Art and Habit

Audreynunby Glenn Fairman  8/28/14
Upon viewing “The Nun’s Story” (1959) the other night on TCM, one is certain that such a film could never be made today. There are: no half dressed strumpets parading, no explosions, and no exaggerated drama that comes from the meanderings of a shallow soul testing the elastic limits of gutter life. In fact, the rarified atmosphere of this film feels as if it took place in an alien world eons past, instead of in the 1930s. Throughout the course of the movie, we come to realize that the life of a nun is a life contrary to nature – a life of untold commitment and sacrifice that few would ever attempt, had they fully understood its requirements. One wonders if a contemporary portrayal of humans containing such courageous moral depth could be of any service to a hollow society like ours — a society immersed in the watery pabulum of sensual liberal dogma. Indeed, such complexity might be the most ferocious enemy to that utopian impulse of wrestling heaven down to earth.

Throughout the entire body of the film, Audrey Hepburn’s character is beset by the smoldering internal conflict between a life of obedience to her Order and that of a determined soul driven by the dream of medical service in the Congo. Her angst is interesting because her brilliance as a human being, with its attending ego and pride, is continuously coming into conflict with her vow of humility. The palpable tension that arises is heroic in the extreme. The audience commiserates with “Sister Luke” at each successive disappointment, and we incrementally grow to realize that her life’s choice, although noble in the highest sense, was perhaps not right for her.

Indeed, Sister Luke’s abnegation of self contends with her considerable ambition, causing her untold psychological anguish. The inner war for perfection allows her no respite. As a nun, she must live in a constant state of debasement and self-criticism: manifested by writing self accusations in her little book or confessing towards her peers a growing litany of microscopic imperfections — spilling milk, taking a glass of water without permission, or speaking to a hospital patient needing a human touch during the “Grand Silence.” In attempting to peel the layers of self that exist like a massive onion, she finds that the perception of her faults ignites on contact with self-awareness, and that her entrenched ego is circular in its deceitfulness. After beating herself up for a failure of obedience, she soon realizes that the satisfaction of finally obtaining obedience yields an even more virulent pride that must be addressed. And so it goes — that relentless dialogue taking place behind a measured mask that rarely cracks. Having confessed to her superior that she had hoped to arrive eventually at a place of rest, she is told — there is no such rest.

Every Christian struggles with the quicksand of pride, and whosoever does not understand this shifting conundrum of triumph and defeat is unworthy of the name. Some believers will utter a silent prayer and give a knowing nod of the head while watching The Nun’s Story: which is played neither as a burlesque of the contemplative life, nor is it so romanticized. It is a beautiful and difficult film to watch, and Ms. Hepburn breathed life into a complex character in a way that few ever could.

I am not privy to the workings of Marie Louise Habets’ (the person the film was based upon) mind, but I would be less than charitable were I to ascribe her eventual sexual proclivity as her reason for leaving the Order. Habets was deeply wounded by the death of her Father at the hands of the Nazis and found it impossible to forgive. Upon leaving the cloistered world, she fought severe depression but eventually served selflessly as a nurse aiding the Belgian resistance, and her existence was devoted to others for the rest of her life. Given her experiences and sensitivity, I’m sure her decision to step away from her vows was a matter of no casual importance. She never publicly proclaimed the “Virtues of Sappho” as being commensurate or superior to natural unions, nor did she ever malign her former comrades, or the church itself. Indeed, she offered only praise and admiration. Conservatives can live with this.

But life is one thing and art is quite another. What remains crucial here is this: the Power of Art in molding human souls. Plato thought its importance was paramount, since the arts were “thrice removed from reality” and their potential for good or ill is fundamental in the formation of the City’s character. Art, in the classical sense, is by nature erotic—-it draws us to its beauty while its contemplation frees us from the ugly and mundane. It has the capacity to make us better men or worse – to elevate our consciousness towards noble aspirations or drag us down into the mire of prurience.

The lesson that “The Nun’s Story” – taken on its face as a work of film art – is this: it compels us to address the human dilemma of knowing ourselves, and how we must all balance on the razor’s edge of self-affirmation and duty. We can run this film through our ideological gauntlets: making it pay for disappointing us or in upsetting the conditions that anchor our conception of the world — but that would not be judging it on its fair merits. Are we made better by the work? Say what you will about this severe mode of serving the world: its self-flagellation of desire, its supposed “denial of life” (this is nihilism from the world’s perspective), even an arguable theological elevation of works over grace—-all these are perhaps debatable points. Yet, something should be said about the beauty of a life that holds itself accountable to its adamantine first principles; one that is as merciless with its own flaws as it is charitable to the stumblings of others. That crucifixion of self, that sacrifice of fleeting happiness for the sole benefit of the world’s miserable, is uniquely sublime. Any art that can convey to its audience this hyperborean quality of love and duty must be accorded honor, lest we succumb to the cynicism that is lurking just outside the portals of our hearts. Art once aspired to make us good. It does so no more.

Modern art — and all arts that are products of the Post-modern age – where subjectivity is the only withered perspective — no longer retains the power of ascension. This art seeks to erode; it exists as provocateur. It cannot pronounce anything sacred because such an ideation no longer exists in its vocabulary. Therefore, such art is judged to be transformationally decrepit — and by that I mean: it is in the business of deconstructing Man into a clever animal and its politics are geared to the dismantling of the old for the sake of its terrible new modes and orders. This “art,” nevertheless, has a deep problem that it cannot resolve: when you dynamite the foundations of truth and beauty, no content remains for the aesthetic sustenance of this World of Dwarves — other than fleeting shrieks of Passion and Will. And these are, of themselves, dutyless pillars ill-suited to erect a healthy society upon.

Finally: taken as a whole, our lives can be aesthetic pieces, just as movies and paintings are. Being comprised of context, form and content, our legacies have the potential for the uplift or degradation of others —or merely, for that matter, the sterile semblance of utter banality. In the end, the beautiful life is best lived for the sake of others, while our preening egos are best placed among shadows in the canvas’ background. And like all works of art, we cannot be properly evaluated or weighed in the balance until the final brush stroke. Let us endeavor to finish well.


Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca.
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33 Responses to Art and Habit

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Very interesting essay, Glenn. I hope to find time to comment on individual elements of what you said.

    One should be astounded at the people who take the vows to be a nun or monk. Had things been a little different, I have no doubt I could have quite easily become a Cistercian (one of the more severe orders). Reading of the life of Thomas Merton in The Seven Storey Mountain may leave you with a romantic notion of being a Trappist monk or starring askew at the people who are such a thing.

    Or both. That was my reaction. It’s such a foreign way of life you can’t help but be awed and repulsed at the same time. And that’s not a bad thing, for these people are indeed engaging in a life that should be at least a slight shock to our systems.

    For hardcore from-afar monk enthusiasts, there is also the strange documentary, Into Great Silence, (Die große Stille) which examines, via the technique of just planting a camera and watching, the Carthusian Order in France. Silence is golden, baby, and these monks live that life — a life as foreign to today’s Twitter-obsessed sound-byte culture as would be an alien three-headed culture on Mars.

    Monks and nuns challenge the very idea of what it is to be human and the very metaphysics of being. It is good to grow in knowledge and wisdom, but is it possible to do so via silent prayer where seemingly no new information is being imparted? I forget whose philosophy it is, perhaps it was that of Henri Nouwen, but there is the idea of — even while seemingly detached from the world — being a positive force merely through living a quiet life in prayer, perhaps drawing power (at minimum) from Pascal’s idea that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

    Living a sacrificial life used to not just be the domain of monks and nuns. Certainly Glenn reminds us in one of his articles that that used to be the very definition of a parent, particularly mothers. Now it’s common to kill children in the womb because they are an inconvenience regarding one’s job or the scheduling of the next vacation. How far we have come in this “Brave New World.” How quickly things changed from the noble black-and-white art often glimpsed on the silver screen of ages not long past.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I am not privy to the workings of Marie Louise Habets’ (the person the film was based upon) mind, but I would be less than charitable were I to ascribe her eventual sexual proclivity as her reason for leaving the Order. Habets was deeply wounded by the death of her Father at the hands of the Nazis and found it impossible to forgive. Upon leaving the cloistered world, she fought severe depression but eventually served selflessly as a nurse aiding the Belgian resistance, and her existence was devoted to others for the rest of her life. Given her experiences and sensitivity, I’m sure her decision to step away from her vows was a matter of no casual importance. She never publicly proclaimed the “Virtues of Sappho” as being commensurate or superior to natural unions, nor did she ever malign her former comrades, or the church itself. Indeed, she offered only praise and admiration. Conservatives can live with this.

    Whatever her other attributes, and they are substantial, becoming a lesbian isn’t a particularly heart-warming aspect of this story. Certainly her sexual proclivities shouldn’t define her. We shouldn’t all necessarily be defined by our least praiseworthy acts.

    But in the context of a life of a lapsed nun, it’s a noteworthy aspect of her life. We can sympathize with the effervescent soul who was drawn to service. And yet same-sex relations are not like a person preferring Ford rather than Chevy. And given that it is likely that homosexual behavior in most cases is a psychological and/or spiritual problem, who better than a nun schooled in the fine points of Christianity to be able to heal rather than give into those temptations?

    But as a friend of mine says, most women are two glasses of wine away from a lesbian encounter. Maybe it isn’t that big of a deal.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One thing to note about lesbians, as distinct from male homosexuals and bisexuals, is that many become lesbian not because of some genetic (or other) abnormality, but out of hatred of men. This makes them (the man-haters, not all of them) a very unpleasant group, and very harmful socially. (In essence, what went wrong with the feminist movement is that in the late 1970s they chose to align with man-hating lesbians rather than sympathetic men.)

    • Misanthropette says:

      “But as a friend of mine says, most women are two glasses of wine away from a lesbian encounter. Maybe it isn’t that big of a deal.”

      Is this “friend” of yours a man? Figures! Back in the day, men used to ply women with drink to loosen them up. Now it is assumed all women harbor secret desires for other women? It is exclusively men who appear to believe this. And yes, it IS a big deal.

      I’ll never forget entertaining while in my first year of law school (poverty be damned.) The large party included cross-sections of our class, with a recently “outed” lesbian and her lover. Unlike the other couples, they insisted on making demonstrations before, during and after dinner (accompanied by oceans of wine). It was embarrassing to me as hostess that the two couldn’t restrain themselves for five minutes which led the other well-behaved but drunk guests to conclude they were engaged in desperate acts to convince themselves, not us.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Well, it’s a bit of a joke, Misanthropette. Don’t get your panties too much in a bunch. We conservatives are not supposed to be the side that is uptight and humorless.

        I think my friend was making the point that men, in general, are not particularly repulsed by lesbianism — as long as they are good looking.

        In this general vein, I love Rush Limbaugh’s Undeniable Truth #24: Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society.

        I think there’s some truth to that. And there’s a lot of truth to the idea Tim articulated the much of feminism (and thus lesbianism) is based upon the hatred of men. I would go one step further and stay that feminism was always based on the idea of warring with men. Some “feminists” have not looked deeply and have declared that feminism was always about “equal opportunity” or something like that, and only later got radicalized by the man-hating feminists. But I think this is not a wise or complete view.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Christina Hoff Sommers has differentiated between “equity feminism” (equal rights for women) and “gender feminism” (hostility to men). I think both aspects were always present, but originally it was possible for them to work with men who sympathized with the cause. That changed a few decades ago, and it was taken over completely by the man-haters. In more recent years, feminism has degenerated to a vicious combination of man-hating and child-hating (hence their abortion-worship).

          Note the argument in National Review Online today that femocrats who complain of a “rape culture” are unwilling to say anything about Muslim barbarism in Rotherham.

        • Misanthropette says:

          I can take a joke, I understand “funny”, but there’s a difference between a joke (for example, “Catcerto” featuring Nora the Kitty which I dare anyone to watch without busting a gut) and getting a laugh at someone else’s expense, humiliation or embarrassment. I have always appreciated self-effacing humor versus what passes for humor today, especially where women are concerned. Debasing women isn’t funny and Rush Limbaugh ought to take a good, long look in the mirror then go look up the word “hypocrite”. Maybe we need a 3 strikes law for marriage? Eh, Rush?

          You mentioned looks, but there was a time before feminism that a woman’s worth was based on something other than her looks. Her worth was based on her character. I missed out on those days. The more engrained the feminist perspective becomes in women and in men, the shallower the standards become in evaluating a woman’s worth and measure until they are what they currently are: “looks”. Such irony isn’t lost on any woman with half a brain.

          Whether you care to admit it or not, throughout written history women have received ill treatment, were denied rights (especially ownership of property which is more important than voting), and considered chattel. In many areas of the globe (not here) they are still so. The liberty of women can be attributed to the spread of Christian ethics and the Enlightenment. Ok, those and maybe Worth, Delman, and Coco Chanel; combined they did more for women’s self-esteem than the vote. Who the heck needs “looks” when I’ve got Chanel in the closet? See? I can be funny, too.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            And those bad places aren’t very far away. There’s the Rotherham rape scandal, involving the rape over many years of 1400+ white women by “Asian” (i.e., Pakistani Muslim) men that was ignored by the police in a Laborite town. A “moderate” Muslim in Buffalo was convicted of an honor killing a few years ago. A community with a large Muslim population is a dangerous community for independent women — i.e., women not inclined toward unlimited Submission.

          • Glenn Fairman says:

            Indeed, Misanthropette. BTW, does your nom de guerre (which I am fond of) imply a disgust with humanity in general, or do you have something more specific in mind?

            • Misanthropette says:

              Simple combination of “moppet” and “misanthrope” which is (as you well know) Moliere’s best work.

              • Glenn Fairman says:

                you presume too much from a dullard such as I…

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I saw a performance of The Misanthrope at college. Whether it’s Moliere’s best I’m not sure — there are some very nice moments in Love’s the Best Doctor (which would actually be translated better as The Love-Doctor, but never mind). I do have a set of the plays of Jean Baptiste Poquelin aka Moliere (sorry, I don’t know how to put in the accent grave in these posts).

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Misanthropette, a good joke is often at someone’s expense. Perhaps me being a guy and you being a gal, we have a failure to communicate on this issue.

            Guys routinely put each other down and make jokes at each other’s expense. It’s how we remain sane and how we make sure that no one gets too big for their britches. Put-down jokes are a continuing right of passage.

            So I don’t hold to the line “Oh, don’t make a joke at someone’s expense.” I come from the Don Rickles school of joke-telling. And isn’t it about time in this PC culture to instead of becoming hyper-sensitive about these things that we puncture a little air out of our puffed-up egos and grievances?

            I think women should be debased, men should be debased (and, good god, if you listen to some of the great jokes Sammy Davis Junior used to tell, Jews ought to be debased as well). To automatically assign sinister or hypocritical motives to a little light joke-telling is to go around with your panties in a bunch.

            You mentioned looks, but there was a time before feminism that a woman’s worth was based on something other than her looks. Her worth was based on her character.

            That’s a pleasing myth. A guy is first attracted to looks. But, yes, after he’s sown his wild oats, then other categories rise in importance, including character issues. But it would be politically correct gobbledygook for me to sit here and say that “A woman’s worth has always been based on her character.” I don’t know that this has ever been the case, nor has it been the case the men’s worth is based on their character. Their ability to bring him the bacon, to protect and care for the family, and a lot of other things typically score near or higher than character.

            Whether you care to admit it or not, throughout written history women have received ill treatment, were denied rights

            Please do not connect a harmless joke with a martyr theme. Men have been pretty ill-treated throughout history as well. And there’s no reason to believe that if women were in charge of the world that there would be no wars or things such as that. Women have not been on the sidelines in history in regards to sin and abuse.

            And you seem to be feeding more feminist dogma when you refer to women as mere chattel. Again, slavery itself (where not just women but men and children were victims) has been common throughout time (with women being glad recipients of the free labor).

            What has also been common (what you might called “ill treatment” or “chattel”) is just a division of labor…different roles for men and women. There was a time when men were the head of their families and were involved in politics and women weren’t. It’s completely wrong to take modern views of “equality” and yoke them over all of history. There were some very good reasons why men might have owned property and women didn’t. One reason was to keep the property from being split up and diluted because of marriage. And this also, by the way, effected sons who were not the first born. The first son got everything. The second and later sons got notta.

            Life is much more complicated than just looking at history as “men the oppressor, women the victims.”

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Whether you care to admit it or not, throughout written history women have received ill treatment, were denied rights

              One of the peculiarities of the West is how well women have been treated when compared with the rest of the world. Much has been written about how women were put on a pedestal in the West. This was not the case elsewhere. This trend took on strength especially during the late Middle Ages The troubadours grew out of and were part of this tradition.

              Have a look at Joseph Campbell and others.

              By the way, what have I often said to you?

              Grievance is one of the most (perhaps the most) powerful motivators in politics specifically and life in general. To feel one is morally superior because of a past wrong, real or imagined, is a wonderful drug, but it is no cure.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Mr. Kung, believe it or not, I think women are just spiffy. But regarding bad jokes and just various opinions on the history of the world, I’ll put everyone on notice now that I don’t see things through the feminist lens. I will not cut off my manhood in order to stay within someone else’s bounds. And I say to all women, “You want equality? You got it. Now deal with it. And start by not being forever the victim and being so easily offended.”

                Had I said something like “Men are two beers away from a homosexual encounter” I doubt that anyone would have objected. It’s open season on men. You can dump on men all you want with impunity. Look at the typical TV commercial. You know this is true. But don’t you dare say anything slightly untoward about women.

                And I just don’t buy this “delicate flower” syndrome that is trying to be spread around. If you want equality, then deal with it. And I’m more than happy with the idea of political equality. God knows I think misogynous Islam is the bane of the world.

                And if Misanthropette has strong views on the subject, then please submit an article. I will publish it. It’s what we are here for.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I remembered another interesting example of the sort of misogyny you discuss here. In Swahili (the East African lingua franca, heavily influenced by Arabic), as writer Mike Resnick (a long-time student of Africa) has pointed out, there is no word for “woman”. The word manamouki actually refers to female property of any sort — a wife, a she-goat, whatever.

    • Glenn Fairman says:

      The view that most women are two drinks from a lesbian encounter squares nicely with the traditional Muslim hadiths that proclaim women are all passion, largely devoid of instrumental reason and cannot be left uncloistered—-that they are as “fish and birds.” Mohammad, in one of the hadiths, is reputed to have seen hell and found that it largely consisted of women.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Mohammad, in one of the hadiths, is reputed to have seen hell and found that it largely consisted of women.

        Perhaps this is the psychological result of polygamy.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The view that most women are two drinks from a lesbian encounter squares nicely with the traditional Muslim hadiths that proclaim women are all passion, largely devoid of instrumental reason and cannot be left uncloistered—-that they are as “fish and birds.” Mohammad, in one of the hadiths, is reputed to have seen hell and found that it largely consisted of women.

        Well, as they say, even a blind chicken will find a grain from time to time. :)

        Certainly much of women’s power historically has been in the form of tempting and manipulating men. Modern feminists and other politically correct types think that females were given a bad rap at the very start with the Adam and Eve story. They find it surprising — even offensive — that some man should be tempted to eat of an apple when persuaded to do so by a naked woman and then all the blame passes to her.

        Certainly some cultures have taken this idea of “woman as temptress” to an extreme and shroud them in obscene tents, rubbing out their identities. But the fact remains, women do have great power over men, and men know this. It’s always been a lie that women have been nothing more than chattel throughout history. As they say, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” This may not always be the case, but women traditionally pull the strings of power through their men. And men have often listened to their counsel.

        And women do indeed tend to be a bundle of passions. As Dennis Prager notes about the sexes, we each have aspects of our natures to overcome. For men it is our propensity to violence. For women it is their propensity to put irrational emotion over rational thought.

        • Glenn Fairman says:

          Milton’s take on The Fall is illuminating. Although Man retained the Headship over woman, man deferred it. After eating of the fruit, Eve, who found pride in her new consciousness, but realizing that her act of disobedience would bring death—a mystery largely unknown, set her bonnet on enticing and promoting the virtues of this new independent perception of life to Adam. She instinctively knew that a separation of sorts was at hand, and would rather Adam shared her fate than to be taken from him. Perhaps Adam would be given another mate in her place?

          But Adam was not deceived. He understood the implications of the act, and was horrified at what had transpired. Yet, he could not bear being parted from this beautiful creature. And so, defying his reason, Adam acquiesced to Eve. Trading his walks in the cool of the day with God for the thorns and flinty soil lying east of Eden. Having been driven from the primordial Garden by the flaming swords of the Seraphim, men and women have been poison and paradise to one another ever since. But things were not originally this way, nor shall the curse always stand.

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    As mass marketing uses sexy women to sell everything, women are in a state of constant comparison —–sizing one another up, they see beauty and desire perhaps in a different way than men do. Moreover, as men have become more and more irresponsible, some women are foregoing the honor of getting cheated on, abused, and leached off. They find, however, that the more butch of the species have a tendency to take on the same dysfunctional predatory male traits. Its worth noting that even when sexuality is blurred, the same masculine and feminine templates are gravitated to, so nature cannot ultimately be thwarted. Homosexuality appears to be more a function of gender confusion than biological determinism, and a muddled psychology that plays off the morphology of body, the imprint of pornography and molestation early on, and warped relations with the parental bond seem to be driving factors in same sex attraction. When you add to the mix the destruction of gender taboo, you have the veritable hamster cage. Believe it or not, we are starting to hear the designation of male lesbians. One can only go so far afield until one returns to normalcy, and perhaps the revival of chastity as the ultimate erotica.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Homosexuality appears to be more a function of gender confusion than biological determinism, and a muddled psychology that plays off the morphology of body, the imprint of pornography and molestation early on, and warped relations with the parental bond seem to be driving factors in same sex attraction. When you add to the mix the destruction of gender taboo, you have the veritable hamster cage.

      That’s a pretty concise and comprehensive view of homosexuality, Glenn. I think it leaves out those people who are hormonally and/or psychologically born with the proclivities of same-sex attraction, which I think does exist in some. There are just too many men who are obviously feminine in appearance and manner for this not to be so.

      But back to our nun. It was probably wise that this movie didn’t delve into Habet’s private life after leaving her Order. Certainly part of that had to do with the fact that lesbianism would have been much more controversial back in 1959 than it is today. Including this element would have overshadowed the rest of the story. And if that were the case, it puts to rest this ridiculous idea that the Gay Mafia has that “Sexuality is only one aspect of who we are.” In reality, they have made it their prime definition of who they are. And the people who made this movie, for whatever reason, did not make it the prime definition of who she was.

      Having confessed to her superior that she had hoped to arrive eventually at a place of rest, she is told — there is no such rest.

      First off, let me say, as appealing as a monastery may appear from the outside, it is a hard and disciplined life. My older brother visited a monetary in Oregon a couple years ago. He stayed a few days. And staying a few days is all well and good, but imagine actually living that life. It’s one thing to pop in and get a little multicultural vibe from watching craftsmen make homemade bread and wine. It’s another to give up one’s liberty and pursuit of psychological and sensual satisfaction. And that seems to be what you are describing about Sister Luke — a factor that may make her lesbianism relevant. She was perhaps looking for an external-provided peace that, while certainly facilitated by that kind of life as a nun, has to probably be something that one allows to sink in. One has one’s own shit that one has to eventually deal with, and no amount of wrapping oneself in the liturgy is going to be a substitute for that.

      So in some ways, she punted (as most of us likely would) and life became about finding emotional satisfaction in whatever form she could — in the arms of another woman apparently. And that may certainly be a little weird, but it is at least a little strange too to be “wedded to Christ” with (do they still do this) a gold ring on one’s finger. As you say, perhaps the gender roles never do go away no matter what we are trying to do. And thus it is perhaps best to accommodate that somehow.

      And how many women or men join an order in order to run away from sexual identity problems? But as Sister Margaretta noted to Maria, a nunnery is not a place to hide:

      Sister Margaretta: Captain von Trapp? Are you in love with him?

      Maria: I don’t know! I don’t know. I– The baroness said I was. She said that he was in love with me. But I didn’t want to believe it. There were times we looked at each other. I could hardly breathe.

      Sister Margaretta: Did you let him see your feelings?

      Maria: I don’t know. That’s what’s torturing me. I was on God’s errand. To have asked for his love would have been wrong. I just couldn’t stay. I’m ready at this moment to take my vows. Please help me.

      Sister Margaretta: Maria, the love of a man and a woman is holy. You have a great capacity to love. You must find out how God wants you to spend your love.

      Maria: But I pledged my life to God. I pledged my life to his service.

      Sister Margaretta: My daughter, if you love this man, it doesn’t mean you love God less. No. You must find out. You must go back.

      Maria: You can’t ask me to do that. Please let me stay. I beg.

      Sister Margaretta: Maria, these walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.

      [Cue Climb Every Mountain]

      • Timothy Lane says:

        In Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morque, a bored rich woman ponders joining a local nunnery in order to become a “bride of Christ”. Sister Ursula (a crime-solving nun who would appear in several stories by Boucher), rightly suspecting that she was in love with some romantic notion of the cloistered life, was able to dissuade her by explaining what their particular sisterhood actually did (housework for the poor).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          As I understand it, Timothy, the people who run monasteries and convents are quite familiar with the uniqueness and difficultly of their calling. That’s why they have lengthy novitiate periods and such. It’s not the life for everyone. And it can’t just be a place to escape to. And, well, certainly no one can ever really know what they’re getting into until they’ve lived it for a while.

          I could probably do it as long as I was allowed internet access. And I believe that’s not a problem these days. DSL or Cable, I’m not picky.

          While we’re on the subject, anyone who hasn’t ought to run out and see Monsieur Vincent about the life of St. Vincent de Paul. I’ve mentioned this movie before on this site and it should still be available for streaming on Neftlix.

          I’m not saying he wasn’t a good man. But neither was he the sort of weak girly-man sort of “touchy feely” Mr. Rogersesque character that is so often the template for “good” these days. You can’t be good without, well, without being “wise as snakes and harmless as doves.” But even then, you have to be able to kick a little ass when needed. St. Francis surely did.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    a comment on this piece from another site: viewed through that “ideological filter.”

    And here is someone who has a different view of that film.’

    To my surprise, I realized it was the 50s are where it all began. I watched an Audrey Hepburn movie called “A Nun’s Story”. It’s about a Belgium do-gooder (Hepburn) who dumps her White fiancee in order to become a nun. Ever since she was a child, her only desire was to rescue the natives of the Congo from various tropical diseases. Since it was the religious dolts (as usual) who were doing all the missionary and medical work in the Congo, she felt becoming a nun was the best way to achieve her “dream”.

    To show her humility, the Reverend Mother sends her everywhere BUT the Congo. Hebpurn’s character is DEVASTATED when she’s sent to help out at mental hospital containing all white people.
    Later, when it’s discovered she’s a whiz at bacteriology, the convent finally sends her to the Congo. What clever, humble, colorful, glorious dark peoples welcome her! A whole village of noble savages! She glows with happiness as she cuddles little Congo babies, admires the straightforward wisdom of the Congo nurses-in-training, and relishes in the admiration of the village elders.
    When the Catholic director of the mission hospital tells here she is to work in the European hospital (where the cruel, Dutch mine owners are patients), she breaks out in tears! When war breaks out in Belgium and the Nazis come, the Nazis machine gun Belgians just for the fun of it.

    Despite all this, very un-PC occurrences slip through that would incense DWLs and BRA today. For example, the head nun at the Congo shows Hepburn the maternity ward. There are about 100 Congo women, each with a baby. The nun tells Hepburn that until the Catholics arrived, the women would “just dig a hole in the ground and give birth squatting into the hole.” Also, one nun was hit over the head with a club and killed by a Congo man because a witch doctor told him killing a White woman would make the ghost of his wife stop haunting him. (Funny, the only one with sense was a Congo orderly who wanted to kill the murderer for it, but Hepburn’s character says, “We must forgive!”).

    After the film, the host talked about the director, Fred Zinnemann. He was pretty much a Communist. Most of his films dealt with “confronting anti-Semitism”. He was one of the directors who was investigated by McCarthy and exposed as a Communist.’

    For 10 points, Name that Pathology…….

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Since it was the religious dolts (as usual) who were doing all the missionary and medical work in the Congo

      Only a Libertarian could come up with such a thought.

      I believe Libertarian thought is, at its core, really about the right to become a monster. From their rantings, it is clear that many of them are already there and others are morphing, soon to be.

      You know all those zombies stumbling along in “The Night of the Living Dead”? They were just early Libertarians. Unfortunately, there has been a proliferation of them as witnessed on cable TV.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      For 10 points, Name that Pathology…….

      LOL. Well, it’s the typical mix of radical skepticism and smarty-pants-itus (none are immune from this plague). I’m not entirely sure where this reviewer is coming from. He seems to be giving tacit grudging assent to Sister Luke’s noble ambitions with the one hand, while damning with faint praise with the other.

      I try to stay out of that habit and heap praise openly where I think it is deserved and scorn where I think it is deserved. Life is often like that — complex. Describing it requires a bit of skateboarding between these two extremes, combining them like the black and white keys on the piano keyboard to produce pleasing, and fuller, tones. In fact, it is a Christian truth to find beauty in suffering.

      It’s interesting how this movie intersects on the whole Ebola issue. There is certainly a draw to help people in poorer countries, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. As a friend has noted to me, it used to be known as “the white man’s burden.” Indeed, only a psychopathic and selfish people would live in relative luxury and say “To hell with the rest of the world.” The Christian spirit to try to reach out and help those in need (both spiritual and physical need, the former perhaps often being forgotten as Marxist “cultural imperialist” toxins have been ingested) is commendable and needed.

      It’s also true, especially in today’s world, that much of this “help” is driven by egotistical and narcissistic motives. It’s more about being seen to help those poor African people rather than, as Ann Coulter pointed out, perhaps doing the hard (or harder) work of caring for one’s own closer to home.

      There is no set rule for who to help or how to help them. But one’s own pride needs to be kept in check. There is an awful lot of Missionary Touring going on these days by bands of yutes looking only to extend their adolescence and delay their entry into the real world.

      It seems a fair bet that the Sister Luke as portrayed in the movie was driven to service by good motives. For whatever reason, she wanted to go to the Congo and this pursuit was delayed, as it often is in life, regardless of the organization involved. We all don’t immediately get what we want.

      But to me, understanding to some degree what goes on in the minds of those who commit to being a nun or a monk, it is disappointing that the real Sister Luke seemed to go off the reservation in her life.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I wonder what Ann Coulter would say of A Nun’s Story. It seems to be a precursor of her argument regarding the Ebola missionaries.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a PragerU course relevant to the topic at hand: Why is Modern Art so Bad?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There are a couple of interesting examples of modernism’s results. I recall a Li’l Abner strip from 1960 or so involving General Bullmoose trying to win an art contest in Boston by submitting an ice sculpture that was actually a frozen woman. (The freezing was done by flyers, one of whom said to the other, “Ours not to reason why. Ours but to freeze and fly.”) The judges were confused — the sculpture was a woman, but it actually looked like one.

      Another interesting example comes in the novel The Collector in which the left-wing artist Miranda, kidnapped by the man she calls Caliban (I doubt he recognized the reference), shows him various paintings she did of some everyday object. She wasn’t surprised, but was a bit contemptuous, that he thought the best picture was the one that most resembled the actual object.

      To me, the test of art is effort and skill. Modern art can involve that, such as op art or some surrealism. (I have a book of art by M. C. Escher, and several individual prints, two of them framed.) But mostly we “low-brows” prefer art that looks like what it’s supposed to be. I read once that the advent of the camera helped doom representational art (particularly painting), though I doubt this is entirely true. (Photography wasn’t so dominant at the time that the Impressionists came in.) Of course, fantasy and science fiction art has the advantage that it tends to portray non-existent scenes, and thus has room to do so very realistically without worrying about being compared to a photograph of the same scene.

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