Sunday Morning Survey – Can A Spider Achieve Absolution?

Part of the November Break Series – I’ll be back blogging as usual on December 5th.

Absolution is an integral part of the Sacrament of Penance, in Roman Catholicism. The penitent makes a sacramental confession of all mortal sins to a priest and prays an act of contrition. The priest then assigns a penance and imparts absolution in the name of the Trinity, on behalf of Christ Himself, using a fixed sacramental formula. Wikipedia.

Very soon it will be an anniversary of an event and it’s a difficult time – primarily because I first and foremost respected someone for their art. However, they don’t acknowledge any value in me at all, certainly not my work, which they paradoxically would otherwise (or at least in the philosophical sense) support.

Which leads to the question: is there anything that is absolutely unforgivable? Something that renders a person (or institution) completely worthless, makes them a horrific spider?

What if it even influences any good works that the person does? How many of us collect (say) the works of Michael Jackson while acknowledging that he was prosecuted for crimes – and consider it separate from his art? Or watch the films of Roman Polanski? How many of us have works or attended lectures by authors who have demonstrated sexist attitudes despite being an ‘admirable skeptic’ – or made the conscious choice to set aside the ‘personality from the product’?

It’s not unusual for people to completely and utterly dismiss someone’s work (and even encourage otherwise uninvolved others to do so), in order to silence and even hinder someone’s career or life – is there anything they can do to stop that? What completely writes someone (or some people or institutions) off?

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About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.

  • Carol

    Spiders are gross and you are not. Don’t let it get to you so much. It would have to be a pretty hard-hearted person to completely write you off if there’s a lot in common, but they wouldn’t be the effort if they’re that stubborn and vindictive enough to hurt your career because of a personal slight. Egos trump if stupid wins.

    Religions have a lot to answer for, but I stick to “Hate The Religion Not The Person” when it comes to atheism.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Forgivableness, like attractiveness or tastiness or any other subjective measure, lies in the eye of the perceiver.

    If someone absolutely cannot tolerate unwashed dishes, or eating crackers in bed, or bombing a city full of civilians, or picking up sticks on Saturday, or whatever else (they think) you did, then those things cannot be forgiven.

    My suggestion: continue roistering down the highways of the world, and allow the unforgiving one to choose among: accumulating an ever-growing mass of bile; blanking out your existence from his/her/their awareness; or getting over it.

  • Chris L

    Haters gonna hate. Fuck them and the high-horse they rode in on.

    As long as you’re not the Pope, and as long as you’re not Michael Jackson, I don’t give a shit. Look at all the crap that the other atheists get on here for being a woman who knows her mind. Everyone makes mistakes, don’t let this anchor weigh you down from doing good work that others do appreciate. Move on and let it be THEIR problem it like Pierce said.

  • Aliasalpha

    Probably the only unforgivable thing for me is betrayal of trust for selfish reasons. I normally give people one more chance if they do something really stupid but trust is one of the few things I genuinely care about so betraying that is certain doom for any friendship.

    Oh wait, there’s one more obvious one I can’t imagine how I overlooked. Sexual abuse of your own child. Lets just say that if I ever meet the father of my best friend, the authorities will have a lot of trouble identifying the corpse from all the claw hammer imprints in the face…

    Well aside from that, being a spider is pretty unforgivable, at least if they’re around me.

  • Anon.

    In my opinion it’s not necessary to forgive a person (or forget what they have done) to appreciate their work. Perhaps it’s just a case of cognitive dissonance for me but I’m comfortable with that.
    My dad sexually abused my brother and I as very small children and beat us all through our childhood until my mother finally ran away from him. I won’t ever forgive him and really, I think it’s best for my mental health that way. I don’t owe him anything. But I still like his art (he’s a native artist) and appreciate the talent he passed on to me.

  • Lauren Ipsum

    I won’t watch anything with OJ Simpson in it, and I loved the Naked Gun movies back in the day. So, you know, murder is up there. Child rape is another one.

    I’m a little confused about the spider reference, though. Personal skeeve or callback to the myth of Arachne and Artemis?

    • Kylie Sturgess

      If only I was half as dignified as a Greek legend… no, just how I feel around a person who doesn’t respect my work, let alone want to associate with me.

  • http://n/a Karen Helouin

    I have a right to choose whose work I admire and pay for the privilege of seeing/hearing. I won’t support child molesters, rapists or other lunatics. There are enough talented people in the world who are apparently able to live a creative life without hurting others with their pathologies.

    I don’t expect perfection in anyone, but I won’t condone anyone’s right to harm another, even if they are freaking Michelangelo.

  • http://flavors.me/davidfrank David

    I struggle with this all the time.
    In many cases I maintain an uncomfortable truce in the parliament of my mind. There’s always a little Cato reminding me that “Carthage must be destroyed”, and I am unwilling to emotionally bond with that person, or appreciate their work properly.

    It becomes impossible to detach the person and their deeds from their work when it’s personal, because I can’t separate anything remotely linked to the person without being reminded of the unforgivable act.

    Mind you, for all the major wrongs that have been done to me, I am yet to receive an admission of genuine, deep guilt, which is a whole other kettle of fish.

    We all think ourselves as being genuinely good people, and with every act we do we try to do the right thing. This is something that did my head in when I learnt it not that long ago, and I still have to remind myself of. Considering how late in the game I was told and absorbed this, I wonder how many people out there look at someone as their enemy without realising how alike we really are?

    Also in the same vein, I wonder what part our flaws or mistakes play in this. My flaws might upset someone, but yours may not; we still have the same number or flaws; they’re just different. Overall, we’re just as flawed.

    Perhaps forgiveness comes down to perceived motivation and what someone feels moving forward.
    I understand not wanting to associate with the perpetrator of a personal wrongdoing. I do not think one should embargo someone for an impersonal wrongdoing – eg appreciating movies made by someone else on the other side of the planet.

    What about all the appreciation done before the deed? Is their work, even if it is judged on its own merits, retroactively tainted? If not, how can their future work be?
    If people change to become bad, can they become good? I assume they can.

    I struggle with this all the time.


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