Friday, October 3, 2014

Treasure Map as Story; Story as Treasure Map

Your earliest and most significant reading experiences involved quests for treasures, caches of coins, bullion, jewels, meant for the continued wealth and enjoyment of a privileged few.  The stories seemed to suggest to your young sensitivities that the privileged few were up to no good.  They got more pleasure from counting these riches than any aesthetic awareness.

Along came rebellious forces, who were seen by the privileged few as being about to steal or divert these treasures, then put them to wicked use or to indulge lifestyles of indolence.  So far as you could tell, this was little more than those of privilege wanting to keep their lifestyle of indolence  for themselves, and to hell with the boorish rebels.

History has provided us with any number of privileged classes and of the inevitability of the rebellious classes who are driven to the point where, each in its own way, they call the grand halt.

This us-them dialectic was high adventure to your boyish self, in its way leading to the formation of your political views as well as feeding your literary tastes.  

Watching the deepening articulation of Marxist issues between privileged and rebellious classes amused you until you began to admire the more cynical undertones of such treasures as Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.  

There, you got your descriptions and mystery but also the possibility of a hoax or, better still, of some agency unknown to the privileged and rebel classes along the way, getting away with the loot.

Much as you enjoyed treasures, you enjoyed mystery, motive, opportunity.  You look for hoaxes within the scriptures and scripture within the hoax.   You also began to root for the loners, whose personal politics were more interesting to you than the more generic ones in which coalition becomes such a necessity and insanity such an inevitability.

This was almost more than you could bear when you first met the iconic character of Yossarian in Joseph Heller's magisterial romp, Catch-22, wherein the varied systems of bureaucracies and entitlement reached the few necessary steps beyond George Orwell's 1984 to the point where they began gaming themselves and everything in their path.

Yossarian was after the most precious treasure of all, Selfhood and the courage to understand it.  By the time you'd read him for the first time, you'd had dealings with a handful of men and women scattered through American and European story, searching for that treasure of Selfhood and in the course of the search, discovering where to dig within themselves.

No wonder story has taken on the potential of a treasure map for you.  By following the young, middle-aged, and elderly with whom you recognize a chemistry, you are able to see how each age plateau has its own encounter with a relevant catch-22.  

By close reading and checking cultural landmarks to see if they are worthwhile or, as The Maltese Falcon, bogus, you are able to keep  on some triangulated course whereby your discoveries are not of the bogus but of the sort cached away by writers and poets for relief along the perilous way.

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