ED Pack and Ignacio María Manrique
O Felix Culpa! Oh Happy Fault!
When we were talking about the show, Ignacio brought up the word hamartia: one of the words that became Sin when the New Testament was translated from Greek to Latin. I’d been mulling over the word for months after reading that it translates literally to ‘missing the mark’, as in archery. Ignacio was explaining it’s alternate sense - the hero’s felling error of perception in Greek tragedy.
Of course we were both thinking about hamartia. I cried in relief and anguish when I read it’s definition the first time. I’m not even Christian, Still, it lifted the responsibility of onerous guilt off of my shoulders. My tendency to Sin is the result of an error of perception, like poor aim - mark misser. Regardless, I’m left with a pre-linguistic sense that I am incorrigibly Bad.
I remember this inexplicable shame when I resent the translator or the Catholic church or whoever gave such an oppressive meaning to hamartia when they made it Latin. It’s easy to imagine that when they looked inward for what the text might mean, they felt this wound and scolded themselves. They saw themselves in the world, and sentenced it as guilty.
Guilt may or may not produce lawfulness. Regardless, it’s rigid and smothering and I don’t believe it ever leads to love. I’m perverted when saddled with it. By my interpretation real absolution was the crux of Christianity at it’s genesis - but people have a way of fortifying their prisons with the most liberating material.
Ignacio was some kind of Catholic monk, he lived at a monastery for two years until he was kicked out for reasons he won’t discuss. I explained Ignacio in terms of his ejection from the monastery when I proposed the show to Ben; it ’s an expulsion from the garden, and it resonates with me because he’ll either find freedom in the world or he won’t find it at all.
My nights are often filled with anxiety dreams, but for years I’ve had one recurring dream that I am being chased. The context is different every time but I’m barely escaping and there is a sense that the chase will go on forever. Last night, for the first time, I dreamt that I was running toward something.
In the dream I stole a skateboard off a lawn, with a clench of guilt but in a rush somewhere. I fake fumbled the sandwich I was eating into some landscaping for any witnesses and realized I was on my way to therapy. I struggled to remember what time my appointment was and what time it was right then. When I reached to check my phone, I woke up.
I unlocked my phone and open on the screen was the first page of the next chapter of Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’. It read:
CHAPTER VI - CONCERING NEW PRINCIPALITIES WHICH ARE ACQUIRED BY ONE'S OWN ARMS AND ABILITY
Let no one be surprised if, in speaking of entirely new principalities as I shall do, I adduce the highest examples both of prince and of state; because men, walking almost always in paths beaten by others, and following by imitation their deeds, are yet unable to keep entirely to the ways of others or attain to the power of those they imitate. A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savor of it. Let him act like the clever archers who, designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, aim to hit the mark they wish to reach.
Sara, my therapist, suggested that my dream was about forgiving moral errors in the struggle to get needs met. And to discard what you don’t need anymore - some part of yourself, the sandwich. Even if you really oughtn’t put it there.
What need means is the wildest question. And considering it always throws me into a thought-eddy around perception or misperception. I always wonder if she would play moral relativist if I didn’t reach so hard for the absolute.
Anyway, the larger feints toward heaven and misses the sky by a matter of course. I laughed this morning when chance or synchronicity suggested Machiavelli as my spiritual teacher, but honestly he’s a realist and I’m exhausted by spiritual fantasy as I am of pretensions to rationality. The archer isn’t aiming for heaven but the mark, something attainable and earthly, but distant, specific, requiring skill, repetition, effort, but not just effort: a loft toward heaven. Nothing has ever been so beautiful. To be both let off the hook and put to the test.