Experience and preparation

Thursday, June 16th, 2005

Drawing from the last post and its active comments, it would seem that the fundamental conflict in Antigone is important. We know what happens: Creon acts, Antigone acts, and bad things happen as a result, with no godly interference, no god to swoop down and pause the action and aide the poor mortals in their bad decisions and woe, no Theseus to provide answers. Hence we’re left with the idea of judgement in the hands of Creon and Antigone and they become our ears and eyes into the Sophoclean world.

But this “contained” world provides very little control, just as it does in Cortazar. Fate is strong. What’s going to happen to Oedipus is going to happen regardless of what he does or what we do. Same goes with Sir Gawain and in the Star Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever.” In SciFi, the question of time always matters. If we’re put in a position of changing the future by interrupting something in the past, a past which has always led to our present position, we may suffer oblivion. This calls attention to the “rightness” of what happens in time. Don’t go back and change the past because that interrupt the “natural” flow of time; therefore, we conclude, what happens “should” happen as it occured without human interference. Changing even the most minor bit or byte of things, could result in disaster. But didn’t we create disasters anyway? Are disasters natural within the natural arrow? And if human agented disaster is “natural,” then is going back into time and changing something to avert disaster, is that not immoral then? If an individual could prevent 9/11 by going back and changing an element in the chain of events, would it be immoral or moral (hypothetically) to do so? This, yet again, assumes that the time traveller will make the right choice and is outside Sophoclean boundaries (and subject to what law?). If we could manipulate time, isn’t the ability to do so also “within” the boundaries of time itself?

The logic, of course, becomes strained here. In the text, the narrative boundaries for even the most complex of hypertexts are limited. The hypertext must have physical boundaries however they may be defined, by “resolution” or computer memory. There’s always a boundary, a last word. For some the boundary is where “they” stop. For others it’s the last count. A hypertext isn’t “the” universe which at this point continues to inch outward, extruding space. A game should close at some point, but not the universe. One day should lead to the next not continue to loop. Hense the narrative is “spatial.” It has physical boundaries.

But we know all this I think. Do we leave Sophocles with a sense of doom, paranoia, or satisfaction knowing that we “can’t” control everything? Do we leave Sophocles with a greater sense that we need to do better with the givens? We know we can’t leave Antigone thinking, wow, that was really fun watching those nice kids get killed off. Do we leave with a greater appreciation of “responsibility”?

2 responses to “Experience and preparation”

  1. susan says:

    Man, I want so badly to get deep into this, but have to cram for a test. But quickly, to this question…

    Your statement: “If we could manipulate time, isn’t the ability to do so also “within” the boundaries of time itself?”

    My answer would be yes. Time is only set to become history if it cannot be changed. If it can, that there is nothing immoral about the act of changing events within it. Nanoseconds (beyond our control) conspire with our controlled decisions to create what happens (happened). What if the terrorists had been held up in traffic and missed the flights? What if I could go back and somehow have taken over control of the situation? What if I did go back, taken control, and then promptly missed the twin towers but landed smack dab into the empire state building? What if another terrorist today were able to go back and aim the plane to destroy even more and more quicklu? You’re not questioning the morality of the act within the time frame, but of the very act of going back. I say it’s fine. But: We cannot do it. Yet.

    Can’t get to the other issues now. Maybe later.

  2. Cindy says:

    The idea of Fate is prevelant in almost any Greek drama (and even in some Sci-Fi). In Sophocles we don’t see Fate as a determiner, but rather as the force that keeps order in the universe. If you look back onto Aeschylus’ The Oresteia you see the concept of a family paying for the sins of the father. The House of Atreus is cursed by the act of Tantalus feeding his son to the Gods as a prank. Therefore over time, because of the Furies, Agamemnon must die and his son must avenge his death; Orestes must kill his father’s murderer (his mother, Clytemnestra) or be haunted by the Furies, but if he kills Clytemnestra he will still be haunted by the Furies. He has to do this because he is “fated” to bring justice for his family. If you take this thought and bring it into Antigone then it almost seems fitting that Antigone must die; she is in some way paying for her father’s mistake (even though he was Fated to do the things he did). I think that if you’re going to read Sophocles the thing to take away from it is that even if you do the “right” thing (whether you agree with Creon or Antigone), bad things will still happen, it is a part of human nature. The important part is that you learn the lesson and you live with it. The nobility of human nature is recognizing who we are completely and embracing your flaws.