Today In Fact, 3 June

Three events today mark it as a day to consider human passion and in all its glory and destructive power.

Peter Abelard was a famous scholar in France during the first half of the 12th Century. Perhaps more famous for his illicit love of Heloise. Abelard’s passionate love for Heloise produced a s son, led to a secret marriage and the castration of Abelard by Heloise’s uncle, Fulbert. It gets worse. Heloise was sent to convent and Abelard spent years as a hermit. Eventually a teaching monastery was established and the two were able to share a life together as monk and nun. Abelard was today in 1140, convicted of heresy but his championing of Aristotle changed the Church and its approach to philosophy and ethics. With regard to ethics, Acbelard’s teaching that the moral example of Jesus leads to our atonement has had an enormous contemporary influence of moral theology. Abelard’s arguments for a limbo for unbaptized infants was also accepted by the Church.

The life Abelard was a mess. His intellect was not able to manage his passion. This very Gallic condition makes him and his fateful lover, Heloise a template for French lovers everywhere.

Today also marks the day in 1968 when passions of another sort led Valerie Solanas to attempt to kill Andy Warhol in his open studio known as the Factory. I came across Solanas when I read through her SCUM manifesto. She wrote a radical feminist manifesto advocating the following:

“Life” in this “society” being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of “society” being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.
Her thinking around gender and her insistence upon a rigid chromosomal distinction between male and female seemed to me to be poorly considered. Her insistence upon the eradication of men and the institution of “complete automation” seems strangely anachronistic these days.

Solanas was a troubled, angry soul who clearly suffered from paranoid and schizophrenic pain.

Warhol, a lifelong Catholic who was badly injured in her attack, spent much of the rest of his days in fear of her and seemed unable to deal with the trauma of this assassination attempt. He increasingly withdrew from the art scene he had established and started attending Mass almost daily.
Valerie Solanas spent much of the rest of her days either homeless, living in cheap hotels or incarcerated in mental asylums.

Today though also marks the martyrdom of Charles Lwanga in 1886. Lwanga was a page at the court of King Mwanga II of Buganda. The King was vehemently opposed to Christianity and saw its encroachment as a threat to his authority. He also liked having his way with his pageboys.

The king went on a killing spree, murdering any Christian he could find and insisting on his sexual prerogatives with the boys in his court. Charles Lwanga, in particular, had protected the pages from King Mwanga’s sexual advances. The king had him and the pageboys who refused to recant their faith burnt. As he was being burnt, Charles said to the Guardian of the fire, “It is as if you are pouring water on me. Please repent and become a Christian like me.”

It seems we can learn from Abelard, Solanas and Charles Lwanga that human passion cannot be tempered by tradition, by intellect or the mad workings of the mind. Our human passion needs to be placed at feet of a greater power?

– Doug Racionzer (read a full archive of these daily takes on history at http://serendipiday.blogspot.com/)