Note to reader: this is a postgraduate study blog entry.
“‘I’ll simply lie through thick and thin – I must – I will – nobody need ever be a bit the wiser! I can do more good by lying than by telling the truth, and make more deserving people happy, including myself and the sweetest girl alive – the end shall justify the means: that’s my excuse! and this lie of mine is on so stupendous a scale that it will have to last me for life. It’s my only one, but its name is Lion! and I’ll never tell another as long as I live.
So the little man went on, as if he knew all about it, had found it all out for himself, and nobody else had ever found it out before! and I am not responsible for his ways of thinking (which are not necessarily my own).”
Du Maurier, Trilby, p.186-7
We were told in class last week that for our research, we should:
Think creatively about sources and connections
Evaluate sources carefully
Make sure theories of history are understood (for all disciplines have its own histories)
Aim for careful integration of material
The opening quote is from the book Trilby by George Du Maurier, written in 1894, in a scene just before Little Billee (the little man mentioned) goes on to convert a parson out of religion and into science. If books like these were read at the turn of the century going into 1900 and were accepted by society, I think we, as a society have become more conservative in the way we think, possibly because of fear of ‘political correctness’ and of fear of being discriminative. Although the Victorian society set us up with a positive way forward in thinking, in being more open-minded, the journey and arrival at where we are today do not seem in spirit with what the Victorians had hoped for. Good or bad, perhaps we cannot value it as such, but it is definitely different from what was set out more than a hundred years ago.
I think the lyrics to Mumford & Son’s Little Lion Man really puts the situation into perspective. Here’s the video and first verse & chorus for your viewing, listening and singing pleasure.
Note: Strong language.
Weep for yourself, my man
You’ll never be what is in your heart
Weep little lion man
You’re not as brave as you were at the start
Rate yourself and rape yourself
Take all the courage you have left
Waste it on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head
But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn’t I, my dear?
Didn’t I, my dear
In the first two lines, we can read it as that humankind can never express ourselves properly, to do what we really believe in. There is some sort of a barrier, something holding us back. In the third and fourth line, it suggest that we do not get stronger, but weaker. In any ideas that we have, we never see the end with as much energy or passion or believe as from the start, the inception of the idea. Like the Malay saying, ‘hangat-hangat tahi ayam’ which means to put full effort into doing something only in the beginning, then losing interest, sometimes even not completing the work. Directly translated, it says ‘warmth of chicken shit’ (for as long as the chicken shit is still warm). But we digress…
Rate yourself and rape yourself. We need to look inward into humanity, analyse ourselves, in order to grow. And once we have done that, ‘take all the courage you have left’ and what do you do with it? Be human and waste it on fixing the problems that we have made in our own heads… the problems of the unimportant, the materialistic problems. Humankind are not capable of appreciating and understanding life itself. We put importance on all the frills and things around us, placing too much worth on worthless things and ignoring the basic stuff like love, education, good relations and communications.
The chorus takes a different voice. The suggestion of ‘mine’ being spoken by a higher more powerful being. Are we looking for someone (God?) or something (religion, science?) to blame for all our mistakes? It might just not be in human nature to stand up to mistakes we made and decisions and consequences of ours. It is easier to point the finger at someone or something else.
That is one way of reading the lyrics, one interpretation. I know that the songwriter had suggested that the song is somewhat biographical, about the problems he had growing up, but that is just another interpretation too. It is as we can see, important to understand what the writer’s agenda is, in reading, in writing, in anything. (Un)Fortunately, we are just human. As objective as we try to be, we will still have a notion of subjectivity in us, for that is after all what consciousness, the ability to think, brings.
My agenda? I love the song Little Lion Man. I woke up this morning, put it on, got inspired to think about my blog post. I then read the passage in Trilby that reminded me of the song again and I guess you could say it was fate that brought this piece together. There is probably something more in my writing that I am unaware of, an unconscious message that perhaps someone else may want to take apart. Because I am so involved in the process of writing, I am too close to it and I may not be able to see the emotions that I am relaying. Or perhaps not.
It is said that at the end of the 19th century was when aesthetics and ethics parted. It was art of arts sake. Pleasure in art without arriving at a moral point is ok. If, as a writer or artist, we are unaware of our actions in creating our pieces, how can we control what the messages are? Even Aesop’s tales can be read immorally if a reader so pleases. We cannot control readers in what goes through their minds either. We are all just individuals, governed by similar societal rules through which are made complex by cultural and genetic memories. We are moulded by society, even when we are trying to break out of society, we see ourselves only through reflections of others. We are one in many, trying to stand out.
What can we do? Perhaps nothing? Perhaps lots. One thing is for sure, is that awareness will at least bring us closer to an understanding, which perhaps will lead us to another phase of humanity that may be more ‘useful’, for lack of a better word. We can at least strive to be better.