The Book of Hope 2: Mea Tulpa
Jo is amazing. When you think of the typical Aussie, you think of a big blonde Amazon, right? But she's not like that at all--she's small and dark and brilliant. But she is definitely a typical Aussie in that she's a compulsive globe-trotter. She's traveled literally all over the world. That night at the beach in front of the fire she started telling us about going to Dharmsala (sp?) in India and even meeting the Dalai Lama--this wasn't just a non-sequitur, though, because she was making a point about gods and creation (I know this kind of stuff may be boring for you, but it's like the whole point of this blog, because mythology is what I'm really into. Sorry.)
"The Buddhists believe in beings called 'Tulpas'," Jo said. "They think that if something's existence is believed in badly enough, then it comes to life."
"You mean like a mass hallucination?" (Christina).
"I do believe in fairies! I do!" (Kerry, clapping her hands.)
"Well, it could be just a single entity projected through will-power, like our 'perfect man'. Or it could sort of be like believing in a whole religious system. The Dalai Lama told us that even our Judeo-Christian god was really a tulpa, and that as more and more people stopped believing in, you know, an almighty Jehovah, he actually became less and less of a real physical force in the world." This reminded me of something I'd read in a Diane Johnson novel, Le Divorce, I think it was, where the younger sister has an affair with an older man and says "it was like being f--ked by God".
"That's what I want," I told them. "To be f--ked by God" (well, not in the way we all are normally, I mean. Pardon my French, or whatever.)
'Uh huh, bitch, we know all about you and older men," said Kerry. 'Bitch' is her affectionate nickname for all three of us, but I guess you gotta hear it the way she says it, all teasing in her warm, still slightly Southern drawl. She makes it sound so cute I've been tempted to try using it that way myself, but I have a feeling I'd get my face punched. It's just a Kerry thing, I guess. "So if we all agree on this perfect man, and concentrate on him hard enough, he'll actually come to life? Or do we have to convert to Buddhism?"
"All it would take would be one person." Well, it would have to, in our case, because all four of us can never agree on anything anyway. There was no way we were even going to agree to actually finish the exercise. For example here's Kerry's version (I found this scrap of notebook paper she'd been scribbling on the floor when I was packing to go home:
"Sensitive. Strong enough to be [erased]. Not gay. Willing to stand up to me. Willing to be nice to my family. Must like driving long distances, preferably in a luxury SUV. Must LIE convincingly! Especially about how I look in the morning. And whether he's been cheating or not. Or whether he's noticed that I have. Civilization is built on the polite lie--and I want a man who's totally civilized and polite. Preferably with thick glossy dark hair, just the color of a favorite shoe. And baby blue eyes, that's non-negotiable."
Knowing Kerry, this was probably her total output for the week. Of course that didn't stop her from critiquing everybody else's! But those magic words--'sensitive', 'strong', 'gentle'--got mentioned a lot that night. Christina insisted that he had to talk a lot and be in touch with his emotions, Kerry said she mostly preferred silence, and Jo claimed she wanted an Albert Einstein--but she wanted to use Chaos Theory to invent him. According to her, perfection is a random event and our perception of it changes from moment to moment. So her tulpa's personality would change and fluctuate constantly. "Great, your perfect guy is a schizo!", said Kerry. She then reminded us all of Jo's thing for big blonde guys in suits, recounting the story of how one night Jo went up to the top floor of a NY skyscraper on a date with a dull, boring but blonde junior investment banker and was so seduced by the luxurious office and the view that she later said, "He could have done anything he fancied to me right there on that desk--he just didn't know it!" "He just didn't know it!" then became a kind of slogan around the house. We all agreed, however, that the incident illustrated Chaos Theory, because it was so unexpected. So the first quality we expected in our perfect man was...the unexpected.
"Swedish men are rarely unexpected," Chris said, and then told us some dirty jokes on the subject which I won't repeat here. For Christina, creativity was what she responded to most of all in a man, she said. Therefore, he must be an artist, but at the same time practical and with a good sense of humor. He must love children just like she did. Swedes didn't expect fidelity from each other--they were too practical for that--but they did expect loyalty and commitment, so he must be very loyal. And healthy. Jo added that he needed to always be learning new things. The way a tulpa became a monster, like in horror flicks like Hell House, was when his creator died or lost interest, leaving him all alone and only half-formed. So he had to have a strong sense of curiosity and a moral kinship with the rest of humanity in order to grow into a real person. Adolf Hitler, for example, could have been nothing more than a tulpa, created from the crazy obsessions of German racist crackpots and then abandoned to wander around on his own. Maybe politics attracts them (or even creates them, spooky thought!) Later I did some more research on tulpas--here's an interesting link: http://www.davisanddavis.org/harvey/tulpa.html. And Iris Murdoch, the woman that totally depressing flick Iris was about, wrote a cool novel on the subject called The Green Knight. So loyalty, not just to his partner, but to all of humanity, was quality number two. Plus a sense of humor, of course. I mean, he'd need one, once he realized one of us had created him...
When Mary Shelley wrote her book she called it Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus. Prometheus is what mythologists call a 'universal symbol' because he occurs as a fire-bringer (which is a metaphor for divine wisdom) in almost every culture and religion, even Christianity. My own personal bible is the book Hamlet's Mill (http://phoenixandturtle.net/excerptmill/santillana.htm) by Georgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, which, among many other fascinating things, discusses Prometheanism. My own particular area of interest is the parallels of this ancient Indo-European figure to Norse and particularly Finnish mythology (where he is known as Vainamoinen, sorry no umlauts on this keyboard), but the novel Frankenstein has probably inspired far more interest in the subject than any other book. Most writers and commentators pretty much take it for granted that Victor Frankenstein is the hero of the book, and the 'Prometheus' of the title, taking the divine spark that is God's prerogative and using it to create life, thereby drawing down upon himself the same sort of punishment as the Greek titan did--remember, Zeus chained him to a rock? But I guess I've always seen the story a little differently. Maybe Shelley intended Frankenstein to be the protagonist--and the Prospero of the tale--and his creation, the new man, the Caliban, but somewhere along the line, the process reversed itself. To me, by the end of the story, it's the monster himself who has become Promethean, trying to share his dwindling wisdom with others of his kind, while Victor himself has become a secondary, almost uninteresting figure to the story, if that makes any sense to you.
And so, while the other three were drinking wine in the flickering firelight and talking about their perfect man, I suddenly felt like the qualities they were debating made him totally uninteresting to me. I pointed out that none of the things they were listing as virtues actually made their dream guy attractive. To me what mattered was how he made me feel inside, weak at the knees or whatever--and that depended on chemistry, good looks, obviously, and things like smell. And what about his skills as a lover? All women agree that they want a great lover, but what exactly does that mean, really? I mean, there's only one way for a guy to gain that kind of experience--and that means he'd have to break a lot of hearts along the way, which doesn't exactly fit the profile of 'sensitive' and 'gentle'. Jo pointed out that wasn't necessarily true--for instance, he could be the one getting dumped all the time--but we all agreed that would make him seem like a weepy, whiny wimp. And it wasn't just about sex or whatever, either. I wanted a guy who was really wise and cynical and way too selfish and tough-minded to fall for anyone but me. Or if he did, to be too enslaved by me to do anything about it. "'Too old', you mean." said Kerry. I guess we were all getting a little drunk by then, or she wouldn't have kept bitching me out about older men. The reason she does, and I'm gonna make this as brief as possible, is that I sort of had a thing with an older professor at UChi the last year we were all there. So now you know.
YES, he was married, and yes, I was an idiot, and yes, I got my heart broken, and yes, maybe I was looking for my father in him, or whatever. Well, it makes sense, since my dad died just five years ago, when I was still really pretty young. So yeah, I guess it's a perv thing on my part in some way that I 'do nut' want to go into here (maybe in a later post. Or maybe not). All I can say is, my dad never had a little grey pony-tail, or wore flip-flops around campus to show off his pedicure. "Or wore an ankle bracelet," added Kerry. Yeah, thanks for that reminder. Anyway, my point is, it's natural for women to like 'bad boys', right?. The worse they are, the better. We just want them to change out of love for us.
And that was when I suddenly realized--I actually didn't want a nice, sensitive, gentle dream guy at all. I didn't want Victor Frankenstein or Albert Einstein. I didn't want a genius, I wanted a monster!