Friday, June 15, 2012

Bedtime stories

Bedtime stories
              Experts say that any narrative should follow a regularity tested over time, i.e. if you are telling a story you should begin it invariably with something like "once upon a time" and it should follow a predictable line until the villain gets crushed by the mighty arms of nemesis and the hero and preferably his family or lover living happily thereafter till the end of times. Similarly a narrative should have an "intro", a "body" and a "conclusion." Perhaps! There can be other ways too.  What can be applied to a systematic analysis cannot be often applied to an experiential one. Consciousness is not often a laminar flow; it has its perturbations too. Neruda says that he has not the penchant of a romantic poet when there is enough blood on the streets yelling at him: "Come and see the blood in the streets "(cf.I Explain a Few Things-Pablo Neruda.) 'Wedding in Galilee' is an interesting movie from Palestine. Once upon a time in Galilee an Arab wanted to conduct his son's marriage in a grandiose scale and so had to get the curfew lifted. This could only be achieved by him inviting the Israeli military governor and his men as guests of honour leaving his family chagrined. The plot thickens but what resounds is the fact that the whole development and all this "honour" stuff drive the bridegroom to despair and he vents his ire at the father. The distraught father ruffling the hairs of his younger son on his lap starts telling him a bedtime story and the child sleeps too early to hear that. The father then resigns with these words: "Every time I tell you a story, I find you sleeping in my lap. My stories are not yours…"
              David Hume defying all traces of causality comments that there is nothing in the sight of a loaf of bread to tell us that it is food. He presupposes that food is something which is nutritious and he is true by that light of his. When your stomach is full, nutrition can be the next immediate concern, but when hunger gapes at you and you have no way to quell it in the "orthodox" way then you may deem even a lump of mud food inasmuch as it can stuff the guts. So is a bedtime story. It is a very typical view, nevertheless having immense wisdom embedded in it. The question is whether these bedtime stories warp one's dreams which would have otherwise have been original. Lullabies are bedtime communication done to a baby. A simple analysis would reveal that the verbal expressions involved are not much meant for the baby as much as it is a self-communing of the singer. The baby is not yet grown to discern the import of what is spoken to him. That the tonal qualities of a lullaby can have soothing effects on the baby is a different question. The point is that lullaby or any bedtime stories for that sake are not quite accommodative of the reality in all its phases. There are such "bedtime stories" grown into grand narratives that steer one's life. By "bedtime story" is meant any construct that generate unwarranted orthodoxy, something which is smuggled into our consciousness and which is pre-reflectively stamped in us. When there are many strange tongues abounding around us in the land which we thought to be our proprietary pride, we grow intensely xenophobic because we are facing a cosmopolitan system dictated by economic machinery and not a poetic situation where the frontiers fade and there is just one world and one song. The very integrity of such grand narratives as culture and racial qualities are put under scanner.  Where we fear to tread others rush in and we are no angels and they are no fools.
              As English has grown into a language that has many variants and representations across the world it is getting proved as a non-absolute language. Language in a sense mirrors our understanding of reality. There are Janus words in English which harbours opposite meanings in them. Literalness of the language is decreasing and context-content is increasing. A quick google of antagonyms or contronyms is recommended for further reading, but then a word about Google or for that sake any web content- they are highly customized so much so that critics say that there is no such thing as a standard Google. Algorithms are the watchdogs of the present world and they will spot you as if you are the only one in the world. They believe that your stories are not mine.
In essentials, unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity. Thank you, S.Pater Augustinus for that piece of advice. Now let us see whether our small narratives live up to it.
ephraem maria gilbert
thumpoly capuchin ashram