17 September, 2004

A Response to my sister, Eliot: "What is your relationship to the Whale?"

--- Spinner
Ahhhh, the whale. (This is impromptu, and I am in the library, so I must be brief, unfortunately.)

The whale is Dante's inferno, Joyce's Ulysses, Eliot's "Wasteland", winter, Mordor; but it is also the Yin, Plato's cave, Freud's subconscious, the Anima, Shakti - my mind runs short. These are not 1:1 correlatives. The whale is "the dark side of the force"; it is the underworld; for a man it is also the feminine.
It is otherness.

For me, for better or worse (sometimes I fear it will be my demise), I enbrace it - both femininity and darkness / Hades. The whale is where I commonly go to gain perspective and insight, often inspiration. I am humbled by it, lifted from the banality of the microcosm and enlarged into the macrocosm of things. Suffering refreshes, revitalizes and reminds me of my innate and present mortality.

Femininity is a risk for men; it is a self-awareness that runs directly counter to our culturally and biologically defined self. The assent to a femine side is analogous to self-annihilation. This is how it can appear: I am a man if....(I fight, I have a large penis, I don't cry, I am stalwart, ect). This is "masculinity. To accept a feminine portion in the masculine self necesitates a total re-imagining of the self, one which is presently culturally absent. And this is challenging and frightening work - with few roadmaps.

Hell is a clear threat. We are taught to avoid fear, suffering and pain. We construct lives for ourselves that are essentially "safe" ones, not necessarily successful ones. They are successful at being safe, but they may not achieve happiness which seems to be most people's supreme metaphysical goal. Yet, literature and history teach that the people we admire and wish to emulate led far different lives - they often suffered immensely. All the great classical heroes journeyed through Hell in their quests - it is part of the archetype of greatness (hero). We see it in microcosm: doctors have to survive the dark depths of med. school, ect. The goal justifies the path. But modern suffering lacks much mortal risk and therefore doesn't teach the same lessons of mortality and existentiality. It is good to know how small we are and how short our time is - it is very relaxing and soothing.

So, Eliot, to me the whale is my shadow, my seasonal home. It is my dialectic. The mythic Jonah, stewing in the belly of the whale, reminds me a bit of the strange comfort I experienced meditating in my bathtub in Missula - I called it "the womb".

I will likely name my sailboat, "Isis" - an idealization of the sacred feminine, but I really wanted to name it either "Ogygia" or "Omphalos" - both mean "naval of the world" (sort of). Ogygia was the name of the island of the goddess (either Calypso or ???) and omphalos is literally naval I think - what Eve didn't have.

My time in the Library has expired - 5 minutes

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