Saturday, October 15, 2005

What else? Dualities

A six-hour flight from JFK to Oakland last night proved not nearly so tedious as expected, due to a confluence of media. I had brought Joseph Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, thinking myself sorely in need of hero-myth analysis, and meanwhile had forgotten about the saturation satellite television proffered by JetBlue.

It is hard to read one myth after another; the action goes by too quickly, is too vast and sweeping, filled with labyrinths of metaphor. And so, paragraphs of delight would be followed by long stretches where my eyes wandered over the words, searching forward, without comprehension or attachment, looking for some place to grab back on. Meaning overload.

Presently, the solution reared itself... a marathon of South Park episodes on the Comedy Channel.. and I settled into the strange routine of watching South Park and turning back to mythology only at the commercials (which I cannot abide). So there I would be, reading how

... the future Buddha only moved his hand to touch the ground with his fingertips, and thus bid the goddess Earth bear witness to his right to be sitting where he was. She did so with a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand roars, so that the elephant of the Antagonist fell upon its knees in obeisance ... The army was immediately dispersed, and the gods of all the worlds scattered garlands.

... that was one good day! ... and then I would head happily back to the story of Cartman leading a band of drunken Civil War reenactors on "invasions" of Topeka and Fort Sumter. Cartman, assuming the guise of General Lee (a juxtaposition of genius, I have to admit), writes tender letters back from the "front," expressing condolences at the loss of Kenny (inevitably, mythically), but never failing to mention, no matter the letter's recipient, "very very much I hate you, Stan and Kyle." Oops, commercial. Back to the Buddha:

... the conqueror acquired in the first watch of the night knowledge of his previous existences, in the second watch the divine eye of omniscient vision, and in the last watch understanding of the chain of causation. He experienced perfect enlightenment at the break of day.

All in all, time well spent. Meanwhile, Kyle is dying of a severe infected hemorrhoid; he has lost his will to live, simply because Cartman has experienced undeserved good fortune. If Cartman is happy, how can there be a God? (Another mythical question). Oddly, coincidentally, serendipitously, the writers of South Park took this opportunity to deconstruct the story of Job; they summarized its amorality deftly, cruelly, brilliantly... I was helpless with laughter... I was caught unaware in mid-sip, as God rained down ever more ruin on poor, helpless Job, and I spit up ginger ale on my book, and my aislemate glared. The connection to my now damp book of myths was peculiar, and I was reminded also that I had been taking life altogether too seriously. Compressed in a metal tube 37,000 feet up, I felt liberated; their deliberately evil humor punctured some balloon of mood that had been inflating for some time, and let my gases free. I was free to laugh about anything...

The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man. The objective world remains what it was, but, because of a shift of emphasis within the subject, is beheld as though transformed.


ACB said...

This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Hello! The concert yesterday was wonderful, thank you so much. You were magnificent.

On a completely different note (ha!) I also experience that strange liberation in airplanes, except my tendency is to sob through every in-flight movie I see. On the last flight I took, I sobbed into a Brillo-stiched airplane blanket for 30 minutes after Shrek 2 had ended. "It was just so beautiful!" I wailed to my hapless seatmates. I've even cried though an episode of Friends; truly there is something strange about the molecules at 40,000 feet.