Skip to comments.Wonderful? Sorry, George, Itís a Pitiful, Dreadful Life
Posted on 12/22/2008 4:47:10 AM PST by 7thson
Lots of people love this movie of course. But Im convinced its for the wrong reasons. Because to me Its a Wonderful Life is anything but a cheery holiday tale. Sitting in that dark public high school classroom, I shuddered as the projector whirred and George Baileys life unspooled.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
the way i see the movie.. is that there is that feeling of frustration and asphyxiation.. that is built up on all of jimmy stewarts self-less acts through out the movie..
and at his darkest moment he fully believes that all his lifetime of good deeds and living honestly and selflessly has led to nothing...
But then the story turns.. and we see that all his good deeds did mean something.. not only in the alternate world sequence.. but also when he comes back and all the people he helped out in small ways.. returns the favor..
so stewart’s character can then relinquish all his pent up animosity for choosing a selfless life.. and foregoing his dream.. coz the life he has lived was actually better..
I have to disagree with you up to a point. The money was lost by George and his uncle. It was stolen by Old Man Potter. It should be he prosecueted for larceny. To be truly lost would be if the uncle dropped it in the sewer or something like that and nobody got a hold of it. Other than that, I agree with you.
Extremely well said as it is how I have always viewed the story. Have a Merry Christmas.
“The writer is making the assumption that “living your dreams” as you think they ought to be is always liberating. It is a paradox. The psychiatrist’s offices are filled with celebrities who have lived their dreams, “have it all” and are still miserable, and have no answers because they see indulging their dreams and whims as the road to happiness...” ~ Dr. Sivana
Belief in Disbelief, or Inside the Postmodern Skeptic Tank
“[T]he new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything.... And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in the way when he wants to denounce anything. For denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it.... In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. ~ G.K. Chesterton
One of the key ideas of Orthodoxy is that we require a stable framework in order to think productively and deeply about reality, and that certain frameworks (Chesterton would say one framework) have been given to us from on high, so to speak, in order to accomplish this. Naturally, the radical opposes this constraint on his freedom, but freedom in itself is not freeing, any more than progress in itself is progressive; without limits, or boundary conditions, the former is nothingness or lostness, while the latter is just pointless change, drift, or entropy.
This reminds me of the distinction Polanyi drew between what he called the open society and the free society. He used the practice of science to illustrate the difference, pointing out that a truly free society does not merely consist of everyone believing whatever they want. Science, for example, is a free and spontaneous intellectual order that is nevertheless based on a distinctive set of beliefs about the world, through which the diverse actions of individual scientists are coordinated. Like the cells in your body, individual scientists independently go about their business, and yet, progress is made because their activities are channeled by the pursuit of real truth.
In contrast, in a merely open society, there is no such thing as transcendent truth: perception is reality and everyone is free to think and do as he pleases, with no objective standard by which to judge it. This kind of bad freedom eventually ramifies into the cognitively pathological situation we now see on the left, especially as it manifests in its purest form in academia (the liberal arts, not the sciences, except to the extent that science devolves into metaphysical scientism).
Initially, the assault on the existence of objective truth seems liberating, as we are freed from the dictates of arbitrary authority.
However, the whole idea of the individual pursuit of truth was a deeply liberal project, since truth was not accepted a priori but was subject to criticism and logical or empirical demonstration. But with deconstruction the Swiss pacifist knife of the intellectual left the entire concept of truth is undermined, so there is no way to arbitrate between competing notions of reality.
Therefore, whoever has the power may enforce their version of reality, which is what political correctness is all about: Truth is arbitrary, but you had better believe my version of it, or be branded a bigot, or a homophobe, or a white male oppressor. One more reason why contemporary liberalism is so deeply illiberal. Their ideas cannot be argued on the merits, so they are enforced by the illegitimate authority of political correctness.
If you are on the left, you are undoubtedly oblivious to this bullying pressure (unless you are a totally cynical Clinton-type who does it consciously). If you are on the right, you feel it all the time cognitive stop signs that impede you from uttering certain truths in public for fear of triggering attack. The politically correct leftist is always a passively-aggressive controlling person hardly a victim, but an aggressor (for his self-imposed victimization legitimizes the release of amoral sadistic aggression).
Thus, the deep structure of the left-right divide in this country goes beyond the secular vs. religious worldview.
A purely secular society is an open society, where all points of view, no matter how stupid or dysfunctional, are equally valued (e.g., multiculturalism and moral relativism), whereas a truly free society must be rooted in something permanent and transcendent.
It doesnt necessarily have to come from religion, although it inevitably leads in that direction. Mainly, in order to be truly free, one must acknowledge a source of truth that is independent of man, an antecedent reality that is perceived by the intellect, not the senses. Fortunately, our founders knew that the self-evident religious truths that constrain us actually set us free (indeed, are the very basis of our liberty).
You may note that this has direct relevance for the current debate between strict constructionists vs. the notion of a living constitution. In reality, strict adherence to the constitution results in increased freedom and democracy, while the living constitution quickly devolves into judicial tyranny. If you enjoy playing blackjack, your freedom is not really enhanced if the dealer can either hit or stand on 16, depending on his moment-to-moment interpretation of the living rules of blackjack.
How can a progressive even be progressive unless he has some permanent standard by which to measure his progress? In the absence of such a standard, there is only meaningless change, rebellion, random reshuffling, not progress.
As mentioned yesterday, atheists ironically fantasize about a day when human beings will be liberated from the shackles of religion and be truly free to think what they want. First of all, this is analogous to a musician longing for the day when he is free to play his instrument without the annoying constraints of scales, notes, and keys. Perhaps more importantly, that day has already arrived. The atheistic free thinkers are noisily trying to knock down doors that are already wide open, especially in the arts and in academia. There you can see the direct consequences of free thought, and it is hardly any kind of liberation, but rather a stupifyingly oppressive nihilism.
For those of you who are not jazz mavens, there was a movement in the 1960s called free jazz. As a matter of fact, it wasnt so much a musical movement as a political one or at least it was indistinguishable from the breaking political winds of the day, i.e, black liberation. There was the idea that one could absolutely break through the chordal structure of (white) western music and achieve a kind of quasi-religious purity of expression. True, you can do this, but it leads in a circle back to the pre-musical expressions of an angry or exuberant child. It is a song of myself, by myself and for myself. In a word, pure narcissism, or musical maestrobation. It is the end of music, just as atheism is and must be the end of thought, i.e, intellection, as opposed to mere computation.
Again I must emphasize that no one is more surprised than I am at the essentially infinite amount of cognitive music one may play within the chordal structure of religion. One is not constrained but set free. I used to be a free thinker, but the quality of thought I produced was essentially worthless get-a-cluevinilia. And now that I think about it, it was worthless for very specific reasons. Among others, it lacked timelessness, universality, generativity, wholeness, harmony, radiance exactly the things that revelation embodies par excellence.
This is why a Meister Eckhart or Denys the Areopagite will always be timely because their thought is rooted in a source outside time whereas the narrow-minded rants of a Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchins are already beyond their hackspiration date by the time they have been pabulished. Truly, they are by the dead and for the dead, the blind leading the bland. In the absence of transcendent truth, freedoms just a nothing word for leftists to abuse.
Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame.... The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits.... Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three-sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end. ~ Chesterton”
By Gagdad Bob aka Bob Robert W.Godwin, Ph.D - a clinical psychologist whose interdisciplinary work has focused on the relationship between contemporary psychoanalysis, chaos theory, and quantum physics.
If you want more grist for the mill, read the comments after the article. Some people defend the movie and find Wendell disturbing. Others use it as a chance to rant against oppressive, sappy Middle American values.
George wants to see the world, true, but he wants more than a three-day drunk...he wants to build bridges and skyscrapers. George wants to work and achive.
I always think of Bifftown, in the parallel timeline world in Back to the Future 2, with relation to Pottersville. This writer would probably LOVE to live there...what could be more exciting than gangs shooting up your house?
“I teach my children that we are a persecuted minority in America. This country will not get better until it experiences a true spiritual revival.”
I’m not an evangelist. I bristle at religion being force fed. I say that as a disclaimer, because I believe you’re right.
America thrived as a Christian nation that loved God. As we have moved away from our Christian roots, our country has fallen ill.
“Anybody who thinks the Violet Binks of Pottersville looked better than the Violet Binks of Bedford Falls should have his eyes examined..”
Agreed.....however I though the Donna Reed charcter looked great in both Pottersville and Bedford Falls locales ....but I always had a thing for Donna Reed!!!
Thank you for the Chesterton quotations. I never tire of them. He was an amazing man. He writes faster than I can read even though he’s been dead for 70 years!
“After our next revolution, this article should be in all of the text books to record what we were forced to fight. We need to tell future generations that our rulers thought this way and ruled accordingly.” ~ demshateGod
Here’s another article for those text books:
Life Amidst the Postmodern Ruins
... I was very impressed with how Chesterton, although writing in 1907, had already diagnosed the pathologies of the left. In fact, his ideas mirror exactly what Polanyi wrote some 50 years later about the moral inversion of the left, i.e., the dangerous combination of radical skepticism and an unhinged, ruthless moral perfectionism unbound from tradition.
Chesteron writes of the socialist that although he may have a large and generous heart, it is not a heart in the right place. And only a human being can have a heart dangerously set in the wrong location. It generally occurs when a religious scheme is shattered as a result of their intense skepticism. When this happens, it is not merely the vices that are let loose. Rather, the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. Just because someone has a moral code, it hardly means that they are moral.
I have written a number of posts on the dynamics of this pathological process, which I thought that Polanyi had been the first to recognize. But Chesterton also writes of how the modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone.
Most every destructive policy put into place by the left can be traced to some Christian virtue gone mad i.e., feed the hungry, so steal from the rich and call it giving, or defending abortion on the basis of the sanctity of liberty, or encouraging every manner of deviancy under the guise of tolerance.
They have the bizarre idea that it is easier to forgive sins if there are no sins to forgive except for the sin of believing they exist.
Or the leftist might extract and focus upon a single virtue to the exclusion of others, which creates a dangerous imbalance, for example, a merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. John Edwards campaign is based almost solely upon this idea, but again, what he calls charity, the rest of us call coercion. And boundless charity in the absence of any obligation on the part of the recipient is a recipe for anthropological disaster.
Schuon would agree with Chesterton that the leftist is really the enemy of the human race because he is so human. Of all the animals, only a human being can sink beneath himself and even beneath the animals. And he does so primarily by imagining that an animal is all he is, for when human intelligence is in the service of animal instinct, the result is hell on earth and bear in mind that Chesterton was writing before the great atheistic movements of the 20th century the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Communist China, et al, so he clearly grasped the principle before it actually played out in history.
And Chesterton could prophecize in this manner because he could see directly into the principial world of timeless truth embodied in revelation. Again, revelation instantiates metaphysical truths with which it is possible to think beyond the surface, both in space and in time, interior and exterior. Thus, unlike postmodernists who believe that perception is reality, he writes that man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert himself. This leads to the erosion of universality and the elevation of particularity to the ultimate which quickly devolves into nihilism.
Conversely, the part that a man doubts is exactly the part he ought not doubt the Divine Reason. But this inversion obviously persists indeed, it is practically the fault line that runs between left and right and is responsible for a range of pathological ideas, from multiculturalism, to moral relativism, to the belief in self esteem, to reducing standards in general to achieve some preconceived end.
The left also practices a false humility. After all, it can sound like a plea for humility when the postmodern multiculturalist asks, who am I to say that I can possess the truth, or that one culture is better than another? But this attitude is a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. That is and this is apparently a subtle point, so listen closely The old humility was a spur that prevented man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.
This is one of the reasons that the left habitually attacks motives instead of substance, for they first undermine the idea that you can know anything objectively, and then insist that the purpose of knowledge is domination and oppression anyway. For the last several years, job one of of the left has been to make us doubtful of our aims in Iraq, in the hope that we will simply become demoralized and surrender.
But they do this so selectively that it is mind-boggling. For example, surely there was more credible evidence that Saddam had WMD than that the earth is undergoing catastrophic manmade warming. But in both cases, their main argument is that people who disagree with them have venal motives. In the case of President Bush, he really wanted to invade Iraq because he thought it would somehow enrich his already wealthy friends. And in the case of global warming, those who reject the theory are simply on the payroll of Bushs wealthy friends. So for all practical purposes, humility is not possible on the left, since their conspiratorial form of thought means that they always have the answer. And it sounds humble to the stupid, since they are always opposed to the intrinsically racist-sexist-homophobic America.
So, just as the left engages in the moral inversion of detaching virtue from tradition, they engage in a weird cognitive inversion that combines intellectual helplessness with a kind of monstrously arrogant omniscience. This is how you can spend some $100,000 plus on an elite university education, only to learn that truth doesnt exist and we possess it.
Once again, Chesterton was a prophet with regard to the problem of the tenured radicals who have hijacked our higher educational system: The peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought. How did he know about the narcissistic boomers 40 years before the first one was born?
Chesterton writes that there is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped. It is the thoroughly irrational thought that our thoughts have no relationship to reality and that truth is therefore inaccessible to human beings. This radical skepticism was the ultimate evil against which religious authority was aimed, which is why, in so far as religion is gone, reason is going. For they are both of the same primary and authoritative kind. They are both methods of proof that cannot themselves be proved. And in the act of destroying the idea of Divine authority we have largely destroyed the idea of that human authority by which we do a long-division sum. With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it.
For if the converse were true i.e., the blind materialism of natural selection it does not destroy religion but rationalism, for it nullifies the mind that can know truth. It is the equivalent of I am not; therefore I cannot think.
Thus, it is vain for eloquent atheists to talk of the great truths that will be revealed if once we see free thought begin. For we have already seen the effects of this gloriously unbound, free thought, since the results are strewn all around us. Indeed, we must try to get through the day and our lives by making our way through its ruins. ~ Gagdad Bob
(Gagdad Bob aka: Robert W.Godwin, Ph.D - is a clinical psychologist whose interdisciplinary work has focused on the relationship between contemporary psychoanalysis, chaos theory, and quantum physics.)
This is the realization that Wendell Jamieson has still not had. He thinks that his life will be best if he can string together enough fun experiences as possible. Life is good if he can go to the right club, be seen at the right party, or sleep with the right girl (presumably). Everything is just one long party, because he has never known need.
Who knows? Maybe Mr. Jamieson can go on like that his whole life, and the wolf will never be at his door. That would be nice, because if Mr. Wolf does show up, Mr. Jamieson is not going to have a clue what to do.
I think of the scene in the movie where the Baileys are moving Mr. Martini's family into their new house. They give them three gifts: Bread - so the house will never know hunger, Salt - so life will always have flavor, and Wine - so that good times and happiness will be theirs. But notice, the first gift is bread. This talk of starvation is immediately contrasted with Sam Wainwright, with his flashy girlfriend and sleek chaffuer-driven limousine. George Bailey is left with nothing but his beat up old car and Mary. Of course, Mary is Mary, so that is enough.
With everything that is going on with the economy, these days, the Mr. Wolf is closer to the door than he has been in a long, long time. As I was telling My Favorite Liberal the other day, it is a good time to be an Ant. We have been cautious with our money, saving and diversifying and doing all the things you should do, and now we are in a situation where we can weather these times with a fair amount of confidence. We have been Ants. Meanwhile, a lot of our friends have been Grasshoppers, leveraging their houses, spending like there is no tomorrow, and pursuing lucrative, but speculative, career paths. For the Grasshoppers, things are looking pretty bad, these days.
George Bailey was the Ultimate Ant. And when times got tough, he got through, as ants always do.
The author is either mentally ill or evil. And I'm not kidding.
Funny confession, but I am actually closer to my dad now that I am a "veteran" of a half dozen WWII FPS games. It is one thing to hear the light hearted stories of life fifty years ago, but quite another to even fictionally brush shoulders with those events and times. (I don't know how to explain this as respectfully as I feel it.)
In one of the games, in a really weird Twilight-Zone kinda moment, the main character (you) is being driven around Pearl Harbor, your new BOA, and I'm listening to the computer character CEO telling me about Pearl. You have 360 head movement as the Jeep goes past bucolic scenes of guys playing baseball, nurses going to work, and you are saying to yourself "I know that any minute now, Japanese Zeros are coming over the horizon, and the game won't let me tell anybody."
In a funny way, I'd like every cool, smirking high school boy to play these games, but they probably wouldn't get the same thing out of them I did.
June Cleaver, baby! Pearls, high heels and vacumming. Doesn't get better than that.
I guess it is the difference between people who have known hard times and people who have not.
Wow! Did you compose that post/research paper just for me? That was a very good read.
Hey, I am not saying that some individuals have not managed to screw up. But, generally speaking, the last 30 years have been a time of uninterrupted wealth and opportunity.
I certainly don't want to hijack this thread, but; what game is this?