Monday, November 26, 2007

Worse Than Hell, or, The Radical Meaning(lessness) of 2-10

Our more literary-minded readers may have noticed that TYI's latest tagline is taken from the inscription above the Gates of Hell. And while appropriating this phrase was my own conceit, I don't think it precisely fits the Bulls' current miserable situation at 2-10.

One of the salient features of Dante's Inferno is that each circle's punishment is a symbolic rendering of poetic justice for its denizens' sins. So, for example, the lustful reside in the Second Circle, where violent winds endlessly blow their souls back and forth---a fitting punishment for those whose wandering eyes never allowed them to be satisfied with what they had. (It seems to me that Kobe Bryant--and those who loudly demand that the Bulls trade for him--might well reside here.)

It probably goes without saying (but since I'm an insufferable pedant I'll spell it out for you), the idea of poetic justice has a consolatory effect. If our actions are rewarded or punished, it means that they have consequences; they matter and are thus important, and by extension, we matter and are thus important. It may seem counterintuitive, but, psychologically speaking, it's much more of a consolation to live in fear of casting a lascivious eye at the hottie waiting at the bus stop (because that leer might be profoundly meaningful) than it is to cast it guilt-free, yet with the horrible knowledge that we are but Straw Dogs to the Sage.

There's been a lot of talk lately about firing Scott Skiles, blaming him for the Bulls' miserable start. This isn't necessarily an admonition: I've engaged in it myself. And yet, I've started to wonder whether this blaming of Skiles is an act of false consolation, a vain attempt to locate a singular, precise reason that can fully explain the Bulls' suffering. After all, the last two games, Skiles played a tight rotation, banished A-Drain to the Land of DNP, and by most accounts, would have been willing to play Tyrus Thomas more, if the kid wasn't doing his damndest to outpace Hinrich's foul rate as soon as he hit the floor. It hasn't made a bit of fucking difference, and it's part of what makes the Bulls' failure this year absolutely confounding. By all rights and rationales, Hinrich, Deng, Gordon and Thomas should have improved this year. But frustratingly, nonsensically, they haven't. Indeed, inexplicably, they've regressed.

I wonder if perhaps we should stop blaming Skiles (and, inversely, Skiles himself should stop blaming a lack of execution) and whether instead we should take a page out of the Book of Job, as interpreted by Slavoj Zizek:

[O]ne should precisely locate the true greatness of Job: contrary to the usual notion of Job, he is NOT a patient sufferer, enduring his ordeal with the firm faith in God—on the contrary, he complains all the time, rejecting his fate (like Oedipus at Colonus, who is also usually misperceived as a patient victim resigned to his fate). When the three theologians-friends visit him, their line of argumentation is the standard ideological sophistry (if you suffer, it is by definition that you MUST HAVE done something wrong, since God is just). However, their argumentation is not limited to the claim that Job must be somehow guilty: what is at stake at a more radical level is the meaning(lessness) of Job's suffering. Like Oedipus at Colonus, Job insists on the utter MEANINGLESSNESS of his suffering—as the title of Job 27 says: "Job Maintains His Integrity." As such, the Book of Job provides what is perhaps the first exemplary case of the critique of ideology in the human history, laying bare the basic discursive strategies of legitimizing suffering: Job's properly ethical dignity resides in the way he persistently denies the notion that his suffering can have any meaning, either punishment for his past sins or the trial of his faith, against the three theologians who bombard him with possible meanings—and, surprisingly, God takes his side at the end, claiming that every word that Job spoke was true, while every word of the three theologians was false.

It's quite possible that this horrible start is evidence of nothing at all and perhaps, even more horrifyingly, nothing itself (i.e., the whims of referees' whistles, the vicissitudes of shooting percentages, etc.). If we are in desperate need of consolation, perhaps we can take heart that, ultimately, God simply ended Job's suffering, on as much of a whim as He initially unleashed it. Seeing as I have a ticket for tomorrow's game against the Hawks, my hope (and consolation) is that this ending begins then.


Blogger Big Sweet said...

Epic stuff. I just hope we don't find ourselves in the third level. That's where El-Amin and the real Sweetney dwell.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Crucifictorious said...

Good grief. This blog has turned into the first 20 minutes of Fight Club.

3:13 AM  
Blogger BenGo07 said...

2-10 does strange things to a man...

9:05 AM  
Blogger Hot Shit College Student said...

The Bible and Fight Club on a blog? 3 cultural lows rolled into one, and no one has mentioned MVN yet.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's almost ironic you link to BlogABull and rant about wanting to singularly blame Skiles... when Matt clearly states that's not what he believes, even explicitly stating Skiles isn't even the main problem. Whatever gets the point across, though, right?

12:40 PM  
Blogger BenGo07 said...

Lighten up, anonymous.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous sbulls said...

A Zizek reference when talking about the Bulls. Finally my time spent at Theology on Tap meetings pays off in the sports world. The three hours I spent drinking beers and discussing a Zizek lecture now have new relevance.

11:30 PM  

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