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LOST PIECE an undergraduate journal of letters

VOLUME II, ISSUE III

Know Thyself

LOST PIECE: Volume II - Issue III

Copyright, Lost Piece; All rights reserved. No part of this journal may be used or reproduced by any means,

graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, record-

ing, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the EditorInChief except in the case of brief in this journal are printed with explicit permission of their authors. quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. The works included

Lost Piece: An Undergraduate Journal of Letters The University of Notre Dame Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

an undergraduate journal of letters

LOST PIECE an undergraduate journal of letters


VOLUME II, ISSUE III

Know Thyself

Stephen Lechner Raymond Korson Josef Kuhn Conor Rogers


Editors

Editor-in-Chief

LOST PIECE: Volume II - Issue III

Something of a Mission Statement


From the Editors

Lost Piece exists to facilitate undergraduate reading, discussion, and writing of an intellectual nature beyond course curriculum and without distraction from the grade point average. Lost Piece seeks to help undergraduates to complement and even unify what they learn in their classes with their own personally driven intellectual pursuits. The goal of Lost Piece is to combat mediocrity in all things, and particularly in all things intellectual. Lost Piece holds that the goods proper to intellectual activity are ends in and of themselves and are to be sought regardless of whatever recognitions may or may not be extrinsically attached to such activity.

an undergraduate journal of letters

Table of Contents

Lost Piece: Volume II, Issue II

Something of a Mission Statement From the Editors ...........................................................................4 Meet the Writers Lost Piece.......................................................................................7 A Dialogue On Delphi The Editors.....................................................................................9 Why I Didnt Vote Josef Kuhn......................................................................................15 Your Honor William Stewart............................................................................23 Anatta Brittany Burgeson..........................................................................27 Desire Taylor Nutter.................................................................................28 Love is the Reason for Obedience James Schmidt................................................................................29 Song of Ourselves Christina Mastrucci.......................................................................35 Lack Thereof Catherine Groden...........................................................................37 Liturgical Emotion Michael Black.................................................................................41 In Short, I Am... Sara McGuirk................................................................................49 Black Swan: Humanity and the Perils of Icarus Thomas Graff.................................................................................55 5

LOST PIECE: Volume II - Issue III

Contribute to Lost Piece


Please consider writingwhether essay, poem, story, or what-haveyoufor the Fall 2011 Semester of Lost Piece. Write what you think is pertinent to the life of a student, whatever that might be Pose a question Or offer an answer Write at whatever length you need But write well. Submit your work to Stephen Lechner at slechner@nd.edu by May 20th.

an undergraduate journal of letters

Meet the Writers


These groups have contributed to the writing of the Fall 2010 Edition of Lost Piece. We encourage you, as an undergraduate, to contribute your writing to future editions whether individually or as part of any such intellectual society. You can send your writing and feedback to the editor at slechner@nd.edu. k

The Program of Liberal Studies: So it turns out that PLS students dont only like to talk about such trivial things as free will or the meaning of life as approached through the lens of certain Great Books, but they also like, even need, to engage ideas wherever they can find them. Thats why a few of them got together to watch movies every week, first as a social event and later more as a discussion group.They like to think they are staying true to the spirit of the word seminar (which literally means seedbed) by holding profound conversations on their own from which they hope to bear the fruits of new ideas, serious dialogue, and lasting friendships.
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Istum: (Also called That Thing) Three years ago, a group of friends decided to get together every weekend to start a literary society. Its members include students from the Colleges of Arts and Letters, Science, and Engineering, but strangely none from the college of Business. They write, simply put, despite the obvious fact that they are only tyro writers, and they criticize each others writing as best they can. One of their goals is to bring back the essay (which literally means an attempt) as a form of writing and as a rhetorical work of art. The group takes its name from one of Ciceros orations.

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T: T is a group of undergraduates who meet together to discuss issues of importance, ranging from theology to philosophy to current issues in any and all fields. It is a casually structured, socially engaging event that welcomes the opportunity to find both common ground and a multitude of opinions on topics. And they drink tea, too. Mustard: Mustard is Notre Dames undergraudate creative writing club. They share their writing with each other and offer constructive and friendly criticism of their work at their 9:00 PM Wednesday meetings in the Gold Room of La Fortune. Writing is encouraged, though not required for participation, and new members are always welcome. Email mustard@nd.edu for more information.
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The Philosophy Club: The Philosophy Club is a group of a few dozen undergraduates who enjoy arguing, using big words, attempting to answer lifes great questions, asking more questions, and arguing. The Orestes Brownson Council: As a club, OBC is focused on better understanding the Catholic intellectual tradition and its interaction with philosophy, politics, and culture. It takes its name from the American Catholic political thinker who is buried in the crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Orestes Brownson.

an undergraduate journal of letters

A Dialogue On Delphi
at lunch. Ray: Manand I got Grab n Go Four of the great minds of the Steve: (pouring himself a genage sit in South Dining Hall siperous glass) Well, Im not gonna ping chilled Bordeaux. The hall is complain. packed. The bells of Sacred Heart Conor: Now, what I want still ring their song of six oclock. to know is, why is that there? Sunlight sets through the tall (points to the new painting on windows casting a streak of bright the wall) color, somehow both orange and red, Joey: Oh, thats Colliers across the floor, up the wall, and on Priestess of Delphi. From somethe face of a newly hung painting. time around the late 1800s. Joey: (sitting down with his Conor: Itskind of creepy tray of food) UmmConor, Ray: I think its pretty cool, where did you get caviar? actually. See the air bursting out Conor: Oh, you didnt see it? of the earth? The way shes holdIts over in the pizza section, but ing that bowl in her hands the lines pretty long, it might Steve: Yeah, the red shes not be worth it. wearing is pretty striking. And Steve: (inspecting a bottle of her facethe look shes hiding 1996 Saint-Julien Bordeaux from under those closed eyesyou their table) So, is today some can almost hear her whispering, kind of occasion? KNOW THYSELF!You Conor: I heard the dining think somebodys trying to tell halls trying to respond to last us something by putting that weeks Viewpoint stink over the painting up? quality of food here. They had Ray: Oh, come on. Do people filet mignon and shrimp cocktail even know who the priestess of
The Editors from the Class of 2011

An Introduction

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Delphi was? Nobody would make that connection. Steve: Yeah they would. All they have to do is read a little bit of Plato. Its all over his dialogues. Ray: Yeah, but not many people read Plato, do they? Steve: Owthats a sad thought(drinks more wine) Conor: I think most people read at least a dialogue or two for their intro philo classes. Delphis in the Apology, right? Thats a pretty common intro reading. Joey: Yeah, but even if people do catch the reference, how many people do you think have really comprehended what that meansto know theyself ? I mean, its a hard message to take to heart. Look what happened in Socrates case. Conor: I agree, Joey. Selfreflection is not the kind of thing that you can just suddenly

do right. It takes effort, and time, and most importantly, an extraordinary level of honesty. And I just dont know if the typical undergrads are willing to be that honest with themselves Steve: (laughing) Owthats a sad thought (drinks more wine) Conor: No, but really. Were talking about something really difficult, and I dont think most people will ever do it. I mean, whether you like Socrates or not, he had a pointpractically nobody realizes that they dont know. Why couldnt the people of Athens take it? Because he was right, and on top of having been insulted by him, they couldnt accept the fact that they didnt know. Because that takeswell, humility, I guess. Joey: Actually, that sounds a lot like something I just read by T. S. Eliot, now that you mention it

Do not let me hear Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly, Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession, Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God. The only wisdom we can hope to acquire Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

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an undergraduate journal of letters

Something like that, anyway. Ray: So what does it take for someone to know themselves or know that they dont know or become wise or whatever? (As they ponder, Steve pours himself another glass) Conor: Well, talking with friends, for one. I mean, there are things about yourself that other people can see clearly, that you would never be able to know on your own. Steve: I completely agree we are really good at tricking ourselves. Even you and me. I mean, just think of all the little assumptions we make about ourselves and other people all the timeeven now, in this very conversation. Were all assuming were doing something worthwhile, that what Im saying or about to say is somehow going to be worth your time, your attention, your thought. But what if what Im saying is totally absurd? (they all laugh, Steve smiles too and takes a swig, continues) It doesnt appear that way to me, of course, buthow am I to know if it is absurd unless somebody 11

tells me? Joey: Actually, I think thats true about ideas too, not just stuff about yourself, like Conor was saying. The worlds a big place, and there are a lot of ways of looking at it, so youre not likely to consider all the possibilities that you need to consider just on your own. It takes dialogue to really get anywhere; otherwise, were just a bunch of individuals who will always be bumping into each other because we cant understand one anothers languages. Like in the story of the Tower of Babel. Steve: (laughing) Wow, thanks, Socrates. Way to throw a plug in for dialectic conversation. (drinks) Joey: No, really. I mean, the university and all these other groups are always going on about dialogue all the time, and regardless of whether they actually know what it means to have a dialogue, I think theyve got the right idea. Ray: (pouring more wine for the others) But do undergrads here actually do that? Are people

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really trying to figure things out in dialogue or conversation or what-have-you? (They listen to the hum of the dinner crowd talking. Conor stirs his caviar sheepishly.) Conor: Well, thats kind of what the idea behind Lost Piece was, right? We wantedto help. Give an outlet forwords, ideas Joey: (nodding his head thoughtfully, listening to the hum) Do you think it worked? Ray: Oh, yeah, I think it did. It helped, anyway. A lot of students wrote. A lot are reading. Conor: And its just beginning, really. We have the editors picked out for next year. Theyll do a good job, keep it alive. (The hum continues, they sip quietly.) Joey: But will it be enough? There is a crash of broken glass as Steve, having leapt onto a table to address the denizens of the dining hall, throws two empty bottles of Bordeaux to the ground. Steve: And why are you all here? You, here, at Notre Dame, on someone elses money, perhaps, or on two-hundred 12

thousand dollars of your own? Have you considered it? Didnt you make the decision to attend a university, and this university at that? Well? What was it for? A diploma? Or an education? A diploma, many of you would say if you were being honest with yourselves. Honest. Im an honest man, you say, and its no harm to want to be securely employed after graduation. And honest you may be, but I have this against you: It is much easier to escape unemployment than it is to escape mediocrityfor mediocrity runs deeper than unemployment. And now, because I am impractical and have studied the arts, having felt the need to pursue impossible questions, I might be drenched by the swift current of unemploymentmaybe, for who knows what the market may bring. But youdiplomatists, being practical, having pursued mere job-training, having gotten all the right internships and now having a large income set up for next year, you will find yourselves drowning in the deep

an undergraduate journal of letters

doldrums of mediocrity. For what is more dull than a man or woman who could have excelled a man or woman who had a unique opportunity, even a unique ability to achieve an education a man or woman who could have become something, something real, something relevant, something legitimate and yet who settled for security, and therefore remained little, average, mediocre? That was too easy, if you ask me. So now I graduate, condemned, youd say, to pay the penalty of unemployment, but you, you will be damned by Reality for your dullness and mediocrity. I will bear my penalty, but so you will yours. Perhaps it is even good that we do Laughter! Are you laughing at me because I am drunk? Oh, but I know what I say is true, whether you laugh or not. But you, dont tell me that you have not been drunk beforeI have seen you drunk before, and often. But your drunkenness is for nothing, not for sorrow, not for joy. Even your drunkenness is mediocre. And you are wrong 13

if you believe that by ignoring people you can prevent anyone from judging you for your mediocrity. No one can avoid such judgment, nor would it be good to avoid it. All that anyone can hope to do is to try to be as legitimate as possible. But an educationsome of you will say instead that that is what you are here for. And if you are honest (and honest you might not be, but if you are honest), then graduation will only be like a journey from here to another place. Because for you, studentsand the name student, one who has zeal, properly applies only to youyour education will not end, but flourish with graduation. For if you arrive at graduation, employed or unemployed, released from the distraction of those who claim to be students, you may yet find through your own pursuit those who were students in truth. You may yet, by reading, converse and associate with Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and many more, and this, for you, will bring undoubted legitimacy.

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So you too, students, should be of good hope towards graduation, and you should know this one thing to be true: that there is no misfortune that can befall an interesting and legitimate person, whether employed or unemployed, from which God will turn away, indifferent. Thus, with a new commandment, I challenge you who remain at this university come next fall: Ridicule one another, even as I have ridiculed you, if that other seems to care for a GPA or a diploma or anything else before intellectual legitimacy. And if others are reputed to be something when they are nothing, reproach them just as I did you: Tell them that they do not care for the things they should, and that they suppose they are something when they are worth nothing. And if you do these things, you will have treated all legitimate students with justice. Most of the crowd only see Steve faint at the end of his ridiculous, drunken oration, for it takes the entire duration of his rant before 14

his shouts overcame the halls hum. Twilight lingers as the others, still very alarmed at the evenings events, carry him off to bed. k

an undergraduate journal of letters

Why I Didnt Vote


Josef Kuhn Class of 2011 Program of Liberal Studies

An Essay

This past November, my grandmother kindly went to the trouble of obtaining an absentee ballot for me to vote in the Pennsylvania midterm elections, but I never filled that ballot out, and it now lies in a trash heap somewhere. I wasnt trying to spite my grandmother. I made a deliberate, reasoned choice not to voteyes, you can do such a thing. I am not referring to a decision to abstain because neither major party strikes your fancy, or because you reject the countrys entire political-economic system. My decision was not guided by any such political angst, although such a motive for abstention may be perfectly legitimate. No, my decision was motivated, quite simply, by my own ignorance. But let me explain further. As I approached the first election for which I would be of legal 15

voting age, I was a little puzzled as to why all my elder relations were so supremely concerned with whether I planned to vote. Strangely, they did not seem at all concerned whether I would cast an informed, judicious vote. None of them made any efforts to ensure that my political education was sufficient, aside from tossing a few pro-life pamphlets at me. Of course, this aroused my suspicion that my elders were only desirous to add one more tally to the party of their own political persuasion. My puzzlement at this odd approach to civic duty did not abate. It stuck with me until I was recently reminded of it by, of all things, a Doritos bag. On the back of this bag was a marketing shtick claiming, Doritos Supports Kids Who Do Something! (or along those lines). The bag profiled a young man who had founded an organization to increase the number of young people voting. Now,

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I must make it clear that I am fully in support of the intentions of this noble endeavor. But this crinkly bag of snack food called my attention back to something fishy about the prevailing attitude toward elections. This was the same fishiness I had smelt around my relatives, and it consisted in this: the Doritos bag praised this young mans organization simply for increasing the youth vote by 250,000, or some number, without any mention of the quality of those votes. It might seems strange to talk about the quality of a vote, but I believe it only seems strange because we are not used to talking about it, and that is because all peoples opinions must be regarded as equal, etc., etc. But when I say quality of a vote, I mean simply the common notion, taught in all civics classes, that a citizen must investigate the candidates thoroughly and make a sensible and impartial decision, to the best of his or her abilities. Shouldnt we be more concerned with the lack of voter quality than of voter quantity? 16

How does an increase in votes by 250,000 benefit the nation, if each of those votes might have been chosen based on the names of the candidates or completely at random, for all we know? Yet one seldom hears a big todo made over any attempts by individuals or organizations to enable the citizenry to carry out their civic duty with prudence and justice. I am sure that such attempts existmaybe the organization featured on the Doritos bag even has an educational and informational branchbut this crucial side of the duty of voting is too often ignored. That Doritos bag represented to me what seems to be the common opinion of voting in America (I am not sure about the rest of the democratic world). Around election time, you hear one rallying cry taken up on all sides around you in the form of trite slogans: Get Out and Vote! Make Your Voice Heard! These slogans have begun to irritate me to no end, not because of what they advocateof course everyone in

an undergraduate journal of letters

a democracy should participate in the governmentbut because they are never balanced by the necessary and complementary exhortations: Know Your Candidates! Research the Issues! Be Fair-Minded and Consider the Common Good, Rather than Only Your Petty Passions! The common slogans imply that the duty of voting is fulfilled in a single event, that voting is just something you go out and do on election day. But in reality, the democratic duty to vote is a continual duty, and it involves much more than most people would like to believe. It requires consistent attention to happenings in the public world, whether on the national, state, or local level, and thoroughgoing investigation of the candidates in the period running up to the election. It also requires a serious attempt to grasp all the complexities and nuances involved in highly controversial issues. In short, the duty of voting demands both time and mental effort, yes, even a lot of each. But such is the sacrifice we must make to live 17

in a free society. To the extent that each of us fails to make these sacrifices, we let ourselves be guided by forces above our heads, and we cease to be free. While were on the topic, I might as well point out that those forces over our heads are often the very forces that give us the illusion of freedom of choice. I am referring to the media, to the advertising campaigns of the politicians, and to the government itself. These agencies do very little to facilitate informed decisions, and often actively stymie rational deliberation. In general, it is fairly safe to say that any media message is strategically designed to work on your passions and prejudices, for one side or the other. And of course, there are only two sides to every issue. Every political matter, down to the tiniest administrative detail, is immediately turned into a game of tug-of-war by ultra-polarized politicians and pundits, so that one can never even get the facts straight. And the PR teams of most politicians do their utmost to make their

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candidates platform as vague as possible and to keep any bits of concrete information from creeping into campaign advertisements and websites. The portraits of the candidates that we get from them are, of course, meticulously crafted. Where can one turn in this quagmire? It would be nice if one could find an agency or publication with the express purpose of providing busy citizens with clearly organized, objective information on political candidates and governmental proceedings, but to my knowledge no such agency exists. Entrepreneurial types, take notehere is an enormous gap in the information market, just crying to be filled. And it seems that the Internet was made for such uses. But to hope for a truly objective political news source is probably to search for the philosophers stone. In the present state of things, there are some sources of honest information and voices of intelligent opinion within the media, but these are few and hard to find. They mostly hide 18

out in the written species of medianewspapers, magazines, and books, on paper or online. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people pay attention to these sources as they are drowned out by more insistent and illiberal voices on the television and the radio. Because of all the obstacles mentioned above, the best (maybe only) possible way to be really informed about what you are voting for is to actually get involved in the government and get know the candidates personally. Of course, that is pretty hard to do on the national and even the state level, so your best bet is to start locally. Coincidentally, the level of government that should affect your day-to-day life most directly (the local) is also the level in which your voice can most easily have an actual impact. But paradoxically, people seem to pay more attention to political matters the less power they have to affect them. You may know everything there is to know about Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, but can

an undergraduate journal of letters

you even name your city council member or the mayor of your town? I know I cant. Perhaps you might argue that the decisions of the federal government affect your life much more than those of your municipal government. That may very well be the case, but then we are faced with a different question: Is this how it ought to be? At any rate, we know with certainty that it has not always been this way. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the strength and vivacity of the American democracy in the 19th century depended on its highly local nature, centered around mostly autonomous townships. It seems worrisome to me if the nation has gotten to the point at which the matters most directly touching your home and your personal life are decided largely by people sitting in a room thousands of miles away who have never been to your town and who cannot possibly know its character and its needs. You elect these people, but you are forced to do so based on projected facades and 19

unreliable hearsay, for you have never had the chance to meet them. Now, back to why I didnt vote. I make no claim to be the perfect citizenfar from it. As I said, I dont even know the names of any of my local representatives. Laziness and neglect were part of the reasons why I didnt vote in the midterms. If voting is a duty, then I admit outright that I failed in that duty. But rightly recognizing the problem is half of the solution. I failed because I failed to inform myself sufficiently about the issues and the candidates over a period of time, not because I failed to check some boxes on a piece of paper in some single instance of time. The reasons for this failure were partially beyond my control, as I am a busy college student with little free time to dedicate to following political news, and as the information needed to make an informed and wise decision is not made easily available by either the media or the candidates themselves. But my failure was also partially my own fault, as

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I could have made more of an effort to learn about the political goings-on affecting the general public rather than being so selfishly absorbed in my own college life. The single-minded focus on increasing the quantity of votes is not an isolated problem; it reflects a widespread, willful blindness to our nations most serious political ills. Psychologically, its an easy phenomenon to explain. Our natural inclination as humans is to avoid exertion whenever possible, and this applies no less to mental than to physical exertion. Thats why were always trying to simplify issues that cannot really be simplified, convincing ourselves that big problems are easy to solve. We want to believe that if we just pitch in more money here or fire those people there, everything will come up roses. This is the same reason why political discourse is so polarized now; its much easier to fall back on a prepackaged platform than to actually have to do your own thinking and research. That way 20

you know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys; everything is simple. What is this but sheer mental laziness? So I admit that I failed in my democratic duty because I didnt sacrifice enough time and effort to bring myself to the level at which I felt sufficiently informed to vote; but how much more do they fail in their duty who do not even recognize that they must sacrifice much time and effort to bring themselves to this level? Was my failure any worse than that of those who did vote, but voted for candidates they had never even heard of based on mere party prejudice, or voted for candidates based on judgments they had formed hastily from a few vague impressions gotten from TV or YouTube? Let us call things what they are. If shortcoming is shortcoming, and failure is failure, than the vast majority of those who vote also come short of the mark for a responsible citizen of a democracy and fail in their democratic duty. I realize that I am setting the

an undergraduate journal of letters

mark extremely high, but a dose of idealism may be just what the illness calls for. Someone in a democracy has to stand up for virtue and excellence over mediocrity. I also realize that if my reasoning were put into practice, almost nobody would allow themselves to vote. Or worse yet, the best and wisest men and women, who are able to contemplate their own ignorance, would not vote, leaving the vote entirely to the most foolish segments of the population. When I discussed my argument in this essay with a friend, he replied, But Joey, youre probably more knowledgeable about the candidates than a lot of the people who do vote! I do not dispute this point. This is why I am not recommending my decision as a pragmatic course of widespread action. No person can presume to decide for any other person at what point he or she is knowledgeable enough to cast a responsible vote. Where would you draw the line? It would have to be arbitrary, just as the voting age is arbitrary. Thus, the decision to vote or not 21

to vote must be a matter of conscience. I did not vote because, like Socrates, I was conscious of my own ignorance in the field of politics. My conscience told me that it would be irresponsible and pointless for me to vote given my level of ignorance. All I can ask you to do is to carefully consider, before you go to the ballot box, how much time and thought you have put into your decision, and whether you are carrying out your duty to your country in the manner of a truly responsible, educated, and upstanding citizen. If the answer is less than satisfactory, you can still vote if you want to, but you must by all means make an effort to get closer to that ideal by the next election. And all do-gooders with well-formed intentions and less well-formed reasoning faculties can stop pestering everyone to vote. If people arent voting, theres probably a good reason for it, and were probably better off because of it.k

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on behalf of all those who work to make


Lost Piece happen...

e
Thanks For Reading

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an undergraduate journal of letters

Your Honor
the plaintiff the amount in full of damages incurred by such a transfer. The court is now The sky presented an ambigu- adjourned. ous complexion on the morning His secretary flagged down that Your Honor handed down Your Honor as he walked the ruling. Murky grey clouds through the anteroom toward had swirled through the sapphire his office. blue sky that morning, each one Misters Wilcox and Voigt confusing with the other and would like to set a date with you leaving him, as he paused on to meet about the Copstone case. the steps of the courthouse, at They say that they are interested somewhat of a loss to make a in an out-of-court settlement, declaration with any certainty and had hoped that you would about their character: it was mediate. I gave them the tentaunclear whether they constituted tive date of the twelfth. a threatening formation or a That mediation will be optimistic opening in the skies. worthwhile only if they have And further, he concluded, reviewed the business expansion an accurate interpretation of law that was just passed. Tell the renewal clause in 10 of the them to read the last pages of statute clearly demonstrates that that ordinance, especially those the transfer of funds between pertaining to joint corporation the accounts of the company and settlements, before setting the Mr. Silberman is unlawful and date. In all likelihood, because criminal. This court finds the the law does not allow for complaint levied against the de- grandfather cases, theirs will no fendant legitimate and mandates longer be eligible for this kind that his party shall remunerate of mediation and will have to be
William Stewart Class of 2012 Program of Liberal Studies

A Story

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heard in court. Tell them that they can call me with questions. Im sure theyll have them. While eating lunch later that afternoon, Your Honor explained to Harris, a friend of his from law school and a recent appointee to the bench, the nature of their position. Wearing the robe is not only about passing a judgment. It is about authoring an objective conclusion from a subjective presentation. No matter the weight the decision carries, society depends on your words. People enter the court because they are confused and because the sentences of the judge offer them a reassuring direction in the midst of conflict. Never forget that: even when people outwardly disagree with your decisions, they thank you inwardly for the certainty you provide them. You give them something solid to trust, even when they cannot understand it. Your Honor took the expressway back home to the suburbs, listening to the days news on the radio and only losing a few 24

minutes in a slight traffic delay. Pulling into his driveway, he saw that his wife was already home. Seeing her car always reassured him. Since the purchase of the house, a chronic, nagging fear had lodged itself firmly in the back of his mind. It poked and prodded him throughout the day to second-guess if all of the doors had been locked and the iron and stove burners had actually been switched off. He constantly feared arriving home to a street of fire trucks drowning his five bedroom Tudor, and seeing his wifes car let him breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that, if anything had occurred, she would have found it first and probably called him to let him know. Walking through the door, he greeted his wife with a kiss and proceeded to loosen his tie. How were their days, they asked each other. Uneventful, Your Honor answered her. The same, she responded. He never knew how to push that question, how to ask her to say more without prying or sounding overprotective.

an undergraduate journal of letters

What did his wife do during the day, he wondered. She wore tennis skirts and joined womens leagues, but how could he ever have any surety that what she told him was the truth? There was no way to really know, he ruminated silently over the pork chop and peas. Who was she when they werent together at the house? He crumpled the paper over into his lap, pausing to think about how to phrase the question, but then decided against it, picking the Market section back up. Hmm? she asked him from across the room, but he just shook his head. His wife went to sleep, but Your Honor stayed awake, sitting up in the bed, flipping through the muted channels. He paused on a late night talk show, the pale blue of the television painting his expressionless face. The host was interviewing an economist whose name looked familiar to Your Honor, though he could not remember where he had come across it. The box at the bottom of the screen bearing the name titled him as an author 25

as well as a professor, and Your Honor glanced at his bedside table. There, in raised, metallic letters along the spine of a popular-economics bestseller, Your Honor read the name of the same economist being interviewed. He picked up his copy and studied its bright blue cover before flipping the pages. Although he hadnt actually finished the book, he remembered enjoying its simplicity and exciting pace. He looked back at the screen and author, whose hand gestures and lip movements appeared comical behind the mute button. What would it feel like to be an expert like that and have an answer for everyone, he thought to himself. He had liked economics in college, he remembered, liked it enough to even major in it, but he couldnt quite think why he had left it for law school. He wondered if he would have made a decent academic, if he could have ended up an economics professor. The law had been good to him, though, had been a sure pathway to economic stability. It was a good

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choice for his family. He looked at the sleeping curve of his wife. Though she never said it, she probably thanked him inwardly for the choice.k

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an undergraduate journal of letters

Anatta (The Not-Self )


Brittany Burgeson Class of 2012 Mustard

A Poem

I is neither ID nor egos sum of ideas, Aspirations; the sculpted vibrations of lettered objects on a face I cannot be contained in a vat brain on an odd pedestal I scratch three lines an exasperated sigh I, I, I. k

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Desire

Taylor Nutter Class of 2014 Philosophy Major

A Poem

A dream of endless, endless plains The subtleties of miles Of endless, countless, flowing grain Of pleasure in a smile Musics soft resounding din The horizon lying soft, beyond But in the waking life were in It seems these things they do abscond For it is into thoughtless dreams That even the old men retire For it is not a passion they seek No, naught but desire k

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Love is the Reason for Obedience


James Schmidt Class of 2013 Istum

An Essay

There seems to be great confusion about a lot of things these days. I wish here to dispel just one of them. I want to find the justification for obedience, my answer to which is suggestively hidden in the title. There is also a problem of authority, i.e. what justifies it, but I am not going to ask this question. For my inquiry, I want to ask When there is legitimate authority and when that authority commands or requests some (legitimate) action, what justifies doing what the authority says? In other words what reason can be given (other than the obvious but altogether unsatisfying one because so-and-so said so) for doing such-and-such? I want to restrict my attention to cases in which the authority is a person with whom the subject of obedience has a personal relationship, and therefore exclude questions 29

of the states or an institutions authority. But my goal is actually to widen application of acting obediently. Before getting started, it may be helpful to get clear about what exactly obedience is, or rather, what circumstances constitute acting according to another persons say-so as an act of obedience? The first thing necessary is a legitimate claim to authority. So if a shady character takes someone by force and demands that he empties his wallet, he may receive the reply, Excuse me sir, I am on my way to a meeting right now and I am running a bit late. Id rather you not delay me any longer and in this case we would not say the man was acting disobediently. The second thing has to do with the request itself. Say some kids mother poisons the soup while cooking dinner and tells them, Eat this. A refusal here should not be considered disobedience, not because a mother isnt a

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legitimate authority, but because the thing commanded is not a legitimate thing to ask. So I will assume that there is a certain amount of legitimacy in the authority itself and in the thing asked, but exactly where the line is to be drawn for these cases isnt very clear and it is not my deal here to correct that. But there are cases in which the legitimacy of the thing asked is not itself clear, but acting accordingly could be justified. A friend once asked me if I would drop smoking for my wife and I responded, Absolutely, without a moments thought- if it was because she found it distasteful but if it was because of moral uneasiness about the matter, then no way, Jose! I changed my position later, and it is definitely not because I came to justify bad ethics1 but because a wife is the type of thing to love, and love is the type of thing in which the reason for acting is one that refers to what someone else wants without checking the rationale of those wants against another criterion (e.g. the agents

wants).2 The example I give shows the reason I say one is justified in acting obediently (even if the example is not obedience proper). Someone is not justified in acting only by because that person said so since we could ask But why do what that person says or wants? The answer I provide- Because I love that person- is where I say the question of obedience stops (i.e. the question Why did you do that?) and where another question, if
1

I should perhaps qualify this by noting that if the ethics were really out of line, say apathy about coldblooded murder then my reaction would be a bit different. But given that I see the morality of smoking as a relatively pointless topic, I accept it as a justifiable reason to go one way or another. This example just marks the difficulty in drawing lines in certain situations.
2

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I dont exactly know where love falls into philosophy on action. I have referenced Anscombes claim before that our reasons can be traced to a desirability characteristic of the agent (Intention sec. 37) but I think love is a clear divergence from that. Someone could say Well you act because you want what they want and I guess thats true, but I think a lover would justify his action by saying I did it because you wanted it not because I want what you want.

an undergraduate journal of letters

it must be asked, begins: Why do you love that person? But before going any further I want to explain the value of obedience in this light. When one acts for love of another person, what makes acting according to their say-so different from acting e.g. only because it will be good for them? Lets take an example. Your mom asks you to wash the dishes. If you do what she asks we call it obedience. Or you come home and notice the stack of dishes. You do them then and there, but we do not say you were being obedient. The second is a very noble thing to do, indeed, but I want to mark a distinction between the two kinds of acts. I will first present the argument and then tackle a complication that comes up. If you see the dishes are stacked up and do them there could be a variety of reasons that you do them: they need to get done anyway, or your mom will probably ask you later (so better now than then), or you dont like the smell of dirty dishes, or because you know it will make your mom happy. 31

Now a key feature I see in acting for such reasons is that it contains an explicit awareness of the good to be brought about by the action (the good I am referring to here is the dishes getting done). If I e.g. just turned on the dishwasher (lets say even doing this is an arduous task) and was told But there arent any dishes in there then I wouldnt have the dishes need to be done as a reason for doing it.3 Now say your mom says Do such-andsuch, but you dont know what good reason there could be for doing it. If you act according to your love for her, then love for her is the only good reason you have for doing it. So obedience sort of sifts out the reasons we could have for doing something and makes it exclusively or primarily the persons asking it of us, and in the case of my present argument, love for the person asking it of us. Now you could
3 Anscombe points this out in Intention.

Why are you going upstairs? To fetch the camera But the camera isnt upstairs, its on the table down here We would be at a loss to understand why he is still walking up the stairs.

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say But when your mom asks you to do the dishes, you could still have all those other qualifying reasons in addition. So for things the good of which is known by the agent there does seem to be a difficulty. But I say, if your action was done because of the request (e.g. you would have been reading Lost Piece if she hadnt asked), then I think we can still be sure that it is the primary reason. Anyway, questions and problems of obedience are usually directed towards uncertainty about what good there is in complying (i.e. blind obedience) and my argument is about that. Before going on to the complication, I clarify the role of requests or commands. According to this reason for acting obediently, a command does not play the role of commanding, but rather expressing the other persons wants, in like manner when I tell my friend, Guess who I talked to today? what is happening is not the revelation of some dry historical fact (that James talked to so-and-so today); I 32

am sharing with someone I care about and someone who cares about me something that I want him to know because it was an event that I take an evaluative stance on and would like my friend to share in. In other words, we shouldnt be too quick to say that what is contained in a statement made between persons (as opposed to e.g. what I say in this philosophy essay as I write it in my computer) is adequately expressed merely by the language. In point of fact, I am expressly trying to change the attitude we take on the language used in cases of commanding. Now there seems to be a problem with thinking that satisfying anothers wants is all there is to love. Obviously, we wouldnt call it love for a parent to give a child candy every time he asked for it, though at first glance the example doesnt seem to do much here since a child doesnt have a claim to authority. But it is a good example first because it points out that for those who do have a claim to authority, the scope of that authority is still

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an open question and second because satisfying wants maybe isnt the quintessential act of love. A story may help. I was at a party at which a friend and his girlfriend were preparing dinner. The woman wounded her finger and in a fit of anxiety (and devotion!) her man rushed to the store to get the necessary firstaid material. Upon returning, she reprimanded him for not keeping her company while she continued preparing the meal. In this situation, we could see that he might have been justified to leave her- she would have bled to death otherwise! In fact, I would probably say that acting according to her wants in that case would not have been the right way to go. But just because it would be justifiable to have heeded her request, if it would have been, does not impugn that it would have been justifiable all the same to go against it. So what is requested does play some part in whether love can be attributed as the reason for acting as such, and at the beginning I assumed that the 33

things we take as requested are legitimate. But the very problem with obedience is that one acts often without knowing whether or not it is legitimate or good in the first place, which was the very reason I gave for exalting its status as acting primarily out of love. I am not sure yet how to deal with this difficulty. But I would just say that it is unfair to take an example like this and say that we cant reasonably accept the legitimacy of many requests made upon us, just as that clown trying to persuade you that Santa Clause is real wouldnt justify questioning the reasonableness of accepting on trust what a friend tells you happened two hours ago in the lecture you didnt attend. I end by discussing the applications of this reason for obedience. First, it seems it is greatly limited to the people we love. Personally, I dont consider this a constraint, because I think that humans qua humans have some right to our love.4 As an
4

Obviously humans qua humans dont have a right to our obedience, but...

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example, when the professor says, Hush up and pay attention listening to the lecture like it actually matters can be done for a better reason than just because the next test will be brutal if you dont. For those who do not agree, then I suppose the real argument for me to make is that any person we have a certain amount of relationship with has a certain claim to our love, and therefore if they have a certain claim to authority they also have a claim to a certain degree of obedience. But I am not yet sure how to argue this universal dictum of love. Second, the applicability of the solution to cases where there obviously is love is too great- I think- to be brushed off. For this I have human love in mind; it seems that too often once the magic has disappeared in marriage the reasons for a request made by one party are weighed scrupulously by the other, in a way that I dont think is conducive to a healthy married life. Third, there is the problem of the authority of the state, because you cannot love

something impersonal like you can a person.5 But that is not too problematic since we should be cautious of thinking that obedience to an institution can be likened to personal obedience in the first place. Finally, my way of speaking about obedience may seem odd for the contexts that I apply it to. I imagine many problems of obedience are instead problems of authority, which I put off dealing with in this essay. This is partly because I am at a loss about what authority is and partly because I think the motive I put forth for acting obediently can justify it in some cases without even asking about authority. The ultimate point is that we can take our interactions and encounters with people as opportunities to love them; in the case of a request made, I explained how.k

...I have said nothing about the reasons justifying authority.


5

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I hate to say this, but yes, even if the authority is the beloved monarch.

an undergraduate journal of letters

Song of Ourselves
Christina Mastrucci Class of 2011 English Major

A Poem

We live in the green and not in the grass itself. Each spear of summer grass is seen only for its color, but not for how it grows or how it suffocates. The lilacs in the dooryard have withered. Purple mountains roll only to hide the dead in the valley. Wake up, wake up! See the sprawled eagle bathing in its blood, the trail of tears it carved on the faces of the forsaken. Beneath that gulf of bones the bodies of the slain are rotten, unburied, while the spears of summer grass think themselves an island. 35

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Perchance a memory of the soil in our souls can cure our twisted nature, but how does one sow shriveled grass, or yet, a graveyard of lilacs? If we could remember the roots of our hearts, perhaps they would be revived; yet, We live in the green and not in the grass itself. Grass by any other name would still be grass. k

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Lack Thereof
you see; and it was never Daddy anyway. It was Dada, always Dada. I have no idea why. I would like to tell you the The upside is that I retain a story of Lou: believe me. I lot of information about found want to whisper it in your ear objects. and have you pass it on until it But the stories. Anecdotes, becomes something greater and really. Theyre not stories at all, more profound than it really theyre snippets of conversations was. I want to visit his favorite and bemoaning of rules, nothing places on this campus and erect that should be called a story. signs reading, Lou was here. But In any case its a whole form of I dont know what those places social intercourse, the dad thing; might be. one of them starts with a com So you see, I really would like plaint and then another agrees to tell you the story of my father; and elaborates and then theyre but I dont know it myself. off. Theres no reining them in *** until they wear themselves out Its always a jolt, to hear people on their own. tell dad stories. Just the word is Sometimes you want to shut jarring enough. Its short and them up. To give them a piece hard and unfamiliar, with that of your mind, for making light funny a sound that my friends of what theyve got, for resenting from up north can rarely pro- it, even. nounce. Dad. Dad. It should be Thats wanting to be visible to written like that, like cest la vie; them. like something foreign, but not Mostly, though, you want to enough to warrant a translation. be invisible. Let them chatter We hadnt gotten there yet, on, happily oblivious you want
Catherine Groden Class of 2013 Mustard

A Story

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to be allowed to absorb. Luckily thats usually what happens. *** What is a parent, anyway, but a story the child cannot fully tell? My mothers best friend in college was the woman whose house I never wanted to visit because her sons were bigger and picked on me. Clearly I cant tell her story either, my mothers; but if you really want to know she can tell you herself. Words are what she and I have in common; the science I got from my father. I think. *** Today at the game they paraded the cancer survivors around the court. Everyone clapped, for hours it seemed, but once I saw the first man I couldnt. All the stories these people can tell, its not fair. All the pink. Its not fair. What about the others, those whose tragedy doesnt fit in quite the same peg as all the rest? Its a terrible thing to say, but the truth is that its very hard to 38

applaud a list of survivors, however long and diverse and beautiful, lacking the face for which youre always, unconsciously, searching. I didnt try too hard not to cry, watching them. I knew no-one would notice. No-one did. *** I would tell the story if I could. Someone should. But I cant. I can tell you when he was born and when he died, when he graduated and married; but thats no story. Thats an outline. Youd think the least a kid could do would be to tell his own story of those days, but I cant do that either. What does a seven-year-old understand of hospitals? Only that they smell funny and that sometimes the people come out but sometimes they dont. Whats in the bag, Mommy? Blood? But its not red. And then as time goes on memory fragments and locks great chunks of itself away, until there are words to tell a story thats no longer there. The best I could do would be to tell you all the stories since

an undergraduate journal of letters

then, the ones that arent about him in the slightest. *** It was the last week of third grade and, for lack of anything better to do with us, our teacher had passed out Fathers Day Packets. We rushed in from recess, red-faced from the heat and the climb up the narrow staircase, and found the crisp papers, neatly stapled and sitting on each desk. I saw them as I passed other kids places, saw what they said: About My Dad. Things I Do With My Dad. The packet was a fill-in-the-blank, a gift. There were pictures to color. I prepared myself: mine would be different, but that was normal so so what? When I got to my desk, though, it was already different. There was a thick black line through every Dad, and my teachers tidy round handwriting had replaced them all with Mom. I took it straight up to her and asked for a normal one. Then, angry, I sat myself down and filled it out. If Id had the words then, or 39

the self-assurance, I might have said something like: I resent your implication. My family is not broken, nothing is erased, I have a father. Im already different, different in so many ways from the other girls at this little plaid school thanks for setting me apart some more. But maybe I wouldnt have. Maybe I just wanted to see her reaction. Ive forgotten what she said. It was nice of her to remember, really. *** In any case Im not convinced that anyones story can really be told. I cant even tell my own, mostly because I dont know how to frame it. When I try to tell the Story of My Life it always starts with my father and sounds like a tragedy, which it is not. Usually its a comedy. Someones laughing. Most of the time its me. *** I was thirteen and walking home from school with the sisters who live down the street; the younger one was pegging

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me with questions. What does your dad do? Huh? What does he do? But I was an awkward child who didnt yet know how to dance, to answer the question delicately, so as not to make others too uncomfortable; and I said nothing until at last her sister said, too loudly, Hes dead. I laughed so hard I fell off the sidewalk. The older girl was pleased with herself; she thought it was funny too. *** Thats true but its wrong. There are funnier things, like cheese graters and lamps that wont stay lit. Innocent things. You had to be there. You see why true stories are so hard. *** Were having a registry, collecting future marrow donors. So yesterday I called my mother and asked the Questions Which Are Not Asked In This Family, to find out just how personally invested I should be. Turns out its not very much. A moot point I had imagined to be critical. 40

I will crusade for this drive anyway. Even my mother had trouble remembering. Cest la vie. *** What I can tell you is this: that that candle there, that one in the upper left, about to be doused by the dark wind thats the one I just lit. That I put it in that same spot every month, so that when I look back, for just a moment I know where Im coming from. k

an undergraduate journal of letters

Liturgical Emotion
Michael Black Class of 2011 Orestes Brownson Council Philip did not make much account of this warmth and acuteness of feeling, for he said that emotion was not devotion, that tears were no sign that a man was in the grace of God; neither must we suppose a man holy merely because he weeps when he speaks of religion. ~ Bl. Cardinal Newman, Light of Holy Joy

An Essay

Blessed Cardinal Newman is speaking of a difference between emotion and devotion. When we approach the Liturgy, we ought not to seek emotional comfort; one should approach a Liturgy so that he might, in devotion, give himself and submit his will to God. However, the emotion he is addressing is the Anglican understanding in post-Lockean, nineteenth century positivist England. Positivism, among others things, is the philosophical doctrine contending that sense perceptions are the only admissible basis of human knowledge and precise thought. He is not arguing for a rationalist denial of any role for emotions in the Liturgy; emotions in fact help us grow in devotion. A simple look in any medieval Church is full of art and architecture meant to arouse the senses. Rather, Newman argues against emotions as the end of the liturgical prayer and as the summit of ones

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ascent to God. In this essay I call for a renewed understanding of the role emotions play in the life of true devotion and ascent to God. I will argue with Cardinal Newman that this positivist notion of emotions is not devotion and a Liturgical Life oriented towards eliciting this kind of emotional response and comfort is disordered. This is not to say that emotions have no role in ones approach to the Liturgy and the Blessed Sacrament. What I will argue, then, is for a higher sense of emotion that, though an intellectual response, is not inwardly focused but serves to elevate our whole being to a spiritual union with God. True emotions are embodied mental states. The positivist notion of emotions resonates more with the Aristotelean and Stoic notion of uncontrolled emotions, or pathos (). These appetites can be understood as the emotions, or

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passions, we share with sentient animalsthe bodily feelings of pleasure and pain and such. There are, however, deeper intentional emotions that are rooted in our rational capacities. We are by nature embodied rational agents and we can feel rationally. These are deeply spiritual emotions; affective responses that humans alone can give to objects. It involves a rational response to some object and in the case of the Liturgy, it involves a rationally emotional assent of love to Christ. True emotion needs an object as its reference. As Dietrich von Hildebrand asserted in The Heart, it makes no sense to say I feel compassionate, but I do not know toward whom. Our intellect, our rational capacity, is the foundation of our spiritual and intellectual life and is presupposed for other spiritual functions (nihil volitum, nisi cogitatum; it is not possible to will unless we know what is willed) like these spiritual feelings. Pure passions do nothing to unite us to the object of Christ our Savior. Rather, these true, spiritual emotions are those that unite our animal and angelic faculties so that, as humans, we devote ourselves to God in devotion and adoration. Our rightly

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ordered emotion towards God, then, must be intellectual and this kind of spiritual emotion ought to be the end of a Liturgy. St. Bernard of Clarivaux, the great mystic monk of the late twelfth century, describes this distinction in a different way in his treatise De Dilegendo Deo. In his treatise, he describes four stages along the ascent from a natural to a full and spiritual love of God. He posits that everything good in human persons is an expression of Gods love and that, by love, the person may participate in the being of the triune God. St. Bernards view is that, through the medium of a love of God, ones relationship with God will grow from a purely carnal love of the self to a fully spiritual love of the self. Romano Guardini, a priest and important Catholic intellectual of the 20th-century, argues that the liturgy as a whole is not favorable to exuberance of feeling. Emotion glows in its depths, but it smolders merely, like the fiery heart of the volcano, whose summit stands out clear and serene against the quiet sky. The liturgy is emotion, but it is emotion under the strictest control. We are made particularly aware of this at Holy Mass, and it applies equally

an undergraduate journal of letters

to the prayers of the Ordinary and of the Canon, and to those of the Proper of the Time. Among them are to be found masterpieces of spiritual restraint.1 The end of the Liturgy cannot simply be a fostering of the passions or base emotional comfort. There is, in the Liturgy, a certain primacy of logos over pathos since the Liturgy is oriented as a prayer to Christ 2 who is the Logos. The Catholic liturgy is the supreme example of an objectively established rule of spiritual life. It has been able to develop kata tou holou, that is to say, in every direction, and in accordance with all places, times, and types of human culture. Therefore it will be the best teacher of the via ordinariathe regulation of religious life in common, with, at the same time, a view to actual needs and requirements. Thus, when we approach the Liturgy solely for emotional comfort, we betray the Liturgy itself. This kind of an emotional comfort is the carnal emotions that St. Bernard speaks of and the kind of emotion that Guardini argues against. This is not to say that all who approach the Liturgy and Christ in the Blessed Sacrament need to have a wellordered rational and intellectual

understanding of the great mysteries of the Faith; rather, we ought to approach the Liturgy for our Communion with Christ the Logos, not for our own emotional comfort. Furthermore, since we are by nature rational, composite beings, we betray ourselves and God Almighty by lowering the Liturgy to a mere means for natural emotion. This is not, of course, an attempt to deny that the heart and the emotions play an important part in the life of prayer. Prayer is, without a doubt, a raising of the heart to God. But the heart must be guided, supported, and purified by the mind. In individual cases or on definite and explicit occasions it may be possible to persist in, and derive benefit from, emotion pure and simple, whether spontaneous or occasioned by a fortunate chance. The point, rather, is that there is more to Liturgy than just raw, natural emotions. The Liturgy, as the highest prayer we can offer to God Almighty must incorporate our whole being as
1

Romano Guardini, Spirit of the Liturgy this and all subsiquent citations of Guardini can be found at: http://www.fdlc.org/Liturgy_Resources/ Guardini/Chapter1.htm 2 Hence the tradition of the Church of offering Mass ad orientem, or facing East and the Rising Sun who is Christ

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rational agents; or, as Romano Guaridni describes it, both the natural and the supernatural life of the soul, when lived in accordance with these principles, remain healthy, develop, and are enriched. In isolated cases the rules may be waived without any danger, when such a course is required or excused by reason of a spiritual disturbance, imperative necessity, extraordinary occasion, important end in view, or the like. In the end, however, this cannot be done with impunity. Just as the life of the body droops and is stunted when the conditions of its growth are not observed, so it is with spiritual and religious lifeit sickens, losing its vigor, strength and unity. This action then, to steal Romano Guardinis terminology, is Liturgical Emotion. The aim of the Liturgy is not the expression of an individuals reverence or worship of God. It is not even concerned with the sanctification of the individual soul as such. The focus of the liturgical action is not in the individual. It does not even involve specific groups of people or congregations. The liturgical entity consists rather of the united body of the faithful as suchthe Churcha body which greatly

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outnumbers the mere congregation. The word Liturgy, from the Greek leitourgia (), literally means a public act performed on behalf of the peoplre. The liturgy is the Churchs public and lawful act of worship, and it is performed and conducted by the officials whom the Church herself has designated for the posther priests. In the liturgy God is to be honored by the body of the faithful, and the latter is in its turn to derive sanctification from this act of worship. This is sharply different from Protestant worship that tends to be individualistic in focus. The fact that the individual Catholic, by his absorption into the higher unity, finds liberty and discipline originates in the twofold nature of man, who is both social and solitary. The Catholic Liturgy fulfills that in us which is animal and that in us which is angelic. We participate, as the Faithful, not by our own emotions, but by joining the Body of Christ, the Church, in prayer through liturgical emotion. An example of this today is in modern Requiems. The focus tends to be on fostering and caring for the emotions of the people in the pew; the family and friends of the deceased. And though I would never doubt

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the grief and sorrow they are feeling for a loss of a loved one, the Requiem Mass is not said to provide emotional comfort to the grieving.3 Rather, it is an opportunity for the Body of Christ, the Church, to gather in prayer for one of its members, praying for the repose of his/her soul. That is the liturgical emotion. The Liturgy is universal and extends to the whole of the Body of Christ, so it should not be marked by the special expression of any particular congregation (or college campus). Popular devotions, however, which are marked by the period, location, and the people involved and are a direct expression of specific congregations, can be marked by such special expression. Thus, the Liturgy, as the prayer of the Church the spouse of Christ, must be an act that is sustained by thought. We see that this is in fact the case as the prayers of the Liturgy are so thoroughly interwoven and grounded in dogma. Those who are unfamiliar with liturgical prayer often regard them as theological formula, artistic and didactic, until on closer acquaintance they suddenly perceive and admit that the clear-cut, lucidly constructed phrases are full of interior enlightenment.

The Liturgy must be sustained by thought since only thought is universally current and consistent, and, as long as it is really thought, remains suited, to a certain degree, to every intelligence. If prayer in common, therefore, is to prove beneficial to the majority, it must be primarily directed by thought, and not by feeling. It is only when prayer is sustained by and steeped in clear and fruitful religious thought, that it can be of service to a corporate body, composed of distinct elements, all actuated by varying emotions. This is so since, as we have already considered, we are by nature rational agents and it is our rationality that we share with other human beings...and with the angels.4 For this reason, it seems, Dante has St. Bernard, the great medieval contemplative mystic, as his final guide through the Paradiso. Dante, how3

The priest, outside the Liturgy, ought to meet with the grieving, providing spiritual direction so that they too are on a journey towards God...this, however, is not the role of the Sacrament, it is the role of the pastoral care and life of the priest outside the Sacraments. 4 While the necessity of thought is emphasized, it must not be allowed to degenerate into the mere frigid domination of reason. Devotional forms on the contrary should be permeated by warmth of feeling.

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ever, does not depict the saints in Paradiso as purely contemplating the Divine Essence; rather, they are dancing for joy. There is an emotional aspect to beatitude. It is guided and grounded by prayer. In Heaven, we become deiform; we become so intimate with God, incorporated into His Trinity, that we become like God and see God as God sees himself. This does not solely consist in the sense of communion and the abstract feeling of love; rather, it is something far and beyond that. In this state of being, we elevate our angelic nature (our rational souls) by performing the very act that the angels perform. In the

Liturgy, we are, as the Body of Christ and the Spouse of Christ, invited to the Eternal Banquet in Heaven. In Holy Communion, we are admitted as the privileged tenth choir of angels; that is, we get to do exactly that which the angels have done and will do for all eternity adore our Lord. In the Great Sacrifice of the Mass, the heavenly veil is opened and for a brief moment, Earth and Heaven are united. Recalling that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the one and same Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, Archbishop Fulton Sheen seems quite right when he says:

This act raises up our rational nature above and beyond our sentient nature. It doesnt exclude

Hence the Mass is to us the crowning act of Christian worship. A pulpit in which the words of our Lord are repeated does not unite us to Him; a choir in which sweet sentiments are sung brings us no closer to His Cross than to His garments. A temple without an altar of sacrifice is nonexistent among primitive peoples, and is meaningless among Christians. And so in the Catholic Church the altar, and not the pulpit or the choir or the organ, is the center of worship, for there is re-enacted the memorial of His Passion. Its value does not depend on him who says it, or on him who hears it; it depends on Him who is the One High Priest and Victim, Jesus Christ our Lord. With Him we are united, in spite of our nothingness; in a certain sense, we lose our individuality for the time being; we unite our intellect and our will, our heart and our soul, our body and our blood, so intimately with Christ, that the Heavenly Father sees not so much us with our imperfection, but rather sees us in Him, the Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. The Mass is for that reason the greatest event in the history of mankind; the only Holy Act which keeps the wrath of God from a sinful world, because it holds the Cross between heaven and earth, thus renewing that decisive moment when our sad and tragic humanity journeyed suddenly forth to the fullness of supernatural life.

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our emotions; rather, it allows our reason, our highest function, to order our emotions. The ideas

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which fill it are vital: that is to say, they spring from the impulses of the heart which has been molded by grace, and must again in their turn affect other eager and ardent hearts. The Churchs worship is full of deep feeling, of emotion that is intense, and sometimes even vehement. Take the Psalms, for instance--how deeply moving they often are! Listen to the expression of longing in the Quemadmodum, of remorse in the Miserere, of exultation in the Psalms of praise, and of indignant righteousness in those denouncing the wicked. Or consider the remarkable spiritual tension which lies between the mourning of Good Friday and the joy of Easter morning.... Liturgical emotion is, however, exceedingly instructive. It has its moments of supreme climax, in which all bounds are broken, as, for instance, in the limitless rejoicing of the Exultet on Holy Saturday. But as a rule it is controlled and subdued. The heart speaks powerfully, but thought at once takes the lead; the forms of prayer are elaborately constructed, the constituent parts carefully counterbalanced; and as a rule they deliberately keep emotion

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life.

under strict control. Take the suppression of the Alleluia during Lent and the great joy in singing it during Eastertide. Take the Gothic architecture, meant to foster those feelings of remorse and guilt and vulnerability, and the Baroque architecture, meant to foster feelings of ecstasy and beatitude. Take the liturgical colors meant to express the various sentiments of the One True Church as she lives her day to day life; the penance of Lenten purple, the sorrow of black in requiems, the suppressed and anticipatory joys of Gaudete and Laetare Sunday, the fullness of joy in Eastertide. The glories of the music which moves our souls to feelings of great joy or dolor. All these different externals the Church utilizes in her Liturgy, her public prayer on behalf of the whole of the Body of Christ, then are meant to reinforce dogma and doctrine and inspire a true devotion and adoration of Our Lord. The emphasis of a rational foundation, however, is not meant to imply a certain intellectual aptitude for union with God. Take the beautiful prayer of St. Jean-Marie Vianney who was known to be quite uneducated:

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The focus of the Liturgy cannot simply be to elicit emotions and a strong sense of community. Such a focus, if the primary focus, is not only not good enough; it is a disgrace to the Sacrament of Sacraments, the Most Blessed Sacramenta Sacrament in which we re-encounter the glory of the Cross that saves us and experience the great Love and Mercy of God. The way in which we both glorify Gods Most Holy Name and experience the love of God most is by contemplating him; rational thought is our highest function. If the primary reason that someone has to participate in the Liturgy is for some emotional experience then they are not only failing to be fully human in a Liturgy constructed for humans but they lower the experience of God to something like that of a sentient animal. As Cardinal Newman states, emotion is not true devotion. We must, so that we can glorify Gods Most Holy Name, not allow the climax of our Eucharistic experiences be emotion, but adoration, which involves both very deep

I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You. I love You, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

emotional and intellectual activity and which is a higher emotionone that, usually silent, involves the greatest intimacy to be fostered between Our Lord, substantially present under the Eucharistic veils, and the person. In this act of adoration, we allow the Liturgy, formed by thought for the universal Church, to raise our rational thought (and our angelic nature) up and above that of our sentient (and our animal) nature, and thereby we predict our beatific existence at the Eternal Banquet in the Communion of Saints in Heaven. Thus, I have not argued that the notions of community and emotion play no role in a Liturgical function, but that, as we see in the Liturgy itself, we must not have those things as our ends in our approach to the Liturgy. In approaching the Liturgy with a primacy for Logos, we sing and dance to the glory of God (as we read in Dantes portrayal of the saints dancing in Paradiso) and experience the community of the saints alongside God Almighty Himself. k

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an undergraduate journal of letters

In Short, I Am...
Sara McGuirk Class of 2014 Mustard

A Story

I wont name names, but there are womenmothers, the communal maternal voice of domestic wisd...no, folklorethat have fabricated some exotic blend of webMD quotes and urban-myth remedies that stem from a nature prone to overprotectionor, more literally, uninhibited paranoia. Theres always that bit about red wine, cranberries, high fructose corn something-or-other, microwaves and about three dozen ingredientsincluding (but not limited to) anything that sounds like riboflavin, maltodextrin or glutamatethat give you cancer. In any case, it was one of these women that told me in her pseudo-medical-dictionary-dialect to sleep upright when sick so as to clear a breathing path through ones nostrils topped with the unfitting, yet ever-present: honey, darling or sweetie, etc. 49

And now, I have inadvertently harnessed the inexorable power of gravity to internalize any and all mucus into the cavernous depths of my core. In short, I am a mucus pot. You know mucinex, that drug that continually seems to be evicting those pudgy green men from run-down apartments in all their commercials? Yeah, it never seems to work in real life? After convoying 4 reinforcements of the little landlords into the trenches of my innards, I remain chock-full of flem. Yes, chock-full, and unable to communicate save the piercing squawks of the crow, pigeon, dying and/or being-bathed cat that I now emulate. How might one describe the sense of a shrug, the essence behind a slanty smileywhat its meant to say? Its wordless, yet it somehow evokes something distinct. I cant communicate with the public. If you hold a door open for me youll receive an awkward

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smile or an even-more-bizarre, thankful shriek. If I think you deserve to order your coffee first in line, youll be approached by some weirdo waving her arms in a way that strikingly mimics some dog that really wants you to go ahead of him up the stairs or to go save whomever from the ole well. And heaven forbid I know you and actually have to address you somehow! The progression goes in sequence as follows: Familiar figure appears in view; said figure greets me; I now have two options: offer some derangedsounding howl in salutation or (the option utilized by the wellversed mute) admit my sickness promptly so as to avoid shock and/or curiosity. Ah! But therein lies a new problem! Familiar figure is left wondering why I bothered telling him/her right away, as if it were some urgent news. If they are kind-hearted, they immediately assume that I am somehow asking for their assistance. Wishes of sympathy: 23. Invites for soup: 8. The startlingly 50

repulsed expression on the face of that boy Id been crushing on: priceless...ly tragic. The one time this kid says hi (!), I have the damn plague and, yes, sound like a coked-out warlock, Lord of the Rings character! Safe to say, my precioussssssss...will never be speaking to me again. And...how did that make you feel? Kathy mindlessly asked this question so often that I swear it must have been her default quick-text. And so, I texted back. I feel like the Little Mermaid when that over-grown squid lady steals her voice. Everybody knows the melody thats supposed to glide through her throat and into the seascape, but it jolts and wheezes like the feeling Id imagine youd get from shooting a blank gun. What I should have said was: At first I felt anonymous, voiceless, stripped of my means of identity. This was my soliloquy addressed to the ether. It came to me, however, that one who is anonymous, by definition, creates something under the guise of namelessness;

an undergraduate journal of letters

they write heedless of self-identification. I have been rendered, instead, anonymouss opposite: an identity devoid of the ability to release its creation. So, oh voiceless one, what shall I call you? I am, Today, The clam With a name.

Because when you pee your pants, adaptation becomes necessity. In this hierarchy defined by survival of the fittest, you sure as shit dont want to be the girl that pees herself. Like, remember that time when you pee I shut my phone upon the sight of (how dare she) that time of which we do not speak: the Voldemort moment of my childhood. Gollum. With weak bladder, comes Well, sometimes its betgreat responsibility. So, you get terwhen you feel like that good at covering your ass...litershrimpy midget-thing in a skirt ally. That timethe Voldemort from Lord of The Ringsto be momentin third grade math creeping under rocks by your class, the bladder prevailed and lonesome than to be the center I, blatant object of the public of attention. eye, yearned for anonymity over Kathy had a point. And so any form of identity. I, anonoymouss counterpart, Katherine! Thats the cardinal thought about all the times rule of our friendship! Refrain throughout my young life that I from such vile thoughts as these! had been anonymouss other riYou speak as though the beval: the blatant object of the pubgrudged memory of a lesser time lic eyesomeone, perchance, might soothe what scathes me that wished to be anonymous. now, what scathes me now! My thoughts turned to pee, Oh Lord, English majors. naturally. I used to pee a lot... Psh, thats the thing about accidentally. Yes...in my pants. anonymity though. You want to And I got away with it too! have your words and eat them 51

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too. You want to get them out without having to be the one to say them. The thought strikes me as stirring and well-phrased; I kidnap it and raise it as my own. Immediately, as if upon birth, there is a division between the they and the youwhoever you are. The you wants some kind of individuality wrapped in a bow of crowd-trimmed security. Hey Im sorry, I should have mentioned something different...oh, like the time Keith Dawson saw you in that cat sweater! This girl is stifling my monologue. Very funny, Kat, how about that time every member of Club de Cinematique threw mashed potatoes at you during lunch because you said that your favorite movie was Catwoman! There were only like three people in that club, Gollum! *** The they are those guys that named it highway instead of driveway, those enigmatic people responsible for manufacturing hideous cat sweaters that your grandmother buys 52

you every Christmas, the they that thought that adaptation of Catwoman with Halle Berry would be a good idea. You get the jist, yeah? Theyre not actual beings...theyre anonymous in their collective immensity; theyre the powers that be. All the while, the you is endlessly trying to break free of the they, to form an individual persona inwhat we assume to bethat one instant of selfrealization, the emergence of character. And were all thinking itll be some grandiose E.R. trauma scene, some pivotal moment when you hit the walk-off homerun, some near-death or near-life experience out of the clear, blue seascape. We find ourselves saying, Go to class, maybe this will be the lecture that inspires you...this will be the mountain hike where I stumble into the love of my life... and then off a cliff. Wasnt one of those kids the one Allison tripped in front of? At age fifteen, when my friends and I saw a hottie, the first to spot the target would literally

an undergraduate journal of letters

tumble at his feet as if she had tripped in some clumsy, cosmic, fated collision that would break the ice between them and bond their hearts together forever. It was dumb...and weird, but you get the point; were all looking to force that square peg of meaning into this circular existence... and acquire vain bruises in the process of course. Yeah, he asked her to prom the next week...even though she sprained her ankle. Ohh right! And then she went home with Alec, instead, ha! Its that typical anxiety over the hype, the way prom is never the best night of senior year (obviously), the way that feeling that youre supposed to get at the college thats meant for youthat over the moon, tummy-twisting sense of belongingdoesnt ever match its reality. I heard it wasnt such a magical night, haha. She ended up vomiting the Tilapia. I bet she wished she could have been Gollum that night. 53

Yeah, then she wouldnt have any hair for Alec to have to hold back! Kathy mustnt have found my retort very quippy because she failed to respond. She was one of the few people with whom I never had to worry about the etiquette of texting though. I was halfway through my next, unprompted text when she stepped through the door with nothing more than a snide smile. After shuffling around, putting her stuff away and getting settled at her desk, she finally turned toward my awaiting stare. Gollum did have hair. It was just sweaty throughout the whole moviefor some reason... so it looked thin and lifeless. She always felt a slight twinge of discomfort toward the bits of my humor that were crudeish. But alas, I was a hopeless cause, so she figured she might as well play along. I could have came back with some joke about Garnier Fructis (because Gollum is worth it too), but I restrained myself for her sake, constructing a sign in dramatic response:

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It is for my failings that I try to maintain anonymity in the things I do, thank you very much. Writing on the same paper in smaller letters, she composed: Well, troll, theres your problem. I was propelled back onto the psychological battlefield toe-to-toe with the hideous cat sweater manufacturers, the they, the powers that be. Kathy was a bottomless fountain of wisdom...even if Catwoman was her favorite movie. Part of disembodying yourself from the cat sweater manufacturers might entail wearing their laughingstock sweaters with pride. Work with me here. Part of being able to laugh at yourself is actually allowing yourself to fall at the mercy of the worlds mockery. Dont apologize for the weirdo, the f-up, the (sometimes misguided) visionary that you are. Maybe the you will emerge in the way that a poem can change on a dime, for the sake of rhyme, realign and find something new to mean...if that makes sense? 54

One morning, you and your self will accidentally pick up each others coffee at Starbucks. And maybe, once you own up to it, youll meet face-to-face with that very self that was always therethe one that also peed the bed, but took pride in her imperfections, hanging her stained sheets out the window each fearsome morning like a Shakespearean honeymooner. Come on Little Mermaid, lets get a cup of coffee. Maybe your precioussss will have speared Ursula by then. k

an undergraduate journal of letters

Black Swan: Humanity and the Perils of Icarus


Thomas Graff Class of 2014 Philosophy Major

An Essay

Extremes are attractive. They seduce the mind with promises of power and identity, with allegiance, friendship, even perfection. Soon enough, a Cultural Revolution surges as enthusiastically as Hitlers youth, innocence executed and dignity debased in a tragic sincerity. Politician and citizen alike flee to the arms of platforms and parties, eagerly brazen and defiant to all but their self-assured ideologies posing as convictions. And as the Puritan mortifies sex like the plague and the Modern, liberated from social repression and guilt, is soon imprisoned by its dulled embrace, one begins to wonder what indeed there is to extol in man; what is ideal, if not the ideal. Darren Aronofsky (director of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) explores this destructive power of extremes in his jarringly vivid film Black Swan, a meditation on humanitys drive for perfection 55

and consequent dissolution into madness. The problem is that everyone must at some point face the facts and the factions, and must make a decision about how they will live their life. Time is inevitableor at least out of our handsbut what we do with that time, and with what worldview we pursue this vague notion of happiness bears heavily, interestingly enough, on how happy we become. Everything we do, from the mundane to the spectacular, dictates our character. Even not to make a decision is in itself a decision, a catch-22 for those rebels without a cause among us. In a way, we are inevitably fated to meet ourselves, the final judgment being nothing more than a look in the mirror. And if you dream that Huples cat is sleeping on your face again, dont say I didnt warn you. So, what are we to do with ourselves? And more importantly, what is this paper even about? I have a few ideas, but its for you to decide. Shaken violently

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awake by this brilliant nightmare of a film, I have found that life (or at least one way to look at it) is the proper management of the art of Dance. What comes to mind is Athol Fugards 1982 play, Master Harold and the Boys. Almost as impressive as his name, Fugards hope is, in the end, a world without collisions. He uses Master Hallys African servant, Sam, as interlocutor, the 1950 Eastern Province Open Ballroom Dancing Championships his world. Theres no collisions out there, Hally. Nobody trips or stumbles or bumps into anybody elseto be one of those finalists on that dance floor is likelike being in a dream about a word in which accidents dont happen. He continues: And its beautiful because that is what we want life to be like. But instead, like you said, Hally, were bumping into each other all the time None of us knows the steps and theres no music playing. But the bulk of this essay concerns the Hallys of the world, for whom Life is just a plain bloody mess, thats all. And people are fools. So we return 56

to Black Swan. Far from intending this reflection to become a film review, nevertheless allow me to set the stage, as it were, of this tragic story. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman at her finest) is a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life and passion is consumed in the disciplined art of ballet. Still living with her protective and dominating mother Erica, the reserved and docile Nina is quickly seen as a means to Erica vicariously re-living her own failed past as a ballerina. Welcome to the set Ninas director Thomas Leroy, egocentric and despotic in his drive for perfection. Hoping to revitalize the popularity and revenue of his company, Leroy envisions a new winter seasons production of Swan Lake. Swan Lake is a tragic love story that would make Sophocles proud. The lead is a princess, transformed into a white swan by an evil sorcerer. To regain her human form, the daring archetypal prince must fall in love with her. Yet the black swan, the antagonist and antithesis of the innocent white swan, quickly

an undergraduate journal of letters

seduces the prince and claims him as her own. Distraught, the princess now faces a loveless life trapped in a bestial body. As the story goes, the princess commits suicide, finding the freedom of death and liberation from the pain of her forsaken life. But back to the outer narrative. With the past lead ballerina Beth (Winona Ryder) forcibly retiring, Nina desperately hopes for and is finally cast in the ambitious dual role of white swan and black swan, the climax of both her profession and her years of dedication to the company. Leroy is satisfied with Ninas technical precision and control over the dance of the white swan, but sees in her nothing of the black swans passionate personality and freeform movement. The rest of the movie follows the fatal fruits of this inadequacy, detailing her spiral into disorder and hysteria. Ninas personal deficiency, combined with the incessant demands of her director, the deadline of the performance, the guilt of replacing the hateful and soon hospitalized Beth, her own demand for perfection now 57

directed at mastering the black swan, the resultant outburst and assault of sexual perversions and fantasies upon her past self, and her quickly developing schizophrenic tendencies developing throughout, produce an environment both chaotic and horrific. The brilliance and horror of the film lies in its form as metadrama, a play within a play. Black Swan intimates everything that is to come from the first moments of the movie. Ninas life and descent into schizophrenic madness parallels the tragic story of the princess in Swan Lake. To their chagrin, the audience realizes that they have come not for ballet and Ms. Portman, but to witness a car crash; not to be amused or frightened a little, but to endure an hour and forty-three minutes that feels twice that. They watch in tense anticipation, anxiously dreading Ninas excruciatingly slow progression towards insanity, and the fatal fruits of Ninas pitiful plea: I just want to be perfect. Why does she go crazy? Why do Leroys paragons of showmanship and beauty, his little

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princesses, Beth and Nina alike, end up either deranged or dead? The answer, evidently enough, lies in the nature of the dance of the Black and White Swan alike, and the cursed promise that each extreme tempts. The white swan, exemplified by Nina, is an animal of grace. It is gentle and humble, child-like, obedient. It is internally well ordered, and lives a disciplined life. However, in the extreme (again seen in Nina) we find problems. In itself, the white swan is cowardly, timid, and in a sense stunted. Whether by fear or the comfort of what is safe, it has not been allowed to grow, to mature and become an adult. The controlling presence of Erica in Ninas home ensures this arrested development. Erica continues to treat Nina as a child, and her bedroom filled with pink stuffed animals only heightens the consequences of this unhealthy relationship. And this archetype is far from being a new phenomenon. T.H. Whites The Once and Future King displays the selfsame relationship between Mordred, Arthurs illegitimate son, to his half-sister 58

Morgause. Very poignantly, White comments: The heart of tragedy does not lie in stealing or taking away. Any featherpated girl can steal a heart. It lies in giving, in putting on, in adding, in smothering without pillows. Desdemona robbed of life or honor is nothing to a Mordred, robbed of himselfhis soul stolen, overlaid, wizened, while the mother-character lives in triumphNow that she was dead, he had become her grave. She existed in him like the vampire. This is the great problem of the white swans dance; it tempts the self-enslavement to another to abdicate ones responsibility for oneself, but in so doing leaves the dancer sheepish, immature, and only a puppet performing for the strings that direct it. Further, the extreme of discipline is evident in Nina the Perfectionist. Not only does her life and dance need to be organized, it must be perfect regardless of injury or obstacle. This obsession painfully remains throughout the film. Nina is convinced that rehearsing ad naseum will solve all her problems. And it seems that this would

an undergraduate journal of letters

fulfill Sams vision; if their form is perfect, can there possibly be collisions? The danger here is in believing that the goal of dance is correctness. It is not. The goal of dance is an expression of beauty; as Sam intuits, beauty is the art of giving form to the formless, not form to the formed . Morality and virtue are an excellent foundation for leading the good life, but without the love of the beautiful it fulfills an empty, purposeless goal. Unfortunately, this perfectionism becomes not only a minor character flaw but the impetus for her transformation into the black swan and ultimately, her death. The Black Swan, in contrast, is as powerful and dangerous as fire. The dance of the black swan expresses the imperfection found in humanity; not its dark side, but rather the animal side, emotion over reason. Lily (an impressive and mature Mila Kunis,) provides a threatening counterpart to Nina. She is nonchalant and confident, comfortably extroverted and emotionally mature enough to let go of fears and inhibitions 59

when Nina cannot. This is a big point of contention between the two dancers. Nina grows jealous of this new dancer, who does not dance precisely as she does, but moves fluidly within the regimented dance, responding aesthetically to the movement of the piece and to the ballerino. Just as with the white swan, the opposite extreme is equally fatal, if not more so. Without moderation, the black swan becomes chaotic. Whereas the white swan lacks the dynamism of the black swan, the black lacks the structure which grounds the white. Later in the film, in a fit of rebellion, Nina is soon found immersed in booze , an almost violent dance club, and a night of sexual encounters, both real and imagined. The tragedy of the black swan is its recklessness. There is no center, no ability to pursue the free-formed uncertainty and creativity of intimacy or love without becoming enslaved to the disordered extremes of her passions. The black swan soon confuses sex with love, quick to disregard the formalities and relationship of the latter for the sensuality of the former.

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As much as Nina remains the stunted child, Nina as the black swan personifies the irrational animal, a rejection of any order, and a complete embracing of the destructive thrill of disorder. As much as Erica instigated the white Ninas faults, Leroy worked just as hard to drive her in the complete opposite direction towards the imperfections of the black swan. He constantly attacks Ninas poor performance of the dance of the black swan, frustrated and disappointed in her inability to step out of the spirit of the white swan. As yelling fails to break down her perfectionist mindset, he next appeals to her sex drive. Practicing with her, he debases the princes dance of courtship into little more than a grope session. Her supposed letting go, the goal of this exercise, tragically becomes an even greater childish dependence upon him and his fostered spirit of lust. Both extremes are alluring, one for its sense of security and precision, the other for its volatility and power. Nevertheless, the consequence of either is as patent as the finale of Swan Lake. 60

But before we get there, Id like to draw wisdom from the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, of flying and falling. Hoping to escape prison on Crete, the inventor Daedalus fashions wings made of reeds, feathers, and wax, for his son Icarus and himself. He warns Icarus: if he flies too low, his wings will get soaked by sea foam; if too high, its wax will be melted by the sun. The best route, he reasons, is the middle path, for any other way would prove fatal. And what is Black Swan if not a meditation upon the dangers of extremes? I dont think Aronofsky envisioned the white swan to embody innocence and virtue and the black swan wickedness and vice. The contention of white Nina and black Nina is not some fatalistic Manichean battle for good or evil, although it would seem so. Rather, her story is the story of Icarus. In a sense, the white swan would rather stay in prison, comfortable as Nina the child. On the other hand, the black swan would be so hurried to jump to the rocks below that it would forget its wings. But in another

an undergraduate journal of letters

sense, perhaps the swans must fly, and both take flight. Soon, we find that the first is quickly pulled to the depths. Unnerved in fear of the uncertain air and its own apparent imperfect skill of flying, the swan defers to the weight of the sea foam, of what is known, what is secure. The other, rising in the thrill of flight, is dissolved from without, losing its form as a bird in flight, plunging to the cold embrace of the ocean. All extremes relentlessly tempt what is comfortable, but what is incomplete, so that to drown is the only foreseeable solution. Nina believes that she must live, or dance, in the extreme, assuming the complete and perfect persona of both the white swan and black. The great tragedy is that the promise of the opposite extreme is just as fatal as the initial. Leroy attempts to provide this solution in his verbal and sexual assault, but he became the counterpart of Erica, as ineffective as he was harmful. He demands that Nina utilize the negative aspects of the white swanperfectionism and dependencyin mastering 61

the negative aspects of the black swanrecklessness and passion. In the end, Nina flies both too high and too low, enslaving herself perfectly (in the spirit of the white) to the disorder and violence of the black swan. By the end of the movie, she becomes so schizophrenically torn that she mistakes her projected self as Lily, and soon enough shatters her mirror, stabbing herself (Lily) with a shard of glass. And thus Icarus plunges to the depths. The transformed, mutilated Nina finished the dance of the black swan, eyes bloodshot, arms sprouting a new pair of majestically terrifying black wings. And just as Swan Lake foretold, in the climax, the princess falls to her deathfor Nina, a bed behind stageand applause erupts. Then, and finally then, she realizes that she is quite literally this same princess, and that her stomach is horribly bleeding. At last, she dies as Leroys little princess, finding in death final rest from the torture of her training, saying almost triumphantly: It was perfect. So the question remains: How

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are we to dance? And what, in the end, is perfect? Or should we not even invent wings in the first place, to be imprisoned for life or driven to jump to the rocks below? I would like to think that there is more to life. The solution, it seems, is only found is in that, unappreciated middle paththe life of prudence seeking beauty, of temperance seeking love, and finding a compromise of extremes. Each end of the spectrum desires to be united with the other, desires synthesis, so that each respective deficiency finds its solution in the other color, and complements accordingly. In the symbol of the yin and yang, each side flows into the other, forming the perfect unified circle. The beautiful life, or at least the one lived in love of and expression of the beautiful (for what else is art?) is a dynamic one, a dance of equals within oneself, learning to give and take as circumstance dictates. There is a world out there, one without collisions, one in which we can fly, and dance without threatening our very lives. We just need to be willing to learn the steps.k 62

an undergraduate journal of letters

LOST PIECE an undergraduate journal of letters

VOLUME II, ISSUE III

Know Thyself
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Colophon: This journal is compiled entirely from the works of undergraduate scholars at The University of Notre Dame. The editors of Lost Piece: An Undergraduate Journal of Letters are indebted to Dr. Cecilia Lucero for her invaluable assistance on behalf of The Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement. The editors also extend thanks to Father John Jenkins and to the Glynn Family Honors Program, directed by C. F. Neil Delaney. Stephen Lechner, Editor-in-Chief Raymond Korson, Josef Kuhn, and Conor Rogers, Editors Lost Piece was designed in Adobe InDesign, CS5; its body copy is set in 12 pt Adobe Caslon Pro. This publication was compiled by Stephen Lechner, 11, slechner@nd.edu The Cover, front and back, was designed by Nathalia Silvestre, 14, nsilvest@nd.edu

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