There are, of course, all the cheer leaders among the advocates of same-sex "marriage" out there who mindlessly repeat the Approved Slogans about "fairness" and "diversity"--words which, once translated from the not-so-secret ideological code to common English, turn out to mean "intolerance" and "uniformity," respectively. But to anyone who has seriously thought through the philosophical and cultural consequences of all this have to be wondering what is becoming of their culture.
In an article in the new edition of First Things magazine, David P. Goldman follows up his article of last October about the music of Richard Wagner with a review of the Metropolitan Opera's production of Wagner's Die Walküre ("The Valkyrie"). In both of these articles, Goldman makes more sense of the modern mindset than anything I've read in the last ten years.
Wagner's Walküre, the second of his "Ring" operas, is the story of Siegmund and Sieglinde--a brother and his fraternal sister, although they don't know it--who meet after a long separation resulting from a raid on their village early in life. They fall in love.
It's a story, in other words, about incest.
The reason they fall in love is because they see the image of themselves in each other. "You are the image I harbor in me," says Siegmund to Sieglinde. In other words, instead of the normal pattern of erotic love, which is the attraction due to the difference of the lovers, these two (modern people that they are) are attracted by their similarities. "Erotic energy is transferred," Goldman quotes Gail Finney as observing, "from the narcissistic individual to the object most like himself, his sibling."
"Wagner remains the consummate bard of narcissistic love, of passion for our own alter egos," says Goldman. And, by the way (Goldman only hints at this, but I'll say it explicitly), this also makes sense of Hitler's expropriation of Wagner for his Arian myth--the worship of your own race and nation.
And then Goldman makes this observation:
Wagner wants to counterpose a love of pure impulse to the covenantal order of traditional society. He despises covenantal order; as Nietzsche wrote, "Whence arises all evil in the world, Wagner asked himself? ... From customs, laws, morals, institutions, from all those things on which the ancient world and ancient society rests."Goldman pointed out in his October article that "Wagner set out to destroy musical teleology, which he abhorred as the 'tyranny of form.'" He sought instead to replace musical teleology, which subordinates the ecstatic moment to the broader end or purpose of the composition, with a concentration on the individual moment, the one experience within the song which would make the composition worth listening to. Instead of music that pointed to something outside the composition itself in the old Christian mode, Wagner would provide the moment in the very experience of listening that is the only thing that could bestow musical value, since there is no such things as teleology.
Of course, Wagner's emphasis on the intensification of the one authenticating moment is not something unfamiliar to us: it has, in fact, become the mode in which we now apprehend the affective in contemporary culture. It seems sometimes that that is what we are all after. We no longer live under Heaven, the approximation of which was once thought to be accomplished by the completion of a great goal or quest. We now live for the moment.
This teleological order that until recently held sway--the loose vestige of Christendom--had marriage as its center:
Wagner reminds us why Judeo-Christian society rests on the institution of marriage. It is not merely because marriage produces children and socializes them. A republic is defined, Augustine argued in The City of God, not only be a common interest but by a common love. Western polity depends on the mutual love of God and his people. In the normative love of men and women, it is opposites that attract: that is why, since Hosea, heterosexual love has served as the metaphor par excellence for the love of the absolute Other."In Die Walkure," Goldman continues, "the personal is political. The love of the fraternal twins begins the downfall of the god's covenantal order." The final installment of the Ring cycle, he points out, "leads to the Twilight of the Gods, the end of the old order."
Far better than the political philosophers, Wagner understood that the covenant that underlies Western society is not a Hobbesian calculation but rather a nuptial commitment. The family is the fundamental unit of society because it nurtures in the sphere of intimacy an approximation of the covenantal bond between God and Israel.
To extirpate the covenantal order, Wagner understood, one must tear out its roots and provide an alternative: the ecstatic swoon of self-recognition, the ego's celebration of itself ...
In a scene from the movie Lord of the Rings (I don't think it's in the book), Saruman is watching as his orcs uproot the ancient trees of Fangorn. An orc approaches hime and says, "the roots are deep, My Lord."
Only an impulse so irresistible that it tears apart and breaks through the bonds of convention and covenant would serve Wagner's purpose, an impulse that knows neither doubt nor hesitation. Mere adultery is inadequate for his purpose. In Tristan and Isolde, he made do with a love potion, a comic-opera device that trivializes the tragedy of his illicit lovers. The incestuous passion of Wotan's twins introduces something far more powerful than a potion--namely, the allconsuming love of the ego for itself ... The mutual passion of fraternal twins is the closest Wagner coiuld come to pure narcissism short of introducing homosexuality.
Wagner, of course, knew what he was doing. Our cultural leaders, of course, don't have a clue. They are posers of the highest order. But there are a lot of them, and they have occupied the positions that were once held by those who valued custom and tradition. The people who claim to be "conservative" have sent their children to the same institutions (allegedly "educational" in nature, although the evidence would suggest otherwise) where they could be indoctrinated with Tolerance and Diversity, and now they know all the slogans too and spout them like good little revolutionaries.
We have been told that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality; the strictures against it were mere taboos. There is no "rational basis" (as the lawyers say) for not affirming it. Even if that were true (it isn't), as I have pointed out before, the same can be said for incest and cannibalism. And every time I point that out, the good little revolutionaries in the comments section, bravely standing for what everyone around them believes anyway, demur. But just give it about 5 years, and they will have already have followed their logic to its illogical conclusion.