And an Upcoming Novel
How Kelly Oxford Transformed the Trump Video Debate & Opened a New Line of Attack in the Fight Against Rape Culture
When you look at the history of men in relation to the earth, it's hard not to conclude that males are unable to apprehend Beauty without the pornographic desire to possess and destroy it. Maybe this explains why there are so many sexual assaults against women. Too many men do not understand how to appreciate women without allowing them simply to be. Few know anything of Paul Valery, who wrote, "The ardor aroused in men by women can only be satisfied by God." Almost no one recalls what James Joyce said in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man about "having without possessing," which he defined as aesthetic arrest.
It occurs to me today after reading through many sexual assault stories submitted by women on the @kellyoxford Twitter feed that one remedy for this situation might be to expose boys to Art early in life.
Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys - without first exposing them to the humanizing influence of Art. Let them understand what it means to have something without possessing, destroying or abusing it. Teach them to allow beauty to offer itself up of its own accord.
Through the outcry it has generated, the Donald Trump sexual assault video has accomplished at least one good thing. The millions of women now telling their own stories on Twitter are exposing the extent of the unwanted gropes and grabs. Mothers, daughters, wives--from the very old to the very young--they're all talking about it. As of this writing, Oxford has received more than a million responses to her own courageous retelling of a sexual assault not unlike the one Trump bragged about on the infamous leaked video. Oxford's original tweet had more than 9.7 million hits by the end of Saturday. By Sunday, the story had been covered by every major news outlet in the country--including Teen Vogue, the Huffington Post, the Boston Globe, NBC News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. What this shows, at the very least, is that the problem of the Trump video reaches far beyond one man running for president. It reveals what Kelly Oxford refers to as the underpinning of "rape culture" itself.
Mothers, take your boys to the museums. Put a paint brush in their hands. Don't let them be teased and bullied or called homosexual for writing poems or listening to music. Take them to see a sunrise. Sit with them at sunset. Walk with them through a garden. Show them how to balance the biological imperative to run the gridiron and swing a bat with the other qualities they need for a happy and successful life. Help them to become familiar and comfortable with Beauty. So that when they encounter its embodiment in a woman, they will want to admire and appreciate it. And possess it only when it is offered to them.
The deeper problem, of course, has to do with man's fear of the feminine in himself. He wants it and needs it in order to be whole. But he has no idea how to get hold of it. And so he gropes and grabs at it in others, tries to snatch at its secrets here and there, hoping that will do. Only to find that these things take him further from his desired goal. Creates hostility and puts him at odds with the thing he wants most.
How does one navigate that terrain, become whole and wholesome? That is a question that can only be answered individually and often alone. It's a question that applies not only to men but also to women.
Wouldn't it be helpful if there were a map of some kind to get, as T.S. Eliot puts it, "from where you are to where you are not"? Well, there is one. It's embedded in just about every hero story ever written--from Frodo and Harry Potter to Katniss Everdeen, Iron Man and the Knights of the Round Table.
The late Joseph Campbell referred to this map as "the hero's journey" in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. If you haven't come across Campbell, you might find the following 84-minute film interesting. It's called The Timeless Tale of the Hero's Journey and is posted on YouTube. I've included it here, but videos come and go on YouTube. So enjoy it while it's available. There's also a much better DVD featuring Campbell himself here, which I found more satisfying than the PBS series that Bill Moyers filmed shortly before Campbell's death. Of course, all of his work exists in books that fully explore the subjects these programs can only touch upon.
Will watching a video put a stop to sexual assault? Will a million tweets do so? Of course not. But you know what Lao Tzu said - "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." For the women tweeting to Kelly Oxford, that step is an unburdening of the shame inflicted by a shameful act. For the rest of mankind, watching a film on how to navigate the treacherous inner landscape of one's own life isn't a bad place to start.
It was on this day in 1916 that James Joyce published his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man in a single volume in New York. Ezra Pound had already published a serialized version of the book in his review, The Egoist.
If you were forced to read this novel in school, then you may have missed its relevance with respect to your own relationship to pornography.
It's in this novel that Joyce's literary alter-ego, Stephen Dedalus, takes on Aquinas and Aristotle and even the Catholic Church. But he also says what Art is. Even if you were not floored by his later, more highly developed innovations with stream-of-consciousness, you've got to care about his definition of pornographic art, kinetic and didactic art, and esthetic arrest.
Much of the damage we do in life is because we don't know better. We're unconscious. Joyce lays it out for us in Portrait, and if you get what he's trying to tell you, it's possible that you may awaken - become conscious - and therefore free.
It is for this reason that I've called on world-renowned mythologist, Joseph Campbell, to break it down for us. Sit tight. The video, which is really audio covered by stills, lasts 16 minutes. But if you've never heard Campbell speak in person, as I did several years before his death in 1987, or experienced one of his lectures on video, you are in for a treat. He taught comparative literature at Sarah Lawrence for over 30 years before being "discovered" by the rest of the world, most notably Bill Moyers who dedicated an entire TV series to his work (The Power of Myth) and a little known film director who credits his reading of Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces with the main idea behind Star Wars.
When I heard Campbell speak about James Joyce that day, Robert Bly, Helen Frankenthaler, and Rollo May were also on the program. Each one contributed something to my understanding of art in contemporary society. But it was Campbell who knocked me over with his discussion of Joyce and his phenomenal understanding of Portrait. And get this - not once did he rely on notes. Much of what he said that day is contained in the 16-minute clip below. (You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free - right? Let's hope so.)
TAGS: Writers & Writing, Ideas Worth Thinking About
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