Madeleine Davies

Archive for August, 2018|Monthly archive page

Religious melancholy in the 4th arrondissement

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2018 at 5:22 pm


Hadewijch is a French film about religious extremism in which the central protagonist is a tow-headed teenage novice.

We see her on her knees in her spartan convent bedroom, hands pressed together in prayer, a crucifix both set before her eyes and wrapped between her fingers on a chain. She appears both devout and somewhat self-conscious. There’s something practised and performative about her prayers, despite the fact that she’s alone.

She refuses to eat at breakfast and feeds her bread to the birds, shivering in the winter sun.

“You’re a caricature of a nun,” an older Sister tells her. “God isn’t there.”

This diagnosis, made early on, is one of the most interesting aspects of the film. We are given to understand that the nuns are wise to fanaticism – that they have seen it before and can distinguish it from piety.

“Abstinence not martyrdom,” one Sister instructs Hadewijch, gently.

“She is attached to this behaviour and I believe it testifies to a degree of self-love”, the Mother Superior rules. “For her own good, she must return to the world.”

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The strange theology of Jordan Peterson

In Uncategorized on August 22, 2018 at 1:14 pm


IN the opening pages of 12 Rules for Life: a antidote for chaos, Jordan Peterson describes a vision that gave rise to an epiphany. He is clinging to a chandelier suspended in the dome of a cathedral, directly above the centre of cross. He makes his way down, but is dragged back to this point. Months later, he discovers the meaning: “what the great stories of the past continually insist upon: the centre is occupied by the individual.”

The individual occupies the centre of this book, too. Fix yourself, Peterson says. Stop looking to ideology for answers. “Don’t blame capitalism, the radical left, or the iniquity of your enemies. Don’t reorganise the state until you have reordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your household, how dare you try to rule a city?”

There’s a lot about heaven, too. He who seeks to create it on Earth (and “He” is important here) will “pursue the path of ultimate meaning. And he will in that manner bring salvation to the ever-desperate world”.

A coda ends the book with the revelation that, when it comes to his wife, Peterson’s task is to “Treat her as if she is the Holy Mother of God, so that she may give birth to the world-redeeming hero.” I was not surprised to learn that he is a huge fan of Nietzsche.


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