Sunday, August 16, 2009

Das Edele Herze (the noble heart)

The noble heart, "it opens inward toward the mystery of character, destiny, and worth, and at the same time outward, toward the world and the wonder of beauty, where it sets the lover at odds, however, with the moral order. The poet (Gottfried Von Strassburg) in his Prologue had already dedicated himself, his life and work, to those alone who could bear together in one heart 'dear pain' as well as 'bitter sweetness'; and, as Professor (Gottfried) Weber observes, it is just this readiness to embrace love's pain along with its rapture that makes the noble heart exceptional."
-Joseph Campbell, on the themes and importance of G Von S's Tristan, about the myth of Tristan and Iseult, in Campbell's Creative Mythology

First off, that guy, Joey C, is not only so frickin' smart it just about hurts, he's also Marianas Trench deep and deeply spiritual. Reading Campbell is like a process of transmogrification whereby you become a Peregrine Falcon and are then now flying, soaring really, through Denali national park or someplace I'd imagine is similarly lushly, verdantly beautiful and as some type of, at least, equally majestic bird.

Now that we've got the unabashed praise of an amazingly good writer out of the way, I think this notion of the exceptionalness of the noble heart being in its (and by de-anthropomorphized extension his/her) ability to not only not shut out the painful but to also always experience both pain and joy as an integrated whole of experience is a hugely, massively important one. I do think this idea goes to the (or more really a) core of the problem(s) of modernity and ?Western society? (yes, this is a relatively unspecific term, but there is some underlying zeitgeisty truth in this following statement, maybe) in that we, you, they, whoever are trying to separate out the bitter from the sweet and isolate the sweet as a kind of lifestyle of material security and unchallengedly happy being. I get the feeling that this is the notion that Friedman and his pure capitalist models are aiming at (even while probably not consciously), as well as, the reason the new age movement (or, as William James calls its Christian antecedent, the mind-cure movement) feels saccchariny sweet in that it seems to scrub Buddhism of its first noble truth, as well as, the reason this health care debate (and more widely the problem of crazy inflationary tendencies in the field of health in general) is getting so vigorously insane (and we're not talking about the good kind of crazy here). People want pain, unhappiness, and death removed from their own lives, and if not removed from the world then just at least removed from their media for their own personal viewing pleasure. And this won't happen. And it certainly won't happen by ignoring the too painful truths of existence.

Obviously, lumping Western society or Americans or modernity into one big kettle of generalization is a little ridiculous, but it's difficult if not impossible to talk about the cultural landscape without generalizations. And this is why culture tends to be shunted off in an academic corner. Social scientists are already insecure enough about the whole 'softness' insult hurled at them from the spatial, 'hard', scientific world without getting all caught up in etherealities like culture. Another generalization, ah vell.

But furthermore, any type of processes over and against systems argument is and will always be a little disingenuous, as if there's only form and not content. That's not to say that systems, such as consumer capitalism, are actively maintained by some secret cabal of old, white men in some secret fraternal society, but they do exist as aggregations of institutions, governmental policies, social perceptions, culture, decisions made by individuals at varying levels of power and influence, et cetera, whether accurately labelable with one ' too-fine-a-point-on-it' word or not, and we all partake of them one way or another. Still, I digress. Pretty much constantly.

Real and true love is not selective. Agape, the unconditional love of Jesus, the Buddha, and others, doesn't love just because of what someone can do for them or if someone can make them happier. This love finds beauty in the world as a whole and therefore loves the world, worts and all. And that love is a call to arms (of sorts), a call to engage in the messiness of the natural world that has enchantment and ferociousness in equal measures, and a call to engage in a social world that seems to be trying to separate out the painful as something to be fended off and kept 'out there' while keeping the joyous and happy 'in here' for us and us alone.

Or something like that. I realize that it's becoming a bad habit of mine to just kind of end blog posts with: 'Whatever, I'm not going any farther here, now.' But it's sort of how I always feel. I mean, I'm trying to get into some small aspect of basic ideas about what and how the world is and works or should or something, and I always start to feel like I'm getting into some rant that's missing the mark a little bit, and I do feel like part of that is the form (or more accurately the form that blogging on blogger takes, which is like writing e-mails to a nonspecific person, Cc: the internet). Quite frankly, I'm both too lazy and too busy to do anything about that, and I still also enjoy even these digressive mark missing exercises.

So, this'll have to do for now. Alright, a quote from Saul Bellow's Ravelstein because it sums up how I'm feeling better than I could (not the part about the wife who's leaving him that starts the quote but I still like the description so it stays):

Since she didn't love me I had, with innate biological resourcefulness, holed up behind my desk and finished a few long-postponed projects- quoting Robert Frost to myself:

For I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep.

At times changing this to:

For I have recipes to bake
And far to go before I wake.

The joke was on me, not on Frost

I'm still loving SB, and 'the summer of Bellow' continues, but tempered by the need to do and read other things. So, what-the-hell-ever with all of this (not really though).

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