Rebecca will be so proud of me, quoting her beloved Damien. But really, I couldn't resist. I've been plotting and scheming for a way to best to use these lyrics for quite a while in relation to Sookie and Bill, and since it's last call for this idea around holism I brewed up during Season 3, I figure it's now or never!
Here's my thought process. Much ado has been made about how they are just far too different for their love to ever work; she's mortal, he's vampire; she's of this era, he's of one long bygone. And perhaps, most importantly...
Recall how, as a shadow swiftly enveloped the heretofore sunny scene, Claudine fearfully declared, "The dark approaches"? Next came her hasty retreat - remember how she paused to warn Sookie, "He (Bill) will steal your light" and, in response to her protestations that Bill is not like that, to admonish Sookie, "Don’t let him take it from you, promise me!” before slipping below the surface of her light pool escape hatch?
Can you feel Descartes' influence?
I know, I know, it's a silly reference to glamouring (you know how Bill generally says, "can you feel my influence?" when he's working his powers of persuasion) and perhaps an even sillier insinuation that a 17th century French philosopher would have anything at all to do with True Blood.
René Descartes (1596-1650)
Or, maybe this Descartes thing isn't so silly after all; let's unpack it a little, shall we?
We are living in a time of profound disconnection and extraordinary dissonance; a time in which the vestiges of what Professor Emeritas of Rutgers University Bruce Wilshire points out as a Baroque era (particularly Cartesian) conception of reality and our place in it still holds sway. This framework highlights “self as scientific knower, self as self-sufficient individual and as ego, self as master manipulator of objects” (p. 37). It is connected to the famous mechanistic theory of nature that requires us to perform an immense abstraction from our own bodies and the world.
Cartesian science believed that in any complex system the behavior of the whole could be analyzed in terms of the properties of the parts. Remnants of Caresian dualism remain in contemporary consciousness: self cut off from other, mind from body or matter, human from animal, present from past and future (Wilshire, 1990). Some examples of other heirarchical dualisms (the first-stated member of the pair is considered as superior, the second-stated as inferior Other) that trickle down to us today include Hegel and Rousseau's public/private, male female, eason/nature; Plato's reason/body, reason/emotion, and universal/particular.
These dualisms are seen as totalizing, meaning that they are thought to exhaust the alternatives within the parameters in question (Wilshire, 1990). What does this mean? According to theoretical physicist Basarab Nicolescu (p. 26, 2002), classical logic is founded on three axioms:
- The axiom of identity: A is A
- The axiom of noncontradiction: A is not non-A
- The axiom of the excluded middle: There exists no third term (3rd term = "T"); T is at the same time A and non-A
In other words, something is what it is - absolutely. Classical logic renders it impossible to consider day as night, black as white, life as death...
...feminine as masculine (Nelsan Ellis told the crowd at Dragon * Con 2010 that Alan Ball's vision for Lafayette to embody both the feminine and the masculine originally threw him for a loop; even Eric's metrosexual vibe may appear suspect to some)
According to dualistic thinking the two obviously must cancel one another out - they cannot occupy the same space.
We've got to let old Descartes off the hook at least a little bit for this schismatic, fractious worldview; even Wilshire (1990) prudently avoids holding him wholly culpable for the pervasiviness of dualistic influences which have given rise to the divisive and isolating trends that have dominated much of modernity: xenophobia, racism, sexism, etc. He implies that the genesis of the patriarchal period around 2500 B.C.E. set the movement towards rigid, rationalistic thought in motion and that definition as negation (if it's this it can't be that) has its roots in Aristotelian philosophy.
Wilshire (1990) cites the great circles and mounds of Neolithic Europe as evidence of the integral thought patterns that were alive in our dim past, long before the shift to the dualistic modes that dominate today.
|Stone Age Orkney Island neolithic womb-tomb earthen structure|
These earthen structures were temple observatories constructed around 3000 B.C.E. They anticipate field and relativity theory in the sense that space and time were seen as interdependent. Human reality was experienced as being interdependent with space-time; the human life cycle nested within the Cosmic. Within the vast, pregnant-seeming bellies of the mounds people reawakened to their own possibilities as they observed the regenerative course of Nature through the deaths and rebirths of the seasons and the movements of astrological bodies (Wilshire, 1990). "Human birth and death were just two ritual acts in the great sprial of life" (Ward, p. 88, 2006).
Another vision of our realty has been set forth in the last century through systems thinking; a “new” way of thinking in terms of connectedness, relationships, and context that recalls the worldviews of these indigenous and ancient goddess oriented civilizations. Quantum physics in which subatomic particles are not seen as “things” but as interconnections among things; Gestalt psychology which is characterized by its “hunger for wholeness” that sees the existence of irreducible wholes as a key component of perception (Capra, 1997), and deep ecology which seeks to expand the notion of self beyond the confines of the ego and personal history, and to extend concepts of self-interest to include the welfare of all beings (Macy, 1991) are part of the systems thinking zeitgeist.
According to activist, systems scholar and progenitor of The Work that Reconnects Joanna Macy (1991), a dramatic shift is occurring in our time from notions of linear, unidirectional causality to perceptions of dynamic interdependence where phenomena affect each other in a reciprocal or mutual fashion. This new-old picture, or likeness of reality that is emerging in our times - which was the prevailing metaphor for the Cosmos and human’s place in it in Neolithic civilization - is the ideal that Wilshire (1990) says might be embodied in contemporary life, if we are inventive and resolute enough.
Returning now to True Blood, might the scene below in which Sookie and Bill join forces to help Tara throw off Maryann's possession be an expression of the integral - the light and dark, female and male unified - a vision that can help synthesize the fragmentary aspects of the self and culture into a meaningful whole?
On their own, neither Sookie nor Bill were able to break Maryann's hold on Tara. Only together were they able to help her return to reality.
Scholar and midwife Arisika Razak (1990) proposes that birth is our major metaphor for life and coming into being, a universal and central aspect of human experience that can serve as the nucleus around which we can build a paradigm of positive interaction and functioning - and a model for physical, emotional, an dspiritual transcendence.
Transdisciplinary theorists' calls for a non-dual vision of reality are pregnant with allusions to birthing. Nicolescu offers, "In my view, the 'death of man' is after all a necessary stage in history, one that anticipates our second birth (p. 74, 2002). He links the evolution of humanity with the evolution of he universe, and suggests that a new type of human (remember the idea of the eco-individual in my last post?) homo sui transcendentalis is in the process of being born. Of this new type of human, Nicolescu says, "He is not some new man but man reborn (p. 74, 2002). Also on p. 74, Nicolescu states that the process of his (new man's) birth involves transgression, originally meaning "to pass to the other side, to cross" - "crossing from one level of Reality to another, or from one level of perception to another". Morin and Kern (p. 18, 1992) hypothesize, "It, starting from a paradigm of complexity, a new method can be born, can take flesh, can advance, make progress, then it would be able perhaps to start a revolution everywhere.
Let's apply this birthing imagery to the scene above.
When I rewatched it recently I noticed how, as Sookie stared into Tara's "dark, empty" saucer eyes trying to make a connection, she said to a desperate Lafayette, "it's not her, she's gone". Unable to penetrate Maryann's control over Tara, Sookie turned to Bill for help. He counseled, "you have to go further into her mind than you ever have before". Sookie tried again, and was only able to grasp quick flashes of Tara's experiences with Maryann. Bill decided glamouring Tara may help, suggesting, "if we leave her like this who knows what harm may come to her...or to us".
Crouching in front of Tara as Sookie cradled her from behind, Bill's attempts at glamouring began as gentle cajoling but became a labored affort. At first, it seemed to me like Bill was taking the role of a priest performing an exocrism but the more I thought about it, I see this scene as a birthing. Together, Sookie and Bill - Sookie in the position of mother, Bill as midwife, bringing Tara across the "something I can't cross - an abyss" (Sookie to Bill) - the chasm neither of them could span alone.
Duality working in concert. The spell is broken. Tara is whole again.
What do you think?
Have you noticed any other images of holism in True Blood - anything that for you communicates the truth of the Tejo-Bindu Upanishad: To direct the mind towards the basic unity of all things and to divert it from the seizing of differences; therein lies bliss?
Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts!
Capra, F. (1996). The web of life: A new scientific understanding of living systems. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.
Macy, J. (1991). Mutual causality in Buddhism and general systems theory: The dharma of natural systems. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Morin, E., & Kern, A. B. (1999). Homeland earth: A manifesto for the new millennium. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Nicolescu, B. (2002). Manifesto of transdisciplinarity. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Plumwood, V. (1993). Feminism and the mastery of nature. London, UK: Routledge.
Razak, A. (1990). “Toward a Womanist Analysis of Birth”. (pp. 165-172). In Reweaving the world: The emergence of ecofeminism”. Diamond, I. & Orenstein, G.F. (Eds.) San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.
Ward, T. (2006). Savage breast: One man’s search for the goddess. New York, NY: O Books
Wilshire, B. (1990). The moral collapse of the university: Professionalism, purity, and alienation. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.