Except that by bringing something out of its context through comparison, one risks changing a story's essence. This can happen once one has chosen to objectify something - the way of looking that makes an idea foreign by setting it apart from the familiarity of cohabitation. Hadot writes how objectification of prefabricated phrases decontextualises them, now misinterpreted and mistranslated. Yet some ideas built out of misunderstanding, "have brought about important evolutions."
The traveller wishing to be systematic about all the stories he or she collects realises what Hadot writes, that the actual progress of thought functions rationally outside the bounds of mathematical thought or Hegelian dialectics. One becomes like Lévi-Strauss. One also comes to realise the large gap between the artistic freedom of making something new and the learned respect for the sometimes elusive meaning of the original context. Hadot explains that we cannot be sure of the original meaning of γνῶθι σεαυτόν, know thyself. It is possible to wander the earth like a disinherited maiden, making a patchwork quilt of deracinated maxims. This is our home, we may say, as we put the quilt into the dowry box which indeed follows us to that next home, wherever it may be.
Thence the notion of atopia - which we next find in Hadot's "Forms of Life and Forms of Discourse." Here, atopia refers to the strangeness of the philosopher in the human world. "For such a man, daily life, as it is organised and lived by other men, must appear abnormal, like a state of madness, unconsciousness, and ignorance of reality. And nonetheless he must live this life every day, in this world in which he feels himself a stranger and in which others perceive him to be one as well. And it is precisely in this daily life that he must seek to attain that way of life which is utterly foreign to the everyday world. The result is a perpetual conflict between ... the life one should live and the customs and conventions of daily life."
There are many forms of homelessness.
And if I return to stories of travelling, instead of looking to Hermes, troublesome in that he is honoured by thieves, I will think of 孙悟空 who is himself possibly a retelling - a story taken from its context, of Hanuman from the Ramayama. He is Sun Wukong, the monkey king, who gains supernatural powers from practicing the Tao. I choose 孙悟空 because he makes a Journey to the West, accompanying a Buddhist monk to retrieve the wisdom of the sutras. His travels are based on service, and the goal of the travels is knowledge that sets us free, not material wealth.
As Hadot says: we are wont to privilege who we are over what we have. What we have is also a place. But some people hide behind the conventions of the place, never rising above it to the courage to be a friend to those who may be passing through, i.e. those who feel their transience.
Who are we? I find that a very difficult question, on par with the question I am often asked, "Why do you live here?"
So I will answer in story, and take liberties like in Lee-Hom Wang's music video 伯牙絕弦 which takes its theme from the tale of BoYa and incorporates elements of Chinese calligraphy, reminding me of the hours I would play alone imagining that art as my childhood friends were learning it. What I remember about it were the very strict and subtle rules - only the trained eye could recognise the characteristics of superior calligraphy. Knowing those rules, it was surprising to me to see calligraphy appear as it does in the video. I was also surprised at how fusion in the video is a beat that is primarily Western. Why.
My story then is a Journey to the East, I don't have 孙悟空, a monkey companion - but like Sun Wukong, I have a character who is "awakened to emptiness." I could also do without his violence. In my story, the protagonists are also travelling for spiritual wisdom. Why spiritual? Because - and here I will borrow from Hadot, the words "'psychic,' 'moral,' 'ethical,' 'intellectual,' 'of thought,' 'of the soul' - cover all the aspects of reality we want to describe." Those words do "not indicate clearly enough the imagination and sensibility play a very important role ... although intellectual factors as definition, division .. reading, investigations, and ehtorical amplification play a large role ... [as do] ... therapeutics of the passions". 'Spiritual' indicates not merely thought "but the individual's entire psychism."
My story in progress is about bringing the whole world into oneself, through sympathy, because to only see part of the world or be in part of the world is bound to make one feel empty. As Gadamer has written, even if one has experienced a new culture and context fully through hermeneutics, and assimilates it to the point of privileging it, one can never forget one's first context.
We can remember Bakhtin: hybrids emerge. Must we, even if we wish so much to respect original context, fear the hybrid? Surely, in the final analysis, there has always been much idea exchange - and then periods of assimilation and formation of tradition. When I think of "tradition" I think of Chinese calligraphy and African masks in the sense that both have very strict rules, and any innovation must be within those guidelines, never complete transformation.
I would argue that to reach such subtle lines of definition of what something "is" represents some form of transcendence. Finesse. I do not see refinement in much of the quotidian, which is not to say that it is not there, just that it is today often beneath the surface.
A holistic globe would allow for such subtleties and yet allow for the "dance of meeting from form to form" that Davenport writes of, his example being the iconographic shift of a Macedonian coin depicting the head of Hermes on one side and a winged horse on the other, morphing, from copy to copy, into the Celtic coin that forms the image on the cover of his collection of essays Every Force Evolves a Form.
Just as much as I feel tension in never quite belonging in any single place, I feel tension in my very strong penchant for the uniform (even literally) and tradition where it is most clear cut. The formula I have found to allow for free, spontaneous creative play and respect for tradition is through the hermeneutic experience which looks to first listen to the tradition and then, once one has been informed by it, look to where it relates to the present moment. One is to try very hard not to misunderstand. But this ultimately depends on whether our own experience has made us ready to receive the new information.
So in the final count, it is a problem of audiences and the "impossibility of the general audience" (Hadot). We have not always been made empty enough to hold the fullness that is life. We are sometimes impatient to understand things that we have not made ourselves worthy of, or have not completed the appropriate prerequisites to properly access.