Saints and Scholars

During Saint Patrick’s weekend, a television programmes caught my eye and proved worth the watch.

 

It was a documentary on the life and work of the illustrious Saint Himself. Not only was Patrick, as a Roman citizen born in Britain, an unlikely candidate for Irish sainthood, he was also pretty wayward in his teachings an practises once he did manage to get the established Christian authorities to accept and train him as a monk. His scholarship is legendary due to the prolific writings and reflections he left in his wake, indeed we are told by some of the many experts interviewed fopr the programme that Irish monastic scholarship was the main promoter of the written word in early medieval Europe. Yet at the core of Patrick’s work lay the welfare of the people, both economic and spiritual, and his lack of gender discrimination in recruiting followers was also truly ahead of his time!

 

Through his earlier cultural immersion, Patrick was able to relate to the native Irish on their own terms and with due respect to their existing cosmologies and deities, was accepted, listened to and ultimately followed by the people who were his onetime enslavers.

 

Most striking however is the evident epiphany, almost ‘enlightenment’ experience he had as an isolated and lonely young slave who developed a mystical connection with God through nature and meditative prayer and had prescient and directive dreams and visions. These experiences gave him a deep and intense meaning and mission in life, to bring his mystical form of Christianity to the Irish. As such, I am minded of Jung’s concept of the hero’s journey which he saw as a potential in every human who is prepared to allow the unconscious to erupt. The programme can be viewed in several parts on youtube, the first instalment at

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=Lu1DQx4tUSQ

 

 

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A Sleeper Awakens: Dune and Beyond

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The films of David Lynch have always been controversial, yet incredible in their depth and ultimate appeal. My favourite (indeed one of my most watched ever films), is Dune, based on the Frank Herbert novel. Though this became a series of books, it is arguably the first novel that is the masterpiece and I think David Lynch really did it justice in his 1984 movie.

Set in a futuristic universe ruled by an intergalactic emperor (very different from Star Wars though), warring houses are held in tension by the Spacing Guild who control the most precious substance in the Universe – the Spice Melange. And that Spice can only be found on one particular desert planet called Arrakis, otherwise known as Dune.

Spice allows the navigators of the Spacing Guild to ‘fold space’ and therefore alter time, so that millions of light years can be traversed in seconds. Other players in the power game include the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood who have been training initiates and altering bloodlines for centuries, in keeping with the prophecy that an enlightened being, the Kwisatz Haderach, would be born at some strategic point in time and would save the universe from destruction.

The young Duke-ling Paul Atreides finds himself caught up in the struggle and increasingly imbued with prescient dreams, visions and powers with which to defend himself and the indigenous Fremen people against the horrific Baron Harkonnen and his army. Dune is therefore a hero myth, a fairy tale, with all sorts of mystical and redemptive connotations.

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With such mysterious concepts and intriguing characters, Dune strikes me as very Jungian and archetypal in a number of other ways too. Paul’s mother, the Lady Jessica, bore a son to Duke Leto Atreides and by doing so, disobeyed her Bene Gesserit instruction to produce only female children. Paul will later go on to have a set of girl – boy twins with his Fremen partner who play out significant roles in future sequels (the extended story became available in the made for tv series later on). This play on gender and sexuality and the power of the union of opposites is a strong Jungian theme signifying growth and maturation, transformation even. Dune is not for the fainthearted but there are other Dune obsessives out there 🙂   http://www.mindspring.com/~dunestuff/

In Paul’s coming of age journey we see also the human journey, perhaps even the whole story of life and the Universe itself played out with all the conflicts, tensions and resolutions that make any story memorable.

There are shapeshifters, tricksters, shadow figures and redemptors all through the book and film and though much was necessarily left out, Lynch’s film, for me, caught the spirit, the ethos or mystical sense of Herbert’s novel perfectly, surpassed it even in the construction of a strange yet vaguely familiar world – just like a dream.

One of my favourite scenes is early on, when Duke Leto tells Paul they must leave their home planet Caladan and travel to Arrakis to take over the mining of Spice from the corrupt Harkonnen regime. It may be a trap, as the Emperor who ordered the transition cannot be trusted, but it is an adventure into the unknown that must be taken. The Duke advises his son that  “Without change something sleeps inside us….the sleeper must awaken….”

How Jungian is that?! Love it 🙂

Catching Vibes

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Belfast Punk History and the Terri Hooley Film Good Vibrations

A few years ago, engrossed in a re-discovery of the power inherent in the music of my youth, I wrote a piece for MRZine expounding the merits of Julien Temple’s movie about Joe Strummer, viewable at  http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2007/mcdonnell280907.html  

The Future is Unwritten expressed how much of a channel for liberation music can be, especially the raw, gut-filled rhythms of punk rock, and how motivational and uplifting a medium it is for many. While on the one hand, this music was and is just about the joy of being, on the other hand there is always a politicised dimension. And I mean politicised in an archetypal, humanitarian sense of the word, not the dogmatic, ideological constructions we tend to think of as politics.

Punk music is about a lot of things: freedom to express the experience of life in all its peaks and pitfalls, without constraints of family and culture. It is about identification with other disaffected people. All energy and electricity, it awakens, enlivens, carries away. Most of all, it takes music right back to its bare bones and wallops you about the ears and heart with it.

It is that sense of penetration to the quick that made another more recent cinematic experience so poignant for me. Last night, on the 31st May 2012, in Belfast’s Ulster Hall, the 12th Belfast Film Festival was launched with the world premiere of Good Vibrations, a film based on the ‘life stories’ of Belfast’s ‘Godfather of Punk’ Terri Hooley. Hooley defied the sectarianism of 1970s Belfast by establishing a cult record shop that cut across divides of religion and even generation. Meantime he recorded local bands such as Rudi and The Outcasts and launched Derry’s The Undertones onto the next stage of their climb towards world renown via London DJ John Peel.

Good Vibrations picks you up and won’t let you down – I’m still there. And can’t wait to watch it again….and again……..

Here’s a link to the facebook page – it’s worth catching up with,

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Good-Vibrations-The-Film/185645362307

 Have fun and keep it friendly. 🙂

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