Carving Spaces

I often see "corrections" to what I write in what I read elsewhere, afterwards. Two such recent messages were: 1. as one gets older, one inclines toward ideas of places or times that never existed; 2. there is a good reason why adults who cite more youthful literary genres are looked at askance. What I take from this: it is tricky to articulate ideals, and the true adult is to be selective of the narrative used to clothe ideas.
Biases may develop against certain genres. I have personally always disliked the "dumb guy" role used ostensibly for edification purposes (yet am unable to avoid a patronising tone, myself). The universal message can be drowned out by choice of presentation. If one has an affinity for certain genres, they are best reserved for special occasions, because to employ them requires clever apologia, which can be beside the point.
Ideals do, however, appear rather readily and simply in intellectually contested genres, like Sendak's observation, "What is a children's-book artist? A moron!" (via). But such reductionism can lose sight of those who are suspicious of any idea that is imprisoned by jargon, and prefer the simple. So we are left with the challenge of presenting complexity simply, and the further challenge of not losing sight of ideals along the way of intellectual education. If we look carefully, we see that the "places or times that never existed" are actually the residence of the ideal, the truth that Socrates points out can only be proved by argument.
In the universe the difficult things are done as if they are easy. In the universe great acts are made up of small deeds. The sage does not attempt anything very big, And thus achieves greatness. (63)
Stories are told to attempt to localise the ideal - just as localised vilification occurs, to "translate" complex ideas into terms everyone, adult and children alike, can understand (though deeper meaning requires experience). Such stories are not meant to be taken literally, and are but illustrations painted over life.
The laudator temporis acti knows that the narrative/s of any age is/are but just one possible view, that the hubris of each rising age will have its ebb. I say "age" and not "generation" because I think few people mature properly during their one life.
To retreat into a story is to also bring space to perspective: standing back brings the larger view. I always tell my students that part of the difficulty in seeing is perceiving what isn't there: to have an absence with which to compare a presence.
On my shelf is a Chinese woodcarving that has somehow continued to survive among my limited belongings, with its under-layer of fiery burgundy, and over-leafing of metallic gold. It has plenty of openings, spaces carved out of that wood. Sometimes I think it is enough of an accomplishment in one day if we, through what we say, have created such a space, and allow the light to shine in.

No comments:

Post a Comment