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On Despair and on Thinking I am Good

I love my catechism classes! The first night was just an overview of what to expect over the coming months. Week two was on salvation. They gave us an inspirational article to read prior to class. (It *made me think* and *made me cry.*) In class they showed a video hosted by Reverend Michael Himes. I want a copy of it! We had discussion then ended with the poem Toast recently posted.

I thought I'd share my notes in case anyone was interested. Toast saw the video, too, so her views on it and interpretation of it may be different. Of course, I will leave off important details and misquote or butcher his phrasing. The aspects that most impacted me were his take on the initial temptation in the Garden of Eden; his use of Dante, Milton, and Goethe (Faust); and his stressing that it is *good* to be human. From other religious readings on ascetics, I got the impression that it wasn't good to be human, so this take was very reassuring.

Rev Himes started with Genesis (a good place to start) and reminded us that each time God looked at one of his creations he said it was *good*. When the snake came along to trick Eve into trying the apple, the temptation was not as trivial as simple disobedience or the vanity of wanting to be like God. The temptation was giving in to the despair that they were not good enough as they were, so they needed to do something on their own to become good. People do despair, and people do think they are not good or not worthy. He stressed that even with our faults and our temporary nature, we are amazing and it is good to be human. He even said God loved human beings so much he choose to *become* a human being. I don't think he meant to imply we are good enough "as is" so do not try to advance or improve yourself (mentally, physically, socially). I think he meant to accept that at base level there is worth in being a human being, so regardless of your situation or struggle don't get too down on yourself. I know I struggle constantly with wanting to be smarter and thinner. I do need to tell myself that I am okay just the way I am. If I get smarter or thinner, that is great, but if I do not, then I should not fall into despair and hate myself. (A concept I need to hold close to me.)

I was intrigued by his literary references to Satan and to despair. I found it interesting that he did not think Milton got Satan right. I guess Satan got all the cool lines…perhaps because Milton saw his ultimate state as prideful (wanting to be like God) so the prideful one would come up with good lines. Instead, Rev Himes thought Dante had a better characterization. The entrance to Hell reads Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here – referring back to the idea of *despair*. In the very center of Hell, Satan sits frozen in a pit of despair caused by his tears freezing in the wind created by his wings beating in trying to escape. This reference was followed with a reference to Goethe, in which Rev Himes claims the most terrifying line in Faust (which I will misquote) is Mephisto says he is the spirit who says no, all things that are come to an end, better they'd never been anything. That triggered the comparison that despair says no (no, you are not good enough; no, you cannot succeed; no, there is no point in living; no, no, no) where as Peter says God says Yes. Yes, you are good. Yes, it is worth trying. Yes life's worth living.

I know one can easily turn that around to Yes, you are terrible. And No, you are not a bad person. I have not actually read all of Dante, only know Faust through secondary sources, and could not get through the first verse of Paradise Lost, so I am totally depending on his interpretation. Still, his interpretation touched base with me. There is a lot of despair in the world, and I would love for myself and my friends to dispel some of it (our own and others). You would have to actually hear it from him to form your own opinions, of course, plus this is filtered through my own world view and only touches on a few aspects of what he discussed, but I wanted to share.

Also, here's a link to LOLCats translation of the Bible. It is OMGBrilliant!!!


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
I bow to your note taking prowess. I had forgotten most of that stuff, though I did remember the part about despair, because (Being the impatient person that I am) that hit base with me. I give in to despair way too easily.

And the LoLcatz bible. Really funny. I lost it at the first line of Genesis:

“Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.”

And the last two lines:

“For evry createded stufs tehre are the fuudz, to the burdies, teh creepiez, An teh mooes, so tehre. It happen. Iz good.
31 An Ceiling Cat sayed, Beholdt, teh good enouf for releaze as version 0.8a. kthxbai”

So there. It happen. Is good.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 12:55 am (UTC)
Hehehe! I just looked at that site that had the video by Rev. Michael Hines.... the search box says "St. Anthony, help me find:" then you type your search request in the box.

Oct. 2nd, 2008 01:22 am (UTC)
Yes!!! I saw that, too!! I was so happy! And did you see that Rev H has a whole series of those DVD's!! I would love to see others in the series. :) Wonder if the church has a library where we could check these out? Or heck, I'd even make an appointment to watch them at the church. I'd bring popcorn! :)
Oct. 2nd, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)
I know C.S. Lewis has argued (though I haven't read it) that we don't "get" Paradise Lost because we don't have Milton's theological perspective (i.e., to someone in Puritan England, it was a given that everything Satan says was bullshit).

My favorite quote re Satan is from Umberto Eco (Name of the Rose, I think): "They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came."
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
truth that is never seized by doubt
I like that line. I like the entire quote, actually. Thanks for sharing it.
I had to reread the entire quote at least five times before I felt like I understood it.

I really like CS Lewis's argument as to why we don't get Milton! That makes a lot of sense to me.
Oct. 5th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this. It's a beautiful perspective and a welcome way to rethink the story of Adam and Eve.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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