The new year has landed in my lap, still a time of isolation, almost two years since «society locked down» and may have become the new normal? Of course, the pandemic will pass, or we will get used to Covid’s presence in our lives, but almost two years of «differentness» have led to changes. Take teaching for example, digitalization has arrived, new expertise has been acquired, it will not disappear when the pandemic is declared over.

Another consequence of the pandemic is that I have started knitting (a thing I did in my youth). Knitting is «easy», it is tactile, when I must spend many hours in front of the computer and the knitting gives a sense of mastery of seeing something moving forward, because isolation can quickly be confused with stagnation. Knitting is a sacred everyday thing.

Isolation is also about age. Take the folk tales, the protagonist of the folk tales is often and mainly about the young person who is about to grow up. In the Norse and Greek myths, old age is more or less absent, the gods have aids that keep them eternally young. It is almost fatal among the Norse gods when Idunn, with her rejuvenating apples, has disappeared, and the gods feel old age aches in their bodies.

Yet Odin wakes up an elderly woman, pulls her out of a compost heap when he needs to know more. In adolescence, mimetic desire drives someone forward. Old age is seen as something stagnant, literally through motifs like an old hag standing with her nose stuck in a stump in the woods she has been standing there for three hundred years.

Yes, the youth must also go through an isolation in their journey. They are deprived of all relationships, as a family and placed in an unknown and alien landscape to emphasize their isolation. It is a phase in the youthful quest, the isolation is a necessity to reset the character so that this one can find his or her real desire. But what the isolation for good, for example, in the forest, it is old age living, the wise one who should advise the youth. One that by society’s standards is no longer driven by the desire. This is how one can interpret the folktales.

As I get older, I become more invisible, another form of isolation. I am deprived of the connection to the desire, perhaps because I am no longer a fertile woman. I am no longer promising, and for instance, starting with something new isn’t facilitated, it’s a market reserved for those who are far younger.

The desire is central to mimesis, it drives us forward, past what is supposed to meet our needs, but, according to Per Bjørnar Grande, who uses the French philosopher Rene Girard as the basis, the desire is also based on someone else’s desire. When our needs are met, the desire is still there. He writes (my translation):

 «The desire is therefore based on the interpersonal and works through its own legality. This legality is based on the fact that the desire is shaped in relation to someone else’s desire. In that way, one can talk about an imitative infection, in which everyone, more or less, affect each other and help form the personality and psyche of each other. (Grande, 2014, s. 45)».

In a certain amount, the desire is important in our lives, but one must make sure that it does not turn into madness, violent jealousy, or the like.

The thirteenth fairy godmother or she who is not invited, in the folk tale about Snow White or in the epic the Iliad of Homer, where she is the initial cause of the Great War, is based on a view of the isolated woman (Seago, 2002). This was especially true of the woman who did not have children of her own. In the societies where these stories arose, the woman’s most important and perhaps only task was to bring children into the world, she was not even the cause of the child, for the child was planted in her by the man and she was someone who would carry the man’s child.

The woman who was alone was even more isolated because she was seen as something that created an imbalance in society (Seago, 2002). This motif is still present, this image of the woman who for various reasons is outside “the normality” and especially if she reaches a certain age, then she is a weirdo.

Sources

Grande, P. B. (2014). Begjærets natur. TIDSSKRIFT FOR PSYKISK HELSEARBEID · Volum 11 · Nr.1, ss. 44-53.

Seago, K. (2002). Construction the witch. I I. M. Blayer, & M. Sanchez, Storytelling Interdisciplinary & Intercultural Perspectives (ss. 72-83). New York: Peter Lang.

 

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