FINNEGANS WAKE III.3 AND THE THIRD MILLENNIUM : THE GHOST OF MODERNISMS YET TO COME
A way a lone a last a loved a long the ...
[... wren, the wren, the king of all birds.]
"The Third Watch of Shaun" traces an archeological expedition. On the surface rests the sublimely schizophrenic Yawn. In the deepest strata lurk the polyvalent gospelers who may hearken back to the four tormenters of Job, or even to the original tormenter trying to lure the wild man from Borneo back into a numbingly comfortable zoological garden.
The characters include a hillock and a variety of spectral phenomena such as might be evoked at a sťance or an experiment in physics. How such characters interact may provide insight into art for life's sake; art as the means by which we can read all signs. This is the perspective of transmodernism extrapolated from Nietzschean critical theory brought to life in the latter (ladder) episodes of Ulysses and especially in the litter (letter) of the Wake where it adumbrates a possible cultural paradigm for the 21st century: "Existence and the world seem justified only as an aesthetic phenomena" (Nietzsche Birth of Tragedy 24).
Breadcrumbs scattered through the Wake show the reader how to "rede [...] its world" (18.18 & 19). For example:
(Stoop) if you are abcedminded, to this claybook, what curios
of signs (please stoop), in this allaphbed! Can you rede
[...] its world? It is the same told
of all. Many. Miscegenations on miscegenations. Tieckle. They
lived und laughed ant loved end left. Forsin. (18.17-21)
To read Finnegans Wake one must stop and stoop--get down to earth, appreciate the moment at this space in time. A stoop can be as humble as a bow and as ferocious as the attack of a peregrine falcon. The letter that may be the Wake was scratched up by Biddy the hen, distant, humble cousin of the falcon, stooping by the stoop. The "allaphbed," might remind one of the olive bed, the secret by means of which Penelope finally reads through disguises and recognises Odysseus so it becomes a sign of return, reunion and a suggestion that Joyce was aiming at synthesis, the reconciliation of opposites.
A-b-ce-d-minded--is alphabet minded, interacting with the world by means of symbols, gestures, facial expressions, and postures. Along the evolutionary way sounds (generated by gestures of the lungs, throat, and mouth) combined with, then distanced themselves from the external gestures to become the primary means of representation. The a-b-ce-d-minded reader must be able to operate on the level of the fundamnmental particles of signing and recombining so as to see the many faces of every word and the many worlds each represents.
Joyce provides a lecture on the history of communication from gestures, to sounds, to written symbols. Since God is dead, it is the handwriting of nature that inscribes the world, then the walls of caves, then the pages of books. Each step of the way handwriting becomes more alienated from gestures and sounds, more arbitrary. Although "mene, mene, tekel upharson" means that nature qua nature writes its own story which is interpreted by living things as part of the art of survival, humans seem to have evolved the ability to re-(or over) write nature's story. The extent to which this revision enhances survival remains to be seen. Perhaps we would have been better off with just a "claybook," a book of earth, of the Earth, a book of the music (clef) of the sphere. We seem to have chosen a wrenching change of key and it's evidently too late to tune back.
But the world, mind, is, was and will be
writing its own wrunes for ever, man, on all matters that fall
under the ban of our infrarational senses fore the last milch-
The world will write its own history until judgement day, but days of judgement arrived when humans learned to reason and decided to recognise no limits to their ability to read. Joyce enjoys this belief and tests its boundaries in the form of a hallucination or dream in which all of the characters are the dreamer. Anthropomorphising the self, including the author who is then murdered, is balanced by paramimesis--self parody and mime from within. Postmodernism's murder-suicide has been overcome preemptively in Joyce by showing through parody, mime, and the auto-ironic that the essential homunculus can be reborn as ‹bermenschen. Joyce's version of the handwriting on the wall is "many tickle foreskin." It suggests that there is only one person generating the intracourse of this chapter.
"What regnans raised the rains have leveled" (56.36-57.1). The hill was once a mountain, perhaps a volcano raining ash and smoke. "Before he fell hill he filled heaven," mingled with the rain and formed rivers "a stream, alplapping streamlet, coyly coiled um, cool of her curls" (57.10-12). Later, the rugged mountain has worn down to a rounded hill, perhaps the Hill of Howth or Uisneach.
"Pure Yawn lay low. On the mead of the hillock lay" (474.1 & 2). Yawn breathes a hummed song. It is a deep, pure tone with harmonic overtones, and not so much a song as a moan, but rhythmic, throbbing with the possibility of meaning. It is earthy because Yawn is Earth, at least the living, historic, cultural infestations seething across the world. The intonation is reverie, perhaps drunkenness from the honey wine flowing from the hillock, fermented in the little hill or midden. Hills in all their forms form waves of seas and airs and granite outcroppings and limestone formations and the debris of oscillating ice sheets, rubble covered with growth as well as the Viconean waves of the cultures of the Occident also leaving behind artifacts, rubble upon which new growth can occur.
While Joyce was writing, Einstein was grappling with the relationship between the world of things we sense, and the uncertain, chaotic world view that emerges from quantum mechanics and the inexorable laws of chance. The four waves are lapping against the hill the hill the king of all hills because it is the human mountain that keeps on growing. Its limits can't be determined because it doesn't make sense, there are no theories for it. It is that which is left over from the primordial chaos. In Joyce's time, as in our own, there was no theory that explained the universe. Relativity explained activity on a large scale and quantum mechanics explained the subatomic world, but the two are irreconcilable. Neils Bohr's followers say it doesn't matter. We can never know the thing in itself. All we can do is read meters and gauges and try to derive our understandings from experimental results. We are nothing more than "stenoggers" (476.12) scribbling notes dictated by apparatus. We are inquisitors torturing the moaning mounds of cyclotrons, asking again and again, "What are you saying?"
HCE and Shaun become everybody by inheritance and through intrigue, allegation, rumor, rebirth, and the mystery of the text's boundless overlapping identities. It is not a difficult step from there to imagine him (them) as every place and every time, that is, the entire universe as understood by relativity, quantum mechanics, and soon by the forthcoming theory of everything that the physicists have been promising for at least a century.
The family is already associated with hills, rivers, rocks, trees, and clouds. The tale of Yawn is a "drama parapolylogic" (474.5). It is beside and side by side as parallel paragraphs. It is beyond, past, a parodic, paranoid paradox. It is many parallel words and worlds all in the same place at the same time. Yawn is the hill upon which he is lying. He is the land upon which the hill rests. He is the world of which the land is an integral part.
These truths can be confirmed by an astrophysical lightshow of trails in a cloud chamber recorded as crackles of quanta interacting with a certain degree of violence. Such encounters in the sky result in trails of fireworks like the northern lights, or trails of sparks like burning meteors.
Phopho !! The meteor pulp
of him, the seamless rainbowpeel. Aggala !!!! His bellyvoid of
nebulose with his neverstop navel. Paloola !!!!!! And his veins
shooting melanite phosphor, his creamtocustard cometshair and
his asteroid knuckles, ribs and members. Ooridiminy !!!!!!! His
electrolatiginous twisted entrails belt. (475. 12-17)
Cosmic rays rain down from the hum of the musical universe. Larger litter, debris of supernovas, "nebulose," condensed to "meteor pulp," constitute the stuff of which planets and all the life upon them is composed. Without knowing the process by which solar systems are made and the elements of life spilled upon the planets, Joyce intuitively wrote the poetry of creation into his text.
The gracehoper's song ends, "Your genus its worldwide, your spacest sublime!/But, Holy Saltmartin, why can't you beat time? Music is a time art. Melody and rhythm, like logos, sweep songs inexorably along the temporal axis, the illusory narrative, the arrow that never turns back. Epic, drama, lyric, and all prose, left to their own devices, are confined to this one dimension. Writers have always sought ways to beat time, with occasional limited success. But Joyce realised that harmony is the means to beat the one dimensional world of the time axis and fly freely through the Einsteinian continuum. The 20th century project of physics has been to spatialise time by means of geometry. Finnegans Wake does the same thing by means of harmony, the spatial aspect of music, simulated by means of word play. Spatial dimensions in combination allow freedom of motion back and forth along and among three axes. Harmonic motion beats time, at least in any particular moment.
Common time, in Western music, is four-four time. The four, therefore, are not to be taken lightly. In spite of their apparent bumbling and grumbling they are the four dimensions that harmonise our perception of everything. On the other hand they are to be taken lightly. They represent, as light, the four forces of the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, and the two nuclear forces. Physicists have sought to achieve scientifically what Joyce achieved artistically: the unification of the four forces. He does so by blurring the boundaries among characters until all become one.
Mark claims that "yav hace not one pronouncable teerm [...] to signify majestate, [...] or mooner's plankgang there to lead us to hopenhaven" (478.11-16). He emphasises Max Planck's quanta and the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics that has dominated particle physics since the 1920s. Its uncertainty principle is the perennial rape victim of postmodernism. Mark seems to be saying that there is no way to pin things down. The possible roads a particle can follow can only be guessed at according to the laws of chance. The problem is that the more completely it's examined the more uncertain it seems to become.
Yawn, in a wonderful parody, suggests it may be a linguistic problem.
--How? C'est mal prononsable, tartagliano, perfrances. Vous
n'avez pas d'o dans votre boche provenciale, mousoo. Je m'in-
cline mais Moy jay trouvay la clee dang les champs. Hay sham nap
poddy velour, come on! (478.19-22)
Yawn takes Einstein's side. He says that whatever difficulty the four are having understanding is only an artefact of the language being mispronounced. The key is the fields. Quantum mechanics harmonises the music of the spheres by means of force fields. Thus, in part, the interrogation of Yawn by the four is an argument about the fundamental nature of reality. Does it consist of hard little lumps that fly around according to the mechanistic laws of classical physics or of energy fields that collapse into matter as a result of certain interactions according to the probabilistic laws of quantum mechanics? These questions, like the phenomena about which they inquire, are suggested indirectly.
The many subjects of III.3 are disparate to communicate among themselves. How can such creatures, locked inside id entities, make contract. It's a long trope. "The Song of the Trees" on 503.26-506.8 provides an example of how the process might work if it can work. Yawn: "The flagstone. By tombs, deep and heavy. To the unaveiling memory of. Peacer the grave" (503.26 & 7). The beginning is etched in stone. The Wake is constantly arcing between being and becoming. Joyce made philosophy with Thor's hammer. Yawn fears that the "flagstone" is stone cold death. Joyce explodes this thought with the dynamite word, "unaveiling." His particle accelerator bombards "v-a-i-l" with e [epsilon] energy, and the cloud chamber lights up with vapor trails. Suddenly the veil that obscured the undiscovered country is pushed aside.
Being, by itself, is the rock of death that robs life of meaning. Life becomes unavailing in the entropic universe that was the world of classical mechanics. The replacement of the "a" with an "e" releases the ghosts from the machine. Now, perhaps, one can see "un-navel-ing," breaking the link with the creative mother described in "Proteus." It is vile to think of death as an absolute break, a quantum leap into oblivion. The middle of "unaveil" is "ave," a fond farewell, not just to things and appearances, but even to the "memory of." Peace or the grave means the only hope for availing is the reconciliation of opposites. The rock and the tree must somehow reach across the river.
The opposite of the rock is "An overlisting eshtree?" The tree is the "I" (subject), or "eye" (organ) of vision which on the opposite shore will be becoming. The tree, we soon learn, is related to Yggdrasil of Norse mythology, called "eggdrazzles" (504.35), a combination of creation, the fall, and razzle-dazzle; the flashy magic show of lexical and rhetorical pyrotechnics. Out of the word comes the world, this time the world of science beginning with the science of becoming, biology, and its fundamental theory, evolution by means of natural processes. The "origin of spices" was met "with silk blue askmes chattering in dissent [...] guelfing and ghiberring proferring praydews to their anatolies and blighting findblasts on their catastripes" (504.28-31).
The red state of death, the only door to heaven, is preferred by some to the blue state of life. To join the rock and the tree stranded on opposite banks, Joyce had them jump in the river with a "Splanck!" (505.28). Supersymmetry is a special extension of the field theories that describe the behavior of fundamental particles and forces. A "Splanck" is a supersymmetrical Planck. Joyce's version of supersymmetry is supersynthesis achieved by means of the superconducting supercollider word play, his own alchemy. In this segment of III.3 he synthesises the scientific way of telling "The Story" with the mythological one. "Upfellbowm" (505.29) is the rise and fall of the arrow (contra Zeno), another version of the Norse Yggdrasil, the bows of the family tree, the branches of life, the apple that revealed the laws of gravity, and the rainbow that revealed the pot of gold, quantum mechanics. "Splanck!" Knowledge and myth combine and exeunt from the hinder garden into the real world.
Thus the Bible lies. Humans were not expelled from Paradise, the spin word for ignorance. After Eve, the first scientist, discovered thought they left of their own violition, and in the process flipped Yahweh the king of all birds.
© John Marvin, 2005
|volume 6, issue 1, 2005|