Saturday, May 20, 2006

Good grief, Charlie Brown

Mr. Douglas has taken time out of his busy evening to respond to my points. As I have already been to Mass this week, I have a little time to respond. However, my response will be brief.

Patrick J. Smith responds. Mr. Smith has clearly missed the point and thrust of my argument against his mischaracterization of the Ring as "a meditation on power," which argument pointed out to him that the Ring is nothing of the sort, but, and in terms of Mr. Smith's own argument, rather, as I wrote, "a 'meditation' on the world-encompassing and -destroying evil that ineluctably ensues when love is usurped and replaced as a life principle by the will to human-created power." I didn't at all imagine that the distinction between what Mr. Smith argued and my counter to it was of esoteric or arcane subtlety, but apparently it is so far as Mr. Smith is concerned as the distinction seems to have gone well over his head, and so was missed by him entirely.

I would further point out to Mr. Smith that his new notion that "[t]he story arc of the Ring is ... based on love," is quite wrong — entirely wrong, as a matter of fact — and would suggest gently to him that he regroup and reconsider this new notion of his in the light of a clear-eyed rereading of Wagner's scores. I can assure Mr. Smith that there exist no "secret scores" consulted by me as he conjectured there might be. There's but a single Wagner score for each Wagner opera, and the ones he consulted previously are the very same ones consulted by me. The difference between our readings of those scores rests on the circumstance that Mr. Smith viewed them through a postmodern glass darkly, while my view of them was unencumbered by such pernicious impediments.

His response. Here's mine: Mr. Douglas wants it both ways on both fronts. That makes for a total of four ways. If the Ring isn't about love, then why do all the bad things happen when der Wille zur Macht replaces love? I think the answer is clear, and it results from a simple change in the predicate. I have already responded about the power angle, and Mr. Douglas has not convinced me that I am wrong. Evil results when the will to power runs amok? Fair enough. However, there would be no will to power without power. One cannot separate, with any hope of the twins thriving, the will to power and power itself. I am more than happy to entertain any argument to the contrary, but I see none.

If the story isn't about love, then Mr. Douglas was being disingenuous when he wrote,

[The] Ring is not a "mediation on power," but a "meditation" on the world-encompassing and -destroying evil that ineluctably ensues when love is usurped and replaced as a life principle by the will to human-created power. [bold mine - pjs]

I am not sure that he wasn't, but I will proceed in good faith. The sad fact is that the score (which is to say the story) has nothing but stories of love. The villains love power (or, the Ring itself) and the heroes (and heroines) love people. The conflict of the Ring is human love vs. the love of power. I could fill a thousand posts with simple, clear, and incontrovertible evidence of that. However, it strikes as obvious to the point of banality that such a view is the case. The story arc of the Ring is a story arc of love. Even Mr. Douglas has admitted as much.

Mr. Douglas is perfectly free to assert whatever he wants about the score. However, if textual literalism is the name of the game, then none of our respective metaphysical grumblings matter. However, if we're going to play, "What Did Wagner Mean?" then we need to play by the rules.

Sometimes, then, a story is just a story.

If you'll excuse me, then, I have to go read my Derrida and deconstruct Bruckner's D-minor Mass.


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