Thursday, August 24, 2017

Let's Blog VALIS! Part 8 of 14.

I was coming on to write an intermission and perhaps shrug, and say that it might be too late for me to pick up the broken cord and blog the rest of VALIS, but I find I already have written part 8. So there is nothing for it but to finish.

The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.

Chapter 8: In which Pore Sherri is Daid

The main external event of this chapter is that Sherri is dead. The main internal event is angry theodicy. Dick rejects the redemptive power of suffering; he angrily rejects these words from Wagner’s Parsifal:

Gesegnet sei dein Leiden,
Das Mitleids hochste Kraft,
Und reinsten Wissen Macht
Denn zagen Toren gab!

Pity has no power, Dick says. That is bullshit. But Fat is silent on the matter. In this chapter they seem very far apart: Fat beetling away on his exegesis, Dick swapping stories about Sherri and about dead cats with Kevin and looking on Fat from afar, analysing his search for redemption in terms of the grail story from Parsifal. The unreliable etymology of Parsifal as ‘pure fool’ is mentioned, directing us again (IMHO) to the fact that looking at what people’s names mean is key to unlocking the secret Kabbalistic meaning of VALIS.

This is the last chapter grounded in reality. From here on out, it will be event that Dick has made up. Who should we meet at this juncture as we leave reality behind, but that old clown, Schopenhauer? He is quoted as saying, more or less, that the law of conservation of matter should make us happy:

“Notwithstanding thousands of years of death and decay, nothing has been lost; not an atom of the matter, still less anything of the inner being, that exhibits itself as nature. Therefore every moment we can cheerfully cry, ‘In spite of time, death and decay, we are still together.”

Deedle deedle queep.

And Dick says that somewhere Schopenhauer says that the cat you see playing in the yard is the cat which played three hundred years ago.

Deedle deedle queep. 

I am with Kevin: every cat is unique. A unique arrangement of atoms and being in time and space that will never be repeated. What does it matter if the same atoms and inner being – whatever that means – are rearranged in different ways to form different cats? They are not the same bloody cat. Each unique irreplaceable cat is a unique and irreplaceable manifestation of the divine will and a contingent outcome of billions of years of decisions by innumerable entities.

In this chapter the exegesis continues to churn, throwing up model after model, adding lamina to lamina of Fat/Thomas/Elijah/Dick/Zebra/Uncle Tom Cobbley’s personality, never quite abandoning previous theories even as a new and almost entirely contradictory one is cobbled on. 

My take home message: it is dangerous to do your own exegesis. It is safer to be part of a community that can give a frame of reference to your experience.

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