Saturday-night’s BBC2 documentary on DH Lawrence and its focus at one point on the re-interpretation of his work, The Woman Who Rode Away, struck my post ‘Dr. Who + Twiglets + Quality Street’ addled-mind as very of the moment.
Having spent a lot of time recently debating the role of arch sacrifice as a flawed strategy for success in regards to transforming the way the early majority of folks out there consume life, the documentary just served to underline how far apart the motivations of the Early Adopters and those of the Early Majority really are for me.
This fresh interpretation of The Woman Who Rode Away sees the woman’s act of submission to the sacrificial ritual of the local Native Indian tribe as a way of escaping (both spiritually and physically) the crashing claustrophobic banality of her silver-seeking husband’s venal, materialistic nature and purpose.
Her submission to the Indian Elder’s knife in the dark open mouth of the cave is now seen by some as being representative of a far greater universal human gesture towards redemption – that of the need to cleanse our collective soul by sacrifice of the temporal cancer of materialism and in turn to liberate our spirit from the conceits and capriciousness of the false and shallow concept of ‘civilisation’ that accompanies it.
This fresh interpretation of DH Lawrence’s narrative presents us with a new poster child for the more fanatical Early Adopters of a more sustainable human existence (as opposed to the older one which viewed it as an insidious misogynistic piece of propaganda from the pen of a racist proto-pornographer)
In absolute terms, the emphatic nature and the scale of the woman’s sacrificial gesture and the ecstatic experience of its enactment could be viewed by any self respecting hard line activist as the only immutable and authentic act of a sentient human-being against the bleak nihilism and banality of a materialistic life – the only fillip against the galloping, unfettered consumption that blights our planet.
For the pure, only the greatest sacrifice imaginable cuts it (pardon the pun). Only a gesture of this personal magnitude has the cosmic chutzpah and swaggerdaccio to deliver a profound and atomically fused connection with the world and greater cosmos in which we dramatically yet fleetingly exist.
Certainly for some fervent believers out there, the current model of material thriving and the status-obsessed cod-civility of a life could do with a good dose of sacrificial pointy knife or at least a burning or three.
Even to the gentlest of early adopters of a more ethical and sustainable life, sacrifice of some sort – the compulsory setting aside of seemingly relentless pleasurable material gratification and our insatiable socially-inspired obsession with stuff – is not discretionary: a small gesture in the grand scheme of things.
But what about the rest of us out there? The Early Majority? – given that we’ll not be queuing up to throw ourselves onto some smouldering Wiccan pyre of fully recyclable IKEA flat-packs, or the sharp dolphin-friendly point of a Global Sushi knife any time soon.
Even those of us wholly committed to undertaking rituals and sacrifices in pursuit of a more enduring and kinder lifestyle would stop far short of ‘sacrificing’ our whole lifestyle to the great cosmic being to make a sustainable point.
We are actually quite pleased with the scale of the sacrifices we make and the rituals we undertake – we are consummate in our respectful incising, skewering and consumption by festival fireside and barbecue of our favourite, fiercely-championed wholly traceable, wholly organic preferred meat; dispatched we hope from this earth to the mellifluous chords of Ode To Joy by a friendly smiling butcher. To us the time given over to our weekly pilgrimage to the supermarket car-park to post our cardboard, paper and glass votives into the dark mouths of green, brown and blue wheelie bins as opposed to slothing in the pub or playing a couple of hours of Call Of Duty: Black Ops is sacrifice enough in a busy cluttered life
Thankfully, crossing the chasm does not demand that we force the gently committed folks to suddenly throw themselves on a burning sword in a some massive gesture of conscience. Thankfully Lawrence’s accidental eco-hero makes a far bigger point with the nature of her disposition than she does with the scale and absolutism of her fatal commitment.
Those who would happily bully and hector the point with the early majority should note that the most striking point here is that she chooses of her own free will the nature and the administration of her desired sacrifice and its undertaking.
No big stick. No hectoring.
In this particular fictional instance, the hectors and the bullies should note that the sacrifcer, (mostly used to having to expeditiously reorder the atomic make up of said sacrificee against their better nature and immediate wishes) had his sacrificial lamb pootle into his front parlour, rub herself in oil and botanicals and say ‘hands up who’s for cleansing?’
Lawrence’s character was happy to be atomically reordered by ‘the great spirit’. We on the other hand are only happy to reorder through recycle reuse and reclaim.
So I sense that in the sacrifice department if we are to apply it at all, we need a bridge – a people friendly action somewhere between indifference and absolutism.
We need a starter-for-ten – a simple way of predisposing the gentler less brutally committed of us to a more enduring aspiration and lifestyle – something for those of us wishing to make a small cleansing or ritualistic gesture towards an improved and more spiritually and cosmically aligned model of existence just to reset our head.
Perhaps our first step might be to find a slightly less onerous form of sacrificial offering to ease people into the idea – something a little more everyday – a joss paper app perhaps – that let’s you write up your previous years most pointlessly consuming material desire – whoops that’ll be an i-phone triple up grade in one year!! – which in turn uploads to a massive virtual bonfire of collected material vanities that then gets reduced to cosmic ash – at which point we all, just for a moment, symbolically release ourselves through virtual fire from the hellish incarceration of materialism and the burden and blight it brings on us.
A sort of western lifestyle app. equivalent of the Chinese ritual of burning Hells Bank Notes as an offering to the deceased.
And while we’re doing it we can quietly contemplate how we might bring ourselves the strength and more importantly the luxury to embrace a few changes that ultimately will leave us and the great spinning orb we perch upon in far better off.
Or, alternately, we could of course grasp the nettle and take ourselves out to the middle of the New Mexico desert with our materialist trolley loaded high and find someone who will quite happily dispatch us and it into the great ‘other’.
Of the two types of sacrifice I sense I know which the 85%+ of people will choose first!