Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for the Archetypes, April Fool, and Apollo

Welcome to the first installment of the 26 alphabetic entries of April!  Today's post will deal with two different archetypal figures, Apollo and the April Fool.


A Note on Archetypes
The concept of archetype is older than its Jungian developments.  Even if you don't buy-in to much of Jung, there is a strength, a primal-ness, and ubiquity of certain images, and this what I am looking to trade on.  I won't be worrying so much about the Jungian category that these images fit in (which archetype or blending of archetypes they are) as much as reflecting and playing with the images themselves.  I think tropes (in the sense of the addictive TVTropes, click on link below at your own peril) are a good sign that we are likely dealing with the expression of something archetypal, with something that has some serious symbolic heft.

Image by Willem den Hertog

Apollo
The Greek solar god suggests the Self as it blazes in power and the will, but this is desire civilized and cultivated, guided by the light of the intellect and giving light and warmth to all those so blessed to be in its orbit.  The Intellect is in the driver's seat of this chariot, carrying a cargo of knowledge, truth, oracular prophecy, medicine and health, music, poetry, and the arts, herding and colonial settlement, youth and athleticism.  Many are the gifts of this bright god, but they generally burn beneficently and not out of control.  (Negative scenes are not unknown, but there is a strong tendency to shift such things away from Apollo and towards Dionysios, the god of ecstasy, drunkenness, and madness: the desires let loose.  This is certainly evident in Nietzsche and Jung.  Cf. my post below on duality)  Apollo thus is the expression of many ideals of classical Greece and was later adopted at the dawn of France's obsessive classicism by Louis XIV, the sun king.  Even when not named, the anthropomorphized sun is a popular and persistent image.  In this part of the United States, its popularity in Hispanic contexts is especially evident.



April Fools
I'm struck by the solar imagery in the popular Rider-Waite Tarot card of The Fool.  This fair-haired youth, resplendently arrayed, is walking the path of doom, oblivious to danger and warning.  While not all those who wander are lost, the Fool obviously is.  But what of the solar imagery?  The golden youth, decked with laurels, his head in the clouds we see above clearly has solar elements of his own.  Is this a comment on the follies possible for the extreme Apollonian?  That one could dwell in one's head, in the realm of ideals, so much that one loses touch with earthly realities?

If that is one kind of fool, I don't see the connection with April Fools Day.  We are faced with a problem right away: Who is the April Fool?  Is she the person oblivious to the schemes of the merry prankster or is he the obnoxious prankster himself, who observes the day by trying to trick people all day long with outrageous and even humiliating pranks?  It might be an interesting normative dilemma, but I'm going to resolve it by distinguishing between the Fool who Pranks as the Trickster and the Fool who is Pranked, calling the latter the April Fool.  Dwelling in himself, the April Fool is insensitive to external realities that are unimportant to him.  He knows the date, but that the trickster is operative on this date is not duly weighed.  He doesn't see the trickster coming, and he is oblivious to the setup of the prank.  Someone has cut down the rope bridge at the mountainous chasm, but the Fool doesn't look.  Is he contemplating the reflective glory of Apollo in the vault of the mind or the vault of the sky?  Again, I don't think, most April Fools are so Apollonian.  They are focused actually on practical matters at hand like the yawning chasm in front of them.  Season aside, April Fools are apt to look more like this:
Image by Charles M. Schulz
The April Fool thinks the dog, if there is one, is barking a warning -- a warning it doesn't need to pay attention to because he's already hard at work on the case of the chasm.  He doesn't realize the barking is to lull him into forgetting about the dog as an important factor.  This will allow the dog to time its move perfectly, whether leaping at his back when AF is precariously balanced, or doing a run under the feet and tripping AF.  Hilarious! barks the dog.  I never saw it coming until it was too late, bemoans the April Fool.

What I've been groping towards is a distinction between the April Fool and the Apollonian Fool.  The distinction comes down to this: while the Apollonian Fool doesn't need a Trickster to fall off the mountain, the April Fool isn't a fool until the Trickster makes her into a fool.  The April Fool's is made a fool by someone else. This is different from a kind of Apollonian autism or absent-minded professorship.

Apollo is a big help, but not a big help when it comes to dealing with the Trickster.  Baby Hermes shakes him up one side and down the other.  Come to think of it, Apollo himself is more of an April Fool than an Apollonian Fool.  The difficulty is not being distracted, but of dealing with a master manipulator.  Apollo is fine as long as people are honest and is only in trouble when the smooth Trickster shows up and sets to work.  This is all starting to sound like cautionary tale for April and Apollonian Fools, so lest we forget, these fools are normally very happy folks...until they fall off the mountain in the case of the Apollonian Fool or are pushed off of the mountain in the case of the April Fool.

Whatever way you go, I wish you all joy of your archetypes, a happy April, and happy Abecedaries!

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