FatherNeo held hostage!

Episode III is, yes, the best Star Wars. This is coming from a purist. It does what we wanted it to do. Even Hayden brought it. It’s 3:13 AM. I’m going to bed.

16 thoughts on “FatherNeo held hostage!

  1. Revenge of the Sith was amazing. I was cheering, clapping, and yes, I almost cried (I had tears in my eyes). I can’t wait to see it again…and again…and again! I am still so excited, even though I’m at work 5 hours after I got out of the theater. It is so worth the $10 you spend on a ticket. If you call yourself a fan in any sense of the word, you must see this movie ASAP.

  2. Book for Recovering Break-Dancers, Rice Bowl eaters, Wolf fans, Bronco nuts, and the would-be neo Orthodox living in the world of Republican platform rabid evangelicals…for comfort and understanding.

    Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

    Back Cover:

    Whether it’s assessing the class consciousness of Christianity or the convulsions of consumer capitalism, dueling or home-furnishing, Status Anxiety is infallibly entertaining. And when it examines the virtues of informed misanthropy, art appreciation, or walking a lobster on a leash, it is not only wise by helpful.

    One’s position in society; the word derived from the Latin statum or standing (past participle of the verb stare, to stand).
    In a narrow sense, the word refers to one’s legal or professional standing within a group (married, a lieutenant, etc.). But in the broader – and here more relevant – sense, to one’s value and importance in the eyes of the world.
    Different societies have awarded status to different groups: hunters, fighters, ancient families, priests, knights, fecund women. Increasingly since 1776, status in the West (the vague but comprehensible territory here under consideration) has been awarded in relation to financial achievement.
    The consequences of high status are pleasant. They include resources, freedom, space, comfort, time and, as importantly perhaps, a sense of being cared for and thought valuable – conveyed through invitations, flattery, laughter (even when the joke lacked bite), deference and attention.
    High status is thought by many (but freely admitted by few) to be one of the finest of earthly goods.

    Status Anxiety:
    A worry, so pernicious as to be capable of ruining extended stretches of our lives, that we are in danger of failing to conform to the ideals of success laid down by our society and that we may as a result be stripped of dignity and respect; a worry that we are currently occupying too modest a rung or are about to fall to a lower one.
    The anxiety is provoked by, among other elements, recession, redundancy, promotions, retirement, conversations with colleagues in the same industry, newspaper profiles of the prominent and the greater success of friends. Like confessing to envy (to which the emotion is related), it can be socially imprudent to reveal the extent of any anxiety and, therefore, evidence of the inner drama is uncommon, limited usually to a preoccupied gaze, a brittle smile or an over-extended pause after news of another’s achievement.
    If our position on the ladder is a matter of such concern, it is because our self-conception is so dependent upon what others make of us. Rare individuals aside (Socrates, Jesus), we rely on signs of respect from the world to feel tolerable to ourselves.
    More regrettably still, status is hard to achieve and even harder to maintain over a lifetime. Except in societies where it is fixed at birth and our veins flow with noble blood, our position hangs on what we can achieve; and we may fail due to stupidity or an absence of self-knowledge, macro-economics or malevolence.
    And from failure will flow humiliation: a corroding awareness that we have been unable to convince the world of our value and are henceforth condemned to consider the successful with bitterness and ourselves with shame.

    That status anxiety possesses an exceptional capacity to inspire sorrow.
    That hunger for status, like all appetites, can have its uses: spurring us to do justice to our talents, encouraging excellence, restraining us from harmful eccentricities and cementing members of a society around a common value system. But, like all appetites, its excesses can also kill.
    That the most profitable way of addressing the condition may be to attempt to understand and to speak of it.


    – Lovelessness
    – Expectation
    – Meritocracy
    – Snobbery
    – Dependence

    – Philosophy
    – Art
    – Politics
    – Religion
    – Bohemia

  3. I haven’t seen the movie yet. I may not have as much invested in being a huge Star Wars fan as that – but I do expect to see it and do like the series, and certainly don’t mean to communicate anything against people who are more invested in it than I am. Mostly I’ve been watching a lot of the conversation here and thought of you all when I came across the de Botton book. America is a tough place for the serious pursuit of God, and there are many times when I see such people relegated to a weirdo status. And when that relegation happens, I often see those people embrace the weirdness – sometimes even for its own sake. It’s an effective shorthand to communicate priorities – that the pursuit is worth more than the expense paid for the pursuit, for example. The challenge is that a distinct subcultural elitism quickly emerges among the “weirdos” that CAN present a challenge to the focus on the God who inspired the intial pursuit. This is true of any specific pursuit, or any intentional non-pursuit (after all, it seems that fallen people are desperate to put whatever they can find between themselves and God – even when that’s exactly what our higher selves want so much not to do).

    I think the de Botton book could be worth something to the conversation on the rabbit trail – both for personal development and for the sake of better understanding/enduring a world that would call the delving into mystery a “weird” thing to do.

    I attached it to this post simply because it was the most recent…no additional communication was intended.

    And now, in addition to posting this with the Anonymous button (though there are clues enough for Father Neo to name me), I’m leaving town for the next week and will fall out of the conversation. I intended only to make mention of an interesting book – not jump much into the ongoing dialogue or communicate a critique of it. I think what you’re doing here is valuable and cool.

  4. Theophilus. Magnum, P.I. Kojak. Shaft. Jessica Fletcher – who can tell the difference?

    Now I really must be going for the week. I’ll be interested to hear if the book does anything for you.

  5. Thesis:
    That status anxiety possesses an exceptional capacity to inspire sorrow.

    Ok. What is “status anxiety” when the status aspired to is counter to the ‘popular’ status aspiration, say, for instance, to be a Christian who serves God, denies self, and pursues loving other as Christ so loved?

    Does this book apply?

    Does this book aim at reshaping our goals from self-centered ones to Christ-centered ones, or does it just teach us to ‘live with’ ourselves? Are its solutions really Christian solutions, or just pop psychology?

    I know that my desire to repent and of asking the Lord to have mercy on my soul inspires sorrow, and I aspire to be truly repentant, for I am really not very much so. But one might say the real goal of this ‘status anxiety’ is to produce true contrition…

    I contend they very well may be a healthy form of this status anxiety.

  6. From this review of de Botton’s “Status Anxiety”:

    “Luckily, help is at hand. The second half of Status Anxiety, entitled ‘Solutions’, is devoted to strategies for alleviating this condition. Under various headings–‘Philosophy’, ‘Art’, ‘Comedy’, ‘Politics’, ‘Christianity’ and ‘Bohemia’–de Botton helpfully enumerates the various ways in which people at the bottom of the status ladder can comfort themselves. One such solution is to think about death: ‘Aside from reflecting on our own mortality, it can also be a relief from status anxiety to dwell on the death of other people, in particular on the death of those whose achievements are now apt to leave us feeling most inadequate and envious.’ “

    Contrast this morbid view with some advice from my name-saint, St. John Climacus:

    3 quotes from “The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 6: On Rememberance of Death”:

    1. “Every word is preceded by thought. And the remembrance of death and sins precedes weeping and mourning. “

    2. “Not every desire for death is good. Some, constantly sinning from force of habit, pray for death with humility. And some, who do not want to repent, invoke death out of despair. And some, out of self-esteem consider themselves dispassionate, and for a while have no fear of death. And some (if such can now be found), through the action of the Holy Spirit, ask for their departure.”

    3. “Some inquire and wonder: “Why, when the remembrance of death is so beneficial to us, has God hidden from us the knowledge of the hour of death?” – not knowing that in this way God wonderfully accomplishes our salvation. For no one who foreknew his death would at once proceed to baptism or the monastic life; but everyone would spend all his days in iniquities, and only on the day of his death, would he approach baptism and repentance. From long habit, he would become confirmed in vice, and would remain utterly incorrigible.”

    We should think of death. Our OWN death, not to “dwell on the death of other people” as de Botton recommends. And seeking consolation for low status through such anti-Christian means will only cause a lack of love for those whose death is being contemplated.

    I don’t think I’ll be reading this one anytime soon.

  7. I agree with Father Neo. This may well be the best of the bunch. A homerun. I have thought about it all day, and now I am going to see it again tonight. I had tears in my eyes at the end too.

  8. I agree with Father Neo. This may well be the best of the bunch. A homerun. I have thought about it all day, and now I am going to see it again tonight. I had tears in my eyes at the end too.

  9. Holder:::

    I think there may have been some misunderstanding happening with the exchange before – my last name is Gall, and Theolophilus was asking if it was me. I mention this because your response about the book struck me as a bit protective or defensive.

    I don’t mean to hold de Botton out as any sort of final word on the topic, nor as the ultimate answer for how to live in the Christian world. I think the topic he’s hitting is one that is quite germane in real life, and whether or not his conclusions end up being crisp reflections of divine revelation, there may be value in seeing where the conversation leads.

    My assumption was that anyone capable of finding worthwhile glimpses of ultimate truth in source like Star Wars, the Matrix, or even Constantine would be able to parse through a careful and intentional effort like the de Botton book and find a nugget or two worth considering. My timing and the exchange about my identity may have created greater obstacles to that than I’d intended, and I apologize for any frustration I may have caused you; I know that the exchanges on this site depend upon a certain level of cordiality and effort to remain safe to one another, and it seems that I may have shaken that. Please forgive my mistake.

    If it is not too late – if your frustration with the whole topic has not already closed you from it – it may be worth looking at your responses to see if they don’t highlight the very topic the de Botton book seeks to address. I can’t tell what all of your motivations were, but before I realized that you may have simply been responding to my breech of etiquette, all I could think was that you’d demonstrated the reality of the problem.

    I don’t want to get into some debate or flaming exchange with you on this point – it’s a core sort of issue and I don’t see how I could do anything but create a defensiveness about it all now. All I know is that I see the dynamic in myself and everywhere about me, and I think it’s a tough one to wrangle down. It could be garbage, or it could be of only partial value, or it could be a blind spot you’re not ready for – I don’t know.

    In any case, though, my intention was not to stir up, but to throw out a potential source of what may be worthwhile thoughts to a group that seems interested in such things. I apologize for not doing it better.

  10. Gall said,

    “A Book for Recovering Break-Dancers, Rice Bowl eaters, Wolf fans, Bronco nuts…”

    I think you know Neo better than some. Let’s keep the break dance thing on the QT.

    Tell me, Gall, what is it about this book that strikes a nerve in your soul? Perhaps that’s a better approach to this work by de Botton.

  11. I think what catches me about the topic is that so much of life feels like trying to straighten a paper clip; just as it bends nearly to straight, it pivots between my fingers and I’m suddenly bending it the wrong way. I think about that with wealth and poverty – how poor is poor enough, and at what point does the focus on simplicity become an errant idol of its own? Faith and works. Experience vs. the voice of the Church. Left brain vs. right brain. Knowledge vs. open-mindedness. The fine line between following Jesus and getting ahead of him.

    I want to trust in grace, but I also want to respond to it. I want to experience the sublime, but I don’t want to fall in love with the voice instead of the speaker.

    I think all of it comes down to an issue of adequacy, and even a well-crafted disregard for adequacy or inadequacy readily becomes its own claim to adequacy – or status. There was a time when I shaved my head to remind me that my only claim to adequacy was Jesus – no matter what looks I got from others. It worked for a while, but at a certain point that reminder became my badge of status; it proved that I wanted to know God enough to shave my head to learn something…cool of me.

    The subtle and not so subtle pressures regarding status are pervasive and fluid – and it seems that even an effort to step out of the flow results in the loss of ground…and the lost ground is not so much a matter of social standing as it is a matter of self description. To the extent that those external pressures remain mysterious and stealthy, the ability to face them, choose them or reject them remains shackled.

    Specialized knowledge is a comfort for a time: as you recall, Fr Neo, I bought the Nicene encyclopedia from you – and have read the bulk of it, and washed it down with desert fathers and Philokalia. It was – and in some ways continues to be – helpful, but it is not adequate to the task of living on its own…and neither are the giant thoughts and truths in that library. It’s fascinating, and it certainly is aimed at real and ultimate things – transformational things – but even such high order specialized knowledge is often primarily valuable only in corresponding specialized arenas.

    When the moment comes where I recognize that I’ve built yet another island of specialized knowledge, I have to decide what to do in response. Do I claim that the island is the whole world? Do I claim that the island is the only spit of land that matters? Do I abandon the island and swim for some other island or the mainland?

    What dazzles me is that I don’t think there’s much alternative to developing specialized knowledge – and even the effort against its development becomes a specialization in its own right.

    I wonder if there may be some way to enjoy the islands, but to hop among them. I don’t mean to create some universalist or pantheistic structure with this – I just mean to live in a less self-conscious manner.

    I live in a creative cycle of people – writers and artists and film makers and such. One night I went to dinner at this very fussy place with a very fussy, very elite-minded film maker and his wife. It was interesting, but the night was ruled by self-consciousness and specialized vocabulary (and the ability to use the vocabulary was less about actually communicating anything than it was about demonstrating the ability to use the vocabulary). I felt like one of the “cool kids,” but it was an exhausting, nerve-wracking, doubt-inspiring night.

    I spent the next evening with a couple in their vinyl-clad starter home. The husband was excited about the cheap stereo system he’d installed, and wanted to show me everything about his new Tevo setup. We ordered pizza. We watched American Idol. AND THEY CALLED IN TO VOTE!

    There was no showing off with the second couple, and I found them to be vastly more enjoyable – and better for my soul – than the first couple. And as I compared the lives of the two couples, I quickly saw that the second marriage was better, the couple was more invested in their world and was clearly more “salt” in it, and their interests were more diverse and their internal pressures were clearly lower.

    They were just happy little consumers – but the key to their quality of life was that they seemed to be almost completely unaware of the pressures of status and adequacy.

    In their case, I think they’ve never been aware of the pressures. What I want to know is how, as someone who has been very much aware of them and the games that go along with them, how do I break free?

    What made me post the information about the book this morning is that as I’ve been reading the posts over the past couple of months (I think I’ve read everything posted this year), I’ve seen a specialized knowledge, and I’ve felt a certain pressure to use the vocabulary of the specialized world.

    That’s not an all bad thing – especially given the fact that the discussions here, and the faith stripe represented in the people, have everything to do with moving in a direction the runs at crossed paths with what feels like a giant herd of American lemmings. Specialized knowledge and a specialized determination are critical to keep people from being swept in a direction they don’t want to go. But the catch is that it is still a specialized knowledge, with a specialized vocabulary and specialized pressures, and at some point my assumption is that it will all feel suddenly like an island.

    I don’t think the trick is to stop growing the specialized knowledge; I think the trick is to know the island moment is going to come and to know what to make of the island dynamic not just when it arrives, but as the island is explored.

    More from the back cover of the book: “a master explicator of our civilization and its discontents turns his attention to the insatiable quest for status, a quest that has less to do with material comfort than with love.”

    That seems like a topic worth considering. I know where the answers will be found (and I assume de Botton won’t come to the same ones I will), but what grabs me about the book is that even though I know where the answers are going to be, I keep finding it darned difficult to manage the pressures I use on this bent paper clip of life, and I’d like to hear what someone else who’s thinking about it has been thinking.

    Same reason I read these posts.

  12. I think Gall makes, at least, some intresting points. The term “island” I think is a good one. The more knowledge we get the smaller out island becomes. Gall mentions his elitist couple friends, becomming like that gives you a very small island. While is friends in the mobile home still have a very large island still, because they have not started to rule people off there island. Some christians do this also with there knowledge of the bible, hurch history or of other great Church writers. A priest said it best when I was a boy, allow me to para phrase.

    He said, I’ve studied the bible through classes for about 20 years. At 18 I started to learn Greek and Hebrew. I’ve known Latin since I was a boy. I’ve read the Bible in there original languages many times over. Does this make me a better christian? No it does not. It just means I am more educated.

    I think some christians do use there knowledge as a status symbol. We may have all been guilty of that at some point. This could be the reason White Rabbit feels so left out at times.

    On a secondary note, I don’t really think I’ve seen that here. It seems people here are accepted by whatever knowledge they hold. But then again it seems that most here know each other outside of the site.

  13. Wow. These post have given me an incredible amount of information to chew on. Status anxiety…what I read of your post, Anonymous, could be a very accurate description of my experience in church over the past 12 years. The island mentality, a worry or anxiety about what will happen if we fail to conform to the status quo, a desire for high status within the church, self conception dependent upon what others make of us… I’m not sure of the nature of the diversity of our different religious experiences, but mine has been basically rooted in Charismatic circles. The zeal is intense. The people are intense. As shafter79 stated, I have on many occasions witnessed a desire on behalf of some to appear “deep” by acting as if they are more knowledgable than those around them. Unfortunately what started out as a very healthy and sincere desire to pursue God at times becomes confused with a desire to pursue status and acceptance within the worship community one is a part of. I loved the references to the two visits with the two different groups of friends. Living and working in an inner city neighborhood, I have this experience very often. Almost weekly. I hop on the train and I am in a different world in 45 minutes. I might as well be on another planet. But I’ve stopped changing my habits of communication and personal presentation to suit the setting I am in. Honestly, I beleive that the affected speech habits and mannerisms are in some ways a defense mechanism, and I’ve discovered that when I just remain my relaxed, “normal” self, it can change the entire atmosphere of the group I happen to be in at the moment and put others at ease and help them to relax as well. Thank you all.

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