Rolling the stone, sisyphus, and the epilogue of Blood Meridian

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Rolling the stone, sisyphus, and the epilogue of Blood Meridian

Mark Busby


Quote:Let's look again at the epilogue, which is characterized partially by its brevity:

  In the dawn there is a man progressing over the plain by means of
  holes which he is making in the ground. He uses an implement with
  two handles and he chucks it into the hole and he enkindles the
  stone in the hole with his steel hole by hole striking the fire out
  of the rock which God has put there. On the plain behind him are
  the wanderers in search of bones and those who do not search and
  they move haltingly in the light like mechanisms whose movements
  are monitored with escapement and pallet so that they appear
  restrained by a prudence or reflectiveness which has no inner
  reality and they cross in their progress one by one that track of
  holes that runs to the rim of the visible ground and which seems
  less the pursuit of some continuance than the verification of a
  principle, a validation of sequence and causality as if each round
  and perfect hole owed its existence to the one before it there on
  that prairie upon which are the bones and the gatherers of bones
  and those who do not gather. He strikes fire in the hole and draws
  out his steel. Then they all move on again. (337)

Quote:The man in the epilogue is described as "striking the fire out of the rock which God has put there" suggesting that he is freeing sparks of the divine "fire" trapped in matter--or "rock"--by the "God" of this world, the demiurge. The fact that he is followed by "wanderers in search of bones and those who do not search" suggests that those who have not attained gnosis can be divided into two groups--those who search for answers in the wrong places, and those who do not search at all. Those who search for "bones" are followers of religions that claim that all will be revealed in the afterlife. These wanderers look to the empty promise of death for salvation, worshipping the relics of dead saints, not realizing that without gnosis one will be cast back into the manifest world, life after life. The ones who "do not search" are the materialists; tranquillising themselves with the trivialities of everyday life, content with the acquisition of wealth and earthly delights. They are even less awakened than those who search for answers in bones. Both parties move "haltingly in the light like mechanisms" because they are in the grips of heimarmene and do not possess free will, which can only be attained through gnosis. Thus they live their lives like sleepwalkers, never fully awake to the true nature of reality. In fact, such "resistance to gnosis" is often described as "the desire to sleep or to be drunk--that is, to remain unconscious." Their movements are "restrained by a prudence or reflectiveness which has inner reality" because the manifest world in which they move is illusory and impermanent. Similarly, they misunderstand the holes left behind by the pneumatic, believing that "each round and perfect hole" owes "its existence to the one before it" in the same way that we attribute causality to our understanding of time, despite the fact that the discoveries of quantum physics, in accordance with mystical insights into the nature of reality, insist that our understanding of the universe is hopelessly flawed and illogical. The pneumatic moves alone, because the pursuit of gnosis "engages each person in a solitary, difficult process." This difficult process is one of salvation, consisting of gathering up the sparks dispersed throughout the manifest cosmos and restoring unity to the alien God. The pneumatic's task is a long and ongoing one, as each spark that dies without escaping to the alien God is thrown back into the manifest realm, thus "they all move on again" like clockwork, presumably until the last bit of fire has been freed from the rock, and all the sleepwalkers have been awakened. (89-90)
Quote:Blood Meridian, perhaps more than any other McCarthy text, examines the condition that existentialists refer to as the absurd--a violent world without God marked by death, conflict, chance, suffering, and guilt, where the single individual is on his own, often at the mercy of large forces beyond his control. For many readers, the novel offers no respite from such a negative view of the human condition. And if one takes the historical interpretation of the epilogue as signaling the Evening Redness in the West, the end of the West that fencing, the killing of the buffalo, and the reduction of open space to real estate indicated, the book is bleak indeed. But Camus' respect for the myth of Sisyphus is an antidote to pessimism by declaring that the single individual can assert his consciousness over despair and through an act of will achieve a humanity seemingly denied by a mere consideration of fact. Roll the rock, dig the hole, strike the fire--essence transcends existence.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2022-11-08, 02:07 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 2 times in total.)
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