Wednesday, November 6, 2013

* Ruin


Today has been an unnerving day. A friend and neighbor, ten years my junior, the father of three of my students (now adults), was brought to ruin on the front page of the paper, photo and all.  I won't go into details but it involves alcohol and the complete destruction of his reputation.

It makes Greek tragedy seem uncannily modern..

I am ending the day listening to the New York Philharmonic treat three versions of  the Faust story :  Gounod, Berlioz, and Liszt.

I can't imagine any emotion in my life as turbulent as this music and certainly not because of  demonic forces in the universe.

The closest I can come to it is the emotional chaos I felt  watching the twin towers hit and crumble a  decade ago.

Even then, I did not believe in a personified evil as the 18th and 19th  century apparently did. 

The evil I saw that day was human evil, the result of hubris and ignorance and zealotry---the fruits of all organized religions at their worst.

It is not simply that I am getting old and my flame burns dimly.

Even forty three years ago at the Kent State shootings, I did not feel anything analogous to the turbulence of the Faust music I hear this evening on PBS.

To feel that Faustian one needs to live in a frightening universe.  I live in a sad universe and a glorious universe---and even if one is apocalyptic about Global Warming, the universe is not frightening the way it was for those who actually believe in hell and damnation. 

To die in a final conflagration or explosion is part of Nature's volcanic lesson, taught epoch after epoch on islands across the planet.

To hang  suspended  like a spider  above the fires of hell (nod to Jonathan Edwards) is a complete sado - masochistic fantasy.

What a waste of energy and imagination, Faust or no Faust.

Even the sadness I feel at the ruination of my neighbor is  but the cleansing pity and fear Aristotle talks about in his Poetics (the "empathy" of modern psychology) , not the twisted madness of Christianity's eternal fires of hell.

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