Monday, July 9, 2018

Pale Fire Part 2: Coincidences and Death

Continuing to look at the crossover of fictional, or virtual, events in a book, in this case Pale Fire by Vladimer Nabokov, and the actual events in a person's life, in this case your humble narrator.

Toward the end of the reading group cycle we discovered that the murder of Nabokov's father, Vladimer Vladimirovich Nabokov was a major inspiration for Pale Fire.  John Shade was murdered by someone who, for most of the book,  resembles a Russian political extremist .  Nabokov's father was murdered by far right Russian monarchists.  Displaying his penchant for reversing things, Nabokov implies a murder attempt AGAINST the monarchy in the story he tells.

Picking up Pale Fire, I was immediately reminded of the death of my father by the amusement park sounds mentioned on the first page.  The death of my father had an incredibly strong impact on me.  The reading of Pale Fire coincided with my body turning the exact age my father was when he died.   This brought the memory of his death into sharper focus to the point where I felt it in my body.  Like Nabokov, my father and I shared the same first and last names.

Nabakov valorizes coincidences in Pale Fire, I am valorizing them here.  The value of coincidences is that they can communicate information and instruction to your evolving self. Synchronicities and coincidences can be considered a pale fire for your spiritual growth.

This is how coincidences get valorized in Pale Fire:

In the commentary for Lines 734 - 735 Nabokov has Kinbote say: "A third burst of contrapuntal pyrotechnics.  The poet's plan is to display in the very texture of his text the inricacies of the "game" in which he seeks the key to life and death (see lines 808 - 829)."

Lines 808 - 829 describes the value of coincidences for John Shade.

"line 806: But all at once it dawned on me that this
               Was the real point, the contrapuntal theme:
               Just this: not text, but texture, not the dream
               But topsy-turvical coincidence,
               Not flimsy nonsense, but a web of sense.

The next 5 lines refer to Qabalah.

line 811:    Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find
                Some kind of link-and-bobo link, some kind
                Of correlated pattern in the game
                Plexed artistry, and something of the same
                Pleasure in it as they who played it found."

Qabalah does give a great deal of pleasure for anyone who likes to solve puzzles and make new connections.

Characterizing this game of coincidences and correlated patterns as "contrapuntal pyrotechnics" also points to qabalah.  One tradition says that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the basis for qabalah, are letters of fire; fire partly due to the active, energetic nature qabalah brings to language.

Qabalah introduces variability into language.  Many more ways, more paths, more neural connections open up for receiving and/or interpreting a communication with the application of qabalah.  The information of any given communication increases dramatically when put under this lens.

Here is how Pale Fire began to blow my head off.  The numerical value of my first name,
Oz = 77.  I have paid close attention to all kinds of coincidences and synchronicities since discovering the usefulness of such a practice from Wilson's Cosmic Trigger book.  At the top of page 77 in my copy of Pale Fire we see:

Line 17: And then the gradual; Line 29: gray

By an extraordinary coincidence (inherent perhaps in the contrapuntal nature of Shade's art) our poet seems to name here ( gradual, gray) a man for whom he was to see for one fatal moment 3 weeks later ...

This is Kinbote's commentary introducing the reader to John Shade's murderer - he had various pseudonyms two of them being Jakob Gradus and James de Gray -  via an extraordinary coincidence.

John Shade's name itself suggests death.  From Homer to Virgil to Dante classic literature has a long history of referring to dead people as shades. The "contrapuntal nature of  Shade's art" suggests the contrapuntal nature of death's art.  Art usually appears as the creation of something.  Death's art can refer to bardo training, the art of surviving the death of the meat package, the physical body.  Death's art can also refer to the transformation that occurs in a death/rebirth ritual.  In magick rituals the everyday ego undergoes a temporary death to be reborn as something different.

Via an extraordinary coincidence Nabokov introduces John Shades murderer, or the murderer of Death, if we stay with Shade's etymology, by the lines "And then the gradual."  The murder of Death obviously  reverses the superficial meaning given, the murder of John Shade.  Nabokov constantly reverses many things in Pale Fire.  The murder of Death increases life, obviously.  The murder of Death (Shade) is gradual in Vlad's story.  Again, this correlates with bardo training and magick.  Proficiency in each of these arts usually appears gradual.  Obviously this line of pondering gets twisted and convoluted.  Once again, welcome to Pale Fire.

Coincidences have played such a huge role in my spiritual trajectory that I found it interesting that page 77 began with the phrase, "By an extraordinary coincidence..." When I first saw this no extraordinary coincidence appeared on the horizon, it simply reminded me of how much I value and use coincidences. I wasn't expecting any extraordinary coincidences either.  Expectations almost always seem invocationally defeating.

Synchronicities and coincidences, of course, have to do with Time and timing.  A month or two later I  passed through the point where my body was exactly the same age as my father was when he died on the operating table from a bad heart.  I had some strong bardo moments around that time including one night of feeling that I could die that night.  Probably psychosomatic, I'd been ruminating on his death and my age.  And/or it could be an empirical psychic connection to the event of his death through the resonance of my age, a resonance across time.

Right around this time, I got the notion to look up line 77 in John Shade's poem and it definitely startled me.

Such as "bad heart" always to him refer. 

Given my mindset with the consideration of my father's death, that became an extraordinary coincidence for me. 

I was on tour when the Pale Fire reading group finished.  The day of posting my final comment found me staying in a hotel outside a small amusement park just outside of Washington, D.C. It reminded me of the film, Carnival of Souls.

1 comment:

  1. Oz, I've been working on a piece about Robert Shea, the Illuminatus co-writer, and noticed that he died at the same age I am at now.