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Standing at the Edge of the River of Forgetfulness

I got inspired by Alexander Eliot’s The Timeless Myths. What came up for me does not quite track with Eliot’s themes, but the mind has a mind of its own and will go where it pleases.

Alexander Eliot wears the mantle of Joseph Campbell. Eliot writes of the mythosphere—the intangible. “It is the collective mindfield of conscious beings, including microbes, bugs, dragons, fairies, elves, goblins, ghosts, angels, demons, gods, and even Gods, along with us eternally would-be humans.” Eliot says the mythosphere also “structures and controls the swirling of gravity, magnetism, electricity, light, and heat.” Eliot’s writing feels like a chronological and world cultural kaleidoscope. He writes poetic prose that takes the shape of psychically graphic color infused mosaics. I am inspired by his style.

1

When I was at some age under age 10, I recall telling my mother of some troubling incident, some clash, among my peers. Just a moment of childhood confusion. She looked at me and said, “Children can be cruel.” It was like having the rawness and instability of human instinct plunked down in front of me.

2

On Christmas eve night, in my very early grade school years, I awakened with the need to go to the bathroom.  As I passed near the living room, my aunt Edith came near to block the view, but to no avail. I glanced, by chance, at the door ajar, and caught sight of the fully decorated Christmas tree shimmering in the shiny veneer of the door. By a virtual image, the magical mythosphere of Christmas morning, receiving gifts and surprises, and the red velvet clad legend exploded in a moment. I could hear my parents talking off in the kitchen. The thrill was gone. It was they and Aunt Edith who were behind things, not the red velvet clad, jolly legend.

At that young age a feeling of disappointment and realization rushed through my body. I still see in my mind’s eye, as if I were an onlooker, the awakening into the real world that drew my face down into a sadness. I cannot recall if or how the feeling persisted. What I do realize is that some of my childhood had faded.

3

Sometime in my early childhood, I was aware enough to gather that a married couple who were family friends had separated. I went to my parents and asked why and how people did not stay together. They told me that people change.

4

I served papers every evening to maybe 55 homes in my neighborhood. I must have been an industrious kid to do this for about four years religiously in a variety of weathers. One of my customers was a very striking older woman who was an artist. I got to know her and she at one point told me that her husband was no longer around. I asked why and she told me he had decided he did not want to be with her anymore. This surprised me and made me pensive and wonder about life and people.

5

As a kid—what’s the age of a kid? Anyway as a youngster just starting to explore the world, I was trusted to meander out into the side-walked neighborhood while visiting Aunt Lucy. Around the corner at sundown, I encountered an elderly man sitting on his front steps. He had a delicate build, his head was slightly bent down and his posture closed. The overall color of his clothing matched the dusk light.  In any case, it was a sociable moment. At length he shared that he had lost his wife and he so missed her. He then proceeded to tell me that he felt so bad losing her that he had stripped all the wall paper off the walls of the house. Hearing this, in my young years, the man had captured my entire attention. I recall wondering what he might have been trying to get at. I was not entirely comprehending what I was hearing—rather, overtaken by the mystery of it. My surprise may have caused my jaw to drop slightly. This was a moment, thinking back, that cast me into an introspection that intruded, relentlessly, into my innocence and blind trust of sunny life. —the real world…

6

World War II veteran and husband of aunt Lucy, John T. Dickey—told that as a young child, he became alarmed by one of those churchy predictions that the world was soon going to end. He took his worry to his mother. He said she told him, “John, the world ends for someone everyday.”

7

I remember as a kid seeing The Bells of St Mary’s, Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby), and Sister Mary (Ingrid Bergman) up on the big screen, and going wild inside because I was in that world myself at St Patrick’s grade school.

I remember as a kid seeing a film about Franz Anton Mesmer, and being struck with wonder.

I remember seeing a film about people breaking into an Egyptian tomb and finding a mummy and hovering over it.

I remember as kid seeing the film Caesar and Cleopatra with Julius Caesar (Claude Rains) and Cleopatra (Vivien Leigh). This view of the ancient world stunned and mesmerized me, and the spell has never gone away.

In high school I saw Quo Vadis with Leo Genn as Petronius (Arbiter of Elegance in Nero’s court) and his lover, Marina Berti as Eunice (Petronius’ Spanish slave girl); and the unforgettable Peter Ustinov as Nero (Emperor of Rome).

I also saw Julius Caesar with Brutus (James Mason), Caius Cassius (John Gielgud), and Julius Caesar (played by the magnificent Louis Calhern). Of course there was Mark Antony (wonderful Marlon Brando).

… Then The Egyptian with Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom), (Michael Wilding) Pharaoh Akhnaton, Bella Darvi as Nefer, the seductive courtesan. Peter Ustinov again appears as Sinuhe’s servant Kaptah, and the captivating Gene Tierney as Princess Baketamon. All these people I was well aware of, for I had met them in the first novel to pass before my eyes: Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian.

I remember hearing The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot read to our English literature class by a professor who was also a Catholic priest. I was a sophomore at Catholic University, Washington, DC. Prufrock’s story bowled me over, took me by surprise, shocked me out of my unconscious innocence. I was being invited into a psychological mise en scene, that I had not as yet visited. Prufrock is tortured by alienation, isolation, and the diminishing power of the traditional sources of authority. Why did this frighten me awake?  Because my Roman Catholic worldview was of life as hopeful and rational, that progress is real, that the death would have no sting. The dark archetype, Prufrock, spoke of despair.

The classroom had been fitted out with a dais two steps high. The professor, dressed in his black suit and clerical collar, sat behind a desk , and we had an unobstructed view of him. He was most likely of Irish descent. His hair was white and wavy, and he looked to be in his early 50s. As he read Prufrock, you could tell he was a sensitive soul, and from the look on his face it seemed he was affected by the worried alienation that besots the poem. The tone of his voice was tenor with a slight tremulousness. This did everything to enhance his elocution, his mastery of the cadence of the words, and the desperation.

As the story of Prufrock washed over me, I felt a shudder of awakening rush through me. As a young man I was finally among the elect. I had finally broken through to the realms of academia, high culture, worldliness and humanistic sophistication.

8

I dreamt my adolescence away
with P.I.Tchaikovsky: Capricho Italiano op. 45
and Rimsky Korsakov Capriccio Espagnol Op 34
Maurice Ravel – Piano Concerto for the left hand
Pines of Rome. Pines of Rome (Italian title: Pini di Roma) is a four-movement
symphonic poem for orchestra completed in 1924 by the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi.
Pictures at an Exhibition, musical work in 10 movements by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky

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