art, books, Finnegans Wake, James Joyce, Joseph Campbell, literature, Shamanism, spirituality, The artist, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, The Hero's Journey, Ulysses, Zen
You write and you’re going to get a response, usually at length. And I don’t do it out of an obligation but out of enthusiasm. I love this sort of thing and I enjoy reading your emails. There’s so much honesty and realness, which I appreciate more than anything else.
What matter an age difference? Actually I’m 54, but in a funny way I feel younger than I ever felt, freer. I began my journey, dropping out of Engineering to read, at 22, so you have three years on me. But I remember that time vividly, the newness, the excitement of discovery, the making of ‘associations.’ Lately I’ve used that term several times in vlogs, though I can’t remember if I used it in blogs too. It’s a tremendously powerful ability, but one I’m not sure school fully appreciates with its literal-mindedness.
But back for a moment to the age difference. In Ulysses the age difference between Bloom and Stephen is 16 years. Because of that many misguided academic types attribute a sort of father-son relationship to the pair, which is typically myopic. The two are grown men, and they meet towards the end as two grown men, two equals. One is a striving young artistic type, the other a sort of common man of the people (though a people still to be truly born to this day). Campbell writes a lot of the threshold crossing from childhood and dependency to adulthood in traditional societies. The Shamans were aware of the crucial importance of rituals which abetted such symbolic death and resurrections. Today there is nothing to help young boys in their crossings into adulthood. They are utterly on their own. And then to complicate matters on Stephen/Joyce’s part is the fact that being the artist/shaman type there are no degrees society can award or bestow on him, no way of acknowledging his role in the community. Mulligan and Haines will graduate and go on to successful careers but Stephen/Joyce need go it alone, largely unrecognized, unheralded. And that, actually, is the role the fictional Bloom plays in Joyce’s fictional autobiography: the one adult male who acknowledges Stephen who is undergoing his own symbolic death and resurrection no less!
Which brings me to your ‘real guy leaving society to become a hermit because he rejected society’s values.’ That is precisely Stephen and James Joyce, and Bloom in his own way too. Only, having rejected everything, Bloom and Molly, who was unquestionably modelled on Joyce’s wife Norah, will teach the young Stephen to say “yes” to it all the same, to reject society’s values but accept Life! Which is at the very core of Finnegans Wake: communities and societies change, evolve, but values often fail to evolve with them, grow old and stale, outdated and even dead. A reconnection is periodically needed with the timeless values, the eternal verities of Life. And that is the role of the artist/shaman, the reconnecter. He that will go on the Hero’s Journey and bring back the boon of Life to the community.
What boon? Just the realization that as always, new born boys and girls will grow through boyhood and girlhood into young manhood and womanhood, will meet and become the fathers and mothers to another generation who will grow up in their turn, before growing old, withering and dying.
Ok, that’s it. Back on the road tomorrow. Never did get the video up I am looking forward to posting. Got another one up, not a very good one though, but it is my first, on a new channel, lighter stuff, called Zen Mountain Trucking. Give me something to do while putting in the miles. It’s no coincidence that I’ve jokingly referred to my truck as my ‘mobile mountain hermit’s hut’
Anyway, all the very best. Life is an incredible adventure if we allow it to be. It’s not exactly an easy one but who of any worth wants easy? There should be challenges, trials, temporary setbacks, seeming failures as well as joys and triumphs.
Keep on keeping on there. It’s your path and if it’s in accord with your soul, the dictates of your heart, then it is absolutely the right path. No one, myself included, can tell you what exactly that path is… and therein lies the adventure!