Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Imprisoning the Sun God

Yesterday, out of no plan of my own, I ended up in the soft chair at my local library reading the The Man Who Grew Young by Daniel Quinn. I’ve read it before. In fact, I use to own it. But as with any good book that you loan out, it seems like you usually have a hard time getting it back.

Less than 24 hours later, I can truly say it was a pleasure to read TMWGY, again. As messed up as everything is in the world, for a few moments TMWGY gives you this feeling that everything is going to be all right.

What I’ve been thinking about since finishing TMWGY was an exchange between Adam (The books main character) and Merlin (A wizard that Adam runs into on his journey through Europe) about Stonehenge.

I should remind the reader that time is no longer moving forward (as we think of it to be) in TMWGY, its now moving backwards.

As they are walking to the river, Adam asks. “Why do you think they dismantled Stonehenge?”

Merlin answers. “It was time to release the prisoner.”

“I don’t know what that means”

“Do you know what a henge is?”

“I don’t know…something like a hinge”

Merlin responds. “Close, but no cigar. It’s like the word Girt. Do you know what an expression like stone-girt might mean?”

“Stone-girt…something like ‘held in by stone?’”

“That’s right. Stonehenge means ‘stone-hung.’”

“Stone-hung? I don’t get it.” Adams confused.
Not many people did in your ancient times. They thought it had something to do with hanging stones. Did you see any hanging stones there?”

Adam responds. “No, I didn’t”

A few moments later Merlin asks. “ So, what do you suppose was hung by stone at Stonehenge?”

“ I have no idea.”

“Yes, you do. And when I tell you, you’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s very obvious.”

“Try me.”

A god was hung on the stones of Stonehenge.”

Looking perplexed, Adam responds with, “Huh!”

“Two hundred generations of people labored to dismantle Stonehenge, dragging thirty-ton stones to quarries dozens of miles away. Why?”

“Didn’t they use it as a calendar to regulate the planting of crops?”

That was the God’s work. He was imprisoned to perform that service.” Merlin replies.

Adams baffled. “ I don’t get it.”

Pacing his cell, the god showed them exactly when to plant year after year.”

“What god was it?”

Merlin is agitated now. “Oh use a little imagination, for gods sake! Look…

Merlin and Adam lean over a drawing of Stonehenge that Merlin etched in to the dirt with his walking stick. Pointing at the drawing, Merlin calmly goes on. “This was the stronghold. You see. The Bastille. The Bluestone Circle, another century of work…the Sarsen Circle, a century of work all by itself…and this line here, this marked midsummer sunset.
“But that’s just the beginning. There was the midwinter sunset, the solstices, the equinoxes…all the days, all the moments.
“Does this give you any idea about the prisoner?”

“I’m not sure. The sun?” Adam asks.

“Of course! At Stonehenge, the sun was like a slave with one foot nailed to the floor. It was compelled to circle Stonehenge every year, in and out, decade after decade, century after century.”

“But that doesn’t explain why they got rid of it.”

“They got rid of it because they were sick of it! Every prison creates two sets of captives—inmates and warders, who are as firmly shackled to the prison as the inmates.
“The sun was their captive, but they were its captive as well, and they got tired of it.”

Rubbing his chin with a contemplative look on his face, Adam stares at the drawing etched in the dirt.

Now I’m rubbing my chin. I don’t know much about Stonehenge. I’ve only seen images of it on television, and in books, as I was growing up. But Quinn is trying to point out something that seems blatantly obvious. Is he saying that since they learned how to follow the patterns of the sun by using the structure of Stonehenge they imprisoned themselves to this structure? And if they suddenly became free from their enslavement,what other options are there?

And something else that has ran across my mind since reading this. What about the generations of workers who broke their backs to build this thing? Did they think they were imprisoning the sun god? They almost had to think that this is what people just “did”. I’m sure they didn’t give it any more thought than we do when we get up in the morning to go off to do our jobs. And most people who go off to jobs they hate have to be thinking to themselves there has to be a better way. We're the people that built Stonehenge thinking this too?

The Man Who Grew Young has definitely got me thinking.


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