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the spectral gaze

the spectral gaze, originally uploaded by staarkidd.

I've been an unfaithful blogger of late. perhaps this is a good thing, for i've been much more engaged with life. Participation is a big word. engagement, even bigger.

A few weeks ago, i read the following exerpt from one of my favorite blogs i find myself challenged to participate in life, in worship, in community, and most importantly, in the Eucharist. Submitting myself to the authority of Grace. Returning to the ancient traditions that are central to my faith: confession, submission, the Lord's table. Yet, the dangers of passive spectatorship are too real - every corner of my life suffers from it.

"According to John Milbank (Being Reconciled, p. 31), Augustine described the way Romans would go to the theatre and enjoy suffering and violence acted out on the stage as those caught in the spectral gaze. Augustine said the thrill of the spectral gaze depended upon "an absolute bar against reciprocal participation sealed by a double passivity." (p.31). This spectral gaze made the onlooker doubly passive (according to Milbank) because a.) the scene from the outset was exhibited ONLY to be watched, and b.) the people watching were confined from going there for any other purpose that mere reception, mere spectatorship. They were safe from the violence, were prohibited from participating, and there was not any other purpose to witness this violence in this way that getting a "cheap thrill." (milbank might argue that Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ was such a spectacle). This is markedly different than a worship gathering and a rehearsal of the Christ story where we called to participation. Milbank says this enables a perverse enjoyment of suffering. And so at this point the scene becomes a spectacle. . .

We love to intensify reality. But the spectral gaze intensifies the reality turning it into hyper reality one step removed from reality. Participation is pre-empted. According to Baudrillard, this is the last stage of a culture's semiotics when we go to signs bearing no relation to reality whatsoever. It is "pure simulation." Ironically, when we reach this point in our services, they bear no relation to reality any longer. They are simulating Christ performing a simulacrum of the birth of Christ. Ironically, in so doing, we in effect separate people from the reality of Christ instead of drawing them closer. And we cut off all participation."


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