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Posts tagged "Hannah Arendt"

Reflections on Art, Irony, and the Good News of <i>Goosebumps</i>

Reflections on Art, Irony, and the Good News of Goosebumps

Children’s book author Adam Gidwitz rang in the most wonderful time of the year (October, what else?) with an article in The New Yorker about the world-renowned series, Goosebumps. Marveling at the franchise’s unparalleled success, Gidwitz posed an unexpectedly contentious question: Should good children’s books teach a lesson? The conundrum of the “good” children’s book is […]

The Impossibility of Knowing I’m Good

Hannah Arendt, a non-Christian thinker with a strangely more accurate perception of Christianity than almost anyone, offers some thoughts on the problems with being good:

The one activity taught by Jesus in word and deed is the action of goodness, and goodness obviously harbors a tendency to hide from being seen or heard. Christian hostility toward the public realm, the tendency of at least the early Christians to lead a life as far removed from the public realm as possible, can also be understood as a self-evident consequence of devotion to good works independent of all beliefs and expectations. For it is manifest that the moment a good work becomes known and public, it loses its specific character of goodness, being done for nothing but goodness’ sake. When goodness appears openly, it is no longer goodness, though it may still be useful as organized charity or an act of solidarity. Therefore: ‘Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.’ Goodness can exist only when it is not perceived, not even by its author; whoever sees himself performing a good work is no longer good, but at best a useful member of society or a dutiful member of a church. Therefore: ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’

It may be this curious negative quality of goodness, the lack of outward phenomenal manifestation, that makes Jesus of Nazareth’s appearance in history such a profoundly paradoxical event; and it certainly seems to be the reason that he thought and taught that no man could be good: ‘Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.’ The same conviction finds its expression in the talmudic story of the thirty-six righteous men, for the sake of whom God saves the world and who also are known to nobody, least of all to themselves. We are reminded of Socrates’ great insight that no man can be wise, out of which love for wisdom, or philo-sophy, was born; the whole life story of Jesus seems to testify how love for goodness arises out of the insight that no man can be good.

(The Human Condition, pp 74-75)

More 2011 Favorites: Books, Documentaries, Musical Discoveries and Web

More 2011 Favorites: Books, Documentaries, Musical Discoveries and Web

Books and Film Favorite Piece of Fiction (Read During 2011): Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Not just a favorite of the year, but a favorite, period. It’s a rare work of art indeed that can shed light on both The Royal Tenenbaums and the Jesus Prayer. Unbelievably wise, delightfully funny and deeply religious (in […]

Joe Paterno and the Banality of Evil

Joe Paterno and the Banality of Evil

Recent news out of Penn State University is, of course, horrible.  No one who has read the news reports has managed to come away without a sickening feeling.    Commentary in print and on radio and television has been mostly somber, as the crimes are so outrageous that everyone has been measured in their tone.  I […]

Another Week Ends: Christian Neurotics, Shrieking Children, Grunge-Love, Steve Jobs, and Idiot Brothers

Another Week Ends: Christian Neurotics, Shrieking Children, Grunge-Love, Steve Jobs, and Idiot Brothers

At week’s end, despite the continued reverberations, ironic photo blogs, and miraculous happenings, all is still in post-quake Central Virginia! The Mockingbird offices remain in functional tact… 1) Over at First Things, and similarly confronting the stigmas of mental health as discussed in an earlier post this week, “The Christian Neurotic” ponders “neurosis” and its […]

Hannah Arendt Explains Paul's Discovery

Hannah Arendt Explains Paul’s Discovery

By popular demand, a couple more quotations taken from the chapter “The Apostle Paul and the Impotence of the Will” in the second volume of her The Life of the Mind: The Apostle Paul’s discovery, which he describes in great detail in the Letter to the Romans, again concerns a two-in-one, but these two are […]

Hannah Arendt on Jesus' and Paul's Conception(s) of the Law

Hannah Arendt on Jesus’ and Paul’s Conception(s) of the Law

Another quotation taken from the chapter “The Apostle Paul and the Impotence of the Will” in the second volume of her The Life of the Mind, pgs 66-68: Paul was certainly aware of the radical turn the old demand to fulfill the law had taken in the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. And he may […]

Hannah Arendt on St Paul's Conception of the Will (and Counter-Will)

Hannah Arendt on St Paul’s Conception of the Will (and Counter-Will)

The first of several quotes we’ll be reproducing from the seminal philosopher’s chapter “The Apostle Paul and the impotence of the Will” in the second volume of The Life of the Mind: The Will, split and automatically producing its own counter-will, is in need of being healed, of becoming one again. Like thinking, willing has […]