Saturday, 16 May 2020

Welcome to the hours

Sabrina Orah Mark's article in the Paris Review on May 7th - Fuck the bread. The bread is over. - beautifully describes a real, living now - yes, alive as you or me - woman's plunge into testing adventure. Although she specialises as lecturer in fairy tales, she discovers - as the lectureship position disappears into thin air due to Corona - that she has never actually lived one.

Robert Bly, in his Preface to Iron John (1990), writes:

"The knowledge of how to build a nest in a bare tree, how to fly to the wintering place, how to perform the mating dance - all of this information is stored in the reservoirs of the bird's instinctual brain. But human beings, sensing how much flexibility they might need in meeting new situations, decided to store this sort of knowledge outside the instinctual system; they stored it in stories. Stories, then - fairy stories, legends, myths, hearth stories - amount to a reservoir where we keep new ways of responding that we can adopt when the conventional and current ways wear out."

I changed the name of this blog from '... follow your footsteps' to 'And they lived happily ever after ...' for one simple, utterly pedestrian (no pun intended) reason: my feet became sore. I took this as a sign that I must stop following my footsteps so much. My feet were obviously tired of adventuring without rest. Perhaps I must settle down and finally, finally live like every ordinary body else as best I can, I figured at the time.

There is no difference between my actual life and a fairy tale: it is as hard, as full of twists and turns, as horrifying and as magical.

I grew up steeped to the brim in fairy and all kinds of tales. I guess I became curious in my middle age about what happens in the 'happily ever after'. How does 'happily ever after' work? Many people around me - possibly with the exception of the homeless - seemed permanently to live in the 'ever after'. Okay, I thought, if my feet are that sore, perhaps the time has come to stop, look around me and ask to share the prize.

The biggest difference between a traditional fairy tale and 'real life' is that there are no statistics and no mass media in a fairy tale. A fairy tale has one hero or heroine per story, period. She is never a statistic. Nobody feels sorry for her. Nobody worships her. She's too busy trying to stay alive, somehow, between dreadful tasks and tempting or distracting villains, and seizing glimmers of opportunity, for social commentary, psychological analysis, or media people to get a single word in edgeways.

Mark, in her article, writes that the characters who do not fulfil the required tasks in a fairy tale simply fall over the edge into a void, in the same way that a cartoon character can toss his cup behind him and never worry about having to wash it. I hazard that those who 'live happily ever after' fall over that same edge, into that same happy void. It's the place where ordinary life continues. The land of unwashed cups, for sure.

Continually adventuring on the edge of things must have bitten into my feet. (I have to 'read' it somehow, so, because I do not have medical aid.) So I step down off it, off the edge.

The days welcome me into their hours.
I recognise the hours!
Beautiful creatures they are: flowers given us to unfold our beings in doings.
I realise I have been here from the start.
Everything and nothing is the same.

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