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Be Your Own Guru

I have a desire to find some sort of mystical guru or esoteric order of initiates and learn secret wisdom from them, but I have always been disappointed in this quest.  Recently I decided that I would be my own guru or prophet.  I’m not sure exactly how to do it, but I think I will try the following:

1)Say things I don’t understand exactly but which have an imaginative resonance for me and treat them as if they are true but it’s my fault for not understanding them.  For example “The past is earth,the future is sky, the present is fire”.

2)Do things that I don’t understand but which seem to be symbolic of greater realities.  For example: leave a little cornflakes over in the bowl and feed it to birds.

3)Love myself unconditionally and re-assure myself when I am scared.

I may also experiment with treating other people as gurus on a provisional basis.

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8 thoughts on “Be Your Own Guru

  1. Dear wise fellow, as you’re feeling guru-like, may I ask your brief opinion on an allegorical matter?

    I’m an autodidact mired in a literary/philosophical quandary, which sounds like a barrel of larks, but isn’t. More of an ostrich stuffed in a suitcase.

    I have written a large collection of Predicaments, Parables, Pifflings and so forth, which are strung together by a central allegorical narrative. Good for me eh? Quite. But I’ve reached an impasse with regards expressing the philosophy behind it. I do not wish to harangue the reader (I’m assuming there will be one), but nonetheless the philosophy must be voiced in some fashion, as it’s essential to the plot.

    In general, if you have a specific philosophical notion that you wish to put forward, should you;

    (1) Write a small manifesto, separate from the novel, in dull but precise jargon that no-one outside the philosophy department will read, and possibly not even them, given that you bribed your way into classes with a bottle of wine on Prof Crittenden’s desk when you were sixteen, and haven’t been back since.

    (2) Write a bodice-ripper, and have your hero/heroine shout out the theory at moment of climax.

    (3) Write a gnomic allegory and say to hell with precision, favouring metaphor over philosophical clarity, poetic truth over logical truth, and “dignity” over “any fucking food in the house” and dither away at it for eight years, whilst youth withers on the vine etc. (current activity)

    (4) Write a garbled bastardized hybrid of all three.

    (5) Other.

    Essentially, should you hector the audience using your protagonists as mouthpieces (always fun), or should “pure” philosophy be kept from novels and fiction, allowing the plot itself to impart any wisdom (such as it is). Witness Sartre’s Roads to Freedom – Interesting as philosophy certainly, terrible as art. And everyone LOVED Dante until halfway through Purgatory when he began to preach at people…

    If the Little Prince had not said “Draw me a sheep”, but rather “Draw me the fourfold root of sufficient reason” would it have been so enchanting?

    I ask, as you frequently combine allegory, philosophy, and narrative with dastardly ease and grace, and appear to have the wisdom of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove at your disposal.

    Respectfully, Valliard

    • Good to hear from you.
      I think you should show it not say it.
      I think there are a couple of different issues worth teasing apart.
      Should you hector the audience and shove your opinions down their throat?
      No. There are several sides to every issue so you should give that room to breathe.
      Should the characters talk in essays?
      No. They should talk like real flesh and blood people.
      Should your story be intrinsically interesting and beautiful even to people who don’t believe in your philosophy.
      Yes.
      Should you use narrative to express your philosophy?
      Sure. But if part of your philosophy is for example, revenge is bad and leads to destruction, it’s best to have a character who is wronged, commits revenge, and ends in destruction.
      If your philosophy is that life is fragile and evanescent, then tell a story that is suffused with that view.
      But what are the philosophical points you want to convey?

  2. Ah. It is always so frustrating to be told what one doesn’t wish to hear, because of course you’re quite right. An allegory speaks through the movement of symbolic characters. The actions themselves are the equations…bloody-mindedly spelling it out won’t make it any clearer, and will rupture the spell. Ach, I see I have some reworking to do.

    The philosophical points in gist? That in the absence of gods, man must create the absolutes that he wists for, through art and action. Like a mapmaker creating his own lands. The Allegorist has a practical means of going about this, but that’s another matter.

    The difficulty is that the central character, the Allegorist himself (it is one of these book-within-book farragos), has become consumed with his own philosophy. The principle plot follows the ghastly result of his adhering to it, come hell or high harlots. So at one point the philosophy has to be expounded. There is a Scribe involved. I thought at one point of calling him Narrative Devicitus (eg), just to be a prat, and have him transcribe the philosophy, but mercifully thought better of it.

    It is also an Underworld tale, vaguely, set in the 18th century, in the desert, and is a black comedy. I am somewhat loath to go into detail in public, as I have the typical ludicrous belief of writers that work loses its potency when exposed to the air prematurely. Or at least exposed to the internet. Which sees enough of people exposing themselves as it is.

    Your point about the story needing to be intrinsically interesting and beautiful is of particular note to me. I abandoned philosophy in favour of literature when I was an irritating (moreso) young whelk principally because I felt strict philosophy was a dead language to the heart.

    It would deeply trouble me to find I was dragging the same problems I had with philosophy over to literature, owing to some intrinsic need for systems and order.
    A case of post equitem sedet atra cura, I believe it’s known as, although usually pertaining to a rich man and his cares, I’ve always taken as being unable to escape your own demons. Particularly if the bastards are on the same horse.

    I thank you greatly for this assistance dear sir, and I apologise for the delayed response. There was a wasp in the room, and conveying it outside was of greater immediate necessity than conveying my thoughts and gratitude.

    I am an utter coward.

    Sincerely indebted, V

    • that all sounds good. as one philosopher-writer to another I would suggest not being so hard on yourself and charging ahead, letting the rhythm of the work carry you beyond your cares and self-doubts, which at the end of the day, are not your friends your work’s friends either.

  3. There is something almost Desideratean about that advice. It is exceedingly comforting. Thank you. I should probably comment more on your blog, rather than merely passively absorbing it like a high-functioning alcoholic sponge, and hitting “favourite” on twitter as a feeble token of appreciation, something like an electronic Edwardian forelock tug. But I fear I interfere enough, with my occasional poetic and paronomastic barbarism…

    You asked about the progress of my novel.

    It stutters and lurches along. Hamstrung by a degraded Muse and an unfortunately late-in-the-day reassessment of the founding philosophical principle. However, when leaping across a canyon on your horse, mid-leap is probably not the time to start questioning the horse’s existence. I shall endeavour to land first, then start pondering how the devil I got there.

    I have been contemplating other allegorical books. Moby Dick, Don Quixote and Monkey are the works I brandish about as being similar in intent (if not, alas, quality) to my own. Particularly Moby Dick, with its rambling hysteria and hell-bent metaphorical blaggardry. However the two works I find myself admiring the most, and have read to the point of their dissolution into a dithery paper mess, are “The Fixer” by Bernard Malamud, and “The Horse’s Mouth” by Joyce Cary.

    I can find nothing whatever wrong with either of them. Which bothers me slightly, as flawlessness is inhuman and tractionless. Everything needs a great scar or internal wound somewhere. Evidence that it fought for a concept, or that something struck a man deeply enough to form and direct his nature. The balance between a crippling flaw and a defining one is another matter, obviously…

    Possible, also, that I consider them flawless as they are precise reflections of a Vision I happen to recognise. Whereas a person with a different focus recognises different Visions, which these books do not accurately reflect.

    Bloody load of meandering there.

    Anyroad. Neither of these books are overtly allegorical, but have a sort of gentle humanism about them. Which prompts the query as to why I am enamoured of something so dissimilar to my nature. I presume poets who fell in love with can-can dancers felt the same. (Although most poets I know are right harlots…)

    You questioned somewhere else (The Greatest Crime is Suicide) about what man needs in absence of theological direction. In my unscientific but long-brooded-upon opinion, IF he wishes to live in a world with “absolute values” it is his obligation to create such values by elevating his own subjective truths. If a man fights for a concept, or honours it through art, he is lending his own worth to this concept. By suffering, sacrifice and vigilance he can then begin to clarify his nature, or impose his own moral hierarchy upon the world (for better or worse). It is still a trick, and an artificial absolute, but it might prompt people to examine their priorities.

    I have taken to helping a man restore a replica Viking longship in an effort to achieve something more tangible than writing such convoluted sentences and directing phantasms around an invented universe.

    I might say that the plus side of directing phantasms is that it’s indoors. And closer to the pub than a rotting hull parked in a dry dock by the Fish Markets. But I did mention that suffering was necessary to cement value, so I should probably stop kvetching about it.

    Away to order your book. Do you have any intention of publishing a collection of your philosophical/mythological fables? Or indeed a full-blown allegorical novel? (full-blown always sounds like a disease) Additionally, do you like either Ivor Cutler or Myles na gCopaleen? They seem like fellows cut from the same cloth of birds flocking together with similar plumage towards a different kettle of fish.

    With great admiration, Valliard

    • Well you are a sweet angel child made of sugar for writing that. What is your deal? How old a person are you? Are you in England or some other exotic locale?
      I suspect we may be living allegories for some reality we can only dimly perceive and that in our best moments // sometimes I think it’s in the future and we are birthing it with our struggles; sometimes I think it’s in eternity and it’s helping us along.
      I do have my first book coming out — called does santa exist ?
      I am not familiar with the scalds you mention but I will investigate.
      As you are in England do you know Tristram shandy ? More than a book — life!
      Best
      Eric

  4. Tristram Shandy is the business! When I first saw that black page, my heart bled. I recommend it to people left, right and centre.
    Answers – I am a dishevelled 32 yr old personage of rather indifferent gender, in a shabby suit and fedora, currently moored in the Antipodes (or Spiderland. Or Sydney) but I’ve dithered half my life around a variety of mainly European localities.
    My deal is being irritatingly hell-bent on the notion of Quests, and Allegorical Intention, and indeed most of my European escapades were the direct result of this. I have fallen in the Seine twice, given an impromptu talk on metaphysics in a brothel in Cairo (I didn’t know it was a brothel damn it!), and worked as the caretaker of a pestilential lodge on a Highland peninsular all in pursuit of the Subjective Absolute. (Sound of slow desultory clap from the stalls…) I also like wine and gambling on the horses. And Buster Keaton. This is my poxy little website; http://valliard.com/

    Please do investigate the scalds dear Eric! Myles (Flann O‘Brien) was a most peculiar and enlightened soul (“The Best of Myles” is a good start), and reminds me most of your work, and I think Ivor may have been from another sphere of existence altogether. Although now he can be found on the more dubious plane of “youtube”.
    Regards, V

  5. I wrote you a parable this evening, but these waters, these words, what can they do Prince, what can they do…

    There was a man who admired a stone statue on a hill. Every day, at dusk, he would descend from the village to the foot of this hill to draw inspiration from this statue.
    It seemed to him perfection. The Absolute incarnate. He could conceive of nothing finer, and his heart became dependent on this thing of stone, that so reflected his Vision.
    One evening he noticed, to his horror, that the statue had altered. Its face had begun to resemble that of a sworn enemy. He cast around for culprits, but could only find the wind.
    This new statue was popular in the village, as it was very handsome, and instead of a clutch of lonely poets gathering at dusk, to gaze in their collective isolation, a throng of maidens poured in and out all day, and set up beer gardens.
    The poets were horrified, as there were now more of them, and consequently more aware of what they’d lost. They told the statue-gazer, “Find who is responsible and recover our Vision!”
    So the statue-gazer went to his friend the stone-mason, who had built the original image he found so honourable, to lament what had happened to his creation.
    Every statue this stone-mason had seen fit to show the world, the statue-gazer had admired. He studied them in detail and with delight, and proclaimed their worth to his fellows.
    In their mutual love of statues, and as they both spoke a peculiar dialect, the statue-gazer regarded the stone-mason with great warmth and honour, and a sense of solidarity.
    He divulged to this man he felt spoke the same language, ‘Someone has ruined your Vision! And it now resembles all that we loathe! I cannot write a line! Who is responsible? I shall avenge you!”
    And the stone-mason said, “It is I. I am reshaping it after my heart, and to me it is beautiful.”
    And the statue-gazer was struck dumb. When he recovered he cried, “Your heart is breaking my own!”
    And the stone-mason said, “Speechless!”, and cared not.
    And the statue-gazer was deeply hurt.
    As the months passed, and the maidens increased, and there was now no room left for the poets, and their Vision was unrecognisable, the statue-gazer continued to decry their loss upon his corner of the mountain, in despair.
    All the while he insisted and believed it was not the stone-mason’s fault; it was the winds, it was The Powers That Be, it was meddling stone-masons from far away villages. It was not the work of the man whose other statues he so understood. All because the statue-gazer couldn’t abandon the memory of his Vision, but neither could he damn the man he considered kin to his thoughts.
    And the stone-mason heard his laments and accusations, and took them to heart, and banished him from his shop, that he might only look through the windows, and not converse, for the statue-gazer had hurt the stone-mason as well, or so the former surmised.
    Had to surmise, for the stone-mason would not speak to the statue-gazer.
    So the statue-gazer went to the foot of his ruined Vision, that was beautiful to the stone-mason, from a different angle, and he wept.

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