I watched another Bourdain last night when he went back to Portugal. His last shows are on Netflix now and that are so poignant, like the last blooming flowers in the fall before the frost. He had a theme, the Portuguese word for this mystical longing, this feeling that something is missing. Soledade I think. I need to look it up. But their native songs are full of this longing for something missing but one knows not what. What is it? Bourdain began and ended his poem with: Everything is the same, yet everything is different.
And then there was the Killing of the Pig. Tony was at this family estate that was centuries old and this large family and friends was assembled for the killing of the pig, a huge hog that was going to be killed and broken into parts, each one savored and served as something separate. Nothing was wasted, not even the blood that was drained from the pigs cut throat as he made his last squeals. I think it got out three squeals before silence came.
The connection was made that we all die, and perhaps there is the Soledade…the sorrow in the joy, the joy in the sorrow….can they be separated? Is there life without death? And yet they stand apart. Soledade.
And so the killing of the pig and the Soledade and our rear view mirror knowledge that death was coming to Anthony Bourdain in a few years, I think. These shows were the sharp, crisp, brilliant fall colors of his life and career as a wanderer in Parts Unknown.
Stepping back to the metaphorical meaning of Parts Unknown, a picture that includes Bourdain himself, we wonder, we are mystified why he killed himself. We shall never know, so all I can do us take in the whole pig, instead of eating just one or another part…The sacrifice of the pig cannot leave any parts unknown.
But we can never know the whole pig, no matter how much we eat. That is the mystery of the Body of Christ. No matter how you slice it, how you divided it, you can leave nothing out, and even when you eat the whole pig, you have not put the pig back together again. Something is always missing. Soledade…
What I’m working with here, using Bordain’s videos metaphorically as poetic pointers to that which is beyond just the particulars of the show as a travelogue. Bourdain questions life itself and its meaning. Bourdain is a wanderer who like Jake Sully in Avatar records his journey on video. Bourdain is the eternal wanderer looking for his home. And in each show he find his home, yet something is still missing. He must pack his bags and leave. Like the Western Hero and the Son of Man, he has no place to rest his head.
Bourdain is like as visiting holy man who is treated like a special guest by his hosting country. They bring out their best food. And in return he make them famous, recognizes them, affirms them and makes them special…yet Bourdain must move on….Always outside looking in.
While Bourdain focuses our attention on the food and the beauty of his subject, he always points us towards something larger, something universal in us all. This is the mystical Bourdain, the poet Bourdain. The art of finding the universal in the particular.
All of the countries Bourdain visits are clinging to their culture for dear life against the incoming tide of global modernity. Even in the most primitive places you see iPhones, the portable window to the rising global culture that by its sheer force waters down everyone soup. The only hope for ancient cultures to maintain their mythologies and customs, their uniqueness is to become tourist attractions. The globe is being turned into a Disney World of showcase cultures, where moderns bored with their monogamy tour the world like Bourdain to find relief.
The paradox of secular modernity is that while it pushed sameness it longs for differences. In America, especially in the South, every town has the same strip mall. People fear differences yet long for it at the same time. People will pay anything for a surprise.
Our modern consumer culture offers differences through shopping, safe diversity, safe surprises, while it resists and fears differenced in people, in views and ideas.