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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Why Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1398  Wednesday, 6 June 2001

[1]     From:   Pat Dolan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Jun 2001 07:14:49 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1379 Re: Why Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 15:52:19 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1379 Re: Why Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dolan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Jun 2001 07:14:49 -0500
Subject: 12.1379 Re: Why Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1379 Re: Why Shakespeare

> Religion, however, is primarily concerned with patient acceptance of
>> present and forthcoming misery in the name of the final outcome
>> (Valhalla, nirvana, heaven).

This mischaracterizes much religion, particularly the strain in Ch'an
and Zen Buddhisms that claim that we are already (always already?)
Buddhas, already enlightened and already in nirvana and the key is
realization/mindfulness/seeing through illusion.

Syncretist that I am I see this as not dissimilar from the insight, "The
Kingdom of God is within." Or even Bob Marley's "We know and we
understand, Almighty God is a living man."

What are the consequences for our understanding of literature generally,
Shakespeare in particular?

Cheers,
Pat

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 15:52:19 +0100
Subject: 12.1379 Re: Why Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1379 Re: Why Shakespeare

I disagree with Sean Lawrence somewhat:

> . . . I'm not convinced that the source of evil is in
> the deferral of gratification.  If you actually enjoy
> torturing people to death, then you're not deferring
> your gratification at all, but indulging it.  Sociopaths
> aren't made by their deferral of their own gratification,
> but by a complete indifference to other people.

There may always be people who like torturing others to death, but the
matter under discussion is the use of religious or political ideas to
encourage the floating would-be resister that such practices might be
acceptable in the name of a long-term goal. Like Joseph Tribiani's offer
of monthly payments on an encyclopedia ("Nothing down, and nothing a
month for a really, really long time"), as the proffered outcome tends
towards infinite joy, the deferral tends towards an endless wait.
Stalinism and witch-hunting might be appropriate examples, although
Nazism leaps most readily to mind.

> Secondly, the beauty of concepts like "the city of God" is that
> they don't have to be realized at all in "the finite", as you put it,
> at least not in principle.  Therefore, to borrow an unfortunate but
> oft-repeated metaphor, there's no reason to break any eggs at all,
> since no omelet will ever be made.  One only commits crimes
> because one has a goal in "the finite".

There we part company, unless you're using 'crime' in a different sense
from me. Starving hundreds of thousands of peasants (in Ireland or in
the USSR) might well have been accepted by some because it could be
justified in relation to an infinitely distant goal. Whether Edmund
Spenser was such a person is a pertinent question.

> This isn't, of course, to deny that religious institutions often
> have subjected people to torture, still do in a lot of places,
> and probably will again in the future.  Such institutions, though,
> are inevitably defending their situation and that of their adherents
> in the finite. Witchcraft, for instance, is seen as a threat to society,
> heresy is a threat to the church as institution.  In other words, the
> grounds for the torture (its excuse, its justification, and its
> expression) is political, within the finite.

The special brutality meted out to convicted witches cannot be explained
by a perceived "threat to society" (in the finite) but must be explained
in relation to the larger imagined struggle between the forces of good
and evil, which finds its ultimate resolution at the end of time. The
claimed criminal damages (animals killed, a sexual partner
incapacitated) were always finite, for sure, but the judicial
consequences were proportional not to those hurts but to the imagined
supernatural crimes which enabled those hurts to be inflicted.

Having said that, since the final triumph of good is, for Christians,
assured, I suppose one might argue that efficient destruction of witches
could only hasten (not alter) that outcome, in which sense it's a finite
achievement.

Gabriel Egan

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