"Everybody acts out a myth, but very few people know what their myth is. And you should know what your myth is, because it might be a tragedy. And maybe you don't want it to be."
|illustration by Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1850 – 1913)|
“The wild worship of lawlessness and the materialist worship of law end in the same void. Nietzsche scales staggering mountains, but he turns up ultimately in Tibet. He sits down beside Tolstoy in the land of nothing and Nirvana. They are both helpless — one because he must not grasp anything, and the other because he must not let go of anything. The Tolstoyan's will is frozen by a Buddhist instinct that all special actions are evil. But the Nietzscheite's will is quite equally frozen by his view that all special actions are good; for if all special actions are good, none of them are special. They stand at the crossroads, and one hates all the roads and the other likes all the roads. The result is — well, some things are not hard to calculate. They stand at the cross-roads.
"…Joan of Arc was not stuck at the cross-roads, either by rejecting all the paths like Tolstoy, or by accepting them all like Nietzsche. She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. Yet Joan, when I came to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche, all that was even tolerable in either of them. I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow. Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing. It was impossible that the thought should not cross my mind that she and her faith had perhaps some secret of moral unity and utility that has been lost."
--C. K. Chesterton
THE AIR OUTSIDE was humid and smelled of fajitas and rotten fish. Car lights streaked past, and the pedestrian parade on the Malecón seemed to be moving in slow motion. The only single girl of note was a short, boxy mestiza in a hotel uniform, shuffling through bus fumes after a day spent scouring bathrooms. I noticed a tiny silver cross at her neck—another long-suffering Mexican saint. She looked up as we passed one another, and the brief glance from her warm brown eyes gave rise to an unexpected shiver. It may have only been a flare of desire brought on by the buzz of the tequila, but it seemed that her eyes had revealed something darker—something like the mystery of Mexico itself.Dan had written about this more than once in the time he’d been traveling the country. I remember in particular a postcard he sent showing the monstrous, massive stone carving of Coatlicue, the Aztec earth goddess of fertility and death. He said the statue was a perfect example of his unjustly ignored anthropological thesis, “A Freudian Geography of the North American Mind.” In this dubious disquisition, the USA took the role of the ego, the lone pioneer on the vast Great Plains, the central, controlling, conscious will that dreamed and schemed and acted on the world. Canada was the superego, the hunter on the harsh, intolerant tundra, the high and mighty conscience of the Great White North. Lowly Mexico was the id, the crazed Nahuatl priest in the lush mountain jungle, the deep subconscious, teeming with untamed instincts and arcane imagery, ruled by a primitive nightmare logic. This was the ancient land of the Olmec, the Maya, the Toltec, and the Aztec. Of bloody human sacrifice, pyramids, and treasure. Of conquistadores and missionaries and zealous revolutionaries. A nation of greed and grief, of cruelty and corruption, of grinding poverty and religious fervor. A country that prayed to saints and danced with the devil. A country that celebrated death and the dead.
Had I glimpsed all that in the poor girl’s eyes?"
(excerpt from DARK GOLD)
|Bridge Tower, Prague|
Rudolf von Alt, 1843
|photo, Anonymous, 1927|
NEW YORK—In a groundbreaking new study published Friday in The Journal Of East Asian Studies, a team of leading historians has proved that meditation originally spread from ancient China because a single, highly annoying monk went around telling everyone how much it had changed his life.
Analyzing documents uncovered across the Eurasian continent, researchers determined that the monk, who lived in the seventh century A.D. and learned rudimentary breathing and visualization exercises from a group of Mahayana Buddhists, traveled widely and talked constantly about how practicing meditation for only a week had fundamentally altered his personal outlook. From the Korean peninsula to the Central Asian steppes, he is believed to have aggravated people everywhere he went, inevitably shifting every conversation to the importance of mindfulness and being centered, even when it was clear no one was interested.