I have looked for myself down the passage of recent days, my hand print one of Atun's in a sandy temple, my heart in the θυμός of the Greek practice phrases about soldiers and goddesses. Homer's characters - which I have yet to reach beyond secondary commentary - would externalise θυμός when under stress, conversing or arguing with it. I found myself briefly in a line by Dickinson on antique books: he should "tell you all your dreams were true; he lived where dreams were sown." I have been known before I entered this world, so why the many question marks that do recede with age, but not enough for me to have reached my peace.
To come upon a conversation mid-way, we do not know the context; I feel this is life, to meet it half-way undergone: by the time we have the adult mind, it is time to discern that beginning, already far away.
Górecki's symphony at times sounds like breathing, or a little girl weeping, which is most tragic for weeping does not go with the girl, crying perhaps, but not weeping. A girl is sent back the thanks she had sent her mother for having given birth to her; appendaged to this is a poem writ by the girl's own hand, early matured, about the apple of trickery she wishes not to eat: her thanks dragged down into the land of the dark folk tale, with added amnesia - the folk tale does not remain in darkness but serves to elucidate the discomforts of life that need to be addressed. One cannot return to the womb! But there are mothers of inarticulacy who know only how to smother, in the darkness of the wish for the prenatal embrace.
Yet we are born. And there we are like the charioteers of yesteryear, logos driving thumos and eros; in Eastern style, Plato explains how thumos helps logos reign in the appetites. Thumos is the heart and spirit. For it is no good only to be rational, one dies slowly that way, safer but not holistically. To carve out one's path in advance, deciding how to look and what to say is to live without the rhythm of a pulse. The endearing grumblings of the curmudgeon, the capricious outburst of the teacher whose frustration adds an unexpected wind to the sails of sleeping students, that moment of co-humanity when we feel each other to be alive - a moment of imperfection, a smudge in the painting. The gesture being stressed above the reality prescribed by the exacting measuring rod. The strange, expressive abstractions of the Sounion kouroi. How can there be a scientific representation of man when he is always trapped within the frame of his subjective self - at best, trapped within the shared and built thought of a generation of men.
And where am I, one person among billions, even among all this humanity, still but a speck in the universe. Not so say the heart strings. Dickinson writes that if she stops but one heart from breaking, she shall not have lived in vain. To find myself, I now look to others.
Because it has bothered me in recent days: when you know that people are filled with judgementalism but know that they are not bad, how do you dance around that? One must be a good acrobat if one is to keep relationships alive as one gets older. Now I think to myself: administer. One retreats to writing to regain the better picture, then returns to the people with these words. Let me take my pulse. I hear my θυμός and it is telling me that just as I live with so much of my own imperfection, so do others, and we are all secretly wishing for someone to free us from ourselves.
Which means learning to teach people not to treat one in ways that hurt one. Which is just like training martial arts again. One gets knocked down, wind knocked out, head pounding so hard one never wants to stand on the dōjō again, but one knows one has to. All the times one was told: GET BACK ON THE HORSE are recalled, and one is relieved for this habit, relieved for all that discipline. There is no need for further conversation, one just gets back on and suddenly finds that one has reentered the flow of time.
I see myself now where I had tried to erase myself, where I had tried to rub out the context and build a new one. I, too, am party to the sociological whim of today to just pick up and go. But my Aten's hand returns me to this earth. When the dust really must be shaken from one's sandals, one will see one's exit already prepared. There is no exit. One disappears from view if one swallows the mother's words of indeterminacy and unwillingness to live from wherever it is we start.
Some of us start in the hinterlands of the Chinese watercolour. There we are, in that craggy rock, at the very start of that scroll, and it opens, opens - high in the fog, down and dropping again through the details of grass, even pebbles, a bridge!, and back to the scratchy rocks... it is so far to go.
I say, "Today," and put myself back into the picture. It might not turn out the way the heart wishes, there is but the attempt. I do not possess the measuring rod to tally up my worth so far. I am to remember fallibility: this pot has its fracture. I just hope I can still scoop up life, and not just for myself.
If it is true that one always arrives mid-something, one cannot know as the Divinity the manner of one's moods, θυμὸς ὑπερφίαλος καὶ ἀπηνής (15.78); one is as fickle as the weather. To think of the magnanimous heart is to release oneself from the pettiness of the particular. There are times when we, like the Chinese calligrapher, may depart from the detail of the landscape into the general, which is also called living to the fullest.
Brush. Cross brush: Lauren Harrison.