Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Stark Clarities, The Folded Bone, The Horrible Locution--Father Will In From The Violent Storm

[A violent storm moves toward Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, Mexico and its central church, La Iglesia de San Jose, August 16, 2009. Click on the photo to enlarge the image. Photo by Warren Falcon]

Pretext

O
f storms and absolution at the outset, a context for Father Will, for us all as we fall with our Falling Star:

We know mythically that violent storms have served the offended Higher Powers to destroy old and no longer viable divine and human (cultural) orders. These storms arrive, post-destruction, to restore, renew, relink Creative Power(s) with creation and from that tempestuous interaction, with culture. It can be said, then, that culture is a crime of passion for even the gods fight amongst themselves (as they should for it is from this divine conflict that the "10,00 things" of creation are manifest), are subject to an Order/Disorder which we humans continually try to divine from which neither the gods nor we can escape, as poet Mark Strand writes, now "hurled down against the flat stones of our lives." Gods, too, are hurled down upon those stone tablets, unyielding codes, calcified cosmologies representing the flat world of old orders no longer viable because they cannot accommodate the horrific fact of their own shadow (projected upon creatures/creations), the shadow of the institutions formed around them, and of what humans with their brilliant but deadly shadows have been able to technologically create and in the creating awaken globally destructive powers. As our gods are so are our determined destructions. Our annihilating bombs along with our balms are images of our contrary and contradictory gods. It is we and creation who suffer them.

Thus we are startled awake, overwhelmed in this age of authentic anxiety, of pandemic sleep disorders, of pathological gods (Jung says our gods now show up as pathologies, as symptoms), their religions and our consequent spiritual bypasses warily, scarily aware of this cosmic set up in this crushing, cranking cosmological turn of the Wheel since the old and current centers and the meaning they once provided do not, apparently will not, hold because they carry internally their own apocalyptic seeds of destruction in order to be renewed, a process en perpetua, called renaissance, which is a hope but not a guarantee or given. We are in this condition where "the center cannot hold...things fall apart," to quote William Butler Yeats. Carl Jung indicates that we are moving through the threshold of chaos and kairos:

"A mood of universal destruction and renewal has set its mark on our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called the KAIROS - The Right Moment - for a “metamorphosis of the gods”, of the fundamental principles and symbols... So much is at stake and so much depends on the psychological constitution of the modern human.” -C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self

"Kairos is the passing moment in which something happens as the time unfolds...it is a small window of becoming and opportunity. One of the origins of the word comes from shepherds watching the stars. As the night progresses and the stars turn in the sky, they appear to rise and then fall against the horizon. The moment when a star has reached its apogee and appears to change direction from ascending to descending is its kairos." --Corrigall, J, Payne, H, Wilkinson, H (eds), About A Body, 2006: pg. 201

Like it or not, Father Will expresses/compresses/distresses within this context of chaos and kairos, the falling star of our Aeon (symbolically, stars represent particular points and specific constellations/apparitions of consciousness). In so doing he speaks for us all though we may hide our heads in bestseller, consumerist New Age and similar sands, vacuous, temporary spiritualish confections, or alternately/alternatively, calcified and calcifying Fundamentalist invectives and insurrections, denial or bile by any other name, sympathetic magic flailing or doctrinaire dogma flagellating against the tragic condition of gods and man, self-righteous fingers or hand folded namastes pointing actively or passively at the scapegoated causes. This understandable but narcotic narcissism in the end will not lead us through this nekyia ("night sea journey") like Odysseus to that newly discovered inland terra firma where we must plant our hand hewn oar carried far from familiar seas and shores.

The fullness of this time, Kairos of the falling star (which is a violent storm, indeed), of cultural/cosmological dis-aster (meaning, ill-starred), is reliant upon human capacities such as they are, but effective enough, to proclaim, reclaim and proceed to ongoingly integrate shadow, human and divine, for it is the work not only of egos but of eras. It is also a time to grow equally enduring capacities for disorder, for chaos so as not to blame or punish gods, Nature nor humans for what appears to be a primary given of existence, entropy, which is inevitable social, physical and energetic decline and degeneration. In tandem with entropy there are or can be evolving human capacities for what I call syntropy where we may more consciously witness and participate in the inexorable falling apart while keeping meaning-threads in mindful hands while winding and finding our way within and potentially out of one labyrinthine Wheel Turn into newer ones of potentially creative/destructive formations. Ensuing personal, collective and cosmological gains may be derived from willful Time's twining whorl and wheal* for this Fateful ordeal of inevitable wandering is imposed by appointed rising and falling stars, ours and our cultures' scars the signatures of their greater impositions.

Ah, but now I hear Father Will growling, "But who or what is it appoints the stars?"

[* "wheal -- mark made on the skin by a whip," 1808, probably an alteration of wale, possibly by confusion with weal "welt," and obsolete wheal "pimple, pustule" (1440), from O.E. verb hwelian"to form pus, bring to a head."


[Portrait of Arthur Schopenhauer, the 1800's German philosopher and inspiration for our Father Will who reappears in this month's essay to quarrel, and in quarreling make confession, with Existenz, his own, mine, the Church's, the New Age and more because of and amidst the persistent agonies. Father Will returns to us here first introduced in my March 2009 Learning For Life Group Newsletter essay also found here on the blogspot (click 'March (2)' under 'Blog Archive'). The retired and retiring, troubled and troubling, goodly Father is a composite character, a convenient and necessary fiction drawn from my practice comprised of many, composed by one. I've chosen his name, Father Will, to signify Human Volition, Will to Power/Will to Cower in homage to Schopenhauer who wrote The World As Will And Representation (To get a sense of his philosophy go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer). However, any resemblance to an actual person is completely accidental unless it is an oblique locution referring to me. Credit for the painting here of Herr Schopenhaeur is from wikipedia online: "This portrait of Schopenhauer was painted in April 1859 by J. Lunteschutz...This image... is in the public domain because its copyright has expired."


Further Pretexts for Absence:

Artaud warns his readers and listeners that each person who knows conflict and seeks to grow, must expect a shearing of flesh and a letting go of blood in the act of life which is a cruelty.

To be you can let yourself go until you just exist,
but to live,
you must be someone,
to be someone,
you must have a Bone,
not be afraid to show the bone
and to lose the meat by the wayside.

And what is infinity?
We do not know exactly.
It is a word
which we use
to indicate
WIDENING
of our consciousness
toward the inordinate,
inexhaustible and inordinate
feasibility.

...but there is one thing
which is something,
only one thing
which is something,
that I feel
wants to
COME OUT:
the presence
of my bodily
pain,

the menacing
never increasing
presence
of my
body.

To live meant to Artaud--to act, to hurt and be hurt, to experience fully joy and pain, and in so doing, to mold, create--and recreate oneself in the process..."I hate and renounce as a coward every being who consents to live without first having created himself."

--from Artaud, Man of Vision, Bettina L. Knapp, First Swallow Press / Ohio University Press edition 1980, from the Preface, pg. 217-218, pg. 214

And if the babe is born a boy
He’s given to a woman old,
Who nails him down upon a rock,
Catches his shrieks in cups of gold. -- William Blake***

Obit anus, abit onus ("The old woman dies, the burden is lifted") --Arthur Schopenhauer****

According to Julia Kristeva in the Powers of Horror, the abject refers to the human reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. The primary example for what causes such a reaction is the corpse (which traumatically reminds us of our own materiality); however, other items can elicit the same reaction: the open wound, shit, sewage, even the skin that forms on the surface of warm milk.--from a Purdue University web article:
The abject for Kristeva is, therefore, closely tied both to religion and to art, which she sees as two ways of purifying the abject: "The various means of purifying the abject—the various catharses—make up the history of religions, and end up with that catharsis par excellence called art, both on the far and near side of religion".

--http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/psychoanalysis/kristevaabject.html

At times one might say: "In the beginning there was nourishment."

At times one might say: "In the beginning there was catastrophe."

Bion's writings give voice to the traumatized self. If Walt Whitman sings the body electric and catalogues joys of self, Bion details what it is like for self to be electrocuted and to continue as the remains...Destruction turns up and screaming substitutes for satisfaction. Bion is most keenly Bion in depicting destructive transformations of the scream as link. He is particularly master of the fading scream, the scream that dies forever, background radiation of spaceless space, the dispersed scream...Silence explodes...From nourishment to explosive wipe-out."

--from Damaged Bonds, Michael Eigen, H. Karnac (Books) Ltd, 2001, pgs. 29-30

In a field I am the absence of field. --Mark Strand

Becoming and transformation are tasks imposed on man by Fate, working both from within and without him, and this is something which man becomes aware of at the turning points, the crises of his existence. In so far as man experiences such crises with anxiety and under the image of inescapable death he also experiences himself as one disposed by nature to transcend his existence as it is at any moment and to experience and express previously unknown possibilities.

-- The Dream and the Underworld, James Hillman, New York: Harper & Row, 1979, pg. 113

This essay is dedicated to dearly departed Karen Eberle, Tien Ho, Walter Schell, and last but not at all least, the astonishing Marianne Annur:

"It means so much that we can be broken..." --Raul Voz, from Las Poemas Cornadas (The Cornada Poems)


*************************************************************
*************************************************************

Bone Texts--Enter Father Will
.
He has an impulse to confess more than is likely.--Randall Potts

Our path is a path of roses, but it is also a way of thorns.
--Father Giovanni Melchior Bosco, now canonized, of the Salesian Society

I am walking among the emerald trees
in the night without end.-- Mark Strand



W
hen Father Will arrived for session after yet another extended retreat to the desert hermitage in the American West he was subdued.

"My text was Mark Strand," says he.

"Stranded, huh?" I wink.

An amused groan. A shrug. "Completely in the dark this time. Not the luminous journey beneath the desert stars I had hoped for. Absence. Cold. Absolute. My bones hurt from such emptiness. If they were straws to suck on they would collapse, bend inward upon themselves too weak to crack. Fold they would. I am, as it were...folded."

We remain quiet for awhile.

His silences flay me. Viscera exposed without any drama. Well, not much. Mute. But not numb. Rather, more feelingly alive, as Rilke says, "beneath 'the more deeply untellable stars' (Ninth Duino Elegy).

Old men lose drama, I think. They simply fold. What then from the folding?

"I always expect, expect, expect...but eventually fold into circumspection. I chase my tail in circles like a miserable cur stupidly spinning in one spot without dignity before flopping into a body curl, nose to haunch, canine yoga, dumbly pleased...(bemused)...And dumb. Did I say dumb yet? After all these years?...humiliating, really...Ah, what a pity party I am today." He smiles sadly. "But I'm catching hold of that tail...beneath those cold, blinking stars above...that goddamned, even colder Bone Cabin. Jeez...(musing)...What bones I be?...they caper in dreams alone, and free... where I wish to god-a-mighty... for once, O Solitude, to...to remain dreamless... for a little while...just a little, y'know...Can't an old man...a Catholic priest, for god sakes, go for awhile...without dreams?"

More Rilke, his epitaph, comes to mind but I keep still and quote to myself silently,

O Rose. O pure contradiction.
Delight to be no one's sleep beneath
so many eyelids.

I see the old Duino poet tenderly working his beloved later roses in Muzot. He winces, brings a finger to his mouth, sucks blood drawn by a fateful thorn, a slight smile for the hazardous love of roses, this small cut a reminder of the greater gash which opened the floodgates of poetry in him. This tiny wound on a late summer day bloomed into an infection, septicemia, which killed him:

O Rose...
I address the Rose...
Poets embrace irony between
The petal
and the thorn, one's infectious
Absence a lover's flag of surrender,

"No one's sleep beneath so many eyelids.
"

Dissent no more,
Yield the insistent argument of
Dirt no longer animal.

I listen. I empty out though Father Will's words fill me richly.

When I can empty I hover between attentions, solar plexus opening. Running. Returning. Hear and feel those desert winds blowing through. I pull a shawl around my shoulders. Reach for the hot tea in the more meaningful cup, its unquestioning solidity.

This harrowing wind carves out the space between and around us. Vast sky and earth open out. One shouts over the silence portended in such immensity, to hear a howling wind a mercy then, a reference point amidst the disorientation with all directions spinning away, sounding:

"Father Will... Father Will...Father Will...forty years serving the most weary and wretched of human souls in the most desolate famine places, in war's most wasted erasures of human face after human face after human face, uncomprehending events of erasure, of becoming absent, once and no more (Rilke again) and yet to be as he, the face that remains after the unfathomable, uncountable erasures? What then, beneath 'the more deeply untellable stars'?"

In his book, Damaged Bonds, psychoanalyst Michael Eigen gives us an image for such erasures, the perpetual presencing of absence depicted in
the startling, heartbreaking image of one who is electrocuted yet survives as the ongoing, unending, remnant scream, a horrible locution. Or, Father Will's approximations, a folded bone. Or remaining a living face in the face of human erasures by the unknown, untold thousands, one's very presence, Father Will's, a reminder of faces lost, absent yet present in a most terrible gape. What locution can say any of this? What poetic device? What form of therapy or religion can get near much less stand against or stay with such absenting-as-a-verb, ongoing erasure, unending evacuation?

Heart broken and breaking in it's endless capacity to do so, binding up my own folded bones loosely, o loosely, butterfly netting my own post-sparked scream, breathing into the empty space of ongoing erasure I bear witness. I must. I will. Can I?

I must.

I watch my own gathering defenses against Nothingness hammering at the barricades, my impulsive, natural stiff-arming away, or trying, the scraping defacement, the depersonalizing isolation, the waiting on the narrow ridge, the liminal plank stretched over the sucking drink [the unfathomable depth], the unknowing unutterable which begs to be said, moved, demonstrated, given form, not guarded against--build a fence around it it yet remains the Void. Funny to have that word for such a thing which is no thing at all--enter Groucho Marx, eyes rolling, cigars blazing, "You said the Void, you got the boid."

To be present one must entertain (wrong word! wrong word!) absence, erasure, caesura, fall through and into the stark clarities, the resisted fogs. Once familiar knowns, real then, are now chimerical.
With haruspicate hiccups, with hallowed hysterics, with magical passes we in the human analgesia trade ease and/or appease such voiding striving to drive away that which encroaches or more horrifyingly wells up from within and around us, kith, kin, klan, kulture, even worse, konjurers. We a-void this voiding with platitudes and cures all too quickly tapping and hypnotizing, reducing-exorcising-excising history, the past, the symptom. And we call it cure, absolution, salvation, enlightenment. Or adjustment. Or even more absurdly, citizenship.


What replaces in disorientation? What displaces one's foot on the straining liminal plank when one is haplessly pushed by Fate, or stumbles, or purposely leaps, falls, drops into dizzying isolated spins to become lost in order to gain, one hopes, another--The--Orientation, True North, a foothold, a toehold even, in the Void? how does one remain present with that one who returns to you a surviving scream, a folded bone? Where is the witness, the with-ness, then? A therapist, a guide, a zen master, a guru, a pastor, a priest, a rebbe, a doctor, a psychoanalyst and other wheezing analgesics like me are loans then against the client's nothingness, the client who banks upon your/my realness/reality until the folded bone, O Ezekiel, O Koan, connects to another bone (me) and another then another all born of desertion or theft or loss or death of historical knowns, nostrums and formulas in order to grow more substantial Bone, little death by little death, to arrive at a more enlivened, embodied Bone-soul retreaded for more grab in the Void until the final summing spin.

Father Will and I hang together, beside--like the two Biblical thieves, two opposing attitudes present at once in the Hanged Man proposing surrender, both blessing and cursing--between the "Why has Thou forsaken me?" of the God-man on the Golgotha Tree and the "Gate Gate Parasamgate"--Gone Gone Gone Beyond--of remotest Siddhartha
Gautama riveted to the Bodhi Tree who smiles enigmatically perhaps delighting to be no one's sleep beneath so many eyelids. The joke and yoke upon us, we two thieves, Father Will and me, have both agreed to hang together though he has in the wilderness Bone Cabin endured and broken apart in infernal, internal weather, violent storms which now shake me, fold my bones. Yet somewhere within, a kind of madness it is, there is a soft yet enduring and endearing gratefulness for this shared wound, chronicity, which opens, one hopes, through absence into infinity into Presence. Perchance to find the dream in the remnant scream which is prayer by another name--location arrived from locution.

Father Will opens a book
fetched from a deep cassock pocket, worn, torn like his book, an early work by Mark Strand. He gives me the "listen up, listen close, listen well, listen deep" look to which I nod turning my better ear to hear toward him.

"This was my major text at Bone Cabin," he reports.

He pauses, sips tea, then reads some lines to me from his text, friend to friend, warmly, Autumn darkness coming on, the Harvest moon gathering clouds out the office window. There's going to be rain:

How we wish we were sunning ourselves
In a world of familiar views
And fixed conditions, confined
By what we know, and able to refuse
Entry to the unaccounted for...
We do not feel protected

By the walls, nor can we hide
Before the duplicating presence
Of their mirrors, pretending we are the ones who stare
From the other side, collected
In the glassy air.
A cold we never knew invades our bones.
We shake as though storms were going to hurl us down
Against the flat stones
Of our lives. All other nights
Seem pale compared to this, and the brilliant rise
Of morning after morning seems unthinkable.
Already now the lights
That shared our wakefulness are dimming
And the dark brushes against our eyes.


"Next week?" he asks, slowly standing up.

"Next week."


[Read the entire poem, Violent Storm, below]


****************************************************************


**"Violent Storm" from New Selected Poems by Mark Strand. Copyright © 2007 by Mark Strand. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Violent Storm**

Those who have chosen to pass the night
entertaining friends
And intimate ideas in the bright,
Commodious rooms of dreams
Will not feel the slightest tremor
Or be weakened by what seems
Only a quirk in the dry run
Of conventional weather. For them,
The long night sweeping over these trees
And houses will have been no more than one
In a series whose end
Only the nervous or morbid consider.
But for us, the wide awake, who tend
To believe the worst is always waiting
Around the next corner or hiding in the dry,
Unsteady branch of a sick tree, debating
Whether or not to fell the passerby,
It has a sinister air.
How we wish we were sunning ourselves
In a world of familiar views,
And fixed conditions, confined
By what we know, and able to refuse
Entry to the unaccounted for. For now,
Deeper and darker than ever, the night unveils
Its dubious plans, and the rain
Beats down in gales
Against the roof. We sit behind
Closed windows, bolted doors,
Unsure and ill at ease
While the loose, untidy wind,
Making an almost human sound, pours
Through the open chambers of the trees.
We cannot take ourselves or what belongs
To us for granted. No longer the exclusive,
Last resorts in which we could unwind,
Lounging in easy chairs,
Recalling the various wrongs
We had been done or spared, our rooms
Seem suddenly mixed up in our affairs.
We do not feel protected
By the walls, nor can we hide
Before the duplicating presence
Of their mirrors, pretending we are the ones who stare
From the other side, collected
In the glassy air.
A cold we never knew invades our bones.
We shake as though storms were going to hurl us down
Against the flat stones
Of our lives. All other nights
Seem pale compared to this, and the brilliant rise
Of morning after morning seems unthinkable.
Already now the lights
That shared our wakefulness are dimming
And the dark brushes against our eyes.

For online reading click here or copy and paste:

http://books.google.com/books?id=I9-IBpQfghEC&pg=PT20&lpg=PT20&dq=mark+strand+%2B+reasons+for+moving&source=bl&ots=P6UUyl_bX7&sig=-pTesOGSguae7Z8iHQEIuB6eH6M&hl=en&ei=qODlSrj4GsbUlAepltnoCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=15&ved=0CD4Q6AEwDg#v=onepage&q=&f=false



Reasons For Moving

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole. --Mark Strand

“Keeping Things Whole” from Selected Poems by Mark Strand. Copyright © 1980 by Mark Strand. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.


***
from "The Mental Traveler" by William Blake, Complete Poems of William Blake

****The Marquet Affair:
While in Berlin, Schopenhauer was named as a defendant in an action at law initiated by a woman named Caroline Marquet. She asked for damages, alleging that Schopenhauer had pushed her. Knowing that he was a man of some means and that he disliked noise, she deliberately annoyed him by raising her voice while standing right outside his door. Marquet alleged that the philosopher had assaulted and battered her after she refused to leave his doorway. Her companion testified that she saw Marquet prostrate outside his apartment. Because Marquet won the lawsuit, he made payments to her for the next twenty years. When she died, he wrote on a copy of her death certificate, Obit anus, abit onus ("The old woman dies, the burden is lifted.-http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer#The_Marquet_Affair


"Point of No Return", Collision Center, Randall Potts, O Books (January 1994)

The Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Spender & J.B. Leishman, Norton Press.

Dreams and the Underworld, James Hillman, Harper & Row,

Damaged Bonds, Michael Eigen, Karnac Press



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