Sunday, January 28, 2007

Chapter 31: Unconventional Adventures in Time and Space

The concluding chapter to “Iceland Spar” explores the concept of time. Pynhcon tells us as much in the opening paragraph:

At Candlebrow U., the crew of the Inconvenience would find exactly the mixture of nostalgia and amnesia to provide them a reasonable counterfeit of the timeless. Appropriately, perhaps, it would also be here that they would make the fatal discovery which would bring them, inexorable as the Zodiac’s wheel, to their Imum Coeli……(406)

The following from Wikipedia:
In astrology, the Imum Coeli (Latin for "bottom of the sky"), IC, is the point in space where the ecliptic crosses the meridian in the north, exactly opposite the Midheaven. It marks the fourth house cusp in most house systems (this is reversed in the southern hemisphere).
The Imum Coeli is said to refer to our roots and also to the least conscious part of ourselves. It symbolizes foundations, beginnings in life, what may have been experienced through parental inheritance and homeland influences, need for security and relationships with the home and family life. It also may describe the circumstances that we will encounter at the end of our lives. Because this house was the most distant point possible from the visible part of the horoscope, Hellenistic astrologers considered the IC to be the home of the underworld, or Hades.
In many cases the IC refers to a parent — traditionally, the father. Modern astrologers may use the IC as a significator for the mother, or for both parents. There is no consensus in modern usage for which parent is best represented by the IC. The point is moot for Hellenistic astrologers who considered the fourth house the house of the father, but did not use the Imum Coeli as the cusp of the fourth house. Using the natural houses system (see cadent houses) and modern quadrant house systems in which the IC is the cusp of the fourth house, some modern astrologers see a correspondence between the fourth house and the astrological sign Cancer. However, traditional astrologers, using whole-sign houses, never made this connection.
In whole-sign house systems the signs and houses have the same boundaries; hence the Imum Coeli can actually appear in the third house, the fourth house or fifth house; in cases of extreme terrestrial latitude, it may even fall in the second or sixth houses.

The darkness of their adventure here seems to support the Hellenistic view—the chapter marks the boys' adventure to Hades in a way their underworld passage did not. It certainly describes the approach of the end of their lives.

This is of course, remarkable for the Chums. Like the Hardy Boys, who solve hundreds of mysteries across a multitude of municipal, state, national, and continental borders, all during Frank’s senior and Joe’s junior year at Bayport High School, the Chums are ageless, seemingly immune to the vicissitudes of time. The narrator associates this with the Chums time aloft from the Earth, disobeying both the Gravity that would draw them to the surface of the planet as well as the Gravity that pulls us all towards Death. Their extended stay at Candlebrow leads to an amnesiac existence where they almost forget their service as Chums, most particularly in the hilarious section where they are attending a military-like school, the home of the “Marching Academy Harmonica Band” (418).

The presence of the Chum’s “hierarchy,” or “patriarchy” becomes more ominous. As the chapter closes, the boys are off to an assignment in Asia, and the “Tesla device” they use to communicate is revealed to be both a communications and a surveillance device. The fact that the nefarious Alonzo R. Meatman is a “duly authorized agent” of the “Higher Authority” (425) is particularly troubling.

Interestingly enough, after ending this section with a focus on the implications of avoding the gravitational pull of death, time, and time machines, the next section, “Bilocations, “seems to deal with the subject of overcoming spatial constraints and conventions, such as the convention that we can’t be in two places at once!


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