Sunday, January 7, 2007

tragedy; or, two sides of the road

LoA, "The North-Side of the Road #1: 1 of 4" (Christmas 2006)

tragedy does not refer to just any old sad event, nor it is a term to be used to describe catastrophes without some further qualification. according to hegel at least, tragedy is a technical term that is used to describe the inevitable moment in which a conflict arises between two relative goods. perhaps his most famous example, and certainly one of the triumphs of hegelian literary interpretation, is the play Antigone, with its conflict between antigone and creon over the burial of their brother. the brother participates in an attack against their city and is killed. he lies dead in the field beyond the city walls. creon, the ruler of the city, declares that anyone who goes out to bury the dead will themselves be put to death. but antigone does sneak out and bury their brother. creon follows through and puts her to death by enclosing her in a cave.

this play is the height of tragedy for hegel and represents one of the most fundamental conflicts: the conflict between family and city. this the tension that arises between one's family or the ties of blood, especially symbolized by the female for hegel, and political, which is an expression of one's free rationality. but just because each is a relative good does not mean there is not an order to preference in hegel. the family is, in the tradition of roman law, the foundation of the state in hegel, but it only becomes a solid foundation for the state by being transcended, and seen in its relativity. in other words, the political is the consummation of familial ties. it translates natural family bonds into rationally formed free relations between persons -whether blood relations and not. without the family the state cannot be, but if the family is taken as an end in itself it will disrupt the functioning of human freedom in the political sphere by fragmenting the human community. it is a good that must be defended (antigone), and it is a danger that must be overcome in favor of what is higher (creon).

LoA, "The Sound-Side of the Road #1: 2 of 4" (Christmas 2006)

today antigone lives to the East'ard and in a manner that would be considered low drama to most people, tragedy is slowly unfolding again. how else can one explain the actions of the native residents of the island than through recourse to the very insightful hegelian category of tragedy. in novemeber of 2006 a ballot initiative was put before the full time residents of the East'ard: ought the island incorporate into a town with a local government or should it remain an unincorporated area. the idea of incorporation and the formation of a local government was roundly defeated.

the initiative came to the ballot in the wake of certain real estate developments that had taken place over the course of the last couple years. on the west end of the small island, just as one comes over the bridge that links the East'ard to the West'ard a fairly substantial housing project had been undertaken, and while a few locals bought homes there, the prices were such that the project was clearly aimed at wealthier outsiders who were looking for either retirement homes, or summer beach homes. the homes were beautiful but beyond the reach of most native residents. then, in the summer of last year, a small home, more towards the eastern end sold. it sat on a moderate sized piece of property and the home itself was hardly remarkable: brick, old construction, in need of some moderate repair. there was nothing remarkable about the home other than its view of the water. it was the type of home that residents of the island, with a small family, could eventually hope of having for themselves. until that day, when the home sold for approximately 1 million dollars. this radically changed the landscape of the East'ard, and as i travelled around the island over new years it became clear that the island was for sale. long time residents were cashing in.

and so the ballot initiative: would the people of the East'ard incorporate and take control of the now inevitable development their long time home, or would they refuse to incorporate and allow it develop in a manner completely beyond their control. while it may seem counter-intuitive, it is not surprising that they refused to incorporate, and indeed was rather easily predictable. government is not looked upon with any sympathy by locals, as they have fought long battles with the foreigners of government who try to regulate their fishing: what can they catch, when can they catch it, how can they catch. the government comes along and interrupts their livelihood and the long traditions of fishing that they have practiced for generations. why would they want to invite 'government' to come and set up shop right on their very island, to come along and tell them how to live their lives. they have always handled their lives just fine themselves through the long-standing ties of familial relations that bind all the residents together by nature.

LoA, "The Sound-Side of the Road #2: 3 of 4" (Christmas 2006)

by nature and not by freedom. they failed to make the decision to transform, to consummate these unchosen and given relationships, into some freely chosen and political, and so they have agreed to the death sentence that is inevitably going to follow on their way of life. their life is being purchased from around them and soon they will no longer be at home in their own home. nature will be disrupted by something other. one of two things is bound to occur. north carolina has a very liberal law governing city expansion. it is for the most part a good law as it has kept urban decay to a minimum in nc. according to the law, cities can, of their own volition, and without the consent of party being annexed, include outlying, unincorporated land within their city boundaries if they provide certain basic city services to that area. so either, the Town, which lies a short distance across the water, will see the rising property values and decide to incorporate the East'ard in order to gain the revenues of those tax values and the natives will be unable to stay to due the sudden and dramatic addition of city property taxes, or the newcomers who are moving the East'ard, the so-called ditdotters and dingbatters, will, once they represent the controlling majority on the island, incorporate the East'ard to prevent its incorporation by the Town. meanwhile the natives can exert no control on the manner in which their island is developed or what is built there because there are no zoning regulations of any kind in what 'the government' views as essentially free territory. large homes are being built, on the water of course, immediately across the road from trailer parks. there is talk of condos being put in at one end of the island.

LoA, "The North-Side of the Road #2: 4 of 4" (Christmas 2006)

antigone is once again being shut in her cave, of her own choosing, to die. and no matter how she curses creon, her unshakeable belief in the ultimacy of the natural ties of family, against that autonomy which involves rational-freedom, political freedom, brings upon her her own condemnation.


Friday, January 5, 2007

the silent voice of bath-sheba

And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, "I am with child." And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered. And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house. And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house? And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing. And David said to Uriah, Stay here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart. So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. And when David had called him, he did eat and drink with him; and David made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house. And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Put Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and withdraw from him, that he may be smitten, and die. And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were. And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also. Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; And instructed the messenger, saying, When you have made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king, if the king's wrath arise, and he says unto you, Why did the army approach so near unto the city when we did fight? doesn't everyone know that they would shoot from the wall? Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbusheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went the army nigh the wall? then say you, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for. And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate. And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king's servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shall you say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease you, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage him. And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.

II Samuel 11.2-27 (original court history, c. 961 B.C.)

Cecchino del Salviati, "Bathsheba Goes to King David" (1554)

One wonders what Bath-sheba thought when the king stared shamelessly into her bath. What did she think when he requested her presence at his palace. Did she resign herself; did she protest; did she seize upon it as an opportunity; did she embrace him with passion, alive in the rush of heat and power. What must she have thought of him when he sent her away the next morning. How did she tell him she was pregnant. What did she fear (or was it hope) would happen; a plea for her life to the man who had put it in danger to satisfy himself, even though he could have had any woman, and had many to choose from within his own house. Was that pride or pleasure or shame which she carried in her heart. What did she feel when the king had her husband murdered, along with so many others. When he married her. Did she laugh or weep in private. When she lost her child. Did she rejoice in the political instability that followed his sudden marriage to this pregnant wife of a foreigner, or regret it for his sake. For the sake of her future. How she must have smiled to the king's face in order to promote her son, Solomon, to protect him against the king's other children. And when the king died, with another young woman in his bed, what did she feel.

We will not know, because no one bothered to ask her.

But let us not take this silence as a final word. Even in silence she speaks. Hegel taught us that every attempt to enforce a boundary is an admission of defeat because it secretly recognizes that the boundary it builds can be crossed. If it could not be crossed, there would be no point in defending it. The enforced silence of Bath-sheba is broken at the very point where her silence is inscribed by historians. At precisely that moment Bath-sheba screams with a voice that demands to be heard, insists on her own legitimacy and ends, upon her own humanity. Insists that she is more than the wife of Uriah, more than the king's legitimized whore, and more than the mother of a king. Her silence speaks of the inability of the official history to silence Bath-sheba for she also is a member of the Whole. It reveals the weakness of those who thought they owned her, used her, traded her and conquered her. Her voice echoes as loudly now as it did through the halls of a king's palace. Only, we can no longer pretend we do not hear her.


Wednesday, January 3, 2007

east of the east'ard

let us call the island "the East'ard": as the natives say, i'ma headed to the East'ard. it was the place i was born and the home of my mothers half of the family to this day. it is the site of my granny's home and the place i spent new years with my family. the East'ard is a small island: 5mi long and 3mi wide at the widest point, much narrower than that for the most part. the folks who have lived to the East'ard for the bulk of their lives are fishermen and dredgers, married to women who have raised large families and can dip snuff and spit t'bacca as well as any man and better than most. they are what one would call the salt of the earth, and indeed you spend much time on the East'ard and you will be a bit salty yourself. the East'ard is not the end of the earth, but it is your last stop before you arrive there. many of those who live on the East'ard have relatives on the Banks, especially on Ocra'co. in the not so distant past mail travelled from the East'ard to the Banks and back by means of the coast guard who maintained a post at the end of the East'ard, known as Shell Point, and on Cape Lookout at the Lighthouse. my mother remembers her grandfather running the mail back and forth on his boat.

Cape Lookout is no longer a coast guard station and the last of the homes over on the Cape were closed a few years back. but the light still runs...and it can be seen from most anywhere to the East'ard. i offer the view from Shell Point: Cape Lookout Lighthouse lies 4mi east of the East'ard.

LoA, "Cape Lookout Lighthouse from Shell Point" (Christmas 2006)

best wishes to y'all, and real posts to follow tomorrow.
good night.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

my first home

there are many pictures and posts about life on the Island that will follow once we get back from our christmas forray (as early as tomorrow). today i share a simple picture of the first place i lived. this was the lot where my parents trailer sat when i was born...many years ago.

LoA, "Baby-LoA's First Home" (2007)

best wishes and happy new year to you all,

Monday, January 1, 2007

christmas cheer

my sister clarifies her feelings...

Christmas Bag, (Christmas 2006)