Thursday 13 January 2011

Soctrates, Rocky Bilboa and Jesus. for my website for my best known image of Jesus sitting on the London Underground and not having anyone want to make eye contact for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Socrates, Rocky Bilboa and Jesus.   

I lay in bed last night and had the most interesting conversation with myself.  As I drifted in and out of sleep, turning this way and then that in the bed, listening to the rain fall outside, I realised that I knew all the answers.  I found that I could link all known facts together and make sense of them, and I could in fact, rule the universe.  It all made perfect sense to me during the night, and I was only mildly surprised that it had come to this, and that in between all this cosmic understanding, I was running happily through fields of vegetarian supreme pizzas and that my mother had hung tons of washing in my garden so that I couldn't find the door back into the house.  And that my real name was Marjorie.  As with all these lovely night time experiences, it was gone by the morning, and I can only barely remember that what seemed to be utterly obvious in a deeply other worldly sense, was, in fact, complete nonsense.  Oh but the certainty!  Last night I could have told you the answers to all the most perplexing questions, which I am glad I did not, because today I may be on some strong medication and held in a secure unit.  I jest.  We all know that I was simply dreaming.

But, I do remember a link that I like.  I thought it before I went to sleep so it is plausible.

There are those in history that are deeply fascinating and powerful for their words, their ways and their effect on the people around them. Socrates lived in Athens in a time of huge change, about 400 years before Jesus.  Socrates was born into a poor artisan family (normally.  Mum and Dad both earth dwelling) and from an early age showed a disconcerting intelligence and tendency to think outside the box.  He sought out the best minds that he could and walked the streets of Athens for much of his life, asking questions and bothering people by making them think.  His main aim it seems from the book I am reading right now, and remember I am only in the first few chapters, was to make people - and that meant All People, poor and rich, male and female, old and young - work out how to be the best that they could be and to be good.  Socrates didn't write anything down, it seems that not only did he not have time to do so but he didn't approve of it.  When he was 70, his questioning, eccentricity and persistance seem eventually to have angered enough Athenians for him to be arrested and tried on a rather trumped up anti-religion charge, for which the penalty was death.  He, the book says, did not seem overly afraid, and defended himself.  When he was found guilty, instead of running away which could, I read, have been an option, he stayed in his prison and like a hero, drank his hemlock at the appointed hour on the appointed day, and died. 

His pupil, Plato, wrote down what he remembered of Socrates dialogues long after his death.  As did others, so that what we know of Socrates is from the writings of his devoted followers after his death.  And today, we still admire, read and are influenced by Socrates.  A bit like Jesus, eh?  Except yes, Jesus had a Divine Dad and did glorious miracles.  And came back from the dead and had a Virgin Birth and was on first name terms with God.  Directly.  I don't think that Socrates would be considered Divine, he didn't do Divine things (that we know of).  His Dad was definately his Dad.  But he did seem to be divinely inspired, and consider Goodness the most pressing question, and drove people bonkers with his refusal to stop asking them how they knew what they knew.  All were treated the same, I believe, and the mighty who thought that they may be given leeway and let off the hook because they were Important and therefore Right, were sent apoplectic by Socrates letting them tie themselves in knots by his questions.  And, I think, according to the book, Socrates was highly religious in a deeply spiritual and individual way.  And wasn't driven by ego, he didn't want to be right, just to Understand and make others Undersand.

Rocky Bilboa is a puzzle to me.  As Yule Brynner in "The King And I" says, Rocky Bilboa "is a puzzlement".  A fictional character from the Rocky films, written by and starring Sylvester Styllone, Rocky Bilboa is Jesus like too.  Not that Jesus thumped anyone (that we know of).  There is something I can't quite pin down about this Rocky character.  I saw all five films with my dear 14 Year Old Son, or Boxing Boy as he is known, or Thumping Child;  Rocky is the creation of Sylvester Styllone who then plays Rocky.  And Rocky is simple in that he is uneducated, but oh so advanced in an other-worldly-niaive-but-beautiful-soul way.  He treats people with respect unless they don't deserve it (he gives them the chance to change though, and when they persist in being ghastly he says things like "You ain't good, your heart ain't listenin' and I ain't having nothing to do with that".  They get what's coming to them after that.)  The Rocky character cares deeply about what is right, and is brave and firm in his standing up to bullies, always against the odds.  Unlike Jesus though, he makes mistakes and his son is overlooked when he needs his dad most, and lots of bad things happen.  But Rocky's wife tells him "goddam your son needs you Rocky, " and Rocky is paralysed for a moment with the revelation.  It all turns out OK after that.  And then, dear Rocky fights the Russian killer boxer played by Dolph Lundgren, in a fight of Light against Dark, in Soviet Russia.  And do you know, Rocky wins?  Eventually, after bout after bout of insane thumping and belting the bejeesus, the nasty Russian Killer Machine is knocked out and Rocky, is hoisted shoulder high by the now grateful and pro American Soviets, and he makes a speech.  "We all gotta love each other," is the kind of thing Rocky says, and "so I love you all".  Russia and America are one.

But look at the film.  The character of Rocky is utterly simple, totally wonderful and very spiritual.  There is much to chuckle at in the film, with a raised eyebrow and a superior curl of the lip; but Rocky, the man, is compelling.  I would even say, he teaches us something.  There is the Jesus like bit.  Simple, compelling easy to sneer at but real.  Except that Rocky is not real.  Or is he?  Sly Styllone wrote him and starred as him.  Is there a touch of Jesus in Sly Styllone?  Lordy lord.  What have I started.

Once started, Jesus like qualities can be seen in loads of people.  That's very interesting. Socrates intrigues me, as you can tell, and I am only on chaper 4.  There is something about his lack of ego, his influence on people, his insights and intelligence that I find inspiring.  And I find Rocky Bilboa compelling.  And Jesus is a fascinating fellow too.  Oh it's all so amazing.  Think I am going back to bed now to find out what happens next.

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