INTERVIEWER: How did you get your background in the Bible?
FAULKNER: My Great-Grandfather Murry was a kind and gentle man, to us children anyway. That is, although he was a Scot, he was (to us) neither especially pious nor stern either: he was simply a man of inflexible principles. One of them was everybody, children on up through all adults present, had to have a verse from the Bible ready and glib at tongue-tip when we gathered at the table for breakfast each morning; if you didn’t have your scripture verse ready, you didn’t have any breakfast; you would be excused long enough to leave the room and swot one up (there was a maiden aunt, a kind of sergeant-major for this duty, who retired with the culprit and gave him a brisk breezing which carried him over the jump next time).
It had to be an authentic, correct verse. While we were little, it could be the same one, once you had it down good, morning after morning, until you got a little older and bigger, when one morning (by this time you would be pretty glib at it, galloping through without even listening to yourself since you were already five or ten minutes ahead, already among the ham and steak and fried chicken and grits and sweet potatoes and two or three kinds of hot bread) you would suddenly find his eyes on you—very blue, very kind and gentle, and even now not stern so much as inflexible—and next morning you had a new verse. In a way, that was when you discovered that your childhood was over; you had outgrown it and entered the world.
Children cheating. Love it. And so true! I’ve touched on the topic myself:
Sunday school, 1974
We’re baptised but it doesn’t really mean anything. We kind of mutter a prayer on a Sunday before we eat dinner. That’s it. And we’re supposed to say prayers before we go to bed, but no-one ever checks and I’ve forgotten the words at the end.
Gentle Jesus meek and mild, look upon this little child…
Then I la-de-da the lines I can’t remember and then it ends something like;
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Something like that. But he never gives me any of the things I ask for. You know what grown-ups are like.
On a Sunday we have to go to Sunday school. They never go to church, but they insist on sending us to Sunday school, don’t they. Cos Wendy and I are Brownies, we have to go dressed as Brownies. It’s really boring but we can’t say we don’t want to go. One particular time, the nearer we got to the church, the less we wanted to go, so you know what we did? We walked around the church block until the service had finished and the people started coming out, then we went to the sweet shop and spent our tuppence on sweets. They never found out. They’ve never once asked us what they talked about at church, so we know they’re not really interested.
Do I believe in God? Yes, of course I do! Well, I think I do.
One last word, 1976
Am I like them? I have some things in common with my mother, yes, that’s true. I got my brains from her, she says. She could have done great things if she hadn’t started having kids and got lumbered. I’ve got her big feet. I hate my feet. But other than that, I don’t think we’re similar. I hope not.
I wouldn’t say I was really happy but then again, I wouldn’t say I was really sad. I don’t think about it like that. It’s just a normal childhood like anyone else’s. We’ve got our own house and we’ve got a car… I’ve got some nice clothes. Maybe… don’t tell anyone I said this, but… maybe if I had a nicer family… nicer parents, like… But anyway, it’s not over yet, not quite, and maybe it’ll get better. Yes, I hope it’ll get better at the end of the summer. The angels will roll the stone away like they do in the Easter Song… and if not, well, when I’m grown up, it’ll be my turn.
The angels rolled the stone away,
The angels rolled the stone away.
It was early Easter Sunday morning,
The angels rolled the stone away.
Jesus had a sad life as well, didn’t he? I mean, they killed him in the end, didn’t they?
sucette.du67@… (reading): 26.01.04 (Re:Virtuality and Distance; 09.11.—) Falling from Heaven. Having –
GinImE@…: Let me do this…
sucette.du67@…: You just –
GinImE@…: Please… (takes the sheets from sucette.du67@… Hesitates. Tries to bring some control back to her face):
Having re-read your comments on virtuality and distance, and with the benefit of hindsight regarding the way our friendship has evolved… (Gulp… suppressed smile…) I would like to air… and share a few of my reflections with you. (Pause) If I ramble on a bit, forgive me, I am just thinking out loud: this is not an exam and I don’t have a deadline to meet. As one of my Professors quoted to me the other day ‘I’m sorry this letter is so long; I didn’t have the time to write a short one’. (Ladies chuckle. Sucette.du67@… gives Gini’s leg a squeeze)
I am familiar with the value we have conferred upon the natural sciences, thereby elevating the corresponding methodology to our (apparently) most reliable instrument of measurement even for the human sciences (e.g. quantitative analysis, positivism, etc). Piaget’s developmental theories, for example, and even Bowlby’s attachment theory, which he claims has antecedents in biology and ethology, all lean heavily on the natural sciences (to name two influential 20th century human scientists), as does, rather persistently, much psychological research today. If you look at it historically, psychology grew out of the natural sciences, and the social sciences out of psychology. It is no wonder, then, that early human science abounds with references to and analogies between human development and its interaction or adaptation, as an organism, to its environment. But, if we are going to stay with this picture, organisms do not remain constant; they grow, they adapt to new requirements. As such, you could say that modern human science, or social science, is the grandchild of the natural science paradigms reigning up to the late 19th century.
noluckwiththefu@…: Give it to im!
GinImE@…: When have grandchildren and grandparents ever seen eye to eye?
The weak link, as far as I am concerned, in your argumentation, is the misrecognition of the historical (i.e. social, cultural, political etc) factor in the shaping of human knowledge. Further, a – permit me to call it such – ‘positivist’ attitude oversimplifies the wonder of the human mind.
Whilst the human individual may well be regarded as an organism in conjunction with her environment,
which is still the message behind the newer human sciences, I am not convinced that this originally biological analogy sits as well as it should when transposed to the human mind. The interaction, or touching, as you say, of two individual human minds is always mediated by the individual cultural environments of the participants. In other words, the socio-political, and therefore historical dimension, is crucial to the interaction, giving it a dimension not immediately evident for a purely natural (as opposed to a socio-psychological) phenomenon, even if we concede that the environment for the human comprises the historical context as ‘natural habitat’.
kissmy@… behind her hand to noluckwiththefu@…: Don’t understand a word but it sounds good.
noluckwiththefu@…: Shut the fuck up!
GinImE@...: The human mind cannot be dissected, cannot be classified like a frog, an insect, or even the human body. All human knowledge is at the mercy of whatever theory is currently popular, or at the very least, our theories are limited by our current state of knowledge. Freud has largely been dethroned. Piaget has been ousted. Bowlby defamed; and although he uses the ethological mantel to give his view the seal of credibility, closer inspection, corroborated by the lack of empirical or biological foundations for his major issues (monotropism as the source of good infant mental health), exposes his ‘theory’ for what it is, namely folk knowledge with an extra portion of chauvinism which should certainly not have held currency for so long. And as I don’t believe in coincidence, I do not regard it as one that Bowlby’s views became so popular after the War during which women enjoyed considerable social and political freedom in the absence of their men, and which Bowlby’s theory ‘incidentally’ puts an end to. Vygotskian theory on the cultural contingency of human development, being one of the most recent insights that the discipline has to offer, is still quite popular, although here, too, critique is gathering. And it is interesting to note that Vygotskian theory sparked off a whole new school of thought in the West from the 70s onwards simply because his writings had not been translated before. Historically, however, he is Piaget’s peer, and appears to have been familiar with Piaget’s work. If his writings had been available at the same time, he probably would have been debunked as well by now… I’m oversimplifying drastically. If you’re interested, just google them.
I had strong reservations about the application of natural science paradigms to the human sciences whilst working my way towards my first postgraduate degree, but couldn’t be bothered to get into a methodological debate with the university as I was probably not betitled enough to be taken seriously as a co-thinker. You and I can meet on a more equal footing, and I don’t feel afraid to say what I think even if you then rip my argument to shreds.
Although I am glad…
although I… am glad… for every opportunity to learn something new, I also think that you understood my original statement — that our relationship was not purely virtual, but, at least for me, very real — in the vein in which it was meant.
It was an expression…
(Pause. Eyes closed)
…of the closeness I felt to you; of my – as I now understand – erroneous sense of our ‘touching’ in a very essential, ‘cellular’ way, beyond the words — the linguistic particles — being ‘hit’ between the two of us.
(Deep breath. Proud smile. babygirl@… comes to sit at Gini’s feet)
That you choose to point out to me my error, and in such depth, is very telling…
(Deep breath. The sheets tremolo)
It tells me that I view our relationship differently (although a day earlier you write: ‘our relationship goes far beyond any physical barrier, because is based on intellectual and emotive elements that have no boundaries. And is because you have an instinctive sensitiveness towards my waves also). It hints at your possible fear of getting your hands ‘dirty’:
(Sistahs nod, make consenting vocalisations)
we do not, cannot ‘touch’, is your philosophy (though you wish to experience my flesh upon yours, your flesh within mine… you want to ‘mould’ me with your hands… virtually, of course…).
(Snorts of solidarity. babygirl@…’s head on Gini’s lap)
You are nothing but a ‘ghost’, you insist, and I should not invest you with more life than that. You tell me you want to see the naked me, yet when I stand before you in all my nudity, in all my intensity, you take fright, tell me I fly too high; beg me, in a manner of speaking, to put my clothes back on.
What am I to make of such inconsistency? I refrain from calling you a hypocrite, as I refrain from calling you a coward. What am I to call you, Maurice? If ‘nature’ were as inconsistent as this, we would have long ceased to use it as a reliable yardstick, don’t you think?
Could it be that ‘nature’, ‘science’, like language, like feelings — like love — amounts to more than the sum of its visible individual constituents? Is more than what we may ever ostensibly ‘know’? If it were that ‘simple’, let me say (as an overambitious layperson), we would have the answers to most of our questions, I would imagine, though we evidently do not (or do you take issue with the greatest thinkers who admit, at the end of the day, that we ‘know’ nothing…?).
(Puts her hand on her chest, just so briefly. Anger flicks across her face)
You pick at my innocent statement in a process of Jesuitical casuistry, so I feel obliged to react. My language, and certainly, my feelings, are not to be viewed with the cool eye of science, but with the warm heart… of an artist.
(sucette.du67@… gets Gini to place her head on her shoulder. She runs her hand across Gini’s forehead, repeatedly, for the rest. Gini gives her a nod as if to say, it’s ok, I’ll manage)
To boil down my meaning – or language generally- to a mere swinging of particles is to do it a severe injustice. If this is the stance you adopt, then, in a very ‘real’ sense, you and I shall never ‘touch’.
Take your gloves off, Maurice, if you have the courage to do so. Dive in and get your hands dirty.
(Breathes out slowly, so so slowly, eyes closed)
Fall from heaven… Let go of what you know, but keep your faith; it is the only way to live.
PS: I have to smile; do you sculpt with gloves on, or do you only wear them for me? Do not get me wrong. I am not angry; I simply wonder… and wait…
PPS: Is not Science but Art by its other name; principled expositions of the hungry, the humbled mind genuflecting before its god?
Extenuated pause. babygirl@… opens the St Emilion. The plopping of the cork –
punctuates the harsh silence. Everyone gets a glass.
GinImE@...: OK. This last one’s called ‘Anniversary’.
I shouldn’t have, so it serves me right and I have no right to be disappointed not to find a message from you today. You’ll have other things to do, won’t you: presents to open, a dutiful wife to kiss and say thank you to. And others, no doubt. But not me.
I wish I had never met you.
(kissmy@…squeezes in behind Gini. Finds a place for her legs on either side, so that Gini may prop herself up in the bed of her girlfriend’s groin. Her right hand soothes Gini’s chest, just below her breasts)
That you had left me sleeping. But you, you pushed and pushed until I let you in.
Now you don’t want to stay, having fed your eyes to their fill.
Now I have to get over it, I suppose. Now… I should… n I will…
(Eyes closed. Head back. Exhale…)
I don’t even want to write to you anymore, yet I know of no other way to wash myself clean from your reach.
From your memory.
(noluckwiththefu@…’s hand rubs the pain away from Gini’s other thigh, but first, she bows, squeezes Gini’s shoulder. Gives it a kiss)
The recollection of you trails me like a wailing child. Or am I that child, wailing, arms outstretched and waiting for you to scoop me up…
and soothe me. I have no idea. No idea…
Certainty’s bounced off down the road like a bright rubber ball I tried to hold on to too tightly. I can only run after it with my eyes,
with my heart,
but my feet are not obeying and they won’t budge, no sir. They’re staying put.
(Pause. Change of tone. She sounds apologetic)
Maybe because they want to be here to greet you when you suddenly show up again. If ever you… Maybe they’re just plain scared of another wrong move, so refuse to move at all, like the hare frozen in the glare of headlights on a dark country lane. The only thing that never stops moving is my mind. Picking and sorting
and sifting and
reconstructing its way through the minutiae of our brief, our blinding, history; trying to get its fingers round the wrong movements; my wrong
my nimble African fingers picking out the bad grains in my bowl.
(The rest is read by heart as the sheets sprinkle to the floor)
So when I wake up, it is with the demeanour of one who has just finished hard labour, though the whole long day yawns in my face like a disinterested listener.
Again and again, I ask myself: have I had to pay too high a price for this ‘love’? Again and again, the reply laps at my feet and recedes with a sigh, with a