Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cleaning the Augean Imagination

King Augeas owned more cattle than anybody in Greece. Thousands of cows and goats stabled there each night. There was a stink. Hercules turned the rivers into the stables to clean them, but this is not about cattle, stables or manure, but imagination. So these things in the Augean stables, to simply clean them? Isn’t their memory their existence? Doesn’t taking away  memory take away life? But living with stink is a problem when consciousness comes.

In PTSD, involuntarily consciousness breaks in upon dreams. Smells, memories, fears occur. The example that comes to mind is Arthur Rimbaud who divides his life into the before and after over the “hope of recovering the key to his lost innocence” (Henry Miller). So to quote Rimbaud: “if my spirit were always wide-awake…I would not have given in to degenerate instincts, to a forgotten epoch.” Henry Miller says of this, “what it was that sealed his vision, and thereby brought about his doom, no one knows-and probably no one ever will know.” We don't want to know, that's certain, but in the epidemic abuses of the pizzaites we see them, among others, both ritual and occult. Whatever it was intensified over time. All our lives can be filled with such events, maybe not all, but the events and their memories are neutralized by selection, amnesia, drugs. In other words Rimbaud gave himself up to debauchery and every vice just to forget the pain of lost innocence. He made himself monstrous. He made himself a comprachicoes, who change the appearance of human beings by mutilating children. Rimbaud's soul was mutilated inexpertly we may say because in the end his making monstrous doesn’t take and he turns to faith. (Henry Miller, “When Do Angels Cease to Resemble themselves? A Study of Rimbaud." New Directions 9, 39).

There are many likenesses of psychological disfigurement in the comprachicoes' physical mutilations. They removed the memory of dislocated joints with a drug, a stultifying powder, an anesthetic escape, so that the mind's ability to recall the depravities imposed on it was deadened, and if remembered was compartmentalized or remembered with an anesthetic so the meaning of the pain was masked with forgetfulness. Hence the stunting of the spine, burning the face, incisions, manipulations and restraints. Consciousness however reconstructs and reconnects the pain with its meaning by removing the bandage of inoculated, anesthetic memory. Then the pain of realization begins. This happens over a lifetime and is different from the immediate trauma of the assault and its consequent memories as treated with propranolol. This drug is said to pose an identity dilemma because our memories make us what we are and their removal prevents learning from our mistakes. If the comprachicoes could have administered propranolol they could have gone on mutilating and maiming forever, like the mandarin who is taken to another planet to be tortured for eternity in exchange for peace on earth. This peace would be at the price of no memory of our sufferings or knowledge of the Mandarin's. So the knowledge of our sufferings make us whole in this view. At least they make us compassionate.

Consider whether Hercules loosing the rivers into the stables is a disinfectant of the making monstrous, a cleansing of memory among the unfeeling. That is, take a view through metaphor that wind is greater than water, whether he wind of consciousness is greater than the water of memory and identification of the pain. This can be known on mountaintops where wind is strong, but the level of the pain, at sea level, even humidity swallows up. Darkness, humidity are forces similar to the belly of a fish which make a Jonah. Staying away from the beach won’t help. You can get to be forty and start to wake  to these forces. Swallowed by a fish, wake up in the belly cradle and earth. At 70 the belly light dawns in the dark.

The trouble for the man is himself and the forces. He doesn’t come without a past even if he doesn’t know it. He doesn’t come without a present even if he doesn’t feel it. His blindness is a mask. If it weren’t for friends along the way, women especially who save his life, he wouldn’t survive. He doesn’t want to give account of the women though, he wants to account the forces. He wants to take out after them but that means he has to face himself. All the unmentionable dark is shot with rays, lots of rays, but the light doesn’t blind him. The dark does. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, says the Psalm. He learns to be compassionate because of the dark, the affliction, the pain that lines the tiled hallways of the asylum's cement floors where all these sufferings and afflictions lie. This is an image from the past. He comes out of the grave clothes of his amnesia shorn, unshorn with the memory of his sins. They are his sins unless you say the innocent are the oppressed and what is done to the kindreds, the strange fruits of their tortures, beatings, is the fault of an enemy. So he looked into the dark and it was getting light. The illuminant began to fill every corner of the hallway in his belly. The sufferings and afflictions were all still there, but they had lost mass, like oxygenated rivers diverted into their midst. Cleaning the Augean Imagination, this river is not like some aging Huxley or Loren Eiseley reimagining evolution, floating on his back between canyons of rock. He walks down the center of the hall like he did the first time. What did the boy see then? They could not touch him. They had to wait for that. That hadn’t happened yet.

 The results of the finished work of the comprachicoes are all along both sides of the hall, misshapen, drooling. Funny it has no smell. That was from all the disinfectant. There is no lack of disinfectant among the unfeeling. Then of course there were all the drugs pumped into the skin. That was before drugs were so common. All the pains took them. Palsy took him drugs. Rage took Valium. Lust had a range of pharmacopoeia. Hatred must have eaten some. Sicknesses all. Diseases all. Rampant in the hall. Covered when the Lord entered that hall long before and found a species of Noah and Jonah. A hall more like a tunnel of misery. My sin was there that I resurrect here. My sins were theirs. The enemies inoculate you with pain. Redemption is not cleansing like a nuclear flash, or a flood. It feels more like a plant growing.The fish is their life. Life is their fish. Moses floated early. How far is it to where he kicks the rock. He hit the rock with his stick. He hit the rock! The rock has a sense of humor about Him even at the time He puts Moses to bed in Egypt. We go down to get his body in a few years the way we go down to get our memory of the dirty hallway with its stretchers and wheelchairs. What was it like in Noah’s childhood? Playing with too much water. Jonah, playing at the wharf with pelicans for pets would come home with shells in a bag.

 If water is the symbol of pain then there are different sizes of vessel in which the volume of water collects. That does not indicate the pain is greater, it just means it is felt more because of the larger vessel. The water from a kitchen spigot is nothing compared to a thunder storm on the mountain, when the runs off the mountain and collects in the vessel. The vessel feels the more than when a slicker laid on the ground. Jonah was this kind of  runoff. He had to be sunk to make an impression.

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