To digress, and drawing once again from Jung, "There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection. To round itself out, life calls not for perfection but for completeness; and this 'thorn in the flesh' is needed, the suffering of defects without which there is no progress and no ascent." Fortunately for me, being a perfectionist has never been one of my traits, good or bad, I find that I prefer things to be right rather than perfect. To that end, I find myself disagreeing with the philosophy and attitude espoused by the Cathars and by the Gnostics, of achieving perfectionism. It simply is not possible in this world without making errors, mistakes, even perpetrating wrong and committing sin; that is the nature of free will and of being human. It appears to me that life, for the most part, is nothing more than an endless series of optical illusions and trompe l'oiel. It is not always possible to determine what and who is real, and by extension, what are who is false, or merely an illusion. To cite experience as being an important and determining factor, this too is open to speculation, interpretation and debate. As all conspiracy theorists will tell you, if a lie is told enough times, enough people will believe it and it will become gospel, even if the factual reality is not the case at all. One can be lead down a pathway of deception, embellished so extensively along the way that ultimately one will forget the source and the untruth will become accepted as true. Essentially it becomes an accepted reductio ad absurdum/verum (delete where applicable).
In order to live life, and to find true direction, it seems better to use a compass, and not a map; for maps are continually changing and can subconsciously shape, or worse still, deprive one of their destiny. Life ultimately is a journey, a voyage, and it is up to us as individuals to decide whether or not we shape choose to shape it in a way that is fascinating, to others as much as to ourselves (and tell a story as epic as that of John Mandeville), or is one that is filled with banality, a lack of dissatisfaction, disillusionment, disappointment, and only punctuated with an occasional bright spot to elevate the spirits. Though Mandeville's work has been largely denounced as being fictional, contrived and inconsistent, it is clear that there are indeed elements of truth told therein. These nuggets in between some of the farfetched imagery does suggest that Mandeville did indeed visit these places and only populated his story with elaboration to make it yet more interesting to his intended, educated audience. Travel writer Giles Milton explored the 'world' as described by Mandeville in his The Riddle and the Knight, and uncovered more veracity in his stories than had previously been accorded to the fourteenth century writer.
|Some of the extraordinary creatures as described by John Mandeville.|
Ultimately I feel that a world shaped by allegory, by symbolism and blurred by optical illusion are employed, is all the better to understand it, by appealing to one's unconscious and subconscious. This outlook is infinitely more fascinating than one which is purely constrained to logical, rationalist thought and conscious. It allows one to think, rather than simply be told what to think. In these times, the growth of science and understanding has largely diminished the strength and power of magic, where astrology is no longer considered a science, etc. Other than through (generally) subversive propaganda machines employed by governments or their agencies, which dictates the consensus of opinion by the hoi polloi unable to form opinions for themselves, the individual believes himself capable of choosing what to think. Despite this 'choice', it appears that the individual would still seem prefer to hear the truth in black and white rather than interpret, contemplate, and make up his or her own mind. Fact over interpretation will always win out, despite contemplation being inordinately more intriguing for the truly enquiring mind.
Nonetheless, it is important to be able to differentiate between that which is allegory (a term in itself derived from the Greek ἀλληγορία meaning 'veiled language') and that which is simply untrue, and intentional deception. To elaborate further, what is myth, and what is history? Why are people's beliefs, even in this day and age, shaped by the need to believe in something incredible, and irrational, when all else around needs to be explained? What irrational instinct within us, where all around is rational, makes the majority of us not want to question such primal impulses when we seek the answers to so much else? Is it fear, or merely fear of disappointment that prevents us from taking that step further and forward?
There is little desire anymore for subtlety, for use of semiotics, metaphors, or allegorical devices. Despite the advances made in science, the picture remains incomplete and generally, once one question is answered and resolved, a host of others are opened up, provoking yet further questions, rather than the simple acceptance of what had been previously, accepted tacitly or otherwise, as being fact. And what of paradox? Should Polonius' observation of "though this be madness, yet there is method in't" be dismissed? And in modern culture, the opening scene of David Lynch's Blue Velvet (which, unbelievably, is now over 25 years old) which opens with a picturesque vision of Americana complete with white picket fences, blue skies and a saccharine song playing but ends with the peace being shattered by a heart attack, and seeing what lies beneath of the idyll as the camera prowls into the grasses, ultimately exposing the bugs, mites and parasites below.