Kierkegaard or C.C. DeVille?

Christ comes to the world as the example, constantly enjoining: Imitate me. We humans prefer to adore him instead. – Quote by Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855).

To adore Christ means, in the sense that Kierkegaard uses the verb, to idolize him. When you idolize someone else, it often means that you secretly want to become this other person, that you want to take his ‘royal’ place, sometimes even by ‘murdering’ him. In other words, to idolize someone means that you’re not satisfied with yourself, that you’re not accepting yourself, that you don’t experience love for who you are. This explains why we tend to look for what others designate as desirable, and why we want to obtain a desirable position ourselves – i.e. why we want to become ‘perfect’ and ‘divine’ idols ourselves. For obtaining a desirable position seems to fulfill our need to feel loved. However, in the process of surrendering to an imitation of the desires of others we simply lose ourselves. Guided by what René Girard calls ‘mimetic’ (i.e. ‘imitative’) desire, we often want things for ourselves which alienate us from our ‘true’ nature and from our own, unique vocation. So, near the end of this process we’re not loved for who we are but because of the ‘status’ we seem to have gained. Jesus magnificently points out this tragic paradox: For whoever wants to save their life will lose it… What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:24a-25).

Sometimes the devil wants you to think that until you’re perfect don’t go talking to God. – Quote by C.C. DeVille.

As you can see in the film below, C.C. DeVille – what’s in an artist’s name? –, guitarist of ‘hair metal, glam rock’ band Poison, clearly understands how his early life relied heavily on the principles I just described. He admits giving in to an unhealthy sense of pride, to a desire for ‘status’. He quite literally says he wanted others to be envious of him. Indeed, envy is the negative side of mimetic desire, the flipside of admiration, and for a person who desires to be desirable it is a big achievement to feel envied. Yet C.C. DeVille felt his life was not fulfilled. He was not happy until he experienced, in his own words, ‘God’s grace’. He discovered the ‘unconditional love’ by which he was finally able to accept himself. The paradox is that, by obeying God’s call through Christ, he became free. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for me will save it,” Christ claims (in the completed Luke 9:24). That’s exactly what C.C. DeVille discovered, for truly imitating Christ means to accept yourself and others, not to be ashamed of oneself, and to be enabled to grow towards one’s ‘real’ and ‘honest’ vocation. It’s only when we’re accepting ourselves that we are able to approach others, not as means to fulfill our need to feel loved, but as the true ‘goals’ of our lives in the realm of Love, in the realm of a giving Grace that wants to be ‘imitated’ – and to imitate giving means to become ‘givers’ ourselves. That’s why St. Francis (1181-1226) prays: O Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be loved, as to love…”

Being free means ‘being free for the other,’ because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free. – Quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

We are relational beings. We don’t develop relationships ‘out of the blue’, from a primal ‘individual freedom’. On the contrary, it’s the quality of our relationships which decides whether we become free or not – are we led by fear, envy and pride or by trust, grace and truthful honesty?

This post might seem a little weird. I realize that. Few of my friends in the world of music understand why I like ‘hair metal’ so much. This particular brand of rock music has never been a favorite among established pop criticism. I discovered it as a kid, and I was attracted first by the colorful extravaganza of the bands, the big choruses of the songs and the sheer joy displayed in live shows. ‘Hair metal’ felt like summer to me. Later on I discovered that behind this joyful image there often lurked an empty world of drug abuse, superficial relationships without real intimacy and just plain decadence. Yet, at the same time, some of the songs had a melancholic feel which betrayed a longing for more sustainable experiences in life.

Guitarist C.C. DeVille articulates this longing of ‘the soul’ in the following interview. I combined it with quotes by famous thinkers, mostly Christian. One of my pupils, who commences studies in philosophy next year, convinced me to try working with quotes. So, here you have it. I hope I’m able to show in this way that C.C. DeVille really understands what Christianity is all about. Because, let’s face it, especially in the academic world we all too often look down on the so-called ‘superficial’ world of popular culture. Well, at the margins of that world, at what seems to be the pinnacle of superficiality, we have a band like Poison. I dare you, dear reader, to look beyond everything you think to know about bands like these, and to move beyond certain ‘mimetic’ processes which convinced you to dismiss the members of ‘glam metal’ bands. True, Poison might not have written the best songs ever, but I do believe their music is honest – ‘what you hear is what you get’. And if you’re still looking for unexpected complexity and sophistication in this music genre, try a band like Winger – great musicianship combined with the compositional talents of lead singer Kip Winger (as is evidenced by his solo efforts).

Now, watch the interview with C.C. – what you see is what you get –, and click here

– CLICK TO WATCH:

Klik hier voor een Nederlandstalige weergave van de gebruikte

CITATEN VAN (VOORAL CHRISTELIJKE) DENKERS (PDF).

Pentecost

We celebrate Pentecost. It’s a celebration of community. Of Spirit. The ‘Holy Spirit’. When we look at the history of humanity, we’re all too often confronted with a history of violence, bloodshed, sacrifice, disease, disaster and despair. Yet it’s there, in the midst of all the ‘mud’ and the ‘dirt’, that the transformational Spirit of Love is at work.

The website with Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary (see the ‘Links’ section for more) comments on Acts 2:1-21, one of the principal texts from the New Testament on the coming of the Holy Spirit. The text in Acts is used during year A of the roman-catholic liturgical calender (as is the year 2011; click for more: Pentecost 2012 belongs to liturgical year BPentecost 2013 belongs to liturgical year CPentecost 2014 belongs to liturgical year A – and so on…), and tries to express what happens when people are gathered by the Spirit of Love. Here’s what the Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary has to say, guided by the work of James Alison:

If we were to raise the question ‘Why is the Church necessary for salvation?’, the Pentecost text and Alison’s treatment of it could provide a good start on an answer. In the interpretation of original sin guided by mimetic theory, personal fallenness is related to living in a fallen state of human community. The mimetic rivalry that grips each person’s life feeds off of the scapegoating mechanisms that grip human community, and vice versa. Thus, for a person to experience salvation there must also be a re-socialization that transforms the powers of the scapegoating mechanisms into the power of life received through self-sacrifice. As part of Alison’s brilliant laying out of original sin in light of mimetic theory, he devotes Chapter 6 [of The Joy of Being Wrong] to what he calls ‘ecclesial hypostasis,’ a living under the power of community formed around the forgiving victim, Jesus Christ, as opposed to living under the power of the ‘an-ecclesial hypostasis,’ or life under the Generative Mimetic Scapegoating Mechanism, as Robert Hamerton-Kelly calls it.

Alison makes use of the Pentecost story, as remedy to the Tower of Babel story, as a gathering of what has been scattered. In this vein, he also cites Luke 11:23: ‘He who does not gather with me scatters.’ (Note: Gil Bailie in his taped lectures on Luke uses the gathering-scattering motif a great deal in his interpretation of Luke’s gospel, especially over the last several tapes in the series.) Alison concludes:

In the account of Babel … God is still a continuation of the ‘envious’ God of Genesis 3:22. In Jesus’ phrase, however, the essential evangelical work of anthropological de-mythification has been carried out: it is God who founds, and men who scatter. Thus the representation of Pentecost as the undoing of Babel is not only a fulfilment of the prophecies that God would gather his scattered people together. It is a decisive recasting in anthropological terms of human foundational order: The real foundation is God’s foundation of the new people of Israel in Christ. It was not that God had scattered the people of Babel, but their foundational order, one grasped at avidly so as to avoid being scattered (Gen 11:4) was in fact cast in the mode of human scattering. All human societal foundations are futile exercises in the production of a fragile order. The only real foundation is the one given in Christ’s gathering. Behind the New Testament reworking of biblical images there is a quite specific understanding of the universal futility of human social order that is being overcome by the revelation of the true foundation. (p. 167)

I couldn’t resist to share some thoughts with you by an avid reader of James Alison’s work, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. In the following video he comments on the feast of Pentecost. Click to watch:

For more meditation I thought of music by John Dunstable (c.1380-1453), on the poem Veni Sancte Spiritus, in a performance by The Hilliard Ensemble. The poem with translation and some more background information can be read below. It shows how rich the Christian tradition really is. As human beings we belong to a place, a time, history, traditions … We belong to the ‘mud’ as well as to the unexpected beauty that comes out of it, a beauty which is our ‘future’. It’s from this future we belong to, our ‘vocation’ which is there to be loved, that our will receives direction. That’s why Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) says “Dilige et quod vis fac” – “Love and then what you will, do” (In epistulam Ioannis ad Parthos; Tractatus VII,8). We are relational beings, and therefore our freedom lies in the maintenance of loving relationships. So much is already given to us before we are able to give ourselves. The beautiful music of John Dunstable is but one of those gifts.

Click to watch and to listen:

From the Thesaurus Precum Latinarum:

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, known as the Golden Sequence, is the sequence for the Mass for Pentecost. It is commonly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of sacred Latin poetry ever written. Its beauty and depth have been praised by many. The hymn has been attributed to three different authors, King Robert II the Pious of France (970-1031), Pope Innocent III (1161-1216), and Stephen Langton (d 1228), Archbishop of Canterbury, of which the last is most likely the author.

This text is taken from the Roman Missal, translation by John Austin (1613-1669):

VENI, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.
COME, Holy Ghost,
send down those beams,
which sweetly flow in silent streams
from Thy bright throne above.
Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.
O come, Thou Father of the poor;
O come, Thou source of all our store,
come, fill our hearts with love.
Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.
O Thou, of comforters the best,
O Thou, the soul’s delightful guest,
the pilgrim’s sweet relief.
In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium.
Rest art Thou in our toil, most sweet
refreshment in the noonday heat;
and solace in our grief.
O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.
O blessed Light of life Thou art;
fill with Thy light the inmost heart
of those who hope in Thee.
Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.
Without Thy Godhead nothing can,
have any price or worth in man,
nothing can harmless be.
Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.
Lord, wash our sinful stains away,
refresh from heaven our barren clay,
our wounds and bruises heal.
Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.
To Thy sweet yoke our stiff necks bow,
warm with Thy fire our hearts of snow,
our wandering feet recall.
Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.
Grant to Thy faithful, dearest Lord,
whose only hope is Thy sure word,
the sevenfold gifts of grace.
Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium,
Amen, Alleluia.
Grant us in life Thy grace that we,
in peace may die and ever be,
in joy before Thy face.
Amen. Alleluia.