Over time I’ve come to realize I do my best writing in response to comments sent my way, good or bad. Why? Well, I suppose it’s easier to picture someone on the other end reading it with a certain degree of interest. That’s not always the case when setting out to put together a blog post or video.
Anyway, here’s my latest reply to a comment sent me. I’ve left out the grovelling part at the beginning where I thanked this person from the bottom of my heart for her interest in what I had done.
This task I seem to have taken upon myself, starting with my blog at omphaloscafe.com and morphing into these videos, although joyous is not always easy. Nothing relatively new ever is. As I was saying to a fella I was chatting with in a pub recently, ‘it never ceases to amaze me how incurious most people are, and especially the so-called educated bunch.’ As you allude to, rather than open people’s minds and hearts, awaken them to the wonder and beauty in the world and the works of genuine artists, school has precisely the opposite effect.
Dedalusday is a word I coined to encapsulate that reality. And the few? Well, like yourself, they are those who are tackling Ulysses on their own, experiencing it for themselves. And the thing about Ulysses and Joyce’s work in general is that they don’t unfold before us at the first glance. People chock that up to difficulty. But I tend to think it’s because we first embark on them, one, at a tender age when our own experience remains quite limited, and two, we do so with the wrong teachers or guides.
I too slogged through it in my early twenties understanding practically nothing. Leaving it aside for a decade or more the next time I picked it up, having read and you could say even lived widely, or at least wider, things began to take shape. Parts of it I could identify with. The works of so many others I’ve mentioned in blogs and videos enriched me, and as my experience expanded Ulysses seemed to expand out before it. How many books I’ve read early on and found impressive have I returned to ten or twenty years later and found stilted! But not the works of Joyce. In fact, the more I delved into say Buddhism and what I can only describe as Life, the more I experienced moments of ‘Holy Shite,’ that’s right here in Ulysses!
Right up to what for me is a sort of culminating revelation. I was aiming at this on my second to last post, which I titled ‘Thinking IS the box.’ That’s another saying I’ve coined: ‘There is no such thing as thinking outside the box, because thinking IS the box.’ The notion that language itself, the word bites we use, these words I’m using right now, are stored in our brains as fixed and static entities, much like a computer would store them. Only we’re alive and although the words we use as tools and the ideas they facilitate have given us hegemony over the world they continue to blind us to the fact that Life slips through their grasp.
Joyce understood this at an earlier age, saying he found language limiting for what he had to say. And he begins experimenting with that in mind in Ulysses, especially in the later stages, late into the evening when the rationalistic faculty has been undermined with fatigue and drink. And also with Molly. For me it begins with her exclamation “Oh, rocks!” She’s saying in her own unique way don’t give me your static rational definition, with dead inanimate rock-like words, I’m all flow so tell it to me in plain words! And then of course her final chapter cataract, all flow.
So there, thanks for the comment, and see what it inspires?
As far as the Wake goes, to me Joyce is writing it from the perspective of a modern day Buddha. All is flow, all is continuum. He’s abandoned rock-like words altogether and is trying to speak the language of Life. Only, to be perfectly honest, as much as I’ve tried I simply cannot be bothered to read it in its entirety. I have read Joseph Campbell’s and Henry Robinson’s ‘A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake’ two or three times though.
Anyway, a few words I figured worth putting beneath a photo I took beneath Niagara Falls.