Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Old Man IS the Sea

His best. Time may show it to be the best single piece of any of us, I mean his and my contemporaries. This time, he discovered God, a Creator. Until now, his men and women had made themselves, shaped themselves out of their own clay; their victories and defeats were at the hands of each other, just to prove to themselves or one another how tough they could be. But this time, he wrote about pity: about something somewhere that made them all: the old man who had to catch the fish and then lose it, the fish that had to be caught and then lost, the sharks which had to rob the old man of his fish; made them all and loved them all and pitied them all. It’s all right. Praise God that whatever made and loves and pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further. 
(William Faulkner review of The Old Man and the Sea
 for Washington and Lee University.)

What is Mr. Faulkner saying..?

It seems to me that he is speaking of a perennial spirit which existed prior to coming into the realm of religion...the unrecognized root of all religion. Religions have formed static creeds and beliefs stemming from a dynamic "perennial tradition,"and their institutions have drawn up listings of such beliefs. Adherence marks those who are in, and those who are out.  Great literary figures, such as Faulkner and Hemingway, always return to the perennial spirit, or in modern terms, to consciousness or awareness, to find their own spiritual identity.  Faulkner seems to be simply claiming that Hemingway lost sight of his identity in his earlier writing, but re-discovered it in The Old Man and the Sea..

How is this perennial tradition to be recognized?  It begins in wholeness, and our realization that nothing resides outside of an immediate wholeness (often referred to as the experience of Now).  Mr. Faulkner alludes to this in the interfaces of man and fish and sharks. They all belong to one whole system,  and their relationships (polarities) within this system define true reality.  No "part" exists independently. However, differences (STRANGENESS, to use Hemingway's term), within the system, are recognized with awe.  Might the sea represent this wholeness, this system, this perennial spirit, within which all of the polar differences of life have their play..? And might we say that while the differences pass (die), the wholeness, the (eternal) sea, never dies..?
Are the old man and the fish and the sharks and the boy, and everything else, made out of the sea..?  Might we then say:  not the old man and..but the old man IS.. the sea..?

Here are some STRANGE things to consider:

"Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated."

"He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility.  But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride."

"I am a strange old man."

 "You'll not fish without eating while I'm alive."

"I may not be as strong as I think," the old man said.  "But I know many tricks and have resolution."

"We're different," the old man said."

"For a long time now eating had bored him and he never carried a lunch."

"The old man knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean."

"She is kind and very beautiful.  But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly and such birds that fly, dipping and hunting, with their small sad voices are made too delicately for the sea."

"Only I have no luck anymore.  But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day."

"He rested sitting on the un-stepped mast and sail and tried not to think but only to endure."

"I wish I had the boy."

"He could tell the difference between the blowing noise the male made and the sighing blow of the female."  

"Fish, " he said softly, aloud, "I'll stay with you until I am dead."

"How do you feel, hand?"

"He came out unendingly and water poured from his sides."

"There are three things that are brothers:  the fish and my two hands."

"He commenced to say his prayers mechanically."

"I told the boy I was a strange old man," he said, "Now is when I must prove it."
The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing.  Now he was proving it again.  Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it."

"But his left hand had always been a traitor and would not do what he called on it to do and he did not trust it."

"The fish is my friend too."

"I do not care who kills who."

"Then when he had seen the fish come out of the water and hang motionless in the sky before it fell, he was sure there was some great strangeness and he could not believe it."

"When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit."

"But then everything is sin."

"I'm sorry about it, fish."

"I went out too far."

"The old man was dreaming about lions."

by Charlie Coon.. marking the end of more rewarding 
times of listening to Jesse Gatlin..

December 19th, 2014

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