Saturday, October 31, 2020

The "It's a drama/entertainment, not a documentary" defense

"Do these fantastical entertainments matter?  And what do they say about Churchill—or about us?  There is a standard defense that such movies are dramas, not documentaries, but that's disingenuous.  For every person who has read serious, detached books about Churchill and his times, there will be thousands whose knowledge of him comes from cinema and television.  And by now the encrustations of mythologizing and hero worship have gone beyond a point where they can be easily corrected.  The line at the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence—'When legend becomes fact, print the legend'—is the guiding principle for depictions of Churchill in popular culture."

     Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "A star is born," The New York review of books 65, no. 1 (January 18, 2018):  23 (22-23).

"My grace is sufficient for you"

"where one is heading—somewhere else—cannot exhaust the divine truth of the present.  'Here' cannot only be a pneumatic moment in its futurist or eschatological orientation.  Yet if that is so, then 'here' must allow for a complete divine presence whose shape is itself sufficient without appeal to some yet-to-be-grasped divine form.  It is always enough that 'we see Jesus.'  The pneumatic corollary of this is that the Spirit is just this 'enough.'

     "We might wish to explain why 'seeing Jesus' is enough—that is, explain what is the nature of 'enough-ness.'  This is, in part, the burden of 'theodicies of intimacy':  to the extent that they are theodicies at all, they must show in what way knowing God or seeing God [in the 'here' and 'now'] makes the suffering somehow worth it.  One might, in this light, simply assert the equivalence between the encounter with God and 'worth':  'Whom have I in heaven [but thee]?  and [there is] none upon earth [that] I desire beside thee' (Ps 73:25); 'As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:  I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness' (Ps 17:15).  But in fact theodicies of intimacy often shift, despite themselves, into the kind of [pneumatico-]instrumentalist claims that most theodicies share.  With or without the apparatus of some kind of therapy of the soul, the vision of God that theodicies of intimacy propose—as encounter, union, or relation—is valuable because this vision is itself a 'defeat' of evil.  To say that evil is defeated in Christ, which is clearly a central Christian claim, is not however to say that suffering itself is redemptive.  One must say more.  Suffering is redemptive, more foundationally, only because Jesus suffers.  We do not know exactly what it means that Jesus suffers, however, unless we follow with him, a matter that simply kneads the surds of life into the rising dough of our obedience.  Divine intimacy is certainly present here; yet it is present in a way that is sufficient to the moment itself."

     Ephraim Radner, A profound ignorance:  modern pneumatology and its anti-modern redemption (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2019), 241-242, underscoring mine.  Needless to say, "pneumatic" is almost a dirty word here, as throughout the book (11 par. 3), a cipher for the Incarnation- and Cross-avoiding temptations of the (admittedly legitimate) theodicy of intimacy.  The Spirit just is this "enough" (Introduction, too, for example at p. 11), nor should we be looking for something more.  That there is "something better 'waiting' beyond this life" is a "necessary conviction if we are to ward off despair or angry cynicism against God" (239).  But it must not become the focus of a kind of pneumatic escapism, for it is the Spirit's job to drive us deeper into an opaque but authentically Christoform life of cruciform suffering in the here and now.  However:  "Jesus suffers."  Note the present tense.  Is that orthodox?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit. . . .

Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself andflowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is. . . . Life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you.

And variants galore.

This has in recent times been widely attributed to Pope Francis, though I have yet to trace a use of it (or any version thereof) back to him.

Meanwhile its opening clauses antedate him by centuries, being unmistakably those of a Sanskrit subhāṣita present in the 14th-century Sūktiratnahāra (Sūkti ratna hāra). They ran in the Sūktiratnahāra as follows:

"Rivers do not drink their water; the trees do not eat [their own] fruits, the cloud never eats crops, [indeed] the lives of the virtuous are for the welfare of others."

This came into the 14th/18th-century Pali Lokanīti as follows:

"Rivers do not drink up their water, nor trees eat up their fruit; rain does not fall in some places only: the wealth of the virtuous is for others."

Source: Ujjwal Kumar, "Lokanīti: method of adaption and new vocabulary," Buddhist studies review 34, no. 1 (2017): 99 and elsewhere.

The Pali proverb in particular, at least, had made its way into the consciousness of English speakers by 1892 at the latest ("Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; neither are clouds stationary anywhere. So also with wealth: it is for the benefit of others"). Indeed, by 1878. For the Burmese Lokanīti was first translated into English by Richard Carnac Temple in that year (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 47, no. 3 (1878)), and here it is: no. 23 on p. 247 ("The rivers drink not of their own water, neither eat the trees of their own fruit, nor fall the rains in every place: likewise are the riche of the jut man only for an help unto others"). And then again by James Gray in 1886 (no. 64 (Lokanīti) and no. 139 (Dhammanīti)):

"Rivers do not drink up their water, nor trees eat up their fruit; rain does not fall in some places only: the wealth of the virtuous is for others."

"Rivers do not drink up their water, nor trees eat up their own fruit; rain never eats up corn: the wealth of the righteous is for others."

Undoubtedly the variants on this have been legion. But IF Pope Francis "quoted" and adapted it (filling it out in the manner noted above, perhaps in imitation of someone else), I would be interested in knowing where, for, as I've just said, I have yet to identify a use of it by him. (He has, by the way, been notoriously sloppy on many occasions, and about matters far more serious than quotations.)