Inconsistency, Surfing, and Ulysses

How many times have you heard me say this? “I’m going to try something a little different, because what I was doing isn’t working for me anymore.” Isn’t that “what life’s all about, Charlie Brown”?

Real life isn’t about consistency. It’s not finding a groove and following it all the way to the end of the record. It’s more like…surfing a wave successfully. You see a good swell, get out in front of it, balance and ride it a while, and then break off before it crashes you into the shore. Paddle back out and find a new swell. Rinse and repeat.

I used to find this constant searching, re-evaluating, and then changing things, to be a sign that something was seriously wrong with me. It turns out that… it’s just life. Things are always changing. We have to keep changing with it or get crashed into the shore, finding ourselves sandy and bruised.

What is this “change” I speak of? Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not writing here every day like I was. I can’t find the time spot in my morning. I get behind what I’m currently reading, the finished books I want to comment on start to pile up, I get frustrated with it all, and give up completely. I tell myself it isn’t important, just let it go, maybe blogging isn’t my thing after all. But then I’m sad again. What’s the point of reading all of this and saying nothing, to anyone, anywhere? Does this sound familiar?

I think I’ll change my morning routine just a little bit, and write after I read each morning, just to pop on and share what I found interesting. Full articles of thought out writing just aren’t my style at the moment. It’s free, you get what you get. “This is MY dream!” as Mickey Mouse says. So here we go.

I started reading Ulysses by James Joyce yesterday, and I know your eyes popped out when you read that. “Ulysses? Really?! Why?!” It’s a notorious book, isn’t it? Associated thoughts and words come to mind: long, difficult, crazy, gay, sex, banned. But I have not a clue what it is really about, and I have the book on my shelf. It’s another one I picked out of a friend’s library when she was giving it away. It’s a classic. Gotta keep a classic, right? And now it’s on my Classics Club reading list, so why not tackle it now?

Ulysses book cover on desert ground

You know what was the kicker? The last book I was reading, The Masks of God, found me listening to Joseph Campbell’s lectures on a podcast. I think I told you about that. Great book, by the way. One that I may comment on more later, but I’m slightly overwhelmed thinking about putting that post together. It’s one of the reasons you haven’t heard from me this past week. Where do I even start!?

Where was I? Oh, yes. The Joseph Campbell podcast!

A few days ago, I was picking a podcast to listen to on the way into the city and guess what the title was of the latest episode! Imagery of Vision in the Novels of James Joyce. I read Dubliners a few months ago and found it… intriguing. It left me a tad confused, and I wasn’t looking forward to reading Ulysses. I thought listening to the podcast would help clarify and explain some things.

It did and it didn’t, but I wanted to know more. I left feeling that I might not be smart enough to read Ulysses, wishing I had majored in literature instead of theater, considering taking a class or two online to see if it would help my understanding.

There was so much about art in general in that podcast. I have three pages of notes! Phrases like “aesthetic arrest” and “erotic irony.” “The eyes are the scouts for the heart.” The take in the sights, send back information, and the heart decides what direction to move in. Can you feel that?! And another, “Creativity is insanity. It deconstructs conventional reality.” “The function of art is not annihilation but celebration.” These are just a few of my more coherent notes. I’m driving, remember. I can’t write whole sentences and complete thoughts. I want to hear this all again, as if I’m sitting in a lecture hall taking notes. Then go back and research all he said.

So, yeah… I left the podcast thinking reading Ulysses might be a complete waste of time. Did that stop me from opening it up yesterday? Hell, no! I dove in! The best part about reading on my own schedule, is that I don’t have to finish it if I’m hating it, and I don’t have anyone waiting for me to finish, no tests to take. If I’m enjoying the book, I keep reading, even if I often get lost or don’t understand each references.

I’m two hours, 45 pages, into Ulysses, and I’m LOVING it. Seriously. I get it. It is a complicated read. It feels like a stream of consciousness. He moves from dialog with others, to thoughts and memories, to inner dialog, to direction or scenery, and back to dialog without quotations or paragraph breaks. It feels a lot like…reading my journal… or this post.

There are a lot of Latin quotes (that I look up because I love that stuff), historical references to Irish and English history, Catholic references I don’t understand, and French. Why French in every classic book?! I should have taken French. Maybe I’ll learn some on Duolingo? Why not take up another hobby? I may not be able to speak it, but I could probably learn enough to know basically what a written sentence says, like I can in Spanish.

Yeah, I’m a little excited. I love books that speed up time. I read for an hour this morning; I would have sworn it had only been ten minutes. And the whole time I’m reading I feel as if I’m there, inside Stephen Dedalus’ head. It’s beautifully disorienting.

I got on here thinking I’d share a couple words and here I am over a thousand words later…. The story of my life. One quote from the book before I go:

“It must be a movement then, an actuality of the possible as possible. Aristotle’s phrase formed itself within the gabbled verses and floated out into the studious silence of the library of Saint Genevieve where he had read, sheltered from the sin of Paris, night by night. By his elbow a delicate Siamese conned a handbook of strategy. Fed and feeding brains about me: under glowlamps, impaled, with faintly beating feelers: and in my mind’s darkness a sloth of the underworld, reluctant, shy of brightness, shifting her dragon scaly folds. Thought is the thought of thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is the form of forms. Tranquility sudden, vast, candescent: form of forms.”

These are his thoughts as a student reads aloud to him. So many words, but you get a feeling from it, a connection. Mine? “Fed and feeding brains about me:” Being in the university library around other scholars. “…in my mind’s darkness a sloth of the underworld…” his understanding of what he’s experiencing/learning feels much like mine. It’s there, slow to come into the light. Then remembering what life and learning really are, “Thought is the thought of thought.” And the flash of suddenly understanding just a small portion, “Tranquility sudden, vast, candescent: forms of forms.”

…sigh… So beautiful.

Want to read more posts about Ulysses?
Sadness and Portals of Discovery
Sex and Pints
Final Thoughts


    • THAT’S good to hear! 😀 I can be a bit… taxing in person. LOL Thanks for your comments. I truly appreciate them!

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