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Category: Semantic

“Me Too” Thoughts

“Me Too” Thoughts

For the confused: Sexual harassment and assault have nothing to do with the erotic. They are the core expressions of a pure power dynamic, a form of bullying and manipulation by immature and weak people who can sometimes become very dangerous, even violent.

If you do not consent, do not enjoy, that is harassment and often assault. The harasser, the stalker, the abuser, the rapist, the murderer – they persist despite (and often because of) resistance and lack of consent. They don’t take “no” for an answer. They are wielding power aggressively to intimidate you because they think they can. They are not paying attention to you as a full human being, but only to their own internal dynamics. You are then just an object, not another person with their own boundaries and thoughts and feelings and rights.

Mutual seduction is NOT that. Flirting is NOT that. An expression of interest, or even a sexual advance, is NOT that, in most cases, unless it creates a fearful toxic situation where you are somehow trapped. If you move away, or say “hey” or “no thanks” and they still won’t leave you alone – and the culture supports that in thousands of ways – then that is what is being addressed by “me, too.”

Awareness is a small step, easily rationalized, denied, and rejected.
With awareness, pay attention.
With growth, discard previous assumptions and construct better questions.
With better understanding, understand and disrupt toxic behavior.
With more insight, communicate to others when you see similiar inappropriate behavior and structures (whenever you can).
Navigate as best you can with what you know, and hold yourself accountable in the mirror.
Know thyself, and listen to others.
Know your friends, family and tribes.
Name what you know, in the active tense.

Ask more questions.

See where toxic things structurally and institutionally intersect.

Find allies. Be an ally.

The way forward is like this.


One Saturday Night Some Lyrics

One Saturday Night Some Lyrics

Once in a while, I let it go. I have to, or my thoughts would consume me. Instead, I unhitch a million threads, and float… and drift.

Before too long, a path waves toward me, but I prefer to explore. For that you need a dose of the random. Open possibility is too vertiginous, but play is a vector of freedom. Only a judicious, homeopathic dose of the random…such is the contemporary life.

Why not play in a field of the familiar, rearranging my prejudices and laughing through the cut and paste method? A little homage, a little pattern recognition, and a little selection by will or inclination.

Spin the dial on the ipod; it’s as good as a tarot deck or a casting of the lots. Better, because there’s a context of every song, a layering of experience, the roads of habitual thought – all put into abeyance and at the same time summoned. A combinatorial sequencing, a dna-imaged lyrical selection – inherently the stuff of thought.

The focus then – would it be on the subtexts as they are woven? Or does the focus go to the rhythms of genre and mood? Will it be a ungainly monster, or will something be de-monstrated?

There is no predicting the outcome, and yet it all unfolds within a specific space. The space of multiple association, but in this you’ll miss the sound. Will you know any of these?

What meaning is made? What is accomplished with such cherry-picked flotsam ? Nothing. And this is good, because as with so much else, what matters is the journey.

Let’s see, then, what resonates now. Random song, chosen lyric… Three, two one…

rolling the ball rolling the ball
rolling the ball to me

I’m locked in tight I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

all we do crumbles to the ground
though we refuse to see

temples are greying
and teeth are decaying
and creditors weighing your purse

broccoli feed your head
their ideas are fried in fat

come dance with the west wind
and touch all the mountaintops

check my vital signs and
no I’m still alive

and the world spins madly on

cellophane flowers of yellow and green
towering over your head

raining in my head like a tragedy
tearing me apart like a new emotion

blossoms that fall from the trees so tall
that falling is floating in heaven for hours

the winds of night so softly are sighing
soon they will fly your troubles to sea

it don’t make no difference to me
everybody has to fight to be free

is that you, mo-dean
is that you, mo-dean

be well you children of the land
of all the dying beauties

shall crime bring crime forever
strength aiding still the strong

I’m waiting for the night to fall
when everything is bearable

blue for the tears
black for the night spheres

now they know how many holes
it takes to fill the Albert Hall

all the crocodiles – ohh-ayy-ohh –
they snap their teeth on your cigarette

for millions this life
is a sad vale of tears

preserve your memories
they’re all that’s left you

I am just simply an old tired poet
waiting for the apple to drop tonight

I thought I heard somebody calling
in the dark I thought I heard somebody call

listening to my breath
falling from the edge

there’s no way of turning more than this

and the storm keeps blowing the angel backwards
into the future

and then she said both those words are dead
that’s the story of my life

had it been another day
I might have looked the other way
and I’d have never been aware

leave the shadows dancing
dancing on their own
let the moment free you

our breath comes out white clouds
mingles and hangs in the air

how I’m moved how you move me
with your beauty’s potency

’cause every time it rains
you’re here in my head
like the sun coming out

while the wide arc of the globe is turning
we feel it moving through the dark

whispering lingering
’till the sting of dawn

recurring dreams of minor chords
metered time muted chimes find the beat

and from the dark secluded valleys
I heard the ancient sighs of sadness

winds are whipping waves up
like sky scrapers
and the harder they hit me
the less I seem to bruise

so I got me some horses
to ride on to ride on

take my hand as the sun descends
they can’t hurt you now

speak softly love
so no one hears us but the sky

can I meet you in between
will you be there
let me hold you sight unseen
still in the air

your enchanting light is leaving
silver haze is leaving

windswept lady
moves the night the waves the sand

I am falling down the stairs
I am skipping on the sidewalk
I am thrown against the sky

prends moi
je suis a toi
mea culpa

limitless undying love
which shines around me like a million suns
and calls me on and on
across the universe

dry your wings in the sun
you have only begun to understand

Love Letter

Love Letter

Darling Sweetheart,

You are my avid fellow feeling. My affection curiously clings to your passionate wish.
My liking yearns to your heart. You are my wistful sympathy: my tender liking.
Yours beautifully,

Even with such a designer as Turing, it takes more than imitation-games of consciousness to write a love letter.

Still, isn’t there something about this letter that suggests our own, often inarticulate, longings?

*In this instance, MADAM preferred to call herself M.U.C. (Manchester University Computer). I know how she feels.

(Thanks to John for calling my attention to this bit of sweetness).

Person or Not a Person?

Person or Not a Person?

An American Category Sketch of Personhood vs. Non-Personhood – not exhaustive, but representative.

  • So much is under debate.
  • So much is culturally modulated.
  • So much has a history of discussion rather than a solid truth claim.
  • So much seems a little strange.

Warning: Your answers may differ.
This is meant to be thought-provoking; sorry for all the things I’m leaving out.

Comments are welcome, but only if you’re civil. All comments are moderated.

For each of the following, is this a person?


  • Rock – NO!
  • Table – NO!
  • Book – NO!


  • Flower – NO!
  • Tree – NO!
  • Monkeygrass – NO!
  • Frog – NO!
  • Beetle – NO!
  • Ant – NO!
  • Tilapia – NO!
  • Worm – NO!


  • Electrons – NO!
  • Nuclei – NO!
  • Virus – NO – um… probably not! (DEAD/ALIVE, IMMORTAL? SOME UNKNOWN)


  • Female – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Hermaphrodite – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Transvestite – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Transgender – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Heterosexual – YES! (SOME DISAGREEMENT)
  • Homosexual – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Bisexual – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Complicated – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)


  • Middle-class – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Blue-collar – YES!
  • White-collar – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Upper-class – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Migrant – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Inner-city – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Suburban – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Socialist – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Communist – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Crony Capitalist – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Regulated Capitalist – YES! (DISAGREEMENT) (etc.)


  • Highly educated – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Highly trained – YES!
  • Untrained – YES!
  • College – YES!
  • No College – YES!
  • Under-educated – YES!
  • Literate – YES!
  • Sub-literate – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Intentionally ignorant – YES! (DISAGREEMENT) (etc.)

Political Values:

  • Reconstructionist – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Imperialist – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Uninterested – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Fanatical – YES! (DISAGREEMENT) (etc.)

Nationality / Ethnicity / Race:

  • Non-American – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Registered US Immigrant – YES! (SOME DISAGREEMENT)
  • Non-registered US Immigrant – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • American Terrorist – YES! (SOME DISAGREEMENT)
  • Non-American Terrorist – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Same Ethnic/Racial Composition as Yourself – YES!
  • Different Ethic/Racial Composition from Yourself – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Iranian – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)


  • Christian – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Muslim – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Jehovah’s Witness – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Wiccan – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Buddhist – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Fanatical – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Orthodox – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Evangelical – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Reformed – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Unitarian – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Atheist – YES! (DISAGREEMENT)
  • Eclectic – YES! (DISAGREEMENT) (etc.)

Corporate Groupings: (UNDER CONTESTATION!!!!!)

  • Homeland Security – NO!
  • CIA – NO!
  • Dept. of Eduction- NO!
  • NRA – NO!
  • ACLU – NO!
  • Catholic Church – NO!
  • US Marines – NO!
  • Al-Qaeda – NO!
  • Taliban – NO!
  • KKK – NO!
  • Halliburton – NO!
  • Chevron – NO!
  • Microsoft – NO!
  • Google – NO!
  • MacDonald’s- NO!
  • Citibank – NO!
  • Walmart – NO!

Stage / Distinctions:

  • Egg – NO!
  • Sperm- NO!
  • Adult – YES!
  • Middle-Aged – YES!
  • Early Modern Human (EMH)/Anatomically Modern Human’ (AMH) (also referred to as Cro-Magnon) – UNKNOWN (DISCUSSION and DISAGREEMENT)

* Fertilized chicken egg does not equal chicken either.

For Ex-JWs – Sites to Explore

For Ex-JWs – Sites to Explore

Sites for Recovering Jehovah’s Witnesses to Explore

Scroll to the bottom if you’re not in the mood for this!

Over the years, I’ve noted that the quality and helpfulness of former JW sites varies quite a bit. Some are very angry, while others are more compassionate. Some are able to create spaces to share insights with one another, some are more combative with peers. Some are focused on biblical interpretation, others on issues like abuse and shunning. More recently, I’ve noticed an upsurge of writers that – like myself – have focused on what it takes to follow your own path and walk an authentic spirituality that is not particularly driven by past experiences. I’ve also found a decrease in the purple prose, and more of a matter-of-fact approach that comes with time and experience.

I developed a list of online resources for ex-JWs some time ago, but here’s a more updated list.
These cover a range of thoughts and approaches. Check them out!

Some of that is pretty dark.

Now you need something else, don’t you?

My dear friend Lin shared an article with me on disfunctional beliefs that former Jehovah’s Witnesses might still carry with them.

It probably helps that she herself is not a JW or a former JW. She really has a handle on the central problem of how some aspects of the Watchtower psychology/ideology prevent their adherents ( and post-adherents) from leaving, loving, and thriving. I think some of us would go further and reject the very word “apostate” because its connectations are too deeply ingrained.

Not only is the article itself an excellent resource for former Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I’m very impressed with the quality of the whole site – Mindful Construct. I wish that all recovering JWs had access to such an insightful and caring cognitive counsellor, someone who could interact with them in just this way. And – I was honored that my tips for former JWs article was linked as a resource!

Here, try these too:

Oh – and watch the sublime Sister Wendy talk about art whenever you can. She functions for me in much the same way that Mr. Rogers did when I was a child.

On Evil

On Evil

I was re-reading a dissertation exam question, and I was somewhat surprised to discover that there has been no real transformation in my views on evil in more than a decade.

Question: Compare the language of cause, analysis, description, and solution to evil in Augustine, Nietzsche, Schüssler-Fiorenza and one author of your choice (Buber). Identify juxtapositions, similarities, opposition, etc., amongst the authors, and situate your own view.

The text of Augustine’s Confessions constructs an aesthetic metaphysics from within a post-Manichaean narrative of his intellectual and spiritual autobiography. Augustine modified (from Plotinus) the aesthetic idea of “plenitude,” in which the best creation is the creation that allows every possible kind of existence. For Augustine this implies a vertically-scaled hierarchy that I think of in terms of a ladder. God is both outside and at the top of this ladder, and God’s perfection of being and goodness stands as the immutable authority of measurement. Goodness is equated with being (or existence), since both go hand in hand up and down this ladder of the cosmic hierarchy. The gap between the separated top of the ladder and the rest describes the initial difference between God and God’s creation. Since Augustine believes that God created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo), the parts of creation “neither altogether are, not altogether are not, for they are, since they are from Thee, but are not, because they are not what Thou are. For that truly is which remains unchangeably” (VII, 17). As created, humans do not participate in God’s being.

In order to argue against the idea of evil as a positive force or substance in opposition to the good, the order of goods and the order of being for Augustine are in terms of proper measure at each level of the hierarchy. Augustine employs the language of “privation” and “corruption” to describe both the proper tincture of being and non-being and the order of goods proper to the perspective of each level. “Privation” is a “taking away” (privatio), a lack, an absence, a loss – especially of something necessary to the functioning or flourishing of life. To Augustine, evil is “nothing but a privation of good, until at last a thing ceases altogether to be” (III, 12). This conflation of being and goodness allows him to describe a dynamic at each point of the ladder, in which the initial proper measurement is, again properly, sucked away. The violence of death, or even of privation as an act of depriving one in want or distress is not addressed in terms of any detraction from God’s perfection. Augustine’s interpretation of the Genesis narrative also authorizes him to place women in a state of greater “privation” than men (XIII, 47). However, privation is an optimistic term in the sense that it implies a sense of not-yet-realized potential and the possibility of replenishment. Since humans are twice-removed from God’s perfection, by creation and by the “fall,” our degree of goodness and existence has to do with staying on the proper rung and looking upwards. There is good on every level, but the measure of our loves should be in proportion and in priority to our God-given position. Sin is committed through an “immoderate inclination towards those goods of the lowest order” in which “the better and higher are forsaken” (II, 10). When we love in the wrong order, we are indirectly punished by God: “For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every inordinate affection should be its own punishment” (I, 19).

“Corruption” carries more negativity, suggesting the broken pieces of something that was whole. Only things that are mutable can be corrupted, and insofar as things of creation are in a state of “privation” of God’s perfect immutability of goodness and being, creation is corrupted by its mixture with non-being (voidness) as lack of goodness. Evil is not a substance, because a substance can be only insofar as it is good. In so far as a thing is corruptible, it is good, or else there would be nothing to corrupt (VII, 18). This suggests that humans need some form of metaphysical rust-proofing. But there is another sense in which “corruption” pertains, and for that Augustine has to rely on the Adamic “fall.” In this sense, evil consists in the self-originating act of pride of turning away from the highest good. Against the original turning away (down) from God in the context of free will, Augustine posits a genetic-spiritual transmission (literally, for Augustine, via the semen), in which we inherit this tendency. As a kind of contagion or infection, sinful pride (a misdirection of the will) is parasitic in a more thoroughgoing way than oxidation and the like might indicate.

The terms privation and corruption both place the blame for certain kinds of suffering on human will. Each individual has an inherited tendency and a free choice to will the inappropriate thing, thereby placing him or her in the “bondage” of sin. The solution to evil for Augustine is to turn to God for grace and salvation, to love God more than your own private good. In privation, turn to God for replenishment. In corruption, let God clean you and loose you from your chains. It is by the grace of God that the will is liberated from its servitude to sin. The only alternative to that choice is this: to the extent that we bring excessive non-being upon ourselves, we are subject to punishment (both at the time and in the life thereafter). While Augustine relies on an optimistic language, he requires the idea of hell to balance the results of human free-will against the totalizing economy of creation.

Nietzsche is not a Christian and offers no god’s-eye view since for him there is no absolute objective structure of the world existing independently of human apprehension. While Augustine can rely on a sense of extra-human authority, Nietzsche maintains that we construct value and meanings from particular perspectives and through our own actions. His analysis aims to be historically and linguistically genealogical, asking how ideas about morality have arisen. He describes evil primarily in terms of strength and weakness, or master and slave moralities (with frequent, somewhat Darwinian allusions to differences of function in the animal world). Although theses terms appear oppositional, Nietzsche stresses that they are more often expressed in terms of gradation and interpenetration, both in communities and in the same human being (Beyond Good & Evil, sec. 260).

Genealogically speaking, “evil” has been framed in terms of power that is sought by both the weak and the strong, but only exercised by the strong. Moral designations are first of all applied to human beings. The difference between good and evil – or good and bad – depends on one’s position. A master morality depicts itself as “noble” and therefore good in that it experiences the construction of its own values. Against its “triumphant affirmation” of itself in action (power and will), it sees weakness (flattery, humbleness, liars, doglike people who allow themselves to be mistreated) as “contemptible” (“bad” rather than evil). The “noble” has power in self-relation, has no need of pity, and honors others over a long run with gratitude or revenge (BGE, sec. 260). Ressentiment (resentment) arises from the slave morality, where slaves depict themselves as morally good, but dominated by evil masters who rule by fear. Their morality depends on a hostile external world against which they react with blame and a sometimes hidden imaginary of revenge (see On the Genealogy of Morals, first essay).

The conventionally Christian idea of “evil” for Nietzsche represents a slave morality since it is based on the fear of the power of others—a façade whereby the weak make of their weakness a moral strength and spread mediocrity while waiting for their revenge when their kingdom comes. Nietzsche’s criticism is more generally aimed at the illusion of absolutes, which for him inevitably revert to their opposites; what is framed as “immoral” is what happens. Christianity’s “morality” in no way increases actual sensitivity to others, but rather impoverishes instincts and drives. His assertion of “the death of God,” is not only an announcement of the end of metaphysics or of the effective function of the absolute. As Baudrillard reads Nietzsche (and I agree with its tenor), Nietzsche’s announcement also acts as a provocation and a challenge to God (or human ideas about God) to exist against the Christian image of God (supposing that there was only one such image).

The solution is a dismissal of the conventions of absolute terms, and a “transvaluation of values,” where the superhuman (Übermensch, which also includes the action of the subhuman “blond beast” or bird of prey) exercises willful power in a complex state of delight and love of fate—an individual Dionysian affirmation of the sovereignty of the self in the world. In sum, Nietzsche claims that we need to liberate ourselves from all conceptions of “morality” in order to be free to experience the constructions of our own sense of what morality might be outside the regulatory framings of power relationships.

Buber’s Images of Good and Evil (published as the second part of Good and Evil) performs a phenomenology of structures of consciousness through readings of the Hebrew-biblical and Zoroastrian myths. Each account represents a different kind and stage of evil for human consciousness. He interprets both narratives, finally, in terms of differences in the language of decision, and although both kinds of evil are represented in each, he focuses on the Persian (Iranian) battle of the warring gods to describe the structure of evil as the decision to do wrong instead of right, to be false instead of true.

Here I shall focus on his readings of the Hebraic bible accounts, which suggest that the soul has an urge that is “evil,” which is passion, and an urge that is “good,” which is directionality. Buber recasts evil as the sundering of these urges. Evil, or sin, is the “way” which fills the earth with violence as a result of a passionate, but directionless products of the “imaginary”(GE, 91). To Buber, every imagined possibility entices the soul. The demonic danger that “lies in wait” when passion and direction are sundered is the “tension of omnipossibility” that exists as a result of the “vortex of indecision” of one’s soul.

Buber’s “demythologizing” interpretations of the biblical accounts are noteworthy in that he avoids the problems of Augustine’s fall-before-the-fall and condemnation of sexual desire. Passion and direction together are “very good.” His solution is not to extirpate the evil urge passion, but to reunite it with the good urge direction: to “yoke” the urges of evil and good back together in the service of God. This will “equip the absolute potency of passion with the one direction that renders it capable of great love and of great service” (GE, 92-97). He suggests a personal phenomenology in which you would meditate in a complete way upon an occurrence in which you seriously acknowledge, for yourself and not as a result of societal taboos, that you were bound up in the actuality of evil, either through decision or indecision. He suggests that when you really remember what it was like, you will see that in the “vortex” of possibilities were not “things,” but “possible ways of joining and overcoming them” (GE, 126). When the soul affirms the one direction in relation to which the soul is crystallized, it affirms its best in relation to God. Only the good of yoked passion and direction can be done from the position of this self-affirmation of decision. For each, this good is different, because we are all called differently by God.

Schüssler-Fiorenza does not describe evil, not even by a performance of its differences from conventional uses: the term itself disappears from the discourse. I see this absence functioning in different ways. It signals a refusal to re-invoke all conventional associations (especially as other, scapegoat, alien) on anything other than feminist terms. In this way, it also functions as an acceleration of the essential non-evil to which each of the other thinkers have subscribed.

In her biblical interpretations, Schüssler-Fiorenza theorizes (and practices) a feminist hermeneutics of evaluation in response to patriarchal structures of oppression, and a feminist hermeneutics of liberation that affirms the bodies and voices of women. There is an implicit language of description of evil in the former, and a language of solution in the latter. Androcentric language, phallogocentric representations of ultimate reality and authority, racism, colonial exploitation, sterotyping, and the like are all evaluated negatively in the context of a vision of freedom for women. The ultimate “litmus test” for invoking Scripture with authority “must be whether or not biblical texts and traditions seek to end relations of domination and exploitation” (BNS, xiii). Her writing is social, political, and pragmatic.

Her book Bread not stone: The challenge of feminist biblical interpretation describes a re-naming of God, church, scripture, and language. The structures of oppression and dehumanization that patriarchy has constructed in the metaphor of permanent “tablets of stone” is transformed to the image of bread that “nourishes, sustains, and energizes” women (there may be an implicit anti-Semitism in this transformation, but her point is the change in functional metaphor). Likewise, But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation argues – through the words of the “resident alien,” expressed in the figure of the Syro-Phoenician woman who interrupts Jesus’ retreat to argue for her daughter – for the disruptive and “incendiary power” of the Word to transform discourses of “objectivist scientific or ecclesial doctrinal ethos into a critical rhetoric.” Her hermeneutic center is the notion of the ekklesia, taking from the ancient legislative assembly of citizens “called out” by the crier “the practice and vision of a discipleship of equals as the women-church”. The women-church collectively describes the men and women who struggle for liberation from patriarchal oppression and who are affected by biblical discourses.

Her critical theology of liberation attempts to take responsibility for discourses in the recognition that “all language about the divine is incommensurate with divine reality” (BSS, 6) and that interpretation is historical and framed by varying imperatives and conditions. She focuses on a metaphorical space between the “logic of patriarchy” and the “logic of democracy” where emancipatory practices of interpretation might be engendered in biblical interpretation, by exploring not only what the text excludes, but also how the text constructs what it does include by tracing the “rhetorical moves, spaces, silences and crevices” of these two logics. Schüssler-Fiorenza’s constructions of affirmative possibility against kyriocentric (master-centered) readings of Scripture are already a practice of the solution that she describes.

Against all of the above thinkers, one could claim—and this would be my own tendency—that there is evil, and that evil and goodness exist in a very interdependent and interpenetrating relationship. A modified Manichean position such as this would be perspectival without complete relativism, where each temporary resting-place of constructed identity defines its own evils (usually in the process either of creating or being assaulted by them – or witnessing either). With Schüssler-Fiorenza, I would agree that evil and goodness can only be framed in terms of problematic subject-positions and institutional or communal conditions. A metaphysics such as Augustine’s is not possible. Efforts to imagine what a God’s-eye position would look like (such as Borges’ “The Aleph” or “The Library of Babel”) are interesting simply through the vertigo they induce. The God perspective, whatever that might mean, is not human nor does it translate easily to the human niche in the cosmos.

I think that there can be a will toward evil (in everyone to a greater or lesser extent at different times) in a predatory human agency that takes active delight in the observation and infliction of the suffering and pain of others. There can also be evil where there is not a specific will to evil or malicious enjoyment taken in the suffering of others, but where there is profound misunderstanding of the effects of what they do – particularly with the person who in a position to give aid and succor or at least kindess and compassion and refuses to do so. More generally, there is an ongoing dynamic of permeations of violence in active, passive, and complicit forms (with greater and lesser degrees of defensive rationalization or acceptance of responsibility for them). Any attempt to place them in a stable hierarchy has to fail, since space, place, temporality, and form are in states of reversals and metamorphosis.

Although I confine myself to notions of humanly-constructed (human, all too human) evils and systems of evil when theorizing, I am also fascinated by representations of inhuman evils in the American popular imagination. In the late twentieth-century, Americans seem to require more and more images of evil. What might this signify?

Buber’s phenomenological readings, like all other readings, simply re-mythologize what they intend to demythologize, in more or less convincing ways, to different communities, classes, genders, and so on. My objection to Buber’s Images of Good and Evil is that he claims to have described universal stable structures of consciousness from specifically-located myths. He assumes their influence on himself and his communal structures, but he does not show how these influences operate, nor is he conscious of the narrativity of his narrative. Against Buber’s claim that the soul can only crystallize in one direction, I suggest that it is fairly difficult, if not impossible to find just one direction, although two or three are sometimes possible. In my own experience, an additional problem is that any such crystallization tends to provide some of the conditions for the next problem. In this, I partly agree with Nietzsche, and am also influenced by Baudrillard’s notion of the “fatal” strategies of the object.

Schüssler-Fiorenza’s sense of ethics in biblical scholarship runs the risk of a “slave morality” in Nietzsche’s sense. To counter this, new perspectives and strategies for speaking with power and authority are required that do not simply re-instantiate the same old problems. When liberation discourse becomes authoritative, something is lost – the core of liberation and freedom without which the discourse is meaningless. Power itself is a metamorphizing mixture of good and evil. For example, the powerful uncovering of patriarchal oppression through the incendiary word can generate effects that uncover certain truths, while in a Heideggarian sense also serve to cover over the power relations between women: to separate those who fight for liberation openly from those who not, to separate believers from unbelievers, to assert supremacy of one community over another while pretending not to do so, to control the use of language, to encourage conformity in the very valorization of the claim to embrace difference, and so on.

A search for causes for evil seems to me – ultimately – futile, since causes are everywhere and nowhere. Only evil effects can be named with confidence. In a way, Heideggarian “thrownness” and “dasein” are inflected in the American sayings “you had to be there” and “wherever you are, there you are.” This is not to say that one has to inhabit a particular subject-position in order to describe it, but it does suggest that a better description might result from listening to the people who are “there.” This suggests something like a hermeneutics of multiple attentiveness.

There are also multiple methods of analysis that can be constructed, and each construction tells a more or less convincing narrative for a different group of people. As part of the dissertation project, I intend to explore some of changes in literary representations of evil in twentieth-century America. My method of analysis will be a somewhat postmodern eclectic one in the sense that it will that picks up theories as a bricoleur, as they seem pragmatically useful in the process of religious readings of literary texts. I do not subscribe to one particular discipline in isolation, or even to one theory in exclusion to all others, but am by nature and inclination intellectually interdisciplinary (although yes, I am well aware that this may be destructive to my future flourishing. As Martin Luther did, I can only post the note on the great door and state, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”). I am suspicious of communal demands, but I welcome a deeper understanding of multiple social locations.

I have no idea what the solution to evil might look like, or if such a thing as a “solution” to evil is possible (I do most seriously doubt it).

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