24/7 and Your Dreams
Mor, born and surreally programmed in Southern California, has since lived
in the desert Southwest and Pacific Northwest. She was involved in feminism
when the first Women’s Studies program in the U.S. began at San Diego State
University (1969), and is the author of
The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth
(Harper & Row, 1987; Harper, San Francisco, 1991). Despite its dumb title
(which makes her cringe; her manuscript’s working title was The First God),
the book has remained in print 17 years, thanks solely to smart readers.
Other work, poetry and essays, has appeared in The New MS, Trivia, Kaldron,
Studia Mystica, Sulfur, BullHead, Orpheus Grid, and Brit journals Intimacy
and Ecorche. Mor is now writing “unreadable” and “very dense” experimental
1. Real Time Book of Real World 24/7 and Your Dreams
"MOR: The Abstraction of Writing, when It Became God, comes down to us as The Bible. The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), despite chronic in-fighting, are One Religion, monotheistic and exclusive in intent, based on a Text that purports to be the Only True Word of God (Torah, Old and New Testaments, Koran). Embodied in a Book, this Sacred Text claims a God who is abstracted from all natural context, is indeed a Word AGAINST the sensible World. I.e., what Nature's World tells your senses, God's Word corrects, denies, defies, forbids, punishes beyond death. In any contradiction between the two, God as Text prevails over World as Context. In extreme Fundamentalist readings, they are at eternal war."
"MOR: For the female soldiers raped by fellow troops, I feel the same sympathy, and for the same reasons, as I feel for all the soldiers, male and female, who end up killed or badly wounded. For whatever reason – kids wanting a shot at college, access to vocational training, a belief in the cause – they participate in the Mass Illusion of War as the defeat of Evil, the defense of God’s Country, whatever. The more naive their illusion, the more painful its shattering will be. "
"MOR: But “women’s issues” define, for Leftist males, subordinate issues. Ralph Nader tells us once again: “There is no difference between Democrats and Republicans.” No woman in desperate need of an abortion would say that; Nader will never of course be in this or any other desperate need; and the next time he mouths this priestly drivel I hope a flock of girl crows and vultures attacks him and aborts his fetal words. I hope some tough & fertile bitch jumps up on stage and Punches Out His Lights."
MOR: It is impossible to look through microscope or telescope and conclude Life is Absurd. Life works. The abstracted “mind” is absurd. Seasons, music, children, lizards, penguins, dung beetles: Life is not a Mistake. The sadistic emptying out of meaningfulness is the mistake. The Absurd is never a primal condition, but a stage of reaction: one’s encounter with The Wall. The factory system, the prison cell, the torture chamber, the firing squad, the monthly rent, the morning commute, the quarter you don’t have that must be dropped in the phone slot before you can call the governor to stop your execution because you just dropped that coin in the toilet slot so you could sit and shit. What does any of this have to do with Life on planet Earth?
"MOR: Thirteen months of this, let’s call it Bartleby’s mix of Pride & Despair. Pride, i.e., “I knew who I was.” But who was that, really? A street bum, using taxpayer-funded state intellectual facilities for personal hygiene. If not illegal, shameful. Scum of the earth. Despair, because regardless of what I might have written, or thought, or done, it didn’t matter: I was existential Pariah. Books, poetry, radical politics, feminism, a list of self-delusions I carried in my Levi pocket. Nothing matters in America but Money, and we all know that. Who You Are Is Yr Bank Account, Not Yr Mind."
"MOR: Religious & Cultural Imperialism – the imposition, via guns & Bible, of One Way upon converts and colonies, despite Variant Reality – has been a disaster, and has succeeded because of the disaster: destroyed indigenous networks, demoralization and self-alienation by foreign rules & ideas, enslavement or exile of the soul and body within a once native context now redefined as occupied territory. “Marriage,” in this scenario, has functioned among American Indians, African slaves, 3rd World colonies in the same way it functioned among the pagan European tribes: as a tool of state regulation, thence inculcated into self-restriction and mutual oppression."
MOR: Consider Text/Context. For circa 45-50,000 years of preliterate homo-sapiens time on earth, our Human Text was the same as our Human Context: the Natural World (once called the Real World). Seasons, regional weather and terrain, patterns of night sky, sun, moon, planets and stars, animal and plant cycles, the human lunar-based fertility cycle: this contextual world - all there was , 24/7 and your dreams - was read as simultaneous pragmatic and sacred Text. Human technology grew via reciprocal interaction with a living world: hands, sticks and rocks; a keenly observed environment, flora and fauna, became human culture: fire, cooking, clothing, fiber textiles, herbal medicines, hunting and habitat tools, art, music, language, ritual. Science began here, long before the written word; “science” was a continuous occurrence, daily life. And natural context was sacred text. World was The Book.
In Cro-Magnon cave art and carved bone items, we see not only a precise imaging of the natural world, rendered with esthetic skill; we also see a tender love of this world. They were up against the awesome beginning, our human origins, they survived the last Ice Age without central heating or TV weather news. We know they suffered (arthritis, toothache, broken bones, infection) and they knew death, short life spans. But nothing in their art shows cringing Terror, or ontologic hostility. Rather, they were At Home on this planet: a part of it, not apart from it. Context was Text, and these first human recorders were self-inscribed within it, not alien observers.
Time marches on. Once Time circled now it marches. Ticktickticktick. What happened? John Zerzan ("Why Primitivism?" in ANARCHY, Fall/Winter 03-04) quotes Guy DeBord’s biographer Anselm Jappe, who asked why “the results of human activity are so antagonistic to humanity”? Our definitive Angel, the human desire to Know, leads us into present Hell. The Force of Paradox is within us, and it sucks.
A useful book is Leonard Shlain’s The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word & Image (Penguin Arkana, 1998). The title mirrors your question. Neolithic abundance, Bronze Age beginnings of "civilization," a context increasingly designed as a human power-space vis-à-vis Nature. Early writing (2500-3000 bce) used for both sacred texts and clerical accounting around the royal granaries, empowering hierarchies, etc. We know the story: Ur, Sumer, Babylon, all those clay tablets, the first writing, now compose the dust and rubble of Iraq.
The Abstraction of Writing, when It Became God, comes down to us as The Bible. The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), despite chronic in-fighting, are One Religion, monotheistic and exclusive in intent, based on a Text that purports to be the Only True Word of God (Torah, Old and New Testaments, Koran). Embodied in a Book, this Sacred Text claims a God who is abstracted from all natural context, is indeed a Word AGAINST the sensible World. I.e., what Nature's World tells your senses, God's Word corrects, denies, defies, forbids, punishes beyond death. In any contradiction between the two, God as Text prevails over World as Context. In extreme Fundamentalist readings, they are at eternal war.
The taboos on Image/Image-making in Bible and Koran enforce this Turning Away from the credibility and reciprocity of Nature's Text/Context. And from its primal power over our human consciousness. One can't make "images" of Nature -- as our Cro-Magnon ancestors so brilliantly did -- without touching Nature, intimately and fondly. The iconoclastic Biblical mandate to "break the Images" of surrounding pagan cultures was God's ascetic word: Don' t Touch.
This Loving Nature was commanded to Look Away from Itself (from our species sensual Context), away from Nature & Nature's Imagination into the Mental Abstractions of God's (unillustrated) Word.
The portability of the Bible (a Text/Context detached from Nature) became a signature of Jewish endurance, continuity throughout Diaspora; so for Jews the O.T. did perform both sacred and pragmatic functions. For other people, dissemination of the Bible was a disaster. Moving through Western history, it was used as a Power Tool, a weapon of conquest and colonization, from Imperial Rome through European hegemony, thence into the imperialized globe. What purported to be The Word of God was used as a ritual whip to sever Human Flesh and Spirit from its primal Context; the Human Mind thus forcibly separated from (con)sensual experience in the name of a disembodied Value. Generations were taught to fear and distrust "Nature" -- redefined as a demon-inhabited, temptational Enemy. Only "The Word of God" could be trusted, but this Word derived from a textual context which rarely, if ever, applied to the supplicant. Forest people, mountain people, steppe, jungle, and sea people were confronted with a (fully-armed) Desert God, mandating morals and worldviews vastly disjunct from their pagan knowledge of their own experiential terrain. Such a disconnect makes people wacko, especially when it invokes Conversion by Fire, Sword and Cannon. (Or by Law and Money; the West's secular tools of persuasion derive from the same disconnect.)
Freud believed that the urgency of the Western search for scientific truth derived from the Biblical obsession with moral rules, law and justice. Eric L. Santner, (in Freud's Moses, SEXUATION, ed. Renata Salecl, Duke U. Press, 2000) contrasts this "nomotropic obsession" with the "pagan cosmotheism" of pre-Biblical human time, in which "we find direct enjoyment of cosmic Eros, of deum siva naturam", (Spinoza, in fact). The monotheistic abstraction of the numinous into Legal Text over & against (human) Nature possesses, Santner claims, an "uncanny energy" -- the power to distinguish between a True and a False God, via possession/adherence to the Right Text (or disobedience to It). A disincarnate Law, presented as God, becomes the Only Sacred Text negotiating between human group and the (by Biblical definition) outcast context of Nature, now comprehended as "good" solely to the extent it is controlled/resisted by human beings.
Freud was right in this sense: a God abstracted from Nature becomes a Deified Text abstracted from Reified Context. This set the tone for the Baconian "Interrogation of Nature" (which occurred in uncanny coincidence with the Church's Inquisition of Witches); even when science defied religion in Western history, scientists wielded the same superior whip over Dumb Matter as did the priests over Errant Flesh. I.e., Attitude is All. Freud was wrong, however, if he assumed Western science as the only possible (or "serious" science. Pagan cultures worldwide practiced Science (fire, cooking, textiles, ceramics; herbal medicine, obstetrics and surgery; mathematics, geometry, astronomy. From Anasazi solstice/eclipse stone circles to Megalithic observatories throughout Europe, preliterate and pre-Biblical people charted the sky; Mayans invented the Zero; the Chinese I Ching as a digital computer which defines and accesses Process was cognized by Leibniz as the original binary number system. And so forth. And did Freud forget the un-Torahed Greeks?).
Science, the human acquisition of knowledge about Nature, is indigenous to our Species.
Within our Context, we construct our Text. The most ¡°primitive¡± peoples, isolated in Brazilian or Indonesian jungles, know even as children more Scientific Data re the fauna and flora of their habitat than the average urban resident of any modern city. How such pagan sciences would or could develop into World Science we don't know:
They were obliterated or co-opted within the colonizing Empire carrying the PowerTools of Law and God's Word, which rationalized the destruction/absorption of pagan knowledge into Imperial Booty as God's Will (a God who Conquers Nature, rather than Live With Her).
So it is not a matter of Science: Yes or No. Science is Human Nature. It is the attitude with which science is pursued, and the ends it serves, which is under question.
Consider the American Indians “conquered” by Texts of the Invaders/Colonizers: Bibles and Law, i.e. treaties with God, treaties with European royalty. Tens of thousands of years, mythic generations of epiphanal and practical interaction with the Context of this hemisphere (land, seasons, plants and animals, migration and cloud patterns, water streams and bird cries, the messages of insects and wind): suddenly and totally Denied, countermanded and interrupted, overlaid with the surreal Unreal. An oral/aural people embodied within the World Around, they are handed these little paper rolls, pages of skin, scored with squiggly black marks. Which contain the Power, by any means necessary, to forever obliterate that original relationship, Nature herself brought to her knees, the primal Text/Context erased and replaced with a continental For Sale sign. The natives were "ignorant," while "Western civilization¡" franchised the invaders. But which had the best Science?
Is "science" Plunder or Reciprocity? Time will tell. Ticktickticktick.
The Bible, Koran, any such Text purporting to be The Word of God, functions as a Code, a mind-program. Portable, indoctrinated generation by generation, it works to structure the brain's perception of Context before that brain has a chance to experience Context in any other way. And as any Code, it Replicates itself. I.e., genes and memes. Just as DNA replicates biologically, the SacredPowerText replicates culturally. Thus the natural world is recreated, via programmed perception, in the image of a worldview, an ontological Code.
The forbiddance of Image/Image-making is a way to forbid any other program but This Text ¨C i.e. as a self-reinforcing system, it is a Cloning mechanism. This is what the Fundamentalist agendas do, they Clone believers. The Meme/Code is a loop between brain and world, and in the process both are reconfigured into an Unreality (a refusal of Nature) which yet has the Power to subvert the Real (our existence in Nature).
Not raised in any religion, I was introduced to the I Ching at age 13; it became my Text/Code.
I turned to it for answers and advice, as people turn to Bible or Koran. It did not however forbid other Texts upon pain of eternal damnation: rather, it inculcated observation of process, without falling prey to Greed or Fear. Is this not a ”scientific method”? Dating 1000-750 bce, the I Ching easily inhabits the universe of quantum physics. Western science just got here.
Imagine 2 huge murals: one pictures war, bloody male wounds, mutilation and death; the other shows a woman giving birth, bloody orifices, membranes and life. The first is common in public spaces, the second taboo. The war scene is common in front page and television news; the maternity scene isn't. Why? Our disembodied Value is killing us, yet we continue to worship It. Sex is profane, war is holy.
The Abrahamic Holy Men (Judaic, Christian, Muslim) more or less literally bang their heads, over and over, in the anguish of repetition, against their Wall of Text – monotheism's Idea of God's Word and Law - while all around them the Context of the World screams ENOUGH! Stop the delusional babble, the compulsive mumbling of beads, your little turdstones of sacred alphabet. Your God of Submissive Flesh is a continuous Lust for Pain, i.e. your Text wants to murder our Context. Observe what is being done to a Real Earth in the name and pursuit of a Dead Idea..
What brought us here
is not Science, or Number, or Knowledge alone, but our ATTITUDE toward
planetary embodiment, i.e. Nature. We had a choice: hostility, or affection.
The Interrogation and Inquisition of a Witch. Or the fond curiosity felt
toward a Lover. Our lethal science did not want to know Earth, but to
escape Earth. But it is not Earth which is our Prison, but our Minds.
ENGEL: Someone sent me an article today about 37 U.S. Servicewomen who claim to have been raped by their fellow troops in Iraq and "discouraged" from complaining by their superiors. So if 37 came forward and were "discouraged" you gotta put the real number at ten times that amount. But the thing is, for me, by joining the U.S. Military, voluntarily, you are condoning the murder, rape and torture of tens of thousands of innocent, unarmed men, women and children -- mostly women and children -- throughout the planet. The women of Iraq did not join the U.S Military voluntarily. The women of Iraq have no one to complain to, not even unsympathetic superiors, when American troops go on a rape/torture/murder spree. So the female troops of the U.S. Military are totally ignorant of all of this? Perhaps, because they were raped, 37 Iraqi women were spared. No one should be violated, EVER. But can one compare suffering? The rape of a female soldier who knows war and weapons and violence, to the rape of an Iraqi housewife, who also knows war, weapons and violence, but only on the receiving end? All men and women should be fighting against the very idea of an American Military on missions of global conquest. To volunteer to join such a death machine puts you in the position of victimizer. Or at the very least, supporter of victimization. Should we feel bad for the victimizers who become victims themselves?
MOR: For the female soldiers raped by fellow troops, I feel the same sympathy, and for the same reasons, as I feel for all the soldiers, male and female, who end up killed or badly wounded. For whatever reason – kids wanting a shot at college, access to vocational training, a belief in the cause – they participate in the Mass Illusion of War as the defeat of Evil, the defense of God’s Country, whatever. The more naive their illusion, the more painful its shattering will be.
Any culture’s chronic problem is the employment of young male energy. Too much squirmy, unemployed testosterone threatens established order; mostly it threatens the older males in power, with outright revolt, theft of their wealth, seduction of their women, etc. In dysfunctional Western civilization (unemployment, class and race schisms, the necessity to maintain social control via positing of An Enemy), almost continuous war has provided the classic employment of Young Stud Energy, to the simultaneous double profit of Rich Older Men. Not only do the latter profit economically via war economies, that is, but sending off young men to distant wars leaves the Castles, Banks and Harems of the Homeland intact. (Or, in patriarchal theory, it should.)
Young female energy, freed from traditional role-restraint, is also potent; if not engaged and patriotically directed, it can disrupt the Realm. The feminist egalitarian idea of Equal Rites involved opening the Armed Services to women; young women today are attracted to the same educational and vocational chances, and we offer these to low and middle income kids via the price of risking their lives. And/or, risking rape – from their own troops, or from the enemy.
Warriorhood as proof of manhood is a cliché, but it rules. Because so many poor and ethnic males enter the armed forces to acquire the official Proof of Manhood Seal they’ve been historically denied, they’ve resented entry of women and gays: if females and homosexuals can be Warriors too, there goes the social cachet power of the Military Uniform (and boot camp endured) as Proof of Manhood. Harassment of enlisted gays and women, including rape, is part of this revenge syndrome.
It would be cool, and helpful, if all this were openly discussed at the beginning of training; but it probably isn’t. The military runs on the fuel of unquestioned Ideals; straight talk (including politically incorrect talk) subverts the gung-ho spirit.
That women can be
warriors is not the issue. Ferocious female warriors are on record – in
Africa, Asia, pre-Columbian America, from the Russian steppes across Europe
into the British Isles – women warriors are not new. In the past, however,
they were tribal warriors, often leaders. And like Boudicca of the Iceni
fighting against the Roman invasion of their homeland, they fought intensely
defensive wars. Blood, soil, folkways, children: up close and personal.
Fighting for “American hegemony” is relatively abstract; I suspect some
young women are gung-ho Barbies, trying to prove a
patriotically-manufactured “womanhood”. Certainly some female soldiers in
Iraq and Afghanistan believe they are fighting for women’s rights in those
countries. The weird thing is, they wouldn’t organize into an army of women
to fight for female rights here in America: they think they’re free enough,
or if not, they depend on Big Daddy’s System to give them what they need,
when they’ve earned it, being Good Girls. As such, they fight for God and
Country, and sometimes get raped. The radical question is: How many would
fight for Earth and Country? And we know the answer: damn few.
MOR: What’s Left, literally, is The Sinister: the Body’s Left Side (Dark Side of the Mother, the Flesh & the Heart): the nagual. This realm which hyper-rational males, positioned along all points of the ideological spectrum, have Dexterously (righteously) marked off as profane, errant, forbidden; or have worked to subordinate to some auxiliary category (Index under Politics & Women). The patriarchal mind, from Bible to Bacon, Marx to Freud, Bookchin to – yes, sorry – Nader, does not escape its Inquisitional fascination with strict daylight dogmatism, which quickly collapses into anal-obsessiveness over correct practice and procedure, ritual observance, the absolute length of beard-hair or number of whip-strokes per minute per breath of Crime: the exact size shape & weight of stones collected fervidly to be used to stone the radical body to its Deserved Death.
Man’s Law, that is, which is always Right, i.e. in definitive control of Pain Distribution. The failure of the Left has always been its Fear of its own Dark Side. The ‘inchoate’ Energies, described as Freudian Id, Jungian Unconscious, just general Funk & Fate, are the miasmic orgasms of the Female historically misnamed, misdiagnosed & bungled by the Good Doctors of social design. Western Patriarchy enters the Dark always in a missionary spirit, to “help” or “manage” or “cure” those parts of town assigned to crime, sex, poverty, intoxication, all the Transgressive Neighborhoods defined as problematic to the achievement of Paradise.
The Artists & Poets know, or have known, that this Dark Turf exists primally, and exists Necessarily as urgent Medicine for a Sick Paradisial Ideal. It is not “the Dark” that needs help or cure, that is; rather: Doctor, Fix Yrself.
Think of a Tapestry: perfect clarity on the daylight side, as disciplined threads appear to compose the picture. Turn it over, however, and you see what MAKES the picture: the strings of creation as crazy Technicolor snakes squirming, twisting, intercoursing around the terrain of the darkside. The power of Biology grows from Inside Darkness; the Seed and the Brain express their Interior Dark; 6 billion years of Earth manifested gorgeously before the Human Eye. This is the Mad Method which performs the Illusion of the Composition, and it Performs on & of the Dark Side.
The Side of Light functions righteously to Control and Commodify this primal reality. The historic “Left” has always used Female Energy to fuel its “Revolutions”: against the Father, the Church, the State. French women started the bread riots, stormed the Bastille, killed and were killed; victorious, however, their brothers-in-arms wrote laws to return French women to their skirts and their kitchens, and legally took away their guns, lest “feminine & domestic charms” be threatened by “empowerment.” It’s an old story. E.g., today’s Left disdains a politics of “population control,” arguing correctly that it is the Industrialized West, of low population growth, which consumes a huge majority of earth’s resources, and exudes a huge percentage of earth’s pollution. Ignoring, or dismissing, the fact that “population control” is a major factor and function of Female Liberation from our traditional abuse as cultural breed cows. Without female sexual autonomy, fascism is inevitable: the control of the female reproductive body by the male state is the Origin of Fascism.
But “women’s issues” define, for Leftist males, subordinate issues. Ralph Nader tells us once again: “There is no difference between Democrats and Republicans.” No woman in desperate need of an abortion would say that; Nader will never of course be in this or any other desperate need; and the next time he mouths this priestly drivel I hope a flock of grrrl crows and vultures attacks him and aborts his fetal words. I hope some tough & fertile bitch jumps up on stage and Punches Out His Lights.
Because this is all that’s usefully Left: Bar sinister: sons of the Lawless Side Bat sinister: feral, crazy bat daughters.
Eschewing the Dark Side, the Left has no Vision. Left politics are mostly reactive, rarely creative. In Europe, e.g., in opposition to the American-Israeli alliance of holy contempt for the world, the Left moves to embrace the Muslim cause – the Palestinians, yes, but also the French Muslim fundamentalist campaign to retain girls’ headscarves in the public schools. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” sez the Leftie, and even goes so far as to believe this constitutes a chic, radical position. It is not radical but merely reactive. It establishes no principle or position, but merely a formula of alliances. Here is the place to quote that epigraph from Thoreau: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
There’s really no time left for any act but a strike at the Root, but most hackers on the Left have no clue as to its location.
Last year I saw a front page news photo showing an Israeli teen and her brother walking behind a Palestinian girl: the Israeli girl is reaching out to yank off the Muslim girl’s headscarf. It’s an act of religious & political harassment, yes. I despise Israel’s behavior; I despise the American-Israeli collusion against the world; even so, looking at that photo, I have the same impulse as that Israeli teen. It’s not a Jewish vs. Muslim impulse – I’m Irish Pagan – it is the Fist of the New against the Old, the Naked Mind against the Uniform, most of all the ShitKicking Reichian West against the Puritanic Repressive Religions. It is Knowledge versus Fear. Europe worked 500 years to crawl out of the God-Pit of the Inquisition, Europeans and the colonized globally have suffered millennia of religious, bible-based persecution and sectarian warfare, American women are still involved in essential struggle against “God” for autonomy of our bodies & our brains: this is the Root position. We must refuse to be dragged backward into that abyss. If Muslim women want to enjoy the relative “freedoms” of the West, they must know these freedoms are hard won, and always fragile. If you fear being “debauched by modernity,” go home to the desert. Women in burqas whose men carry rocket launchers is more than a surreal anachronism: it is the utmost in spiritual & intellectual hypocrisy. (A PoMo thesis that “the Enlightenment led to Auschwitz” by undermining the Western belief in “God” is equally fraudulent; i.e. what then led to the pre-Enlightenment “God-ordained” Inquisition, all 500 sadistic years of it?? The Enlightenment was Europe’s attempt to overcome the Inquisition: to the extent it failed we got the 20th c. Hells-on- Earth; to the extent it succeeded, we got us.)
The Left, long contemptuous of “religion,” ineptly confronts the giant psychophysical social surges and erotic convulsions of Jihad & Holy War. Liberals & Leftists are afraid to confront “God” – except with the dry disdain that characterizes believers in secular rather than metaphysical Solutions. Turning chickenshit into formula, PC became a strategy for avoiding Root confrontation: a way to parade as Radical while not “offending” anyone.
A generation of earnest young politicos was educated to think you can solve a problem by correctly labeling it: That’s racist! That’s sexist! That’s religiously intolerant!
Well yeh, duh, so what else is AT THE ROOT???
Christian America, Zionist Israel and the Muslim Fundamentalist regimes together are The 4th Reich; these bulldozer bullies for “God” will happily flatten every contradiction into rubble and upon this bloody plot build tacky Theme Parks of Pious Democrazy in the place of indigenous sensual global variety; these actual snuff games are being played out before our eyes and we do not accurately name them, or holistically denounce them, lest we Hurt Someone’s Feelings – i.e., everyone involved is a Victim of Historic Hurt, ergo beyond Critique. Mel Gibson’s sacred S/M flick, The Passion of the Christ, appears right now to remind us that the biblical religions, all 3, are based on the sadistic manipulation of guilt: You disobeyed God, You are Sinful, You killed Jesus, You are Filth & Dust Born of Woman – yaddayaddayadda – the continuous manipulation of ONTOLOGICAL GUILT for the Ontological FACT of Being Alive on Earth. The Left does not usefully exist unless it denies/defies this Bizness of Guilt and embraces the Poetry of this Fact. But to do so, the Left must become open to the suffusion of FemaleErotic Darkness (which is The Female Mind) to a degree it has never accepted, insofar as the male-determined Left is in itself a familial disciple of that same Guilt-Trip Bizness.
Thus the Left has managed to turn off the world, revealing itself systemically as the DreamKillCopTwin of the tyrant Right. This rabid Right “frames the Big Picture.” E.g., O’Reilly & Savage analogize 1) “The Anarchy on Our Borders, immigrants swamping our culture & sucking off our welfare” with 2) “Anarchy in Our Morality, gay rights, abortion, media hedonism, bastard babies sucking on Janet’s exposed tit” – they can do this because, being breathtakingly simple-minded, they construct without compunction simpleminded Pictures. (I.e., blaming these “anarchies” on Liberalism, when every issue depicted is a function of cutthroat capitalist systems, re employers seeking low-wage labor and media seeking profits, as mere human beings struggle & drown in the resultant floods of dislocation.) The Left can’t frame “a Big Picture,” or finds “a Big Picture” too Scary. It is unable or not willing to Challenge GOD, the BibleBoys, Yahweh Moses Jesus and Allah with their combined global BankAccounts. Leftist discourse has never addressed Religion as a power equal to Economics in the movement of human beings: the movement of passions as well as massed bodies. Only a witchy few 2nd wave feminists, a few brave citizens mounting 1st Amendment law suits, have stood up on their revolutionary hind legs to refute the tv preachers and radio bigmouths on their own turf, i.e. Faux Holy Ground. These God Salesmen, in the bizness of vampirizing our human energies for 2000 years, can rely on Liberal Fear & Leftist Discomfort to join in avoidance of ontological battle over “sacred things: who defines them?” Liberals pander, Leftists shrug and run. Meanwhile, next time a state judge installs his customized 10 ton version of the Biblical Ten Commandments in the middle of your downtown courthouse, here’s the argument: The First Amendment precludes the government from the establishment of a religion. The First Commandment is: “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me.” And that is the establishment of a specific religion: an exclusive monotheism. The First Commandment directly contradicts and countermands the First Amendment. So every politician should be publicly challenged to choose between them: your Constitution or your Bible? They can’t both rule this country. Europe, unlike America, has been the arena of historic disembowelment over issues of Holy War, Roman invasion and forced conversion of pagan tribes, Crusades & Inquisitions, the Catholic-Protestant mutual massacres called sectarian war, plus WW1, WW2, Nazi death camps and Stalinist gulags, all “secular” extensions of the original FanaticVision. Europe is tired of it, we hope, and thereby wiser. Americans must look harder to find an authentic political position (the Archimedean leverage point) outside the mechanical Left-Right dualisms which decorate & twist our Tree’s dialectic branches but are not The Root. The Root of America is that it was once pagan, wild and various. Jefferson, Madison and Franklin, Marx & Engels learned from American Indians, not the reverse. Despite the Holy Liars, our Constitution is not “based on the Judeo-Christian Bible” but on the Iroquois Confederacy, with help from pagan European tribal systems, the Magna Carta, John Stuart Mill & Voltaire. To be reminded of this, Leftists should reread Thomas Paine, and revisit Thomas Morton & his Maypole. (Plus check out Jim Goad’s The Redneck Manifesto.)
One European friend
and intellectual comrade to Paine was Mary Wollstonecraft. Ring any bells?
The Leftist dismissal of “women’s issues” as secondary forces of change has
robbed us of a potent(ial) Holism of Energies vis-à-vis the extant networks
of Oppression: Church, State, Economic systems. Those feminists who attacked
Patriarchy were not simply being “women”(i.e., complainants within the
system), but expressors of a bloody Outside Position: outside Taliban and Al
Qaeda, outside Israel and Palestine, outside America and Israel, Outside the
Holy War, which by definition is waged by & for the glory of the
Hole-Stuffing Male, whose claims of GodHead subordinate all Nature and
natural life & death to this WhollyDelusion: MonoText&Gun. Before being
brainwashed into HandMaidens, all females are Born Rebels. Females are the
Original Left, and it would’ve been nice to acknowledge this, and to grow
upon this primal ground the alliance of Earth, Women, Children, Animals, Air
Water Seed & Imagination AGAINST the Agony of Abrahamic Alienation.
ENGEL: While nature makes mistakes all the time, it never creates something for no other purpose but to sustain survival. EXCEPT the clitoris, which exists for one reason and one reason only: to give women pleasure. What if the whole "harem" thing with a male having a harem of 100 females was an absolute perversion of what REALLY should be going on? After all, that's one guy, with all his potential genetic flaws as well as goodies passing the same thing on to 100 other people and their children. What if it is the female who is supposed to have multiple lovers during her sexual lifetime?
Wouldn't it make more sense both ecologically, in terms of population, food, etc. and genetically for one woman to have several children by different men than for 100 women to have children by one man so all his good and bad genes are repeated as opposed to a variety of gene "cocktails" resulting in say, five or six healthy off spring per woman? Variety of genes and ecology of population. Are we living in an upside-down world?
MOR: Imagine the entire Cosmos as a Gigantic Clitoris….no, seriously. The entire Universe is the erotic imagination materialized: Her Hologram. Orgasm is confirmation that Life Enjoys Itself. (If the puritanic/punitive god was our actual creator, sex would be total compulsion, but hideously painful: think about it).
Beyond the human clitoris existent sui generis “for pleasure” (and its larger pragmatic version, the penis), the entire Universe exists for the “pleasure” of Itself: chaos, novae, galactial bodies, stars, planets, fractals, flowers, frogs i.e. Our Life In Art. Why? “After all,” said Rimbaud, “Nature can be bored.”
Given Infinite Time and Eternal Space - given capacity for Infinite and Eternal BOREDOM!!!!!!! - what would you do? Invent! Ex nihilo, that black womb, conceiving string by quark by electron by cell by dream, what we call Evolution, or “Passing Time.” The Fantasizer participates in all particles of the Embodied Fantasy, its Codes & Surprises, thus the signature of an electromagnetic erotic ecstasis appears throughout the Spectrum, micro to macro, just as Reich observed (knew). Einstein, in his major error, denied Quantum Theory because “God does not play dice with the Universe.” God, as Female, does play dice with Herself, i.e. is not a Mechanic standing outside His Machine, but is rather a Being Imagining/Evolving More Being. It is a Living Creation, pregnant with Risk of the Unknown, with all points in motion (friction) magically & perilously contingent upon all other moving points (frisson). Beyond Pleasure, that is, it’s about being Alive, which involves a cognizance that all else is, of the same being, Alive.
The human clitoris – never a problem before! – becomes fiendishly problematic for Patriarchal/Biblical religion, insofar as its existence confronts that religion with all of the above. If the Clitoris IS, that is, Yahweh isn’t; or rather, man’s Idea of God as defined in the Old Testicularment is confronted a priori with a better idea, the Real World, which posits not only female sensual autonomy but Female Choice as the mechanism/ determinant of evolutionary selection. The male whose genes are reproduced is the male who most pleases the female sensorium: her eye, her ear, her touch, her olfactory palate. Bronze Age males who maneuvered to become Managers of Breeding (human as well as cattle), had first to deny this Female Primacy of Selection, redefining it as a Male Choice, “by God.” Woman was reengineered from a sensual being into a livestock commodity, bred to reproduce male society in general, the husband’s wealth in particular. Matrimonial sex, confined to reproduction, was understood at best as a Duty to God, at worst a Punishment for the Sin of Flesh; all other sex condemned to death by stoning. Needless to say, within these terms, the Clitoris became An Outlaw. It refuted the basic premise of patriarchal society: that Nature exists to enhance Man, and will be disciplined or forced to do so in the Name of God. The denial and repression of clitoral knowledge that followed, i.e. Western History, not only made Life miserable for woman, with the impreached idea that she deserved lifelong misery as her existential definition; it also launched upon the natural world an orgiastic reactive violence, no doubt felt as condign punishment for Life’s existence as dumb, yet seductive, matter: Earth, just like a Woman, deserves chronic fucking over for the crime of “objective” Being There. “She made me do it.” “She asked for it.” A thing that exists solely to be fucked, of course, elicits contempt. A woman who comes alive to enjoy fucking, under patriarchy, elicits death by rocks or fire (or fist or whatever). The entire S/M enterprise is erected upon the Biblical premise: She Can’t Win. We live – and are dying -- with the cosmologic ramifications of this premise.
It is impossible to look through microscope or telescope and conclude Life is Absurd. Life works. The abstracted “mind” is absurd. Seasons, music, children, lizards, penguins, dung beetles: Life is not a Mistake. The sadistic emptying out of meaningfulness is the mistake. The Absurd is never a primal condition, but a stage of reaction: one’s encounter with The Wall. The factory system, the prison cell, the torture chamber, the firing squad, the monthly rent, the morning commute, the quarter you don’t have that must be dropped in the phone slot before you can call the governor to stop your execution because you just dropped that coin in the toilet slot so you could sit and shit. What does any of this have to do with Life on planet Earth? Nature evolves biologic functions so it can exist in material form, but what Punishes those functions is human Idea. Kafka doesn’t describe “Life” after all, but the tortured creature trapped inside its mental constructs & devices, all originally intended to put “Life” in order. As if it could not be trusted to have its own Order. Or as if its own Order had been declared “demonic.” Hostile to God and the bottom line. The plot to defame Matter as Dumb Mechanism, or Evil, lucrative as it has been for the bizness of Religion (and the religion of Busyness), now boomerangs against us because – oops! – Life R Us. Recall the Victorian practice of fastening sharp-barbed gloves on the hands of children & youth (& “crazy” adults) so that masturbation, if not stopped, would really really HURT. Biblical religions invent & mandate these sadistic mittens. Capitalism manufactures & markets them. For Life to so hate & fear Itself, to the point of commodifying mutual mass systemic infliction of extreme pain, terror & degradation – nukes, landmines, cluster bombs, biochemical weapons, brothels, child sex traffic, refugee camps, famine, junk food, junk art, junk dreams - argues a powerful spasmic Interruption of Life’s own ontological experience of Itself. We are not “cursed” by Life, Life is cursed by us. All Nature emptied of chthonic meaning, we now own that emptiness. And it really Hurts.
Monoism now rules the
tonal (David Bohm’s Explicate Order) with its replicable formulae:
monotheism monoculture monolithic monogamy monotony. The nagual (Implicate
Order) goes on dreaming the Dark. The variants you describe – females with
multiple sex partners, “variety of genes and ecology of population. And a
species dedicated to pleasure” – exist now in sci-fi/fantasy (Ursula LeGuin
in particular) and some quaint anthropology texts. We can imagine the
arrangements of ancient Crete, matrifocal and pleasure-dedicated. Of course,
the elites of all cultures manage to do their things: incestual, bisexual,
polymorphously fickle and hire good nannies to raise the kids. They party
every which way while keeping the plebs in straight line: for food, for sex
& shelter, for citizenship, for God. Females are capable of vast
polyrelationships. Patriarchal men are uptight, indoctrinated with Life’s
Possession (not its Enjoyment) as Proof of Manhood. But Earth is older than
Patriarchy. And men are simply our most dysfunctional sisters (all males
being half female, XY). The taboo on sexual polyforms derives from
patriarchy’s desperate need to keep everyone in Uniform, defined by gender,
class, race, belief, etc. The fluid continuum of relational behaviors of
which our species is capable (think Bonobo) would, if not ritually
repressed, explode the current systems of Order and flood the planet with
new (& ancient) arrangements. Males would be liberated, as much as females,
by this genital revolution. The nagual, of course, is terrifying Releasing
people from bondage does not free them, if their minds are still chained by
bad ideas. Serial rapists, child rapists, sexual torturers and
merchandisers: a growing population. Thanks to God & Capital, in the 20th &
21st centuries, the Bomb is bigger than the Clitoris: it gives Man the
erotic power of Death, over all the planet’s trapped bodies. Does the
average civilized male get more erotic charge out of a bomb than a clitoris?
Yes. Making a woman come is no big deal. The Big Thrill is making her body
EXPLODE, literally. Making any body explode literally. Yr biggest, and last,
earth orgasm: & was it good for you? The mad bomber, like the rapist,
becomes God, just like that. What we once called “pleasure” is quite
perverted in the service of Power, and what can simply naked Nature do
against mass pop PornoTech? The point is, Diversity is the Health of Nature.
Monotony is Nature’s Death. The idea that terrestrial plurality (the Earth’s
Imagination) can be colonized and harnessed into a puritan global factory
system, denies the monstrous power of the nagual to rebut constraint. It
will explode, it will implode: it will not endure Monotony. Not for long.
When it blows, we are the slick red petals of the explosion. When it
implodes, we are the coal crushed to mad diamonds in the skull.
ENGEL: As Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener, says, "I would prefer not to." It doesn’t really matter, anyway. Not REALLY. So, why?
MOR: Street living Tucson, 1987-88, I’d search out quiet weekend places to do personal hygiene. Washed-out shirts, underwear etc. qwik-dri in desert air. The usual public buildings were closed, and the usual BurgerKing, Carl’s Jr. tiny restrooms – one toilet, one sink – were noisy with weekend families; little boys in women’s bathrooms w/their mothers tend to get down on their hands & knees to peek under the stall, it’s a compulsion to view The Strange Other at Her Worst. And if you’re washing your shorts in the sink, they freak. I chewed raw garlicbulbs to boost my immune system, this created a vampyre-free-zone aura around me that was strategically useful, but socially offputting in close quarters. So I hung out at the U of A, the student center building had a big 2nd floor lounge with rows of sinks & stalls, coolly uninhabited on Sunday mornings. The University, I felt, was sort of “home”- because, duh, my book was in the U of A library, it would be used in Women’s Studies classes; and hey, I’d applied (unsuccessfully) for work as library clerk, summer press copy editor and, through the Maintenance Dept., as lounge matron & general toilet bowl cleanser. On Sundays, when others were in Church, it felt luxurious to wash undies & armpits in the big unoccupied 2nd floor lounge, real soap & hot water….a Mental Retreat, where homeless American feminist writers might feel “at home” (“misery hides aloof” sez Melville).
Then, one morning, sponge bathing & foot washing, my shirt unbuttoned (no bra, no shoes), the matron suddenly stuck her head around the door, I looked up to see a look of horror on her face, whereupon she turned and ran down the empty hall squealing “She’s bathing in there! She’s bathing in there!”
I got out quick, nothing happened. Except I never went back. The maid’s shock notified me that, of course, UA was not “home” to my body, even though its Library might house my book. The maid didn’t see “a writer” but “a public nuisance” – and her perception was, of course, the operative view.
Thirteen months of this, let’s call it Bartleby’s mix of Pride & Despair. Pride, i.e., “I knew who I was.” But who was that, really? A street bum, using taxpayer-funded state intellectual facilities for personal hygiene. If not illegal, shameful. Scum of the earth. Despair, because regardless of what I might have written, or thought, or done, it didn’t matter: I was existential Pariah. Books, poetry, radical politics, feminism, a list of self-delusions I carried in my Levi pocket. Nothing matters in America but Money, and we all know that. Who You Are Is Yr Bank Account, Not Yr Mind.
This knowledge, this truth, this fact, is Crushing. The literal weight of it on your chest stops the heart, pushes air from the lungs. As if the whole megaquadrillion ton weight of Wall St falls on you: but it doesn’t even have to fall on you, it crushes virtually, effectively, by just Being There: the Wall of Money. Before which all your fellow citizens kneel, trembling, in obeisance. If this is America, if this is Reality, then this is Home: something you have to pay for. Thus Bartleby: the Soul w/out a Home in America.
He is the homeless soul the West has built.
Melville, most American of writers, dreaming Kafka’s 20th c. in his short stories, in
Bartleby creates the Dickensian doppelganger, London’s financial, legal & penal architecture transported from Victorian England into 19th c. America (supposedly “a new world”) – Wall St, The Tombs, the same gaunt gloomy buildings of biophobic power shutting out light & health, mocking human happiness, rendering work lives of multitudes – 12 hour days, 6 days a week – “deficient in what landscape painters call ‘life.’” And these were the good jobs. No way to catch or grow your own food. No place to sleep or shit or piss or die or give birth w/out paying the designated fee. The generation & preservation of absolute Law & Wealth, contingent upon the brutal constriction & infliction of the ephemeral Human Being.
The Soul’s confrontation w/soulless Machinery: which is America.
A New World for you, Mr.Bartleby.
He’d prefer not. In the Dead Letter office, his previous employment, he’d heard God’s answer to mortal hope: Silence. He’d tossed these little prayers into the fire, this was his job. Over the edge of banal despair, he’d looked: there is Nothing. With or without money, that is, the same vision as The American Dream, in the End. It is all illusion, a flatline trying to escape the cosmic mobius.
Maybe he was born a Zero Man. He’s kind of a Zen Legal Secretary. Facing the Wall (which is the word NO) he insisted on his terms. Bartleby knew who he was, unfortunately unbacked by money, but nonetheless. He knew his intrinsic worth, qua human; and he knew he was not wanted unless he rendered this intangible self USABLE - and he preferred not. He took up minimal space or air: let his sheer existence as Life Datum be honored, allow him to simply sit or stand or sleep in that tiny corner behind his screen, facing his wall – in India, perhaps a Holy Man; in America, a problem of Flesh. A body nonconforming to its designated space. But couldn’t the Boss care enough about HIM, in all else impeccable, to allow this? But of course not, No, we all know the Answer: Harrumph harrumph, suppose everyone made such a request? If you allow one, you open the door to everyone. Barbarism! Anarchy! Thus Bartleby threatens the End of Civilization as we know it.
(And no, I don’t want to share my apartment with any of the homeless people who hang out, drinking & bullshitting, on my backporch. I’m tired of cleaning up the cigarette butts & bottles & occasional diarrhea piles they leave behind – I would prefer not! – and when I was homeless I knew such a request was hopeless, also. The “hopelessness of remedying excessive & organic ill.”)
Only the Usable are Useful. Despair tells us: Be a Gear, or Die.
Maybe he was a Poet – like “the mettlesome Byron” - a Romantic w/out Byron’s wealth or social rank, or even talent! Doomed!
“Because he will NOT be a vagrant.” Ironically noted, Bartleby clung within the walls of Human Culture, a Law Office at any rate; descent into the streets, he “preferred not.” Not a genuine Bum, that is, not even the alleycat hole of the outcast was his home. He stood aloof, elite, impassively superior; unlike us multitudes of pliable confusion: He knew who he was.
And in The Tombs, end of the line, visited by the Boss, he stood in the small prison yard, stared at the high wall.
ν -- “Look there is the sky, and here is the grass.’
ν -- “I know where I am.”
An American writer, Joe Napora, sent me some Dickens’ quotes from G.K. Chesterton’s Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men. On America, Dickens said: “I do fear that the heaviest blow ever dealt at liberty will be dealt by this country, in the failure of its example on the earth.”
On NPR’s March 3 Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me quiz show, the host read from a Knight- Ridder news release on that week’s reopening of the Statue of Liberty, closed to the Public since 9/11; the monument was described as “a big green woman who invites you to climb to the top of her head,” from the earth of her bare feet to her airy brain via a spinal staircase.
Is this not breathtaking? Is this not heartbreaking?
What America was supposed to be. What Life on our Planet was supposed to be. What happened? What have We done to Her, what have They done to Us, what went so unbearably WRONG?
Bartleby – Melville, of course, who killed the Whale; or Coleridge, who killed the Albatross – deep inside their eyes, the Vision of the Black Hole behind America’s official optimism, our global Boosterism: the Wall of Wealth is built with the bodies of Earth made usable, but then they die, and then they rot. Power rots, and it really stinks. They tell us that stink is the price of our survival.
And some of us will go into the bizness of Perfume.
And some of us will
ENGEL: Marriage is supposed to be about property and legal rights, but people seem to need it for other reasons as well. The recent attempts of gay and lesbian couples to marry are rooted in something deeper than who owns what. Marriage, whether religious or civil, seems to confer a legitimacy upon a relationship that “just living together,” for no matter how long, does not.
MOR: My marriage skills equate my cooking skills (people who know me are laughing hysterically in Hell at this question) – and that is Zip.
I believe in Mating, and Relationships; Western patriarchal marriage as the monolithic norm of social organization is the problem. John Borneman and Laurie Kain Hart, authors of the Washington Post essay, are anthropologists. Anthropology shows us that marriage systems, like all human systems, emerge first as psychobioregional responses: people develop what they need for maximum survival and hope of flourishment within a given terrain, climate, economy of plant, animal and other natural resources. We are first an extended family, or matrifocal clan; then a tribe; then several tribes. Relations are one-on-one, and that between biological parents is rarely the most important: a stable context for the growth & education of the young, as Borneman and Hart describe, is primary, and it’s been achieved in many creative & wise ways throughout human history, none of them called “the nuclear family.”
Religious & cultural Imperialism – the imposition, via guns & Bible, of One Way upon converts and colonies, despite Variant Reality – has been a disaster, and has succeeded because of the disaster: destroyed indigenous networks, demoralization and self-alienation by foreign rules & ideas, enslavement or exile of the soul and body within a once native context now redefined as occupied territory. “Marriage,” in this scenario, has functioned among American Indians, African slaves, 3rd World colonies in the same way it functioned among the pagan European tribes: as a tool of state regulation, thence inculcated into self-restriction and mutual oppression.
As for the Nukular Family, I view it thru a 19th and 20th c. radical feminist lens. Patriarchal marriage depends on female virginity 1) to guarantee paternity of offspring, and 2) to guarantee wifely ignorance of any sex style other than her husband’s. I.e. her ignorance is his bliss: she has no comparative tool (so to speak). Female knowledge of sexuality, specifically our own, is the major Judeo-Christian-Islamic taboo: the female, not Dumb by Nature, must be made so by Law. Further, the female not helpless by Nature must be made dependent by Law. Marriage exists via the legal, religious and economic non-existence of women. This is why 19th century women were so brave to defy the institution, their extramarital choices being spinsterhood, poverty unto death, and/or prostitution. Women always worked; medieval guilds included female artisans (until the Inquisition listed them as heretical); but women’s entry into the late 19th and 20th c. workforce was revolutionary: with a paycheck, they no longer had to marry to survive. Women and men entering marriage voluntarily, rather than by coercion, should enhance the institution; if not, some people blame “Western freedom,” while others question the institution. (Gay marriage performs the same challenge as feminism: we reject patriarchy’s urge to control us via its clutch on our genitals.)
The Cleaver/Brady suburban cartoon norm called “family life” we all know exists
to sell detergent and cereal boxes. The “nuclear family” is a 20th c. invention, really a post-WW2 phenomenon that came into being out of the need to build a peacetime economy out of home appliances & automobiles; before that, 2 adults were rarely alone inside 4 tight walls with their progeny and piles of debt; rather, they were surrounded by extended family, many hands to help in housework and in fields, women and men engaged in hard labor dignified by their mutual respect and respect for the earth (a respect that had survival value). Extended families, akin to tribal life, were the basis of American society; the modern marriage “breakdown” has not come via “female freedom”, but via the condensation of this clan model into isolated 2 parent households, far from built-in networks of childcare, healthcare, every kind of mutual assistance based on kinship, not money. The major factor in the disintegration of modern family life is not “sex” but – listen to the words – “the cost of living.” (Not to mention this nuclear family model is the most ecologically destructive possible; every person their own toilet bowl, washer & drier, refrigerator and computer does create 21st c. “individuality” but this Individual as a Consumer is swallowing the Earth.) So what was the question…?
What is Marriage?
What we all would want, that ideal, “the Marriage of True Minds.” The hieros gamos, good sex, good conversation, good intention.
Good comprehension, that is, of both Solitude and Union.
This could never be something enforced by Law, although we know Law historically strives to forbid it. A man who listens to his Woman is not listening to his God, hint hint.
In The Masks of God, Vol. 4, Creative Mythology, Joseph Campbell describes the invention, in the 12-13th c. West, of Romantic Love. The groovy Troubadour and Trouvere cultures of southern France, in their leisure and abundance, playing with new toys brought back from the exotic Orient by the Crusaders: love poetry, incense, hashish, the prototype of the guitar, Erotic Attraction as Art and Game. They were highclass hippies on the edge of The Inquisition; no doubt they provoked the Fires, the revenge of nasty celibate men against lusty Nature (echoed in today’s religious fundamentalists & political reactionaries, people who went thru the 60s as unlaid nerds; who won’t rest until Inquisition Redux: think Ashcroft, think Scalia, think DeLay). Knighthood and Courtly Love are the flowering of this pagan Celtic/Gallic imaginary culture. Because the female was typically married to someone else, she and her lover sought a marriage of true bodies outside the marriage bed; and this remains our literary archetype of the time. But in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, there’s a story of a marriage of true minds between 2 people actually married to each other. It’s stunning: The Franklin’s Tale. A man and wife relating by mutual honor & respect, overcoming all via “noble behavior” and “generous magnanimity” – a courageous matrimonial trust that changes the behavior of all around them. Arveragus and his lady Dorigen actually make marriage look cool. Notably, this is not a Christian tale; the setting is Armorica, now Brittany in northwest France, a Bretonic Gaelic region.
The couple inherits pagan Celtic tradition, e.g. rules of marriage as recorded in the
Seancchus Mor, where upper status male and female each brings to the marriage their horse & their sword. A marriage of equals, that is. Marriage lasts one year and one day; at the end of that time, if both desire to remain together, their vows are renewed. If either wants to end the mating, it is ended. Property reverted each to each, what she brought into the marriage she takes with her, and he also. Small children stayed with the mother; in fact they were raised, as all children, by the essential tribe. A mating of true minds can only happen, that is, if each partner is true, and has a mind.
The Franklin’s Tale is interesting also in that it references pagan or “heathen” science, both astronomy and astrology, climatology and wizardry, oceanography and incantation. Which brings us around to Question #1: before and surrounding “Western science” there were other modes of science. Before and surrounding Patriarchal and Biblical marriage, human beings had other ways, just as effective and reasonable in pursuit of social coherence, stable life for children, companionship and guidance thru the stages of life and conversation with death.
But here we are now,
in the WeirdWiredWest, where each of us is strangely a Clone and an Alien,
both at once. Uniform, and estranged. A marriage, in this situation, can be
the only sane, humane island in a psychotic sharky sea. The spectacle of
True Minds finding &meeting each other, mating & helping each other amidst
this Terminal Opera, is rare, but when it happens – and I’ve known of a few
such True Marriages, yours among them – well, it’s a beautiful thing.
Adam Engel can be reached at email@example.com. His book Topiary will be serialized in upcoming editions of Dissident Voice. (c) 2004 Adam Engel
Other Articles by Adam Engel
The Man in
the Black Suit: Potentially Dangerous Citizens
* I Hope My Corpse Gives You The Plague
* MAN Talk
* U.S. Troops Outta Times Square
Gravity’s End Zone