Pizazz vs. Professional Conventionalism

Sometimes in the dead of the night, Chinese adages flood from memory: There is no wise man who is not also stupid; teachers open the door: you must enter by yourself; teach according to aptitude; he who flatters is my enemy, he who reproves is my teacher. Then, I know it is time to stop and begin to take time to look out the window at that yellow moon, so low and close, almost as if it's trying to say something. I cannot receive all of those instructive messages imparted to me, and the impulses of the dot-dash of the telegraphed life become instead the language of poetry.
It is all a person can do sometimes to make  cups of Sukku Malli Kaapi and tune in to the sea at the shore qualities of introspection when it is at rest. The self, in its natural habitat, thirsts after Simple Things and does not wish to be bothered with All the Work of Keeping Up Appearance. It is echoed in passages by Tagore on education where he writes: "We have been repeating great words, learning great truths, looking on great examples, but in return we have simply become clerks, deputy magistrates, pleaders, or physicians [who have] only applied with over-cautious precision just what they have learnt. And who shall make good the vital thing that is lost when students never become masters?"
The cat meows from outside, on the table are magnificent flowers that I got from the grandpa who I discovered last year at the market in the dead of winter, selling colourful, intriguingly unfussy bouquets of dried flowers. And I noticed this week, his is the brightest stall of all, shouting light from that dark corner of the market just like how one would imagine Joseph's technicolour coat; his one white tooth emerging from his constant smile. Who is this grandpa who handles the flowers like old friends?
Like old friends. Those are ideas that are the steam of the What is Needed in ideas. Look at how Davenport rescues poets from merely serving "as homework in state universities, where their presence usually scatters the English faculty like a truant among the Amish". What pizazz - I imagine turning in a research paper in his style, but he said it first, "Thirty years of liberal twiddling with the lines of communication has made it almost impossible to broadcast anything but received propaganda. ... It is the people who suffer from the dullness and ignorance of the press." One does not have to agree with Davenport's taste to feel the surge of life in his writing and the wish to take to the pen or keyboard and respond. Affinities ring out and songs are played; Linoel Trilling did not have to agree with all the small publications to which he contributed, but had to admire the minds of those at the helm.




Every day is our art form. It reaches out from those first morning rays that sometimes escape one if one is still asleep, but continue with the morning sounds of horns of those cars already running behind schedule, the yards being swept of last night's fallen leaves, conversations that at first sporadically then ever louder and more frequently rise up between the buildings. I wish to reach that day and in order to do so, I must grow long arms like the sun.
Not those arms bound in fear of the future but those that seek the horizon. "Delinquencies make their appearance unexpectedly, making us suspicious as to the efficacy of our own ideals. We pass through dark periods of doubt and arid reaction. But these conflicts and wave rings belong to the true aspects of reality. Living ideals can never be set into a clockwork arrangement, giving accurate account of its every second," writes Tagore. "Professional conventionalism" may rob us of the life that allows us to carry on.
The final image in my mind, one I keep coming back to, is the Egyptian basalt statue of Sekhmet at the Villa Melzi d'Eril (Bellagio, Lake Como). The statue sits on a sudden expanse of almost flat grass and faces out towards the lake. It is surrounded by English style gardens displaying exotic plants, a Moorish kiosk, Oriental pond, presents from Napoleon, relics, neoclassical monuments. But there, in the quiet expanse, is the Egyptian goddess of war, staring at the quiet waters and if I remember correctly, in the direction of Switzerland, "land of peace."
Here, her breath does not form the desert, but the other side of her personality seems particularly potent: she is also the goddess of healing. And often bears the solar disk on her head, daughter of Ra, identified with Atum whose arms I aspire towards.
If a statue could think, what thoughts would it have, staring at the boats of tourists and expensive speedboats of the Milanese, so far from home, now far from war, having been herself one of Napoleon's spoils.
It may be that the blessures of bureaucracy, of impinging "professional conventionalism" looking to stamp out the last milligram of soul we have in our fighting selves are actually calling us back to the basics. For it is a very old truth that mastery is the simple expression of complexity. I am wounded so that I return to myself. I am wounded to remember what I am fighting for. I am strengthened by my wound.



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