The Seen Unseen

The sky is pressing down on the streets today, tearing up a wind between low-moving clouds and the floor of the earth, covered in the aggregate armature of city. In the indistinct atmosphere one may think of the word ἄποπτος, something may be seen or far from sight: the word means both.
In recent days, ominous signs appeared in my building saying: facade falling, pass by at your own risk, signed municipl (sic) authorities. Such a notice was also posted in the lift. I asked a neighbour: From where, exactly, is this facade falling? He responded: From all sides! There is no need for surrealism in 2013.
Indeed, from this cultural fast, I feel I am gaining a new understanding of what it is that one is to seek in art. At this very moment, a lone and vagrant bird is releasing its six-syllable cry to the clouds, such beautiful music, rival to the compositions that emerge from the frequently closed-in mind.
Try as one might, say, in one's writing, to escape the laziness of thinking where it extends a person's own truth like horrible pavement onto the lives of others, one may still do this. I don't know what to say about that except, the facade is falling. It has always been the right time to try to recognise the ugly forces that contort human behaviour. Like the current trend of religious or political name-calling declaimed by grown men who would do better to cultivate the purer aspects of the child if they insist on returning to the premature. Instead, volatile words are cast back and forth, with few aspersion-casters realising that such behaviour is incited because it can be capitalized on.
In the battleground of words, pavement is laid not just in the city setting but also over those who are still living, in the tyranny demanding that the perspective of experience be shared. Seeing from a distance is narrowed to the familiar. But, as individuals, our respective view may not always converge: each of us, I think, will have special allowances that will differ. Once we have caught a glimpse of this bounty, I would like to think that the benevolent thing would be to help each other recognise the forces that keep us from it. Though reality is a personal experience, there are at least a few guiding principles that can be passed on from experience, as in: there is a non-material wealth to be had.




One of the few general guiding principles that most people agree with, at least in theory, is that we love each other as we love ourselves. It sounds pleasant enough, but requires facades be peeled off. The teaching of wisdom instructs that we must first come to know ourselves as "unpredictable" if we are to "expand [our] capacity to feel love and peace" to quote Rumi, that semi desert father. It is the "unpredictable" that I wish to stress: experience can trump theory and teach something far greater than our preciously cemented "principles." To become understanding is to see past the facade.
In the void of the cultural dearth today filled with things and not quality, when thoughts are no longer hidden behind the civilized cloak of good manners, when I wish for diversion, I turn to the meditative daydreaming of recalling pictograms. I will try to share this, though I do not know if some amateur study best remain private like esquisses.
In the Chinese character 乱, a tongue (forked, coming out of a mouth, left) is hidden behind the line-object. 乱 today means "disorderly" but it used to mean "to make clear": to speak forth that which was hidden. I conclude that the modern man is more than ever at odds with invisible, hidden forces, confusing clarification with obfuscation - not striving for the clear pictures in the mind, trapped in the semi-literacy of not seeing words through to their consequences.
Like in the hidden enclosure found in death 死亡. To die is to enter that hiding place - hidden from the eyes of the living. We may recall the word ἄποπτος which can mean far from sight, as in the line in Sophocles' classic where Oedipus learns that the shepherd had asked to be sent far from the sight of the town (762) - ruled by him, whose truth is hidden to all but the shepherd.
We may also think of ἄποπτος in terms of the invisibility of the gods. In Sophocles' Ajax, we hear Odysseus address Athena thus:  ὦ φθέγμ᾽ Ἀθάνας, φιλτάτης ἐμοὶ θεῶν, ὡς εὐμαθές σου, κἂν ἄποπτος ᾖς ὅμως, φώνημ᾽ ἀκούω καὶ ξυναρπάζω φρενὶ χαλκοστόμου κώδωνος ὡς Τυρσηνικῆς. Odysseus says he hears and recognizes - in his mind - her call as clearly as a trumpet, though she is unseen.
Only the prison warden keeps one above surface at all times on paved landscapes, pretending life cannot test convictions even when the facade is falling away (ἀπόπτωσις) like so many emperor's clothes. But the holistic truth may be somewhere in between.


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