Monday, April 29, 2019

Self-Defeating Victory

The concept of victory is rooted in the way we talk about experiences arising from literal, physical warfare. Victory is clear and flows naturally from battle. Battle involves killing people and driving them away from their position. It involves a mustering and expending of force. When the force is spent and all the opponents have been driven out or killed, then you have a new piece of land for your territory and you can feel expansive on the inside, invincible and triumphant.

This concept can be applied metaphorically in ways that don't describe literal, physical warfare. For instance, in political or ideological warfare, or in spiritual warfare. One example is in the political slogan "Love Trumps Hate". Another is in the idea of conquering sin in order to become holy.

The idea of "Love trumping Hate" produces a strange mental image of Love having slaughtered Hate, or having it at its heel, gloating over it, expansive, invincible, and triumphant. There's something odd about that kind of Love. Love itself is at angles to the practice of trumping, probably both obliquely and acutely at the same time, in different ways. Whereas Nationalism (for instance) is closely aligned with trumping.

Perhaps the way that "Love Trumps Hate" can actually serve Love is for it to rouse people to action. And then, in the process of action, people who were aimed at trumping Hate will end up truly loving, and in the process trump Hate -- but at this point will be uninterested in trumping Hate, caught up rather in Loving itself.

This is a process of self-transformation, whereby a person is led from one motivation to another which they do not have or do not fully have at the outset of the process. In Eastern thinking, the goal is to deny the self. People generally like selfless people and like themselves when they are more selfless, and so they start down the path. But the end state is nirvana -- non-existence. Surely this does not make sense to most people as a desirable aim. But I can see how, having progressed long enough down the path of becoming more selfless, someone might come to welcome non-existence, as the ultimate selflessness. Someone starting down the path may think "I love selflessness and someday will love it enough to die for it."

The aforementioned ideas may help in understanding or making practical the concept of overcoming sin in order to become holy. The person who seeks holiness is ambitious -- but ambition is at angles to holiness. Perhaps we might think that the ambition to be holy is the problem and try substituting the ambition to love -- but ambition and love are at-angles.

It's relatively easy to picture Self-Control trumping Sin -- slaughtering Sin or having it at its heel, gloating over it, expansive, invincible, and triumphant. Or perhaps Self-Control would shut down its own gloating, would have a cold and tight grip on Sin's neck. But some sins are immune to Self-Control, or involve a kind of Self-Control, and we have a horror or disgust of them, or a fear of them. The desire for holiness connects to the ambition for holiness which connects to the ambition for self-control which connects to an amplification of all the sins that self-control does not address. Whenever you make yourself more trustworthy, people trust you more, and you are then able to betray them in the ways that you are not trustworthy. (As with Fr. Clérissac). So through self-control you can make yourself into an attractive image that ultimately will betray. All this helps explain why holiness is not a popular aim.

Corruptions of Love turn people off from making Love an aim as much as corruptions of Holiness do, but there's nothing inherent in desiring the end of Hate (or Sin) which means that you have to go down the path to the corruptions. The process of self-transformation can mean that you start out wanting Love or Holiness and in the process get caught up in the Power it takes to move yourself or the world toward them, or the Victory that's promised at the end of the process. But the genuine desire for Love or Holiness is hard to fault, will correct you sometimes in itself, and involves occasions on which the Victory in you is frustrated. If you love Victory first, you will seek the easier victories and will abandon the path of Love or Holiness, but if you truly desire the two of them, you will endure far more defeats and madnesses than you ever would have imagined or signed up for, and ... you will overcome.

This kind of overcoming might be a transformed version of Victory. So then when the pursuit of Love has defeated you first, then you can conquer (but maybe no longer "trump") Hate, and likewise with Holiness and Sin. We shy away from being defeated by our values, but we don't have to.

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