"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Howl and Narnia and Hopeful Despair

Howl is about the Allen Ginsberg's poem.  The film is about whether or not the poem is obscene and how to define good literature. It's an interesting question. The experts all spoke of form and style and word choice and theme - a formal art stance. I took art courses and aesthetic courses in university. In the art courses, everything hinged on formal theory. Everything. Either a piece of art fit, or it didn't. But in the philosophy courses on art, suddenly I learned about so many other ways to determine beauty that the world burst wide open for me. Howl speaks to me. And that is all that needs to be said.

The film is also about mental illness and difference. It's about our sense of reality vs. the social sense of reality. Is a psych doctor's reality necessarily right for us? So many bright minds go mad, become isolates, drink themselves dead. We're outside Plato's cave, frustrated that we can't communicate with the masses within. All those people with potential who've been mislead and distracted by the minutia of fashion and housework and gossip and reality TV and the weather.

I love the poem "Howl." I loved it as a teenager and still now. It gives me a similar feeling as when I read "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": a kind of hopeful despair. There's a deep sadness for the loss of potential, the crappiness of our lives which could be so rich and fulfilling - but won't be. Yet they excite me and entice me because of the connection I feel to the words and the authors and other lovers of the poems. Other people feel this pain, other people feel similarly off, therefore we are not as alone.

There's a status to the poems that make them fodder for teen angst, and I feel a bit ashamed that they still touch me. I feel like I should be over that already, that I should grow up and settle down. But there it is.  Whatever.

As for Narnia, if you can get over the Christian allusions, I like any story where the characters actually have character. It's an action movie, but they have to develop and overcome themselves. I'm a solid atheist, but there's a lot to be said for building character that I got from my churchly upbringing that is sorrily missing today. I don't think we need the church to bring it back; we merely need to believe it's necessary. Courage, sacrifice for others, kindness, patience, good works, love, forgiveness.... They got left behind when capitalism became the new false idol. "What sphinx of cement and aluminium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?" Now we worship getting something for nothing, speed, efficiency, power, revenge, and greed.

Funny that.

No comments: