Shoes and Umbrellas

"A truly new and original book would be one which made people love old truths," Vauvenargues writes, cited by Hadot who explains that "every generation must take up, from scratch, the task of learning to read and reread these 'old truths,'" through living and experiencing them. Back and forth between guiding lessons and life, understanding is refined like poetry; beyond the chatter of self, towards universals, symbols - which we may imagine rushing towards their source and fulfillment, as Ephrem the Syrian wrote.
One old (methodological) truth I think about as I write is the importance of dialogue, which draws us out of ourselves with all our posturing - so prominent today what with the manufacture of ever newer shapes required for an audience whose gloss is that of cosmetics, unrelated to the inner and sensitive organ, γλῶσσα. It is hard to know oneself in the hall of mirrors that is talking to people through these appearances - people who may grab out at the image of the person, never the person him or herself, residing deep within their temple, only reached through respect.
The well-dressed man is urged to educate himself, but what of the education of the far more unruly soul. A beautiful post over at Classics in Sarasota addressed the difficulties inherent in moderation. Thence the old truths that we are wont to return to, though the post points out that to read Aristotle is to be given only the ideal, devoid of the problems that occur when the problem is fleshed out. Listing ideals is not enough: Hadot writes of the importance of exegesis. And ideally an examination of several of the possible paths to reach one's ideals, like how to get over oneself.
To be tied to the ego can lead one into all kinds of problems, such as gorging on flattery, too often laced with poisonous intent. But the industry teaches us egotism. It teaches us a pragmatism that works against the "subjective, mutable, dynamic component" of the heart (to use Hadot's words from a different context). That inner life may wish to cry out for help as its γλῶσσα is stifled by the gloss. How some of us long to speak eloquently, how tired we are of seeing ourselves straying from our ideals, wishing always to find the dignified way back from the errors of our ways, regrettably inevitable. Like the Method actor brings the old truth, old script, to life before our eyes as if for the first time, "from scratch," the challenge of spontaneity may mean there will be sentences we would be happier never having uttered. We are told to pipe down entirely and buy a new frock; we are told new wellies will silence the existential downpour.
In Glimpses of Bengal, Tagore writes, "Alas for useful things - how necessary in practical life, how neglected in poetry! But poetry strives in vain to free us from their bondage - they will be with us always; so much so, we are told, that with the march of civilization it is poetry that will become extinct, but patent after patent will continue to be taken out for the improvement of shoes and umbrellas." Against these umbrellas, the poem of a life, rushing to truth, if without said brolly, unprepared, impractical, messy, unwilling to be put off.





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