Friday, December 14, 2012

Tragedy, Bad Times, and What it all means Part 0: Introduction

Out of respect for the wishes of others and because I have been out there being a productive adult I have not talked about the latest spree killing in these here united states. But before I get into the meat of this matter I want to talk about what we say it all is and what that really means. Its a Tragedy. But where does Tragedy and just bad times become divided in the mind and in the heart. So lets start with Aristotle's view on tragedy

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions. . . . Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine its quality—namely, Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Melody.” (translation by S. H. Butcher;
Tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of hubris, fate, and the will of the gods. The tragic hero's powerful wish to achieve some goal inevitably encounters limits, usually those of human frailty (flaws in reason, hubris, society), the gods (through oracles, prophets, fate), or nature. Aristotle says that the tragic hero should have a flaw and/or make some mistake (hamartia). The hero need not die at the end, but he/she must undergo a change in fortune. In addition, the tragic hero may achieve some revelation or recognition (anagnorisis--"knowing again" or "knowing back" or "knowing throughout" ) about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. Aristotle quite nicely terms this sort of recognition "a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate." 

Key to Aristotle's definition (that applied to a play) is Katharsis:

The end of the tragedy is a katharsis (purgation, cleansing) of the tragic emotions of pity and fear. Katharsis is another Aristotelian term that has generated considerable debate. The word means “purging,” and Aristotle seems to be employing a medical metaphor—tragedy arouses the emotions of pity and fear in order to purge away their excess, to reduce these passions to a healthy, balanced proportion. Aristotle also talks of the “pleasure” that is proper to tragedy, apparently meaning the aesthetic pleasure one gets from contemplating the pity and fear that are aroused through an intricately constructed work of art

His definition of tragedy was not just limited to plays because he was trying to codify the formal systems of the world he lived in. But because the play was a thing that allowed you to experience the pity and fear and gain release and knowledge from the experience.Key also is the reversal of fortunes. That seemed to require the hand of the god's (or hubris and pride of men).

As we get to more modern philosophers we get deeper into Tragedy and how that ties into what we are experiencing and sharing through the poor people in Connecticut

August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Comparison between the Phaedre of Racine and that of Euripides (1807). The unity of ancient tragedy consists not in a single action, but a single idea, the heroism of the impossible struggle of man against fate. In Renaissance tragedy this may become a meditation on destiny, as in Hamlet. In A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, volume 1, 1809, Schlegel stated 'the spirit of ancient art and poetry is plastic, and that of the moderns is picturesque', a contrast also adopted by Coleridge (Lectures on Shakespeare 1849). The dichotomy is between the Greek arts as demonstrating sculptural beauty, 'a refined and ennobled sensuality', enjoyment of the present and celebration of the human will; while northern European art expresses the desire for the sublime, the infinite, and the annihilation of the self. A Romantic approach is also evident in Schlegel's view of the function of the chorus as 'a personified reflection on the action ... the incorporation into the representation itself of the sentiments of the poet ... In a word, the ideal spectator' (Course 69-70).
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of Fine Art (c1820). Tragedy presents ethical conflicts, between state and family, intention and action, responsibility and necessity. Conflict may exist even where ethical principles are not the primary interest, because the tragic character may experience internal conflict, as Hamlet or Othello. Tragedy lies in the denial of absolute right on either side, or affirmation of equal right, and its spiritual value consists in presenting justice as reconciliation: order is achieved through disorder, in an aesthetic version of the dialectical principle. Hegel does not consider fate or evil as important factors in the tragic conflict.

Our German Friends take it further: The source of tragedy in addition to huberis we see the conflict of our many roles in society and our role as an Individual. And we have tragedy being the very struggle against the impossible in life (and failing to fully be heroic).

     So I want to go into the tragedy of these events
  1. What makes this event tragic is the failures of people to act in a place of duty as they would wish to act.
  2. Without a deeper examination of these failures these events lead us to a deeper pain
  3. The people who commit the vile actions are themselves tragic because the cause to such violence is far more then a choice but is a path. And a path they rarely choose fully.
  4. It is the making of these events unknowable (when their can be knowledge gained) that makes these events tragic.
I am going to after some sleep and some free time expand on this further. But the tragedy is not the murder, the murder is the catharsis. Parents and people are having an emotional reaction that is giving them a release and a sense of connection. "What if this were my child?" This is a natural part of the order of such things. But while tragedy connects us to horror and feelings of horror, we must understand the limits of feelings (as much as we understand the limits of thought).

But I also want to take a step further:
Children are murdered and that is terrible but Children are murdered and brutalized every day. Do we pray for all of them?Some children are neglected and left to rot, do we pray for all of them?

We see illustrated in the movie Bruce Almighty the absurdity of such a vision of prayer. So   We can visualize and hope for the best for those who suffer but unless we open ourselves to them all we are doing is using them to experience their horror through their own lives. We can pray to god like he is some kind of prayer concierge, or we could take a deeper step (which the movie bruce almighty shows) being there for people.

Because you see not being there for people is why this tragedy and others like it always seem to happen. And being there for people is part of the answer to stop it. An Answer thats bigger then governments or men but is small enough for communities

Source 1
Source 2
Source 3

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