Morphing Constellations and The Inevitability of Change

The most important piece of the process of interpretation and collaboration is that in doing so, there is often not a clear and solid answer or solution waiting at the end of the process. In fact, the process within collaboration is the valuable aspect of it, and is what creates an intersection between interpretation and collaboration. The process in which the readers of the Oven in Morrison’s Paradise interpret, agree/disagree and collaborate, though not flawless, is still a process moving forward. Being able to progress through this process of collaboration is a forward or upward movement, of course with obstacles, that is needed to reach the heights of paradise. 

The Oven, like the Eagle of Divine Justice, is a subject of uncertainty and depth when it comes to its message and meaning. It has been the center point of the foundations of Ruby since it was created and used by the founding families, and can be comparable to the eye of the Eagle illustration, in which the founders could be the stars in the constellation forming the eyebrow.  This would align with the desired views of the elders of Ruby, as it would maintain the importance and strength of history and the past, and how it should be learned from and acknowledged as a symbol to respect and preserve. However, in relation to the involvement of constellations in the Eagle of Divine Justice, it is important to note that constellations were made relevant by the histories and stories of people, giving permanent remembrance to people, their stories, and their values through a burning fireball in the sky. There is no truth in constellations, only interpretation, and in result there is no divine justice in this when constellations are man-made. In fact, the divine justice within this is the fact that the stars that make up constellations are not permanent, in their place in the sky or even in their existence, making them a true symbol of change.

As hard as the elders of Ruby attempt to preserve and maintain the meaning of the Oven in relation to their history, in the context of the full novel, the Oven comes to represent change and the inevitability of change, in which they tried so hard to avoid and discredit. The Oven itself was moved from its original intended spot, which already is “going against” the intentions of those who built it. Its purpose has changed entirely and continues to change, once being the central necessity of the community to survive and morphing into a gathering place and an outdated historical symbol. The debated meaning between “Beware the Furrow of His Brow” versus “Be the Furrow of His Brow” is only occurring due to the engraving being so faded it is not able to be clearly read and deciphered, which is a literal proof of the inevitability of change that even the strength and power of the past cannot overpower. Interpreting the text on the Oven, particularly between these two meanings, comes at very high stakes and cost for the residents of Ruby, and is an act that has created the generational and even personal divide between the residents.

Based on the many definitions of the word and act of interpreting, it is interesting to realize that the residents of Ruby were doing far more than trying to decipher and understand the meaning of either phrase. They were interpreting in the sense that they were performing in a particular way, with intent to push their own personal understandings of the original intent of the creators of the Oven. Because, however, the message was not entirely clear and true, the chaos that is created from uncertainty plays out among the people. It is as if each person is an actor in a play, and the play could not progress until this particular line was read and understood. In most cases, this would be where the actors would replace the line with improvisation, and move forward by assessing their current situation and reality and taking steps to adapt and change. However, because the elders were so rooted in following the path set forth by their history and founders, the supposed importance of this line could not be ignored, leaving them with no ability to learn, adapt and improvise. These abilities are ones that are becoming increasingly necessary in the current state of our world and our reality. Change comes whether we like it or not, and if we do not learn to move forward and in synchrony with the change, we will be stuck in a forever loop of ignorance and static. Being wary of the furrow in His brow, in the uncertainty and change that comes with it, only leaves us with no prospect of growing or learning, like the people of Ruby. However, being one with the furrow of His brow, embracing the uncertain and the inevitability of change, you maintain your ability to move higher; intellectually, spiritually, personally, and beyond. The people of Ruby attempting to read the phrase on the Oven use collaboration to try to reconcile the interpretive disagreement as a mechanism to work through inevitable changes they are facing in their community. They are still a cohesive unit, and everyone wants to maintain the strong ties and feelings of comfort and safety within their paradise of a community during the trying times of the surrounding time period. So, although there is disagreement between generations, gender, and race in the novel, this is an important and necessary piece of making positive progress towards change. 

The appropriation of Dante’s Paradiso in Morrison’s Paradise has enlightened and transformed my thinking when it comes to the both/and of interpretation and collaboration: We has humans have the inherent drive to find answers and solutions to problems through interpretation and collaboration, when in fact the process in which we engage in in these acts is the more valuable aspect of what we are doing. Morrison did not incorporate Dante’s work in order to restate his ideas and claims or to find the true meaning of his words, but rather to further them, stretch them and morph them in a way that her thinking guided her. She may not have aligned with or presented accurately every aspect of Dante’s thinking, but she respected his process and the thinking he was engaged in, which is what highlights the both/and of this process. People who have differing ideas about the same concepts can still collaborate and interpret in order to further the intellectual, emotional and personal growth they are pursuing.

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