Yesterday’s post was about editing and pulling back. Today’s is about the courage to just put words out there when it’s far safer to say or write nothing. Perhaps I should wait a day to publish this on June 16, Bloomsday, because “Ulysses” is a constant inspiration to me in the realm of freedom of thought.
My highly professional and cerebral current therapist likes to remind me that thoughts aren’t facts, and sometimes it takes effort to keep them from enslaving us. Everyone has a different process to avoid that slavery. Some people are good at ferreting out the helpful from unhelpful thoughts at the point of expression. Others, like me, get more from the process by letting some of those thoughts seep out in some form, owning them, then learning from the observations of those thoughts from a safe distance.
To me, that’s what “Ulysses” is all about — three characters in a free-range journey around Dublin and the stream of unconscious that describes their moment to moment experiences of those treks. It took great effort in the 1920s to get the book published at all, and for good reason. As intellectual as it is, it’s also bawdy and often disgusting. Joyce is at least as obsessed with bodily functions and bathroom humor as the average eight year old. There were highly arcane studies of the book published that decade for the sole purpose of distracting public attention from the dirty parts. Ultimately, it worked. The artistic merit of “Ulysses” outweighed any public scandal it might have caused.
The downside is that people assume it’s a difficult book filled arcane knowledge that the reader must understand in full to enjoy the book, and that simply isn’t the case. Just like you are free to dismiss Leopold’s frequent thoughts about bowel movements, so too can you put aside most of Stephen’s arcane theories about history, religion and culture. Ultimately, none of the elements of the novel are terribly important in and of themselves.
Or perhaps the thoughts have no meaning at all. Thoughts aren’t facts. They certainly aren’t logically consistent. And if you are hoping to get “Ulysses” by just adding them up and trying to find a deeper meaning within, you are on the wrong side of the joke. The journey is all that matters and the freedom of thought on which that journey floats.
Which returns me to my now deleted blog post on Saturday. That piece was, by intention, free ranging. It started with a proposition — having reached a point of serenity on a topic, I now feel able to write about it more in depth. But what form would that take? Where do the feelings take me? What thoughts pop up as a result?
It’s quite easy to look at those thoughts and be logically aghast by many of them — but that’s the point. Having a logical belief about something doesn’t always line up with feelings about the same matter, at least that’s true in my case. If there’s a mismatch, that’s an interesting situation to be in — a bit of the unconscious shadowland Jung writes about can be revealed in that space between logical truth and emotional desire.
But it’s not a pretty process and some of those thoughts can be dark or silly or in direct conflict with a logical process that reached an opposite conclusion. Sometimes the only way to identify this head/heart mismatch is to let the thoughts flow, then observe the grand mess that results from it.
So, the piece (if you read and have any memory of it) both suited its purpose and is best discarded and forgotten to an electronic graveyard. It helped me work out some things I was thinking and see how emotions drove some strange thinking. That’s interesting self observation to me and my burgeoning fan club of readers in Singapore and Acupulco. By the way, I am available for paid lectures any time from these and other exotic locales.