The Neverending Story
Sunday, January 20, 2013 7:52:03 PM
Recently, I've been feeling like this:
I expressed the matter to someone yesterday, more or less thus: that I have crashed like a computer with too many windows open. And now I am struggling to know how to make the best use of my time, since everything appears (more or less) equally absurd. But I know I have duties and so on, so please forgive me if you know me and I am seeming to spend my time on the wrong things at present
There are many things that go through my head, and which I could write on this blog. Perhaps you know this quote:
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
I doubt I've seen things you wouldn't believe, but it's possible. Did you also know that David Bowie paraphrased the above on a wreath for his brother's funeral? If I recall what I read, something like, "You've had more thoughts than any of us will ever know. All these will be lost now like tears in the rain."
Well, I probably won't write all the things I sometimes think of writing. For instance, I probably won't write in detail about what led me to formulate a new law (Crisp's Second Law), that states that anyone who claims (or implies) they are 'at one with everything' and also claims (or implies) that they are a master, should be automatically dismissed. How can you be better than the people you are one with? So, that's a blog post that probably won't get written.
Here's one that now, I suppose (if I can last long enough before needing to eat some soup), will:
Many years ago, just after the middle of the second half of the twentieth century, I received a book. There was something extraordinary about my receiving this book. Why? Well, I think because, first of all, I thought I had discovered it just lying around, and wondered where on Earth it had come from, and then because, I discovered it was mine. This was very peculiar.
It was a new book, a hardback, with a shiny and beautifully illustrated, tapestry-like dust jacket. The endpapers had a swirling marbled pattern of green and red. There were many very captivating internal illustrations, and the text, I saw, was printed in green and red ink. I spent a long time examining this object, which did (strange though it may sound) appear quite magical to me. The title of the book was The Neverending Story, and this was enigmatic, too. I had never heard of this book, and yet its title seemed to claim that it had existed forever and always would exist. It was written by someone called Michael Ende. How very odd - a neverending story - THE Neverending Story - written by someone whose name ended in 'Ende'.
After some time, I was so wonderfully perplexed at the existence of this object that I asked an adult what it was and where it had come from. I was told that it was for me. This made no sense, either, as it wasn't my birthday and it wasn't Christmas. It took me a long time to get used to the wonderful fact that the book, apparently, belonged to me.
I must eat soup soon, so will need to keep my words to a minimum. I read the book, and I was not in the least disappointed. Now is not the time to tell of all I gleaned from that tome. Recently, however, I have been thinking of the Acharis, or Everlasting Weepers. As I remember it, the Acharis were repulsive worm creatures, miserable because they were so ugly, who made beautiful silver structures out of their tears. In pity, the hero of the book, Bastian, uses a wish to transform them into happy creatures. Later he encounters them again, to find they have turned into the Shlamoofs - butterfly clowns, irreverent, taking nothing seriously, who are merry and rude, and who are cheerfully destroying all the beautiful structures that were once made by the Acharis, whom the Shlamoofs, oblivious, do not remember.
It's become something of a cliche that a sense of humour is the ultimate antidote to megalomania, oppression, and so on. But sometimes I recall the words of a friend of mine who described someone as "pathologically incapable of taking anything seriously", and I wonder about this. Humour, too, can be insensitive. Humour, too, can be a way of repelling unknown things in order to protect a closed system. Sometimes there is a sadness without words and without apparent use that perhaps makes the world larger. Or, if it seems to make the world small and distant, which nonetheless opens up a largeness in the melancholy, star-hung sky. Perhaps even that is saying too much. Perhaps I should simply say that sometimes - and especially recently - I think about the Acharis and the Shlamoofs.
And, in some oblique (sometimes direct) way, I've been thinking much of late about opposites - about the need for opposites. Recently I began reading Cordwainer Smith's The Rediscovery of Man. It seems a very appropriate book to be reading at a time when the spectre of transhumanism looms large on my mental horizon. These words in John J. Pierce's introduction struck me:
In these stories, it is the underpeople - and the more enlightened lords of the Instrumentality who heed them - who hold the salvation of humanity in their hands. In 'The Dead Lady of Clown Town,' the despised, animal-derived workers and robots must teach humans the meaning of humanity in order to free mankind from its seeming euphoria.
Lord Jestocost is inspired by the martyrdom of the dog-woman D'joan; and Santuna is transformed by the experiences in 'Under Old Earth' into the Lady Alice More. Together, they become the architects of the Rediscovery of man - bringing back freedom, risk, uncertainty and even evil.