Karen Kawa as GOD
#1 Einsteinís Dreams
We achieve what we focus on or we focus on our achievement, which is very different. Maybe the path was not your choice? Now look, where you are. Oh to change time. Time, think about it, play with it, and let it absorb you. Time cannot be defined by our puny efforts. I am humbled. Time is against me. How can I make it my friend? It uses me and bends me to its desires. I want to sneak up on time and wrestle it still, slap it around, silence its cries. No, time is not a child to be disciplined, nor is it a person or thing.
Yet, time does feed the imagination. It is sweet to dream of controlling time as time controls our lives. I can let go of the past. I have that power. Time to move on now. You canít reconstruct without breaking apart first. Do the thing you think you cannot do. It is that simple. Let go the regrets, let go the bitterness. Those choices have been done. Opportunities have been taken, some not. The time is right to face the future.
There certainly are many ways to consider time. An occasion, an era, a measurement, a period, a moment, an instant, forever, endless, boundless, infinite, now, tomorrow, past, then, a dimension. If your world is built on your perceptions, then could you mold time in the same way? Have you ever rushed through your day without enough time to suit you? Or has a passage of time dragged on forever until you were sure each second was an eternity. When I am ill, time creeps to a standstill letting the pain linger too long in my body. When I am happy, the hours vanish. Time disappears leaving only memories and a sweet yearning for what past so quickly
Lightmanís writing is so appealing. Itís so much fun to play with the concept of time. I bet he really had a great time writing this book. Imagine time as a circle or time in fits and starts or the center of time being motionless. People are the pawns of time. Time is the chessboard and Lightman is the master player arranging and rearranging. His style is always flowing even when time doesnít. His use of imagery and nature works so well at the turn of the century instead of the dirty, rushed world of the present.
What would Einstein be like if he were alive today? What would he think? Would his scientific quests be different? Of course, our science is based on his theories. What would he ponder. Einstein, the original critical thinker. Perhaps he would have retreated to the mountains, searching for a quiet place to think and consider great thoughts. "A life is a moment in a season." Everything is lived to the fullest, the deepest regrets, moments of perfect harmony, the richest loves and the heaviest sorrows. Does this make time standstill or speed along.? Would Einstein have these thoughts? Is time only a matter of measurement?
This reminds me of Giocomettiís work. Time froze in his sculptures, capturing the keenest of a single emotion. Yet this people are all moving, passing through their existence yet trapped in their time. There is movement and the passage of time, a going somewhere, a purpose but also a stop. Time travel is not for the weak. How do people ever connect when so many things get in the way. You might not even realize that you have missed a connection. Yet a regret builds inside, a feeling you canít put words to, a sense of loss, something out of reach. Time should be a visible dimension.
Peaking into someoneís mind is kind of scary, isnít it? Especially if that person has crossed an unmentionable line, sex with a parent. Incest is repulsive to most people. It is without question, a shocking act. Does Nin care what others think? She doesnít seem to have regrets and she is not judging herself. I applaud her courage.
Nin is a steel wall. Miller said that and I believe it. She is an island, an impenetrable fortress. Yet, her level of awareness invites notice. She is simmering yet untouchable. "I must let myself flow multilaterally." That touches me. Nin must play multiple roles in her own drama. She is an observer of herself and how others relate to her. Nin is a player in her own drama, not an easy task to undertake with any sort of objectivity. And I do think she is looking to be objective about her exploration. She is a character in the novel playing in her own head. Does that make sense? She is at once involved and detached. Perhaps that was her survival mechanism.
I wonder if Nin thought in images. Some people do, you know. It was as if her life was a documentary and she had to put words to the pictures. I wonder what Nin thought of films. Is it because she gives the reader a glimpse into her thought process that makes us wonder even more what she thought of this and that.
It is considerable more interesting not to be judgmental. You could almost say that it is enlightening not to be moralistic. The reader gets an opportunity to examine incest. I thank Nin for that. No matter how loudly my morality shakes a finger at me, I find myself drawn into her world, her logic. She makes a spell on us both, she with her confesses and me with my voyeurism. I would have enjoyed meeting her although I would have left my husband at home. Neptune and magnetism, no thank you. Nin regrets very little. For being so obsessed with her own emotions, she never seems to care about anyone elseís feelings. Perhaps I would have sent him on a trip far away from her.
Nin is annoying yet she is a seductress. Her inner world is so full of contradictions, love the one youíre with. It becomes tiresome in its intensity. She is in love and out of love faster than Einsteinís time plays. This is her defination of time, a moment-by-moment study of sensationalism. She indulges in every feeling, every passion. Her life is a tabloidís lead story. Princess Di meets Annis Nin. Palace Rocks! Charlesís secret Affair Reveal. I am at once repulsed and intrigued. This is high drama.
Nin must have realized while she was writing that others would read her diary. Sometimes, I find her work to be so calculating. A coldness creeps is. It seems as if there is no warmth in her. Is she capable of doing a kind act for anyone just for the sake of the act itself? Annis Nin is unsympathatic to others. Maybe or maybe she just chooses not to write about that side of her character. For all her writing about feelings, there is such an impersonal quality. Perhaps that is just my judge influencing my because of her subject matter. I find I canít even think about her relationship with her father. I draw a blank there. I donít wish to think about it. Its funny how some things will always remain taboos and matter what state the current culture is in.
Ask yourself if you could survive a Siberian work camp? Honestly, could you? You would have to look deep down in yourself to really examine what you are made of. What would it take to survive?
Life truth: "There is work and work. Itís like the two ends of a stick. If youíre working for human beings, then do a real job of it, but if you work for dopes, then you just go through the motions." This is applicable in the office. I will think of that the next time the place reminds me of a work camp. This book is full of useful survival tips. It is the manual of a survival mentality. No more, no less, that is the key to continued existence
The story like the place is stark and bleak and filled with its own perverse sense of humor. This is a kind of death camp humor thatís also part of the survival ritual. We get little treasures of wisdom like when youíre freezing donít expect sympathy from someone whose warm, and beat a dog once and you only have to show him the whip. And my personal favorite, itís better to be thrifty than wealthy. It is the rational of someone who has nothing. It is the mindset of a survivor
This is all very good advice for a place where one slight infraction will earn you another 10 years. The book has a fractured fairytale quality to it. How do they manage to keep alive? How do the bare the misery? How does one keep hope alive? Shukhov absorbs himself in details like Nin worked her emotions, clinging to the depths of her reality. She was a survivor also.
In the eternity of the work camp, details fill the monotony. Time in the labor camp is intimately linked to survival. Each second is loaded with life or death. Shukhov throws himself into the work. Harder and faster, he pushes himself. It is his only escape. When time slows, hard backbreaking working stops the hunger and cold and misery from overcoming him.
Focus is everything. Put one foot in front of the other. Will the body and spirit to go on. His world is more than Spartan. The prisonerís world is a complex, alien environment that demands a survivor be keenly observant and shrewd, a cunning opportunist who must not hesitate to act or not act. You can see who is going to make it and who wonít.
I am struck by the customs and habits of the prison culture. Never spit your fish bones on the floor. It is rude. Spite them on the table. Eventually, someone will push them off on the floor. That is proper etiquette. Where would bad manners get you in the work camp? Shukhov says that the law of the land is the first to go are those who lick out the bowls. That is a truth I hope none of us ever has to test. I wonder if a prisoner would find US prisons to be luxurious.
Shukhovís day ends well with extra food and tobacco. Imagine if this had been the story of a bad day. He is very pleased with his good luck of the day. It is almost a happy ending in that perverse place. This compels us to reexamine our own defination of happiness.
Do you use your head or your heart to create your world? A little of both I think. This book also deals with living in the moment as we saw in the others. Goldmund says, "it is better not to think too much, to take things as they come." Shukhov might agree. As Ivan Denisovich clung to his routines as survival tools, so Goldmund forsakes the religious orders routines on his path of discovery. He is looking for his mother or rather what his mother represents.
Mother dreams, what does the mother image represent to the child? Does everyone have mother dreams except for Narcissus? He is the analytical one of the pair. Actually the word rigid comes to mind. His journey is well mapped, every move anticipated and calculated. What does the mother image mean to him? I think it is an empty hole in Narcissus, a vacancy that he looks to fill vicariously through Goldmund.
This story could convert into a sci fi tale. You know, the hero has been in some terrible laboratory accident and a horrible mishap has blown him apart. Only he is not dead. There are two sides to him now that run off in opposite directions. One hides in a room, while the other escapes into the near by subway system. Only to be caught in a maze of tunnels under the city. The fellow in the room is too afraid to leave and the other is too confused to find his way. Perhaps we are all rate in the maze of our own invention. Back to the story. After a lifetime of fear and confusion, the two halves stumble onto each other accidentally and are made complete. But soon they realize some things are lost forever. One dies and the other is dead inside.
Except, there are those rare people who can be apart for a very long time and come back together and pick up their conversation as if they had only moments ago taken a break from it. Soul mates by my defination, are two people who grow together. They do not spend a lifetime without each other. They are part of each otherís process of discovery. They make mistakes together. They have fun and they hate each other and they love each other but what ever they do they do it together. It sounds like a sappy love song but it is so.
Narcissus and Goldmund are in love with the images of each other. They carry these ideals with them like sacred visions of perfection. They have no other needs. If they did, they would have found each other years before. Is it pride that keeps them apart or fear of reality? Lifeless illusions donít fill the soul. Ivan Denisovich might be locked into his hell of survival and Annis Nin might be wallowing in her measured sexuality but these characters represent more life and living than Narcissus and Goldmund are capable of.
Time and distance certainly do not seem like a factor in their relationship. Absence as the saying goes, in this case does make the heart grow fonder.
# 5 Lolita
Nabokov is a stylist of great talent. Yet, when sexual perversity gets in full swing, it is still hard to take. The reader is asked to sympathize with Humbert, to take his side. Is he the victim? Surely he argues that we should be able to recognize his basically good nature and see for ourselves how Clare Quilty is the guilty one. Since the story is told from Humbertís point of view, we get a rare glimpse of the workings of a pathological mind. I can understand how such analysis could be intriguing to a writer but for the reader??? Does the story evoke an intellectual curiosity? For some, I would imagine it does. Others are repulsed and disgusted.
We hear how Humbert believes his obsession started with the story and image of his first child love, Annabel. At the same time he wonders of it was merely the "first evidence of an inherent singularity." He is haunted by this failed affair. What Annabel symbolized was cemented into his consciences for the rest of his existence. This fantasy eventually becomes Lolita.
He tries creating Annabel in a few others. He tells us that "he had the utmost respect for ordinary children, with their purity and vulnerability, and under no circumstances would he have interfered with the innocence of a child, if there was the least risk of a row." The risk of a fight supersedes morality. Humbert doesnít see anything wrong with seducing a child as long as he can get away with it unhurt. He is incapable of empathy with the child who is merely a possession for him. A doll or a toy, a possession to play with.
Goldmundís fixation with the mother figure and Humbertís search for the child nymphet both pursue impossible quests. They are haunted by images created out of their needs. Their needs are frozen in time. They are never satisfied nor do they change with maturity. Their fixations are festering wounds of the psyche that are encouraged to thrive. Both men follow their impossible dreams like Don Quixote with single-minded resolve. At least Goldmundís experiments are not so fleshed out for the reader that they fill you with disgust.
For a short time, Humbert successfully finds Monique and Valeria. Those girls are merely a dress rehearsal for the full act to come. What is Humbertís quest, this search for the child lover, the perfect nymphet? I thanked Nabokov for the repeated use of that word, nymphet. It helped place a tiny bit of distance from the thought of a real child. Yes, so the nymphet represents innocence of course and fantasy romance. Humbertís obsession is out of this world. He seems to think of it as a love story and works to persuade his audience of that. He sees himself as a kind of knight looking for the Holy Grail.
His romantic rhetoric is a smoke screen only to himself to rationalize his child molesting. He creates Lolita out of twelve-year-old Dolores Haze. She is not what she seems. She is soft clay to be molded and Humbert changes her forever. She becomes a parody of romance.
Poem in Progress
What if your bathroom door was locked?
What, would you sleep outside all night?
What about the dog poor dog sorry dog where is your bone oh bone bone bone marrow to the core dog bone
Hope the moon shines on you tonight yes
Tonight is the night of innocence lost.
Oh where oh where is that sleeping bag
Like all the yesterdays
In my dreams, you live
In my dreams, I live for youí
In my dreams, I am done
Satisfied with the night
Okay sleep now
Where are those lost last syllables of recorded time and all those yesterdays Only the tomorrows for us, my love
I wonít lock that bathroom door and the candle will always be lit
And the dog shall have her bone
Life can be as simple as we want it to be
Why not then be what it must be
Monologue in Progress The one-upmanship of hell
Four words. Four, little words. That is all that I will say. Four words for you to heed. Death, judgment, heaven and hell. Forget the rest. That is all you need to know.
And I know how you have been sinning and sinning and enjoying yourself.
Youíve been running around sinning wherever you can. You are blotted with your pleasures. Sucky, sloppery, slippery, sickening sinful sin! I have been so patient and merciful with you and your wicked ways, young woman. Your scoffing, lurking and hoodwinking cannot be denied. Woman, you are covered in sin. Your soul is oozing in grease. It is coated in vomit. It is a foul smelling mess of corruption. Itís a disgusting withered thing of unpleasantness. Itís a horrible glob of rotting pestilence. Itís a reeking, scummy sewer of deceit. Itís a plague stricken carrier of cruelty. Itís a cow house of swine. And oh how you have had such great times letting your soul get into that condition. You have reveled in your corruption.
Well, my dear child, time is up for your sinful ways. Do you think your smooth, smiling face covers your foul swamp of sin simmering in your stupefied soul? HMMM? Recall those four simple words. This is the day you meet your creator; this is the Day of Judgment and restitution.
You know who I am. I am the God of your worst nightmares. I can smell sin. I demand reparation. You have been leading less than a pious, honorable Christian life, havenít you Anais, my child? Admit, confess and admit. What, you are surprise?
Now, hear these words of doom. Hell has enlarged its mouth without any limits. It is the abode of the damned, a dark foul smelling prison filled with fire and smoke. All the damned are heaped together there, lying bound and helpless, unable to remove the worms that gnaw on them. It is never ending darkness, all lying around, heaped and hot and filthy and fill of it. So admit, admit admit. Cleanse yourself of your impurities. Confess to your wickedness and repent.
What is that you say Anais Nin? What my child? You have confessed to everything in your diary already, your unexpurgated diary?
Say two Our Fathers and two Hail Marys. Go in peace.
Godís Response to NO Exit
There have been rumblings of late, murmurs of discontent. Do you think I donít exist, that I canít hear and see everything? Just because you three donít believe in me, doesnít mean Iím not God. I am omnipotent. I am a supreme being and only I say what hell is or is not.
What a despicable place you are in, picking and probing at each other like bloodsuckers on fresh meat. Do you think hell is really other people? For all of that, you could have continued on earth. Let me tell you what hell really is like. You would take comfort from being in my hell. It is a tangible hell, someplace were you can really get down to some significant suffering.
Hell is a dark and foul smelling prison, an abode of demons filled with raging, roaring fire and putrid smoke and suffocating filth and unending agony. Once you have entered those dark portals of the unknown, you are bound and scourged. No talking is allowed, only screams and gnashing of the teeth. The damned are heaped together in their awful, intolerable stench. There is no furniture only brimstone. And what magnificent brimstone it is! It is especially designed to burn forever and forever with unspeakable fury. It rages with incredible intensity in impenetrable utter darkness. Is that fear, I see? Do you believe in me now?
I have expressly designed hell to be a meaning experience. Where you three are, is someplace of your own making. I have a good mind to let you stay there. Yes, stay where you are, I say. You deserve each other. God has spoken.
Hmm, hell is other people? Perhaps that is an interesting idea. I could do something with that. NOOO, what am I thinking, I would lose all my Jesuits. I have a tradition to uphold. What a preposterous idea. Click of those worldly thoughts. Those three are infectious. Hell is not other people. People are an irritation that must be punished only by me. That is my job! Oh why do they sin? Why do they not listen to their confessors? Confess and repent. Admit, admit, and admit.
God Talks to the Villagers of Kafr El Teen
You say that your lives are in my hands,
What happens is my will,
Only Zakeya knows. Only she knows . . .
You say I wonít abandon you that I will come to your aid.
You say I alone know the reasons for the things that are,
"God," you pray, "you are so great, you are so good. Help us!
Do not forsake us," you cry!
But Zakeya knows the truth.
In my name you plead and beg and pray and wonder why.
You ask me to stand by you, to make you whole again, to be merciful
And cure you of your illnesses.
Rescue us, you cry out to me.
Only Zakeya has had the veil lifted from her eyes. Only she knowsÖ
If you think my kingdom is a well-equipped kitchen,
then I think your village is a hell on earth.
Your lives wont change by praying.
Only Zakeya has been set free.
Only she knows that she is the one to set herself free.
Zakeya knows revenge is sweet. Revenge is purifying.
Godís Views on Brave New World
Utopia! Didnít I create people and put them down on earth to suffer? How could this have happened; how did they loose their way? Why would they want such a bland existence when I offered them true suffering and the opportunity for repentance. Donít they know suffering gives them nobility and heroism. Heaven and hell have so much to offer. Unhappiness can be so rewarding.
Here they are now, creating this servile state they call utopia with its mass consumption and its official religion of Fordism. And who is this Ford? Iíve had my angels scour the earth for him. He seems to only live in their propaganda. Iíve noticed no one says my name anymore. You know, "God help us!", "In the name of God", "Thanks be to God" and my personal favorite, "Praise be to God". Oh how I long to hear those phrases of endearment. Now itís "his Fordship this" and "his Fordship that."
Who is this imposter! Let him reveal himself if he dare. I will show him no mercy. He shall know supreme agony, he shall know the wrath of God. This Ford has blinded my children to my existence. Oh, if I could only find him, I would strike him down with a bolt of lightening. I would sent him down to the furthest corner of hell. But alas, he seems to live only in their indoctrination. In the year of our Ford, imagine. And where are all my Jesuits? What have they done to the Jesuits?
Now there are emotional engineers, humph! If I were a human, I would wish to avoid this utopia based on its mass production of people. I would hide from. What has this world come to? Art, religion, science are dead. These people value their comfort above anything. They have become immune from life as I created it. It is a God given right to be unhappy, to live in fear and to grow old and ugly and die of diseases and be tortured by atheists. A little suffering, a little chaos is just what is needed. A good flood is an idea or I know, a meteor. Oh, ah yes, a giant meteor crashing to earth. I bet that would make them wake up and remember me. Maybe I could arrange to send them the Ten Commandments again. His Fordship indeed!
James Joyceís Chronology
1882 to 1941
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was about ten years in the writing. The first draft was written around 1904 to 1906 at about the same time as the bulk of Dubliners was being crafted. This version was scrapped and a more compressed one written in 1908. The third and final one was started in 1911 and finished in early 1914.
The story of Stephen Dedalus was original meant to incorporate the ballad of Turpin Hero. In the ballad, Turpin spends his time making jokes at the expense of the middle class who he looks down upon and considers not to be enlightened (Kenner 30). Turpin ridicules and taunts his victims, until he ends in jail, condemned to the gallows. The Stephen Hero version, which was the second one, was to end with the main character about to go into exile as an enemy of the Dublin populace.
Itís interesting to note that this character was very like the James Joyce of his brother, Stanislausí memories. The younger brother kept a diary, which showed a more humorous and charming side of James Joyce than the final Stephen Dedalus, turned out to be. However, the book did not progress easily. Joyce was frustrated with its lack of central theme. At the same time, he was writing the Dubliners, which he felt to be a richer, more mature accomplishment (Kenner 31).
The material for Portrait was based on documentation from Joyceís past, which was taken from his Dublin notebooks, his memories of his earlier self and his "present complex attitude to what he thought that self to have been" (Kenner 31). An idea emerged while he was working in Rome for a new story called Ulysses but it also occurred to Joyce that the theme worked for the autobiographic piece too. Ulysses would be a sequel to the rewritten Portrait story. He began to coordinate the two works. The myth of Ulysses which is the Roman name for the Greek, Odyssey, is about an epic journey home while facing the struggles that are set in the heroís path. These inner struggles are the human ones and are the real focus of the story.
In Portrait, Joyce sets the themes that will be explored in both pieces. By the end of the book we see Stephen as "a priggish, humorless egocentric rebel" (Kenner 32) who has formed himself on the denial of Dublinís values. Like Turpin Hero, Stephen uses language as a means to probe his universe. Often, he is compelled to get the upper hand by using language as his weapon. Yet by chapter five, Joyce tells the reader that Stephenís "own consciousness of language was ebbing from his brain and trickling into the very words themselves which set to band and disband themselves in wayward rhythms" (128).
From the story of Baby Tuckoo in the first chapter, we see how language molds his reality. The reader is introduced to the childís world through the senses such as smell, his mother smelled better than his father, the oil sheet had a queer smell and sound, we hear his mother plays piano and a song fills the page. Quickly, we are introduced to one of the on going major themes of good and evil, sin and religion. The first chapter, like all five, ends in moral triumph for Stephen only to be knocked down in the next chapter that follows, another inner hurdle for our hero to overcome.
Besides religion, music and sports are woven throughout the book. They manifest the Dublin experience. Through these subjects, Joyce tells the reader what it is to be a Dubliner in the early twentieth century. They form the reality that Stephen grows to rebel against. His dream world is played next to these backdrops of reality.
In Chapter two, we again see how language shapes his world. Out walking with his father, young Stephen absorbs his heritage by listening to the talk of the men. "Words which he did not understand he said over and over to himself till he had learnt them by heart: and through them he had glimpses of the real world about him" (43). This section of his life chronicles the steady financial decline of the family and Stephenís moving away from them. "He saw clearly, too, his own futile isolation. He had not gone one step nearer the lives he had sought to approach nor bridged the restless shame and rancor that had divided him from mother and brother and sister. He felt that he was hardly of the one blood with them but stood to them rather in the mystical kinship of fosterage, foster child and foster brother" (69).
Chapter two ends with Stephen losing his virginity, a triumph but also his transgression sets the stage in chapter three for the major discussion of sin, hell and repentance. Father Arnell, a Jesuit priest gives the reader a 19-page sermon on hell. It is an overwhelming speech full of every horror imaginable. It sets the wheels of fear in motion. Terror motivates Stephen to confession.
While he rigorously strives to maintain his new holy state, the Church tries to recruit young Stephen into its priesthood. The thought is exciting at first but then he awakes to his own rebelliousness. "The wisdom of the priestís appeal did not touch him to the quick. He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world" (116). This for shadows his exile.
By the end of chapter four, he was realized his ambition to be an artist, a writer. This is the climax of Stephenís journey. He has discovered his path. "Words, was it their colors? He allowed them to glow and fade, hue after hue: sunrise gold, the russet and green of apple orchards, azure of waves, the greyfringed fleece of clouds. No, it was not their colors: it was the poise and balance of the period itself. Did he then love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations of legend and color? Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language many colored and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose" (119).
Chapter five moves Stephen toward the Ulysses tale. This last chapter deals with his university life and it sets up for the next book. Personally, I would have enjoyed taking more time with this book, to be able to have savor it. Every line is so loaded with hidden meanings. It is not an experience to be rushed. And I would agree with the recommendation that you read Portrait with Ulysses since the first cannot be truly appreciated without the other.
Chace, William M., ed. Joyce, A Collection of Critical Essays. "The Portrait in Perspective" by Hugh Kenner
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974
Colum, Mary and Padraic. Our Friend James Joyce.
New York: Doubleday & Co, 1958
Healey, George Harris, ed. The Dublin Diary of Stanislaus Joyce.
Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1962
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man.
New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994