Some things, you’ll never forget. Some memories fight their way through. I remember standing in St. Paul’s Cathedral for the very first time. I remember feeling the black hand of fate, and that Japanese couple splintered off from their tour group, struggling with the inscription. “If you’re looking for a monument to his life, look around you”, was what I hoped I’d said translating the Latin on Christopher Wren’s memorial stone into my broken Japanese. I remember learning that St. Paul’s had taken Wren 30 years to build after the Great Fire of London. I remember that it was the work of a thief in the night, stealing in and erecting the new when what the bishops wanted was things as they had been. I remember imagining Wren frustrated at having to hide his true vision. I remember reading about him unearthing one small piece from the original Cathedral—a stone phoenix with the single word, “resurgam”, inscribed; “it will rise again”—and I remember thinking of that as a turning point. And I remember rarefying the lesson, that language is a gift and it will allow you to endure, and build something that will stretch centuries into the future.
“To speak, but more so to write, is already to fast”, Deleuze and Guattari remind us in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. And in an interview much later in his career, perhaps his last, Deleuze suggests, “What is left, when we can no longer speak to each other?”. There’s a beautiful evolutionary drama to the birth of language. One that brings tears each time I remember it. Was it chance, or the pressures of natural selection, or did one or more of our ancestors feel the black hand of fate upon them, as I did that day in St. Paul’s?
The thing about language is this, it becomes a tool for disabling the cult of the alpha. Think of silverbacks or elephants (patriarchal with the gorillas or matriarchal with the pachyderms, it makes no difference). Their entire social structure hinges about one leader enforcing their will on the rest of the group. Language however, forced human beings down a very different path. With language, the humans who didn’t agree with the alpha, could simply speak to other humans and urge them to resist. Within a few generations the traditional mode of the alpha enforcing their will through violence would simply be nullified.
When you download this week’s exclusive preview of Red Lanterns #8, think of the true benefit of language, how it laid the foundation-stones for democracy not 250 but 25 million years ago. Think about Peter Milligan and what a gifted writer he is. Not because he clearly has cultural access to vast stores of scientific thought. But because, in describing the singular passion with which Jack Moore fights against the mindless bloodlust of being a Red Lantern, Peter is able to carve out high drama from evolutionary theory. And yet, he still tells a convincing and passionate and above all personal story about the protagonists.
And think about how very much this really is a turning point for Red Lanterns. The old paradigm of the unthinking bloodlust of the other Red Lanterns opposed with meditative mournfulness of Atrocitus, is clearly at an end. In Jack Moore, there’s a new kind of Red Lantern. The kind who’ll enact great violence in the cause of vengeance, not in spite of language, but because of it. Because ultimately, the gift of language is coalition. And coalition forces us in the kind of future that will forever free us from violence.
Please enjoy an exclusive preview of Red Lanterns #8: “Death on Ysmault”
// Notes from the Road
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