Classical Good and Metanoia the Internal Agency: the Kairos-Metanoia Interdependency

Myers’ metanoia piece reaffirms our discussion on rhetorical action. Due to the limitations of classical rhetoric, Myers’ argumentation cannot possibly go beyond the classical realm of rhetorical reasoning. However, she tries to pull agency and metanoia in for the hope of relate the “supra-rational”(17) in philosophical rhetoric(2). The metanoia reminds me of Bildungsroman, that epiphany that every individual will encounter if we are to transform internally and then take action and influence the outside. She brings the visual, the spiritual, and the action  taking together in rhetorical process, but I really lament that the classical rhetoric seems splitting with the postmodern present, at least when it comes to the pursuit of the good. It seems only Medieval rhetoric has some market now. I guess the classists job is a hard one according to this piece. Myers talks about pursuing goodness (10), about religious repentance and spiritual transformation (8), therefore not ostensively postmodern.

Proposing metanoia—”the affective dimension of kairos,” Myers stresses the importance to be aware of the long ignored “dramatic spiritual conversation” within oneself (2). Tracing evidences in Greek and Roman literature and paintings on both Goddesses (3-8), Myers rhetorically analyses the need to mark the afore forgotten metanoia. The sudden realization of one’s own fault and the mistakenly missed opportunity, which to Myers is what matters as a rhetorical change of “mind and heart” (7), and repentance equals religious conversion(8). Referring to Augustine’s spiritual changes in his Confessions(9), Myers suggests that metanoia does not come easily. Augustine’s example demonstrates (9-10) how the meditation on philosophy and the world come to human knowledge and whether true knowledge can be learned (9-10).

Myers also mentions the distinction between metanoia and anamnesis, saying that different from anamnesis’ mere remembrance of innate knowledge, metanoia leads us to new knowledge, the “brightest of realities,” “the Good” or eventually the truth(10). Therefore, when repentance and transformation happens, Myers’ huge internal power will begin to influence the outside. However, she also says that the outside forces such as the divine presence and a wise teacher should be noted (10) because metanoia is two fold: a. divine inspiration or anamnesis, and b. divine presence or trusted teacher (10). This is exactly how the adult ritual of epiphany happens in a transformation novel or Bildungsroman. Thus, our transformation is completed from metanoia to kairos. After this adult ritual in each event or rhetorical action, we become aware of the time and space when we should seize the opportunity rather than wait and lament what should have been done. Due to the two fold nature of metanoia and the nature of transformation process, action must be taken—choices must be made (10). This choice making or action taking issue then becomes crucial and Myers concerns whether this choice making or action taking can be learned, especially in classroom setting (10). However, because transforming to kairos from metanoia requires both experience, skills and intuition, the choice making and action taking can only be partially taught(11). Nevertheless, Myers deems the partial navigation of the two as a significant learning process because it will “lead to transformation of mind and heart”(12).

Myers illustrates the importance of the kairos-metanoia dynamic by analyzing Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon(13-15). King’s rhetorical power to make the audience pause, think, repent, and take action seems exactly fit for Myers argument that kairos and metanoia should be considered as important rhetorical devices. She further refers to Sharon Crowley and Stanley Fish’s viewpoints on how the “belief” or ideologic conversion is a “powerful emotion” and  “painful process” (15). Kairos and metanoia putting into context and specific moments, can help us to build dialogue between or among different and “passionate commitments” (16). Therefore, Myers encourages us to use the two as a process of rhetoric as well as the end goal of rhetorical end goal (16).

Myers brings forth a retrospect to classical rhetoric. When I ponder on her mentioning of “supra-rational” (17), I thought of the unconscious, even the neurphenomenology. She stresses “how mind, body, emotion, and logic are blurred” (17), which is kind of a postmodern pointing to the uncertain, the study of the mind. I particularly noted that Myers says at the end of her article that the dichotomy of kairos and metanoia will dissolve and the partnership between the two will surface (17). I guess she suggests us to make full use of the interdependent dynamic and use metanoia to reach kairos and therefore rhetorical goal. I don’t know why, but the make believe rhetoric maybe conducive to religious piety, but what if this is misused? The old talk of leading the soul freaks me out because I am so afraid of the expedient.


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