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Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS (16 December 1917–19 March 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.

How dare he change the symbols for evil used by Christianity for hundreds of years and iconoclasticize them into order, truth, and peace?  He did dare, in a small, powerful, prescient novel published in 1953–Childhood’s End–, taking place in the year 19–.  In 1968 came 2001: A Space Odyssey–filled with myth, archetypes, rituals–and IBM and HAL.  An odyssey by the master artisan who writes a sequel to Homer’s story of the wanderer.  Then, among others, Rendezvous with Rama (1972); 2010: Odyssey Two (1982); and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997).

Arthur C. Clarke opens up the possibilities of gaining or losing: souls or history, in speculative fiction in the spirit of Jonathan Swift.  He writes of trade-offs for survival.  He speculates upon the worlds of peace, the new/next Golden Age.

As much as Milton or Bosch, he has a vision.  But he is sometimes, not unlike Teilhard de Chardin, showing evolution continuing, not stopping with the human, which may be a missing link.  Man is moving toward the Omega Point.

One looks to Clarke–SERIOUSLY–for metamorphosis, for mysticism, for the awareness of the fragile beauty surrounding [us] earthlings.

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“Once upon a time…” Sam Keen told and repeated the story of the death of his father.  Keen’s world was shattered, he writes, leading to his finding “a new myth by which to live.”  He realized that he “had a repertoire of stories within my autobiography that gave me satisfying personal answers about the meaning of my life.”

“Everyone has a fascinating story to tell, an autobiographical myth.  And when we tell our stories to one another, we, at one and the same time, find the meaning of our lives and are healed from our isolation and loneliness.”

“We don’t know who we are until we hear ourselves speaking the drama of our lives to someone we trust to listen with an open mind and heart.”

[“In a strict sense myth refers to ‘an intricate set of interlocking stories, rituals, rites, and customs that inform and give the pivotal sense of meaning and direction to a person, family, community, or culture.’”]

“The organizing myth of any culture functions in ways that may be either creative or destructive, healthful or pathological.  By providing a world picture and a set of stories that explain why things are as they are, it creates consensus, sanctifies the social order, and gives the individual an authorized map of the path of life.  A myth creates the plotline that organizes the diverse experiences of a person or community into a single story.”

“Every family, like a miniculture, also has an elaborate system of stories and rituals that differentiate it from other families.  …  And within the family each member’s place is defined by a series of stories.”

“Each person is a repository of stories.  …  We gain the full dignity and power of our persons only when we create a narrative account of our lives, dramatize our existence, and forge a coherent personal myth that combines elements of our cultural myth and family myth with unique stories that come from our experience.”

[Santayana: “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”]

“To remain vibrant throughout a lifetime we must always be inventing ourselves, weaving new themes into our life-narratives, remembering our past, re-visioning our future, reauthorizing the myth by which we live.”

TO BE A PERSON IS TO HAVE A STORY TO TELL.  WE BECOME GROUNDED IN THE PRESENT WHEN WE COLOR IN THE OUTLINES OF THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.”  –Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox, Your Mythic Journey (1973; 1989)

So, “Tell me a story, pleeeeze…”

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Omne agens agit propter finem.    Every agent acts on account of an end.

To begin, let us focus on statements regarding human action from Thomas Aquinas, the Summa Contra Gentiles [I.II:1:6]: That is to say, every subject acts toward an end that is a good for him.

The act of love is the first of all acts and gives rise to all others.

Thomas asks whether love is the cause of all that the lover does.  His reply is brief yet incisive: “I reply that every agent acts for an end.  The end, however, is the good which is loved and desired by each thing.  Hence it is clear that every agent, whatever it may be, carries out every action from some love.”

The primacy of the person in Aquinas’ “moral universe” is evident.  The first affective motion is love (amor).  The priority of love holds not only for the passions, but also for the rational appetite or will.  Thus love is the most basic motion of the will and the principle of all moral action.  The absolutely first appetitive motion in rational beings is the love of persons.  It is this love that gives rise to all moral action, whether good or evil, since in all action the agent aims at the perfection of some person, either himself or another.  It is no surprise then to find Thomas explicitly stating this position: “The principal ends of human acts are God, self, and others, since we do whatever we do for the sake of one of these.”

BUT: “A subject isolated from sensory stimulus and social interchange begins to hallucinate rapidly and to lose all sense of reality.  Sadists who subject prisoners to solitary confinement understand intuitively that the cruelest punishment is to remove a man [or woman] from the community and thereby deprive him [or her] of his [or her] humanity.  Confusion results when community is lost.

HEALTH DEPENDS UPON THE CONVICTION THAT OUR ACTIONS COUNT.  I remain potent only so long as I get feedback which demonstrates that the force of my action is felt…I [obtain] the knowledge of the resonance of my actions, as well as the joy of knowing that my gifts are received and appreciated.

[I become] a responsible agent, with a sense that the future is open, [and] I understand myself to be essentially in a social context, and therefore my fundamental desires always involve other persons.”  –Sam Keen, To a Dancing God [1970]

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“…Perdition catch my soul // But I do love thee! //  And when I love thee not, // Chaos is come again.”  (Othello 3.3.90-92)

 Is life fair?  Lately, some view life’s unfairness, then decide that the world–including, especially, politics–is nothing but chaos.

J.B. [the poetic drama] by Archibald MacLeish, relates, for the modern audience, the familiar story of the Biblical Job.  Both have the main character asking the recognizable likeness of “Why me?” or “What did we do to deserve this?” or “Why does it always happen to us?”  The answer? 

“MacLeish’s Job answers the problem of human suffering, not with theology or psychology, but by choosing to go on living and creating new life.”  Job looks for love.  “Instead of giving up on the unfair world and life, instead of looking outward, to churches or to nature, for answers . . . look . . . for loving.”

“Why bad things happen to good people [now becomes] no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.” — Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 1981.

*Chaos is the confusion that exists before order is established in the universe.  (See Chaos theory; John Milton and Chaos.)   

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In Search of Lost Time/À la recherche du temps perdupreviously also translated as Remembrance of Things Pastis that novel in seven volumes, written by Marcel Proust (1871–1922), often heard about, often to-be-read, often-never-read (finished).  It is considered his most prominent work, known both for its length and for its theme of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the “episode of the madeleine” which occurs early in the first volume.  The novel recounts the experiences of the narrator (who is never definitively named) while he is growing up, learning about art, participating in society, and falling in love.  The novel has been pronounced as “the most respected novel of the twentieth century” or “the major novel of the twentieth century.”

Involuntary memory, also known as involuntary explicit memory, involuntary conscious memory, involuntary aware memory, and most commonly, involuntary autobiographical memory, is a subcomponent of memory that occurs when cues encountered in everyday life evoke recollections of the past without conscious effort.  (Voluntary memory is characterized by a deliberate effort to recall the past.)

Precious fragments are those parts of involuntary memories that arise in everyday mental functioning, comprising the most common occurrences, characterized by their element of surprise, as they appear to come into conscious awareness spontaneously.  They are the products of common everyday experiences such as eating a piece of apple pie, or the smell of Crayolas, or the sound of a fire engine or freight train, bringing to mind a past experience.  (Not-so-precious fragments are some involuntary memories arising from traumatic experiences, repetitive memories of traumatic events, like those parts of PTSD).

Proustian memory: Marcel Proust was the first person to coin the term involuntary memory.  He viewed involuntary memory as containing the “essence of the past,” describing an incident where he was eating tea soaked cake; then a childhood memory of eating tea soaked cake with his aunt was “revealed” to him.  From this memory, he proceeded to be reminded of the childhood home he was in, and even the town itself.  This becomes a theme throughout In Search of Lost Time, with sensations reminding the author-narrator of previous experiences.  He dubbed these “involuntary memories.”  [Wikipedia information]

For further interest and current research on why you might be reminded of…when you see…, look at Chaining, Priming, Reminiscence bump, Trauma-related Intrusions, PTSD.

(Stressful and traumatic events, which may manifest as involuntary memories called flashbacks, may trigger a wide range of anxiety-based and psychotic disorders.  Social phobia, bipolar disorder, depression, and agoraphobia are a few examples of disorders that have influences from flashbacks.)

“The role of memory is central to Proust’s novel, introduced with the famous madeleine episode in the first section of the novel; and in the last volume, Time Regained, a flashback similar to that caused by the madeleine is the beginning of the resolution of the story.  Throughout the work, many similar instances of involuntary memory, triggered by sensory experiences such as sights, sounds, and smells conjure important memories for the narrator and sometimes return attention to an earlier episode of the novel.  Although Proust wrote contemporaneously with Sigmund Freud, with there being many points of similarity between their thought on the structures and mechanisms of the human mind, neither author read the other.”  [Wikipedia notes]

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“. . . the freedom to choose or reject ideas, to read books of one’s choice, and to publish freely is the very bedrock of our free society.  . . .  No book placed in a public library should be forcibly removed.  No textbook should be burned.”  –Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

 

 

  1. I Am the Cheese: Robert Cormier, 1977.
  2. Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury, 1971.
  3. Anthem: Ayn Rand, 1975.
  4. 1984: George Orwell, 1975.
  5. Native Son: Richard Wright, 1940.
  6. The Catcher in the Rye: J. D. Salinger, 1951.
  7. Slaughterhouse-Five: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1969.
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee, 1960.
  9. Forever: Judy Blume, 1975.
  10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Mark Twain, 1884.

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“Religious man experiences two kinds of time: profane and sacred.  The one is an evanescent duration, the other a ‘succession of eternities,’ periodically recoverable during the festivals that made up the sacred calendar.  The liturgical time of the calendar flows in a closed circle; it is the cosmic time of the year, sanctified by the works of the gods.”  Mircea Eliade,   The Sacred and the Profane

“There is a time for everything, and for everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to harvest what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up.  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time not to embrace.  A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew, and a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.  And there is a time to love, yet a time to hate; a time for war, but also a time for peace.”  –Ecclesiastes 3.1-8.

 …And I’m not alone,
While my love is near me,
And I know, it will be so, till it’s time to go…
So come the storms of winter,
and then the birds in spring again.
I do not fear the time.
Who knows how my love grows?
Who knows where the time goes?  –Sandy Denny / Judy Collins

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