Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thought for the week before last

The saviour came especially from on high
So he could face the punters eye to eye
No sooner have they nailed him up, there's blessed pulpits full
Bestride the holy lamb, behold the bull...

Monday, September 27, 2010


"Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all; again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself, I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god… similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose 'what it meant'.

'Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth, where the others are men’s myth....

'The 'doctrines' we get out of the true myth are of course less true: they are translations into our concepts and ideas of that what God has already expressed in a language more adequate, namely the actual incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Does this amount to a belief in Christianity? At any rate I am now certain (a) That this Christian story is to be approached, in a sense, as I approach the other myths. (b) That it is the most important and full of meaning.

'I am also nearly certain that it really happened"

Letter from one Clive Staples Lewis to Arthur Greeves, October, 1931

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

12: The Return (VI, VII)

VI: Sleepy

Stories seem important.

Certain kinds of stories seem to be particularly important or important in particular ways.

Star Wars did seem more important that Candleshoe or Herbie Goes to Montry Carlo or One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing.

I didn't like Wagner's Ring more than I liked Remember You're A Womble: I liked it differently.

Asking whether I preferred the Eternals to the Beano (or even to 2000AD) would simply have been a non-sequitur. (Does anyone want to go looking for Oedipal complexes or Castration images in the Beano? Please don't.)

"It's, y'know, mythic" seems as a good a way of putting it as any other.

Was C.S. Lewis onto something when he said that a myth was a story which transcended any particular telling of it?

If I tell you the story of Oedipus, then you know the story of Oedipus, in the same way that if I sing Yesterday to you, you know the turn of Yesterday, and Yesterday is a great song because of the tune, the notes and the order in which they come, and you can probably tell it's a great song even though I am singing it really badly.

But if I tell you the story of Great Expectations, then you only know the story of Great Expectations; which doesn't really tell you anything at all about Great Expectations. The only way to find out about Great Expectations is to read Great Expectation. Dickens isn't terribly good at plots. Its the way he tells 'em. (Someone could probably use my synopsis to writ a novel, but it wouldn't be Great Expectation, it would be a different book which happened to have the same plot as Great Expectations. This is why a movie version of Lord of the Rings was fundamentally silly idea.)

But is it really the "tune" of Star Wars which made Star War seem so important? And has Hero With a Thousand Faces really revealed that tune? And are Star Wars and Harry Potter and the Passion of the Christ really just different ways of singing the same tune?

Lots of the stories in the Bible would look distinctly mundane if you found them anywhere other than the Bible. They are sacred stories because we have agreed to read them in a sacred way. (I'm thinking of Elisha and the bear or Esther and the beauty pageant. Elijah going up to heaven in a chariot would be pretty sacred wherever you found it.) I wonder if stories have "mythic" qualities because we have agreed to read them mythically? Maybe the solemn music and the fanfare and the opening caption tricked us into a state of mind in which we would allow all the other swords we'd ever read about (and all the one's we hadn't) to whisper to Luke Skywalker's lightaber.

Yeah. But some stories let you do this more than others. It's no trick to read the Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the Durbevilles as myths, is it? Henchard is like Job and Cain and Tess is every wronged woman in history and every time anyone walks past a field, it's not just guys growing crops, it's Nature with a big N, even if the text doesn't actually say so. I suppose we could say that the Harvest Festival scene in next weeks Archers makes us think of John Barleycorn and Attis and Mondamin, but we'd sound pretty silly if we did. We just don't approach radio soap operas in that way.

It seems sensible to apply mythical readings to Thomas Hardy because Thomas Hardy is the kind of text which it seems sensible to apply mythic readings to.

That isn't as helpful as I hoped it was going to be.

VII: Bashful 

My English teacher thought that Thistles meant whatever Ted Hughes said it mean, and there was an end to it. If Ted Hughes hadn't said what the poem meant, then it was our job to work out what he would have said if we had asked him.

Campbell thinks that symbols mean what they mean, and there's and end to it. All stories have a meaning, and it's our job to learn the language or crack the code or remove the mask so the One Truth is revealed.

I think that this is a silly, reductive, limiting way of reading stories.

Vogler doesn't mind what stories "mean" so long as they contain a quality which he calls "magic" or "power". Just reading them has an effect on you.

I think that this is simply silly.

A couple of readers, presumably unfamiliar with my oeuvre, have said that they are waiting to see what my point is. As should now be clear, I don't have one. Gavin and Andrew wrote about Joseph Campbell a little while ago, and I thought I would try to write down my thoughts. I took the argument for a walk in order to find out where it ended up. At one time, the idea that all stories were the same story and all heroes were the same hero was really very attractive; but now it seems like a load of tosh.

And yet.

And yet...

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

12: The Return (V)

V: Mars

You knew if you waited long enough that I would get back to that bloody film.

You may remember that, at the end of the Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke Skywalker's Father, and cuts off his hand. In a single moment, the Hero (very definitely the Hero) is deprived of his right hand, his much revered paternal role-model, and his only weapon. This scene is widely regarded as "quite good". Some people (for example, me) have said that the scene "means" that Darth Vader has castrated Luke.

But what does "mean" mean?

If we read, in a medieval legend, that a certain King has been wounded in the bottom then we probably spot that "bottom" is a euphemism for "genitals" – especially if the injury makes him and his land infertile for seven years. The fairy tale Rapunzel simply makes more sense if we assume that when it says that the Prince fell from the tower and lost his eyes, "eyes" really means "balls". And people like Fred Astair and Elvis Presley wouldn't have had careers if we couldn't easily see that "dancing" usually means "having sex".

So: George Lucas is using one terrible injury (the loss of a hand) as a euphemism for a different terrible injury (the loss of a penis).

Well, no, obviously not. On at least two occasions, James Bond is literally threatened with being emasculated. And you can sort of see why. When a man is so thoroughly defined by his masculinity and has such a big collection of guns, motor cars and ladies then threatening his penis with a whip or a laser beam seems appropriate – even funny. It makes him even more masculine when he pops up again. It's a sort of an apology to the ladies in the audience for the existence of a character called Pussy Galore. It really doesn't make much sense to say that Casino Royale said plainly what George Lucas expressed coyly – that the film would have been essentially the same if Vader had taken Luke to a torture chamber and attacked his gonads with a knife.

So: all that happens at the end of the Empire Strikes Back is that one character sustains a nasty injury and silly people have read all sorts of silly meanings into it in order to justify their enthusiasm for what is, after all, only a kids movie.

No, that won't do either. The scene isn't just about a boy having a fight with his dad, any more than Moby Dick is just about a man chasing a whale. It's about a Son having a fight with his Father. It is about Fathers and Sons with Capital Letters. Darth Vader fighting Luke Skywalker packs an emotional punch which Sherlock Holmes fighting Moriarty simply doesn't.

Does it resonate with us because many of us have experiences of idolizing our fathers and being scared of our fathers and being disappointed with our fathers all at once? Or does it seem particularly significant because this is the kind of story in which particular significance is attached to Fathers and Sons? Because it is like other stories about Fathers and Sons? You would, I am sure, be quite upset if someone murdered your Dad; but then you'd be equally annoyed if someone bumped off your Mum. (A lot of people would regard the loss of Mummy has an even worse tragedy for a child than the loss of Daddy.) But in literature – in stories – the Death of the Father is a specially big deal. Lots of heroes are motivated by the deaths of their fathers. Can anyone think of one who is mainly motivated by the death of their Mother? [*]

The Empire Strikes Back isn't about fathers and sons nearly as much as its about stories about fathers and sons. (Move on to the next point quickly, Andrew, they may let you get away with that one.)

When a hero does something Heroic, it is very likely to make us think of other stories where other heroes have done other heroic things. If you want to make your hero seem extra-heroic by all means make him re-enact the exploits of other heroes. When Spider-Man carries the whole weight of Doctor Octopus's base on his back, it's a bit like Atlas [**] holding up the Sky and a bit like Samson bringing down the Philistine temple. But it would be an act of reckless lunacy to say that Spider-Man "means" Atlas, or that we can sort through all the irrelevant Christmas Pudding of Spider-Man and get to the precious little sixpence of Samson or that even though Stan Lee was Jewish and Martin Goodman was Jewish and Steve Ditko was Jewish its obviously a Christian allegory. [***]

Spider-Man and Atlas and Samson and Jesus and nine hundred and ninety six other heroes are all a little bit like each other. That's not because there's a deep underlying Jungian meaning to strong guys lifting things which are a bit too heavy even for them to lift. It's because people who tell stories draw on the stories which other people who tell stories have told and people who listen to stories associate stories they hear with other stories they have heard whether the story teller meant them to or not.

And there is my whole quarrel with Joseph Campbell, or maybe just with Vogler. ("Campbell was all right, but his followers were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it which ruins it for me.") Of course we can say that the life of Harry Potter is a bit like the life of King Arthur. And of course "his parents were killed when he was a little boy, for reasons he doesn't know yet" sets up expectations in our heads about what kind of story this story is going to be. And of course those expectations are one of the things which J.K. Rowling uses, well or badly, depending on your point of view. (The fact that he's called "Harry" sets up some expectations too: it's both a common, working class name and a royal name. The fact that he wears little round National Health glasses make us think that he'll be a nerd, and shy, but maybe one day he'll become a famous rock and roll star like that other shy orphaned nerd who wore cheap National Health glasses. Everything in a story allows meanings from other stories to pour into it. You can't say "It was a beautiful summers day" or "It was a dark and stormy night" without making the reader think about other beautiful summers days and dark and stormy nights.) Some stories are like other stories and the whole point of Star Wars was that it was like lots and lots of other stories. But I don't believe that Star Wars and The Philosopher's Stone and Spider-Man all point to (or disguise) a single archetypal truth in the same way that The Stork, The Gooseberry Bush and the New Baby Train all point to to (or conceal) a single biological fact.

C.S. Lewis noted that that the original point of Sorhab and Rustum was that it reminded classically educated English readers of Homeric diction. But most English schoolboys, reading the Iliad for the first time, say "Oh! It reminds me of Sorhab and Rustum." Nowadays, they probably say "Oh, it reminds me of the Empire Strikes Back." I know I did.

The more times a scene has happened the more times it has happened. When Obi-Wan gives Luke his father's lighstsaber, it reminds us of Prince Arthur taking the sword from the stone. Or Father Christmas giving Peter the magic sword in Mrs Beaver's house. Or Lion-O taking up the Sword of Omens for the first time. But it might very well be better to say that it reminds us of every scene in every story where a hero is given an important sword. Even the ones we've never heard of. And that might very well be all "archeype" means. 

("So, Andrew, archetype really is only a posh word for cliché.")

But do you really think we can strip away all the particulars of all the different stories until you are finally left with "Hero Getting Sword From Mentor" or "Hero Getting Weapon From Weapon-Giver" or "Person Getting Thing From Person Who Gives People Things" and then say that we've arrived at the original form of the image? And that this "original form" is more important than the scene in the cave with Mark Hamill and Alec Guiness? That the image somehow contains the true kernel of meaning and the eternal energies of the cosmos?

Freud thinks that boys can't turn into Men because they are afraid that their fathers will Castrate them. Freud seems to have meant this quite literally: kids and neurotic grown ups have a real (but unconscious) fear that their bits will be chopped off; lots of guy's hangups go back to standing next to an older man in the shower and wishing theirs was like that. But it works better as a metaphor. If "your penis" is literally "your manhood" -- "whatever makes you a man" -- then "castration" is simply "losing whatever it is that makes you a man". The "castration complex" is "the feeling that whatever it is which makes you a man is going to be taken away".

And it is by no means far fetched to say that Star Wars (and Harry Potter, and Spider-Man) is a Growing Up story; and that for Luke Skywalker Growing Up means "Becoming a Jedi, like my father before me."

And it is quite true that Obi-Wan Kenobi is a sort of father figure, and that he give Luke the lightsaber and that Darth Vader, in the great primal scene, stops Luke from growing up by violently removing the exact thing which will make him a man.

And if you put George Lucas's growing up story alongside Freud's growing up story you'll probably spot that they have things in common. And some of those things were probably put there by Lucas who had probably read Freud or met people who'd read Freud, or seen films made by people who'd met people who'd read Freud. And some of them were probably not there until the first time we put the two stories side by side, and that's fine too.

Freud's story of how Little Hans' Daddy said that if he didn't stop playing with his widdler he would chop it off is a good story. Lucas's story of how Luke rushed in to confront his enemy before he was prepared and learned truths he wasn't ready for is also a story. I think that George's story is like Sigmund's story in some ways, but unlike it in other ways. I don't think that George's story "means" Sigmund's story. I like George's better.

[*] Joe Chill and/or the Joker killed both Bruce's parents. The Orestia involves a bloodbath in which Daddy kills daughter, Mummy kills Daddy (to get back at him for killing her daughter), Son kills Mummy, (for killing his father for killing his sister) and so one until everyone is thoroughly dead or the Furies intervene. Greek tragedy and comic books: with this footnote you are spoiling us, Mr Ambassador.

[**] Steve Ditko. Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged. Bang. Bang. Bang.

[***] Spider-Man is bearing the sins of the world on his back. He goes through a whole series of deaths and resurrections. He wins an elixir of life which brings Aunt May back from the point of death. And it all happens in issue #33. See how easy it is?


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Friday, September 24, 2010

12: The Return (IV)

IV: Venus

We usually pretend that words are neat little signs which point at things. The word "elephant" points at a great big thing with a trunk and floppy eats and a disconcerting tendency to hide in rooms where embarrassing subjects aren't being discussed. That's because we've agreed to use "elephant" to mean "big grey pachyderm". We might have agreed to use "elephant" to mean "skinny blueberry muffin" or "counter-reformation". The staff in Starbucks get confused if I ask for a tall Americano and an elephant, but "gay" means "joyful" whatever the confirmed bachelor lobby want to pretend it means.

If I say "the cat was lapping up the cream" you think of a little furry thing that likes sitting on mats. But if I say "the cat was laying down some hep riffs, man" you spot that I'm talking about a fashionable black American from the 1950s, and not a furry animal at all. But for some reason, if I say "Blackbeard punished the sailor with the cat" you don't imagine the pirate thumping someone over the head with a jazz saxophonist. Or maybe you do.

Suppose I write a story in which the main character sees a whale. You know what I mean by "whale". Big fish shaped chap, lives in the sea, squirts water out of its head. But when I say "whale" you don't only think of the big swimmy mammal: you also think of Jonah, who was swallowed by one; and Ahab, who chased one; and hippies, who want to save them. And you probably also think of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home which probably made you think of Moby Dick. And One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing and Pinochio – which were intended to make you think of Jonah, whatever intended means.

If I'm a clever author, I probably know that if a guy in my story goes hunting a whale, then you'll probably think of Captain Ahab. But Moby Dick is such a big famous story that it will spill over into my little story whether I intend it to or not.

A lot of perfectly sensible people thought that the title of the movie "The Passion of the Christ" meant "The Really Strong Feelings of the Christ", "How the Christ Got Really Really Angry" or even "The Love Affair of the Christ." Once upon a time "He loved her passionately" meant "He loved her so much it hurt". But we don't use the word "Passion" in that sense any more. And poor Mel couldn't stop the title meaning a thing he didn't want it to mean, however much he say at home in his room "intending" really, really hard.

It would be very nice if words and symbols all contained nice little nuggets of meaning, in the same way that Christmas puddings contained sixpences. But they don't. They mean lots of different things, and when you put them next to other words, which also mean lots of different things, they mean even more different things. Most of the time, the best we can do is pay attention to who is saying them, and to whom, and where and why and when and make a sort of guess as the kinds of things they probably mean this time.

This is scary and disconcerting and counter-intuitive. People with Aspergers, I'm told, find it particularly hard to deal with. Why, they ask, can't people just say what they damn well mean?

The totemic text during my English degree was not The Golden Bough or Hero With a Thousand Faces or The Interpretation of Dreams: it was Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory. I can't remember if I read that, either. 


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Thursday, September 23, 2010

12: The Return (III)

III: Mercury

I don't really think that Bob Dylan lyrics are impervious to analysis.

I think that Visions of Johanna works as a lyric because Dylan has chosen to put particular words next to other words. Those words – their sounds, their meanings, the way other writers have used them – affect the listener in particular ways. If he had chosen different words, the words would effect us differently.

I don't think that you can decode the songs and say what they mean. I don't think that Bob set out to tell a naturalistic story about how he was once in bed with a prostitute named Louise but was all the time thinking about a former girlfriend named Johanna, but decided, for some reason, to present the story in the form of a riddle. I don't think that Mr T.S Eliot wrote a story about a bank clerk who felt depressed after the First World War and / or the Quest for the Holy Grail and decided, for some reason, to present the story in the form of a cryptic crossword clue. (It is at least arguable that Mr Don Mclean did set out to write about the history of American pop music since 1959 but chose to present it under a series of oblique symbols, which is why Visions of Johanna is a work of genius and American Pie is a quite good pop song.)

I think that Dylan's poetry is driven by sound, not meaning; and by association of images; not logical or narrative structure.

I think that the only possible answer to the question "Why can't the jelly-faced woman find her knees?" is "Because freeze rhymes with knees."

I think that this is a very risky strategy for a lyricist to adopt. We can just about see why Bob's girlfriend Angelina made him want to listen to the music of the concertina and that she looks like a goddess with the head of a hyena, but when she turns out to be the most beautiful woman between here and Argentina and Judges start issuing subpoenas, we are inclined to think that a certain amount of the piss is being taken. (Which may have been why Dylan didn't release "Angelina", of course.)

I think that it is very hard to write convincing gibberish. Dylan comes up with lines like "The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face" which appear to make sense, but don't. If you or I tried it, we would write "Skin yourself alive, learn to speak Arapaho / Climb inside a dog, and behead an Eskimo" which makes the wrong kind of sense and is therefore funny, but not very

I do not think that any logical process connects "Outside the museum, infinity goes up on trial" with "Voices echo: this is what salvation must be like after a while" and "Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues, you can tell by the way she smiles". I do think that the strong rhymes make us look for, and therefore find, the non-existent connections. 

I think, but only tentatively, that the words ghost, electricity, howls, bones, face are best thought of as an unconnected series of images and sounds, and the words "the" "in" and "of" are there to lull us into thinking that they must make some kind of sense.

I don't think that if we attend to them in the right spirit, possibly under the influence of Freud or illegal substances, we will be able to discern the secret language of Dylan's imagery, in which "Johanna = Buddy Holly", "Louise = Your Mum" and "Country Music = The Oedipus Complex."

I think that as soon as our mind is confronted with a sequence of words, images or sentences, it starts to look for connections between them, tries to find a way for them to mean something, tries, as 'puter geeks would say, to "parse" them.

I think that lyrics of this kind drive a wedge between words and the meanings of words. 

I think that lyrics of this kind put us in a state of mind where we feel that words don't just mean one thing, but lots of things. When Bob tells us that "Jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule" we find that we can't make the words attach themselves to anything so they flap around in our heads until they find something to latch on to. 

I think that this induces a state of mind in which all sorts of interesting idea and emotions which Bob himself didn't and couldn't know about, leap into our head. 

I think this is probably what Mr William Wordsworth meant about the vernal brook

I think that once we have spotted that this is how Visions of Johanna and I Am the Walrus Work, it becomes scarily possible that this is how Moby Dick and Rom: Spaceknight and The House at Pooh Corner work, as well. And Star Wars. Especially Star Wars. 

Mr C.S. Lewis thought that it was silly to pretend Hamlet was a real person, and then try to explain is behaviour realistically. He thought it made more sense to look at the actual words which Shakespeare gave the actor to speak, and to consider how those words generate a particular kind of ambiguity whereby everybody who reads Hamlet creates their own Hamlet in their heads but truly believes that he found that Hamlet, and only that Hamlet, in the poem.

If the doors of perception were opened every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. I think Abraham Lincoln said that.

The question to ask about a poem is not "what does it mean" but "how does it mean"? I said that.


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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The New Warrior Training Adventure is a process of initiation and self-examination that is crucial to the development of a healthy and mature male self. It is the "hero's journey" of classical literature and myth - the process of moving away from the comforting embrace of the mother's feminine energy and safely into the masculine kingdom. It is a journey of the soul during which men confront their dependence on women, their mistrust of other men and their need to be special....The cost of the NWTA in the UK is £595. This covers all board, lodging and tuition for the weekend. A deposit of £125 is usually asked to secure your place.

The Mankind Project.

12: The Return

I: The Sun

have an aversion to combining sweet and savoury flavours and in particular an aversion to combining food from the sea with food from the land

before jesus came and put a stop to it the jews were not allowed to cook a lobster in its mothers milk which is proved by the reference to fish fingers and custard in doctor who roses are redd-ish violets are blu-eish

since babylonian times school children have been given milk puddings as a dessert which they have always hated what is the matter with mary jane shes perfectly well and she hasnt a pain what a shame mary jane had a pain at the party

shakespeare said that tinned fish represented sexuality fools are as like to husbands as pilchards are to herrings the husbands the bigger

if we trouble to learn the secret language of the school-yard we will easily discern that the semolina pilchard straddles the boundary between land and sea fish and cow first course and pudding male and female nice and nasty sensible and silly this is the same as the jungian archetype of the fool which i am almost sure is in the tarot deck somewhere

so when the semolina pilchard tries to ascend the phallic axis of the world we see that true wisdom can only be achieved through the path of stupidity the eiffle tower is in paris paris makes me think of the judgement of paris which is in greek mythology somewhere

also the penguins chant hindu mantras about the dancing child who taught arjun the bhagavad gita so the penguins represents the combination of south with east black with white chocolate with cream biscuit with little coloured bits of silver foil

expert textpert choking smoker don't you see the joker laughs at you

II: The Moon

Campbell begins Hero With a Thousand Faces with a spectacularly inane passage from Freud. When a child asks where the new baby came from, his parents will sometimes say "The stork brought her".  But this isn't, it seems, where babies really come from. "We are telling the truth in symbolic clothing" says Siggy "For we know what the large bird signifies. But the child does not know it."

This, for Freud, is a bit like religion. God doesn't exist, any more than the Stork exists, but babies certainly exist and they certainly come from somewhere. God, like the Stork, "stands for" some truth. But the symbols in practice "distort" and "conceal" whatever truths they once represented. In any case, it's a bad idea to lie to children: better to dispense with the Stork metaphor altogether and tell the little darlings about erections and ejaculation and spermatozoa as soon as they are old enough to ask.

Campbell obviously likes the idea that the story of Mr Stork disguises the facts of reproduction. The purpose of Hero With a Thousand Faces is to "uncover some of the truth disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology" – to get past the Stork of mythology and reveal the messy truth that lies behind it. But he doesn't seem to think that stork-type stories are lies that it would have been better never to have told in the first place; lies which can be thrown away once we are ready for the truth. He rather thinks that we ought to reverently and respectfully study the Stork so that eventually the big secret will reveal itself to us.

But it won't. There is no possible way that any amount of study of the Stork could possibly tell us what really happens in the maternity ward even if we swallow the idea that the Bird represents Mummy's Belly and that dropping the baby down the chimney represents the newborn's passage through the vagina which I assume we don't. Everyone but Freud – including the very small child who originally asked where his sister came from – understands that "The stork brought you" isn't a symbol, or a lie, or a myth or even a euphemism, but a polite refusal to answer the question, a form of words which means "I'm not going to tell you yet", like when you asked Granny how old she was and she replied "As old as my tongue, and a little bit older than my teeth."

The Stork is, in fact, a social construct in which a group of people in a particular society at a particular time agree that the bird will represent childbirth. Watch the opening minutes of Dumbo; look at the behaviour of storks in real life; do an art history analysis of twee Christening cards; compare stork-stories in America with stork-stories in the African basin. You will never discover the Truth about how babies are made. Because it just isn't there.

Your Sunday School teacher probably told you that Jesus preached in parables to enable his audience to understand him. In fact, he specifically said that he preached in parables to prevent his audience from understanding him.

In Mr William Wordsworth's poem Anecdote for Fathers, the narrator repeatedly asks a child why he prefers his new house to his old one. The child, who doesn't know, eventually claims that he likes the new house because it has a weather-cock and the old one didn't. In Mr Jim Henson's television show Sesame Street a character named Big Bird tried to understand why the old storekeeper (who has, in fact, died) will never come back, and is told by one of the adult characters "It has to be this way because."

Weather cocks, storks, giant yellow budgies: clearly large birds always represent unanswerable questions.


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