A Story that Doesn’t Exist: Nausea and Transcending Retrospective Interpretation

Essay completed 24 October 2016

Growing up in a Calvinist church and a conservative evangelical school, I was taught that everything in the world has inherent meaning. Those institutions maintained that every aspect of the natural world correlates to an absolute spiritual truth. I was told that the knowledge God has revealed to humankind is all that I would ever need to know. Nature exists as it does to exemplify God’s greatness. I have selfish impulses because I inherited Adam and Eve’s sin nature. Humankind’s fallen nature explains every act of immorality ever committed. This manner of interpreting the world through cause-and-effect allegories was comforting to me because it gave me a definite identity. I knew who I was and why I was here. For most of my life I believed that my worldview determined my identity and the nature of the world around me. Continue reading “A Story that Doesn’t Exist: Nausea and Transcending Retrospective Interpretation”

Can Nietzsche and Western Democracy Be Reconciled?

Essay completed 12 September 2016

Nietzsche’s ideas are unsettling to the modern Western reader, perhaps even more so to his audience in the 21st century than to his audience in the 19th. He excoriates liberalism, altruism, and equality, all central ideals of Western society. The modern democratic citizen might share my initial reaction upon reading Nietzsche’s philosophy for the first time and feel the temptation to reject him as a regressive bully. Passages of On the Genealogy of Morals in which Nietzsche decries “the suffering, deprived, sick [and] ugly” and praises the “noble, the powerful, the masters, [and] the rulers” are antithetical to democratic notions of equality (Nietzsche 121). What can the modern West learn from an ideology that seems to celebrate tyrannical subjugation? Continue reading “Can Nietzsche and Western Democracy Be Reconciled?”

Heaven’s Gaze: Interpretive Vision and Medusa in Dante’s Inferno

Essay completed 26 April 2016

In canto IX lines 34-60 of Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno, travelers Virgil and Dante come across a tower at the Gate of Dis. Three Furies of classical Greek mythology emerge and call for the gorgon Medusa to petrify the men. Virgil commands Dante to turn and cover his eyes until the threat has passed. Dante the author then breaks from the narrative to invite the reader to “weigh with good understanding” the meaning behind this allegorical episode (Dante 9.58-60). The Medusa episode represents the obstacle that the physical world poses to Dante’s allegory of a quest for understanding. Continue reading “Heaven’s Gaze: Interpretive Vision and Medusa in Dante’s Inferno”

Public Faith: Perpetua’s Countercultural Defiance

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 24 February 2016

According to The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, a group of Christian prisoners was brought before a regional governor in 3rd century Carthage. Governor Hilarianus gave each the opportunity to perform a sacrifice to the emperors to escape public execution. Each refused to take part in a ritual sacrilegious to their faith. Before the governor could question the final prisoner, a young woman named Perpetua, the woman’s father appeared in the crowd of spectators, clutching her infant son and begging “Perform the sacrifice – have pity on your baby!” (The Martyrdom… 58). The governor echoed the old man’s plea for Perpetua to give in, but the young Christian refused to obey. Without a true picture of Perpetua’s motivations, her decision makes her seem suicidal and at worst, insane. In light of her social and religious reasons for refusing, however, her decision is understandable and compelling. Perpetua is unusual because she defies the patriarchal and religious systems of her culture and chooses to die as as a member of a persecuted, countercultural movement. Continue reading “Public Faith: Perpetua’s Countercultural Defiance”