Sunday, October 28, 2012

2012.10.27 — The Loneliness of the Whale and a Pile of Bones: Moby Dick, a Morgue and Balloons — Some Fushigis*

It's been over a month since I've blogged anything. I was very busy completing the text for the anti-economics courses I gave earlier this month. And, even as I was panicking with getting everything done in time, I was experiencing plenty of fushigis, which I didn't properly document even on the expanding pile of sticky notes.

But in the last few days, with the courses completed, I was hit by a couple of particularly interesting ones, Not outstanding in themselves, but their clustering has made them interesting. [And the clustering continued even the following day before I could finish this post.] And, of course, it is always nice to have a [Carl] Jung-like synchronicity petite, and so, that is what I'll begin with.

2012.10.19 Friday
At work I bumped into BH, one of my students from Banks Skanks, which had had it's last class the night before. I was a bit concerned that I'd been a bit too wordy in the lecture, because I'd cited from a range of sources old and contemporary. BH assured me that it was fun, although it went a bit quick. 'But,' she added, 'the discussion was good afterwards.'

When I asked how she found the material, she said that, paraphrased, somehow it made her feel a little bit lonely. 'That is,' I said, 'one of the first signs of the beginning of wisdom.' Then I added, 'Jung talks about this, here and there, in his complete works.'

That night, feeling a bit restless about the books I was currently reading, I meandered upstairs, with no particular goal in mind, attending for one book from the more than a thousand books I have scattered in the thirty-two shelves of books to call out to me. Well, I gravitated to the Jung section, and from the three shelves of books I have there I chose a slim volume that I hadn't read before,

It is the self-described 'Short Introduction' to Jung by Anthony Stevens titled Jung in the 'Past Masters' series by Oxford University Press, New York. Well, I was very surprised when, on page one, I read the following:
He had to keep faith with the truth as he saw it, and it was not his fault if this led him into realms of theory and experience which were deeply at variance with the prejudices and preoccupations of his time. 'I feel it is the duty of one who goes his own way to inform society of what he finds on his voyage of discovery,' he wrote.
Not the criticism of individual contemporaries will decide the truth or falsity of these discoveries, but future generations. There are things that are not yet true today, perhaps we dare not find them true, but tomorrow they may be. So every one whose fate it is to go their individual way must proceed with hopefulness, and watchfulness, ever conscious of their loneliness and its dangers (p1 citing CW Vol.II, par. 201 my emphasis).
As I said, a small fushigi at best, with the smallest of links to loneliness.

2012.11.24 Addendum: Later, Stevens re-emphasizes Jung's perception of being lonely because of being aware:
The solitary crusader is the Christian soldier, marching as to war. He has a goal, a destiny which he has no choice but to fulfill. It is an image of what Jung was to become, not as a Christian but as a man. 'If a man knows more than others, he becomes lonely' he wrote at the end of his life (93).

Later that day [Friday the 19th], I began to write a poem that I posted in the WSS on:

2012.10.20 Saturday night
The 141st WSS Weekly Short Story topic was Morgue. After my class-work-necessitated absence from the WSS poetry writing contests I decided to write a poem. The topic brought to mind the Cadaver topic poem I wrote a few months ago, as the morgue was a great segue for it. I wrestled with that being too obvious, but the idea wouldn't go away, and so I wrote:
What's Left But the Bones: Cotton for Comfort Redux.

It was my mother who identified me.
Not by my remains,
For the little that remained of me
was comprised of the natural white anonymity of fleshless bone.
Sex, once curvaceous and vibrant and fetid
had become a dry geometric puzzle,
the curve of the pelvic girdle and coccyx
the sere mystery of skull and bone density,
ag├ęd clues in de-gummed teeth and voided cranial sutures.

It was my clothes,
the clothes I'd been killed in,
the made of comfortable cotton clothes
that so affronted my mother's sense of social propriety,
that became the means of my escape from the unmarked grave
of an anonymous de-animation.

There were tears.
But …
How to say this? The tears were not for me, now,
but for the simulacrum of a corpulent me that once appeared to exist in the mind's eye,
the giddy distracted mind for the gaudy embodied me I once dizzily revelled in.
Or, at least that's what I'd like to think I want to remember,
to be remembered by
by the strangers I was bound to by the soft
pillowy cotton delicate strings made by
and dedicated to the social obligation of family stones.
Stones? How to explain this weight?
In so far as my skeleton is sensate,
I feel compelled to embrace Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book* cant
and list my listlessness as follows:
cross bones, tomb stones,
head stones, hearth stones, heart stones.
Cajones, nerve, verve.

In the morgue I rest, un-rued on cold rude un-stained steel,
pillowed by the dead sure attitude found solely
in an unremarked gravestone, wet from an unexpected cloudburst,
and in the lost certitude of my lonesome anonymity.
    *It has been called a book of lists, because Shonagon included lists of all kinds.
I finished writing this Sunday morning, around 1am or so. The first fushigi connection began a few hours later, when, after a short sleep I decided it was time to resume Moby Dick. On the cover I saw stuck an old fushigi sticky, dated 2012.07.22, which I'll get to next, in an effort to catch them up. But, things went sideways when, on …

2012.10.21 ~8:30am
I continued from where I'd left off before my Economic's course work took over my life. And within two pages I read:
…. I promise nothing complete;
because any human thing supposed to be complete, must for that very reason infallibly be faulty. I shall not pretend to a minute anatomical description of the various species, or — in this place at least — to much of any description. My object here is simply to project the draught of a systematization of cetology. I am the architect, not the builder.

But it is a ponderous task; no ordinary letter-sorter in the Post-Office is equal to it. To grope down into the bottom of the sea after them; to have one's hands among the unspeakable foundations, ribs, and very pelvis of the world; this is a fearful thing. What am I that I should essay to hook the nose of this leviathan! The awful tauntings in Job might well appal me. "Will he the (leviathan) make a covenant with thee? Behold the hope of him is vain! But I have swam through libraries and sailed through oceans; I have had to do with whales with these visible hands; I am in earnest; and I will try. There are some preliminaries to settle (110).
What struck me initially was the use of pelvis in both texts as a measure of a body, or a body of knowledge. [I didn't catch until tonight that Ishmael from Moby Dick 'swam through libraries,' which is an odd echo of my grabbing the book on Jung which had the small fushigi, as noted above.] In each case the context is very unusual, but even more what struck me with a second thought was that both were focusing on a physical anatomy as metaphor to something unknowable. The whale in the depths of the collective unconscious and the soul or spirit of a person reflecting on the inability of life to understand death, the return to the natural world, or the natural state of physical existence and perhaps the collective unconscious.

And since I am also intent on catching up on old fushigis, and since the one above involved a poem and death, here's another one with that theme. From the sticky note stuck to Moby Dick. Now, I don't remember how/why that sticky got stuck on that book, and not in my pile, but since it did, I'll blog it now.

The fushigi began in 2012.07.21 with my being asked by Cheyenne in WSS to give my editorial advice on her poem Balloons and Letters. With her permission, here is her—

Fushigi Interruption Alert: The Above Fushigi has Been Interrupted by an Immediate and Pressing Poetical Fushigi connected to Moby Dick!

While writing 2012.07.21 ML woke from her nap. Just before we were to get going on preparing to braise the country style spareribs that we'll be devouring later, she called me over to read "An ode to B.C.'s poetry power couple" from Saturday's Globe and Mail p. S4. The article is about the multi-award winning poets and spouses, Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane. Well, it turned out that ML had followed an intuitive prompt that brought her to read this section of the paper, something she rarely does. And she was curious as to whether or not I 'knew' either Crozier or Lane
because, as it turned out, she had attended a workshop with him when she was in university in Saskatchewan more than forty years ago. 'No,' I answered, and then added, 'But given the accolades and awards listed, I have quite likely read them. Give me a sec to check." I went up to my library and fished out a likely anthology, The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English. Crozier was absent, but Lane had three poems representing his oeuvre. The first listed is Stigmata:
for Irving Layton

What if there wasn't a metaphor
and the bodies were only bodies
pushed out in awkward fingers?
Waves come to the seawall, fall away,
children bounce mouths against the stones
that man has carved to keep the sea at bay
and women walk with empty wombs
proclaiming freedom to the night.
Through barroom windows rotten with light
eyes of men open and close like fists.

I bend beside a tidal pool and take a crab from the sea.
His small green life twists helpless in my hand
the living bars of bone and flesh
a cage made by the animal I am.
This thing, the beat, the beat of life
now captured in the darkness of my flesh
struggling with claws as if it could tear its way
through my body back to the sea.
What do I know of the inexorable beauty,
the unrelenting turning of the wheel I am inside of me?
Stigmata. I hold a web of blood.

I dream of the scrimshawed teeth of endless whales,
the oceans it took to carve them. Drifting ships
echo in fog the wounds of Leviathan
great grey voices giving cadence to their loss.
The men are gone
who scratched upon white bones their destiny.
Who will speak of the albatross in the shroud of the man,
the sailor who sinks forever in the Mindanao Deep?
I open my hand. The life leaps out (p292-3 my emphasis).
Okay, this was rather remarkable because it binds Moby Dick together with my poem through bones, death, and whales in a way that is amazing. What cannot be properly expressed, is that my reading this poem aloud to ML was an almost unprecedented act, that her reading about poets is even more rare.

Monday turned the fushigi weird. And that weirdness began with my conscience wrestling about the appropriateness of sending my poem to BH. I was torn between it being a simple ego thing and something that BH might like. Eventually I sent it. [Reflection on ego-wrestling match: if I'd been thinking, I might have been able to argue that my wanting to send it only to BH, and not anyone else, would suggest that it wasn't an ego thing — or at least not only or mainly one, anyway.] I sent it to her work address because she doesn't reliably read her GMail account. I got a communicator pop up from BH wanting to discuss the poem.

I wandered over to her desk, and we talked about the poem. She really liked it, which was nice. Then I mentioned how it got tied in with a weird fushigi with Moby Dick. "Are you kidding me?!" she interrupted me. "What?"

"You're not going to believe this, but that is too weird. This morning, when I was reading your poem, I had to look up some words. And I accidentally clicked on some kind of advertisement in the dictionary. You're not going to believe it, but it was something like 'Moby challenge', or 'Take the Moby challenge.'"

[I had BH forward the information from her browser, afterwards. It was an ad for a California British Fish and Chips place, called The Britannia Arms. Here's The Moby Challenge, page 3:

The Moby Brit
Captain Ahab couldn’t finish this one off and if he did, he’d be sporting a stylish new Brit T-shirt! two pounds of fresh cod dipped in our own special beer batter, lightly fried, and served with a mountain of chips and coleslaw. Take the "Moby challenge, ” clean your plate, and earn a free Brit T-shirt. $29.95
Well, as the 'chit chat' continued, as BH might say, it turns out that she'd tried reading Moby Dick a few years ago, but gave up on it. "Why," I asked, "did you want to read Moby Dick?"

"Oh," she answered, "well, because, doesn't everyone?"

I laughed, and assured her that that was not the case.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," I answered, and then asked a few people around us.

One thing led to another, and told her I love reading out loud, and if she was game I would have a blast reading Moby Dick out loud. And so, the following day, after fishing out the trade paperback she'd bought to read, we meet and I get to read out loud at work! That imagery of that is nonpareil. And I'm loving it and, I think/hope, that BH is too. Even reading the text had a small fushigi, that I'm not recording here, in this already far too long a blog.

Well, the following day ML was talking with our friends on the Island. She asked LM if she'd read the article. It turns out that she had. When ML began to explain her having attended a workshop with him, and then the weird fushigi with me, LM called out to her husband. He came onto the phone and explained that he had a connection to Lane, too. Not only do they have one of his books in their book shelve, but GM happened to work with Lane's son for a day, when both worked for an Island fish farm in the northern part of the Island.

End of fushigi interruption.

Now, back to Cheyenne's poem, as now that I continue to create this post, I see that it actually has a tiny fushigi tying it back to too Lane's poem.
Balloons and Letters

Balloons dance
In the sunlight filtering through
Spring's new leaves
Letters flap like flags
Attached to the balloon strings
Letters of greeting
Letters telling of a new husband
Or baby
Letters mourning
Small hands gone limp
Or large ones that will
Only ever light another pipe
In Heaven
Letters written
By those aching to hold
The little one that never
Took a breath
That only stirred long enough
In the womb
To be counted as a loss
Letters released
By tear darkened fingers
And watched by upturned faces
As they make their journey
Past the clouds (my emphasis)
What made this the beginning of a bizarre fushigi was that the following day I heard a news story on TV about a young girl killed in a freak accident: soccer goal posts fell on her.
…The family held Jaedyn’s celebration of life at the Bethel Tabernacle Church in Ladysmith on Sunday. The church service was followed by a gathering on the beach for a balloon release — all pink and purple, Jaedyn’s favourite colours — and a BBQ.

Jaedyn died tragically on July 4 after a soccer net collapsed and the cross bar struck her in the back of the head while she was playing in a field at a local Watson Lake, Yukon high school. The family splits their time between Watson Lake — where Amann runs a business — and their home in Cedar, near Nanaimo (The Province, 2012.10.22 by Larissa Cahute).
Truly bizarre.

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