Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Sphinx

Great Sphinx of Giza
Some people just disappear and it’s as if they’ve never existed and others, supernal presences, make serendipitous appearances in which they’re more like apparitions than flesh and blood human beings. That may be the way you regarded the Angel Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, a presence whose dramatic purpose is defined by the fact that he fulfills a need which is to persuade Jimmy Stewart he should go on living. A doppleganger or alter ego can also fall into this category. Scientists have identified dark matter and dark energy (which is responsible for the continual expansion of the universe), but it often feels like there's some kind of cosmic silly putty that closes in on the empty spaces and also provides the glue on which a new vision makes its entrance. It’s rather astounding how insistent the ego is and how it conjures its own self-importance right up until the end, always imagining new and greater triumphs despite the reality of imminent decay. One of the most common presences to metabolize out of nowhere is the prophet, who’s usually a robed creature encountered along a road. Oedipus met up with the Sphinx one of the most enigmatic presences in literature---neither fairy nor ghost, but a kind of gate keeper armed with riddles that function as passwords. “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?” Spoiler alert. Oedipus got it right when he answered, “Man--who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two legs as an adult, and then uses a walking stick in old age."

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