The Ground Beneath Her Feet - Rushdie Last book you read: The Ground Beneath Her Feet - Rushdie

Sarah on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 02:08 am:

    i'm reading Salman Rushie's latest book called _The Ground Beneath Her Feet_. it's a retelling of the Orpheus myth, in modern times, with a rock and roll theme.

    many of you probably already know this, but in the myth, Orpheus was a part-divine musician who married Eurydice. she died young, and he was so distraught that he went down to the underworld to try to convince the powers down there that he should have her back. his music was so beautiful that they decided he could take her, on one condition: on their way back up to the normal world, she was to follow him, and he was not to look back at her, lest he lose her forever. just as he got up to the surface, he figured, well, close enough, and looked at her. ooops! too soon. the earth closed around her, and he lost her forever.

    and with that bit of introduction, i want to quote a passage from this book that rocked my world. (don't worry, it's nothing obtuse and i'm not trying to be pretentious. in fact, Rushdie is a really accessible *and* fucking brilliant writer.)

    "Disorientation is loss of the East. Ask any navigator: the east is what you sail by. Lose the east and you lose your bearings, your certainties, your knowedge of what is and what may be, perhaps even your life. Where was that star you followed to that manger? That's right. The east orients. That's the official version. The language says so, and you should never argue with the language.

    But let's just suppose. What if the whole deal - orientation, knowing where you are, and so on - what if it's all a scam? What if all of it - home, kinship, the whole enchilada - is just the biggest, most truly global, and centuries-oldest piece of braninwashing? Suppose that it's only when you dare to let go that your real life begins? When you're whirling free of the mother ship, when you cut your ropes, slip your chain, step off the map, go absent without leave, scram, vamoose, whatever: suppose that it's then, and only then, that you're actually free to act! To lead the life nobody tells you how to live, or when, or why. In which nobody orders you to go forth and die for them, or for god, or comes to get you because you broke one of the rules, or because you're one of those people who are, for reasons which unfortunately you can't be given, simply not allowed. Suppose you've got to go through the feeling of being lost, into the chaos and beyond; you've got to accept the loneliness, the wild panic of losing your moorings, the vertiginous terror of the horizon spinning round and round like the edge of a coin tossed in the air.

    You won't do it. Most of you won't do it. The world's head laundry is pretty good at washing brains: Don't jump off that cliff don't walk through that door don't step into that waterfall don't take that chance don't step across that line don't ruffle my sensitivities I'm warning you now don't make me mad you're doing it you're making me mad. You won't have a chance you haven't got a prayer you're finished you're history you're less than nothing, you're dead to me, dead to your whole family your nation your race, everything you ought to love more than life and listen to like your master's voice and follow blindly and bow down before and worship and obey; you're dead, you hear me, forget about it, you stupid bastard, I don't even know your name.

    But just imagine you did it. You stepped off the edge of the earth, or through the fatal waterfall, and there it was: the magic valley at the end of the universe, the blessed kingom of the air. Great music everywhere. You breathe the music, in and out, it's your element now. It feels better than "belonging" in your lungs.

    Vina was the first one of us to do it. Ormus jumped second, and I, as usual, brought up the rear. And we can argue all night about why, did we jump or were we pushed, but you can't deny we all did it. We three kings of Disorient were.

    And I'm the only one who lived to tell the tale."

    is that beautiful, or what? i hope someday i have depth and foresight to write something as meaningful and as straightforward.

By J on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 03:16 am:

    I think you already did,that is beautiful,I see you have read your mythology,your Bible,or your fairy tales,they are all the same.I hope you don,t take that the wrong way,I,m in awe,girl you are Deep,but that,s Good!!!

By Yeah Im back for a minute. Since the AOL block is gone. on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 04:25 am:

    What on earth was "meaningful" abt that?

    I must admit/I've never read more than the 1st couple of chapters of Rushdie's "Satanic Verses". So I'm definitely not fluent. But Sarah/are you really so incredibly young that you can still be caught up in the whole idea that "jumping off a cliff" is the only way to really live?

    Grow up.

    If there's one amazing lesson I've learned from living/it's the quiet majesty of the everyday individual. And the incredible courage & stamina it takes to cope w/the shit & stingbeans & trials & tragedies of ordinary days in ordinary lives.

    I have learned this from many people over the years. But esp. from a grandmother who gave birth to 5 children in a row who all died before their 1st birthdays/due to poverty & disease & doctors who wd not treat non-whites. Yet she didn't push her *husband* away. (The anti-miscegenation laws of that time did not allow them to legally marry.) She decided not to "go absent without leave, scram, vamoose, whatever". She stayed w/her man & continued loving him & making love to him/in order to create a family. Something that wd have meaning & resonance in the world beyond her lifespan. And if she had not/if she'd taken the easy way out & gone AWOL/the 10 subsequent children she gave birth to who survived wd not exist today. Inc. my mother/which wd mean I wd not exist today. That/for me/is courage.

    "Stepping off the edge of the earth"/or "through the waterfall" is a lot of bullshit that Hollwyood/'artists'/rock stars/New-age gurus/& phony real estate moguls try to sell to the public to convince us of how much more fabulous their lives are than our own/so we'll keep buying the product they peddle in order to get & stay rich. And becuz they haven't got the common sense God gave an alley cat. It's funny how so few people remember how many of them 'step off the edge' into fatal drug overdoses or car wrecks or prison. Becuz they were too stupid to learn when to say "enough of this madness, already".

    Do you really think the ties that bind us to each other in love in the REAL world are all just 'brainwashing'/Sarah? Haven't you ever loved ANYbody/even for a second/who was more important to you that yr own selfish pleasures? Or the words you read in books?

    You want something to "rock yr world"? Try facing tomorrow when yr 9 yr.-old daughter is hospitalized for acute myeloid lukemia/while you wait for approval from yr insurance co. for a bone marrow transplant that is yr child's last hope for survival.

    Do you REALLY want to know what it's like to be "finished ... history ... less than nothing"? Try being a Christian or Anamist living in the southern Sudan/who gets captured & sold into slavery. In 1999.

    You wanna step off into the unknown? Try finding out that you are one of the 30% of AIDS patients who don't respond to protease inhibitors/when there is no other more effective treatment available.

    People who insist on living their lives on the edge/putting themselves at risk over & over again/strictly for the sake of their own ego gratification/are not to be admired. They are careless & reckless individuals who don't genuinely give a shit abt anyone that might care abt them.

    Think abt what yr life wd have been like if yr mother/or whomever raised you/had decided s/he wanted to chase after "the magic valley at the end of the universe"/instead of sticking around to make sure you got fed & changed & sung to & read to & taught yr ABC's.

    Think abt what this world wd be like if even one quarter of the mothers on this planet decided to pursue the fearless unknown destiny you've quoted here as though it were some sort of grand ideal.

    REAL LIFE is not like a novel/or a movie. It's abt caring for the people that care for you. The editing may be lousy/the soundtrack may stink/but it's REAL -- not just words in a book that you can close & put away when you're done w/it. Real life is messy & frustrating & limiting & circumspect. Becuz it is filled w/obligations /many of which are not of our own making. But real life is also fascinating & challenging & joyous & filled w/unexpected possibilities. All of us who dare to NOT "let go"/who choose to stay put & love the people around us/may never find out what lies within that "blessed kingdom of the air" becuz we've decided to live firmly bound to the earth & the other humans on this Earth who make our lives worthwhile. And living w/& through those people that we love who love & aggravate & annoy & challenge us is what adults understand to be the real core of life.

    Self-love & self-indulgence have sent this world spinning into an orbit towards oblivion. Becuz everybody thinks caring abt someone else more than you do yrself is the ultimate sucker bet.

    Yet none of us -- even YOU, Sarah -- wd be here posting at this website if our parents & teachers & friends & families & countless others hadn't put our needs first. At least for a little while.

    You might want to be more thoughtful abt the ideas you choose to admire & promote/& what they mean in real-life terms.

By Gee on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 04:38 am:

    Geeze RC. That was freaking harsh. Calm down already, it was just a book.

By J on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 05:32 am:

    R.C.,did you get my e-mail today?We have all missed you,welcome back,don,t be a stranger anymore.But even though I have kids,and I have responsibilities,sometimes I just have to ask myself"My God,How Did I Get Here"?One of my favorite songs is (I don,t care what anyone says)by the Martinis,a song called Free."That,s because I want to be lost,don,t try to find me..."

By Sarah on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 07:42 am:

    i interpret that passage a little differently.

    to me it says, don't be so attached to your own ego and what other people tell you what is right and what is wrong, that you are not willing to take chances. don't allow yourself to be brainwashed into thinking that you don't have choices, or that you must follow in the same direction as others.

    to me it's a little less literal than your interpretation, RC. for example, you say "Think abt what this world wd be like if even one quarter of the mothers on this planet decided to pursue the fearless unknown destiny you've quoted here as though it were some sort of grand ideal."

    i don't think Rushdie was glorifying recklessness or running away from responsibility, but rather he's saying to be brave enough to take the road less traveled. to go against convention. to look to the stars in the West or the North for guidance, instead of the East.

    or for example, choosing not to get married and have a family in the first place, but rather choosing to take a chance by doing something that is conventionally unaccepted (and it's only unaccepted for no other reason than convention), whatever that may be. even if the outcome is unknown at best, or leads to your demise at worst, at least you took a risk and tried something different. i'm not really sure why choosing the road less traveled would be egotistical or selfish.

    but i do admire the vehemency of your convictions, RC. i'm always glad when people are provoked to really think and express themselves, even if it tends to lead you attack me personally and to make a lot of assumptions about me and my beliefs that are totally off the mark.

By Swine on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 01:26 pm:

    Don't jump off that cliff don't walk through that door don't step into that waterfall don't take that chance don't step across that line don't ruffle my sensitivities I'm warning you now don't make me mad you're doing it YOU'RE MAKING ME MAD!

By Sheila on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 02:31 pm:

    i enjoyed it while it lasted

By Semillama on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 02:32 pm:

    Wondered where you were, R.C.

    What would i do w/o all these literate passionate folks who care enough about each other to argue so much w/o even knowing what the other person looks like?

    If there is one thing I've learned lately, it's that everything is a choice and a lesson. Whether to stay within the bounds of convention or explore the fringes of human existence, whichever option one chooses to do in this life is necessary for the growth and survival of this truly unique species.

By Agatha on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 03:11 pm:

    which reminds me, i saw "the truman show" last night. imagine sailing to the end of the earth, and then reaching out and touching a blue painted wall? shit. that would be awful.

By Sarah on Sunday, July 25, 1999 - 04:21 pm:

    "To lead the life nobody tells you how to live, or when, or why. In which nobody orders you to go forth and die for them, or for god, or comes to get you because you broke one of the rules, or because you're one of those people who are, for reasons which unfortunately you can't be given, simply not allowed. Suppose you've got to go through the feeling of being lost, into the chaos and beyond; you've got to accept the loneliness, the wild panic of losing your moorings, the vertiginous terror of the horizon spinning round and round like the edge of a coin tossed in the air."

    this particular part of the passage for me brings images of the past... perhaps an east Indian wife sold off to a husband for the wealth of the families, who is then mistreated, who finds the courage to revoke her family conventions, her religion, and her society by running away and finding her own way. Maybe she'll be worse off in the long run, maybe better off. but she'd never know unless she was brave enough to step through the brainwashing.

    who knows. the bottom line is that you only get to live this life once.

    i really *highly* recommend actually reading this book. it's so much more than the quotes i've posted here.

    here's another, for example, more on the rock n roll/music tip of the book:

    "There are bands that are hit machines, bands that earn the respect of the music crowd, bands that fill stadiums, bands that drip sex; transcendent bands and ephemeral, boy bands and girl bands, gimmick bands and inept bands, beach and driving bands, summer and winter bands, bands to make love by and bands that make you memorize the words to every song they play. Most bands are awful, and if there are aliens from other galaxies monitoring our radio and tv waves, they're probably being driven crazy by the din. And in the whole half-century-long history of rock music there is a small number of bands, a number so small you could count to it without running out of fingers, who steal into your heart and become a part of how you see the world, how you tell and understand the truth, even when you're old and deaf and foolish. On your deathbed you'll hear them sing to you as you drift down the tunnel towards the light:
    Shh... Sha-sha... Sha-la-la-la-la... Shang-a-lang,
    shang-a-lang... Sh-boom... Shoop... Shoop... Shh.

    It's all over now."

By R.C. on Monday, July 26, 1999 - 02:36 am:

    I believe we only get to live once. But there are others who wd disagree w/that.

    Some of us barely get even one lifespan.

    I'm sorry if I was harsh w/you Sarah. But the 9-yr-old w/lukemia that I referred to is my godcaughter in NY. She lived to see 10 thanks to her mother's courage in fighting her HMO for a bone-marrow transplant & the angelic doctors & staff at Sloan Kettering who cared for her so well 2 yrs. ago.

    However/I found out Sat. that she is no longer in remission & once again in the hospital. And I start a new job (at a decent salary/for a change) tomorrow/so I can't just fly off to be there during her treatment/as I did last time. (The only upside to prolonged unemployment is that it does give one lots of free time.)

    Her mom is also a newlywed. I stood up w/her at her wedding over Memorial Day wknd. Up until Friday/she was still in the 'honeymoon phase' /which I've always imagined to be the most blissful state 2 people can occupy -- those first heady, romantic months after being married. And reading yr post made me think "What wd happen to S if her mom decided she'd been thru enuf/done enuf/given enuf/& didn't want to be bothered anymore? That she wanted to go AWOL w/her new husband & finally have some happiness & peace?" She never wd -- I don't think any mother wd. But what if she did?

    When she called me Sat. to give me the news... I can't really explain it/but there was something in her voice that wasn't there the last time. Something small & sharp & hollow. Like the sound of hope departed.

    S will turn 11 in Sept. And try as I might to fight it/to focus on praying & sending S & her family as much love & strength as I can/there is something inside me that keeps whispering "We only get so much luck in our lives. This time /her's may have run out..."

    I can't afford to be thinking those kind of thoughts. But who can control their thoughts in the 1st place?

    So that's where my head was at when I read yr post. Again/I apologize.

    For those of you who are the praying sort/I ask that you remember my goddaughter in yr prayers.

    We now return you to yr regularly scheduled randomness...

By Waffles on Monday, July 26, 1999 - 01:12 pm:

    good morning RC, pleasure to see you again...

By J on Tuesday, July 27, 1999 - 02:08 pm:

    R.C.,is the insurance company paying up?I know how tore up you must be,and your friend, what a nightmare,my prayers are with her.If the H.M.O. is giving her grief,take it to the newspaper,people are getting sick of this.A friend of mine works with this guy who had some kind of brain surgery and he has 4 visible holes in his head,his H.M.O.wont pay to cover it up,they say it,s cosmetic,what kind of shit is that?

By Sarah on Tuesday, July 27, 1999 - 03:01 pm:

    "But by then she was already passing into myth, becoming a vessel into which any moron could pour his stupidities, or let us say a mirror of the culture, and we can best understand the nature of the culture if we say that it found its truest mirror in a corpse."


    p.s. sorry to hear about your godchild, RC. my prayers to her, you and the family.

By Sarah on Thursday, July 29, 1999 - 06:07 pm:

    "Why do we care about singers? Wherein lies the power of songs? Maybe it derives from the sheer strangeness of there being singing in the world. The note, the scale, the hord; melodies, harmonies, arrangements; symphonies, ragas, Chinese operas, jazz, the blues; that such things should exist, that we should have discovered the magical intervals and distances that yield the poor cluster of notes, all within the span of a human hand, from which we can build our cathedrals of sound, is as alchemical a mystery as mathematics, or wine, or love. Maybe the birds taught us. Maybe not. Maybe we are just creatures in search of exaltation. We don't have much of it. Our lives are not what we deserve; they are, let us agree, in many painful ways deficient. Song turns them into something else. Song shows us a world that is worthy of our yearning, it shows us our selves as they might be, if we were worthy of the world."

By Sarah on Friday, July 30, 1999 - 07:16 pm:

    As we retreat from religion, our ancient opiate, there are bound to be withdrawal symptoms ... The habit of worship is not easily broken. In the museums, the rooms with the icons are crowded. We always did prefer our iconic figures injured, stuck full of arrows or crucified upside down; we need them flayed and naked, we want to watch their beauty crumble slowly and to observe their narcissistic grief. Not in spite of their faults but *for* their faults we adore them, worshipping their weaknesses, their pettinesses, their bad marriages, their substance abuse, their spite.

By Swine on Friday, July 30, 1999 - 08:07 pm:

    you should just go ahead and save me the $15 by typing the entire text on this thread...

By Sarah on Tuesday, August 3, 1999 - 09:29 pm:

    "For a long while I have believed ... that in every generation there are a few souls, call them lucky or cursed, who are simply *born not belonging*, who come into the world semi-detached, if you like, without strong affiliation to family or location or nation or race; that there may even be millions, billions of such souls, as many non-belongers as belongers, perhaps; that, in sum, the phenomenon may be as "natural" a manifestation of human nature as its opposite, but one that has been mostly frustrated, throughout human history, by lack of opportunity. And not only by that: for those who value stability, who fear transience, uncertainty, change, they have created a powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive, anti-social force, so that we mostly conform, we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skins of those identities which bear the belongers' seal of approval.

    But the truth leaks out in our dreams; alone in our beds (because we are all alone at night, even if we do not sleep by ourselves), we soar, we fly, we flee. And in the waking dreams our societies permit, in our myths, our arts, our songs, we celebrate the non-belongers, the different ones, the outlaws, the freaks. What we forbid ourselves we pay good money to watch, in a playhouse or movie theatre, or to read about between the secret covers of a book. Our libraries, our palaces of entertainment tell the truth. The tramp, the assassin, the rebel, the thief, the mutant, the outcase, the delinquent, the devil, the sinner, the traveller, the gangster, the runner, the mask: if we did not recognize in them our least-fulfilled needs, we would not invent them over and over again, in every place, in every language, in every time.

    No sooner did we have ships than we rushed to sea, sailing across oceans in paper boats. No sooner did we have cars than we hit the road. No sooner did we have airplanes than we zoomed to the furthest corners of the globe. Now we year for the moon's dark side, the rocky plains of Mars, the rings of Saturn, the interstellar deeps...

    That's my view. You don't have to buy it. Maybe there aren't so many of us, after all. Maybe we are disruptive and anti-social and we shouldn't be allowed. You're entitled to your opinion. All I will say is: sleep soundly baby. Sleep tight and sweet dreams."

By Sarah on Tuesday, August 10, 1999 - 02:44 pm:

    "He loved her like an addict: the more of her he had, the more he needed.  She loved him like a student, needing his good opinion, playing up to him in the hope of drawing forth the magic of his smile.  But she also, from the very beginning, needed to leave him and go elsewhere to play.  He was her seriousness, he was the depths of her being, but he could not also be her frivolity.  That light relief, that serpent in the garden, I must confess, was me."

By Sarah on Monday, August 16, 1999 - 05:07 am:

    On the ring finger of Vina's right hand was a glowing moonstone, her birthday gift from Ormus. She had already slept with the ring under her pillow for a week, to test it out before agreeing to accept it, and her dreams had been so erotic that she had awoken each night in the small hours, trembling with happiness and drenched in yellow sweat...

    They made love that night in Nichols's suite in the Taj Hotel...

    The first cloud is about to appear on the horizon. Ormus is speaking important words. "Marry me." He takes the moonstone ring off her right hand and tries to slip it on to her engagement finger. "Marry me right away."

    Vina grows tense, resists the moving of the ring. No, she will not marry him. She refuses, turns him down flat, doesn't even need time to think about it. (The taxi driver, inquisitive, is all ears.) But she does not resist the ring, she accept it, can't stop looking at it. "Why not?" Ormus's howl is piteous, even a little pathetic. Vina gives the driver more to enjoy than he could have hoped for. "You are the only man I will ever love," she promises Ormus. "But do you seriously suppose you're also the only guy I will ever fuck?"

By Sarah on Thursday, August 19, 1999 - 06:50 pm:

    The surviving male Camas were, all of them
    in their various ways, a couple annas short
    of the full rupee; Ormus Cama, neither
    homicidal nor mute nor sunk in a whisky
    stupor of defeat and shame, was both gifted
    and charismatic, and his strangeness only
    increased the attraction. So there were many
    ways for me to set aside my early doubts, to
    stop articulating even to myself, the obvious
    insight that Vina's sudden desertion,
    immediately after their long-postponed
    and profoundly satisfying first (and only)
    night of love, had badly damaged Ormus's
    sense of himself, had left him holed below
    the waterline, listing in the water, bailing
    furiously and trying not to drown.

    I could see the thick, paralysing fog of fear
    enveloping Ormus Cama, the sense of deep
    inadequacy revealed by his Cassanova act,
    his unstoppable Don Juanism. If Aphrodite
    had resigned from Olympus, if Venus had
    announced that her job wasn't worth doing
    any longer, it could not have hit Ormus
    harder than Vina Aspara's dissillusionment
    with love. He too had lost confidence, and
    faith in the very idea of Vina, the idea of
    there being an eternal and perfect partner
    whom he might perfectly and eternally love
    and by whom he might in his turn be rendered
    perfect and eternal. "I'll follow her to the
    ends of the earth," he once boasted, but he
    wouldn't even go as far as the airport.

    He had begun to fear what he desired most.

By Jane on Saturday, August 21, 1999 - 01:19 pm:

    I've written three messages on this site, after giving up completely on the internet, which seemed to be composed of 5 parts taking forever to get somewhere and five parts of really boring conversation and sites.

    Wanted to comment on R.C.'s living life message. Tha was a remarkable post. Encapsulated my own approach to life these days. As a parent of a l0 year old daughter who has been in remission from cancer for five years, and an adolescent son, who is highly intelligent, but likely to receive a diagnosis of bipolar, I was shifted out of the centre of my universe. And thank goodness, that's a high pressure place to be.

    I don't know you R.C., but I'm so sorry about your goddaughter.

    Thanks for writing that post, btw.

By J on Saturday, August 21, 1999 - 06:24 pm:

    Oh,now I feel bad for calling you constipated,I,m a dog. R.C.,is one fine woman,but she left us,I think she thinks we are all dogs.

By Gee on Saturday, August 21, 1999 - 07:45 pm:

    RC said something above about an AOL block, so maybe that's why she's not here so much, J. I wouldn't worry. I'm sure she thinks of you every day. I know I do.

By Sarah on Tuesday, August 24, 1999 - 07:04 pm:

    Death is more than love or is it. Art is more than love or is it. Love is more than death and art, or not. This is the subject. This is the subject. This is it.

    What deflects us from the subject is loss. Of those we love, of the Orient, of hope, of our place in the book. Loss is more than love or is it. More than death or is it. More than art, or not. It is the necessary additonal concept of the existential outsider, the separated man, the banished divorce', the expelled schoolboy, the cashiered officer, the legal alien, the uprooted wanderer, the out-of-step marcher, the rebel, the transgressor, the outlaw, the anathematized thinker, the crucified revolutionary, the lost soul.

    The only ones who see the whole picture are the ones who step our of the frame. If this is right then this is the subject also. If it is wrong, then the lost are merely lost. Stepping out of the frame, they simply cease to exist.

By sarah on Saturday, August 22, 2009 - 11:06 pm:

    it occurs to me now, that jumping off that cliff walking through that door stepping into that waterfall taking that chance lands you right back oriented to the East. and it's beautiful as you fall on the way down and back to Orientation.

    commitment is freedom.

    i love you.


By Danielssss on Sunday, August 23, 2009 - 12:52 pm:

    and now for some more randomness, forsaken by time and improved by the instant internet, some cliff forsaken and forgiven and flaunted

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