Balancing the Ship, Gazing at the Stars,
Learning To Trust the (Wildly Swinging) Weathervane Within--
and (Maybe?) Progressing "Beyond" the Bicameral Mind:
Ahab's Wife (through p. 333)

Under the right conditions...anything is possible...the theory of the Impossibility of Impossibility. (248)

Anne's 3-27-04 Posting About Im/Balance:
...I was reminded of this conversation (and reminded that I wanted to record it) by Mary Catherine Bateson, the keynote speaker for the conference Integrating Environmentalism @ Haverford this weekend, which Su-Lyn told us about. At the end of her talk about making education "more ecological," someone asked Bateson where she would go to school now, were she 17 again. She said she would most likely do what she did before: spend a year in Israel, learning a culture and language different from anything she'd ever participated in before. And so learn (again) how to be an anthropologist, a participant-observer, someone involved/invested in a culture, BUT ALSO able to look @ it from the outside, to see that it is only one of myriad options for constructing the world.
Head in Clouds/Feet on Ground.
To Sea/In a Ship.
Thank you all for all this Backing-and-Forthing.
It keeps me Im/Balanced.

Una engages in the same "im/balancing" act, finding herself repeatedly posed between two alternatives (participant and observer, engaged and endistanced, on shore and at sea, empirical and idealistic...), each of them embodied in someone who draws her out of/mirrors her back to herself.

But in the bustle, on the far end of the wharf, stood a figure who seemed a projection of myself. ...How could it be that I myself was already there, waiting for the Pequod? I felt superfluous, redundant. I determined to approach myself. My heart beat fantastically, for how does one address such a usurper? "You, there!" I called. She turned, and the face was not my own. Mary Starbuck. (471)

I rather regreted that I did not myself have a sister who was a friend and with whom I could compare myself, the better to understand both my singularity and our commonality. But I had Frannie. (32)

Bob O Cathail, Woman with Mirror, Bin Ban Gallery, Tralee, Ireland

Woman or Skull? From "Why so few 3-patterned optical illusions?"

Playing with an idea....

first provided by Daniela: I finally menaged to figure out why Una cannot make up her mind whom (Giles or Kit) she prefers....because they are the complementary parts of one personality.

Each of the pairs on whom Una projects herself, and from whose opposition she learns, represents the interaction of the conscious and unconscious operations of the brain, of the exchange between an insistence on "simple and unifying relations that capture key aspects of an object under study" and thinking "in terms of many variables and complicated relations." (See Dalke, Grobstein and McCormack, Theorizing Interdisciplinarity: Metaphor and Metonymy, Synecdoche and Surprise ).

Una's oppositional pairs include
her aunt and her mother,
Giles and Kit,
Ahab and Ishmael, and
Margaret Fuller and Maria Mitchell.
In her encounters with each of them, she is projecting onto others
an internal debate that she at first (along with Camus and Ahab) assumes exists only in the world outside.

See Anne's 4/08/04 posting on alternatives:
I was reading Albert Camus's "The Myth of Sisyphus" (1955) this evening:
"the world itself is not reasonable....But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For the moment it is all that links them together. It binds them one to the other as only hatred can weld two creatures together....the doctrines that explain everything to me also debilitate me....They relieve me of the weight of my own life, and yet I must carry it alone."

See also More on Camus' Absurdist Challenge

And Paul on pragmatism

The pairs Una encounters may be said to represent what Dalke and Grobstein, in Storytelling in (at least) 3 Dimensions: An Exploration of Teaching Reading, Writing, and Beyond describe as "a contrast between two styles of making sense of the world, one broader and more intuitive, the other focused and more analytic....We understand these binaries to have their origin in the bi-partite character of the brain, and so as inherent in each of us....Each of us begins with a largely unconscious experience of the world. We move from the full, unstructured business of the unconscious into the more spare and structured work of the conscious mind: generating a story, squeezing experience down into a shape which of necessity leaves out some aspect of what has occurred--and so generates yet another story, yet another "reduction" that is productive of further storytelling."

Una's representative pairs include her (unyielding) aunt and her (accomodating) mother:

About Agatha, who was the older, there was a certainty, while about my mother, the dominant air was gentleness. I later came to think that they both knew the foolishness of the world, to which Agatha remained unyielding while my mother, less certain that any view cold be absolute, responded with plaint accomodation. (32)

(assertive) Giles and (skitter-y) Kit:

Despite the storehouse that must be in [Giles's] mind...he didn't know what to say....Kit...skittered from one topic to another like a land sparrow...with no shyness about landing on whatever idea he liked....Were there many men like Giles with such...wide learning....Or those like Kit, with such a strange originality to their minds that they left mine reeling? (72, 94)

If I were a true lady, should I not wait loyally for the Red Cross Knight?...Then I thought of another story, of Lancelot, and he had Kit's face, Kit's dark-eyed interest in the body. Giles, it seemed to me, was like a Parsifal. His eyes saw some holy grail, even if they looked at me. I sighed, because in my heart, I knew it was a matter not of loyalty but of preference. And my preference was for the lofty vision of Giles. Let it leave silences in our commerce; let me suffer less than satisfaction. I could not help it. There was in Giles that which I was bound to love, because I aspired to it myself. (124)

Experimentally, [Kit] had wondered if the Venus comb would fulfill the function promised by its name. Giles had given me a rose in the tradition of high romance and assumed its decay. (317)

Kit is mad

Crows flew out of him as from the depth of a coal mine shaft. From the bowels came his thoughts. (214)

Without fail, he had some new and ghoulish image to relate...I may have been right in trying to damp that black river....I felt a dread in me. I did not like Kit's speculations on reality or religion. They seemed to me to be a snarl of words. What should be said metaphorically he thought of as truth. I had visited those dislocated realms myself. (239)

...some unintended correspondence had dashed up in his mind. (301)

[Kit:] "You make mountains out of molehills, Una. It's something I don't like about you." (315)

And Giles is a mountain-climber: ambitious (and ultimately, full of despair). His icon is the arrogant Icarus.

W.H. Auden's Musee des Beaux Arts

[Una:] "Heathen!..What wings do you want?" [Giles:] "Try pagan. Try Icarus." (235)

[Giles:] "I was the captain..I had made a ladder of reasons. I thought I was justified, but I was only arrogant." (241)

He tumbled down the sky and, with hardly a splash, disappeared into the indifferent sea....Was it a falling or a letting go? (242-243)

[Kit:] "He was a great man, greatly flawed....He would never have fulfilled the potential of his youth. (245)

[Ahab:] "Broad daylight. I was looking at him. The sun stood at his shoulders. An Icarus." (290)

Una's third pair is, of course, (the strong-willed) Ahab and (the tolerant) Ishmael,

(and perhaps most importantly, her fourth pair is) the idealist Margaret Fuller and the empiricist Maria Mitchell:

Margaret Fuller Links:

Maria Mitchell Links:

In repeatedly evoking these alternatives (and moving beyond them?)
Naslund may be playing with, extending (to its limits and beyond)
the opposition Melville posed:

Diane: it is unquestionable that Una is clingy. Her entire world relies to something else (ie the original text). She is clingy by association....The author is not doing anything particularly innovative here. Innovation would mean that the book could stand on its own.

As before, the Pequod steeply leaned over towards the sperm whale's head, now, by the counterpoise of both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely strained, you may well believe. So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right. (Moby-Dick, Ch. 73, p. 261)

** John Locke (1632-1704), English empirical philosopher whose commonly accepted doctrines were then being challenged by "transcendentalists" who used views of the German idealistic philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). This passage rejects both positions and humorously advocates dispensing with them, along with view of all such heavy thinkers ("thunderheads," literally, lightning-charged clouds, but with a pun on "dunderheads," blockheads). [Footnote from the Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick p. 261]

What Una learns, in time, is both that two choices are not enough,
and that she can be content with her multiplicity and changeability.
She becomes able to refuse hierarchy within herself.

She has a center, but it is not one.

From Paul's talk on Beauty:
The Elephant Presumption: there is a there there.

(AND the figure is an ambivalent one.)

"There are many churches....There's more choices than that...All in the process of organizing....Somebody brought over an elephant and there's some that want to build a church for him!...The Elephantists!" (294)

When I am one place, I remember the other and want it. (296)

I looked ahead at Giles and Kit and wished that I could walk between them. I did not want to choose between them. The voice of my mother said to me, Then, Una, perhaps neither of them is really for you. But who else was there in the world...that I would want? (136)

I was not then ready for Ahab. Yet, I did feel kin to him when I saw his exultation in wind and water and speed, his pleasure in his own preeminence. High in the Lighthouse...there, close to the sun, alone, I myself had known strange joy and the strength that attends such joy. He, too, has stood next to lightning, I thought...I touched my own cheek. (178).

[Ishmael] stopped and looked deeply at me for a moment as we passed in the corridor. A voice within me spoke: He is the most interesting man I have ever seen. In an abstract, detached part of my mind, Giles and Kit grew pale. Interesting--why that cold word? Did I mean promising? And promising what?....my inner voice added with regret: But now is a time when I must leave this place. (252)

Una has become her own skyhook:

[Giles:] Una, Una. How did you do it? When did you do it? You've contrived a sky trapeze and dropped down from it, I know. But how?" "First I lured the eagles to come into the Lighthouse....I began to teach them to follow directions....I made harnesses out of braided kelp, and off we flew....I've found a way...to wish till things happen. The very atoms I'm made of come apart in a kind of sparkle. A cloud of sparkles propelled by will. When I crossed Cuba--they thought I was a comet. At Rio they said gnats....But in the last rain...I attached myself to individual drops, fell into a puddle in a low place on the decl, and reconstituted myself as a male...." "You are bold, inventive, unconventional, and...ambitious." "I am your equal." "No. I am not your equal. I pity the man who is...." "They have made a man of me. I say what I want." (191)

(She is--when mad--a counter:)

And that part of me worked that counted and shuffled numbers....The part of me that sends out numbers knows... (227-228)

(When sane, she's "more qualitative.")

Can she calculate?" Phoebe asked of me, turning to Maria. "Una is much interested in science, but she is more qualitative than quantitative in her approach." "Humph!" Phoebe sniffed, and I thought she was going to turn away. (631)

Naslund repeatedly evokes (at least) four important figures
for Una's multiplicitous self, and for her (eventual) acceptance of that multiplicity
--the sky, the sea, the weathervane and the sewer-of-quilts (=writer):

The Sky:

I felt overcome by this multitudinousness--what did my single self matter in a world so crowded and varied? (303)

Your mind is like a bright light, Una. Unable to shine on itself. (320)

I am made of what makes stars! Those atoms burning bright...are here within me. I am as old as they and will continue as long as they....they are not strangers to me. (558)

Let him go. Let him set sail as I have, as well as his father. But I think the journey there is bounded by the spherical size of the globe. Circumnavigate this globe, and you but return to the place of your departing. The bigger journey is up there....And suppose the universe itself is but some greater globe where it is possible to travel through rather than on its curving surface. Or suppose that--that we are only on the surface of a dark expanding globe--then where is the journey to the place that is limitless? I find it within...independent and single. No, I do not unmarry Ahab. But I marry myself. I take my fate as within. Would that I could give this thought to Ahab. His singleness of purpose is all fastened on the white whale. (560-561)

Here I was contained. And the container ordered my confusion....Though I could think of a smug safeness, I could not enter it. What was safety? A room, but I was without that room....I was forever unhoused....So I left the world of Snug, climbed aloft...and laid myself down to the sky. I laid myself down, the small tooth of a gear, in all that wheeling universe. And yet I was a part. The inner sea, right-sailed, had wholeness to offer, and this, this vastness--it let me partake of harmony. (299, 257, 560)

The Sea:

Ah, Waves, what do you know....What do you have to teach us? Your capacity to vary, your ability to endure? Your ceaseless energy. The force of you comes ashore and dies there...How, O destructive element, can I abide the days of your coming in, coming in, coming in? Because you are no single thing. You console with eternal arch and spew...You prove...bounty...beauty..energy..and what are we ourselves but energy? We live by our inner tide sand cycles. Our blood is salt, even as you are. We, like you, must always heave and move; may sometimes sparkle, may luxuriate in ourselves. Waves, you are a pattern that fills all the available space. Like stars. Ah, Waves, you tell me what I am and what I may yet be. ( 622-623)

...we are the individual drops; at death, our boundaries all dissolved, we join the oneness...as rain joining the ocean. (236)

But who was Ishmael, anyway?" I asked. "In the Bible?" "An outcast. Somebody who lives on the edge of things." I glanced at her. "As I do." "No. You come and go. Sometimes going out, sometimes coming in. Like the waves." (640-641)

And then I claimed to myself that despite all, I was glad that I had left my particular, insular Tahiti. (643)

The Weathervane:

From Council for Emerging National Security Affairs

School Weathervane, from Eryptick home page

From Folkstore.Com Metal & Wood Crafts

Since my time on the Sussex, I have ever feared the weathervane in me. Sometimes I point toward Independence, isolation. Sometimes I rotate--my back to Independence--and I need and want my friends, my family, with a force like a gale. I have in me a spinnaker sail that finds the breeze and leads all my sails in that direction. I do not count myself fickle, for I have much of loyalty in me, but I am changeable. (190)

The pendulum in me swung back to wanting their company and connection. (238)

Perhaps Giles was wrong to believe that felicity lay in the home and hearth. I felt it lay in the open sea and the adventure of discovery....I fancied myself a kind of mermaid, a figurehead of a free spirit. (126)

[What Starbuck would have said to Una, could he have spoken:] Your despair comes from your struggle, from your vain belief that you order the sea of feeling. (287)

The Quilter/Writer:

Starburst, from Quilts by Lorrie Faith Cranor

Her life is pleated--there's more gathered up and stored behind than one can see. (288)

That picture: always in the present tense, always available. Take some thread of yourself and trace it back in time. Not far, and your finger finds...a knot.... The thread of yourself must form a knobby loops that takes in a larger, growing shape...let that loop join hands with other loops til the structure is intricate, multifaceted,...growing....Don't think you belong only to your own time!...What you do or don't do is left behind....Let me know that into the knot of self comes the thread called time, and that what I am...came from what I was, going to what I yet may be. Isolato! do you think yourself a string too short to save?...Fear not your insignificance. Nature...garners all the string....Yes, you will be interwoven. (231-233)

I want my victory--that you should see and hear and above all feel reality behind these words. For they are but a mask... a mask that expresses rather than conceals the inner drama. (But do you know me? Una? You have shipped long with me in the boat that is this book....The contract of writing and reading requires that we know each other. Did you know that I try on your mask from time to time? I become a reader, too, reading over what I have just written. If I am your shipbuilder and captain, from time to time I am also your comrade. Feel me now, standing beside you, just behind your shoulder?) (147-148)

If only writing were like music with many strands in many layers progressing at once! (150)

[Ahab:] Beware the treachery of words, Mrs. Sparrow. They mean one thing to one person and the opposite to another. They are like all conventional, land-born habits. Words seem to be well-woven basket ready to hold your meaning, but they betray you with rotted corners and splintered stays." "You mistrust all that is of the land." "It pretends to permanence....The sea promises nothing, and so it is more to be trusted...bears all her changeability on her face, and so is more kind." "In her cruelty." (297-298)

I formed my first principle as a storyteller. I will not be governed by time. Time does not march; it swirls and leaps. Time is a dancer, not a soldier. And the second: adherence to fact is slavery. Think how Shakespeare distorted, compressed, rearranged historical events in his history plays. Such license would be mine....When I pieced a quilt, I did not place the pieces in chronological order, the oldest in the upper-left-hand corner! A pleasing design, color, beauty--could those be my business? (610)

As I used language, as I shaped it into re-creations of people and places, I also felt its inadequacy. It could serve to describe the past; it could not capture what I presently felt. (620)

Eventually--watching the sky and the sea,
attending to the weathervane within,
piecing together the story of her life--
Una arrives at a sense of self related to yet separate from others:

[Charlotte says, in fury:] The world is not closed off, Una, because a man and his wife make a small, inviolate circle at the center of it. (324)

To the south a new friend, female, old, wise, a kind of dispassionate mother. To the north a new friend, male, of my own decade, whaler, a seeker, the survivor of a wreck. I rebounded beween them--and it was a joyous clanging of that clapper, my tongue, for they both listened as well as they talked...How comfortable to have separate neighbors,but all our houses open to one another...he said he preferred to share the hedge with you...it's some kind of dividing line. A sort of bundling board between yards." (647, 649)

What does her development tell us means about storytelling as an evolutionary process?

Ro: (I am happy for these interruptions, additions of thought because they are generally working at the hinge if it all) ...Ahab's Wife would not exist were it not for Melville's Moby....one created a niche for the other to enter....Fiction creates niches that more fiction can follow.... The only way fiction is created is by filling niches created by predecessor fiction.

The Story of Evolution:
Whence Cometh Purpose/Meaning/Language/Choice/Morality/Altruism/Comfort?
(or do we just forget about them?)


themselves outcomes of an evolutionary process and,
once having come into being,
they in turn become causal influences in that process.

Storytellers [are] able to use models to create what would not otherwise have come into existence.

language/language-based culture [is] an accelerator of the accelerator

Words can bring into potential existence things that had not previously existed (and themselves have causal efficacy, reproduce, etc = "memes")

  • "I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am."
  • "Story"... makes possible... changes both in self" and in "culture" ?
  • Language based story tellers ... trying out new things...seeing whether they last, knowing one is doing it

Dennett's Ideas (Dangerous and Otherwise) About Evolution and Life:
and/or Paul's Admiration / Suspicion We Can Do Better Than This

With bipartite brain, what can be created is not previously imaginable...possibilities, some at least of which can in fact be implemented ... this in turn changes the search space in various ways...

If so, the cranes have in fact yielded a skyhook ... a potential ability to reshape by previous intent...

And where Una may be leading us....?
Into the evolution of the multipartite brain?

Threesology Research Journal

Why so few 3-patterned optical illusions?:
make note of the persistent predominant usage of two-patterned optical illusions in psychology, psychiatry, counseling, etc., and question why there is not a larger sampling of three-patterned images (or ideas)...

Language and Cognition:
In the book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Dr. Julian Jaynes, Consciousness is described as a later emergence of brain development...in the second millennium B.C.... the phrase in John 1:1 ["In the beginning was the Word"] is a reference to an increased ...brain function towards the channel of language.

There are people whose brains are developing along a path towards a form of consciousness that is part of our brain's evolutionary development.... their mind is more suited for another era in the future.

Vestiges of the Bicameral Mind:
If we look upon the...phrase from a Bicameral point of view, it is a type of historical reference to the before/during/after emergence of auditory sounds that were defined by Bicameral peoples as the presence of a god-like entity. The phrase refers to...the historical appearance of particular sounds that were defined as one or more god-like presences...the designation "Word" did not have the same definition for the bicameral minded person that we of today use.

Image of the Sea as Intellect

So: read on, for Thursday, to p. 444...
watching for further signs of the evolution...
of Una, of this story,
of the capacity of story to change the larger story...

Perrin: Una's circumstances were much, MUCH more catastrophic than those of Ahab, but she loves life enough to move on.

Meg: I like watching her growth through her different experience. She refuses to crack where everyone else does.

Aia: It bothers me that Una is so composed.... I feel these emotions [madness, guilt] come second to Una's determination to forget. I'm finding it hard to relate to this perfectly, composed Una.... Una is determined to forgive herself ...so that she might be given a second chance to lead a normal life....I'm hoping with 300 more pages to go I find a different Una - an Una I can see myself in.

Orah: i didn't think that anyone was a complete clinger or a complete drifter ... i think we all have a combination of both.... i think this pinning that i've (we've) been doing all semester is useful to a point ... but, when i start to restrict myself and others with this peircing then it's too violent, and should be stopped..... Ahab's wife is about the evolution of a woman.... should the learning, should the embarrassments, should the development be published? it is about the movement toward beauty or is it the beauty itself that is treasured? i guess this course is all about how the important part is the evolution, not the end,

Orah: what is the value of writing that charts the evolution of character, the evolution of thought, instead of maintaining one level of thought... something about [Ishmael] is static. not with una. everything about her changes. we KNOW una because we've watched her grow.

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