The role of the cross

In Dream of the Rood, the cross is obviously the central figure. But what surprised me is just how active a role the cross seems to play in the crucifixion and in the salvation of man. The cross says “they mocked us both together” and “They pierced me through with darksome nails”, both suggesting that the cross is just as actively involved with the salvation of man as Jesus is. The cross even tells how it refused to bow or break at any point during Christ’s Passion. And for its role, the cross is adorned in gold and jewels. To read a text, religious or otherwise, that would give glory to anyone/thing besides Jesus for the salvation of man is just odd. It seems to suggest that Jesus is not solely responsible for salvation and that he never could have been. There needed to be a strong, willing, and able supporter, which would contradict the idea that the Son of God is all powerful.

I was hoping that writing this post would help clear up my own confusion on what the role of the cross says about the Passion and salvation, but I am honestly more unsure now than I ever was.

Getting Emotional

Rosenwein, in looking at the role emotions play and what they tell us about cultures and societies, explored emotional expression versus emotional suppression. Ultimately, her concept of emotional communities was one I generally agreed with. I know I am more likely to show certain emotions (anger, fear) in a more comfortable or private setting than I would in the public eye. That is not to say that it doesn’t happen, but different settings do warrant different emotional displays.

What I found more interesting than Rosenwein’s theory of emotional communities was Gerd Althoff’s view on emotions. “For Althoff,” writes Rosenwein, “emotions have social functions and follow social rules.” This is interesting to me because Althoff considers emotional displays and expression as a form of communication. And I think he’s right. Consider how a conversation can be dictated by someone’s general mood; if you can tell someone is angry, sad, or delighted, it certainly affects the way you interact with them. People’s emotions, which can be observed through tone and body language and ‘the look on your face’, can tell you quite a bit. But don’t look too miserable at your girl friend’s birthday party, or too happy at your Uncle’s funeral. Although we can communicate through emotional expression, sometimes it just isn’t appropriate.

Lyrics are fun

First of all, it was fun to read these lyrics. The rhythm and strange syllables and unfamiliarity made even the more somber or religious topics much more lighthearted and enjoyable. Aside from causing ear-to-ear grins, the secular lyrics appealed to me far more than the religious lyrics. Reading through the secular lyrics gave me this feeling of ‘hey they weren’t much different than we are in 2015.’ I loved a child of this countree deals with the age old problem of mixed signals. And we see in Bring us in good ale that men have been interested in nothing except for beer since as far back as the 15th century. Probably earlier, actually. I have a gentile cock had me giggling like a grade-school kid and I still have not stopped singing “Sumer is incumen in/ Sing, cucu, nu. Sing, cucu.”

While questions of God and sin and virtue are all well and good, the secular lyrics felt like a medieval edition of ‘Stars– they’re just like us!’ from Us Weekly.

I found both of these chapters from Evans fascinating. But I like to think that I was already an avid supporter of emotion so his arguments for emotion today and explanations for their usefulness weren’t what struck me the most. Yes, Aristotle’s “golden mean” makes a lot of sense when examining the role of emotion and virtue in our lives. I also believe, being someone with a positive view of emotion, that it certainly is better to be an emotional human than a Vulcan. And I must disagree with C.S. Lewis and his claim that love is a man-made product.

What really stood out to me, however, were “higher cognitive emotions”. First of all, I had never seen emotion broken down into categories based on the innateness of the emotion. It was new and it made a whole lot of sense. And with higher cognitive emotions (love, guilt, shame, pride, envy, jealousy, and embarrassment) I realized just how social some emotion really is. Like Evans says, “love and guilt require other people for their existence.”  This got me thinking about how what I take pride in, what I envy, what I am embarrassed by usually has to do with the values and interests of my peer group. I am proud of a new pair of Jordan because my friends will admire them. I am jealous of my ex’s new man. I envy the neighbor’s new S-class Benz. The realization that most of our emotion, or at least what triggers it, is dictated by our social environment means that we don’t even have full control over our own emotions, whether we would like to or not.