A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Buddhism, christianity, James Joyce, Joseph Campbell, Life, spirituality, The New Age, Ulysses, Zen
Thanks for the comment, Stasia, it’s much appreciated.
Binge watched all JJ videos? Ouch. But then you’re probably aware that those who leave a comment open the door for long, weighty and windy replies… so here goes.
Firstly, your name, if it’s real, interests me. It’s a blend of Eastern European and French. To me, that’s the world we live in now though, the lines are blurred, the colours softening from hard black and white to carmel. What was once cut and dried, ‘my’ or ‘our’ God or Way is the One and only and all others are ‘myth’ and ‘literature’ or the Devil’s work, is now past and gone. That’s the meaning of Neitzche’s ‘God is dead’ quote.
A new centre is needed, a new coalescing belief, a new psycho-spiritual hub around which humans—all humans—can channel their energies is required, whether we grasp that fact or not.
That lack of centre is at the heart of the chaos we read about in the newspapers every day. We’re a community in name only, but the reality is every man, woman and child for themselves.
Old ways, old habits and old beliefs are clung to, desperately here and fanatically there.
Meanwhile the New Age sends up fragile seedlings, they’re all around us, but the roots are in unfertile rocky soil. I’ve written before that at present the New Age is merely a repackaged Old Age, ancient symbols and myth reordered, reinterpreted and given a modern technological twist. But like I said, the roots are weak or absent and as a result the movement is ‘flaky’.
Interested in myth? One could do a whole lot worse than start with Joseph Campbell’s light but deceptively weighty Power of Myth. Campbell is the next step, the inheritor and the one carrying on in Joyce’s steps,
Anyway, Joyce and his alter ego Stephen Dedalus did the work, went on what Campbell called ‘The Hero’s Journey,’ and returned with his message, as did a number of artists of the day, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust and others who made it most of the way. But who is there to listen?
That is the message I am trying to pick up and keep alive here at the Cafe, Stasia.
What, in a nutshell?
Well, in the physical world, that of the natural sciences, Einstein inaugurated ‘relativity.’ That is, there is no absolute ground, no standpoint from which you can look out upon the universe and say ‘this is ground zero and everything will be measured outward from here.’ Where you stand influences what and how you see.
When we turn our attention to the great mystery of Life what Joyce and others came to know was similar to that. The flowing through of Life is all there is. Look around and that is all we see, the myriad innumerable species passing through from one generation to the next. We humans are no different, only we do so in culture, and thought has removed us from the centre of the current.
When it comes to God and morality there is no absolute centre anymore. Things are relative. Where we stand, the community to which we belong, living in its environment, forms us, moulds us in its image, and preconditions us to certain beliefs and even ways of thinking and looking out upon the world.
And what I like to call the plight of the artist is inextricably bound up in that truth. To transcend the inevitable preconditioning of our community one, such as Stephen Dedalus, need tear out his roots, depart the community including family, friends, loved ones, in order to forge something new. ‘Off-putting?’ Absolutely. Because the strain of separation is terrific, fatal to many, such as Neitzche and Van Gogh (just rereading his letters to his brother, Dear Theo) and countless others. It is a story running through the twentieth century.
Uh oh, never like to bring this guy in, but in the interest of broadening the associations…. wasn’t that Jesus’s story? (the pre-Christian, deracinated Jewish Jesus that is, the “would you put new wine into old skins?” Jesus), and low and behold, Stephen suffers a symbolic death and resurrection at the hands of the British/Roman soldier!
Oh my, the associations ripple outward!
Simply put though, the day of autonomous communities free to live out their Gods has come to an end. Communities all across the globe are mixing and blending. So are their beliefs, habits and customs. So if ‘our’ God and ‘your’ God are no longer sustainable, what is there left? Where are we to turn, where is the centre now?
I’ll leave off here, Stasia. I have miles to drive in my truck today. Thanks again for the comment, it fires my imagination. You felt you missed something upon your first reading? Who doesn’t? Especially when everything you read and listen to steers you in the wrong direction. Stephen was ‘off-putting’? Absolutely! He is tearing up his roots, rejecting everything in Dublin….. except Bloom! The no longer Jewish or Christian father, husband, doer of good, universally sympathetic but struggling Bloom. And that sympathy extends to all living beings, as we see throughout the day.
To me at least it’s such a simple tale. And it’s our tale, all humanity’s tale. How are we to serve Life in this modern world we’ve fashioned for ourselves? How is Bloom to serve Life? His daughter has grown to young womanhood, his son died at an early age, who is there to teach, to work for? He has solid ideas for the community but no one is listening. He has lost his direction and his marriage is disintegrating as a result. And then Stephen, the artist/shaman, what is he to work for? What truth must he spend his life’s energies expressing? As he puts it: “What is the Word all men come to know?”
Neither man truly belongs to a community, and both suffer because of it. However, in the book they meet one another. And that’s all, really.
And Molly? She in her natural flowing integrity chose Bloom ‘because he wasn’t like the others.’ That’s a line Norah definitely could have used with Joyce in mind. ‘Wasn’t like the others.’ She is not like other women. Her final chapter thought stream damns everyone and everything which would hinder or pollute Life!
Ack, that’s it! Better get on with the day. The sun is shining and I have a load of melons, cantaloupes and grapes for the grocery stores of Regina, Saskatchewan. Can’t keep them waiting.
All the very best and keep doing what you’re doing. Trust those gut instincts. They’re the whisperings of Life’s flow bubbling up into our static thought world.
Ok, end of day, 619 miles later and one last word. Promise!
What has Stephen to learn from Bloom and Molly? What it is to be a husband and wife, a father and mother. In Bloom and Molly he can experience a sort of unalloyed archetypal father and mother.
And then in Finnegans Wake he expands that, the archetypal father and mother lose all hard definition, become blurred, dreamlike, and become all fathers and mothers throughout the ages. And their children become all children. The boys eternally antagonistic, one a Buck Mulligan like champion of the people, the other a Dedalus like outcast who is actually writing the book. And the daughter becomes all daughters. And of course all young boys and girls in whatever community throughout the ages will grow up, most will form bonds and become the archetypal fathers and mothers in their turn and the cycle will go on and on and on.
Who amongst the academics talk of the natural flowing exfoliation, the blooming, of Ulysses into the fabulous garden that is Finnegans Wake? (But to be entirely honest I’ve never read much of it and don’t even recommend it, though I have read Campbell’s A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake.)
The Flow of Life, Stasia, from the dark mists of time, courses on today through you and through me and through every living being on planet earth and throughout the universe.
There’s your Hindu Brahman and Atman: the unimaginably vast general Flow and one’s own tiny individual rivulet.
Gad, more associations!…….
Keep listening to your rivulet’s whisper, Anastasia…..
That’s it…. very poetic….