“As he was browsing the Carmel library one day, his hand moved, as if by itself, he said, to a copy of Oswald Spengler’s monumental Decline Of The West….” Stephen and Robin Larsen, A Fire In The Mind, The Life Of Joseph Campbell
Have you ever carried an idea around with you, an idea you feel so potent with Life and Truth and that no one else shares and in fact no one else has even heard of—perhaps you read it somewhere, in some obscure, unread and unreadable book, tried to express it to others and been met with utterly blank looks and total indifference—and done so for ten or more years?
Well, I have.
It sort of sets you apart, willingly or not. How long did Charles Darwin mull over his Theory Of Evolution following his voyages on the HMS Beagle? Nearly twenty-five years! And Einstein, publishing his Special Theory Of Relativity from the obscurity of the patent office in 1905, then the General Theory in 1912. By 1911 he had worked out that light bends around objects due to the object’s gravitational pull. Crazy! And how would you even confirm that? Well they did, but not until 1919. They had to send an expedition to deepest whitest Siberia to take measurements during a solar eclipse. When his elated wife brought him the cable confirming his theory he was unmoved: “But I knew that the theory was correct,” he replied. And if it wasn’t confirmed? “Then I would have been sorry for our dear Lord—the theory is correct.”
I love that. In the face of almost universal doubt and scorn—and who is more scornful than those in the academic world who’s theories and ideas are being superseded—that’s certainty!
Ok, let’s change the tack. Imagine for a moment it’s a hundred years ago and you’re a young native American, say of the Blackfoot Nation. For thousands of years your world has revolved around the great plains and the buffalo that wander there in vast herds a million strong. Your entire universe is the grassy plains, the moon, the stars and the sun, the animals, the spirits, the grandfathers and mothers, the Ravens and Coyote Tricksters and sacred ceremonies that have served your peoples for millennia. Then in the span of a generation your world is utterly savaged and you’re sent off to a residential school to learn western ways and Christianity. How do you take to the stories of the Bible and Jesus? Would it touch you at your deepest centers, or would you sit there bewildered and vaguely yearning for something, something to do with the plains and the stars and all your people have known and cherished for countless generations? If you’re sitting there and a school teacher asks you to do a painting of Jesus, what would it look like, a Renaissance masterwork or one with elements from the world of the plains you still carry so deeply in your blood?
Two days ago a young Blackfoot man I know, he’s a butcher at a Safeway, was proudly showing me photos of his newborn son on his iPhone. I cannot share with you the boys name because it is in Blackfoot, but translated into English it is ‘Sun.’
This post is growing long. And I suppose to adequately do it justice I need more time and space. But this blogging game isn’t exactly suited for protracted disquisitions.
The idea? Well, my little Blackfoot analogy is the best way I know at present to convey an experience encapsulating it.
I played with it in my post ‘We Are The Seekers’. Years ago, contributing to a sense of isolation, I believed it important to convince others of the validity of the idea. Nowadays I don’t give a shite. It is valid and True and as such will have its day—one day, as all good things valid and True do.
The recounting of my ten years in the wilderness and the moment when my stubborn fixation was rewarded will have to wait until next post, unless something else ground shaking intervenes.
Have a Merry Christmas. May it find you filled with joy and contentment, peace and love for all.