A Melody for the Mortarium

This morning as I walked to sing I saw patchwork reflections of blue sky in puddles: exceptions of blue in so much grey. I can hear the rain now, a reminder of all that needs to come down, reasons unknown to satellite eyes, at times, like during flash floods or mysterious snow storms that bring human haste to a halt. To seek the spacious place of nature and not the rush; to see that missing puzzle piece in blue.
True solace for times when one is being ground up by a pistillum in a mortarium. It is the symbol of medical prescriptions, and "just as wise physicians who, when giving the fastidious rather bitter drugs to drink, frequently smear the cup with honey" one may seek delight of melody "mingled with the doctrines so that by the pleasantness and softness of the sound heard we might receive without perceiving it the benefit of the words" to quote Ἅγιος Βασίλειος ὁ Μέγας.
Words as prescription. One may pause to consider literacy and the premature knowledge delivered through the false speech of διάβολος, thrown across at the unwitting. And with their knowledge came their lies. Knowledge is generally attributed to education, which in most of history included lessons in the complex moral measure of good and bad. Complex because generosity of spirit may look mean, such as replacing fish with fishing stick. Such complexity may be found in Aesop, whose fables, we are reminded at the Edithorial, were used in exercises in literacy during the Victorian age. Before that, we may consider magistra vitae, Cicero's phrase championed by Medieval and Renaissance educational ideals. Before that, too, we might think of καλὸς κἀγαθός, the ancient Greek ideal for personal virtue - which interestingly puts emphasis on harmony of mind and body, speech, song, and action. Only today I heard of an incongruous soul whose words were lucid but actions louche. Such reports are so often taken out of context: what interests me is, rather, whether a person tries to reach ideals, or not. And ideals used to be taught, even if not always discussed but merely read aloud; they were there. Melody mixed with principles. 




I was thinking about some modern literature today, much of which I consider as a vortex for youth, if because I failed to find the answers there. Elémire Zolla, the Italian scholar loved by Davenport, describes Boris Pasternak as having "absorbed the trauma of the industrial city" when he was young, but later freeing himself from it to return to tradition. It was Boris who introduced Rilke to the Russian reading audience after his death, though it was his father, Leonid, Rilke had known in life. He wrote to the latter, under the Bolsheviks, that Russia had "'hid itself underground, inside the earth,' gathering its forces in that darkness, 'invisible to its own children.'" He wrote elsewhere that "the profound, the real, the surviving other Russia had only fallen back on her secret root system." (Both quotes from Tavis.)
A hiding invisible to its children; falling back to a secret root system. So must the man fall back to his roots who has felt the trauma of Pandora's passions released from the πίθος, this woman who returns as a gift whenever things are stolen. Man falls back on his roots when he finds nothing in the deception of glass and windows of display, nature a far better teacher than city mores whenever one is judged by foppishness and fancy foods. Not by the foods we choose for the mind, with our limited time. Nor by the attempt of one who keeps falling but seeks to stand, holistically, free of the full jar of bad habits.
Vortexes are spirals, but man is to attempt to stand upright, despite his inclinations towards pleasure. To withhold the whirlwind is principled dialogue; not to be dogmatic, but to flesh out cause and consequence. Just like the climber of mountains has to respect the mountain if he is to read its signs that sometimes say turn back if you value your life. To hear such narrative first hand gets a person thinking about swapping goals for survival. From the signs in life to literature; texts produced otherwise are likely to abandon the reader in difficulty. Some texts onetime read return as a saving melody. Perhaps one forgets their details, but their outline, the shape of the puzzle piece, brings the overall picture together. 





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