Published on January 25th, 2013 | by Thompson0
Evolution: Accepting the Void and Creating Something from Nothing
I wanted to finish this blog post before class on Wednesday, but my unreliable vehicle, Bessie, wouldn’t allow it, so instead of writing I spent the morning doing electrical maintenance. I never was much of a mechanic despite my father’s trade – a locomotive machinist – but I’ve evolved into quite the handyman in his absence. I’ve decided that I’m better off knowing these things than paying for them because there’s a good chance (as a writer) that I may not run into a ton of money, and if I do (as a writer) I’d find plenty of cheap thrills (and expensive ones) to waste it on. My Godlessness (as some would call it) is a necessary evil of my genre and craft and according to Frederick Turner, “[h]aving no God to meditate the ferocity of its aspiration, the mind must contemplate and prey upon itself, until the veils of habit, tradition and expectation are torn away and soul confronts the essential zero at its core” (54). Though the School of Night was hardly Godless, they were pursuing Godliness, and in the pursuit “the paradox is that the ‘intellectual being,’ to be what it is, must have a frontier with the void: its own corrosive skepticism, like Descartes’ doubt of all things sensory, must burn itself to the quick. And the burning is both a torment and a delight, a ravishment” (55). The “quick” is the most sensitive part of ourselves – our ideology or belief system, so stripping oneself of ideology, becoming nothing, is the only way to create something, but “both nothing, and everything, are made out of nothing” (64). Realizing our nothingness doesn’t guarantee us everything.
“We have in the School of Night a living demonstration of the actual workings of a Zeitgeist or ‘climate of thought’; a civilization is not an impersonal force but a network of conversations in which ideas are generated and developed. There is no ‘program’ except the program that the conversation itself creates; and people join and drop out of the conversation in no systematic way” (57-58). Most of these men were dropped out of the program by another program – those who thought the School of Night’s pursuit of Godliness was a threat to their currently accepted ideology and civilization. These threats never cease, as the Free Thinkers have advanced a program that continues to threaten the established order.
Frederick Turner, pulling from Frances Yates, explains that “[t]he microcosm can not only reflect, but control, the macrocosm. With correct mnemonic technology, the whole universe can be stored in one man’s memory” (59). We let this technology get away from us and have passed it on to machines, but that’s not to say it was a failure. Our thirst for information created a quantity-over-quality dynamic and it’s safe to say that dynamic is out of control (see reality television and tabloids).
Reality television is the bastard great-grandchild of Shakespeare’s plays, and I know that sounds outrageous, but hear me out. Ted Hughes’ explains that Shakespeare’s career took a turn when he wrote All’s Well that Ends Well. “From the beginning of his career, his illustrative images tend to be images of some prominent theme of the whole play.” Not realistic. Reality is not governed by themes. “But now these images arrive not at leisurely intervals, but as a tightly inter-connected hieroglyphic text, a continuum of signs parallel to but separate from the immediate meaning of the speech, and referring back into the body of the play, holding the whole crowded, heavily loaded aircraft reverberatingly present behind whoever happens to be at the controls.” Just like real life – a wild plane ride for the person at the controls. Shakespeare’s audience wanted more raw emotion – emotion only attainable in reality – and they got it. And now we get it (or think we get it) in reality TV. “The effect is to give each line, each phrase, even each word the dimensions of the entire play,” and since “the world is like language: a self-maintaining, self-validating conventional reality,” (Turner, 64) the world really is nothing “but a stage, and we are merely players,” and “the play itself is thinking…defining itself, turning itself this way and that, searching among all possible images for new images of itself, and trying them on” (Hughes, 43). The School of Night members were trying things on – costumes and masks that made them realize and accept the void within themselves and evolve as human beings. Accepting that we’re quite possibly nothing given the vastness of the universe is the only way we’ll evolve. Believing that we’re something has been the devolution of our civilization, and the result is more reality television, bad journalism, and poor playwriting. Turn the tables friends and accept the void.