Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Take Care of Yourself: Paul/Marcus Aurelius responses

This is for MA/MFA students in "Take Care of Yourself (On Biotechnics)" only: please post your responses on Paul and Marcus Aurelius as comments to this message.



  1. Paul’s Economy of Care
    “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of no effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:14- 15). The original condition of not caring (being faithless) is necessary to make the decision to care (to have faith), and thereby receive care (salvation). It is necessary that not everyone be cared for. In Romans 1:18, we see that God deals out two thing: care and wrath. By care I mean salvation, because wrath is a form of care. If God didn’t care, he [no capitalization of the pronoun necessary] wouldn’t be so wrathful. The God of Paul always cares. In Romans 1:27 we see that homosexuality will be punished according to the logic of Romans 1:5. God’s care is different from the Christian’s care, which takes the form of obedience and faith. This spiritualized notion of care is not only about caring acts, but caring thoughts: the faith in the resurrection and the comprehension of it’s meaning. Not everyone will be able to give this kind of care (hence, limbo). The supply and demand of care is regulated by the living word. Paul is a producer of this care as much as God is. Although, some notion of hereditary entitlement remains (the so-called dual-covenant theology). Although not everyone can participate in this form of care, those who can, are guaranteed a stable exchange relationship not subject to the contingency of earthly markets. In Romans 8:37-39, God will continue to supply salvation as long as the Christian continues to supply faith (and each participant continually demands the product of the other). God requires a specific kind of care, which Paul describes at length at the end of Romans 12, especially Romans 12:16: “Be of the same mind one toward another.” To care for God also means caring about other people, “minding” them. Hence, the Christian must enter into exchange-relationships on earth as well as with God. But ever since the collapse of the Tower of Babel, humanity is alienated from each other, speaking different languages being one of the most radical forms of this alienation. We are scattered and fragmented. We cannot, all of us, care as Paul prescribes (forming a single mind). We cannot, all of us receive the Salvation that Paul delivers. The Gospel produces a “permanent underclass” of care.

  2. The painting, The Fall and Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Michelangelo located in the Sistine Chapel. In the painting, Adam and Eve sin by eating the apple of knowledge and are cast away by a cherub that Michelangelo has placed next to a snake-like creature thereby cutting the frame in a duality of good and evil. This “ultimate” sin committed by Adam and Eve has created a set of principles (good) that are opposed to sin (evil). This set of predetermined principles has been mandated by God, but further interpreted by men such as Paul the Apostle and Marcus Aurelius. It seems that Men are at no loss for creating and enforcing the mandate of God and have managed to write pages of endless babble about it. Ultimately, these lists of principles begin sounding a lot like rules, but spun with the intention of “taking care of yourself” so that God may love you more. To the unwitting masses, they preach: follow these rules and some unseen force in the heavens will reward you. Both Paul the Apostle and Marcus Aurelius portray their mandates as an almost friendly advice and in such an informal manner that it begins to seem as if an older, and somewhat religious, sibling is casually recommending how to deal with being an undergraduate in college. It is probable that a combination of the Bible and Marcus Aurelius laid the groundwork for hundreds of Self-Help books to be published that now flood the market for millions of wandering idiots to snatch up. Throughout history, there has been no shortage of narcissistic Men waiting to tell the masses which rules to follow and how to take care of themselves. Nor do I imagine there ever will be a shortage of such men.

  3. Janice Yu
    Week 3 Response

    The framework of the Christian pastorate, which Foucault describes as the “economy of faults and merits” (229), refocuses our attention to the individual, rather than the whole. Foucault’s four principles of the full and paradoxical distributive character outline the relationship between the pastor and his sheep and describe the intricate dynamics of subordination.
    In his seventh lecture, Foucault suggests the modern state was born “when governmentality became a calculated and reflected practice (222).” The institutionalization of this subordination is the incorporation of these practices by the Christian pastorate. However, because Christianity is ultimately a religion of God’s will, and especially what God wills for the individual (230), the modern state is one which focuses on these specific practices of the individuals that make up the entire community, or even humanity. These acts that are performed as an indications of submission can be understood as duties that one undertakes to ensure salvation, within the context of religion. In general, it is the care of one’s self, efforts to secure one’s safety, so to speak.
    However, one must question how constant acts of submission entail caring for the self rather than caring for another or functions beyond automatic and/or conditioned response. For Foucault, care of the self just might be that – “an oblique relationship to the law” (238) in which one in permanently subjected to the power of the pastorate. In closing, it is necessary to emphasize that Foucault’s understanding of individuality in this context thus does not amount to the unique qualities of each person, but rather regards the individual as a systematic unit. In this case, indivualization is not the process of differentiation we might normally think of, but a rather authoritative action that incorporates one into the pastorate.