Workout Log 12 July 2012
20 minutes free-dance first thing with weights. Exhausted from yesterday’s trip into Central for I am still walking weird, owing to stiffness and numbness, I could hardly keep my eyes open for Klaus Guth’s stunning dramatization of Handel’s Messiah on DVD.
Then a very good night’s sleep and eine waldensmorgenspracht, a bright forest morn!
The sciatic pain gone but owing to an apparently permanent weight loss I now have a bony ass and find sitting on unpadded chairs uncomfortable. Natural enough. Your healthy fifty year old male is still broad in chest whereas we sixty year old codgers are generally thinner if healthy.
The Guth Messiah is the missing link between Handel’s Oratorios and earlier operas. His earlier operas were about characters who “themselves adored“, who would turn their former lovers into rocks and trees and laugh. We loved Alcina and Semele because they were aristocratic and in your face, caring not for your opinion.
Of course, “we” is restricted to Handel lovers who know more than just the Messiah which is popular all out of proportion to the rest of Handel’s work.
And we’re not supposed to “identify” with Jesus in the Passion Play (of which Messiah is a sort of Anglicised example, as were Bach’s Passions) in the sense of feeling sorry for ourselves. Instead, we were instructed to imagine that His sufferings were an order of magnitude worse than ours, or Spartacus’ sufferings even though Spartacus, and all his followers in the great slave uprising, were crucified.
But Guth’s Messiah poses, as I’ve noted elsewhere, the question, what if God is one of us, just a slob like one of us: what if God were all of us, what if God were his creation, for he so loved the world.
Didn’t he. Didn’t she.
For the Evangelists were, we know, simple men. They felt no obligation to preserve the myth of the elite of the ancient world, that a Master as opposed to a fisherman, tax collector, or slave, would not feel pain, or feel it in such an intense or transcendent way, that in either case, the Master’s experience would be different from the pain of the slave which was (cf Iliad) a joke in the ancient world.
A Stoic wouldn’t say, “Father, let this cup pass if that is thy will, but if not, fiat voluntas tua, thy will be done”. Christianity the origin of the idea that human experience including pain is one thing and not many different things according to social rank.
However, the dark side of Christianity is the way it is based upon and therefore in some way demands pain and suffering. As such, it stands in the way of a real world without pain and suffering…even though that world has in some ways come to pass anyway, as in the fact that in modern hospitals, pain is not thought to be good for character and “palliative care” is a professional discipline.
To “primitive” peoples, the celebration of the Crucifixion was just weird:
Missionary: Check it out!
“Primitive person”: Whuzzat
Missionary: Christ dying for your sins!
“Primitive person”: What sins? And why? I didn’t ast him to.
The only sensible meaning of the Passion is that it’s about something we all have to undergo:
After great pain a formal feeling comes–
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions–was it He that bore?
And yesterday–or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.
This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow–
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.
And…the only sensible secular (that is temporal) response is how we can lessen the pain of leaving for everyone and lengthen life itself. My Dad simply fought back Death several times despite incompetent doctoring at Porter Memorial Hospital in Valparaiso Indiana (right, you swine) because he preferred life to death for as long as possible, and this has to be accounted virtue and nothing else. I got to talk to him more.
Which is why the politics of the Republicans in my country are to me demonic: they want us to die if we don’t have money, period, and while we wait to die, they want it to hurt real bad. Check out the Lancet study that demonstrates that if contraception were more broadly available, hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved every year.
It’s obvious that the Christian message could itself be perverted, be infected with a viral meme. Let’s see…if Christ died for our sins, if the myth is read in a simple minded fashion (something which Claude Levi Strauss warns us against), then perhaps the sufferings of Christ-like gays and blacks will also redeem us, so, what the hell, let’s crucify that there homo.
I’m being quite serious here. In the 1920s, Americans would tour the South attending Lynching bees and mail photographs of Lynchings to the folks back home. The American Lynching party was a Christian-pagan celebration which affirmed the safety of the white community by sacrificing a black male. If Christ died for our sins, what the hell, this might help, right?
This is, I admit, Heart of Darkness stuff, but it gets worse. Persecuted as they were by Orthodox Christians in the fourteenth century, the Bogomil or beloved of God in what’s now Bosnia refused to use images of the crucifixion because they felt those images to blaspheme and belittle Jesus’ sufferings. They later mostly converted to Islam with its systematic bam on images and were to be again persecuted by the Orthodox in 1993-1995.
Not only are some people inured to The Pain of the Other, many people derive benefit from it and strangely indeed (for the mainstream account of Christianity even to its enemies like Nietzsche was that it made to much of pain) Christianity introduces “the problem of pain” yet dialectically, in one of those flip-flops that are dialectic, it also creates pain as Good For You.
Nobody could not want contraception if it lessens suffering, right? It lessens the frequency of damaged or unwanted lives and that of the suffering of women in childbirth. Well, you just know that American Republican politicians don’t want that. They want women to suffer for having those screaming orgasms they never have when the politician pays broads in Vegas for sex.
Tim Hardy escaped the daily pain, truly frightful levels of ignorance, dirt, disease, and addiction in working class Britain of the 1920s to be a somewhat reluctant servant of the British Empire as it faded, relating the story in his book, “The Reluctant Imperialist”.
He escaped by way of discovering books although nearly all his family informed him that there was “nowt” in books for the likes of “us”. He was also fortunate, as a young, scared recruit in the Sherwood Foresters after Dunkirk, to get taken up by a military “cry of players”, and serve King George VI with the likes of Michael Ronnie formerly of the Royal Ballet, and other interesting characters, gay, straight, male and female…they were going up and down the Scots border entertaining the somewhat demoralized post-Dunkirk Army whilst to the South the RAF was fighting the Battle of Britain, for if “they also serve who stand and wait”, they also serve who stand and prate…the British Army was still sponsoring Players and Pantoes during the Malaysian emergency of the 1950s as we see in the film Privates on Parade.
For everyone is well-advised to take up when possible with a Cry of Players when your life is a shitstorm. Does not Ingmar Bergmann’s Knight do so when he finally returns home from the Holy Land? And have I not done so? Certainly worked for me, I’ve met friends whereas before 2010 I hardly knew a soul. Worked for Bergmann’s Ritter, too: being with the Players was loads more laughs for the Knight than playing goddamn chess with goddamn Uncle Fester.
Tim Hardy was fired with impatience with life back home like so many of my British friends who, post-Empire, still insist as I insist on somehow setting up shop ‘midst palm and pine, a kind of shadow Empire. Indeed, we might be fired with prelapsarian nostalgia and mourn the cottage with virtuous Wife in residence, prepared to welcome us with love and not a clout upside the head in fantasy for breaking the old girl’s heart: but the reality is always outward bound. Should have drug the Wife along, but didn’t know better. Furthermore, any independent Female spirit is something of value even if it’s some crone cackling over the fire at the cropper some ex-husband has come to.