Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Exile and Return

Of course one of the traveling stories. One of the traveling away from home motifs. Is the exile and return.

Or maybe just exile, in some stories. Just exile, and the story ends there.

Or just return. And the story ends there.

And so the Bible begins in this way. In Genesis. Adam and Eve exiled from Eden.

Or take the story of Cain, for example.

Abraham told by God to leave the country of his home and go elsewhere.

Or take the story of Ishmael in the Bible and in Moby Dick.

Moses leading Abraham’s descendants out of Egypt and into the desert, there remaining for many years.

The Babylonian conquest and the Diaspora. Then the return.

The return of the younger brother.

The return of Jesus to life. Then his departure for Heaven.

The return of Odysseus.

The self-exile of. Oh. Let’s pick one. Oedipus. Or some. Medea. Einstein. Lenin. Gertrude Stein. Charlie Chaplin. Huck Finn. Joseph Conrad. Nabokov. And so on.

The pilgrimage. Traveling out and away from one’s home to find. To find what? Meaning? God? Peace? Beauty? Freedom? Oneself? So the traveling out and away, in the case of a pilgrimage, is a kind of return, a kind of traveling home. The exile is the return, in a sense.

And so all traveling becomes either a going out and away from or a returning or both. Sometimes self-motivated. Sometimes coerced. Sometimes motivated by the hand of God. Sometimes by one’s own hand.

And so the younger brother imposes exile on himself but then changes his mind. Ambivalence itself. And returns home.

And the older brother becomes alienated in his own home. Becomes a stranger in his own home, alienated by feelings of jealousy, betrayal, anger, resentment, spitefulness. Alienated by his own selfishness. His own sinfulness. Alienated from his father and younger brother by something in himself. A thoroughly modern protagonist. An exile in his own home.

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