Spark and Radionics--Morality and Neutrality

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There are really two points to this post. The second is that radionics still exists and is practiced as medicine in some parts of the world. Most interesting. The first follows:

from A Far Cry From Kensington
Muriel Spark

At the time Abigail showed me her Box I was somewhat relieved to find it futile, because, as I pointed out, if the Box could do good it could also do evil. 'It stands to reason,'I said.

'Oh,' said Abigail de Mordell Staines-Knight, "how right you are. But don't let Ian hear you say so. To him it's impossible to do anything wrong with the Box. And in fact, it does nobody harm, let's face it.'

She was a really nice girl in spite of her name. I, too, didn't think you could do wrong with the Box, nor right with it, nor anything.

What I find interesting and worthy of further consideration here is that the ability to do good comes coupled with the ability to do evil. Moral neutrality is moral invisibility and perfect inviability. The only way something can have no moral content is if it is incapable of being used at all, and hence has no content period.

This is interesting to think about. The only object that is outside of moral questioning is the object that is utterly useless to anyone. That is not to say the objects themselves possess morality, but the morality stems from the use of them. If an object can be used and cause good, it stands to reason that it can be misused and cause evil. If an object has no use whatsoever, then it is truly neutral ground. For our present purposes the planet Venus is most likely a morally neutral object. The idea of Venus, however, may not be.

What is remarkable in the passage above is the way that Muriel Spark finds to put a very coherent, difficult, and perplexing question into an amusing scene. This trait, introducing moral complexity, is a key feature of Spark's novels and is one of the things that makes for such compelling reading. One is instructed or persuaded beyond the power of the events in the book alone. In a sense, it is the better part of art to be didactic. Once art has lost its ability to teach, it has lost its ability to mean and it becomes one more useless object. That isn't to say that art is completely encompassed by its didactic nature, but that the teaching element of art is ever-present in any true work of art. If nothing else, art teaches us to see anew. And in that sense Spark's novels are art.

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Moral complexity may be a key feature of Ms. Spark's novels because her personal life demonstrated moral complexity, the most egregious moral lapse being the abandonment of her 6-year-old son and subsequent life-long estrangement from him. The quotes below about parents would be very poignant to a grown-up man who most likely remained an abandoned 6-year-old child throughout his life. Sadly, I'm not able to move beyond judging Ms. Spark's humanness to become enthusiastic about reading one of her excellent contributions to our ever-erring society. However, thank you for bringing to light the lack of charity and forgiveness in my soul.

Dear Psalm41,

You make an interesting point and one that I often come back to. Often to enjoy art one must not know too much about the artist. The art can present a much more clearly delineated morality than might show up in an artist's life. If think particularly of the great Renaisaance (poor) Carmelite Friar Fra Filipo Lippi whose art is undoubtedly magnificent but the art of his son Filipino Lippi suggests that his life was not in accord with his art.

But I often have the same problem, most particularly with movie actors whose political and moral views fill me with disgust. So I sympathize. I would like to hear Ms. Spark's side of that particular story, however. Perhaps it is in Curriculum Vitae. If so, I'll share it.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 31, 2006 1:39 PM.

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