Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Say Hello

When the old cat finally speaks to Molly Grue, he tells her a lot of fascinating things. The one that sticks out to me right now is his reason why he doesn't just reach out and touch the Lady Amalthea, though he will dance cats so close to her with his ever-yearning paw slant towards her. If he touch her, she will own him. To be as free as a cat, I guess the lesson is, you cannot ever touch what you crave for no other reason than Beauty. Or is it Truth? Or is it Reality?

I don't know the answers to those questions. I know that when you come around, the air shifts and I know my power has gone out of me. You are this pull within me; though the hook ties back to your cast line, I only feel it where it pierces me in the heart. I am old, and getting older all the time. You are older than I am, for you there is no time. For you, you have always known me, before I was here in this body, in this world, in this realm, in this moment you made for me.

The trouble with you is the trouble in me. The literal in you is the literal with me. The spelling you know is the spelling with me. Falling in you is falling with me. But falling in with me is falling out of it all. So that you and I know this clearly, let me speak in riddles to myself so that I hear the lesson later, only after I have fallen literally for a spell. The trouble with me is the trouble in you.

I would start with your neck. I place my finger, right hand index, just underneath your left ear, at your jaw, where the jaw bone turns away. Let my other fingers fall on your neck. I feel backwards, along the base of your skull, hold your head when you happen to lean into my open hand behind your head. I move my left cheek to your left cheek. And then I draw my sideburn along that same stretch on you, breath into my nose the smell of your hair just past your ear, then turn more towards you to breath in even more of your hair, now at the top of your head. Smelling another human being this way is how my people learn one another's true self.


  1. I think all the characters infatuation with Lady Amalthea is because she is truth. They all knew it. Some accepted and desperately wanted her, others feared her but none of them could hold onto her for long. They also knew she could destroy who they think they are.

    Have you read or watched Perfume: The Story of Murder by Patrick Suskind? Not completely related but your post reminded me of it. Of course, minus the creepy murder feel.

  2. I did watch Perfume a few years back. It's a very powerful way of understanding the destructive within love and passion. So, I can see why, if you're thinking about how Amalthea "could destroy who they think they are" you might see some sympathies here. But what do you mean by that phrase? What scene or so did you have in mind?

    Do you think Truth is Beauty, or do you think they are distinct, different from one another? Much of what's in the text about the unicorn addresses her beauty, but there's old associations between truth and beauty in our culture.

  3. My first reaction is to say, truth and beauty are distinctly different from one another. Even though I left the church my first response aligns with their teachings; the church I grew up in separated the two. Truth is god and beauty is evil. Beauty being a characteristic of Satan and temptation, but I see truth and beauty being the same with Amalthea in both her forms. Maybe because Beauty in its purest form is Amalthea. Which would make her Truth.

    It's odd to say but I see many parallels within the two films. Jean-Baptiste is, at one point in the film every character from The Last Unicorn even Amalthea. Except he couldn't escape being human like she did. Truth is beauty to him, scent is beauty. His obsession made him mad just like King Haggard. He knew it was going to be his downfall but he also knew how beautiful finding Truth was and he wouldn't let it go. That reality slowly destroyed him.

  4. I had a few scenes in mind. Jean-Baptiste first kill, his frustration with capturing that scent again, his obsession with how to capture the scent when he found it again, and when he was fully aware of his demise and shared the power of that Beauty with a group of people.

    Comparing that scene with the last scene is a testament of how a Truth can be separate from destruction, I think. They showed how truths evolve.

  5. What sort of church claims beauty is evil? Either way, it's good you're out and able to get past such debilitating mindcuffs as thinking beauty is evil.

    Do you think there's a difference between Amalthea and the unicorn? I mean, when you think of 'Amalthea', do you see the unicorn or the young woman? You say "both her forms", but I'm not sure Amalthea is both.

    What do you make of Schmendrick's claim that Mommy Fortuna should not have meddled with a "real unicorn" (or a "real harpy") because "the truth melts her magic, always?"

    Tell me more about why you think Haggard and Jean-Baptiste are both destroyed by "that reality"? Which reality is specifically that one? Not letting go of the truth or not letting go of one's obsession or pursuit of it?

    Tell me more, also, about the testament of the last scene.

    Incidentally, this poem is more about the cat's own reactions than about the unicorn or Amalthea. I don't know which is better: to remain unpossessed by one's craving to touch beauty or to touch intimately another's scent and risk the possession. I've lived both. I don't think it's necessarily "situational" or "relative to the circumstances" as we might easily say about difficult choices.

  6. A cult.
    Truth can’t destroy the people in the last scene because Truth can’t save them either. The group of people who come to witness Jean-Baptiste hanging were privileged people. They had enough of their needs met to have wants. So, they indulged and the Truth and it “destroyed” their restraint by exposing their sins. They can pretend it didn’t happen but everyone will remember that it did. It’ll force them to reconstruct their self. Something that’s also a privilege.
    The group that ate him did not have the privilege of choosing Truth. They saw Truth that came in the form of their needs so they consumed it. There was nothing else for them to do with the Truth. The Truth couldn’t destroy them, it didn’t hold any power. Just like it didn’t hold any power for Mommy Fortuna. She knew death was going to be the outcome. If I remember correctly, she welcomed her death? I may be making this up and making it what I want it to be. The details are muddled, I didn’t like the book the first time around. Maybe it’s time for a reread.
    Mommy Fortuna is an interesting character. She knew that “what is true, no two men know” and so did Schmendrick I think. Schmendrick said, “Whatever can die is beautiful – more beautiful than a unicorn, who lives forever, and who is the most beautiful creature in the world”. Most of these characters, I think found beauty in that because it’s real.
    Except King Haggard, he like Jean-Baptiste (when he started killing young women with purpose) lost themselves in the obsession. But the difference between the two, Jean-Baptiste ended the obsession himself, King Haggard had it taken away from him. So not letting go of the obsession destroyed them both.
    I still think that Amalthea represents Beauty in her human form but I’m changing my mind about Amalthea being Beauty in both her forms. I do think there’s a difference in her the woman and the unicorn. The idea of the unicorn is difficult to accept. A beautiful, immortal creature doesn’t have meaning that I can see. But her human form did. She loved, she wept, she felt but in some ways I think she was still cursed as the unicorn was because Prince Lear wanted her only because she was beautiful. Just like the unicorn was only wanted by King Haggard because she was beautiful.
    What do you mean it’s not necessarily situational?

  7. Doesn't King Haggard let Amalthea walk in love, forgetting herself and her quest, to cling to that mortal life he kept hoarded away for himself? She gets away with a lot of things, even though he's convinced it's her underneath those dull eyes anyway. Mabruk knows and tells Haggard that she is his doom let in through the front door, and Haggard agrees and still risks losing control. It's not even love for himself he craves, since it's the young love of the other couple that entices him to think of his own breaking heart. I guess I'm not satisfied with saying Haggard had it taken from him. I mean, you're very right from the perspective you're working from, since there is still the clear sense that Haggard intends to rule his captured and fearful slaves with iron will and denial. To free the unicorns is to weaken his grasp and snatch them from him. So they are taken from him, because he does not let go.

    But it seems to me he is letting go, in a perverse and uncertain way, because she came to him in a way he didn't expect —distinct from how Molly Grue and Schmendrick, experiencing how aging dissolves the fairy tale hope, didn't expect the unicorn in the manner she comes into their lives contrary to chance. It's this uncertainty what to do with how Lír and Amalthea fell in love that throws him off. Not a love for himself, but a love between the newly young, the love of those just hatched. I think there's a logic at work between what Hagsgate is willing to do and what Haggard is willing to do, for both to have the "peace of mind" that comes from possessing a dream's reality. That is, I think both are ways of wickedly denying the young the chance to fall in love.

    By not necessarily 'situational', I mean we shouldn't cheaply accept that we don't understand one another's moral and ethical contours, or how our choices shape our values and we're all choosing differently and so shaping up differently. People, by thinking morality is only either related to an absolute or relative to a chosen frame, refuse to dig into their moral reasoning and shared justification by saying the differences between our situations amount to us being unable to judge one another. "Everything is relative" is our way of absolving ourselves of the hard task of holding ourselves accountable across the board, which we could only use as our standard for judging one another. The standard you use to judge, that is how you will be judged. Respect is acknowledging who follows their own heart with conviction, and that's how we learn to trust what each of us has to offer the other. This is neither "absolute" nor "relative" nor is it "situational." It is relational, built on developing trust under constantly changing rules of engagement. The only higher order comparison we can make between different moral frames is observing how well people remain consistent with their own rules. The higher their consistency, the more we can trust them.

    Maybe. It's just an unformed idea.

  8. They’re all so miserable, in denying love to the young they denied themselves that too. Maybe King Haggard welcomed her in because he wanted to end his and Hagsgate’s suffering. Not quite an antihero but not exactly a villain either.

    Do you think respect should be given to all who follow their hearts with conviction? Or even within that is there a hierarchy of respect? I know I’m falling into the “situational” frame you just mentioned but what if someone is consistent in an action that I think is wrong? Well, okay I guess it depends on how we define respect and how important trust is. I do think that we should be held to a moral standard that doesn’t waver but I also think there should be room for forgiveness.

  9. Haggard is a villian. Having motives and reasons don't change what he does and did to the land.

    No, I don't think conviction is enough. The Zhuangzi arguments against "benevolence and righteousness" convince me that something other than "following the heart" is needed for the moral choices I choose to respect. Well-intentioned people who act thoughtlessly or ignorantly or inflexibly end up making situations far worse. One's heart has to work together with one's mind, one's spirit, and one's tribe or peopleweb. In the absence of genuine tension, no one feels the tug, the drag, those things have on our choices, which they should. For me, tension or struggle are indications of growth and the need for switching to higher/lower resolutions to stimulate solutions; the tension is what calls us forward to be ourselves. When people feel compelled by their hearts, cannot be turned aside, cannot even hesitate, despite whatever clear dangers involved, more often than not the outcome will be disastrous. Consistency, though, isn't the same thing as conviction, for me.

    But you tell me what you had in mind, what was the image you had, for "someone is consistent in an action I think is wrong"?

    Why have room for forgiveness?

  10. Sorry it's taken so long to reply.

    I think forgiveness inspires hope. I like to believe that people are inherently good so when we get to a point in our lives where we start learning the lessons that life is teaching us we will need hope to make those changes permanent. Especially if, we harbor a lot of guilt over the things we did while we were still learning. I guess I should say people should have opportunities not forgiveness.

    But yea, I agree with what you've said. It wasn't one image that I had in mind exactly. It was a group of people. My comparison wasn't fair, I have prejudice. You're talking on an individual level, right?

  11. Wasn't that long at all.

    Opportunities is a good word for it.

    When do people stop being inherently good? If we are inherently good, why do any of us go bad?

    When you wrote this, "My comparison wasn't fair, I have prejudice. You're talking on an individual level, right?" what comparison was the one you were speaking about, and which talking is the talking you're talking about?

  12. I have no idea how to answer to be honest. I do think we are a product of our environment but I also think we choose to be good or bad. This may be extremely naive but I like to think that even if we become bad people, we can always become good again. Some of us don't but I think we all want to be good. It's hard to think that people like to be bad.

    I was trying to work out how you were talking about trust. An overly zealous, religious person who's judgmental in a painful way is consist in their actions. They can be trusted to act in that manner. So, when there are interactions with people like that there is a standard held up against them and they always meet it. But I see that's not what you meant.

  13. Consistent*


Is this wise?
Is this yours?
Is this love?

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