16 min readMar 12, 2024


CAN ART STOP WAR? by Gerry Fialka March 12, 2024

Having been recently in the news about hosting FINNEGANS WAKE Reading Clubs, I was advised by a wise friend, Bruce, to use this recognition wisely.

Can the WAKE be read as a peace manifesto to help us realize conflict resolution can be attained by means other than military?

ReJoyce and see the light. Find the commonality in everyone. The humanity of the WAKE’s protagonist, “Here Comes Everybody” is described by Louis Gillet: “the mystery of the titanic figure H.C.E., the unique, many-faceted hero of innumerable incarnations … the language he had adopted in order to give his vocabulary the elasticity of sleep, to multiply the meanings of words, to permit the play of light and color, and make of each sentence a rainbow to which each tiny drop is itself a many-hued prism.”

The rainbow is never ending. The newspapers and radio media swirl emphasize that our WAKE reading “ended” on the last page 628. Not true. The book is cyclical, the last sentence ends mid-sentence and picks up right at the beginning. It is never ending. All times are happening NOW!!! This all-at-onceness evokes what is happening on the planet earth right now. Why not satirize the multi-verse’s sensory overload, and emulate James Joyce?

How can we sustain the simultaneity? Easy, smeasy. Bottom line, we’d appreciate it if the press, and everyone, made a bigger deal out of Joyce’s promotion of peace. Flip T. S. Eliot’s “In my beginning is my end,” into “in my end is my beginning.” You know kinda like Joyce did on page 278, “land me arears.” Chris Hedges begins his book War Is A Force that Gives Us Meaning with the Plato maxim “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” So stand on the shoulders of these giants, and muster metacommentary into . . .

Right off the bat . . . Marshall McLuhan flipped the cliche, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” by Oscar Wilde into “imitation is the sincerest form of battery.” So, by flipping a cliche into an archetype, we’ll start this genuine fake essay. Shall we imitate Joyce’s no-content novel FINNEGANS WAKE into gibberish that’ll keep you busy for 3 minutes, 3 months, 3 years? Mimicking Joyce’s desired goal of 300 years? or is that “yearns?”

Lois Beckett asked in The Guardian November 12, 2023 “Was I writing about Finnegans Wake, or was I suddenly inside it?”

McLuhan emphasized that media and technologies create new environments (in his book War and Peace in the Global Village). In his book The Gutenberg Galaxy (page 268), he notes that Joyce devised “individual pass-keys to the collective unconsciousness, as he declared on the last page of the WAKE.” Sam Horgan wrote in Scientific American August 10, 2012: “But to my mind, Joyce exemplifies Noam Chomsky’s dictum that we will always learn more about ourselves from literature than from science. In the 90 years since Ulysses was published, scientists have not progressed much toward a theory of consciousness. Hence the persistence of creaky old paradigms like psychoanalysis and even behaviorism, which assumes, absurdly, that mind doesn’t matter. Although Joyce didn’t offer a theory of consciousness, he gave us a better sense of what consciousness is, and for that we should be grateful.”

And we are grateful McLuhan asked questions that were new, like, “How about technologies as the collective unconscious and art as the collective unconsciousness?” Think about it.

Experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton suggested that if one is going to lecture on film, one should be in a room with the lights out. He also said that narrative is born among the “animal necessities of the spirit” because we are “waiting to die.” Joyce forgot to die! We ain’t going away alone . . . “A way, a lone a last a loved a long the . . .” (page 628) “ . . .riverrun . . .” (page 3).

Wow, the Marshall McLuhan-FINNEGANS WAKE Reading Club receives world-wide press and radio coverage since we spent 28 years reading the book aloud with a group of people in Venice California. Then rebirth, and we began reading it again in November, 2023. It is a cyclical circus. This Mobius strip of mosaic writing, FINNEGANS WAKE, is the “the greatest guide to the media ever devised on this planet, and is a tremendous study of the action of all media upon the human psyche and sensorium.” — McLuhan. Wake up all you Finnegans.

You can laugh that we took 28 years to read one novel, but please note that James Joyce took 28 languages to affirm one word to the world: “Peace.”

On the eve of war in 1939, Joyce called for peace and repeated the word peace in 14 pairs in 28 languages. Síocháin is Irish for peace, just like salaam and shalom is peace in Arabic and Hebrew. And Joyce wrote in both Ukrainian and Russian, too, calling on each for “mir” and “myr.” Joyce knew then what we know now, the world needs peace.

See page 271 of FINNEGANS WAKE, or take my word as one of his unhurried readers: Joyce wrote a powerful call for peace. Sure, he gave the call his twist, his Joyce touch, rendering it “Mirra! Myrha! Solyma! Salemita!” But he caps this 28-word play on the words of peace with a prayer of reverent clarity: “O Peace!”

Joyce mashed up two words “please” and “peace” on page 278 to form “Plece.” Professor James A. W. Heffernan wrote: “Against the threat of war and annihilation, Joyce proclaims — in his own inimitable way — the power to re-create language, to ridicule dictatorship, and to rise again — like Finnegan.” He evokes the phoenixology of the immortal bird that cyclically regenerates and is born again.

Author of the book The Ethics of Love, Dr. Benjamin Boysen wrote “From all accounts, Joyce is said to have claimed that World War II need never have happened if Europeans had read his last book, FINNEGANS WAKE.”

McLuhan warned that “World War III will be a guerrilla information war, with no divisions between military and civilian participation.” Are you reading? Taking action?

James Joyce said, “Now they’re bombing Spain. Isn’t it better to make a joke instead, as I have done?” That reminds me of Frank Zappa saying, “I’m very serious about being not serious.” Frank listed Joyce as an influence on his first album, Freak Out, in 1966. Through his music and song lyrics, Frank teaches us how to embrace contradictions.

Another key WAKE word is “Laughtears.” We laugh and we cry, the human condition. We fall, then we get backup. There’s dark and light. It is both simple and complex, as in the book title: The Media Simplex: At the Edge of Meaning in the Age of Chaos by Donald F. Theall. Dream awake in satirizing information overload with another WAKE word mash-up: “chaosmos,” that combines “chaos” and “cosmos,” evoking the cyclic dance of creation. The constant universal and complementary movement between chaos and cosmos, between disorder and order, between harmony and dissonance. The “in-betweenness” is ringing for me and my pals. For everyone! Hear Comes Everybody!

Scholar/researcher supreme Corey Anderson Dansereau, points out the WAKE lines: “alls war that ends war”! (page 279) and the “war has meed peace” (page 518) is a war! It’s what Michael Aquino called the “MetaForce Branch” of the military, a green beret that wages MindWar. This is what’s happening in the Willingdone Museyroom — the cosmotechnicians (Kant and Gunn and Crowley) toppling the old-school militarist nationalists (Napoleon) using dirty tricks and erotic magick! A prophecy of the future of mankind, metaphysical Waterloos forever! Compare HG Wells on information warfare, war in the medium of knowledge as “Ultimate Warfare, the crowning transformation of war”

Marija Gimbutas showed us, in the words of Joseph Campbell, “an actual age of harmony and peace in accord with the creative energies of nature which for a spell of some four thousand prehistoric years anteceded the five thousand of what James Joyce has termed the ‘nightmare’ (of contending tribal and national interests) from which it is now certainly time for this planet to wake.” — from the foreword to her 1989 book, The Language of the Goddess. Gimbutas, as an archeologist of prehistoric Europe, documented findings showing that these goddess- and woman-centered cultures were peaceful, without weapons and warfare. She inspired systems scientist Riane Eisler’s 1987 book The Chalice and the Blade, which promotes “partnership.” These themes resound on every page of the WAKE.

Since the WAKE is the history of everything that ever happened, and will happen, the study of Gimbutas reverberates with the knowledge that we humans are not naturally violent. There were 4,000 years of no warfare. The Greeks start introducing weaponry, horses and chariots around 1700 BC. We are not wired for war. We are wired for cooperation. Why do we accept that war is inevitable? McLuhan learned from Joyce “There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.”

Contemplate “matristic,” which means “being or relating to a prehistoric female-led society based around Mother Goddess worship.” Matristic is based in the word “matrix,” which is etymologically rooted in “the womb, source, origin, mother.” One of my favorite T-shirt slogans is “The Matrix is a Documentary.” This is for real, people. We can find commonality and humanity in cooperation. Motherly love. Seek peace. Nurture partnerSHIP. Ahoy.

“History … is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake” is one of Joyce’s most repeated lines. On page 728 of Richard Ellmann’s Joyce biography (Revised Edition), “Joyce says to Beckett ‘What is the use of this war?’ and Ellmann adds, “Joyce was convinced that the war was distracting the world from reading Finnegans Wake, in which the unimportance of wars in the total cycle of human activity was made perfectly clear.” He also said that “Cain and Abel were the origin of war” and that he chose Ulysses because “he was a war dodger who tried to evade military service by simulating madness.” Finally, Ellmann points out that, in Ulysses, Stephen states “his contention that the authorities, religious and secular, must be defeated in spiritual rather than corporeal warfare.”

What really changes us? Can printed matter genuinely change us? Can agitprop artivism, prankterism, culture jamming, billboard banditry change us?

Can cinema? In 1924, D.W. Griffith proclaimed “In the year 2024 the most important single thing that the cinema will have helped in a large way to accomplish will be that of eliminating from the face of the civilized world all armed conflict.”

Can comedy? Robin Williams said we should fight wars with rubber chickens and yell “your mama wears army boots” instead of warfare. What are the alternatives?

In the WAKE, Joyce engages in a “war in words” (page 98) invading English with a barrage of dozens of other tongues, “Miscegenations on miscegenations” (page 18). Jacques Derrida, riffing on the single phrase “he war” from the WAKE page 258, insisted Joyce “declared war in language and on language and by language.” (from Derrida’s Two Words for Joyce) Yet Joyce’s “war in words” is powered by feelings of love and laughter, an undermining of the structures of authority through humor and levity. After all, Shem the Penman, emblematic of the author of the WAKE, composes “o peace a farce” (page 14), a piece of art that is farcical and also a force for peace. “Is the Pen Mightier Than the Sword?” the WAKE asks on page 306. From his “inkbattle house” (page 176), Joyce/Shem the Penman cunningly attacks the powers of “awethorrorty” (page 516) with his comedic art.

When McLuhan was asked “What do you suggest as alternatives that we offer instead of the search for identity through violence?” Marshall wisely responded: “Dialogue. The alternative to violence is dialogue, which is a kind of encounter interface with others, people and situations. Yes, we live in a world in which we have so much power. In the old days, you could fire or pull a trigger on a revolver and hurt people, but today, when you trigger this vast media that we use, you are manipulating entire populations.”

Krishnamurti said: “Violence is ‘like a stone’ dropped in a lake: the waves spread and spread; at the centre is the ‘me.’ As long as the ‘me’ survives in any form, very subtly or grossly, there must be violence, apart from dealing with the problem of individual and collective violence, also contain frequent references to what is and what is not the religious mind.”

On my Youtube podcast “I’m Probably Wrong About Everything” I asked Sam Slote, who co-edited the landmark book How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake, “how has studying Joyce shaped your behavior?” He said, “I try to be more tolerant, but I probably don’t always succeed.” Sam emphasizes these words from the WAKE: “First we feel, then we fall.” How can studying Joyce make us more tolerant?

Face it, people, Joyce’s 1939 book FINNEGANS WAKE probes and promotes peace over military in resolving conflict. Today, we still resort to military. What’s up with that? Is no one awake? In the tradition of promoting peace, Joyce’s response to the nightmarish history of warfare is exactly stressed in three words on page 364 “peace peace perfectpeace!”

Writer Philippe Sollers famously pronounced that the novel is the most formidably anti-fascist work produced between the two World Wars. Author Benjamin Boysen stresses: “Joyce’s self-declared war on language in the WAKE effectively fuses the poetic with a hilarious socio-ideological critique. Joyce’s new language thus paves the way — through its linguistic ridicule and deconstruction of the established, repressive power-ideologies — for an opening up of the new: a dynamic potentiality stressing freedom, love, and solidarity.”

Let us echo “stressing freedom, love, and solidarity.” That is pure, uncut humanness. Possible?

“Joyce joked that Finnegans Wake dealt in ‘unfacts [ . . . ] too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude’ (page 57), but the book’s challenge to factuality most frequently arises from the proliferation of possible alternatives rather than their scarcity.” — Matthew Creasy.

What are the alternatives to war? Let us turn to the words of painter/poet William Blake, “For mercy has a human heart, Pity, a human face, And Love, the human form divine, And Peace, the human dress.” We must don the human dress, and manifest that Blake maxim, “We become what we behold.” Jesuit priest/poet Daniel Berrigan practiced civil disobedience and declared, “Better to burn papers than children.”

“And wars are always wars against children. In every war, unforgivable numbers of children die.” — Howard Zinn.

Alternatives could be NOT going postal. Mull over non-Finneganese McLuhanite Neil Postman’s 1985 book title, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Oh yeah, forget to die!

Charlotte Shane’s New York Times February 2, 2024 review of the book Tripping On Utopia — Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science by Benjamin Breen set forth: “Mead’s interest in psychedelics stemmed from her lifelong quest to find a way to help humanity design peaceful, culturally diverse societies full of self-actualized individuals — in essence, a utopia.” Let us all aspire to this lifelong quest. Alt-search?

Yes, we can can achieve peace with culinary arts. Author Christina Ward enlightened me on my podcast, “I’m Probably Wrong About Everything,” that utopianist Charles Fourier believed nations could resolve conflict with a cook-off. Both sides halve a feast. Sharing food can be an act of trust, building community and society. We will not poison each other. Love is the way.

“The Ethics of Love reads the entire output of James Joyce, from Chamber Music to Finnegans Wake, in the perspective of the Irish author’s wish to celebrate secular love as the all-pervasive power that can be experienced in a “post-metaphysical” world. Boysen grounds his outstanding essay on the table-turning thesis that, far from abolishing the power of love, the “death of God,” this essential staple of twentieth century continental philosophy, makes mutual love all the more necessary to us; it warrants, in fact, the universality of our encounter with the Other.” — Gian Balsamo, author of Joyce’s Messianism: Dante, Negative Existence, and the Messianic Self (2005) and Rituals of Literature: Joyce, Dante, Aquinas, and the Tradition of Christian Epics (2004).

“We are the other people.” — Frank Zappa.

“But just because there is always a hidden pain in humor, there is also a sympathy.” — Kierkegaard. Is fighting humankind’s most productive state? Probe the hidden, as Marshall McLuhan broke the WAKE’s code with his Menippean satirized translation via books like War and Peace in the Global Village.

How do we keep our governments from going to war? How does reading aloud a book with a group of people cause community, empathy, tranquility, patience, respect, compassion, kindness, self-control, courage, moderation, forgiveness, equanimity, and the ability to see the big picture?

The Los Angeles Times November 11, 2023 reported that “Media literacy is about to become required learning.” That is what both FINNEGANS WAKE and Marshall McLuhan do. They continue to guide us in expanding with media literacy and critical thinking. They stress the importance of poetry.

Consider Christina Gerhardt’s contribution: “‘To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’ — Theodor Adorno, a German philosopher and sociologist, made this statement in his essay ‘Cultural Criticism and Society’ in 1949. He was reflecting on the moral and ethical implications of creating art, particularly poetry, in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Adorno believed that any attempt to create art, especially poetry, after such a horrific event could potentially trivialize or aestheticize the suffering and trauma of the victims. He argued that the traditional forms of art and culture had been compromised by their association with the societal conditions that led to the Holocaust. Adorno’s statement sparked much debate and continues to be discussed in the context of ethics and art.”

Shelley thought poets were “the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” and Auden insisted that “poetry makes nothing happen.” Read these maxims on the power of poetry.

“…I say let the poets run the country, we’ll be better off with books and pens, instead of the misery of weapons…let the poets run the country who speak from the heart…we will have a country filled with rhymes and justice if for once, we let the poets run the country.” — Quique Aviles

“In the very end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets.” — Seminal experimental filmmaker, Jonas Mekas, who also commented, “You don’t have to be a communist to be anti-capitalist. It is enough to be a poet.” “If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.” — JFK.

Can books help? Poet Walt Whitman voiced “The real war will never get in the books.” Stéphane Mallarmé observed

“Everything in the world exists to end up in a book.” Sontag expanded it to “Today everything exists to end in a photograph.” For me, everything in the world exists to end up in an essay on or an article in the Venice Beachhead, or even a Pixelvision short film. “So What” — Miles Davis.

The Pogues led by WAKE superfan Shane McGowan (RIP) centered the cover of their debut album “Red Roses for Me” around a portrait of JFK, who once quoted Joyce in a speech in Ireland. JFK delivered a famous speech on the need for peace and how to achieve world peace — “With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor — it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.”

And, please keep asking new questions, and inventing new metaphors. The father of Japanese animation, Hayao Miyazaki, said, “You have to be determined to change the world with your film, even though nothing changes.” Do not give up !

George Carlin quipped: “How is it possible to have a civil war?”

NYC artist & activist Zool Zulkowitz says, “As Bob Marley sang ‘Everywhere is war.’ We know this is our reality. Marley prophesied ‘international morality.’ That can be authentic in our radical imagination. I believe that the stronger our imagination is, the less imaginary ‘international morality’ becomes. This resonates in the WAKE, Joyce’s brilliant antiwar manifesto!”

Joycean Bruce Woodside writes, “Joyce himself was not prescribing a cure for humanity’s misery. Rather he was writing to observe and describe, with as much accuracy as words provide (especially the ones he made up) a fairly static portrait of human behavior, ‘the same anew’ (page 18) starting with the relationship dynamics of family politics and moving from the nightmare of the past into an uncertain future on a planetary scale. If he had ever entertained any notion of improving mankind’s lot, the years after the WAKE’s publication must have been profoundly disillusioning for him.” WWII started 4 months years after the WAKE was published.

“His producers are they not his consumers?” (page 497) — James Joyce, the WAKE. McLuhan embellished the sentiment by updating “the medium is the message/massage” to “the user is the content” mid-career. Keep hitting the refresh button.

McLuhan archivist Robert Dobbs declares that the WAKE is “rock’n’roll in print.” It is like a group of vibrant party people singing The Kingsmen’s version of Louie, Louie with the Richard Berry lyrics in front of them. When John Lennon read a chapter of FINNEGANS WAKE, he said, “It’s GREAT and I dug it and I felt like — here’s an old friend.” Since 1969, we continue to sing aloud, Give Peace A Chance. PEACE PEACE PERFECT PEACE, PLEASE.

John & Yoko’s “The War Is Over — If You Want It” peace campaign marked its 50th year in 2022. Full page ads in newspapers like the New York Times were a well-orchestrated wake up call to propagate this much-needed peace message.

All together now, let us sing it “All we are saying … is give peace a chance.”

How do we recognize and propagate the paratext into action? Influential author Sun Tzu proclaimed “The best war is the one that doesn’t have to be fought at all.” Two words from the title of this essay appear in the title of his significant book The Art of War.

Is art anything you can get away with? Marshall quipped, “If it works, it’s obsolete.” Since this essay possibly does not work, it renders you, the readers, as the content. Deal with it! Our critics, and we ain’t even ignoring them, criticize the length, the scattershotness, the ramblings, and the blah, blah, blah. Reinvent “everything but the kitchen sink”, and wash war away. But we insist that McLuhan’s quote about the satellite conductor Jimmie Joyce nails it: “Joyce uses the pun as a way of seeing the paradoxical exuberance of being through language.”

How can you re-word that epiphany?

“We are still learning to be Joyce’s contemporaries.” — Richard Ellmann.

So ReJoyce these lines from the WAKE: “Wasting war and ? Watch!” (page 499) and “Send us and peace! Title! Title!” (page 500) and “They did not know the war was over.” (page 518).

Rob Hutton wrote, “Only people, not movies, can stop war.”

“MAKE PEACE, NOT WAR.” Shout it loud, and tell us how these words make you feel?



This essay is in The Venice BeachHead, Part one=April 2024 issue, and Part Two= May 2024 issue.

Gerry is presenting the live salon “Can Art Stop War?” at the Greater Farmington Film Festival Michigan on March 24, 2024


Tune in, Turn on, and Drop by — Gerry Fialka 310–306–7330

. . . “Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty?” . . .

Joyce wrote, “Let us pry.” Let us . . . “phew!” I meme pray, I mean PRY!!!

Thank you. We welcome your input, Gerry Fialka

(This essay is aka The Art of Peace, aka ReJoyce PerfectPeace, aka War & Peace in the Metaverse, aka Make A Joke Instead)

Thanks to Peter Quadrino, Roy Benjamin, Peter Coogan, Christina Ward, Zool Zulkowitz, Bruce Woodside, Mike Sakamoto,

and everybody who helps, especially

all the WAKE Reading groups .

and .

Learn more. Google “Finnegans Wake Venice Fialka” and read the articles in the Guardian


and The Washington Post .

and New York Times .

Visit the YouTube channel “Gerry Fialka Archives GFA” for more on radio and TV, like NPR, CBS Evening News.