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“It is precisely on account of the parallax nature of Kierkegaard’s thought that, apropos his “triad” of the Aesthetic, Ethical, and Religious, one should bear in mind how the choice, the “either-or,” is always between the two. The true problem is not the choice between aesthetical and ethical level (pleasure versus duty), but between ethical and its religious suspension: it is easy to do one’s duty against one’s pleasures or egotistic interests; it is much more difficult to obey the unconditional ethico-religious call against one’s very ethical substance. (This is the dilemma faced by Signe de Coufontaine in Claudel’s The Hostage, this is the extreme paradox of Christianity as THE religion of modernity: how – as with Julia in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited - to remain faithful to one’s unconditional Duty, one should indulge in what may appear aesthetic regression, opportunistic betrayal.) In Either/Or, Kierkegaard gives no clear priority to the Ethical, he merely confronts the two choices, that of the Aesthetic and of the Ethical, in a purely parallax way, emphasizing the “jump” that separates them, the lack of any mediation between them. The Religious is by no means the mediating “synthesis” of the two, but, on the opposite, the radical assertion of the parallax gap (“paradox,” the lack of common measure, the insurmountable abyss between the Finite and the Infinite). That is to say, what makes the Aesthetic or Ethical problematic are not their respective positive characteristic, but their very formal nature: the fact that, in both cases, the subject wants to live a consistent mode of existence and thus disavows the radical antagonism of human situation. This is why Julia’s choice at the end of Brideshead Revisited is properly religious, although it is, in its immediate appearance, a choice of the Aesthetic (passing love affairs) against the Ethical (marriage): what matters is that she confronted and assumed fully the paradox of human existence. What this means is that her act involves a “leap of faith”: there is no guarantee that her retreat to passing love affairs is not just that – a retreat from the Ethical to the Aesthetic (in the same way there is no guarantee that Abraham’s decision to kill Isaac is not his private madness). We are never safely within the Religious, doubt forever remains, the same act can be seen as religious or as aesthetic, in a parallax split which cannot ever be abolished, since the “minimal difference” which transubstantiates (what appears to be) an aesthetic act religious cannot ever be specified, located in a determinate property.”
— Zizek, Only a Suffering God Can Save Us- Section 2: Kierkegaard 

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The Radical Theology Lectionary: Easter Sunday

Text: John 20:1-18 Interpretation: “The reality is that we don’t know exactly what historically happened on that first Easter Sunday morning, and if we do take a historical position we just create an argument.

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It is against this Christian background that one should read Che Guevara’s well-known statement on revolutionary love:

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”

There is a further step to be made here. Guevara’s statement that “the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love” should be read together with his much more problematic statement on revolutionaries as “killing machines”: “Hatred is an element of struggle; relentless hatred of the enemy that impels us over and beyond the natural limitations of man and transforms us into effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machines. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.” These two apparently opposite stances are united in Che’s motto: ”Hay que endurecerse sin perder jamás la ternura. (One must endure – become hard, toughen oneself - without losing tenderness.)” I think Guevara is here basically paraphrasing Christ’s declaration of the unity of love and sword. In both cases, the underlying paradox is that what makes love angelic, what elevates it over mere unstable, pathetic sentimentality is its cruelty itself, its link with violence. So while Guevara certainly believed in the transformative power of love, he would have never been caught humming “all you need is love”, what you need is to love with hatred. Or as, another strange bedfellow, Soren Kierkegaard put it long ago, the necessary consequence, the truth of the Christian demand to love one’s enemy is “the demand to hate the beloved out of love and in love”. To such an extreme madness, humanly speaking, can Christianity drive its demand, if love is to be the fulfillment of the law. Therefore it teaches that the Christian must, if required, be capable of hating his father and mother and sister and the beloved.”

With regard to social order this means that the authentic Christian tradition rejects the wisdom that the hierarchic order is our faith, that all attempts to mess with it and to create another egalitarian order have to end up in destructive horror. Agape as political love, and following Terry Eagleton this is how I would propose to translate Agape, means that the unconditional, egalitarian love for one’s neighbor can serve as the foundation for a new social order.

— Zizek, Love as a Political Category [X]

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“Following Pascal (and Augustine), Marion argues – against metaphysics – that the real obstacle within the human relation to God is not weakness of understanding but arrogance of the will; we move toward God not in conceiving him more
clearly but in loving him more fully – through the religious and liturgical life that metaphysical concepts do not suffice to sustain or even to provoke.”
— Thomas Carlson, The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, pg 61 (via saintemo)

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Tabu - F.W. Murnau, 1931
Nosferatu - F.W. Murnau, 1922

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“The lovers and the poet think that this urge to test love is precisely an expression of how certain it is. But is this really so?… when it is a duty to love, neither is a test needed nor the insulting foolhardiness of wanting to test, because if love is higher than every test it has already more than passed the test in the same sense that faith ‘more than conquers.’*”

Kierkegaard, Works of Love

*Compare Romans 8:37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

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I’m taking up my Bible studies again (in a purely academic way, but I’ve also felt genuinely moved lately with my Kierkegaard readings. it’s all too mushy to explain.) This week I’ll try a Baptist church, courtesy of my gf, and next week a Jesuit church, courtesy of my teacher. 

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Cuteness is a way of aestheticizing powerlessness. It hinges on a sentimental attitude toward the diminutive and/or weak, which is why cute objects—formally simple or noncomplex, and deeply associated with the infantile, the feminine, and the unthreatening—get even cuter when perceived as injured or disabled. So there’s a sadistic side to this tender emotion, as people like Daniel Harris have noted. The prototypically cute object is the child’s toy or stuffed animal.

Cuteness is also a commodity aesthetic, with close ties to the pleasures of domesticity and easy consumption. As Walter Benjamin put it: “If the soul of the commodity which Marx occasionally mentions in jest existed, it would be the most empathetic ever encountered in the realm of souls, for it would have to see in everyone the buyer in whose hand and house it wants to nestle.” Cuteness could also be thought of as a kind of pastoral or romance, in that it indexes the paradoxical complexity of our desire for a simpler relation to our commodities, one that tries in a utopian fashion to recover their qualitative dimension as use.

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“So we expect love to be a solution for infinite suffering? And what choice do we have? Within us anguish is infinite, and we fall in love.”
— Georges Bataille, On Nietzsche 

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New Interview with Carlos Reygadas, Jan 19, 2014