Sunday, July 29, 2012

who, without indeed attempting union

Pretend that the brand of butter presented to the boy on a crumpet by his mother is the connective word in the sentence that removes parataxis: his happy and sad states join together and become a consequence of one another, so, imagine it as though the mother had brought along an And on a crumpet, whatever that would look like, and then she said to the boy, here, take this, let's have some continuity in this kitchen rather than these moods occurring right and left without obvious connections between them, because that disconcerts me, she said: I don't want to do all the work and feel as if I have to live on assumptions, my own assumptions, existing in the middle of this surrealism or haiku, strange haiku, first you're sad, and, I don't know: then there's an event that lets us know we're both affected by mono no aware, but you're too young, she decided to the butter knife, too too young to be worrying about the pathos of transience, though it is, she says, genuinely sad.

In the Duino Elegies, she told the melancholy boy, the poet Rilke sees transient objects begging us to recognise them and name them, but we are even more transient than the objects, says Rilke (this butter knife will be around when I am dead, she adds: and when you are dead also) which is an additional unique sadness, our superiors begging us for help. Kings, she says, kings in the dust, queens at our feet, and all passing away, she looks at the knife which does nothing but stands still with its end in the crumpet, collecting sunlight as it comes in through the curtains, this hard basking element upright and apparently alert. If I had brought you the wrong brand of butter, she continued, it would be as if I'd invented a word that didn't make any sense. Blarghenargh for example. Can I eat now, said the boy.

The stork has a problem with the bats in Aelian, then the bats leave; there had to be a connection thought the onlooker and so this observer made a scientific deduction or in other words baseless fabrication, since it's a fact today that plane tree leaves do not repel or paralyse the poor bats even if you are a stork.

How do plane tree leaves know that you're a stork, or does the bat-repelling force come from an outside source that only takes advantage of plane tree leaves because they're the type of leaf the stork has learnt to choose, but it would really work through any kind of leaf if the stork tries those instead?

Aelian never mentions any other kind of leaf in conjunction with those bats, and like this he allows the reader to believe that plane tree leaves are the only object that would do the job, but did the storks ever experiment with alternative utensils, perhaps a random stick? It is easy to grab the nearest object and never go any further and possibly this happened to the storks more than two millennia ago. So they are sort of human in a way, and I'm sure we can all relate to their situations and beliefs.

The Ancient Greeks (I don't know who) concocted the stork phenomenon and passed it on in their writing, forward it went, forward, until it reached Aelian, a scholar of Greek though he was personally a Roman (AD 175 – AD 235, he lived). Like the imaginary storks he must have seen a likely-looking tool and grasped it, this piece of information that would make his existence better and easier, helping him to solve a problem in his life. What problem? His book-series (On the Characteristics of Animals in seventeen small volumes) wasn't finished yet. Not finished! Deadline? The author champs the end of his pen. Like a horse attacking a straw he goes at his pen with big teeth. What else can I say about animals? What else, wonders Aelian, sucking his pen, if he used pens, which he may not have done -- how did the Ancient Romans write? -- with pens I'm going to assume for now -- what else can I say about animals? He sucks or chews whatever he has, probably a pen.

Elsewhere in the world there are wars, there is hunger, starvations, famine, rare animals becoming extinct, an egg on an island consumed by a rat, a horse steps on the tail of a snake, a bee unrolls its tongue, an Australian foot steps in a puddle after a big northern Wet, the place where I am sitting is a pure desert with no building, I sit magically in the air now exactly here at every point in history, I am positioned over a cactus, and Aelian stops chewing his pen because a thought has occurred. Storks! But seriously, at almost every point in history I am dead.

Storks, he writes: storks, stork eggs, nests, bats, infertile, wind eggs, plane tree leaves, bats repelled; he puts his pen down, there's another page finished, and some years after this event he inevitably dies.

Each book in Animals is made of discrete articles, and next to each article or each new topic within the same article, the Loeb edition has printed subtitles to let the reader know what this portion of the book is about, "The Great Sea-Perch," or, "The Hawk and Eye-Troubles," "Tame Fish of Various Lands," "Honey-Dew in India," otherwise "Examples of Incest." Here is one example he gives of nonincest: "The camel, for instance, would never couple with its mother."* Loeb's version was translated by A.F. Schofield and published in three volumes, the first volume in 1958, the last in 1959. I believe the author must have been running out of material because he ends some of the entries with a note to let the reader know that in his opinion this information he's just passed to you is too strange to be anything other than a lie, but, he says, as the author of this book it is my duty to write down everything that I can find without making a judgment. I really do have to include this, he insists. He is more likely to write these notes in book three than book one, and am I wrong when I imagine that this is a sign of anxiety, bred from his greed for words, pressing with steady force upon his conscience?

* He writes:

In the name of Zeus our father, permit me to ask the tragic dramatists and their predecessors, the inventors of fables, what they mean by showering such a flood of ignorance upon the son of Laius who consummated that disastrous union with his mother; and upon Telephus who, without indeed attempting union, lay with his mother and would have done the same as Oedipus, had not a serpent sent by the gods kept them apart, when Nature allows unreasoning animals to perceive by mere contact the nature of this union, with no need for tokens nor for the presence of the man who exposed Oedipus on Cithaeron.

The camel, for instance, would never couple with its mother.

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