Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Rationalized whim

On March 24, I posted "Turning suns into black holes," about syncs that had drawn my attention to The Peyote Dance, Helen Weaver's English translation of Antonin Artaud's Au pays des Tarahumaras (1947). That night, I dreamed of seeing a blog post with a particular title, and the next day (yesterday, March 25) I created a post with that title, "I am the wizard Lion." I proposed several possible interpretations of that phrase, but the one I ended up running with was that it was an anagram of rationalized whim.

Today, having been influenced by the syncs of two days ago, I picked up The Peyote Dance and started reading. When I got to the section called "The Mountain of Signs," which begins on p. 12, I was astonished to find that it dealt with the idea of rational whims. I quote the first few paragraphs (italics are the author's; bold is mine):

The land of the Tarahumara is full of signs, forms, and natural effigies which in no way seem the result of chance -- as if the gods themselves, whom one feels everywhere here, had chosen to express their powers by means of these strange signatures in which the figure of man is hunted down from all sides.

Of course, there are places on the earth where Nature, moved by a kind of intelligent whim, has sculptured human forms. But here the case is different, for it is over the whole geographic expanse of a race that Nature has chosen to speak.

And the strange thing is that those who travel through the region, as if seized by an unconscious paralysis, close their senses in order to remain ignorant of everything. When Nature, by a strange whim, suddenly shows the body of a man being tortured on a rock, one can think at first that this is merely a whim and that this whim signifies nothing. But when in the course of many days on horseback the same intelligent charm is repeated, and when Nature obstinately manifests the same idea; when the same pathetic forms recur; when the heads of familiar gods appear on the rocks, and when the theme of death emanates from them, a death for which man obstinately bears the expense -- when the dismembered form of man is answered by the forms of the gods who have always tortured him, become less obscure, more separate from a petrifying matter -- when a whole area of the earth develops a philosophy parallel to that of its inhabitants; when one knows that the first men utilized a language of signs, and when one finds this language formidably expanded on the rocks, then one surely cannot continue to think that this is a whim, and that this whim signifies nothing.

He doesn't actually use the word rationalized, but whim is repeated again and again -- and again and again is expressed the idea that these whims are "intelligent," that they signify something, that they constitute a "language" and express a "philosophy." Clearly the idea of rationality is implied in all this.

For Artaud, it is the repetition of the same patterns that makes the whims begin to appear rational -- that rationalizes them. This is essentially the idea of synchronicity: that any sufficiently striking coincidence implies meaning.

And so this post's title turns out to be as self-referential as that of "I am the wizard Lion." Deciding to read that phrase as an anagram of rationalized whim was nothing if not whimsical, but now, reinforced by this coincidence, the whim seems to have been at least partially rationalized.

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