September 24, 2017 (Sunday)

by Yule Heibel on September 23, 2018

A. says he has started listening to Jordan Peterson’s “bible stories” lectures, and I meanwhile have been thinking about this “sin” aspect Peterson describes. “Sin” defined as a missing of the aim, of not hitting the target, whether because of carelessness (sin of omission) or purposefully (sin of commission). And I’ve wondered how this relates to the Cain and Abel story, which Peterson so interestingly describes as a story of Cain killing his ideal (Abel), his blessed/perfect brother, in an act which turns Cain’s life into a personal hell. I’ve also noticed the struggles that young men face when trying to find a path in a society that frankly is doing all it can to undermine the intrinsic worth of boys, of men …and how the resentment can build up, and possibly lead to self-destruction. (Most suicides are male.) If listening to “bible stories” helps anyone steer clear of resentments and grudges (which are self-destructive), so be it. Anything to get on the path to wisdom and equilibrium, which incidentally isn’t stasis. It’s a question of maneuvering along the edge between what Peterson calls chaos and order, sort of staying on the “order” side enough to avoid being pulled into chaos, but not going over to order to the extent of becoming rigid and authoritarian and tyrannical.

For my novel, already informed by Camille Paglia’s take on similar issues around male-female categories (as per Sexual Personae), I might think about the Cain-Abel “killing of the ideal” crisis as well: my fictional X., in his entanglements with chaos (i.e., with the fictional Anna), betrays to some extent his own ideals. He has to redeem himself somehow …or does he? Maybe it’s a tragedy, and he never does. Or maybe he does, and he succeeds.

But the additional angle I’m thinking of is the parents: considering my experience with sons and daughters, and my worries over their development as well as my relief when things seem to right themselves in any way (it’s a relief that reminds me of seeing the child each one once was – a child with unlimited, or so it seemed, potential) my question is this: what in god’s green acre did the poor archetypal Eve feel about her son turning into the archetypal Cain? About seeing him destroy the archetypal Abel? And would she have felt the pain more keenly because he (Cain and Abel as one person) was her boy? If so, why? Do mothers feel this pain as existentially with daughters, or feel it differently? Why are the stories always about the sons, the hero-journey thing (aside from Demeter searching after Persephone, perhaps: and even that isn’t made into the typical son’s story, all about good or ill individuation; it just stands for seasonal cycles, the eternal return)?

Just where are the daughters?

And is the mother just an overbearing, cloying dominatrix if she’s “unwilling” to let go of “her” Abel? If she wants to prevent a Cain from becoming? Yes, the mother has to let go of her son, but at what point – if any – does she put herself between him and evil? And would she do it differently if it were “just” her daughter? Or rather, would parents (both sexes) feel more entitled to control their daughters from the get-go …and have a very different terrain to navigate with sons? How does this affect the modern mother-daughter and/or parent-daughter map? Its terrain? We need a conception of the female hero as daughter, not just as, say, Athena, sprung forth from her father’s forehead.

So: here’s a daughter. Where is her killer story?

In the old stories, it seems sons are expected to come into the light, while daughters handle the mysteries in the dark…

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