Crossings

I was putting the espresso maker on the stove for the third time when I noticed a crow on the roof where pigeons gather, eating something meaty. Perhaps a pigeon - I have always wondered where they disappear to. I discerned that crow, now calling out ominously, through the beads of rain that have disturbed the lull of so many sunny days. Seasons cross then change.
Which is to say nothing of the quiet shock one might have when crossed by changing mores, read transgressions, the pet word of postmodernists who would have us acclimatise ourselves to this precarious relationship to geography, both physical and metaphysical. And while it is tempting when on the crossed end of the transgression to denounce all audacity, some transgressions exist that can keep a person whole. After all, it is said that "to go above and beyond the call of duty" is to do the honourable thing. But to discern where the golden mean lies requires so much insight and wisdom, it is understandable why societies have relied on taboos to think for them.
Transgressors today seem to shy away from the responsibility of traversing rules or codes of conduct. If a rule is in place, responsibility is mandatory; where the rule shakes, anything goes.
The most prosaic example of shaky codes was the phone call I received yesterday asking me to translate a text clearly longer than the alleged 100 pages with a deadline of four days. Hardly enough time to write up a style guide and key to repeated words and rally together assistants, even if that was the way I worked. Hardly enough time to do the text justice: the literature being a 'first of' - the rare and quality olive branch to be glimpsed in a non-native language. The publisher's lack of consideration pained me.
Maybe this is an age in which people with principles might not do so well: the lay of the land may fold into a corruption of standards. Perhaps because I am of the fairer sex, time and again I distrust consulting the terrain for direction, preferring to look up. I think of that line in Diodorus Sicilus (II, 54, 2) which I came to in a reader: πρὸς τὰς ἀπὸ τῶν ἄρκτων σημασίας τὴν διέξοδον ποιοῦνται. Those who journey across Arabia's sandy desert as "spacious as the air in magnitude" must "even as voyagers upon the seas, direct their course by indications obtained from the Bears," as per Oldfather et al.'s translation. Difficulties, like the desert or sea, are crossed by looking to the stars.
The practical way would be to compromise with what is at hand. I can only recognise that some of us seem to have barriers to compromising too far. We may look to excuse those around us, but such absence of judgement does not mean that one, with one's measure of rules and codes, has disappeared. There is a time to be firm and a time to be lax (29). But as the hieroglyph for "carry" implies, being the symbol of the chair, there may be a time when anything conveyed is via relaxation: things going their own way. If this must be so, I prefer that nobody claim to know it all, that we all avoid being "clever or rich" (65). I'll be the first to say: I don't always know how to come across.



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