Thursday, March 23, 2006


While searching the 'net for canning equipment and storage/organizers for my studio, I was watching an episode of "The X-Files" - "In the Field Where I Died."

I only saw it in its entirety a few months ago and I was ever so slightly blown away... Not about international conspiracy, aliens or even mutant creatures in a small town no one has ever heard of... No, rather it's an episode about the possibility of reincarnation and a Jonestown-like cult in middle America. In the episode, Mulder and Scully are investigating a cult in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Mulder comes to believe that one of the cult leader's wives, Melissa (not Scully's sister - different Melissa), and he were sweethearts during past lives, perhaps even soulmates. During past-life regression therapy, he remembers details about a life in Nazi-controlled Poland and in America during the Civil War... It is the Civil War life that is particularly important to the investigation because the cult owns property bordering a field that was once a battlefield... where Mulder, as "Sullivan Biddle" died, after the US Army pushed through the Confederate lines at this unnamed battle, in the arms of his sweetheart nurse, "Sarah Kavanaugh" (Melissa). Scully was his sergeant, also killed in the battle.

At the very end of the episode, Mulder is in the field, looking at Sullivan and Sarah's photographs taken from the county's archives. Melissa had just killed herself when the rest of the cult committed suicide using Kool-Aid laced with Potassium Chloride. There's a voiceover of Mulder reading part of Robert Browning's poem "Paracelsus," and that's what blew me away:

"... At times, I almost dream
I, too, have spent a life the Sages' way
And tread once more familiar paths. Perchance,
I perished in an arrogant self-reliance
An Age ago; and in that act, a prayer
For one more chance went up so earnest, so
Instinct with better light let in by Death,
That life was blotted out not so completely
But scattered wrecks enough of it to remain
Dim memories, as now, when seems once more
The goal in sight again..."

Maybe it's just the way David Duchovny's voice sounds when he says the words, but I have got to get a copy of this poem! I can't find one on the web. It's apparently very long.

How come they don't teach this stuff in high school? I might have a better appreciation for 19th century poetry if they had... Instead, we only glossed over Shelley and Byron, and went right on to Poe with only one Elizabeth Browning and one Emily Dickinson poem each to get "the female perspective," as if it were a token thing... Not that I have anything against Shelley, Byron or Poe... They were just a bit... out there... in ways I can't really relate to on a personal level anymore, since apparently, I'm mostly past my gothic, morbid, and excessively tolerant of dangerous weirdness stage. I never got into any of their work very much anyway. Not like Shakespeare or Whitman... whose work I appreciate greatly but could know better. I don't know... for the most part, I could take or leave most poetry. (The only poem I ever memorized was "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Frost - it was an assignment in 7th grade. The only poem I can clearly remember my initial emotional reaction to is "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell, which I read in 11th - it was like a punch to the gut that leaves you queasy. The only poem that never fails to make me cry every time I read it is "Legacy of an Adopted Child" by anonymous for obvious reasons. I don't count epic poetry so much in with this whole "don't relate to or like poetry much" thing. Epics are in a category all their own.) But this poem "Paracelsus" by Robert Browning seems very interesting to me, going by what I've been able to find on the web.

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