Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Love, Shakespeare, and Everything In Between

What does love have to do with discipline?  What does discipline have to do with purity?  What does purity have to do with fruitfulness?

What does acting have to do with any of this?

Over the past few months, I have been writing about the connection between Eros and God, a connection that Pope Benedict XVI boldly details in his first encyclical , and which some theologians (in my opinion) misconstrue

Lately, I've written about something else that gets misconstrued - acting.  I've been writing about the tendency in acting circles to say it's all about emotion and not about what contains or directs the emotion; indeed it's all about feelings and not about purpose.  This fashion becomes a disdain for technique or even discipline, which stems from the modern notion that content can exist without form or that anything that constrains or holds us back or shapes us is suspect.

And when it comes to Shakespeare you really see this in spades.  As the photo here proves I have personal experience acting Shakespeare poorly.  I've also had enough experience directing Shakespeare to know that actors approach the Bard the way they approach all acting - gin up those feelings, baby Emote!  Emote!  If you don't feel it, it ain't real!  Thus an actor can do a very emotional performance of a Shakespearian speech without realizing at all that there's a point to this speech and a direction for this emotion. 

Shakespeare's characters do more than spout dialogue and gush sentiment - they use rhetoric.  Most of the speeches in all of the plays are rhetorical, by which I mean intellectual and emotional arguments a particular character presents to build a rational case for who he is and what he is doing.  There's a ton of philosophy in Shakespeare, coming at us from as many points of view as there are personae in the dramatis.  And one of the points of the drama is to see how the consequences of these conflicting philosophies play themselves out.

But not only do many actors overlook the rhetorical shape of the speeches they perform, they think it's wrong for anyone to suggest that these speeches - or this character - or the play that contains them - means anything other than the (usually narrow and self-serving) meaning they impose upon all of it arbitrarily and ahead of time - which is how they look at life:  disconnected fragmentary bits of emotion and experience without a point to any of it beyond whatever subjective point a person may choose to impose as the mood strikes him.

This is all rather Forced or Contrived.  But when you're taught to impose an interpretation on a character even while learning lines in the privacy of your bedroom, what else can be expected?

This all ties in to my latest post, Everything I Know about Theology and Economics I Learned from "Cracked", in which I touch upon the Cult of Sterility, or the modern devotion (sometimes unwilling devotion) to activities that bear no fruit.

In the same way that we tend to think the emotions in Shakespeare are for show and not for a purpose; in the same way we tend to think that art is for self-expression, and not for the expression of anything beyond self; in the same way that we expect sex to be barren; and in the same way that labor in an Economy of Usury becomes pointless, so all of life ends up serving the idol Priapus-Wearing-a-Condom - and through all of this we are witnessing the effects of cutting off Eros from its target.


By contrast ...

"Desire therefore my words; long for them and you shall be instructed," the Holy Spirit tells us in the Book of Wisdom (6:11) - which is to say, "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you."  (Matthew 7:7).

Ontologically speaking, salvation begins with God's desire for us.  But psychologically speaking, salvation begins with our desire for God.  This desire, this longing, this seeking is Purpose - it is a desire, a longing, a seeking for Something Real - for Someone Real (despite what the modern world tells us).

"For the first step toward discipline is a very earnest desire for her," we are told (Wisdom 6:17), this "her" being Wisdom, or the chief gift of the Holy Spirit, and Wisdom being nothing less than intimacy with God Himself.  "Then," the book of Wisdom continues, "care for discipline is love of her; love means the keeping of her laws; to observe her laws is the basis for incorruptibility; and incorruptibility makes one close to God; thus the desire for Wisdom leads up to a kingdom."

In other words,

the first step toward discipline is a very earnest desire for her

a longing, an earnest upward desire, an Eros starts our journey. 

Then, care for discipline is love of her

"Then" (meaning "after this"), the journey makes progress via discipline.  Our care for discipline (suffering is a form of discipline) is an expression of this love. 

Love means the keeping of her laws

Realizing that love has laws and that by con-forming to the Law of Love is what metanoia is all about ("And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" - Romans 12:2)

to observe her laws is the basis for incorruptibility

Incorruptibility is purity, sanctification ("For this corruptible must put on incorruption" - 1 Cor. 15:53)

and incorruptibility makes one close to God; thus the desire for Wisdom leads up to a kingdom.

"The benefit that you receive is sanctification and its end is eternal life." (Romans 6:22)

This is how God has designed it to work: desire leads to discipline leads to holiness leads to Him.

Contrary to the modern world, then, Scripture tells us that

1. Eros has a point while "safe sex" does not;

2. consenting to Discipline is an expression of Eros - which is to say you can't become a virtuoso pianist if you don't honor the fact that music depends upon the metronome;

3. this Discipline teaches us to follow the objective Laws of Love, though the modern world tells us that nothing in creation obeys any fixed law, especially human nature and certainly not love; and

4. by conforming to these Laws our Love becomes pure or perfected (contrast this with the modern notion that love is just an itch you scratch);

5. and since "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18), we are lifted above our petty selves and brought to true happiness, which is heaven, the face of God, the purpose of our existence.

Got that?

Now I've got to get back to reading funny articles on Cracked.

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