Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Kim discussion: Chapters 11 – 15

A wonderful ending to an enjoyable book. I had gotten a little impatient with the middle section, feeling it was simply marking time. But there was important groundwork being laid that pays off handsomely. There are several different themes and things to talk about, so I’m sure I’ll do the book an injustice, but here goes anyway…

Central to the book is Kim’s development and search for identity. The devotion he shows to the lama injures him greatly, as does the responsibility he takes on in The Great Game. He has certainly matured, with deeper feelings toward the lama of affection and attachment. There are two sides to illusions that he passes or recognizes—Mr. Lurgan’s illusionary tests as well as the lama’s achievement beyond worldly desire. His sense of responsibility has fully developed, risking his life in retaliation for the assault on the lama, carrying out his duty in procuring the spy’s documents, giving strength and support to the lama for his spiritual journey, and avoiding the sensual pleasure offered in order to carry out all these things.

Kim becomes something greater by these developments, as does the novel. It becomes a joyous achievement, a celebration even though there is self-doubt and questioning throughout. Once again, Kim questions who he is, but this time he receives an intimation of an answer—despair before enlightenment:
All that while he felt, though he could not put it into words, that his soul was out of gear with its surroundings - a cog-wheel unconnected with any machinery, just like the idle cog-wheel of a cheap Beheea sugar-crusher laid by in a corner. The breezes fanned over him, the parrots shrieked at him, the noises of the populated house behind - squabbles, orders, and reproofs - hit on dead ears.

'I am Kim. I am Kim. And what is Kim?' His soul repeated it again and again.

He did not want to cry - had never felt less like crying in his life - but of a sudden easy, stupid tears trickled down his nose, and with an almost audible click he felt the wheels of his being lock up anew on the world without. Things that rode meaningless on the eyeball an instant before slid into proper proportion. Roads were meant to be walked upon, houses to be lived in, cattle to be driven, fields to be tilled, and men and women to be talked to. They were all real and true - solidly planted upon the feet – perfectly comprehensible - clay of his clay, neither more nor less.

Kim’s revelation takes place only moments before the lama reveals his attainment (one additional long quote, but the second highpoint of the chapter and novel):

'Hear me! I bring news! The Search is finished. Comes now the Reward... Thus. When we were among the Hills, I lived on thy strength till the young branch bowed and nigh broke. When we came out of the Hills, I was troubled for thee and for other matters which I held in my heart. The boat of my soul lacked direction; I could not see into the Cause of Things. So I gave thee over to the virtuous woman altogether. I took no food. I drank no water. Still I saw not the Way. They pressed food upon me and cried at my shut door. So I removed myself to a hollow under a tree. I took no food. I took no water. I sat in meditation two days and two nights, abstracting my mind; inbreathing and outbreathing in the required manner ... Upon the second night - so great was my reward - the wise Soul loosed itself from the silly Body and went free. This I have never before attained, though I have stood on the threshold of it. Consider, for it is a marvel!'

'A marvel indeed. Two days and two nights without food! Where was the Sahiba?' said Kim under his breath.

'Yea, my Soul went free, and, wheeling like an eagle, saw indeed that there was no Teshoo Lama nor any other soul. As a drop draws to water, so my Soul drew near to the Great Soul which is beyond all things. At that point, exalted in contemplation, I saw all Hind, from Ceylon in the sea to the Hills, and my own Painted Rocks at Such-zen; I saw every camp and village, to the least, where we have ever rested. I saw them at one time and in one place; for they were within the Soul. By this I knew the Soul had passed beyond the illusion of Time and Space and of Things. By this I knew that I was free. I saw thee lying in thy cot, and I saw thee falling downhill under the idolater - at one time, in one place, in my Soul, which, as I say, had touched the Great Soul. Also I saw the stupid body of Teshoo Lama lying down, and the hakim from Dacca kneeled beside, shouting in its ear. Then my Soul was all alone, and I saw nothing, for I was all things, having reached the Great Soul. And I meditated a thousand thousand years, passionless, well aware of the Causes of all Things. Then a voice cried: "What shall come to the boy if thou art dead?" and I was shaken back and forth in myself with pity for thee; and I said: "I will return to my chela, lest he miss the Way." Upon this my Soul, which is the Soul of Teshoo Lama, withdrew itself from the Great Soul with strivings and yearnings and retchings and agonies not to be told. As the egg from the fish, as the fish from the water, as the water from the cloud, as the cloud from the thick air, so put forth, so leaped out, so drew away, so fumed up the Soul of Teshoo Lama from the Great Soul. Then a voice cried: "The River! Take heed to the River!" and I looked down upon all the world, which was as I had seen it before - one in time, one in place - and I saw plainly the River of the Arrow at my feet. At that hour my Soul was hampered by some evil or other whereof I was not wholly cleansed, and it lay upon my arms and coiled round my waist; but I put it aside, and I cast forth as an eagle in my flight for the very place of the River. I pushed aside world upon world for thy sake. I saw the River below me - the River of the Arrow - and, descending, the waters of it closed over me; and behold I was again in the body of Teshoo Lama, but free from sin, and the hakim from Decca bore up my head in the waters of the River. It is here! It is behind the mango-tope here - even here!'

A wonderful passage with a father’s love for Kim. Prior to relaying his attainment, the lama tells Kim “all my thoughts were theeward.” The lama achieves what he thinks is Enlightenment, only to turn back due to his anxiety for Kim…which causes him to achieve true Enlightenment through his concern.

In the middle section I mentioned that there were very few significant females in the book. In the last section, the Kulu widow shows up again with her most noteworthy contribution. As the lama points out, “She is virtuous, kindly, hospitable - of a whole and zealous heart. Who shall say she does not acquire merit?” The fallen woman of Shamlegh tempts Kim with carnal pleasure, but always provides him and the lama with necessities to survive and return to the plains. Again, very much a male novel but the few women shown assist the men with their missions.

Again, a wonderful book with memorable characters. The lama and Hurree Babu are by far my favorites. I hope to have the 1950 movie version soon in order to compare to the book. I’m expecting more emphasis on the action/adventure part of the story, needless to say.

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