Like cartographers of the stars and globe, the apocalyptic writers mapped dynamics of human nature and society, captured their amorphous but essential, distinguishable shape, and — in a code of metaphors — recorded their observations. Some of these recordings are called Scripture. The extrapolation of this unscientific art gave us our apocalyptic literature.
What the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., knew so well is that our job is not to react in kind, eye for an eye, but to respond with a fierce and loving kindness that looks the oppressor in the eye — to respond with a willingness to regard ourselves with the self-esteem not only that we want from others but that we must extend to others, regardless of color, creed, or character.
You remember Dr. King talking about character?
When Friedrich Nietzsche maligned Richard Wagner, after years as his laudatory “prophet,” he did so not because the great composer diminished in artistry but because he moved from operas based in Teutonic mythology (epitomized by Der Ring des Nibelungen to a final trio based in Christian religiosity — Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger, Parsifal.
The Philadelphia Story was released in 1940, an interesting time historically for the subjects of gender and class that dominate this film. Europe was at war, but the United States had not yet entered into the conflict and modern women were not yet the necessity they would become during the time of “Rosie the Riveter.” The era of the flapper was more than a decade in the past, and it was clear that while the newly defined “modern woman” was entering the world of business and politics there was still ambivalence about it. Athena held center stage for these women as they were forced to shed their femininity to be successful in the male dominated world. Women who brought their sexual bodies with them into the American business world were accused of husband hunting. So those who wished to be taken seriously cultivated the Athena archetypal stance; they became friends and allies in battle…
Descartes culminated as much as innovated. Concerned with clarity of thought — or “purity” of consciousness, per Susan Bordo (17, 81, 88) — Descartes held that erroneous perception and understanding (including religious conceptions of “God”) derive from “prejudices” having “their origin in a hyperabsorption in the senses” (ibid., 91). Indeed, Descartes viewed the “prison of the body” as the essential component in humanity’s incapacity “to perceive clearly and distinctly” (ibid., 89), writing that an infant “has in itself the ideas of God, itself, and all such truths as are called self-evident… [I]f it were taken out of the prison of the body it would find [such truths] within itself” (Kenny 111).
The way the duo exudes contempt for each other in that silent first scene, actually a prelude that ends with him thrusting her to the floor, you might well assume you’re watching the bitter interplay of a Zeus and Hera. Indeed, as the story progresses, you might well feel confirmed in this — or you might be inspired to adopt a slightly more subtle view, that perhaps the rivalry unfolding before you runs replete with the unhappy maneuverings of Aphrodite and her cuckold Hephaestus, fuming as his bride consorts with an upstart Ares.