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Madison Morrison's Web / Sentence of the Gods / Criticism
The Indic Element in Two Major Works

The Indic Element in Two Major Works

(Pages on Realization and Happening from D. Gnanasekaran, “The Intertextuality of Body and Soul: A Realization toward Self-Realization”)

Morrison’s works mark stages in the evolution of his divine-consciousness and form a continuity of theme envisaging a cosmological epic dimension. The idea of intertextuality, it occurs to me, was conceived way back in 1989 even in the very title of his collection of poems, SOLUNA, a union of the opposites, the solar and the lunar, the sun and the moon, day and night, the masculine and the feminine, the body and the soul, of which one is the complement to the other. This idea grew into a unique mode in his later works — a fresh trail-blazing, provokingly innovative.

The publication of Realization proclaims the onset of this new mode. As Morrison says, the book “incorporates as intertexts, Upanishad, Dhammapada and Bhagavad Gita.” Realization is a meeting plane on which the words of wisdom in the annals of ancient Indian philosophical systems and the faithful document of what Morrison saw, felt and thought in varied geographical locations intertwine and collaboratively project the realization of the immanent through the immediate. The world without and the world within cohere and produce a cumulative effect on the reader. The opening paragraph of the book is a succinct illustrative example:

The Lone Star. All this. Chicago, Oklahoma City, Houston. Whatsoever moves on earth. Twenty-two degrees, 9:10 am. Is to be hidden. Sky bright, vacuous. In the Lord. Norman, OK. The Self. The 908 arriving from Moore, signal bells ding-ding-ding. When thou hast surrendered all this. Two pick-up trucks. Then thou mayest enjoy. Pale brown, pale blue. Do not covet the wealth of any man! K-thump k-thump, k-thump k-thump.  (Realization, 9)

The picture that emerges from these lines is one of an individual, conscious of the past, the present and the future. The two streams, the ephemeral and the eternal run parallel to each other as evident from the technique employed by the writer of foregrounding the latter by the use of italics. Even when he is discharging his day-to-day obligations through the multifarious socio-cultural variables across the world of mores and ethos, Morrison inescapably feels the pressure from the undercurrent of his soul-stirrings to achieve the goal of self-realization. When he explicitly says in the opening paragraph of Realization that one has to surrender all that one has had as material possessions, fame or title so as to realize the god-head within, that is, self-realization on earth, Morrison is stating an important principle and egging himself on to brush past the four stages of human life as based on an oriental philosophy: the Brahmacharya (learning), the Gruhasthya (family), the Vanaprastha (detachment) and the Mukthi (self-surrender). It cannot be over-emphasized that Morrison is happily and magnificently obsessed with the ideal of seeking the Truth. As a long-time student of India, he moves from the known to the unknown through their correlative divinities. His works outline the pathway of his self-chosen mission and signal the progressive enlightenment that dispels the gloom of ignorance from the dark recesses of his consciousness. Every individual should strive for it on his/her own. No one else can take a bath for you as Nietzsche says. This existential truth Morrison has understood:

Canopic Gods & Anubis. By one’s self is the evil done. Osiris (painted wood). By one’s self one suffers. A scarab rolling the sun before him. Four-foot Hispanic guard; purple-suited blonde making demonstrative inquiry. Horus protecting a king. By one’s self evil is left undone. Color photos of the Temple of Dendur (in situ). By one’s self is one purified. A single white-capped figure strolling the banks of the Nile. “These views, taken in 1851 and 1885, show the conversion of the temple into a Christian church.” By themselves the pure and the impure stand and fall. Black and white photos. No one can purify another. An Ankh. (Realization, 68)

The message rings clear and stands out as white from black. However, in Morrison’s work black and white are inevitably integrated so as to bring the contrast into focus. His intertextual mode does this precisely, and he is successful in driving the message home straight to the reader. By the way, the reader’s presence is encouraged, and his interactive participation in the text with his own insightful and ebullient response is highly expected. Only with the reader does the text becomes alive (as Roland Barthes says in conjunction with Stanley Fish), and this principle shines through every page of Realization. At the end of the book, we see dark clouds thinly masking the horizon. But a strong wind appears, ready to lift the clouds and lead one to the point of certainty. There lives a Master in the hearts of men, and so we have to trust Him. The concluding lines of Realization symbolically suggest Morrison’s preparedness for attaining the much-sought-after self-realization:

What thou dost shun.” Mountains. “Misled by fair illusions.” Low clouds/haze. “Thou would’st see against thy will.” Horizon line holding cloudy/clear uncertainty in focus. “There lives a Master.” Wind gust to eastward. “In the hearts of men.” Answered by western wind reprise. “Maketh his deeds by subtle pulling strings.” Whistling through lines. “And they then dance.” Car in view. “To the tune he wills.” Driver’s seat vacant. “So trust Him! ” Hand on car roof. “And, by grace of him, attain.” Car on road. “So, but meditate! ” Road on clay. “Then act.” Clay on red rock. (Realization, 155)

The eastern wind is answered by the western wind. The twine binds the East and the West as against the insipid, negative proclamation of Rudyard Kipling. In Morrison’s allegory the car is the body; the driver is the soul; and the destination is clear. What one requires is the grace of God and our trust in Him through action and meditation. Morrison’s mission is accomplished, and it is remarkably portrayed through apt and beautiful symbols.

  Happening, the author’s monumental study of India, combines “cinematic registration, personal reminiscence, the interweaving of text with intertext, all to evoke ancient, medieval, colonial and present day India” (“About the book,” Happening). The author’s personal experience at Jodhpur is encompassed by his response to the Bhagavad Gita:

An “auto” stops briefly, filled with five women on their way to work [Karma]. “Arjuna continues by declaring that Krishna is God of Gods (deva deva).” Three seated in the 2-person seat, 2 crouched at their feet on floor of passenger compartment. “But his manifestation is not known by gods or by demons.” All happily engaged in straightforward conversation. “For he alone knows his self by his own self.” (Happening, 105)

Thus Morrison’s realization of the time-bound happenings mingles with his realization of the timeless Truth and projects a unity of his multi-layered consciousness. The text within the text reminds one of the complex web of human consciousness, where myriad explorations take place. Surprisingly, however, all these inherent contradictions constitute a single personality, a unified whole, for Morrison achieves a unity or universality amidst plurality or particularity.