Quiet Friday thoughts

The library is always quiet, but Fridays toward the end of the school year, especially so.  Lately am absorbed in very deep Freudian/anthropological book : Moses and Civilization, by Robert A. Paul.

One of the first principles in my conception of poetry : "vitalism".  By this, I guess, I mean vital in a sort of Bergsonian sense.  Text, in this schema, involves a kind of death, a sort of clinical operation : living language entombed on the stone, or the page.  Poetry works backward from this situation : it dramatizes a sort of resurrection of vital speech.  Poetry is the sign of a living person speaking or singing or telling us a tale.  It's the rhythm and the verbal complexity - the concentrated energy of these two forces - which represents or mimics the living voice.

I guess there's an irony involved here, because poetry is also a form of "encryption" : it also entombs in text this "sign" of vitality.  Maybe this irony points to the limits of human language itself.  Poetry is as "living" as words can be : but life, in the end, is a fire beyond speech... an actuality...

In my view, consciousness - let's call it "super-consciousness' for the moment - and life itself are pretty much the same thing.  We inhabit a circle of consciousness : it is the oneness, the One, beyond which we cannot step.  As Nicolas of Cusa put it in a letter to his friend Giuliano :  "The universe giulianizes in you, Giuliano."  Cusanus also talked about how human beings exist, unavoidably, in a "conjectural" cosmos.  He points to our finiteness in relation to infinity : but he posits some kind of unknowable "infinite" consciousness - another imperfect human indication of God.

"La vida es sueno."  Life is a dream (as the title of the classic Spanish Renaissance play by Calderon has it).   We humans burn the brief candle (as the cliche has it), and then we go into the vast Beyond, the Space which so frightened Pascal.  We leave home & family & loved ones behind, or so it seems.

But dreaming leads to waking, too.  We can conjecture another door opening, into something on the other side of this "all the world's a stage."  (I'm loaded with these old chestnuts today.)  The mind peers into its own unknown.

Robert Paul's Freudian analysis talks about how the myths & rituals of ancient religion resonate with universal human stresses & emotions - unconscious for the most part, primitive childhood loves, hates & fears, translated and transferred & suppressed.  The rituals resonate psychologically, and channel these infantile anxieties - loves & hates - into cultural order, meaningful covenants which stabilize societies.  Cultures live on as they keep faith with their own conceptions of reality.  In a Freudian pattern, Paul rationalizes metaphysics.  It's a necessary knowledge, but it may have its own limits...

I think one can assent to this kind of necessary knowledge, regarding the subconscious motives & patterns of the human psyche, and yet retain a kind of metaphysical, even religious vision.  This sounds like a contradiction... but as Whitman put it, "very well, I contradict myself."

If life is a dream, then life is also a "stage", a theater.  So let me ask the oldest, deepest question once again : how did all this Something come from Nothing?

If life is consciousness, then life is personal.  The Ariadne-thread in the labyrinth leads from the human guilty (& ritually-repetitive)  knowledge of the Mosaic law (in Freud's & Paul's terms, the Oedipal fantasy of a primal murder of the tyrant-father-pharaoh)... the thread reaches back to its life-source, seeking for life itself, seeking for reconciliation, for love, for peace.  It gradually ("prophetically") universalizes itself, in the dramatic imago of the angry, jealous, kindly, just Heavenly Father.... until the Messiah is revealed, or reveals himself.  And dies ("Oedipally") and lives again, & "goes to the Father" - becomes one with the Father.  & lives forever, beyond death.

So goes the plot, in my reductive sketch.  The plot of supreme Authority, of the humble King over all kings, the Father of all fathers... a very male story here, obviously : a psychological symbolism for the "maturation" or "integration" of the adult person... in a civilization...

I think of hunters, herder/shepherds, and farmers.  These primitive three.  I think of the Garden of Eden, and of the resurrected Jesus in Gesthemane, mistaken by Mary Magdalen for "the gardener".  Shepherds, nomads, are the median between the other two, maybe.   Prehistoric hunters honor & respect their prey, but the prey is "foreign" to them, an enemy.  For ancient herders, on the other hand, the animals are in a sense part of the family.  Nomads, paradoxically, don't go anywhere : they are always with their extended family.  This gives to the act of killing or murder a special psychological horror, since it resonates more closely with the Freudian (Oedipal) unconscious.

I think of the Jewish shepherds, brooding, pondering for centuries, reliving the sacrifice of their familial animals... while becoming a 20th-century holocaust to another culture, which had become a mob of psychotic hunters.  Those they killed were only "strangers" to them.  The shepherds become the "lambs of God" themselves... in this unspeakable tragedy.

Cain, the son of Adam, was a farmer - & the first murderer (of his brother).  The sin of Adam - cast from the Garden - is brought immediately to this tragic extremity.  From Eden... to murder.

Hunters.... shepherds... gardeners...

In my myth, the human Person - the Everyperson of a global humanity - looks beyond the violence of Man himself... back to the origin of origins.... the cosmic origin of all things.  It is, as the old Book tells, a "creative" Reality.  It is a dream made out of nothing.  And it is an infinitely wonderful and amazing and generous dream : a Cosmos emerging out of sacred Fire.  It's given us a garden to tend together, this gem, this emerald, set in a silver sea...

 This is where real justice begins : in a metaphysical thankfulness.  Which is why Jesus taught that "love God with all your heart" and "love your neighbor as yourself" are joined : the vertical, the  horizontal.  +


JforJames said...

Lovely post/thoughts. Tonight as I went to the store for milk, I noticed that air felt like fall in what should be height the spring.

Henry Gould said...

Thanks, James !