Tuesday, June 3, 2014

In the Beginning Was Argument, Mystery, and Hidden Meanings

You were born into a culture with a tradition of argument, mystery, and hidden meanings.  Along the way, you became interested in and attracted to another culture with a caste system, goddesses with four, eight, and sixteen arms, and a belief in reincarnation.

You are not a card-carrying member of either; both represent the sort of associations and identities one must, you believe, sample on one's journey toward arriving at a personal altar, with artifacts from the world about and within, made powerful by one's own imagination and reach.

Associations and institutions wish to sign us up, issue us identity cards, charge us dues, vaccinate us with types of guilt and obedience to codes of behavior called morality.

The orthodox among the culture of your birth believe it a taboo to eat a meal in which dairy dishes and meat dishes are served on the same plate, eaten simultaneously, handled by the same utensils.  Nor should you at any time eat shellfish, and forget about a rack of pork ribs

A senior swami in the culture not of your birth but of your interest told you about the qualms he had to overcome when, as a young novice, he was served a meal with onions.  Being at one time a nice Hindu boy of the upper-tier Brahman caste, he was educated to believe that foods such as onions caused a condition of rajas or agitation, a condition frowned upon in comparison to foods that were sattvic or tending toward the more contemplative.Indeed, he was raised to believe the personality of the food handler and preparer could have a measurable effect on the consumer of the food.  Your best comparison point for this theory of his is to be found in meals served on airplane flights.  Every time you eat such a meal, you experience thoughts of disaster.

Although you have had academic status for nearly half your life, you are by no means an academic.  You share with your friends who are academics a state beyond being suspicious of faculty meetings and matters of the academic senate, rather a condition of skepticism mixed with irreverence and amusement.  You admire the person of true curiosity, one who is bound to investigate previously unconnected dots, testing and questioning conventional vehicles and modes of transportation beyond established boundaries.

In consequence, your interest lags in persons who are part of some large association or institution and who are comfortable to remain comfortable.  You prefer the lone wolf, the marginal man or woman who has come to the religion or academy or profession because of the potential for discovery within that association or institution.

You prefer the individual with whom you might well not get along with in most circumstances, an individual you recognize as one who is as uncomfortable within the association as you no doubt would be.  You can trust such individuals in ways you would not trust individuals who are comfortable.

Authors whose work intrigues and excites you may not be persons whose politics and personal life would afford you any pleasure.  This, you believe, is the essential nature of story, which may and often does trump the author and which may and often does trump Reality.

You have yet to be convinced about reincarnation, although you can see some practical reasons for some of the goddesses having more than the human pair of arms.  Even this morning, as you drank coffee and argued with a friend, you noticed the crux of the arguments had to do with mystery and hidden meanings.

This is why your friend writes.  This is surely why you do--to prise out the mystery and hidden meanings of words in story.


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