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  • a Christian take on House?

    hey all . . been lurking here for a while (since i finished ) and signed up mainly to see if anyone has any thoughts on from a specifically Christian perspective . . my thoughts are laid out in a little more detail in an article I wrote (pasting the text below, since i can’t add a link) . . and i'd love any comments on that, but basically my personal take is that presents (brilliantly and uniquely) a godless worldview--no objectivity, no concrete meaning to life, etc.--and doesn't really offer much in the way of how to respond to that worldview . . . from my pov, this is a good jumping-off-point for a faith like Christianity to offer an alternative, like Kierkegaard style . . (don't forget, the father of existentialism was also a Christian) . .

    anyway, anyone interested in this potential discussion, thanks!


    (below is the aforementioned review . . from a site called hollywoodjesus)


    In the spirit of this book, an experimental “review” (with no further explanation other than what’s next and this strong personal opinion: that this book must be read as a beginning to something, rather than an end): what follows is two different sets of thoughts about , both by me about a week or so apart, one posted to goodreads when I first finished the book, one posted on a site called storypraxis in response to the prompt “never get out of this maze” . . .


    wow . . quite a thing . . as complicated as he makes the book (on purpose) it’s clear what you’re left with: the world is confusing and dark and bleak and there is no true meaning and God is dead etc. etc. . . . and even when he tries to hold on to something hopeful at the end, that last chapter nails it shut: we’re like children playing at halloween . . but what actually means something is that deserted road, as he says . . kind of a depressing book, really, but nonetheless very impressive . . and the thing is: i agree 100 percent with everything he says . . given his worldview, his analysis is spot-on . . of course, i’d say–esp. given how obviously *sad* he is about said analysis–one’s reaction should be to *question the worldview in question* . . if we’re going to deconstruct everything, how bout deconstructing that? . . for me, this book is like a really good example of the end of postmodernism/relativism/atheism/etc. . . it shouldn’t make us say, “oh, okay then, i guess that’s it” and suffer (as he says) on . . it should instead make us move to that post-postmodern necessity: hope/faith in the midst of the labyrinth . . and i don’t mean just doing it as a coping mechanism, but i mean really seeking and embracing something *real* that is hopeful/meaningful, and by this i mean God of course . . .


    ///


    this guy i know just recently finished reading a book called of Leaves by a guy i don’t know by the name of Mark Z. Danielewski and it was quite a thing let me tell you.


    the book is basically about another guy i don’t know–can’t know, as he’s not real, but only a character in this book that a guy i know just finished reading–who finds a maze inside his in which he eventually becomes lost for a period, perhaps never to get out.


    but, spoiler alert, he actually does get out eventually, though how this exactly happens is as up-for-grabs as everything else in this book i’m referring to, which was recently finished by a guy i know, written by a guy i don’t know, about another guy i can’t know, nor can you, unless you happened to be another character from the book in question, which would be ca-razy.


    anyway, the book isn’t *just* about this whole business of the maze . . . it isn’t just this enthralling pseudo-horror-suspense tale, this kafkaesque thingy, this portentous happening . . . it’s also a kind-of, you know, unpacking of academia, postmodernism, slash, (de)constructionism, slash, epistemology slash derrida slash derring-do slash wittgensteineanisms and it’s kind of, really, if you really want to know about this book a guy i know just finished reading, mainly about how there’s no god and no meaning, but that you, spoiler alert, should go on anyhow, and with passion, which means suffering, Mark Z. tells the guy who read the book, and now you, through me, through the guy.


    it also does lots of artsy things–this book, i mean–like streamofconsciousnesswritinglikethis, like using concrete poetry when you’d expect prose, and different colored text to denote different things, and copious footnotes sometimes referring to nothing, like imaginary books and people places things and so on, which can be disorienting, but is generally impressive, and does (admittedly) add to the whole experience being attempted, dovetailing with the whole no-god-no-meaning thing


    really though . . . when it comes to this guy reading a book about a guy involving a guy who does, in fact, get out of the maze . . . and when it comes to the whole
    no
    god
    no
    meaning

    thing


    i’m just not so sure.


    and the guy who just recently finished the book by the guy isn’t so sure, nor were the characters, who really, actually, sure seemed to care, first of all, as did Mark Z., i think (through the guy), because otherwise, hey, “why so serious?” if it’s all just a of leaves?

  • #2
    milhill,

    Thanks for this post. I think you're onto something via mentioning Kierkegaard, whose thought and faith (to the extent that I understand what I've read of him) begin precisely with that sense of staring into the metaphysical abyss.

    I would politely take issue, though--or, rather, tweak just a bit--your suggestion that the novel's theme (or "The Navidson Record"'s theme) is "no god no meaning." As I and others have said in various ways and in various places in this forum, surely one of the points of those extive lists in Chapter IX is, by showing us what the does not resemble or contain and, yet, there it is, the only void that remains is our capacity to make rational sense of this physically-impossible-yet-nevertheless-present structure. The only word left to describe such a thing is "God,", no? That is Navidson's word, and though he may mean it in a different sense than you, his sense nevertheless incorporates, I think, the 's (and God's) inexplicable-yet-present is-ness.

    So, no: Navidson may not find God or even hope by his tale's end, but think of how the book of Jonah ends: literally, with a question that Jonah must ponder. We do not know his answer to that question--or, for that matter, whether Jonah ever comes up with an answer. Thus, God poses it to us as well. And as Thomas Merton famously said, "The question is the answer."

    Maybe "The Navidson Record" is a really long allegorizing of "I am what I am."

    In case you haven't seen it, you might also enjoy having a look at the Hey Zeus thread.
    Last edited by John B.; 01-02-2011, 05:04 AM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Interesting post John.

      It reminds me of something I was thinking of in regards to our conversation about Ed and Johnny questioning the reader's existence.

      Did the Editors and Johnny ever question our existence or did we do so only because we didn't understand the complex relationship between VEM and the other writings it appears in?

      Does God actually pose the question or do we pose it for God? Do we ask the question due to our lack of understanding of the abyss we ponder?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by heartbreak
        Interesting post John.

        It reminds me of something I was thinking of in regards to our conversation about Ed and Johnny questioning the reader's existence.

        Did the Editors and Johnny ever question our existence or did we do so only because we didn't understand the complex relationship between VEM and the other writings it appears in?

        Does God actually pose the question or do we pose it for God? Do we ask the question due to our lack of understanding of the abyss we ponder?
        In case anyone's interested, here's where that conversation occurs.

        In the Book of Jonah, it's God who poses the question I was referring to. But I take your point, though: God has to pose it to Jonah in the first place because Jonah doesn't understand why God chooses to spare the lives of the Ninevites, people who are avowed enemies of the Hebrews, God's chosen people. So, it's Jonah's incomprehension--his question--that prompts God's question.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for posting the link to the thread John, I should have done that.

          What I was trying to get across is that where does Jonah hear the voice of God? Is it inside his head? Is it out loud? If God speaks to him within his head, is it truly God speaking to him or is it his own perception of the situation raising these questions?

          Just as it was our perception that Ed and Johnny could have been questioning the reader's existence, but did they ever actually have such a question or was it our own perception/our unknowing of VEM that raised the question within us?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by heartbreak
            What I was trying to get across is that where does Jonah hear the voice of God? Is it inside his head? Is it out loud? If God speaks to him within his head, is it truly God speaking to him or is it his own perception of the situation raising these questions?
            Jonah, ch. 4. God speaks in many different ways in the Bible; whether in Jonah's head or out loud, though, the text makes pretty clear that they are having a conversation.

            And I misspoke a while ago: Jonah clearly had not wanted the Ninevites to be spared God's wrath, which is why he went to the ocean in the first place (and was swallowed by the whale): 4:1 says he had known God, being merciful, would spare the Ninevites if they repented of their evil. What Jonah can't comprehend is why God now chooses to spare Jonah's life, given that he had so blatantly disobeyed God.

            Originally posted by heartbreak
            Just as it was our perception that Ed and Johnny could have been questioning the reader's existence, but did they ever actually have such a question or was it our own perception/our unknowing of VEM that raised the question within us?
            Here (speaking for myself), the question gets raised within me. We have knowledge of all the personages in all these books (no matter their relationship to each other), but it doesn't follow that they have knowledge of us.

            Comment


            • #7
              hey . . thanks for the thoughtful responses and links . . i'm so glad to not have immediate flaming happening here . . i can tell you, as someone who has brought up "the God issue" in other forums, in other contexts, those trolls can be quick and merciless . . whether this indicates hope for the internet, the world at large, or just fans of this book, idk, but it's nice . .

              that being said, i do like what's been brought up re: interactions between readers/characters/authors . . i actually kind of played around with that in the article i pasted in (a guy who knows a guy, etc.) . . and while i agree that these kinds of ambiguities are interesting/important, i do want to note a distinction between "just theorizing" and what i consider to be the live, very practical, obviously relevant, and potentially simple (at least in the asking) question of God's existence and what follows from how we answer that question for issues of meaning, like makes central . . .

              i agree that the can be seen as analogous to God and vice versa and that the book, at least implicitly, invites seeking (Jonah's hanging question, etc.) . . it *can* in other words lead to a Kierkegaardian "leap of faith" in the face of angst/the abyss/etc. . . that's what i'm sort of positing as what could (and, i think, should) be the start of a Christian take or response or approach or use of . . but i guess i'm still pretty confident that the book itself doesn't indicate this move . . actually, i feel like it hits that moment of despair and then just kind of sits there and ends with it . . that deserted road, those "playing kids," that rootless tree, just suspended in space . . you know what i'm talking about . .

              and so, theorizing aside, i still think the simple issue is: what is the response to this presentation of 's of the world as rootless, necessarily subjective, objectively meaningless, etc., etc., and how/when/does God become involved actually, practically, beyond just theory/myth/metaphor/etc., but as a possible (respectfully) real "fix" for what seems to be an obviously undesirable actual situation otherwise? . . .

              Comment


              • #8
                mlhill,

                I think it's true of this forum that, though not not all of us are adherents of a religion (or even agnostic, for that matter), we can a) recognize intellectually-legitimate questions regarding this novel that are b) asked in a serious way. So, no flaming here.

                I agree with you that, from a Christian perspective, TNR isn't the most life-affirming text out there. But I think that's one reason why your mentioning Kierkegaard in your first post seemed (and seems) so relevant. The first thing I thought of was (full disclosure) the only Kierkegaard I've read in full, Fear and Trembling, which begins with multiple readings of the Abraham and Isaac ("eye sack") story. Let's just say that some of those readings would not get preached on from many Sunday-morning pulpits that I can imagine. And a point about my mentioning Jonah earlier is that, sure, God's question to Jonah is rhetorical, but it's not necessarily a given that Jonah (or the people of Israel, the first audience for all stories of prophecy in the Old Testament) will answer as they are "supposed" to answer. My point is that, though there's no obvious rainbow at the end of TNR, maybe what's going on here is something like what I read yesterday is the usual understanding of the Talmud: that the world to come will be like this one, only a little different--that little difference, though, being all the difference. Perhaps in Navy's closer bond to Karen and his children we have something like that difference. Sure: there's literal darkness; but the Navidsons do, after all, survive a that was well along the way to consuming them figuratively and, towards the end, literally.

                I'll have to think on this a little (really, a lot) further, but I'll toss it out here: There's a whole lot of "Bible" in TNR, but as I quickly run through TNR in my mind, it's much more OT than NT--in other word, its engagement is through a Jewish than a Christian filter. Off the top of my head (and I hope someone will correct me on this), I can't think of a single directly NT reference in it; they're all from the OT. Remembering that (assuming it's true) is important for thinking about those references; reading them through a Jewish lens will create subtle but crucial differences as compared to reading them through a Christian lens.

                A quick illustration: a couple of years ago via my blog, I met a rabbi, to whom one day I apologized for not having posted in a while. He said there was no need to apologize; I said I know, it was "that whole Original Sin thing" that led me to feel guilty. He said, "Oh. Well, I wouldn't know anything about that."
                Last edited by John B.; 01-03-2011, 06:08 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The only possible NT reference that I can think of at the moment is Hey Zeus.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by heartbreak
                    The only possible NT reference that I can think of at the moment is Hey Zeus.
                    That little pun right there is a good (if reductive) example of the distinction between the Christian and Jewish perspectives on the OT. I'm speaking specifically of the Christian impulse to read the OT typologically--that is, to see events in the OT as prefigurements of the NT or, alternately, to be fulfilled or in some way mitigated by Jesus. If not for at least a cultural knowledge of the Christian lens (plus a little knowledge of Spanish pronunciation), "Hey Zeus" wouldn't even be a pun, much less a humorous one. Without that knowledge, though, "Zeus" would be read as he in fact was read by early Christians: as a pagan equivalent of Yahweh.

                    But if these are the lengths to which we have to go to find a NT reference in TNR, that seems pretty significant.

                    (Edited to correct an error.)
                    Last edited by John B.; 01-04-2011, 07:32 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Zeus, Father of Gods.
                      Hey Zeus, son of God.
                      Reminds me of names like Richardson, son of Richard.

                      Hey Zeus is not the only time that Jesus comes up in HoL. There are a handful of instances where characters take his name in vain and on page 121, Z uses a quote from John Chapter 14:
                      Originally posted by Jesus
                      In my Father's are
                      many rooms: if it were not
                      so, I would have told you.
                      I go to prepare a place for you ...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        the story about the rabbi is funny and insightful, but i guess (ignoring obvious terminological differences, etc. . . stuff like "original sin") i'd tend to see OT and NT views of the world as essentially similar . . more specifically--and this is my perspective as a christian, of course--i'd tend to see the NT as "jewish" in the first place , or as the natural conclusion/fulfillment/etc. of the OT . . you mention a christian "impulse" to see the two texts as related in this way, but i'd submit that even a cursory reading of the NT indicates that no impulse is needed--it presents itself this way pretty clearly and philosophically/historically makes sense that way regardless . . .

                        the real important thing, to me, is that both christian and jewish perspectives, even understood (as you may be doing) as essentially different, are both (at least) obviously theistic and obviously concerned with redemption or setting-wrong-things-right or God's eventual triumph, etc. . . and this is precisely the thing that seems to explicitly deny or exclude (the rootless tree), thereby *implicitly* leaving a "door open" for the return of that meaning-giving, context-giving, root-giving God . . .

                        i still think all this intertextualizing and wondering about how sees the OT vs. the NT, etc., is (humbly and respectfully and hopefully) missing the point .. in the largest sense, it *just doesn't matter* how sees the Bible, sees God, issues related to God, and so on . . these issues matter anyway and their relevance, the question of God's existence, how we respond, the effects, etc., are only underlined by how they're treated in novels like this . . .

                        to bottom line it at the risk of redundancy/reductionism: if one possible reading of is that it presents a godless and meaningless world, what do we think about that possible reality? . . what does that do re: consideration of the possibility of God and that meaning/context/objectivity/etc. may be found in God?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by heartbreak
                          Zeus, Father of Gods.
                          Hey Zeus, son of God.
                          Reminds me of names like Richardson, son of Richard.

                          Hey Zeus is not the only time that Jesus comes up in HoL. There are a handful of instances where characters take his name in vain and on page 121, Z uses a quote from John Chapter 14:
                          Originally posted by Jesus
                          In my Father's are
                          many rooms: if it were not
                          so, I would have told you.
                          I go to prepare a place for you ...

                          Good catch, hb.

                          Some context: John 14 occurs in the Upper Room where the Last Supper occurs; Jesus is trying to reassure the disciples that his coming death will not be the end, that he will be returning. On p. 121 of HoL, meanwhile, Z refers us to Navy's letter to Karen (pp. 389-393), sections of which read like ironic paraphrases of John 14 (this will deserve some close attention from us in this thread).

                          Also of interest here is that which precedes the letter, the discussion of the Bister-Frieden-Josephson Criteria (this begins on p. 386), which is, as I understand the paraphrasing here, a reading of TNR that's analogous to a basic Christian understanding of the Bible (the episode with Delial is analogous to Christians' reading Adam and Eve's disobedience as Original Sin; Navy's returning to the is his seeking to redeem himself (here, the parallels with the Christian understanding of the meaning of Jesus get a bit confused: Is Navy analogous to Jesus, or to humankind?). Finally, via the BFJ Criteria is the Latin phrase Noli me tangere--the resurrected Jesus' words to Mary Magdalene by the tomb (John 20:17) . . . or some of them.

                          So: I see I was a bit off in my saying there's little to no NT texture to TNR--in the BFJ Criteria and in Z.'s noting the echoes from John 14, at least, you can't get more Christian-centric than that.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by John B.
                            mlhill,
                            My point is that, though there's no obvious rainbow at the end of TNR, maybe what's going on here is something like what I read yesterday is the usual understanding of the Talmud: that the world to come will be like this one, only a little different--that little difference, though, being all the difference. Perhaps in Navy's closer bond to Karen and his children we have something like that difference. Sure: there's literal darkness; but the Navidsons do, after all, survive a that was well along the way to consuming them figuratively and, towards the end, literally.
                            one more thing re: the above .. i guess i'm not fully sure i'm following the thread that leads from Kierkegaard to Jonah to the ending of . . Kierkegaard's main contribution to this conversation, and the reason i brought him up, has to do with his view that a "leap of faith" is what is required in a life that presents itself as angst/abyss (exactly what i think represents) . . .

                            as far as how you're reading the end of , i know you're trying to "be positive" :), but forget about this discussion and honestly say that you think that ending is positive . . . i think, if does present any kind of redemption/meaning/light at the end, it's nevertheless couched in the author's insistence that life *really*--beyond our myths, facades, or whatever else we use to try to cope and understand (like comprehension of the it attempted)--is suffering, that even our bonds to family are fleeting, that we're like children playing halloween (i think religion itself, which Danielewski knows is a possible "escape," is possibly directly in mind here) . . . and, to me, the coup de grace is that rootless tree i keep coming back to . . being the "last words" in the book, maybe i'm giving it too much credence, but it's a powerful picture that i think perfectly sums up what the book's going for . . . again, my point is: i agree that life and the world can *appear* that way, but i wonder if there aren't roots to be found in God and (to bring up an issue that i raised in my original article and which i think you're echoing) i wonder whether our natural/intuitive reactions to that rootless tree aren't a clue to its veracity anyway . . .

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mlhill
                              the real important thing, to me, is that both christian and jewish perspectives, even understood (as you may be doing) as essentially different, are both (at least) obviously theistic and obviously concerned with redemption or setting-wrong-things-right or God's eventual triumph, etc. . . and this is precisely the thing that seems to explicitly deny or exclude (the rootless tree), thereby *implicitly* leaving a "door open" for the return of that meaning-giving, context-giving, root-giving God . . .

                              i still think all this intertextualizing and wondering about how sees the OT vs. the NT, etc., is (humbly and respectfully and hopefully) missing the point .. in the largest sense, it *just doesn't matter* how sees the Bible, sees God, issues related to God, and so on . . these issues matter anyway and their relevance, the question of God's existence, how we respond, the effects, etc., are only underlined by how they're treated in novels like this . . .

                              to bottom line it at the risk of redundancy/reductionism: if one possible reading of is that it presents a godless and meaningless world, what do we think about that possible reality? . . what does that do re: consideration of the possibility of God and that meaning/context/objectivity/etc. may be found in God?
                              You and I were posting at the same time, mlhill; my previous post, I think, responds in part to yours, though.

                              Here's a further reply, though: Religion (of whatever sort) is not the world, but a reading of and response to that world--just as atheism is. There's no direct empirical evidence for God's existence (or non-existence, for that matter); the claim that God exists is an interpretation of what believers see in the world. Writing my previous post helped clarify for me (yet again) something that is important to be clear about with regard to TNR: There is the film itself, and there is what people say about it. The film itself, editing aside, seems a straightforward documentary about the events in the ; clearly, though, there is in Navy and in some of those offering readings of the film an impulse to understand TNR in various supernatural terms, one version of those terms being Judeo-Christian tradition. Granted, it doesn't appear that TNR (either the film or the accompanying commentary) comes firmly down on the side of saying that God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world. I don't see how that fact prevents us from understanding either in those terms, though--certainly, there's evidence in the texts themselves that some people seek to understand all this (or some of it) in hopeful (Christian-speaking) terms. Consider the physical world: the world in and of itself does not tell us that it is God's handiwork. To make that claim is to impose a reading on it.

                              To my mind, TNR is, if not jump-up-and-down joyful, it is affirming of Mystery, of the unknown and the suspicion that some of the unknown will always remain unknowable. To accept and embrace that is always a first step toward finding God.

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