As I’ve gotten deeper into the creation of the Eden in Babylon libretto, I’ve become more concerned with subtext: that wonderful unrevealed material that defines character for the writer and is craftily concealed from the audience so that they might feel free to figure things out for themselves.
Recently, I found in my workbook some notes on the background of the protagonist of Eden in Babylon, whose name, as you know, is Winston Greene. I felt it would be helpful for me to have a deeper understanding of just how Winston got to the place where the members of his birth community would be so concerned about him as to stage a major intervention on the very night of his presumed spiritual enlightenment.
I wrote the notes fairly quickly at a moment of illumination, then proceeded to forget about them completely. It was interesting, two weeks later, to unearth the notes and find out exactly what I had said:
“In Scene One, Winston is being metaphorically “cast out of Eden,” for the form that he had rejected was found in an instance of Eden initially, that being the mother’s womb. This later was expanded to the experience of the home-hearth and the overall umbrella of her nurturing, and also was connected to the great sense of warmth Winston knew as a boy, having been born into a privileged class. There, not only were his essential life needs met most effectively, but many of his personal desires and wishes were easily fulfilled as well. This gave him the strong impression, early in life, that there would always be enough warmth in his world to ensure the fulfillment of his dreams.
“Unfortunately, this sense of Eden was gradually corrupted. It morphed in a gradual and insidious way into an instance of Babylon instead. For though Winston sought diligently to uphold the initial innocence of an idyllic and uninhibited Eden, his efforts were obscured by the high visibility of his personal folly; for he indulged in this naiveté long past the point at which social restrictions would logically prohibit the more flagrant and shocking displays of his deviant behavior.
“Just as Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden on the basis of an offense on the part of a powerful authority (viz., the “Father God”), so is the end of Eden for Winston Greene. In his world, it is the Babylonian Mainstream of his birth community who have become offended by his completely innocent behavior, and it is they who have orchestrated his eviction from his own psychic home of Eden, his own unconscious extension of the conditions of his mother’s womb. For though his mind was sharply focused internally on the release of his Spiritual-Artistic contribution, any hope for redemption on the basis of such talent and devotion was completely obscured by the fact that even his most valiant and admirable efforts along these lines were in reality known only to Winston himself. For the people of Winston’s world saw only the disrespectful, impetuous scoundrel; and took his absent-minded permissiveness for an elaborate, premeditated act of extreme social offense. Thus they collectively sought his institutionalization on grounds of antisocial behavior, rather than encourage the ongoing production of his Creative-Artistic vision; which was of course, as an Artist, his primary focus.”
In light of these notes, one might relate Winston’s early life more closely to that of the Buddha than to any other major religious figure, because Buddha was brought up in an atmosphere of extreme wealth and decadence, only to be shocked when he first encountered the suffering of humanity in the form of a hungry and underprivileged class. This class of people will Winston discover once he is institutionalized, in the form of the many young people who have arrived there from broken homes, foster homes, abused backgrounds and other tentative pseudo-foundations. These are the “Children of the Universe” whom Babylon has robbed of the “experience of Eden” that our protagonist was so privileged to have replicated in his own affluent, though misleading, childhood.
Note: Some of the more esoteric language here might be clarified upon reading an earlier work of mine entitled The Form of Babylon and the Age to Come. (Link is to a pdf file of the text.) Pursuing the links in the block quote above might also be helpful, though they would require a lot of reading of philosophical text before one would grasp the context. If one is familiar with Plato’s Theory of the Forms from the start, that reading would be unnecessary.