Monday, May 28, 2007

Three Quotes for the Holiday

Suete sone, reu on me, and brest out of thi bondis:
For nou me thinket that I se thoru bothen thin hondes
Nailes dreven into the tre; so reufuliche thu honges.
Nu is betre that I fle and lete alle these londis.

Suete sone, thi faire face droppet al on blode,
And thi bodi dounward is bounden to the rode;
Hou may thi modris herte tholen so suete a fode,
That blissed was of alle born, and best of alle gode?

Suete sone, reu on me, and bring me out of this live,
For me thinket that I se thi deth, it neyhit suithe.
Thi fete ben nailed to the tre; nou may I no more thrive,
For al this werld withouten thee ne sal me maken blithe.

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenched there,
And streched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! and angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so,
but slew his son, -
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Wifred Owen, from Britton's War Requiem

The symbolic order is open to change, it offers no absolute guarantee of meaning or redemption or enjoyment, and its import is the finitude of powers and of the subjects who take shape through their workings. And if the power of the Other is limited, then nothing can help human beings rid themselves of finitude; nor can ultimate enjoyment be attained any more than absolute power, because desire is "change as such" (Lacan, Ethics of Psychoanalysis 239). We need, for the sake of our jouissance, which also means for the sake of the other within and without us, to break the lethal promise of ultimate rescue. No other, divinized or abjected, can make us whole. The logic of sacrifice seeks to occlude that the Other itself lacks, desires, and is transitory.
Louise Olga Aranye Fradenburg, Sacrifice Your Love: Psychoanalysis, Historicism, Chaucer 56-57

For my father's half-brother, whom he never met, Gene Luther Keahi (1949-1968), and for Fadi Raad (1993-2006), and too many others.


Another Damned Medievalist said...

And one for you:
The door it opened slowly,
my father he came in,was nine years old.
And he stood so tall above me,
his blue eyes they were shining
and his voice was very cold.
He said, "I've had a vision
and you know I'm strong and holy,
I must do what I've been told."
So he started up the mountain,
I was running, he was walking,
and his axe was made of gold.

Well, the trees they got much smaller,
the lake a lady's mirror,
we stopped to drink some wine.
Then he threw the bottle over.
Broke a minute later
and he put his hand on mine.
Thought I saw an eagle
but it might have been a vulture,
I never could decide.
Then my father built an altar,
he looked once behind his shoulder,
he knew I would not hide.

You who build these altars now
to sacrifice these children,
you must not do it anymore.
A scheme is not a vision
and you never have been tempted
by a demon or a god.
You who stand above them now,
your hatchets blunt and bloody,
you were not there before,
when I lay upon a mountain
and my father's hand was trembling
with the beauty of the word.

And if you call me brother now,
forgive me if I inquire,
"Just according to whose plan?"
When it all comes down to dust
I will kill you if I must,
I will help you if I can.
When it all comes down to dust
I will help you if I must,
I will kill you if I can.
And mercy on our uniform,
man of peace or man of war,
the peacock spreads his fan.

The Story of Isaac -- L. Cohen

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Thanks, Karl, and ADM: powerful stuff.

TheCrankyProfessor said...

Well, yeah, except, pace Owen, he either spared Isaac OR Ishmael (there's also that lovely problem of Europe there) and slew the ram. Oh, well - what's a little inaccuracy between poets? Harold Bloom, I hear you calling my name....

On another issue, I wonder why humanists are especially convinced by the microcosm/macrocosm kind of arguments psychological approaches to Peace present? I spent this spring talking about the issue with a colleague who is teaching a Peace Studies seminar (she comes out of a social psychology background). Is interpersonal and societal violence all a result of individual wounding? The physicists no longer believe that atoms are little solar systems - I wonder why we so readily believe that societies are reeeely big people?

I'm not sure that the world doesn't work that way - I find Ptolemy's universe pretty easy to explain - but it made for interesting discussion. My colleague had never heard herself called an Aristotelian materialist before.

Karl Steel said...

Is interpersonal and societal violence all a result of individual wounding?

Good question. I'm inclined to reply no to any question that tries to slip an 'all' by me. Also depends on what you mean by an individual.

In other words: no answer yet.

Nicola Masciandaro said...

Perhaps Karl's quotes already answer Michael's questions. (How's that for a humanist assumption?) At least they are bound together by the question of how far and to what levels personhood extends into the world and the relationship between micro/macro levels of personhood and human violence: the human God that humans kill but cannot live without (because they cannot?); the inhuman God whose withdrawn demand for human sacrifice creates inhumane man (out of resentment of the demand?); and the solution, recognizing that the Other lacks itself (and thus has to create worlds?).

Is the extension of personhood to the All, not as identity but as identity's creative/destructive impossibility, the impossibility of who, therefore a way out of violence? Is this a way past the destructiveness of the narrower definition of the world's personhood as history, an unfinishable script whose sacrificial "making" is imagined to please some unknowable omniscience beyond it?