel and Emerson agreed with me, as he estimated it indecent to attempt a conversion with accounts of doubtful miracles; and similarly with veiled threats.  On claims proffered by religion, Emerson upheld – as I, an atheist, do – that he must believe that what is being put forward is valid, lest he cannot accept it.

“He spoke of miracles; for he felt that man’s life was a miracle, and all that man doth, and he knew that this daily miracle shines, as the character ascends. But the word Miracle, as pronounced by Christian churches, gives a false impression; it is Monster.”

“To aim to convert a man by miracles, is a profanation of the soul. A true conversion, a true Christ, is now, as always, to be made, by the reception of beautiful sentiments.”

 “…but you must subordinate your nature to Christ’s nature; you must accept our interpretations and take his portrait as the vulgar drew it.”

Divinity School Address

On the subject of why people attend church

Those who visit Emerson House in Concord, MA are regaled with a diverting story of how he fabricated mislaying his hat and gloves so as to avoid attending church.  To Emerson, preaching, religion and attending church were not about the soul; rather, the ceremony and convention (in addition to the cruelty of indoctrination); conceivably even a performance of sorts; many worshippers then become inured to this ritual and habit; they embrace not solitude; yet persist, and perpetually blindly follow.  Their attendance is the product of all these causes as well as an adherence to the supposed morality of religion.

“…it is not the doctrine of the soul, but an exaggeration of the personal, the positive, the ritual.”

“Ah me! no man goeth alone. All men go in flocks to this saint or that poet, avoiding the God who seeth in secret. They cannot see in secret; they love to be blind in public. They think society wiser than their soul, and know not that one soul, and their soul, is wiser than the whole world.”

“I once heard a preacher who sorely tempted me to say, I would go to church no more. Men go, thought I, where they are wont to go, else had no soul entered the temple in the afternoon.”

“It seemed strange that the people should come to church. It seemed as if their houses were very unentertaining, that they should prefer this thoughtless clamour. It shows that there is a commanding attraction in the moral sentiment, that can lend a faint tint of light to dullness and ignorance, coming in its name and place.”

Divinity School Address

On fate

“The one serious thing in nature is a will.  Society is servile for want of will, and therefore the world wants saviours and religions.”

Fate

I am in love with these words for they encapsulate indeed by what means religion was conceived, how it has evolved and why it persists.  Some I know who are religious think nothing of yielding entirely to fate; the notion that “it is in God’s hands;” to say nothing of the more precarious renunciation: vast numbers chiding medical interventions for illness in the misguided and unwarranted confidence that gods will intercede and heal.  Further, there exists the notion that one is born into one’s destiny: one is born to be a criminal, etc., and that this condition is unavoidable from the instant one comes into existence.

Emerson recognised fate to be a succession of limitations; restrictions which can be surmounted; there exists a duality: the poles of fate and power; and this power is that of the intellect, which begets freedom.

Every jet of chaos which threatens to exterminate us, is convertible by intellect into wholesome force.”

“Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence.”

Fate

On how to overcome fate

How powerful this reflection!  And how empowering!  Emerson said, “fate, then, is a name for facts not yet passed under the fire of thought; — for causes which are unpenetrated.”  Similarly:  “Behind every individual, closes organization: before him, opens liberty, –the Better, the Best.”

To conquer the limitations of fate is to exhibit the courage to act as one wishes, and that no person can distinguish truth until he or she has been impacted by it.  In the essay Fate, Emerson employs a familiar rhetoric: he defines that which is delineated and posits examples; yet, midway through, the reader is imparted with the command to asphyxiate restrictions – or fate:

“There can be no driving force, except through the conversion of the man into his will, making him the will, and the will him, And one may say boldly, that no man has a right perception of any truth, who has not been reacted on by it, so as to be ready to be its martyr.”

He who sees through the design, presides over it, and must will that which must be.”

Fate

Finally

Is it sheer wishful thinking on my part to desire that a person whom I admire deeply (and with whom I am more than slightly obsessed!) had embraced the same world views as I do?  Perhaps.  However, my elucidations of his insights, observations and sentiments bolster my “wish.”  And were I in any doubt; I repeat:

“Our own Ralph Waldo Emerson, although he had a thousand opportunities to hear Methodist clergyman, scorned the means of grace, lived to his highest ideal, gave to his fellow men his best and truest thought, and yet his spirit is the sport and prey of fiends tonight”

– RG Ingersoll, Eternal Punishment, c. 1885

 

…on Theo’s thirteenth birthday

This day, my best boy turns 13; which promises I can indulge myself for a year in its entirety howling, “thirteeeeeeen” in the style of Pullo and Vorenus:

Carnage and loyalty in Rome notwithstanding; thus ensues some inevitable cat cuteness:

Upon my arrival home from work (teeming with childlike and innocent frenzy the entire way home on the Underground because Gethyn had called me the minute he got into the car with him and I detected his delicious little kitten noises) I laid my eyes upon him and sang, “Theoooo!” He was a lovely kitten:

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He also attracted trouble; his little kitten wails once summoning us from the next room to discover that he knew not how to extricate his wee kitten head from in between the slats in the dining room chair; continuallly vaulting himself onto the poor Heating Engineer lying horizontally to try to carry out his work;  the time I cautioned Geth, “please close the bathroom door whilst running a bath or…” Thence was heard…SPLASH:

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Theo also has a penchant for being a tad self-indulgent; a jerk if you will:

He vaults onto the table whilst I am anticipating cleaning it; and in act of felid obstinance, elongates himself languorously; said performance wordlessly imparting this sentiment: “get stuffed, Mummy.” Jerk.

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He hollers his head off, bounds about like a felid cannonball, vaults onto my head, screams undeviatingly into my ear and when he rejoices in the certainty that I have wholly awakened, he reposes thus. Jerk.

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To my unutterable delectation, there also are his homages to my beloved RWE (he knows what makes his Mummy tick):

“Turn the cat upside-down…and how agreeable is the picture?”

“Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father, mother, cousin, neighbour, town, cat, and dog; whether any of these can upbraid you.” SOMEBODY PET MY BELLY DAMMIT! NOW!!

And…he adores coffee!

“Is this a coffee which I see before me? The aroma toward my snout? Come, let me clutch thee!”

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My best boy also boasts numerous appearances on the esteemed and wonderful WEIT as well:

https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/

So, today, I offer a happy day to my beautiful, coffee-slurping, Emerson-loving, pseudo-celebrity (h/t: JAC) and favourite jerk, whom I cherish.

And now I must away to pet his belly, dammit!

…on heroism without Δίκη: Antigone versus Emerson

Gethyn and I have enjoyed some of our best discourse at the dinner table (is there a food correlation here?); and recently, we briefly discussed Emerson’s essay Heroism, wherein he (Emerson; not Geth!) observed that he had not witnessed, in literature, a person “so earnest and cordial and on such deep grounds of character” as Sophocles, who had only to ask Martius to spare the lives of he and his wife, Dorigen, following the conquest of Athens; he did not beg, and both were executed.

Here, was I obliged to dissent, and also immediately drew upon Classical literature (a love I share with my hero); Sophocles’ heroism was hardly unique in Classical literature; and my archetype: Antigone. Why did Emerson not extol the virtue of this woman: was Antigone under-appreciated owing to the irredeemably sexist sentiments of 19th century America and Europe; at the very least sexist: and possibly misogynistic?

And what is Emerson’s heroism? Succinctly, it is inherent, rather than schooled, it is not complacent, it is inexhaustible, it is persistent and above all, the hero must be true to him or herself and his or her beliefs (because this heroism speaks directly to the individual) and prepared to risk his or her own life for these ideals.  To wit: “The characteristic of a genuine heroism is its persistency.”  “Times of heroism are generally times of terror.”

Δίκη; or dike, or justice, along with an extensive collection of values, was prevalent in Greek tragedy; and is illustrated in this dialogue between sisters, Antigone and Ismene:

Ant: Look–what’s Creon doing with our two brothers?
He’s honouring one with a full funeral
and treating the other one disgracefully!
Eteocles, they say, has had his burial
according to our customary rites,
to win him honour with the dead below.
But as for Polyneices, who perished
so miserably, an order has gone out
throughout the city–that’s what people say.
He’s to have no funeral or lament,
but to be left unburied and unwept,
a sweet treasure for the birds to look at,
for them to feed on to their heart’s content.
That’s what people say the noble Creon
has announced to you and me–I mean to me–
and now he’s coming to proclaim the fact,
to state it clearly to those who have not heard.
For Creon this matter’s really serious.
Anyone who acts against the order
will be stoned to death before the city.
Now you know, and you’ll quickly demonstrate
whether you are nobly born, or else
a girl unworthy of her splendid ancestors.
Ism: Oh my poor sister, if that’s what’s happening,
what can I say that would be any help
to ease the situation or resolve it?
Ant: Think whether you will work with me in this
and act together.
Ism: In what kind of work?
What do you mean?
Ant: Will you help these hands
take up Polyneices’ corpse and bury it?
Ism: What? You’re going to bury Polyneices,
when that’s been made a crime for all in Thebes?
Ant: Yes. I’ll do my duty to my brother–
and yours as well, if you’re not prepared to.
I won’t be caught betraying him.
Ism: You’re too rash.
Has Creon not expressly banned that act?
Ant: Yes. But he’s no right to keep me from what’s mine.
Ism: O dear. Think, Antigone. Consider
how our father died, hated and disgraced,
when those mistakes which his own search revealed
forced him to turn his hand against himself
and stab out both his eyes. Then that woman,
his mother and his wife–her double role–
destroyed her own life in a twisted noose.
Then there’s our own two brothers, both butchered
in a single day–that ill-fated pair
with their own hands slaughtered one another
and brought about their common doom.
Now, the two of us are left here quite alone.
Think how we’ll die far worse than all the rest,
if we defy the law and move against
the king’s decree, against his royal power.
We must remember that by birth we’re women,
and, as such, we shouldn’t fight with men.
Since those who rule are much more powerful,
we must obey in this and in events
which bring us even harsher agonies.
So I’ll ask those underground for pardon–
since I’m being compelled, I will obey
those in control. That’s what I’m forced to do.
It makes no sense to try to do too much.
Ant: I wouldn’t urge you to. No. Not even
if you were keen to act. Doing this with you
would bring me no joy. So be what you want.
I’ll still bury him. It would be fine to die
while doing that. I’ll lie there with him,
with a man I love, pure and innocent,
for all my crime. My honours for the dead
must last much longer than for those up here.
I’ll lie down there forever. As for you,
well, if you wish, you can show contempt
for those laws the gods all hold in honour.
Ism: I’m not disrespecting them. But I can’t act
against the state. That’s not in my nature.

In a broad sense, dike had myriad connotations, depending upon the conditions to which it was applied. The ancient Greeks were of the belief that good and moral — heroic? — acts were rewarded by the gods in much the same way as immoral acts were subject to retribution; the ancient Greek notion of justice was rather expansive and encompassed both reward and punishment.

Antigone is adamant in championing her intended actions to Ismene; and that the disposal of Polyneices’s body sans internment expected justice; that being provoking Creon by interring Polyneices. Ismene’s vision of justice differs from Antigone’s; she is true to herself in her utterance in this context; and their loss, as his sisters, is equally profound.

σοφός; or sophós, or wisdom, is another value present in this dialogue; the two (wisdom and justice) are frequently interwoven in discourse in tragedies and specifically this between Antigone and Ismene: wisdom versus foolishness, in either the quest for vengeance or the choice to remain silent and accept the current condition; not defying the State and Creon. Antigone further petitions Ismene’s senses of justice and goodness — ἐσθλός, and ξένος — loyalty to kin/guest-friends, and that action reaps godly rewards.

In The Politics, Aristotle avers that justice is relative to individuals; therefore, Antigone’s and Ismene’s senses of justice will inevitably diverge; and he further insinuates that justice should be perfectly corresponding. Given the structure of ancient Greek society, its philosophy and mindset towards women, would Antigone and Ismene — as Polyneices’ sisters who carried out different actions — be equal under the gaze of justice?

Antigone’s impassioned plea to her sister may be interpreted as reminiscent of Homeric monologues, which were noted to have engaged in the art of reason; if Ismene is nobly born and worthy of her ancestors, she will assist Antigone.

Antigone invokes the gods; a concept called ἄτη; or ate, or delusional behaviour: the notion of belief in divine intervention; and one may decipher this as Antigone proffering the gods also require justice. By the fifth century, humans in lyric poetry were possessed of the capacity to form and be chargeable for their own actions and self-determination; therefore, acceptance of this argument nullifies the probability of Antigone’s confidence in divine reward. Another worthwhile question: does Antigone experience vindication because her act was ultimately successful?

Ancient Greek values associated with Antigone’s beliefs and actions notwithstanding, her very beliefs and actions belie Emerson’s assertion of the absence of heroes in literature worthy of Sophocles; and furthermore, her heroism satisfies all criteria established by Emerson: it is in her nature, is unwavering, unconceited, speaks to her and she risks her life for justice.

And now I must away to order my Antigone tribute tshrt…

Antigone by Sophocles directed by Ivo van Hove

“Antigone” at the Barbican, 2015