“Bloomsday is an intellectual game… Dedalusday is a spiritual journey.”—Xenon
“When Zen gives utterance to itself, it goes against the intellect so as to upset it from its very foundation; the intellect loses its way and stands completely dazed.”— D.T. Suzuki, Living By Zen
I was looking for a well known quote of T.S. Eliot’s, something about “coming and going, and talking of Michaelangelo,” but couldn’t find it. That’s ok, I very nearly loath T.S. Eliot. Too dry, too Life negating. Even when he’s preaching rebirth and regeneration he’s doing so in a desiccated sterile manner. He feared women, hated sex, and in spite of numerous relationships and several marriages held the life of a celibate as the ideal. Why some women idealize him is beyond me… but actually it isn’t, because those women tend to be over intellectualized and uneasy in their femininity.
Which brings me back in a “…commodious vicus of recirculation…” to Joyce’s Ulysses and today, June 16th, known to many in the booky world as Bloomsday, to a few as Dedalusday.
Driving my truck around yesterday the thought occurred to me that Bloomsday is a fixating on the past while Dedalusday is a looking to the future.
Bloom wanders the city dressed in mourning black out of synch with his fellow citizens and out of touch with his wife Molly. They have not had sex since the death of their infant son years before, and as a result, from shear neglect and an unwillingness to throw up the flag and grow prematurely old, Molly is taking on a lover. Good for her—Life takes precedence.
In his blundering though well intentioned way Bloom returns at last to the bed of marriage, exhausted yet somehow renewed, but not before touching the life and destiny of Stephen Dedalus, the third member of Ulysses‘ Holy Trinity: Bloom the Father, Dedalus the Son, and Molly Woman. (That’s where Joyce diverges from Eliot, who clings to the antiquated Life-denying Holy Ghost.)
That, in a nutshell, is the tale of our modern day Ulysses. We have been out of touch with Woman, out of synch and relationship with Life. The old way, the old religions—how they shaped our inner and outer lives—no longer serves. A new way need be found.
And that, as confusing and difficult as the chapters in the book devoted to Stephen Dedalus are, is what is taking place. Dedalus is tearing himself from a fixation on the past. In the brothel scene he swings his cross-like ash plant at the haunting apparition of his dead mother who would have him return to the comforting bosom of the Church, before staggering out into the street and getting knocked to the ground and symbolically killed by a drunken British soldier.
Bloom is there for the resurrection. He helps Stephen back to his feet and brings him home… to meet Molly, Woman. In their own way both men have returned to relationship with Life. Bloom the city man and Dedalus the Artist.
Joyce chose June 16th, 1904, for the events of the great tale of his ultimate awakening. It was the day he first walked out with Norah, the woman who would become his wife, mother his children. What a tribute.
Maybe, if I ever learn to write, I’ll write a book which takes place on June 25th, 2003, the day the woman who would become my wife walked into my life.
Woman the all-encompassing centre of a new Holy Trinity. I like that.
The Father, the Son, and Woman, and not necessarily in that order.