Charity for Society’s Canaries

yoked

After Robin Williams's suicide, SlateStarCodex wrote a thoughtful meditation, and I'd like to highlight one of the points he wound up making.  Scott works in mental health, and he wound up discussing the idea of "being a burden" and pointing out that this isn't an intrinsic fact about a person, but the result of who they are and how their society relates to them. Society got where it is by systematically destroying everything that could have supported him [a patient] and replacing it with t … [Read more...]

What should we be hurt by?

hand-with-candlelight

Poking around the internet, I ran across two interesting articles that seemed to be linked only by offhand comments about the legitimacy or 'realness' of certain kinds of suffering.  First, from a Mother Jones piece on PTSD: Whatever is happening to Caleb, it's as old as war itself. The ancient historian Herodotus told of Greeks being honorably dismissed for being "out of heart" and "unwilling to encounter danger." Civil War doctors, who couldn't think of any other thing that might be un … [Read more...]

The Inspector Javert Medley [Sequence Index]

Isn't moral conviction dreamy?

I may not have drawn little hearts in my middle school notebooks labelled "Leah + Inspector Javert" but I've loved him far too much since the first time I saw Les Miserables.  (And, this year, I immediately dibsed his part when organizing a Les Mis flashmob).  But some of the things I've loved most about the adamant Inspector are the things I've had to set aside in order to be a Christian.  So, to mark the occasion of the movie's release, I wrote three meditations on the  … [Read more...]

Javert and Valjean at Prayer

javert and valjean

The two things I found most frustrating about the Les Mis movie were the camerawork and Russell Crowe's performance as Javert.  And they both came together to annoy me during "Stars."  Crowe is sad-eyed instead of steely from his first appearance and, for this number, director Tom Hooper places him on a ledge.  This seems to be done simply so that Hooper can set up some parallelism in his cimematography; the shots of Javert walking right along the edge of the roof in "Stars" are echoed when he pa … [Read more...]

Give Me (and Javert) a Firm Place to Stand

javert

While googling to nail down some of Javert's lyrics, I ended up on his IMDB quotes page, which draws on film adaptations of the book going back to 1935.  And, looking over these selections, it's clear a number of productions have seen Javert as some kind of atheist, possibly of an existentialist stripe.  One movie has him saying, "There is no God. There is only the law. Good and evil do not exist outside the law."But the Javert of the book and the musical isn't a heathen; he's a heretic.   … [Read more...]

How art thou Fallen, Severus, son of Spinner’s End

As we're all battered by a storm, huddled up by our stockpiled supplies, our minds return to the most important questions like: Does Hermione love learning for it's own sake?  That became a point of contention in the conversation that followed my jeremiad against Hermione and Ron's relationship.Hermione is clearly a nerd type.  She's bookish, bossy, has messy hair, and the glasses are silent, I guess.  But Hermione is a lot more active and ruthless than we might expect her to be if she were j … [Read more...]

What Freedom from Moral Sensibilities Feels Like

Writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Kevin Dutton underwent transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to damp down his amygdala and explore the way some brain scientists think psychopaths feel.  (It's the Dark Side version of a moral jump discontinuity).  I've read some scientific literature on this hypothesis before, but it was really interesting to read his subjective experience. It isn't long before I start to notice a fuzzier, more pervasive, more existential difference. Before the e … [Read more...]


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