Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tricksters 3 / Modern Tricksters "Cosmos"

Our newspaper is all over this topic, too:  the falsehoods in "Cosmos".  I have stayed away from it.  It will be too irritating.  Lying in the support of Science.  Who would have guessed.  We have seen too much of it.  But the reasoning is worth marveling at.




The Creation of Adam is arguably the most famous section of the Michelangelo fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted circa 1511–1512.

Tricksters 2

At the crossways, there hangs around a trickster and he can determine things by his divination.  But you need to pay him sacrifices.  This guy is Eshu.  So we learn in "The Trickster Makes the World".

Strange, this part about divination.  In Chesterton we hear a lot about the crossways and doorways, too.  Eshu keeps alive the commerce between the worlds, heaven and earth, and this is, as we just said, via chance, divination and sacrifices. -- I have spent some time in Japan.  And it seems to me that Shinto shrines serve a similar function.  You can buy amulets and things, that are supposed to aid you in matters of love, money and exams or good fortune in general.  It seems very strange to the modern mind that the small sacrifices asked for at the temple will help you with your lucky stars.  Very strange, but customary there.  Easy way out, it seems like.

Chesterton says that Buddhism and other religions leave you stranded at the crossroads.  They do not help you make good and right choices.  This divination and amulet buying really seems to be symptomatic of the problem.  You would think that the student should study, and the love seeker might try and make himself an attractive mate and look in the right places.  The one who wants money, should work.  But, yes, all of that with prayer, we would also say, because even with all our efforts everything can still fail. Nevertheless, at the crossing and choosing of paths, there are better and worse options.  This is a matter of values, discipline, training and seeking learned opinions, NOT of chance and divination.  There is still enough chance left in the matter to make people seek out novel solutions.  Nothing is fool-proof or smart-proof, even.  Keep your eyes open.

So much sermonizing.  Here is a relevant quote from Hyde's book.

"In a polytheistic cosmos, such friendship of opposites allows for contradictory belief.  The Yoruba, at least, believe simultaneously that fate is binding and that fate may be altered.  They say that the day of one's death cannot be changed, for example, but mothers nevertheless pray to Eshu to extend their babies' lives.  One diviner told Bascom, 'An individual cannot basically change his own destiny,' except to spoil it;  yet others say that 'destiny is not fixed and unalterable,' that 'destiny... can be modified by human acts and by superhuman beings and forces.'  (p. 116)  At stake in Eshu's interventions is the somewhat larger question of how change might come to any orderly, self-regulating, and self-protecting world.  Most enduring structures (in nature, society, the human psyche) are resistant to fundamental change, by which I mean change that alters the givens of those structures themselves.  It's almost a matter of logic:  no self-contained world can induce its own fundamental change, because self-containment means it knows nothing beyond its own givens.  In such cases, accidents are useful indeed." (p. 118)

"All tricksters like to hang around the doorway, that being one of the places where deep-change accidents occur.  Eshu is no exception.  He like especially the doorway between heaven and earth, which is why his face appears on the divination board.  The art of divination makes heaven and earth briefly coincident.  Eshu is a sort of slippery joint at the point of their contingency, revealing fate or reversing it depending on the disposition of things.  It may well be that fate is set in heaven, but it must be played out here on earth, and between heaven and earth there is a gap inhabited by this shifty mediator.

Eshu's desire to keep the commerce across that gap lively means there is one key exception to his love of chance.  Humankind must sacrifice to the gods;  that is the single rule that cannot be left to chance.  It's an apt exception to Eshu's otherwise constant uncertainty, for sacrifice maintains the commerce between the worlds and give the mediator his job.  Once there is sacrifice, however, once the commerce is established, Eshu can begin to play, and neither gods nor humans should assume his meditations are sure, trustworthy, and unambiguous.  If people refuse to sacrifice, Eshu will certainly bring them suffering, but if people do sacrifie, he will mix luck into fate's designs."  (p. 124,125)

Here is a picture of Eshu:

Ya.  The other Google pictures  look just like it.

If that is not phallic, I don't know what is.  It has always seemed to me that almost everything with pagan religion, and not as pagan, has to do with sex and fertility.  Or as Hyde says, the trickster has a big appetite in a number of ways.  The belly matters.  Surely, it makes some sense.  Food is often a scarce commodity and with out reproduction and agriculture we won't live. Yet, at crossroads, and to do with choices and moral values, we might be looking for something more or higher for making decisions.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bear on Jogging Trail pursues Men

You have seen it here first.  My son-in-law's friend experienced, recorded and uploaded this. When we saw it at afternoon coffee today, there were under 1000 hits, at that time, now 8000.

Take your pepper spray when in the woods, Canadians, is all we can say; and even then.  I stick to singing German hiking songs when I am in the forest, but not everyone appreciates them.

Tricksters 1 / Philosophers

I have been thinking about Hyde's "TheTrickster makes the World".  The trickster, according to Hyde moves in the borderlands, in places where the markers have been moved, and new things are discovered there.  It's an interesting point and certainly new things are discovered when we are discomfited, the borders have shifted, the surprising has happened, good or bad.  In a sense God dying on the cross for our sins was a shocker and a scandal.

 But I don't know if being in a borderland requires a trickster, in a sense, someone who operates outside of common morality.  Life provides plenty of these situations all the time, all by itself.  I am thinking just getting married and trying to fit into an in-law-family is one of these situation.  All the sudden what you have been taken for granted is no longer the accepted norm.  Your new family has different ideas, even if they are close culturally.  There are so many little things...

Hyde as Frederick Douglass as this figure who moved in the borderland.  Yes, he seems to be in that sort of place, but I would not see why you would call him a trickster.  He was a slave who learned how to read and speak with rhetorical skill.  This was a surprise to many and not even welcome to the abolitionists, who wanted a more standard black speech at rallies.

What interests me is the information in the paragraph below. -- We have met racism in Voltaire.  And here we meet it in Hume, Kant, Hegel and Jefferson.  (The bolding is mine.)  It seems that our philosophers moved in a kind of borderland of complete ignorance. I would be curious to explore the reasoning further.

"Having learned to read and write, having studies eloquence, Douglass proceeds, simply enough, to write and to speak, and these acts by themselves undercut plantation culture, for that culture had as one of its "eternals", the notion that writing and speaking belonged inherently to whites, that their absence was inherent to blacks.  In one of his essays, Henry Louis Gates Jr., offers a good summary of places where this racist division is asserted in high European philosophy;  it appears in Hume, in Kant, and in Hegel;  in America we find it in Thomas Jefferson.  To take but one example, Hegel says that Africa "is no historical part of the World;  it has no movement or development to exhibit.... What we properly understand by Africa, is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature...."  For Hegel, black Africans are part of nature and different in kind from whites because they have no written history.  "The absence and presence of writing,"  says Gates, "of a collective black voice that could in some sense be overheard, were drawn upon by European philosophers to deprive African slaves of their humanity."  (Hyde,  "The Trickster Makes This World" p. 229)

I came across this today:  Mark Twain  said in 1897  “ In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.” 

Friday, June 13, 2014

The library and tricksters

I am finding I am not posting to Blogger much because I hardly use the desk top computer anymore.  These days, I am attached at the hip to the I-pad, and it is a machine only good for some things.  Our habits seem to change as the technology evolves.  Our communications, too, seem to change as the programs and platforms change.

Oh, well, back to the good old days:  my husband and I actually cycled to the library together, last night, met friends in the foyer, cycled back, and had the neighbors over afterward in the garden for late night snack.  Maybe someday, soon, we will be fed up with all the technology and the sitting before screens on our butts. The computer era will be over!  Maybe.   My husband marveled that he had not been to a public library in decades.

Anyways, the library had kindly brought in "The Trickster Makes this World" (Hyde) for me and I have finished reading it.  I don't quite know whom I would recommend it to.  It was interesting and I know some people who think it is incredibly meaningful.  There were some ironies for me.  One was that I am reading a book that deals in part with native cultures and trickster mythology in a place still settled by native peoples.  In the summers I have been to native reserves in the north and seen and heard things first hand.  Also, at night in this country we listen to CBC radio, where such treatment of ideas is commonplace, and such stories are actually told by actual first nations people on air. Ironic, too, is that the book came from inter-library loan from the library in St. Albert, as stamped on the side of the book.  St. Albert was Father Albert Lacombe, a pioneer worker and evangelist with the native peoples in the times of the building of the railroads, etc.

Hyde, the author, wants to make a connection between the trickster and the artist, show the archetypal connection between consciousness, creativity and mischief.  Ok.  We find that the trickster is always male, operates in polytheistic settings, has an insatiable appetite, but never fathers children, or else he is coyote or raven, carrion eating animals. We hear about preoccupation with excrement and Jung's vision of the turd falling down onto the roof of the church.  The trickster is not exactly like Satan.  None of this is particularly fruitful ground for my imagination or pleasure.

I would also expect that there are different approaches to art than this, which are also very legitimate, but Hyde does not go there.  He wants to explore the borderlands of the trickster.

I can't say that I enjoyed the book overly much, though I would not say that I did not enjoy it, at all.  It surprised me, too, that the book was completely lacking in any kind of levity or humor.  You would think in a book about tricksters something could be funny.  There should be in everyone at least a small vein of at least self-deprecating humor.  What kind of trickster can't laugh at himself?

Most interesting for me are always things to do with real lives.  So I found the story of Frederick Douglas fascinating, as well as the recollections of the Chinese-American as they related to shame and guilt perception.  I might like to read their books.

Hyde's book on Tricksters reminds me of a real life trickster, Casanova, whose auto-biography I have been reading in spurts from free I-books.  He also was full of intrigue, insatiable appetite, quite creative, charming, manipulative.  His mischief knew no bounds at times, resorting even to violence.  He was amoral and immoral.  It would be good to never meet him in real life.  But he does describe real people and places in vivid and sensitive detail.  In that sense he becomes interesting to me.  He is a trickster who writes real stuff. I am getting quite intimately acquainted with him through his incredibly long and thorough accounts (which are not particularly erotic, if someone cared to note that).

Ah.  Just never fall in love with such a guy.  Nothing but trouble.

I love art, too.  But I don't particularly care for trickster's methods.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spring 14 / Special events

We can finally say that spring is here.  Usually it transitions to summer quite quickly, but still my Lilies of the Valley are finally blooming.  In German they are called Maigloeckchen, that is May-bells, which, obviously, does not work here since the did not bloom until June.

There have been several beautiful and gratifying graduations, not to mention the preschool graduations which I have conducted myself.

A pair of  tree swallows is installed in the birdhouse which also likes to survey the scene from the top of an arch.  The arch serves as a safe perch for other birds, too.  They are fun to watch but they have also attracted all the neighborhood cats and can be quite noisy themselves.  I admire the shimmering blue feathers.  There is always something exotic about a shimmering blue bird.

I have discovered the local library.  It was a jewel right in front of my face, but now I am using it.  The occasion of the discovery was a little symposium held there for the workers in early childhood, to which I was invited.  The librarians are fantastic people and they cheerily help me order whatever I want.  (This should save my husband considerable amounts of money.)  I have ordered in several books for the preschool, such as the practical aspects behind math manipulatives and math intuition.  I have also ordered "The Trickster makes this World", because some people talk about it--and it has arrived already.  The inter-library loans are speedy.  The building is newly expanded and updated, furnished beautifully for adults and children with a forest scene for playing or reading in, big windows, from which one currently can see greenery.  (This won't last too long.)  Currently one can even use the bicycle to go downtown, that being a thrill rarely afforded the rest of the year.