The Sweet Diaries

Sweetness is an opinion, not a fact. You may have heard on an activist website that you are entitled to opinions, but not facts. But choosing to write “sweetness” here multiple times is a very sweet fact, which lessens its factual status slightly, if not sweetly.

A sweet diary would not be a diary of machinations, but aesthetics. Diaries, in their mission, are at their core, a chronicle of values, and sweetness should not be excluded from this jolly old club.  Sweetness is not a foodstuff of political tact, except when it is embraced by weary, cynical republics looking for change. I think it is true that Canadian presidential candidates are more cordial than their American counterparts, and I hope, one day, that American politicians too, will ban cynical dialogue from their campaign platforms.  This diary post was not originally about politics, but it leered into that land. Next order of business is the sweetness of wisdom, since the topic is related, and too brief to add to another post, is that of a very uber pop culture reference that, while a hot topic, is cool enough to simmer without rousing any corner of the internet on a month-old film release, Star Wars.

 

I will write here about Yoda. I have never been a huge Star Wars geek, but with a little growing up and a little free time, I felt it worthwhile to watch the latest Star Wars film, having watched the other six films either from the local library VHS archive or at the movie theater, as with the Phantom Menace (Episode I). What I like about the newest addition (Episode VII), is the mystical Maz Kanata:

Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata:

A wise and perceptive figure operating a somewhat shady cantina on the peaceful forest planet, Takodana.[20] J.J. Abrams said Kanata has “lived over a thousand years. She’s had this watering hole … and it’s like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe.”[21]According to Abrams, the character was based on his former high school English teacher, Rose Gilbert, who lectured at the Palisades Charter High School from 1961 to 2013. Abrams said the team “really wanted the story to feel authentic, despite being a wild fantasy. I mentioned Rose in an early story meeting as a sort of timeless, wise figure that I’d actually known in my life.”[22]

Researching this little fact while writing about it has left me a slightly perturbed. Because Star Wars has always appeared to have a great story- a believable fable in essence. There is a word called Mytheme, which is the “irreducible kernel” of a myth, the shorthand language for what is truth in otherwise legend. Much of Star Wars is a well-knit story, despite being 9 episodes long, and unfinished. Then why the outreach to the “authentic” if the whole of the fantasy could pass for fact in some corner of the galaxy? Some are unwilling to suspend disbelief until there is an element of the now, or the here, as opposed to the “long time ago…galaxy far far away.” That pre-conditioning, seems essential to the fantasy accessibility that is impossible even when teaching the 3rd world to the 1st world. This, I think is why Maz Kanata is so inviting. She represents wisdom, a “wise, perceptive figure who has lived over a thousand years, with a watering hole.” Those last three words, “watering hole” necessarily divert attention from her exceptionally blinding intelligence, and drags the myth back down to Earth.

If I could invent a new theory that never existed in Star Wars, or was adopted from another realm- of matriarchy, I would, but it would be more interesting to discover that the writer or writers of The Force Awakens actually had this subliminal conspiracy in mind or in vault and nowhere to be admitted at least or a very long, long time, and in a galaxy, far, far away. Why? Because in Episode VII, Yoda is deceased, and there is no wise equivalent in the Force Awakens, although it becomes open to changing gender roles. The protagonist is black, and opposing that change is silly, since all roles should be equal opportunity- wisdom is no exception- thus Maz Kanata’s eligibility as a “Yoda figure.”. I watched Star Wars because I was a Yoda fan, and while I understood he might not be around biologically in Episode VII, some acceptable or enhanced substitute spirit might be. And I think Maz Kanata fits the part primly. So what if we have a female president?

[Update 1: This disqus discussion clearly shows the divide between belief that Maz is capable and incapable as a wise sage: http://collider.com/star-wars-the-force-awakens-maz-kanata-problems/#forgettable (While the article makes its points, the comments make greater points).

Update 2: This article speculates more]

Yoda has always retained power in the Star Wars Universe (from Episodes IV-VII), but only in non-defacto, non-de jure ways- soft power, of influence and guidance, rather than of binding obligations (in contrast to his dueling roles in the tacked-on prequels). Perhaps he appears to be one who achieved the most through the least resistance, and thus represents an ideal, if not imperfect and incomparable figure. Yoda has a leisurely sanctuary, much like Maz Kanata. Plotwise, there is no push-pull dynamic to have lead any revolution, except for one of nonviolence perhaps. It’s not clear what the role of the sage is, without some impartiality. And impartiality, most suggestively, involves nonviolence. A warrior does not have much in common with a pensive sage.

Maz Kanata says, when looking at Finn in the eyes, “Different eyes have seen the same things” She is looking at Finn when she is challenging him until she recognizes his firmness in implying what wrongs the Empire has done, and it becomes very clear what he then tries to communicate via his eyes alone: one of the very first scenes in Star Wars- Finn witnesses the orders of Kylo Ren to execute all the villagers harboring Lor San Tekka.

Maz Kanata keeps a light saber in the cellar of her watering hole. Was it intended to be ever used, or only for defense? I think the latter, because there is no indication she is a warrior like Yoda was in Episode II and III. But I think the the similarities are too glaring to ignore. She is a “Yoda figure”, much like a “father figure” is not necessarily an actual father- she has become an emerald for those who can’t distinguish quartz from diamond, and she is right to profit from guiding them.

Her character is not only wise, but most familiar even if in a strange way. Most Star Wars characters are, even if well-intentioned, following a much more involved time-crunched conflict in the galaxy, and that makes most of the characters 2-dimensional. A “timeless” character, citing the writer and a “thousand years” has some very unique aspects in the Star Wars Saga- deep freedom, not just from the “Empire” but more so a Buddhist level of practiced, mindful liberation, from iterations of perceived and real bounds of the world. Is Maz simply  the most down-to-earth character, or the most distant one? The answer depends on how much you want the truth. And the truth is often a sweet thing.

 

 

Finnegan’s Wake is to Idioglossia as La Parade de Cirque is to Pointillism

Using Pointilism as a visual aid to an already visual literature. Or a literal aid to a visual art.

Joyce is able to reinvent the English language by methodically dicing and replicing words her and fro. He tills the dry soil top of spelling and turns it upside down. Seurat and Signac began the pointilist movement in a similar way. Even if Joyce’s neologisms, portmanteaus and puns were not widely adopted, it opened up a new field of literature. I would call it a rift much like that between abstract and applied art. Applied arts were moralistically concerned with the lower class, and the lack of ornamentation, whereas abstract art sought to remain the bastion of the aristocratic. Middlebrow was in many ways, for the new moneyed, and the rest, was up for grabs. If one were to say Finnegan’s Wake were esoteric to the point of being reserved for an elite class, I would say it is far from the truth. Finnegan’s Wake only requirement is that one know the English language. It is not of any brow, but it requires a universal labor. The first 60 pages of Finnegan’s wake are a labor to maintain focus. The words themselves evade definition. The sentences demand attention to detail- that one actually read a word or phrase correctly so that one sees the different spelling that was used. Joyce is making a statement by suggesting eyes should look more carefully at each word, such as not to assume one knows what will be at the end of the sentence, or that it even started a certain way, because a runon will challenge an experienced saying. And that is the point.

The first 60 pages do not flow very smoothly, but they begin to flow more dreamlike on page 61. There is a  dreamlike effect that is induced from the cyclical rereading of the sentences to self-vet the closest guess as to the meaning of the sentence. The challenge is to imagine the sentence meaning given a number of newly experimented combination or permutation of phrases and neologisms. The technique is ostensibly mechanical, and thus a departure from what I would call, classical writing. There may have been precedents, but Finnegan’s Wake is a thorough new form. Much like Borges after him, there are thin borders between reality and dream. The focus is on metaphysical reflection, self-awareness, and multiversal or infinite interpretation. Pointilism ignores centralized interpretation and replaces it with potentially self-autonomy. It does not fail to organize into harmonious construct, but it explicates or makes vulgar the process, but it places faith in decentralized brushstrokes. Finnegan’s Wake is said to adopt part of the structure the 1725 essay/book The New Science by Giambattisti Vico, which is a philosophical treatise on the origins of civilized wisdom predating the major world religions. Vico formulated the Verum Factum principle:

“Vico is best known for his verum factum principle, first formulated in 1710 as part of his De antiquissima Italorum sapientia, ex linguae latinae originibus eruenda (1710) (“On the most ancient wisdom of the Italians, unearthed from the origins of the Latin language”).[8] The principle states that truth is verified through creation or invention and not, as per Descartes, through observation: “The criterion and rule of the true is to have made it. Accordingly, our clear and distinct idea of the mind cannot be a criterion of the mind itself, still less of other truths. For while the mind perceives itself, it does not make itself.” This criterion for truth would later shape the history of civilization in Vico’s opus, the Scienza Nuova (The New Science, 1725), because he would argue that civil life – like mathematics – is wholly constructed.”

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The concept that all of man have a natural ability to learn from language, suggests that the transformation of a civilization from theocracy to monarchy to democracy to chaos depends on whether knowledge will be privatized or shared. On a more personal level, Finnegan’s Wake is an engine without a mold. A sense of identity without a reference point. It is a running sorites paradox that allows one to understand that one is reading something until one realizes that they are no longer reading what they once thought.  If there is more to mere wordplay, and I think there is, then his construct serves multiple clients, or rather, civil life patronizes several constructs.

Once I got past 60 pages, the dream state was induced and the sentences broke free like brush strokes from their master.