Pygmalion – An Overly Ambitious Incomplete Poem That I Am Sharing Despite My Better Judgement

This poem is incomplete. I’ve been tossing this idea around for 3 months now and been itching to make a blog post about it for 2 months. The idea behind this poem is one that greatly excites me, but clearly this will be one of those projects that takes far more time to settle.

So I’ll present this ‘pre-alpha’ draft, and then I’ll make some comments on what this poem has to do with Hebrew poetry, Greek myth, Christian anthropology, and Anime Waifus!

Dallying dust cloud,   adrift in wind,
Faring formlessly,   flutters; scatters.
Ill-conceived image   of lifeless ivory,
Formerly feminine,   floats now hopeless.
Her face was fair,   bright and unfeeling;
Her lips so lush    got lifeless kisses;
Her cheeks cheerfully   chiseled, unblushing;
Odes were rehearsed    to unhearing ears.

Her figured fulfilled    a private fancy:
Pygmalion molded    this maiden of grey.
With heart hard as rock,    he hated those girls
That charged him “Change!    Share! Show charity!”

Swift currents swept    his sweet words away,
Uttered to earthen    ears, and his gifts
Of flowers grew pale,    pedals faded,
Rings to rust yielded – misspent relics.
Formerly famed,    he floats now hopeless,
His face grown pale,    complexion faded.
He lingers alone,    lifeless in mind,
A dallying dust cloud,    adrift in wind.

While I generally prefer poems that are uplifting, this is a monitory tragedy. The subject is Pygmalion, which is a Greek myth about an uncultured Cockney girl who gets adopted by a linguistics professor…
My mistake, that’s the other one. Pygmalion is a craftsman who, displeased by the character of women around him, makes a statue of a woman to be the object of his affections. He falls in love with the statue, giving her all manner of gifts, and finally offers prayers and sacrifices to Venus that she might become real. Venus grants his request and Piggy and the Statch live happily ever after.

Pygmalion priant Vénus d'animer sa statue, Jean-Baptiste Regnault

By Jean-Baptiste Regnault, wikipedia

So, admitting my religious angle, this story makes me super uncomfortable. Judaeo-Christian tradition holds that God created humanity in his ‘image’ (a word carrying contested implications, but the statue analogy is relevant) and forbids devotion to derivative works made by human hands (aka ‘idols’), the logic being that Images of God (Humans) already exist and therefore we don’t need idols. Blah, blah, theology. Agree or disagree, this is what I’m thinking when I read the Pygmalion story.

(Coincidentally, earlier today I read Psalm 135 which says of idols, “They have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear… Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!” Cf. Psalm 115)

idol

When the ideological arithmetic is all done, reworking Piggy and the Statch as a didactic tragedy is obvious. Where I really wanted to be clever was in execution. I had been reading a lot about biblical Hebrew poetry so it occurred to me that this would be a great time to try baby’s first chiams.

Chiasms are basically structures where a series of images, ideas, or words are reflected and ordered symmetrically out from the center. 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1; for example. Maybe butterfly wings are a good analogy, or you can google it. I wanted to go for something more modest. Show the ruined statue, tell the story, show the ruined man. The ruined statue matches the ruined man.

And of course I had to try writing it in anglo-saxon alliterative style because it’s. just. fun. Generally, the second of the two versets in the line only needs to throw in that third alliterating lift to complete the line. I’m enjoying trying to sneak rhyming vowel sounds into the second verset just for fun, but it occasionally makes for some contrived wordings.

As a current popular application, we might take a second to think carefully about the way we treat fictional characters. Including but not limited to Anime waifus.

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Sorry, Currently Relevant Waifu!

This all, then, is the experiment. I’m not quite sure if I’m going to keep Pygmalion’s motive for rejecting real women as being that they would try to change him. I kinda like that the fear of one kind of transformation pushes him towards another, but maybe that’s making this project all too ambitious. I should also say that I’m sure there are more charitable readings of Pygmalion and that my experiment is admittedly born of gut-felt cynicism, but I still enjoy playing with these ideas if only as an exercise in trying to bring themes out of a story.

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Faith and Rest (or ‘The Spiritual Gift of Not Being Excited About Jesus’)

I don’t really get ‘passionate’ about Jesus.

I was thinking about this while watching the worship leader at church this morning, raising her hands and closing her eyes and singing very passionately. I’m always happy to see that, and there was a time that that was me, but it’s not really my experience anymore.

A few months ago my small group was discussing how to get excited about Jesus and I wasn’t feeling invested in the discussion. It felt heretical coming out my mouth, but when I chimed in and said that I don’t really feel that way, it occurred to me that how I did feel about my faith was rather remarkable.

I feel more relaxed about Jesus. While the worship leaders soulfully belt out songs that could move the most jaded old fart to tears, I’m just quietly grateful that God is bigger than my bank account.

It’s really easy to see the expressions of faith that are colourful and loud and active. I like those expressions of faith, but sometimes there’s too much colour and too much noise and too much activity. Sometimes you get anxious and you just want to slow down.

Sometimes you look for an expression of faith that calms the storms. That says “Come to me if you’re weary, and I will give you rest.” Sometimes you need less “mourning into dancing” and more “worrying into sleeping.”

When I let Jesus make me feel relaxed, it can feel like I’m not doing enough for him. I feel like I have to be doing, feeling, or expressing something. And then Jesus comes along and invites me to slow down.

I wonder what might happen if we, as the church, stopped trying to make Christianity fun and cool and started trying to make it restful.

None of these thoughts are especially new or profound or impressive, but I need to hear it more often and I figure others must as well. It’s okay if the name of Jesus doesn’t make you want to break out into dance.

Perhaps one of the best ways we can honour him is making him one of the few things we’ll slow down for.