The alienated Wedding Guest

gun

This will be the last post on Coleridge, I promise, but allow me one last consideration. In short we’ve said that the Ancient Mariner warns the Wedding Guest against the false values of materialistic society and that in so doing he warns us. But we have to say that the Wedding Guest in his unawareness seemed to have a jolly good time. He enjoyed a life focused mostly on relations, symbolized by the wedding party, and on the rites that relations share: food, drink, music, good conversation etc. He knew what he wanted and where to get it and above all  it was real. This is the point. Modern Wedding Guests develop their relations in the cold solitude of their rooms in front of a computer and try to fool the spectre of their loneliness agitating a list of numerous virtual followers. They have trimmed their communicative effort to a “I like it”. Modern Wedding Guests have been brought up by media and video games of any kind so that they find difficult to draw a line between virtual and real world. This is their emotional Bildung. But when one of them feels that thrill and decides to pull that trigger, does he know  in which world will he play his game?

Democracy in the USA

conncticut A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed
This is  Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and is the part of the United States BIll of Rights  that protects the right of people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. Well, it was 1791, but after more than two centuries, exactly  in 2008  the Supreme Court issued two Second Amendment decisions which confirmed  the legitimacy of keeping weapons purposes, such as –” the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful defense within the home“. For the Americans this right is equivalent to the freedom of opinion or of vote. Just the same. Till you wake up one day and you watch on tv that a young guy of 20 massacred 20 young children and his mother who worked in that school. This is not the first time. We’ve read again that this is America’s worst school shooting- as if school shooting were a habit! Bah! The boy was allowed into the building because the head teacher recognised him and buzzed him through security. Adam Lanza, armed with two semi-automatic handguns which were legally registered to his mother(!!!!!), shot dead children in two classrooms and also killed six adults, including head teacher Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach……..you may read the rest in every newspaper. But I would  like to ask you, how can it be that the freedom of keeping weapons might be a basic principle of democracy? You’ve seen Obama in tears, but I’m sure nothing will change, because as I told you before, it hasn’t been the first time. In a few days everything will calm down. Few years ago also a student of our school in an exchange program in the United States was wounded in a shooting while she was in a disco. It took her months and months of medical treatments to be back to normal life. It was four years ago. Who will be the next?

The Romantic Buddism (2)

 Tick……………….tack……………….tick………………….tack………………..tick……………. ………………………………………………….tack……………………………………………….But,what our life would be like without the tyranny of time?  No clocks, and only days and seasons to mark  the rhythm of our actions. Boring? Maybe, because nowadays we are so used to stuffing our days with as many actions as possible that we have no time to pause to think about what we are actuaily doing. The ticking is the soundtrack of our lives. “Stop the ticking!” had said Captain Hook, but how? We are not characters of a fairy tale. How is it possible to reach our Nirvana, if this is the frenetic pattern of our modern age? In the eighteenth century Romantic artists had already understood  that man somehow would have undergone a great psychological change due to the impulse of the industrial revolution. Macaulay had said the social-scientifical growth of England was equivalent to what men had done in three hundred or maybe three thousand years. Clock time had replaced seasonal time and from that moment on we have kept moving faster and faster. That’s why one of the main chararteristics of Romantic poetry is its meditative tone.They wanted to slow time down. Remember the amazing “Elegy” of Thomas Gray where the knelling of the curfew toll which pervades the first stanzas gradually fades to give way to the poet’s reflection. Only in a moment of beautiful stillness Wordsworth can experience that pure happiness destined to be enjoyed forever in his poem “Daffodils”. And Colerigde’s Ancient Mariner paralyzes with a spell the reluctant young Wedding Guest to communicate with him so as the boy could meditate on the meaning of his tale ” A wiser and sadder man, he rose the morrow morn”. So the point is that the Romantic Buddhists had understood the importance of meditation to reach the necessary awaraness that might lead to happiness. Meditation is, in fact, the primary means of cultivating  Buddhism . Your mind focuses on an object, this image expands to your mind, body and entire surroundings till your mind is able to gain insight into the ultimate nature of reality and reach a sense of beatitude. In that state, time does not exist and we are in harmony with ourselves reaching our Nirvana. Ahhhhh, that would be great,but ……..excuse me, what time is it?

In case you might be interested  in Buddhism, here is a video of The Lotus Sutra  which is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential sutras, or sacred scriptures, of Buddhism. The key message is that Buddhahood–a condition of absolute happiness, freedom from fear and from all illusions–is inherent in all life. The development of this inner life state enables all people to overcome their problems and live a fulfilled and active life, fully engaged with others and with society. You have to repeat the mantra of the Lotus Sutra to reach that condition. Why don’t you give it a try?

The Romantic Buddism (1)

buddha

Year after year of lessons on the Romantics, in particular those of the first generation, a question has recently taken shape in my mind : “but were these Coleridge and Wordworth a kind of Buddhists?” I knooooooow it’s hazarduous and I have to confess that my knowledge of Buddism is actually basic: I’ve read Thomas Mann’s Siddharta and the Autobiography of a Yogi  (it’s not the bear) about  the Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda, that is all. But I want to try to outline an analysis anyhow. Well, Buddhism is a religion /philosophy based on the teachings attributed to Siddharta Gauthama, who is commonly known as the Buddha (the awakened). For the Buddhists he is the enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help men end sufferings through the elimination of ignorance by way of understanding and the elimination of craving, thus attaining the highest happiness: Nirvana. Wow, but this the Indian version of the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads!!! Rewind:the poet/Buddha is the enlightened man with that superior sensibility/imagination that he uses to teach men how to feel emotions so as to better bear the inevitable sufferings of life, thus reaching happiness. He is a poet and poetry is his weapon. Coleridge in particular, had understood that the burden of our ” Wants” – see the post on the “Wedding Guest” – can’t help us understand the true nature of happiness and confounds us. Siddharta seemed to have whatever life had to offer: he was young, handsome, rich and, naturally, admired and envied at the same time. That wasn’t enough for him. He wanted more. So he got rid of that burden of things to be free to choose his way. This is  exactly the same choice of St Francis of Assisi and in more modern times that of Alexander Supertramp, the protagonist of the movie Into the Wild. Have you ever felt the craving for “things” as a burden?

And you may ask yourself: “How did I get here?”

As I told in the previous post, the treasure the Ancient Mariner will find at the end of the journey is his self awareness. If the immense Ocean represents the world, we are the commander in chief who have to decide where to take our ship. Otherwise we are at the merci of the waves, and our clouded minds can’t avoid the rubs. We have to make the effort to know who we are and what we want or else we will become insecure and consequently easily controlled. If we don’t become aware of this, we’ll keep on doing what we have been told to every single day our life, feeling actually safe, because it is exactly what everybody does. Till one day we wake up and “You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house? You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?”
Remember:
“To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture”

The Talking Heads well expressed this mood in their “Once in a Lifetime

Here are the lyrics : Once in a lifetime

The Scarlet Albatross

mariner_shot

Another amazing symbol of the Rime is the Albatross. The crew succeeds in escaping  the tremendous blasts of the storm but the men can’t keep the route and find themselves in the South Pole. After days of “wondrous cold ” among the frightening icebergs all the mariners are psychologically shattered: they feel desperate and lonely. In that ghastly solitude an Albatross appears through the fog, which symbolically stands for the confusion of the mariners. The men are convinced that the bird is a sign God, it is good omen. Soon after the fog gives way to hope and confidence and the crew succeeds in sailing northward. Everything seems to be all right then, and the Wedding Guest feels the story very close to an end, when unexpectedly the Mariner confesses to have shot the Albaross with no apparent reason. He was a kind of…….bored. In this very moment the Mariner/teacher/poet seems to say to the guy.” When I was young and I used to be shallow and indifferent, just like You . But beware, I have been punished for this. Your fate won’t be different from mine if you are not aware of this”. The Albatross here is the symbol of missed salvation. Just like Jesus Christ, it had been sent by God to save the crew/mankind and just like Jesus, who had been eventually crucified, the Albatross was shot with a crossbow. The crew/mankind acts like a herd. At first the sailors despise the Mariner for having killed the Albatross but the they soon change their mind when they see after many days of “mist and fog”  “the Glorious Sun” rise and the ship move fast. The pervading euphoria doesn’t last long. Suddenly they stop “as if we were a panted ship upon a painted ocean”. The heat and thirst are unbearable. There is no way out again and the rage of the crew/herd vents on the Mariner, because it is his fault: HE had killed the Albatross, the herd does not feel responsible for his action. The chosen punishment is in the Puritan style. The dead body of the bird is tied round the Mariner’s neck as mark of his sin and memory for the whole community. It reminds me of the Scarlet Letter A, that Hester Prynne, the heroine of the Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, had to wear because of her adulterous affair. This is how the strict Puritan morality worked. Even though Hester had spent her life doing what she could to help the sick and the poor she was rejected by the villagers because she was a sinner. The A is her badge of shame. Hester will react wearing that mark with ostentatiuos pride, while the mariner will get rid of that “badge” only after a long path of expiation that will lead to his self awareness.