Allow me to begin with a caveat.
My personal argument is dependent on the evidence of fiction, on a discussion Bernard Winton’s latest novel, Breath of air. Social experts may believe this kind of proof and see ‘fact’ as even more trustworthy than ‘fiction’.
But even though it is true that the facts I will be offering is certainly not based on people and situations in ‘real life’ — whatever which may be — I would suggest that fiction may take all of us to the sources of social awareness and action, to the level that, while Levinas1 shows that awareness and action may originate in ‘gropings to which one will not even learn how to give a mental form…initial shock absorbers [which] turn into questions and problems’ and thus takes us into the dimension of ‘the archaic, the oneiric, the nocturnal’2 which in turn (as Levinas goes on to argue) has ‘ontological reference’ mainly because in that we are able to live ‘the accurate life which is absent’, a life, additionally, which is not automatically ‘utopian’ even though it denies ‘the normative idealism of what “must be'”. I would like to argue that Tim Winton’s latest novel, Breath, 3 provides this kind of understanding and that it can be one which could possibly be particularly within our glare on the marriage between friends and family, society as well as the sacred — at least if we consider Levinas’ further point that ‘the sociable does not decrease to the sum of individual psychologies’ yet represents ‘the very order of the spiritual, a new story in staying above the human and the animal’.
4 To start with, then, i want to look at the contemporary society in which the new is situated, a tiny mill community not far from the ocean in south Western Australia. Pertaining to the two children, ‘Pikelet’ and ‘Loonie’, the central heroes, it is a host to sheer dullness, what Levinas calls ‘the there is’, an impersonal emptiness which can be ‘neither nothingness nor being’5 but may well be the state which usually Lyotard phone calls ‘post-modern’, a state of ‘incredulity towards meta-narratives’6 in which there may be nothing over and above the home which etendu for quick and powerful experience. For Pikelet and Loonie, however , this hoping leads to a great encounter while using sacred, several mysterium tremendum et facinans at the heart of existence, while Rudolph Otto famously described it.
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