Not All Audiences

There can be such a longing for a talisman from the past or from one of its many-suitcased 'homes' now too far gone - a half tessera - to show that one belongs to other contexts outside of where one finds oneself, to ward off the occasional small-mindedness that takes years and years of practice to laugh off. There can be such a longing to have an audience with distance.
I wonder if perhaps the talisman is only gained through time; maybe it is the shape one grows into, against so many tides. To become one's own symbol. And who in the world would care if one succeeds in this? It is so counter to the mainstream that it may seem without significance. Except there is Gauguin's Noa Noa, there is also the matter of unfinished business. We might not choose our beginnings, but perhaps we each bear an enigma that can either be ignored, or pursued (I write not of the bland).
Noa Noa is a book of a journey, a recounting of the myths of yesteryear, an East meets West narrative (Tahitians "less pale" than Gauguin), personal discovery, the accommodation afforded by the locals, nature reached through symbols, and at the end, a going home. Gauguin goes home. At the cost of someone else's tears.
To be accommodated, sometimes one must travel very far away, indeed. It depends on the type of roots one was born in to and the generosity one is surrounded by. But the dimension of accommodation that is haunting me is that a locality - as a whole - is a smaller mind than the cosmopolite, a word which contains the words cosmos, world, politês - citizen. One does not want to be at the hands of the smaller judge.
Gauguin's words may be better understood at 'home', though it was not his 'native home' that had brought him into himself. The West has swallowed up so many narratives, they can live in its colonial languages. This may be, in part, why to write in them - like Tagore or Yeats - is to be scorned by one's countrymen. But such writers, like the koiné, Roman cults of assimilation, and Akbar's dynasty, were all sponges.

The sponge, which is taken as a model to be imitated, is interestingly the simplest animal on the planet. They basically have a lot of pores, and as water filters through them, they extract what they need. So perhaps its key here is circulation - a worldly symbol.
It stands for κοινός; that which is shared, common, public. But as Heraclitus famously observed, not all people can register this shared experience, because they are living as if they were asleep (95: ὁ Ἡράκλειτός φησι τοῖς ἐγρηγορόσιν ἕνα καὶ κοινὸν κόσμον εἶναι τῶν δὲ κοιμωμένων ἕκαστον εἰς ἴδιον ἀποστρέφεσθαι).
The ideal audience brings more than one context to circumstance (of a conversation, in looking at art, etc), eager for there to be good fruit behind the screen of words. Just as there is conversation, the terms in the conversation can be open to different levels of meaning. So the ideal circumstance may be most like the sponge: with the most pores to catch fecund meaning. It should have the most arrows, pointing to the most healing of exits and horizons.
Heraclitus is one who "went out in search of" himself. He saw beyond the limited horizons of his society. His words have various levels of meaning - and for all these reasons, who is the right audience for his works? While anyone with a computer today can read his fragments, will one necessarily understand them?
Comprehension may lay, in part, in the French painter's rejection of security, complacency. Only if one has given something up: one's home, a piece of darker past, something taken by sacrifice, do the eyes see. And even if one has not done this, if one listens, through the koiné, one is bound to learn of such things, through empathy. Experience is saved through listening, which opens up what Merton called "the flowering of ordinary possibilities".
The audience, and talisman, I seek is of those flowers. There is a risk that as one forms oneself in the craft that the naysayers will cut one down before one has found one's voice (to be distinguished from buzz, and the illusion of having one's say). Also, the more one has to say, the more one can get it wrong. The more there is to say, the stronger the impulse to make a connection with words and people.
Quality takes time, even if quality is garnering the audience one seeks. "Let us not be like those who wish to make the tree bear its fruit first and the flower afterward - a conjuring trick and an advertisement. We are content if the flower comes first and the fruit afterward, in due time. Such in the poetic spirit. Let us obey life ... that calls us to be poets, and we shall harvest many new fruits for which the world hungers - fruits of hope that have never been seen before."
"No one can come near the river unless he walks on his own feet. He cannot come there carried in a vehicle." This is the audience that sees seeds where there are words.

No comments:

Post a Comment