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Author Topic: "Apollonian" vs. "Dionysian"  (Read 22636 times)
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« Reply #15: August 14, 2009, 08:47:55 am »

Is it calm, cool and rational to kill off the sons of a woman who has made an insulting comment about your mother?

Is it calm, cool and rational to flay alive the loser of a musical contest?

Is it calm, cool and rational to kill the mother of your unborn child upon finding out that she's been unfaithful?

I'd file those under "insufficient information" rather than "no".  Frankly, if I have to choose, I'd rather have someone who's raging out of control coming after me than someone who's extremely pissed off but still calm, cool and rational.  At least I'll see the wild, unthinking rage coming and maybe be able to get out of the way--if I'm lucky, all that excess momentum will run them straight into a brick wall, or the lack of concern about anything other than beating me to a bloody pulp will cause them to trip over their own shoelaces.  If nothing else, hey, I get beat down and then it's over.  Cold, calculated, reasoning rage?  That's when you get the "death is a mercy" scenarios, when things are planned out to the nth degree to catch you unawares, to prevent your escape, to inflict as much mental and/or physical pain as possible over as long a time as possible.  Control.  Planning.  Precision.  Very Apollonian, I think.  Mercy and grace and forgiveness are not requirements for rationality.  Two sides of the same coin; "Apollonian" can be not only as ecstatic as "Dionysian", but also as terrifying.  I lack the knowledge of the mythological details to say whether this kind of calm, cool, rational vengeance might have been operating in the cases you list above--though I'll say that flaying alive seems like a good start on it, IMHO.  It seems to me that without a great deal of precision and care, you'd wind up with a corpse before you were quite finished.

That said, I'm also not sure that the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy is really intended to represent the complexity of either deity's actual self, anyway.  Again, I lack the knowledge of the source material to comment authoritatively, but my impression has been more that they're intended to be sort of general terms, more "kind of sort of in the general vein of the mythological representation of these deities" than "What Would Apollo Do?".
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« Reply #16: August 14, 2009, 12:26:13 pm »

What side do you more lean towards, in your everyday life and then in your religion? Is it ever a struggle? Do you think this is an important or useful concept?

In both everyday life and religion, about 75%-90% Vulcan (roughly equivalent to Apollonian as discussed here), depending on the situation. The Klingon (= Dionysian) in me is kept on a very short leash by the Vulcan.

I'm fascinated by situations where the two work in concert, eg, music that makes me dance: the wild side is cutting loose at the same time that the intellect is subconsciously analyzing the intricacies of rhythm and harmony.
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« Reply #17: August 14, 2009, 03:21:29 pm »

I'd file those under "insufficient information" rather than "no".  Frankly, if I have to choose, I'd rather have someone who's raging out of control coming after me than someone who's extremely pissed off but still calm, cool and rational.  At least I'll see the wild, unthinking rage coming and maybe be able to get out of the way--if I'm lucky, all that excess momentum will run them straight into a brick wall, or the lack of concern about anything other than beating me to a bloody pulp will cause them to trip over their own shoelaces.  If nothing else, hey, I get beat down and then it's over.  Cold, calculated, reasoning rage?  That's when you get the "death is a mercy" scenarios, when things are planned out to the nth degree to catch you unawares, to prevent your escape, to inflict as much mental and/or physical pain as possible over as long a time as possible.  Control.  Planning.  Precision.  Very Apollonian, I think.  Mercy and grace and forgiveness are not requirements for rationality.  Two sides of the same coin; "Apollonian" can be not only as ecstatic as "Dionysian", but also as terrifying.  I lack the knowledge of the mythological details to say whether this kind of calm, cool, rational vengeance might have been operating in the cases you list above--though I'll say that flaying alive seems like a good start on it, IMHO.  It seems to me that without a great deal of precision and care, you'd wind up with a corpse before you were quite finished.

Eh, good points. Perhaps I used bad examples- then again, I think they could go either way, or could have a certain combination of both rationality and irrationality- which is really much more how I understand Apollo- he is both sides of the coin.

Um...you know, maybe I'll just start another thread instead of continuing to jack this one. We're talking about my big nerd-topic here. 

That said, I'm also not sure that the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy is really intended to represent the complexity of either deity's actual self, anyway.  Again, I lack the knowledge of the source material to comment authoritatively, but my impression has been more that they're intended to be sort of general terms, more "kind of sort of in the general vein of the mythological representation of these deities" than "What Would Apollo Do?".

Will you forgive the Apollo-nerd for finding it faulty? :-P

This one didn't used to bother me so much, but I think I got a little over-sensitive to it a while back when someone tried to use it against me on a different forum, insisting that as a devotee of Apollo, there was no way I could ever really understand irrational things (the discussion was specifically about channeling) and therefore probably shouldn't be participating in such a discussion.

Honestly, I think the Vulcan/Klingon dichotomy suggested by Altair is a better one...lol
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« Reply #18: August 14, 2009, 06:46:56 pm »



I never had much patience for that kind of reductive binary opposition -- I don't find it interesting, useful, or compelling except in the breaking of it.  Apollonian/Dionysian is one of those Grand Metanarratives about Human Nature that I have little tolerance for.  But then, I'm a Hermes kid, and Hermes laughs at boundaries.  (FWIW, in ancient Greece, Apollo and Hermes were more likely to be held up as oppositional, but again, I don't think those divisions are useful in any kind of real way.)  The only interesting thing, for me, about A/D is the fact that so many people -- and Western culture at large -- are willing to buy into it.  But as far as it holding some kind of "Essential Truth" or directive for living or whatever for me, nope.     
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« Reply #19: August 14, 2009, 10:46:30 pm »

My other issue with the comparison lies with the fact that it stems from what I find to be a very one-sided and overly-simplified view of Apollo and Dionysus. (More Apollo than Dionysus though) Personally, I find them to be a lot more alike than not- Apollo's er, darker (really, I don't like the "dark"/"light" dichotomy but nothing else works without being extremely wordy) and less calm, cool and rational sides are frequently ignored or overlooked.
I was kind of waiting for someone to bring this up! lol. I'm with Star on this... I most definitely don't see it as "cookie cutter gods" or as all-encompassing. I see it as a broad generalization to give people a certain frame for interpreting things (emphasis broad! Wink ).
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« Reply #20: August 14, 2009, 10:48:11 pm »

Will you forgive the Apollo-nerd for finding it faulty? :-P
I do! lol.

Quote
This one didn't used to bother me so much, but I think I got a little over-sensitive to it a while back when someone tried to use it against me on a different forum, insisting that as a devotee of Apollo, there was no way I could ever really understand irrational things (the discussion was specifically about channeling) and therefore probably shouldn't be participating in such a discussion.
Huh? Erm...  Huh No wonder you got a chip on your shoulder.
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #21: August 14, 2009, 10:58:13 pm »

I never had much patience for that kind of reductive binary opposition -- I don't find it interesting, useful, or compelling except in the breaking of it.  Apollonian/Dionysian is one of those Grand Metanarratives about Human Nature that I have little tolerance for.
<snip>
The only interesting thing, for me, about A/D is the fact that so many people -- and Western culture at large -- are willing to buy into it.  But as far as it holding some kind of "Essential Truth" or directive for living or whatever for me, nope.
I agree it is very reductive, but I think it has value for some as a possible lens or frame for interpreting things. I would never take the idea *literally,* like "My breakfast was quite Apollonian today, I ought to have a Dionysian lunch." But I don't see how ideas like this are so offensive if kept in perspective. It's just a different way of looking at life.

What exactly is it about things like this that bother you so much? Not only the Apollonian / Dionysian bit, but the other "Grand Metanarratives" and "Essential Truths" out there. Just curious.

As a possible disclaimer, I am coming at this originally from a literary perspective. As a theme for literature, I find this is a valid tool for interpretation when desired.... It's just a skip and a jump for me to examine literary themes in the context of my own life, thus this thread.
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #22: August 15, 2009, 06:26:18 am »

Will you forgive the Apollo-nerd for finding it faulty? :-P

Well, yeah, of course.  I didn't mean to come across as defending it--I'm not really that invested in it myself (which probably accounts for my lack of concern about the whole balancing issue).  Just exploring the idea.  Smiley

Quote
This one didn't used to bother me so much, but I think I got a little over-sensitive to it a while back when someone tried to use it against me on a different forum, insisting that as a devotee of Apollo, there was no way I could ever really understand irrational things (the discussion was specifically about channeling) and therefore probably shouldn't be participating in such a discussion.

You couldn't...?  OK, yeah, that's a little bizarre.  And I can see how that would put you off the concept, definitely.
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« Reply #23: August 15, 2009, 08:15:38 am »

This one didn't used to bother me so much, but I think I got a little over-sensitive to it a while back when someone tried to use it against me on a different forum, insisting that as a devotee of Apollo, there was no way I could ever really understand irrational things (the discussion was specifically about channeling) and therefore probably shouldn't be participating in such a discussion.

That's just silly. It sounds like someone trying a new version of "I disagree with what you are saying so you should just shut up."
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« Reply #24: August 15, 2009, 09:34:44 am »

I agree it is very reductive, but I think it has value for some as a possible lens or frame for interpreting things. I would never take the idea *literally,* like "My breakfast was quite Apollonian today, I ought to have a Dionysian lunch." But I don't see how ideas like this are so offensive if kept in perspective. It's just a different way of looking at life.

What exactly is it about things like this that bother you so much? Not only the Apollonian / Dionysian bit, but the other "Grand Metanarratives" and "Essential Truths" out there. Just curious.

As a possible disclaimer, I am coming at this originally from a literary perspective. As a theme for literature, I find this is a valid tool for interpretation when desired.... It's just a skip and a jump for me to examine literary themes in the context of my own life, thus this thread.

That kind of literary approach has been out of use by scholars for a long time -- we're decades into post-structuralism now.  Smiley  And my objections to it are exactly the same as the objections of people like Foucault, Derrida, and Butler to Levi-Strauss and co.:  it is a *fantasy* that there are great arcing master narratives for the world.  It is a *fantasy* that the world can be reduced to binary oppositions.  We have discourses and narratives that inform our cultures and our individual lives, but they're always fragmentary, disintegrating things, because every system holds the keys to its own destruction -- those "givens," those binaries that we like to pretend are stable are most certainly not, and are infinitely complex. 

A/D is an even more artificial binary than most -- and as others have pointed out, it's very obviously only a factor in cultures that, as I think Darkhawk put it, see Apollonian virtues as the only "real" virtues. (Even people who ally themselves with Dionysus often buy into the opposition -- it's like Satanists who need to have swallowed the outlines of the Christian metanarrative to acknowledge the power of Satan in the first place.) 

I'm not interested in that system, or that game.  In addition to my philosophical objections to binary oppositions as some kind of useful tool, I am, as I said, a Hermes follower, and his "virtues" and "vices" don't scan onto the A/D map.     

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« Reply #25: August 15, 2009, 03:29:51 pm »

That kind of literary approach has been out of use by scholars for a long time -- we're decades into post-structuralism now.  Smiley 
HA. Tell that to the public school systems. Wink

I don't claim to be a "scholar," and only have a limited knowledge of literary theory and criticism, but I will be a high school English teacher. I absolutely think it would do students unknown good to be exposed to different literary theories, but this is extremely difficult given the curriculum restraints and lack of time (etc.) that plague teachers in schools today. So most teachers don't do it, and then we have structuralism. Structuralism is probably just plain easier to teach as well, I would think. And for schools, I don't think structuralism is necessarily a death sentence.

Anyway... this is entirely off-topic! lol. My point with the original comment was that I'm not "buying into" the Apollonian/Dionysian concept--I find it an interesting and potentially useful way of looking at things.

Quote
And my objections to it are exactly the same as the objections of people like Foucault, Derrida, and Butler to Levi-Strauss and co.:  it is a *fantasy* that there are great arcing master narratives for the world.  It is a *fantasy* that the world can be reduced to binary oppositions.  We have discourses and narratives that inform our cultures and our individual lives, but they're always fragmentary, disintegrating things, because every system holds the keys to its own destruction -- those "givens," those binaries that we like to pretend are stable are most certainly not, and are infinitely complex.
I think I understand what you are saying, and I agree that the things upon which such metanarratives or ideas like this are utterly NOT absolute. That they need a specific perspective on life in order to "work." I would also be tempted to say "but it's human nature to categorize and deduce big ideas like *life* into smaller ones"... but that is probably an equally offensive false Essential Truth for you as well? Tongue

Quote
A/D is an even more artificial binary than most -- and as others have pointed out, it's very obviously only a factor in cultures that, as I think Darkhawk put it, see Apollonian virtues as the only "real" virtues. (Even people who ally themselves with Dionysus often buy into the opposition -- it's like Satanists who need to have swallowed the outlines of the Christian metanarrative to acknowledge the power of Satan in the first place.) 
Very good point.
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #26: August 17, 2009, 12:09:26 am »

That kind of literary approach has been out of use by scholars for a long time -- we're decades into post-structuralism now.  Smiley  And my objections to it are exactly the same as the objections of people like Foucault, Derrida, and Butler to Levi-Strauss and co.:  it is a *fantasy* that there are great arcing master narratives for the world.  It is a *fantasy* that the world can be reduced to binary oppositions. 


I used to get into some very long and heated arguments with a guy I dated over this sort of thing. He was very much into Jung and essentialism and polarities and such (definition of headdesk: guy telling the guy he's sleeping with about the need for male-female polarities). Binaries can be useful, that's about as far as I'll go. But inherent...na-uh.
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« Reply #27: August 17, 2009, 06:15:59 pm »

Binaries can be useful, that's about as far as I'll go. But inherent...na-uh.
Agreed!
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"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #28: August 21, 2009, 04:23:38 pm »

What side do you more lean towards, in your everyday life and then in your religion? Is it ever a struggle? Do you think this is an important or useful concept?
FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL KILL!

Dionsyian, to an incredibly unbalanced level.  I have trouble understanding the concept of "future" outside the entirely abstract.  Apart from dreams and fantasies.  I have an Apollonian side, but it's not a struggle as such.  I merely apply it to intellectualising my passion and desire.
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« Reply #29: August 22, 2009, 07:53:43 am »

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