Friday, October 11, 2013

"How great a virtue is temperance!"

          When I was in high school and still under the jurisdiction of my parents, I heard my them discussing a book called "Under the Dome" by Stephen King. By the way my mother talked about it, I decided that this should be the next book I endeavor. When I asked her if she could give it to me to read...SHE REFUSED. I was like, "Um, excuse me? How can you not expect me to feel the need to partake of this goodness?" The grounds on which she refused to give me the book were that of inappropriate language, violence, and explicit sexual references.
          I don't know why, but I just felt stupid. And I felt untrustworthy--like I couldn't be expected to be able to handle such a book with tact and maturity.
          I believe the most important part of Areopagitica is that Milton argues the fact that we can't fully know what is good in this world if we are not give the chance to experience evil. No reason or agency is involved when we "choose" good over evil, simply because evil is not available to us by our mothers.

          Milton understands that books are not a dead thing, that they are a medium that can fully bring to life some pretty controversial and nasty ideas to the world. But banning books is not going to ban the existence of these ideas. In fact, it hinders our ability to choose the good over the evil:

"Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world 
so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to 
the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely 
and with less danger scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading 
all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason?"

          Amen, right?
          Cut us some slack, mom[s]. We have the ability to decide for ourselves what is too much for us, and what we can handle.

"When God did enlarge the universal diet of man's body, saving ever
 the rules of temperance, he then also, as before, let arbitrary the dieting 
and repasting of our minds, as wherein every mature man might 
have to exercise his own leading capacity."

          I have a great mom, and she was only doing her job--keeping her daughter safe and sound from the perverted words of Stephen King--and I am by no means actually criticizing her for not wanting me to read it. I did eventually read it, by the way... I gave it a solid "meh." But that experience helped me to gain a more personal understanding of the kinds of books I do and don't want (or really need) to read.
          Now my mom has been bugging me to let her borrow Fight Club, and being on the other side of it is a whole different story... how long can I protect my mother from the harshness that is Palahniuk?


  1. And yet, wouldn't it be said that what she was really following was her religion? We have been asked not to watch rated R movies, but my favorite show (V for Vendetta), is rated R, and I feel like it is has great moral lessons to teach us. So the question is as much one of religion as it is of society. If evil things start with ideas, then ideas are dangerous, and must be monitored. (I'm not advocating censorship, btw, but I think it's necessary to consider that your mom's reasons were probably very well a consequence of religion than anything else)

  2. There's always that debate of where to draw the line. I agree that in order to experience good things, we must experience bad things, but there's always the question of "how much?" How far is too far? While we may be able to answer these questions personally, can we answer them for other people? Should we? How much should religion and society interfere?