Thursday, July 15, 2010

well, now parzival

well, now parzival went home and told his dear ol’ ma ‘bout his day and that he’d decided to become a knight and she was not at all happy to hear it which is no surprise when ya consider that she’d gone to considerable trouble to prevent that exact thing from happenin’. but she took the news as best she could, in her own passive-aggressive sort of way, mumblin’ under her breath, “oh, i always knew t’would come to this”, as she pulled down the curtains and sewed together a ridiculous get-up for parzival to wear when he went off to make his way in the world, hoping that he’d look so stupid when he got to king arthur’s court that they’d laugh him outta town and he’d come back home, tho’ she really didn’t think it’d work. and parzival threw a bedquilt across the olde plowmule and packed his bible and a change of socks in his rucksack and kissed his ma and off he went, down the ol’ plank road to become a knight. his ma stood and waved her kerchief and when he went around the bend she thought, “oh, i’ll ne’er see my boy again” and just to make sure she was right, she fell down dead in the road which is sad and tragic, but also exactly what she what she deserved. she had, after all, built her whole miserable existence around the false and wrong-headed notion that she could prevent someone else from achieving their own fulfillment. and deferred her own dreams in the process.
the world is full of people like that. people who, becos of ignorance or fear or prejudice or greed or plain old stupid dedication to their ideas of how-things-oughtta-be, refuse to take up the challenge to discover and manifest their own true, genuine, unique and god-given lives. they settle for less and less and convince themselves that they have no other choice but to make do and then they try to drag anybody down with ‘em that they can get their claws into. arguably, they may deserve pity more than hate, but there’s so goddamn many of ‘em and they’re so goddamn good at what they do, goddamn their eyes, that some measure of contempt is their due and myths ain’t very kind to ‘em. let the dead bury the dead.
parzival, o’ course, had no idea becos he was facing forward and away he went and had a few kooky misadventures and eventually found his way to king arthur’s court where he was recognized for what he was: a dumb country bumpkin with a good heart and the honest desire to become something. the student was ready so a teacher appeared and schooled parzival in the proper conduct of knightliness. he was taught some gentilities and formalities and the use of weaponries and salad forkeries and among the many details of chivalries he learnt was the importance of keeping his fool mouth shut. mind yer own business and hoe yer own row. don’t go pokin’ around askin’ a lotta questions. and keep yer armor shiny.
well, one day all the knights were at the round table, discussing their various past adventures and someone happened to make mention of the sad fact that they had been without any of same for some time, which caused all t’others to murmur their assent. adventures had been sorely missed as of late and t’wouldn’t it be lovely to embark upon one, but what, oh pray, should it be? when all of a sudden, a deus ex machina descended from yon rafters bearing upon it a most radiant and wondrous vision such as took the breath away from all and sundry, being clearly a sight most sacred and holy that none present could fail to perceive as such. and when the thing had vanished, all present agreed that what they had been shown was the sight of nothing less than the holy grail.
we are used to thinking of the holy grail as the chalice from which jesus christ drank and gave his disciples to drink at the last supper and which joseph of arimathea used to catch christ’s blood and then, rather inexplicably, took as far away from the holy land as he possibly could to great britain and there entrusted to the care of some persons of good repute to hold onto in esoteric secrecy until the 12th century or so. this was not always the case. at the time the grail stories were coming together, the grail was sometimes said cup, sometimes the platter from whence christ ate and served bread at the last supper and sometimes a big, glossy, green rock. seriously. the tales of king arthur’s knights certainly have their roots in prechristian, celtic myths and heroic legends and there is some little speculation that before the monks got hold of the material and christianized it all up, the artifact that became the grail was a cauldron which had the delightful property of always containing something to eat. this wondrous cookery turns up in myths quite frequently, food being a basic necessity and it in abundance being a symbol of the good life. all of which is fine and dandy but somewhat less important than what the grail represents and what that is is what myth is all about: the genuine, true, real and unique life of the individual. platter, cauldron or shiny rock makes no nevermind, this is about fulfillment.
so they all decided that the vision of the grail had occurred in response to their discussion and that it was a challenge to take up the quest, a challenge that they, brave, stout men of action that they was, were not about to shy away from. up they upped and saddled their chargers and girded their loins and buttoned their armor and rode they forth in gallant fashion with many a “hey” and “ho” and “devil take the hindmost” all the way to the edge of king arthur’s lands whence they encountered the great forest. and there they conferred and were all of one mind that t’would be a shame to ride into the wilderness as a group. each of them, then, would enter the wilderness alone, in the place of his own choosing, where there was no path.
this is crucial. several things have happened here, all of which deserve some little consideration. one thing is the deliberate undertaking of a quest. earlier, when parzival was home with his ma, the quest took him. he wasn’t looking for it, didn’t have any idea and it caught him up. here, parzival, along with the other knights, chose to ride forth, conscious of the dangers and willing to accept what happened in the course of the quest. and we also see that parzival’s earlier quest – to become a knight at king arthur’s court – having been fulfilled, placed him in the position to undertake this, his major quest. and the grail quest is exactly the major quest of any life. the quest to become a knight was a smaller, introductory quest for the real biggie. there may be many small quests, necessary steps, before the real big one becomes apparent. all of the small ones are essential. all of the minor goals must be successfully accomplished before the major one will appear. and when the major one does appear, it must be sought by the individual alone, in his/her own way. each one must leave the known realm – king arthur’s realm – and enter the world – wilderness – charting their own coarse. you cannot realize your true, real, genuine, unique selfhood strolling down a well-worn path. that might get you to the privy, but it ain’t getting’ ya to heaven.
psychologically, the wilderness is the unconscious mind, the dream mind. to delve into this realm, as do shamans and other visionaries, means travelling with the collective dream, which is the group of knights, which is the cultural myth/religion, all the way to the very edge and then breaking away from it to plunge into the unknown alone and going forth to discover what may be there.
or in the case of the young person growing into adulthood, this section may refer to the move from mom and dad’s place(s). we saw parzival leave his mother and what went down there. king arthur then became his sort-of father figure archetype and the kingdom then, the known sphere of parental control which is control but is also security. in reality, the little birds may take a measure of security with them, but they must, if they are to become actual adults in the real world, take on the responsibility for themselves, their actions and their lives.
and so they went and parzival went also, alone into the wilderness, questing for the holy grail, which was and always will be themselves. the main body of the story takes place in this questing and it jumps around from knight to knight, showing the adventures of some and the misadventures of others. some fatal character defects cause fatalities. some knights get sidetracked or discouraged or caught up in shenanigans that have no truck a’tall to do with the holy grail and let that be a lesson: its all too easy to be led astray. occasionally, two or three of the knights run into each other on the road and sit down a spell to talk about what they been up to and how’s it goin’? and that’s all fine and well, its good to share information with others along the way and enjoy a can o’ beans around the campfire, but then its back to the lonely road in the mornin’.
and when his way got rough and he was down in the dumps, parzival always had his faith and his bible, which here shows the importance of a guiding principle, a light, a resource of energy. the road is hard and strewn with many stones. the quest is oft weary and the end nowhere to be seen, nor any guarantee t’will e’er be found and what’s a young knight to lean upon when sorrow is his only companion and fatigue his only ration? whence cometh the strength to travel on if not from the example of the myth? aye and here the myth is showing the importance of the myth within the myth and the liberation of the individual thru the surrender of the individual to the influence of the myth. this sort of contrariness is to be expected, as the road to paradise is paved with paradoxes and of these, liberation via surrender is the most ubiquitous, which may seem strange to some amongst us who was raised with the concept of a stern, vengeful and law-making god of the purityrannical sort, the kinda deity that goes around smiting and blighting and sending plagues and locusts and being generally calvindictive. god doesn’t have to be thought of as a celestial cop waiting to pop out and condemn people for having unpure thoughts or striking matches on saturday. it may be and indeed it is that the “laws” gifted down from on high are less rules imposed upon us to restrict our freedom and more guidelines to help us attain to greater happiness and harmony with our fellows. f’rinstance, it has been well said “judge not lest ye be judged” and oft’ interpreted that as meaning that if’n ye look down upon an other, yer father which art in heaven shalt looketh down ‘pon ya, but mayhaps it means that if’n ye enter into the business of down-looking, you will yerself look down upon yerself and then live within the sphere of constant comparison wherein ye wilt ne’er have peace for as long as ye find an other lowlier than your sorry self, it follows that ye wilt find an other against whom ye art lesser than. hence, to ne’er judge means to be equal to all and hear, hear let us hearken to the words of one who knew well this sooth, old railroad hand, eugene v. debs:

“your honor, years ago i recognized my kinship with all living beings, and i made up my mind that i was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. i said then, and i say now, that while there is a lower class, i am in it, and while there is a criminal element i am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, i am not free.”*

and one who knows he is no better than the worst is also no worse than the best, and all are equal in the sight of god, amen. many many more examples could be shewn o’ that what has been taken as commanding being really showing of the way, but suffer this to suffice and assumeth ye henceforth that the purpose of god is always the liberation of the individual, never the condemnation of same**.
so tho’ he recognized hisself as in service to the god of his religion, parzival understood that the reason of his being was to become fulfilled thru the service of his god and that the quest upon which he was embarked, that being to seek until finding the holy grail, which was his own true fulfillment, it follows that god’s reason for being was to gift onto parzival the knowledge of the means through which his fulfillment might be found and the power to find it, thus fulfilling the purpose of god and parzival both, both of whom having the same fulfillmental purpose, namely the finding of the holy grail, here representing personal fulfillment. so god was on his side. and he knew it.

*decapitalization mine

**cf. john 3:16 &c for clear exposition of this posit.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"kali medhanit" is a mistake

“kali medhanit” is a mistake.
i was thinking of a title for this and, as is so often the case, i was drinking coffee and it occurred to me that the phrase by which the lakota called coffee at the time black elk was talkin’ to john neihardt and still today for all i know translated as “black medicine”. i’m gonna go out on a speculative limb here and guess that the lakota word or words that get translated to english as “medicine” have the general meaning of making one “better” or “stronger” which could mean a restoration to health for one who is ailin’, but could also have to do with increasin’ the power of one who is well enough which would explain why warriors go to battle in “medicine shirts” and shamans wear “medicine hats” when they’re on the job, that bein’ sometimes but not always, healin’ the sick.
so anyhow, i thought “well, kali is sanskrit for ‘black’” and then t’was no trouble a’tall to ask an ethiopian for the amharic for “medicine” which turned out to be “medhanit” after t’was rendered in roman letters. so “kali medhanit” is what it became and its a jumble of languages an’ ideas that amounts to gibberish in a way, but that’s fine too as its also a summarization of how we’s doin’ things here. sanskrit is the oldest written language unless they found an older one whilst i wasn’t payin’ attention and ‘tis the language in which hinduism and buddhism grew up. amharic is the longtime tongue of at least a buncha ethiopians, tho’ not all by a long shot, and ethiopia is a danged old country bein’ mentioned a few times in the elder testament. christianity was established in ethiopia in the first century apple dapple and the population at the moment is about 2/3 christian, 1/3 muslim and a bit o’ “traditional”, whate’er that means. they claim they got the ark o’ the covenant there. and then there’s that reference to the lakota who’re standin’ in here for the pagan/animistic/shamanic peoples so most of the bases are touched as far as bein’ touched by god and developin’ a myth goes.
but as i said, despite all that happy horseshit, it’s a mistake becos the actual sanskrit for “black” is actually “kālī” with the two lil’ lines over the vowels that i don’t know what they mean. i found that out later and ‘tis too much trouble to change it now. we’ll have to find a way to live with it as ‘tis.
“kali” without the two lil’ lines over the vowels means “weak” and “crude” and “inarticulate” and this is the meaning that is meant in the phrase “kali yuga”, a yuga being an unit of cosmological time and there being 4 of these only one of which need concern us, that being the last one: the kali yuga, the furthest in time from the creation and the worst, most debas(ed/ing) time, the end of time, the time when ev’rything is about shot to shit and gone to hell in a handbasket and that, my friends, in case it ain’t plain and obvious, is the now. this is it. we’re livin’ in the last days and the end can’t come quick enough. oh, and also, “kālī” with the two lines also means “time” so that’s prob’ly another reason people think that the “kali yuga” is the “kālī yuga”, but its not. they’re two different words. one has little lines over the vowels; the other’n don’t have.
and medhanit means “medicine”, which is just what the witch doctor ordered for this sick society, not that i’m sayin’ what i’m writing is the medicine, but i am sayin’ that what i’m writing about is. myth is the medicine i’m suggestin’.
now whilst we’s on the subject of “kali” and/or “kālī” as the case may be, there’s also a goddess by that name who is prob’ly the most misinterpreted of the whole hindu pantheon mostly becos she takes on a certainly ferocious demeanor what with the gapin’ bloody mouth and necklace of skulls and skirt of arms an’ all and the weapons in her many hands. its no wonder she’s been generally seen as a bad thing by eyes that was washed with the spittle of the bloody lamb of golgotha when they waded into india with machine guns and swords. oh, how awful. but kālī or kālī ma or kalika ain’t nothin’ bad a’tall, bein’ a representation of time, which changes and consumes all and all and ev’rything in between, no matter what. kālī ma, “black mother” is only the changing of time and that ain’t bad unless ya’s fool enough to fight it, in which case its pretty fuckin’ hard times and will seem terrible to you. if you don’t fight the changes of time, then she appears to you in another of her aspects and you can relax into the blessin’ she bestows an’ one of her hands is always unarmed and poised in the mudra of “fear not” for that reason.
in some counties, kali ma is considered the same thing as what we was callin’ “brahman” before and in other parts she is known as “bhavatarini” or “redeemer of the universe” and let’s not forget that part about acceptin’ change.
this is all about as good a short, quick example of how this shit goes on in my life as i can come up with. i go about my business as best i can, with the general assumption that if i just show up an’ make myself available, shit’ll go on the way its supposed to and there’ll be a part for me to play in it. writin’ about myth seemed like a good idea at the time as i’ve spent a few years learnin’ a little an’ i feel i got some shite to say so i prayed about it some and commenced to set out about it. an’ ideas come into my head and shit works out in ways i couldn’t’ve planned ‘cos i honestly just ain’t all that clever, like for example how just right the mistakes i make turn out to be. kali medhanit, indeed.
shave an’ a haircut,
two bits:

“of myself, i am nothing. the father doeth the works.”
- common paraphrase of john 5:30
“the myth is not my own. i had it from my mother.”
- euripides

Thursday, July 1, 2010

wolfram von eschenbach wrote parzival

wolfram von eschenbach wrote parzival around 1200 anno domini, some 15 or 20 years after chretien de troyes wrote perceval, the story of the grail. to say that somebody wrote something back in them days means that they wrote it down, literacy being something of a novelty, not that they made it up. the stories of the arthurian roundtable and the grail/graal had been around for quite a while, being passed along and refined and perfected by minnesingers with good memories long before chretien and wolfram committed them to paper. the actual king arthur was alive and kicking and yanking swords outta stones around 500 apollo dionysus, so that’s about 700 years from fact to myth.
this here writer read both works oh, around 2003 artemis diana, and i’m writing this now in 2010 alexander diogenes. i read perceval first and, becos i skipped the intro, was surprised and annoyed to discover that chretien didn’t finish it. so i had to go find parzival to find out how the story ended. i liked both, but preferred the latter. they’re both dang fine, tho’ as noted, one is incomplete, but i didn’t dwell on either overmuch and went on to peruse many other fine works of myth, legend, anthropology and various other errata in the intervening years. recently, however, i’ve begun to think and reflect on the olde tale of the boy who would be the fisher king and meanings have become more important and/or clear than seemed to have been before. this sort of thing will happen if you immerse yourself in myth. something you read will settle into your brain, outta sight someplace and come floating up to the surface at a later time not unlike the body of a drowned individual. its good to pay attention to this. this is why reading or otherwise learning this stuff is important- it comes back when its wonted. and i haven’t read either or otherwise reviewed them in preparation for this writing about them now. i’m going on memory, which is the best way i can think of to get some things wrong. specifically, to confuse the two and mix them into one, possibly getting some bits out of order, maybe even incorporating pieces of other versions of the same knight’s dream or an altogether different myth even. how’s that for sloppy writing? claude levi-strauss would rip out his curls in vexation t’were he alive to hear of it, but he ain’t, god rest his monad, and anyway, with all due respect to the inventor of the blue jean, instructor of structuralism and fastidious parser of myth, i am not in the business of detailing how countless tales of south american motherfuckers relate to the establishment of the roasted sweet potato, tho’ that is important and fascinating shit. my concern is with a vaguer and greyer area: how individuals can use myths to enrich their own personal lives. its important, in a way, to know what any given myth meant to the people who made it in their own image and lived by it, but if that myth doesn’t jump and shake for me personally, then its just a brain exercise. so, for my purposes, the mostly-remembered myth that drifts to the surface when it appears to be applicable to the events of one’s life is more important. and that’s what i’ll be working with. i encourage any/everyone to go to the sources and to check out levi-strauss’ corpus as well. i’ll be using wolfram’s spelling.
and i want to clarify something: this is just my interpretation. but its also the general interpretation, or i think so, at least. all myths and all dreams are open-ended. they can mean different things to different people just as a dream about the ocean is generally about the unconscious and/or womb, but obviously has a different inflection if its dreamed by a barefoot okie farmboy than if its dreamed by an old tar. some symbols have general meaning and these may vary from culture to culture. in asia, a dragon means wisdom, but in europa, the same serpent means holding on in an unhealthy way, clinging to the dead past. and even if you don’t know these things, you have them to some degree in the data base of your cultural inheritance, your race memory if you like, and it ain’t a bad idea to bring them out and get to know them so you can use them in your interpretations. yours truly is of german/english extraction. on a guttural level, i’m inclined to slay dragons, not ask ‘em to teach me, but if i happen to be reading something from the east, i know i’m on a different field.
i gotta repeat here that one of the main things i’m working on and working toward is the idea that myth is a human story, that all humans have some very basic things in common and that any and all myths have the potential to reveal to any and all individuals vital and important insights that they might not’ve been able to get in any other way. i, personally, have gained much from the traditions and myths of asia, africa, the indigenous peoples of the americas and the aborigeneous peoples of australia, despite being a white anglo-saxon and former protestant. i can and do and will in the course of this discourse cross the messages, if you catch my drift, but i have to use my own cultural perspective as my starting point.
where were we? oh, parzival.
parzival’s pa was a knight and whilst parzival’s ma was pregnant, he went off on a crusade or something and got hisself killed. so parzival’s ma was all heartbroke and somehow she knew that the baby in her belly was a boy and she didn’t want him to grow up and be a knight a’cos she’uz afeared he’d go get hisself killed the way his pa did and she couldn’t bear the notion so she up’n’ went off to live in the woods and have nothin’ to do with nobody and to raise up her boy all ignorant of knightliness an’ such like that. so the boy was born and his ma taught him the bible an’ how to do chores about the cabin an’ such like that there, but she never told him nothin’ about knights or kings or crusades or anythin’ about anythin’ other than bein’ a good boy an’ stickin’ close by the cabin an’ doin’ his chores an’ readin’ his bible.
well sir, one fine day, parzival was out gettin’ firewood or somethin’ an’ he strayed off’n the path which is what folks is generally likely to do in the beginnin’ parts of myths, wander off into some strange piece o’ the woods or get led astray by an errant pup or a golden ball that rolls over near the olde well. this is a common device and it represents the beginning of the path away from the known and into the unknown, which is where one has adventures. there are myths where the hero(ine) chooses, deliberately, to seek an adventure and we will see parzival do that later on, but at this stage of it, he’s still a youngster and has not had enough life experiences to be able to choose a proper quest. this is the situation for adolescents. they are about to begin the great and terrifying adventure of becoming self-sufficient, responsible adults and they have to find their own ways. there are guiding lights, of course, and parzival is one, but every individual must, ultimately, find their own way. so parzival got lost in the woods an’ was startin’ to get a mite worried about it when he encountered a road an’ as he was standin’ there lookin' about like a dipshit, down that road come somethin’ that was nothin’ like anythin’ parzival had ever seen.
there was several of ‘em, actually, maybe a dozen. they was like people above an’ like beasts below an’ they made a sound as they came like thunder and they glittered and shined like the sun on water. an’ po’ parzival was terrified an’ awed and thrilled right thru to the marrow an’ no idea what these things might be. an’ he thought of his ma an’ the bible an’ he says to hisself, “they must be angels”, on account of he didn’t know nothin’ else they could be. so he fell down on his knees in the road an’ started genuflectin’ an’ praisin’ the lord almighty.
the amazing things pulled up short when they got to the boy in the road and the leading one shouted down, “hey, you knave, what are you doing, bowing and scraping before us? don’t you know you should bow to none but god?”
“i thought you were angels.”
“what? we’re not angels! we are knights of king arthur’s roundtable!”
“but, prithee sir, what is a knight?”, remember, parzival was totally ignorant.
“a knight is a man of honour, who wears armor and rides in service of god and the king!”
now, parzival perceived that these were men sitting astride animals not unlike the old mule his ma and him used to plow their little patch of corn and taters and terbacky, all clad in shining steel and he was filled with desire to be among them.
“now, get out of our way! we are on business for king arthur and must ride on!”
so parzival got outta the danged road and the knights sped on. he stood there for some time watching the dust settle on the road and then went on to find his way home, awed by what he had experienced and knowing that he could never be at peace until he became a knight at king arthur’s roundtable.

becos it was born in him.
when reading myth, always identify with the main character. the main character is you. if you happen to be a female, you will most likely find yourself having to take an additional imaginary step. it isn’t that difficult to do. you are parzival. you began your life as a babe in the woods being cared for by someone who loved you and who had certain ideas about who and what you could/would/should become. at some point, you started to have other ideas. some desire to become an individual began to well up in you. this is part of growing up in the world.
in myth, the father frequently represents the higher aspect of the self, the self that the son is to grow up to be. parzival’s father was a knight: that means that knighthood was parzival’s true nature, his destiny, the role that he was created for. the myth is saying that such a thing exists for every individual: there is a purpose for you, a specific something that is yours to find and bring forth and it was there, hidden in you, from the moment of your creation. just as the resurrection from the grave was placed with the logos in mary’s womb. (jesus, of course, was the son of two fathers, god and man, so he had two birds to kill with one cross: redeem the fallen father and reunite with the holy one.) this thing, this thing inside you, is what you are called in your life to accomplish. this is the true, genuine, real authentic life for you. anything else is bullshit.
maybe you haven’t found it yet. that’s becos the time has not yet come for you to find it. these things cannot be rushed. the adventure will come upon you when you are ready for and not before, so they ain’t no point in trying to force it. you can’t hurry it up. you can, however, delay it. and the way to delay it is to not do anything until you’re sure that what you’re doing is the absolute, one, true, right thing that you’re s’posed to do. parzival wasn’t sittin’ around playin’ videogames waitin’ for his life to come a-knockin’. he was out livin’ it to the fullest of his knowledge and capacity and was ready for what happened, tho’ he didn’t know it. start where you are. embrace the reality that is yer life and engage in it. do whatever is in front of you to be done and don’t hesitate to go lookin’ fer firewood in strange glades.