Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Post-Modern Platypus

"I think, therefore I am". -Descartes

Hume kant locke descartes, he doesn't have the key!

"Sophisticated Age of Scorn" I found that term on the dustcover jacket of a G.K. Chesterton book. We live in an age where intellect is displayed not through construction, but destruction. It is an age of decoding, debunking, demystifying. In spite of our towering technological achievements, the overall tenor of our times remains one of negation. "I can't be taken-in". "I won't be made a fool of". "I can see the man behind the curtain". And so our circle shrinks, our beliefs shrink, our world shrinks until we can be bounded in a nutshell and count ourselves kings of infinite space; and if we have bad dreams, we prefer them because at least they're as cynical and morbid as we are. Such is the true road to nausea: that thought which stops all thought.

"Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage". What you say is true, but the cage is of your own making.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pensive Platypus

The movie "Trainspotting" opens with a soliloquy wherein the main character justifies his heroine addiction. After watching him debase himself in all sorts of highly unpleasant ways he reminds you of a simple truth, his techmarion argument if you will: "We wouldn't do it if it wasn't fun! We're not that stupid, after all". Fun... Fun worth stealing and getting thrown in jail? Fun worth watching your best friend die; the one you got hooked because you needed the cash? Fun seeing someone's child die because they were too strung out on heroine to remember to feed him. I could go on; the movie does. Of course all that's not fun; and that's the point. It's the high that counts, you can make it through the rest of it, living in a crack-house in abject poverty, because hey the next hits' coming and then you won't care about any of this. Such a simple choice: Fun is more important. Sure, other things are important too, but what's the good of it if you aren't having fun? "Trainspotting" seems to me a dark and cold example of what happens when we pursue something as an end in and of itself. When we set "fun" as our highest good, we loose it because we disregard and set at naught the people, joys, and community that creates "fun" in the first place. Then "fun", no matter how we derive it, becomes just another "hit" and the consequences are every bit as devastating though they may not be as readily and blatantly apparent.

The Platypus does not recommend "Trainspotting". It is a well made film, but highly graphic and rightfully and purposefully disturbing. Watch at your own risk.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Platypus goes ever on and on

...down from the door where it began... Monday I will be heading back to CSUF to finish off my last year of study. It's time for the Master's Thesis! After a year of colonialism, modernity and post-modernity, it's time to head back to the Greeks. The Greeks are strange to me, but there is so much to learn from them. I went back through the Odyssey this summer and I've been busy with Brenard Knox's preface to Fagles translation of the Iliad. To truly understand the Ancient Greeks, one must understand these two works. That is a task! But it's the job that never gets started as takes longest to finish, as Sam Gamgee would say. The platypus tends to agree.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Poetic Platypus 2.0

Then Dagonet sang from the broken music of his mind, the shadow of the song that Tristam had made:

In the plume of foaming splendor,
past the fecund water reads,
Shot the bark of fair Ettaine,
Lilly-lady-fair Elaine,
Whom the people of that region,
Where the lady lost her reason,
And never came to her full season,
Called the maid of Astolat.

Through the fair idyllic splendor,
past the fields of verdant green,
traveled sorrow without measure,
in the bark of maiden-treasure,
that with its solemn passing,
put end to all their laughing,
and to their joyous dancing,
upon Mid-Summer’s Day.

To Caer Leon the river wended,
through the forests of the king,
where the silent beasts bore witness,
In the woods unbroken stillness,
through the vaulted gloom,
a picture of the tomb,
that swollen like a womb,
waited for the lily maiden.

Through the gates of Merlin’s marvel,
past the straining crowds of men,
went the sullen barge of sable,
as Lancelot beneath the gable,
spoke with his loyal queen,
and told her where he’d been,
how in Astolat he’d seen,
that very same young maiden.

On the quay King Arthur pondered,
as the sullen barge went by,
carrying its vacant cargo,
to be interred upon the morrow,
and called his loyal knight,
who marveled o’re the sight
and swore with all his might
He’d never wronged the maiden.

Upon the high and kingly forehead,
sat the shadow of a frown,
and Lancelot his eyes did lower,
fearing Arthur’s eye’s would glower,
but the rebuke never came,
his eyes remained the same,
but Lancelot in shame,
left upon the morrow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Platypi

Sartre said that humanity's problem is that we are not heavy enough for reality. Pain, guilt, persecution, these things break through the illusions of comfort and hope to expose the power of the naked will. But I wonder... What would you give if an angel came down from heaven this morning and told you the secret of life: that we are too heavy for true being; we must grow light again! Joy, Hope, Comfort, Love must break forth in a riotious torrent until we are more good than good and more real than real! We have become so heavy with our pain, our endless see-sawing between self exaltation and self flagelation that we have sunken straight through reality, as surely as Dante's hell stands at the center of the earth while his heavens encompass the cosmos. What if he told you that the ultimate reality was not the stillness of an abandoned cathedral but the laughter after the punchline of a truly good joke shared between old friends long parted? What if he declared with joy and certainty: I have come from being Himself and this is His offer "come and have life, and life over-flowing". Would you not fall down before such a liberator, would you not pay any ammount to hear those words and know them to be true?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Abbot Platypus

I'm almost at the end of a delightful novel, Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey". With her characteristic flair for making the mundane absolutely fascinating, Austen sets forth a comical (in the Shakespearean sense) drama of the interplay of perceptions and imagination with reality. Writ short, that's watching a seventeen year old girl let her imagination run away with her turning a typical "meet the parents" into her own personal gothic novel. Ok, so I guess that wasn't writ short... just writ differently. It makes you wonder, though, how often do I treat people like typed characters in some sort of book? This person has this quality we've observed so they must be motivated by "x" and hold "y" opinion about "p". She's a Republican, she must be stingy. She's a Democrat, she must be a bleeding heart liberal. He drives a flashy car, he must be compensating for something. He leaves the party when his wife asks him to go, he must be whipped. They hold "x" opinion, they must be ignorant, or fanatics, or have some hidden motive. That's just the way humans think. It saves time. -fills in the blanks. Our imaginations may not convert innocent widowers into diabolical murderers, but they do make fictions out of real people each day. Oh, and if you want to know, the Platypus has already moved on to Bronte.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

This is the first draft of a fellow-poem to the "Wanderings of Vivian". It's in wrough shape, but the basic story is the journey of Elaine, the maiden who died for love of Lancelot, on her death barge to Caer Leon. It's couched as a song sung by Arthur's jester, Dagonet, in thoughtless mimic of a darker peace composed by the false knight Tristam in mockery of Lancelot and the Queen's guilty love. As Dagonet's mind is broken, so is the rhyme pattern, but there's an underlying logic in the images that betrays (hopefully) the fool's sense. Like I said, it's rough... ;-)

Then Dagonet sang from the broken music of his mind, the shadow of the song that Tristam made:

In the plume of foaming splendor,
past the fecund water reads,
Shot the bark of fair Ettaine,
Lilly-lady-fair Elaine,
Whom the people of that region,
Where the lady lost her reason,
And never came to her full season,
Called the maid of Astolat.

Through the fair idyllic splendor,
past the fields of verdant green,
traveled sorrow without measure,
in the bark of maiden-treasure,
that with its solemn passing,
put end to all their laughing,
and to their joyous dancing,
upon Mid-Summer’s Day.

To Caer Leon the river wended,
through the forests of the king,
where the silent beasts bore witness,
In the woods unbroken stillness,
through the vaulted gloom,
a picture of the tomb,
that swollen like a womb,
waited for the lily maiden.

Through the gates of Merlin’s marvel,
past the straining crowds of men,
went the sullen barge of sable,
as Lancelot beneath the gable,
spoke with his loyal queen,
and told her where he’d been,
how in Astolat he’d seen,
that very same young maiden.