April 20, 2005

Asking Questions : The Value of Saintliness?

What do we consider saintly values? Are such values practical, or even possible, in our society? Is it more important to be a balanced human being, or to be wholly devoted to a single end? What role should aceticism play in the life of a saintly person? Is the saintly personality trusting, or overly-trusting and naive?

On Monday, I posted a found poem from a text by William James, in particular a chapter on the value of saintliness. I was intrigued by this particular excerpt especially when it was taken out of its original context and considered on its own terms. So many questions came to mind, just a few of which I mentioned above.

A story about a flood in India, during which human beings and animals alike seek refuge on a hill; a tiger manages to climb ashore and collapses panting, only to have a man shoot it before it can regain its feet and attack. A startling tale! But who is the saint? Is it the tiger--a symbol of the beauty and strength in nature, who struggles against dangerous waters that would drown it and manages to find safety, only to be destroyed by its own dropped defenses? Or the man, who overcomes the panic instilled by seeing a beast suddenly amongst the people, and steps calmly forward to do what must be done, even if it is tragic and painful to do?

What do we value as saintliness? The obvious answers: love, mercy, charity, perhaps even obedience and poverty (though these have fallen increasingly out of favor). But do we really reward or support people who try to live up to these values? How often do we callously take advantage of another's dropped defenses, in the name of our own security? Do we see saintliness when it is before us, or do we write it off as naivete and even weak-mindedness?

Or perhaps we do not agree with the old understanding of what it means to be saintly. Maybe the modern world demands modern values. If so, what are they, and how have they evolved from the more traditional conceptions? Especially when it comes to world-denial. This seems like the biggest question for me, personally. So many saints shunned the world, proclaimed it to be nothing but a distraction from the Divine. These days, it seems so important to value our lives in the world and the world itself, to protect and care for it and for each other. Is it still acceptable for a saint to leave the world to its sins and concentrate on saving only himself, keeping himself pure? How important is it to remain "pure"?

I don't have any easy answers. These are just questions that I've been mulling over recently. I'd love to hear what others think on the matter.


At 22.4.05, Blogger Mocking Music said...

It seems our philosophical views probably diverge quite a bit, but neat blog. Glad to see you blogmarked me.

(I'll be getting my own philosophy B.A. next Decembet, and got my Poli sci one, well, now - the semester that's just left me. I've also taken quite a few religious studies classes. I would describe my general out look as atheistic agnosticism. Look forward to reading your views)

At 22.4.05, Anonymous casey said...

oops, that was me

At 22.4.05, Blogger Ali said...

Ah yes! I blogmarked you because of your post on Anti-Flag, which I wanted to show my boyfriend (they're one of his favorite bands, and from what I've heard of them, I like their political take, too). I'll definitely have to look into the rest of your site, tho, once I have a bit more time.

At 22.4.05, Blogger Athanasios said...

I think real saints don't leave the world to save themselves. They leave the world to save it. They do so by acquiring inner peace, for themselves and for all.



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