May 2009


This is just to remind myself to get back to this article. And if you are reading this Bryan– this is what we were talking about the other day:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9981-instant-expert-love.html

Is science going to be able to explain love to us, finally?
Maybe biologically, chemically, but I don’t think completely. I still think, and maybe I think so purely for socially constructed reasons, that there is something metaphysical about love and emotions in general….

Again, I hope to get back to this. For now, it is back to Pygmy.

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I realize now that I really need to get back into a classroom and have a smart teacher telling me to do things and explaining things to me because, otherwise, I am a big slacker.

Ok, so not completely. I started reading Chuck Palahniuk’s new book: Pygmy. So far it is interesting.

An unnamed narrator, “Pygmy” as his fat, capitalist, American townies that surround him call him, is a trained killer (terrorist) from some unnamed Freedom hating country.

So far Palahniuk is touching on all his old subjects and themes: identity, the pitfalls of American capitalism, identity, consumer society, etc…

He has also written a pretty brutal rape scene in which Pyrmy makes the local townie bully his bitch, and there was also a scene in which one of the other trained terrosit (Magda) bit off a priest throat while she was being baptized.

Ya… crazy shit. I’ll write more about the book as I finish it and digest it. And then… and then it will be back to Book IV.

MedinaPL3
I am finally back to it. I finished book 3.

Here we begin to see how Light equals good and darkness equals bad. I have a friend who brings up a good point about this binary (and as you know– all those binaries need to be questioned in our postmodern world view), he says that this one makes sense. That light IS good if only for evolutionary reasons. When we were cave-men and women, the light was good because it helped us see predators coming, light made vegetation possible, brought warmth, etc.. Whereas darkness meant we couldn’t see what was going on, meant fewer crops to eat, meant cold. It makes sense then that God should be light– the giver of life and that Satan would be hell fire and darkness. But I digress…

Milton begins by asking his muse, this time “holy light,” to inspire him, but Milton hesitates and worries about his invocation. Milton calls this holy light coeternal with God because does that then mean that this light is as powerful as God? Brought up Catholic, for me, that is exactly what it means. Well, not so much that this “holy light” is just as powerful as God, but that this holy light is God. Just like Jesus Christ IS God. And then, Milton gets back to the plot.

God is sitting around with his son, Jesus Christ. Which to me brings up more questions about this holy trinity: Where did Jesus come from? God just created Jesus? If God just created Jesus, how is Jesus His son? I guess we are all “sons of God”, but then doesn’t that mean that anyone could have died and been sacrificed for humanities’ sin?

So– God is seeing Satan coming towards His new creation earth, and since God is all knowing, God knows what is about to happen. He knows that man will be tempted and fall, and He knows that He can’t do anything about it because He has given man free will. And this part is a nice explanation of free will and why man had to fall. If God doesn’t give man free-will (and sorry for the male-centered rhetoric “man” and such– it is just easier), then the creation is a false one. But my question then is, again, if we are given free will then why is God so mad when Adam and Eve defy Him and eat the apple?

And here, Milton gives us a summary of how merciful God is going to be with humankind because Man, unlike the Angels, was tricked into this fall; whereas, the Angels chose to rebel without any corrosion. Though this might be a sticky subject to, no? I’m sure some Angels that fell with Satan were, maybe not “tricked” but influenced by Satan’s silver tongue.

But back to the story: God sees what will happen and decides he will be merciful with man, Jesus points out that man has to suffer something, that justice must be paid (why is justice talked about as a commodity? Something has to be “paid”). But this whole exchange in which Jesus reminds God that, hey– you can’t just let them off the hook, someone has to pay– seems contrived. God tells J.C. that some sacrifice has to be made, and then J.C. volunteers. But didn’t God see that one coming? And if God is this trinity, isn’t God, himself, who is sacrificing himself? This stuff hurts my brain sometimes…

God and the angels in heaven praise J.C. for three pages, and then the story returns to Satan landing on earth. It is interesting that Milton makes sure the reader knows that Satan is on earth at a time before there are things on earth that will distract man from God and make man vain. Again, doesn’t this go back to free-will? It is easy to praise God and do what He says if you have no distractions.

Satan then disguises himself as a cherub and tells the Angel guarding the gate that he is curios and wants to check out the new creation.

That is all the energy I have right now to deal with Book III. For whatever reason, it has taken me a long time to get through this and be able to write about it. I am looking forward to Book IV, in which Satan tempts our unsuspecting first couple.

Venus- goddess of love and desire

Venus- goddess of love and desire


Ok, so Book III of Paradise Lost has been a struggle. I am finding it boring, and also, I just went away on a little vacation to visit a friend, so I have been really slacking all around. 

Now, rather than get back to Milton, I wanted to explore Desire for a number of reasons– none of which are really important since no one is reading this anyway. But let’s begin the exploration.

One of the initial thoughts I had on desire stems from a conversation I had with a friend about Derrida’s conception of desire. Derrida’s starting point is Rousseau’s essay in which Rousseau condemns writing because speech is present and writing is just a poor substitute (a lack of presences). Rousseau explains that masturbation  is like writing: a poor substitute for the “real” thing. 

But Derrida points out that R’s desire for a real woman is grounded on this distance (the fact that she is not actually present). Furthermore, the object of desire is a substitute for the original love object (R’s mom). Also, Desire’s structure itself is based on only being able to desire what you don’t have. To keep it short and poorly wrap up what is being said here, I turn to Barbara Johnson’s introduction to Dissemination, in which Johnson sumerizes, quite nicely, Derrida’s deconstruction of R’s essay:

Presence, then, is an ambigous, even dangerous, ideal. Direct speech is self-violation; perfect heteroeroticism is death. Recourse to writing and autoeroticism is necessary to recapture a presence whose lack has not been preceded by any fullness. Yet these two compensatory activities are themselves condemned as unnecessary, even dangerous, supplements. 

[These comments are dealing with Derrida’s essay “That Dangerous Supplement”]. Johnson goes on to say:

Thus, writing and masturbation may add to something that is already present, in which case they are superfluois. AND/OR they may replace something that is not present, in which case they are neccesary (xiii).

What I really want to focus on is the idea of desire, and how it is that desire is by definition that thing which you can never have. I think this concept nicely supports the ideas on love I have been trying to deal with lately. Desire can never be reached because if it is reached then it is not desire anymore– and isn’t this what love is too? I think this is what Derrida wants to point out in R’s essay. Derrida wants to show how R is missing the point of the thing R. desires.

When one is in love, that desire doesn’t go away because it can never be reached, and the idea that you can never reach it (that “thing” desire– whatever that is) is love. You can never “reach” love because love is not an object to be reached. It is the same reason that desire, in order to be desire, must never be reached. 

DESIRE: 

–verb (used with object

1. to wish or long for; crave; want.
2. to express a wish to obtain; ask for; request: The mayor desires your presence at the next meeting.
–noun

3. a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment: a desire for fame.
4. an expressed wish; request.
5. something desired.
6. sexual appetite or a sexual urge.

 

Desire will always stay an urge, and is this not what love is? It is the urge that does not go away even when you “have” the person you desire.

I have to read more Lacan, but from the little I have read, it seems Lacan has a better conception of Love (or even Levinas, who realizes how much language gets in the way to ruin love because language is too poor to be able to “capture” love). It seems to me that desire is then is what the definition above says it is (of course, not completely as was just pointed out, language gets in the way), but the thing that is craved and longed for is the other’s desire. We all want to be desired, but what happens when the other you want to desire you is desiring your desire? Again, this is a shortcoming of my limited knowledge on the subject. To use Levinas as an example again: Levinas says that we are responsible to the face (visage) of the other, but what happens when one face meets another face? Who is responsible to whom?

Then love is like desire– or rather (maybe)– desire fuels love in that when you are in love, you constantly desire the other person (and all this language and vocabulary, to repeat, is limited and almost violent. The language and rhetoric of love and desire is so crass. It is the language of possessive nouns and pronouns: mine, my b/f or g/f, I love all of you, etc…). There is a difference between using a person (for, say, a one night stand) in which you fulfill some narcissistic drive and were able to make someone want you, made you feel desired, and once you achieved that goal, that person is no longer important– and then there is the love relationship where you are constantly wanting to be desired and desiring.

There is more here, but I got to get back to Paradise Lost and reading more Lacan and Levinas.

I have not been able to read the last two days. Life, unfortunately (sometimes), does not stop.I worked all day at my restuarant job on Friday and then Saturday I worked in the morning and took my mom out for mother’s day with my brother in the afternoon and then went to hang out with friends, and then Sunday was mother’s day proper.

So, rather than Book III, I want to briefly look at and write about Lacan. I want to grasp, as it were, the concept of Lacan’s triad: the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real. 

There is this great web-site dedicated entirely to Lacan (thanks Bryan). 

The triad is explained by Zizek using the metaphor of a game of chess. The rules one has to follow are the Symbolic. I think of this as the rules of “polite” society. There are certain unwritten rules (unconscious rules) we all follow. Furthermore, these rules are always with us whether we actively acknowledge them or not–and for the most part– we can’t acknowledge them or we wouldn’t be able to function. 

For instance, to continue on Zizek’s example, whenever I engage in a conversation with someone, there are grammatical rules we follow in order to have a conversation. But that is only part of what is going on in this symbolic level as Zizek explains:

There are rules (and meanings) that I follow blindly, out of custom, but of which, upon reflection, I can become at least partially aware (such as common grammatical rules), and there are rules that I follow, meanings that haunt me, unbeknownst to me (such as unconscious prohibitions). Then there are rules and meanings I am aware of, but have to act on the outside as if I am not aware of them – dirty or obscene innuendos which one passes over in silence in order to maintain the proper appearances.

The first rules are simple enough to comprehend. I think of these rules sometimes after a long day of working at the grammar lab. There are moments when I pause while talking to think to myself whether to use “who” or “whom”, or I’ll be talking and won’t be sure if I need to say him and I or he and me. etc… When I become too aware of these rules it halts my speech act. 

The second one: the meanings that haunt me (unconscious prohibitions), I have a little more problems with. Aren’t we pretty aware of prohibitions? 

I have to come back to this because I want to do more research and try to read more about this, and also because I was on a phone call and am now too tired to think about this stuff– also, I figure, this is my fragments, and since no one is really reading this– I can deal with leaving these thoughts lingering…

But if there are any readers, the video below is from the web-site mentioned earlier (http://www.lacan.com//covers.htm):

http://www.lacan.com/thevideos/?p=27

pl6

I don’t know what it says about me as an English major but I was mostly bored in book II, and it was a struggle to get through the entire thing. 

Book II starts wonderfully with Satan taking the Hellish throne by stating:

 “Me though just right and the fixed laws of Heaven                                                                                                                                              Did first create your leader, next, free choice,                                                                                                                                                       With what besides council or in fight,                                                                                                                                                                    Hath been achieved of merit, yet this loss                                                                                                                                                             Thus far at least recovered, hath much more                                                                                                                                            Established in a safe unenvied throne                                                                                                                                                                Yielded with full consent” (Lines 18-24)

And then later:

 …but who here                                                                                                                                                                                                                Will envy whom the highest place exposes                                                                                                                                                   Foremost to stand against the Thunderer’s aim” (27-29).  

(btw: Im sick of fixing the format, so deal)

 Satan is basically just taking the throne, well, just because– and besides, who else is going to want to be God’s number one enemy. Satan then opens up the floor for discussion on what to do next. There is some great irony here in that these demons are so faithful and obedient to Satan and so democratic and logical in their business meeting. Satan wants there to be, “…union, and firm faith, and firm accord” (36).

What follows is Moloch’s speech in which he says he prefers oblivion– to not exist– over Hell. He says that since they have nothing to lose, they should attack Heaven again and even if they don’t win, the attack itself will be revenge enough. It is a nice speech and quite entertaining, but then Belial speaks, and Belial reminds me of an Oscar Wilde foil. A character who says nothing but empty musing but says those musings so well. 

Belial’s speech is much more reasoned and thought out than Moloch. Belial reasons that Moloch is wrong in assuming that things can’t get worse than Hell. He points out that being stuck in the river was worse, and he points out that the only reason they are not already oblivion is because God has chosen not to destroy them because God will know what punishment will best fit them. What, after all, could they really do against Heaven when God is all knowing? God will know that they are coming, and Heaven is too well guarded for any kind of surprise attack. 

Belial then shows more wonderful rhetorical flair reminding me of Hamlet’s ‘To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy:

Will he, so wise, let loose at once his ire,

Belike through impotence, or unaware,

To give his enemies their wish, and end

Them in his anger, whim his anger saves

To punish endless? (150-159).

 Belial reminds his fellow fallen angels that things could be worse, and that they only have it “so good” because God has deemed this punishment worthy of their crimes, but that if God wanted, he could do things that would be much worse for them all.

He goes on to remind them that if they live out their punishment then maybe one day will forgive them and let them back into Heaven.  Besides, he says, we can get used to this after a while, “This horror will grow mild, this darkness light” (220).

The language here is amazing, and these speeches are a great display of rhetoric, but empty in the end. They are like politicians today—just shallow words to play up to the audience. This whole thing still bothers me though because God knows this is going on—God knows these demons are planning on tempting his creations—so? How does that work? Free will is all well and good, but how are humans supposed to resist the temptation of the Satan? There is a parallel here: Satan’ pride led to his down fall as did man’s pride, and in both cases Satan and Man, they took someone with them.

 Satan wanted to not be ruled by God or to have to worship Him, and Eve wanted to know what God knows, but they couldn’t do it on their own, they had to infect others with this curiosity and bring down their peers with them.

 The rest of book two was a chore.

 Mammon speaks next—and in existential fashions—suggest that they make the best of it here. That rather than wait for salvation or forgiveness, they work together to make a Heaven out of Hell. This echoes Satan’s initial speech in which Satan says he would rather rule in Hell than serve in heaven. Mammon says he does not want to praise a God he hates, which leads me to wonder: so what if you are in Heaven, and you don’t necessarily want to praise God, but you don’t really have anything against him? As Mammon points out, “how wearisome/ Eternity so spent in worship paid” (247)—and forget that he says “To whom we hate” what if you like the guy but just don’t want to praise him everyday?

 Is God so petty and bored that he wants you to constantly be singing his praise. As a poor graduate student, I have borrowed money from family and friends, but under the condition that I won’t be reminded of doing so. I’m mean, yes, ok, thank you and I’m happy, but if you are going to constantly throw it in my face that you lent me the money, well then, I don’t want it. Did God really just create humanity so that we can praise him whenever we have free time? But that isn’t to say I want to rise up against him and dethrone him. It just means I want to say thanks and go do my thing. I want to hear the story of the Angels who sympathized with the fallen angels, but who don’t see violence as the answer. I mean, I’m sure God is a rational diety, and if they would have just talked it out some good compromise could have been reached.

 I digress: Everyone loves Mammon’s idea and cheer him for it. They too would rather just make the best of it in Hell than wait for forgiveness and an eternity of having to worship God.

 Beezelbub and Satan then put into action a plan they had ready. More than just making the best of what they have in Hell, they heard a rumor that God was creating some new creatures “man” to go live on a new thing he created “earth.” What they want to do is go and destroy man or tempt him or ruin this new creation in any way possible. After a little bit of pomp and show—Satan volunteers to go find earth and do a recon mission of the inhabitants.

 I find it ironic how all these fallen Angels can follow and worship Satan so much when the whole reason they are in Hell is because they didn’t want to follow God. In a way (in a perverted and strange way) Satan won—he is the leader now. Sure, Hell might be awful and it is probably safe to say that the worst case in Heaven is much better than the best case in Hell, but nonetheless, he is worshipped and he is so lost in his vanity that he refuses to change. From a psychological perspective he is better off almost. How bad can Heaven be if rather than regret and want forgiveness, Satan just wants revenge?

 The rest of this book is Satan flying off to find earth. He gets cut off at the gates of Hell by his (forgotten) daughter (which sprang from his head) and his son (from his daughter) and his nephews (some dogs which are the offspring of his daugher and grandson—ya—his grandson raped his daughter- his mother—ya—it is that confusing). Here we have sin and death, both of which end up helping Satan along with Chaos and someone else. I can’t remember because I started to get really bored at this point.

 What I am interested in is Satan’s resolve. Satan should know that God is love and forgiving, but Satan rather be in Hell and merit more of God’s wrath, rather than admit defeat, his mistake, and ask for forgiveness.

 But then we wouldn’t have much of a story… As much as I hoped to get through book three today as well, it took me too long to get through book two. So book three tomorrow.

paradise_lost_12

So it begins. Milton strats off his epic with two sentences that are 26 lines long. It also reminds me why I don’t really read epics. Epics can be so boring, and while Paradise Lost has some wonderful moments (thus far) in which Satan talks shit about God and being kicked out of heaven, I could do without the invocation of the muse and without the long, long list of demon angels that fell with Satan.

Actually, in all honesty, so far the opening has been the most exciting part for me. Milton calls on the muse to inspire him, but unlike most epics, the muse for this epic is the Holy Spirit. There is also a running theme of light and dark (yes, this is probably obvious). The holy Spirit, of course, can be seen as the light of the world (I also think of the flames over the Apostles heads when they are hiding after Jesus’s crucifixion) which Milton ask to illuminate what is dark in him. 

Some main points I want to keep in mind: 

It is amazing (or not considering this is one of the canonical classics of literature) is how many references to dark and light, high and low, Milton refers to. There is also the subtle irony (which s found in Dante’s Divine Comedy too) of Milton writing an epic about the hubris of Satan and the fall of man– which is in itself, at least partially, a hubristic task. Who does Milton think he is that he can “…justify the ways of God to men” (Line 26)?

Milton’s opening outlines man’s fall from grace and expulsion from Eden, and then Milton opens up on Satan and his brood fallen and defeated from Heaven. There is something in Satan that has always bothered me. I caught a glimpse of it today: Lucifer means bringer of light, which is Satan’s name before his fall, and Satan means enemy. There is a corealtion it seems, throughout religions, that light (knowledge) is bad and the “enemy.” Think of Prometheus bringing fire (knowldge) to humans, or of Lucifer, bringer of light, who “informs” the other angels that they don’t have to follow what God says if they don’t want. I also think of the Tower of Babel– people getting along, working together, using a collective knowledge, and then they are punished. Here we have the first bringer of light punished. 

We find him defeated and speaking almost incoherently. I think Satan is so likable in this story because of his resolve. Although he has been whupped by God and the other arch angels, Satan refuses to change, repent, make amends, admit he was wrong, or even apologize to all those other angels that were kicked out of heaven. Satan is steadfast:

“That glory never shall his wrath or might/ extort from me. to bow and sue for grace/ With suppliant knee, and deify his power” (ln. 110-112)

Satan even goes on to call God a tyrant (line 124), and then to say that he is equal with God and that God is only greater because of his lighting. (257). This is right before the famous “better to reign in hell that to serve in heaven” (263) spiel. 

It seems that Beelzebub realizes God’s power and helps Satan realize it to. Bee reminds Satan that they are only alive because God let them live; furthermore, they were able to get out of their fiery lake because God let them. Satan, once out of the Stygian sludge, rallies his enormous troops, the troops build a hall, and then they have a meeting to see what they are going to do next. Are you kidding me? Even in Hell, you have to sit through pointless, bureaucratic  meetings. I guess this is where that evil practice started.

Some other interesting things about book one: well there aren’t a whole lot. We get the long list of the impressive angels that fell to hell. But there is this sense of building up and describing the greatness of this hellish army only to show that God’s army was so much more superior and greater yet. There is never any real sense of the size of things. Satan gets compared to giants, titans, whales as big as land masses, but it is all still arbitrary, and from what I understand of what I have in store for me, Satan’s stature diminishes throughout the story.

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