ON THE REFUSAL TO SERVE
Books and music lead to more books and music. New releases refer to past ones, famous and obscure. Genres cross over, involving similar concepts, tropes, devices. Writers lift, pay tribute, re-imagine, claim as their own and take it a step further in their effort to tell gripping, original stories. Pick up the trail and we end up making extraordinary connections.
Welcome to Connection Degree Three …
Time for another Extraordinary Triangles Exercise. The Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man; Κατα Τον Δαιμονα Εαυτου; Jim Morrison. Three points along a dangerous highway where collective ignorance is shed in favor of personal agency and self-actualization.
The Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man by James Joyce is the story of Stephen Dedalus, a young man who grows up in a country that suffers an identity crisis. Caught between the rock of republicanism and the hard place of unionism, the Irish are at each other’s throats, and Dedalus (Joyce) is suffocating. The green island has turned into an island of envy, greed and fratricide, and the only way to survive and make something of oneself beyond the narrow confines of Irish circumstance is to reject the entire setup, belong no more to that in which he no longer believes. I will not serve, he declares, setting himself up for a life outside the toxic Ire-land of his youth where wrath has poisoned all things good and beautiful. Non Serviam, as simple as that – a declaration that brings us to
Rotting Christ, a black metal band from Greece. Rotting Christ are a seminal band in the sub-genre, their name a courageous symbol when you think about it. ‘Rotting Christ’ alludes to decomposing flesh, which alludes either to the human aspect of the divine or to the deception that underscores religion, take your pick, it’s all about the illusions that drive us, the lies we tell each other – and ourselves – to glorify someone/thing above all else. ‘Christ’s body ascended, it didn’t fall prey to the elements,’ etc. – fabrications that sustain irrational beliefs. The only antidote to such pervasive folly is harsh reality, iconoclastic phenomena that tear down the lies we tell each other. Rotting Christ are a statement, hard to digest because they use satanic themes on occasion (their album Non Serviam refers to Lucifer’s infamous denunciation of Heaven) although on other albums they deal with less pompous themes, for example Κατα Τον Δαιμονα Εαυτου (loosely translated to According To Your Own Spirit), a sublime album that explores dark legends from around the world, an album that brings us to
Jim Morrison, the notorious singer-poet-cultural icon. Morrison, frontman of The Doors, child of the sixties and early seventies – entertainer, shaman, clown, rebel – defined a generation with his antics. His dark brilliant poetry caught the imagination of youths round the globe. His revulsion for authority fueled an already volatile situation, pointing out the injustice and malice of the world, the workings of a machine that preyed on the spirit of humankind. His fondness for hallucinogens strengthened his dejection of power structures and all things sanctimonious. Driven by daemons prone to passion and genius alike, he rose up against the establishment, pointing the way through, losing himself in the maze of rebellion, burning his wings in the sun of overconfidence, taken down by the very daemons that had set him free. True to his legacy, his epitaph reads: Κατα Τον Δαιμονα Εαυτου – the statement of a man who refused to serve that in which he no longer believed, rebelling in the name of personal agency, which brings us back to
Stephen Dedalus (James Joyce) and his self-excommunication from the doctrines of Irish Catholic life i.e. what threatened to enslave or kill him.
And here we are! The Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man; Κατα Τον Δαιμονα Εαυτου; Jim Morrison. Three milestones on the road to personal redemption, a path that doesn’t involve the noise of collective ignorance and all things complicit, complacent, compromised. This is the way ahead for those who refuse to be defined by dogma and peer pressure. Some paths are worth taking alone, come what may.