counterpaul wrote:Snailhead wrote:counterpaul wrote:(...)
Because cosmic battles aren't the point, and they never were. All the Really Important stuff being investigated by cops and Feds and military folks, all the codes to crack, and powerful mystic forces are the way in to the real stuff: the traumas that define us. (...)
I wish I could agree with you, unfortunately the majority of what actually took up the majority running time of The Return consisted of the things that you say "aren't the point" - cops, feds, military, codes, mystic forces. The emotionally powerful scenes are kind of scarce in comparison.
Well, they aren't the point, but they do serve a purpose. What most of this material boils down to is people trying to derive meaning from the inscrutable--and taking that task seriously. If we want to talk about what really took up the running time, I'd bet (not having done any calculations) that a huge chunk of it (certainly what consistently drove it hour by hour) was the act of trying to suss things out. So much of The Return was about people trying to describe what they've witnessed or felt and make some kind of sense of it. So much of the running time was devoted to the simple but profound act of people telling each other stories and then trying to figure out what those stories might mean.
That act, the storytelling and contemplation, does matter, even if nearly everybody was most likely totally wrong about every conclusion they came to, when they were able to come to a conclusion at all. Finally, Hastings's "zone" and Tammy's "tulpas" and Gordon's "Judy" and Audrey's "Billy" and Coop's "home" (among many other such examples, including all the wonderful sketches in The Roadhouse) are all pretty much equal. In and of themselves they are not the point, but they act as crucial incantations. They cast a spell, as stories do--as storytelling does. They get us where we need to be. They lay the path. They may not be the point, but they are the way.
Interesting and thoughtful post. I tend to disagree with some of this, but I think it is powerfully expressed. In a way, I think this disagreement on my part comes from, precisely the idea that 'emotionally powerful scenes' and 'the traumas that define us' can be separated from the relentless search for meaning. I'm not entirely convinced that the core trauma is not precisely the kind of existential drive that powers this searching, probing, burning questioning within us, and that we tend to escape into powerful emotions and the dynamics of relationships as a way of coping with it, not because these things are our most primary experience.
I realise the preference has been to refer to Jung when dealing with Lynch, but I'm going to be a bit Freudian here if I may.
A trauma is, by definition, something we do not experience -- it's a gap in our experience that we cannot face or account for. For example, a brain injury is traumatic when it damages part of the brain, rendering its function inaccessible. An assault is traumatic when we can't remember what happened -- when our unconscious mind protects us by repressing the event. On this basis the idea of 'a traumatic experience' is a bit of a misnomer: a trauma exists where there is a lack of experience, a jump or skip in the account of our lives. I do agree that trauma is a central feature of being human (Otto Rank's theory of 'birth trauma' for example proposes a trauma that would seem to be universal -- who remembers being born?) but I can't agree that there is any universality in the powerful emotionality of certain kinds of relationships -- good and bad. Family, for example, is important to humans because we have extended periods of 'prematurational helplessness' (Freud called this hilflosigkeit, literally 'help-lostness') not seen in other creatures: in comparison we're born too early, and unequipped to walk and bear the burdens of existence that other creatures far more quickly acquire or are born with. Family relations then occupy the place of trauma, insofar as they have evolved collectively (and always somewhat differently in every age and culture) as a human institution for dealing with this existential condition, and so they absorb the traumatic nature of the thing they were intended to insure us against: the infantile state of being blind, unable to walk or talk, and utterly dependant on others for nutrition and survival in a hostile, competitive environment. The relationship to family members is always traumatic, insofar as it was always something provided to cover over this tragic and inhospitable condition. Societies and sociality itself is largely a coping mechanism writ large because none of us are a good fit with the world when taken as individual life forms; we survive only because of social co-operation writ large. We never attain anything that might be considered ultimate maturity or adulthood, but remain dependant on a certain level of social co-operation and consistency until the day we die. We're never really finished, as far as acclimatisation to existence is concerned.
(Watching Cooper as Dougie brought all this to the fore for me)
Where I think Lynch succeeds is in intimating that the world as we customarily accept it, as a way of carrying on with each other, is not filled with mundane, if necessary, distractions from some deeper, traumatic, truth (this would be a typically gnostic reading, turning away from the world), but that our mundane social existence, with all its quirks and idiosyncrasies and obsessions, is itself the only reality worthy of the name: something in itself profound, a made world, a work of art. Who the artist is is a question I won't bicker about here, but I think the underlying message is: there is not life on one side and art on the other; life is already art. Living is an art-form. Culture is not just cultivation, but the way we handle the trauma of existence, the gap in our collective memory of where we come from and our inability to underwrite ourselves, to go back and give rise to ourselves by our own willpower.
Because of this I see nothing in Lynch as padding, as time-wasting, nothing as a 'red herring' that deflects us or protects us from some central, more 'normal' traumatic experience consisting of emotions rather than thoughts. Indeed the intellectual padding, the peculiarities, fetishes and obsessions we have are ways of stoking and getting at the burning desire in all our hearts, a hankering for love and reciprocation: they are the 'traumas' that define us, as perhaps nothing else can.
In the end, what I am saying may sound eerily similar to what you just wrote, but I think it is a quirk of language. It may be a case of having hold of different dog legs in the dark; we might both have hold of the same beast. But I feel we stand in different places.