Thursday, December 15, 2005

Strange Children, Lightning, Death and Art and Christmas

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

This week, the New Yorker magazine has an article about the author who wrote "Mary Poppins." I was never a fan of the books but it is very similar to other such books that are very much in favor these days such as the Harry Potter books. I know the author of Harry Potter is a "magician" but it startled me to read about the spirit world of Helen Goff who changed her name to Travers when she grew up and wrote "Mary Poppins."

From the New Yorker:
One night in the middle of a thunderstorm, Margaret (the writer's mother) left Helen (10 years old!) in charge of the two younger children, telling her that she was going to drown herself in a creek. As an old woman, Travers wrote about the terrifying experience: "Large-eyed, the little ones looked at me--she and I called them the little ones, both of us aware that an eldest child, no matter how young, can never experience the heart's ease that little ones enjoy." Helen stirred the fire and then they all lay down (after mother left in despair) on the hearth rug and she told them a story about a magical flying horse, with the small ones asking excited questions ("Could he carry us to the shiny land, all three, on his back?"). As she tried to distract them, she worried about the future....

Her mother came back that night, unsuccessful in her suicide attempt...
One can google "Pegasus/lightning/death" and see these elements are united within and around this ancient divinity. The first records of Him are in the city of Ur. The Great Square is where He comes from, so to speak. It rises in the East in springtime this last 4000 years and this is when the thunderstorms start.

It is interesting to me that Helen (my name is the English form of Helen), when forced to face the Doors of Death, latched onto Pegasus in a thunderstorm and He came. Since His greatest gift is the ability to create art, one is gifted if one sees Him. But the price extracted is severe. Most people only see Pegasus. To grab hold of His shimmering, flaming mane, to grasp the beating wings, this is pure pain.

P.L. Travers ended up leaving her birthplace in Australia and moved to Dublin where she joined up with the stellar circle of artists such as the famous poet, Yeats, who lived next door to her and who drew her into the Theosphical Society.

I have known members of that society. Very old women and men. They don't like me much for I always end up telling them, "Magic always backfires no matter what." The condundrum of trying to manipulate fate and time and the cosmos is to me, self obvious. What is created never is what one desires. For obvious reasons (it is too complicated).

Travers, like many before her and many after, thought she could sell herself and get rich and pay no price, spiritually. So, at the urging of her friends after she couldn't make money as a poet, she wrote "Mary Poppins." She made a lot of money on that subject and then decided to make more and like Winnie the Pooh's creator (who she also knew), she sold it to Disney.

Thus the famous movie which she hated since it had virtually nothing to do with her original book and was twisted into a totally different moral tale. What was worse was, as per usual with Disney, the magical parts were turned into vapid, mundane plodding stuff which seems to please multitudes for some reason.

But again, it is like all magical things: the minute you put a money value on it, it dies.

The Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe is another interesting similar story. Lewis is dead so he has no say. The movie tries to reproduce the book which was scattered with vapidity in the first place since Lewis couldn't dare explore the true meaning of the Outer Darkness. So he made it cute just like Travers.

The idea is, children aren't supposed to know about death.

Lewis, like Travers, lost parents and had to cope with the darkness in the heart at a young age. And if both writers had approached the terror of that directly, I suspect they would have lost their iron control over the feelings. I know how this works for the hardest thing for me to do is confront my early childhood. The picture above tore me up as I drew it. My heart was racing and my hands kept shaking and I had to make corrections.

Drawing Pegasus' eyes was particularily difficult and easy at the same time. I basically let the pen do what it wanted, I wondered how the eyes would look. They look right.

This is what children see when they see It Happening. At least, this is what I saw and what Helen Travers visualized. When Pegasus darted past me as I was dying when I was hit by lightning, I took hold and was carried back into the land of the living. My parents, being religious, could not accept this gift I was given and so it was a terrible gift, opening a big rift between us which grows over the years until it is now a yawning chasm. Religions should bring people together but they really don't. They channel the despair. I look back through the tunnel of time and can't understand why my own parents couldn't accept what had happened to me. I didn't ask for it.

This force which visited myself is the wellspring of children's literature. All fairy tales well up from this same source, stamped into the stone by Pegasus' iron hooves. Beatrix Potter rode this horse and when dismounted, could only talk about it via cuddly, small animals but the shadows of death stretch across her small stories. Winnie the Pooh destroyed Christopher Robin. The boy that animated and loved the bear was tortured over this all his childhood by mocking children who couldn't resist tormenting him until he broke with his father and cursed the bear and the fantasy.

He sold it to Disney, too, who erased the shadow of death and destruction and made it all cute. This week, Disney just killed Christopher Robin off and replaced him with a girl figure because she would be more "marketable" to young girls, little boys being certainly no target for toy sales and making money on the fantasies that broil out of the Outer Darkness is what Disney is all about.

In my case, when I saw "Fantasia," I instantly clutched my chair arms and said, "That is Him!" but then two seconds later, the "cute" baby horses appeared and the whole splendid thing along with the tortured genius, Beethoven's great music, crashed to the ground. Disney even had Pegasus flying in a really dumb thunderstorm, a moment of beauty in a mishmash mess. This only made me feel worse. But then, we have to look at how the Born Again Christians have destroyed the Bible! Truly, a book about magic, dark things and death, a plunge into the darker vortex of the Outer Darkness! And they have Disneyfied it to wretched nothingness.

This is why they are hysterical about Christmas while unable to understand how the sun, the stars and the Gods intersect when the night is the longest and the dark the deepest. To light a small fire in defiance of all that is what it is all about. And they can't see that.

They want candy and toys and Santa Claus who doesn't care how naughty and mean you are, just give it to them, now.

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