Sources

I was driven through landscapes today that I could never have imagined. We joked that if we were to relate what we saw, no one would believe us. There was an entire village of intricately-tiled homes, some with ceramic statuary of eagles whose eager and open wings seemed to defy their static form that cemented them between series of otherwise pillared balcony balustrades. Other ornaments - where they indeed were found on this architecture, from the roofs or at strange distances from the entrance - included bucking horses and lions (not the open-mouthed fortuitous Chinese sort). The thing about these houses, though, was that every one of them had their blinds drawn shut: uninhabited. Entire villages of ornamented, freshly painted, but empty homes.
And from the meandering roads, always meandering and never straight, we drove into the desert. Several times we passed people walking from and to who knows where and why as any destination was clearly more than an hours' walk away from where we passed them at noon. In the middle of those sandy lands was a wooden sign inscribed in an antiquated script that read: SOURCE. It was posted near to the road, and pointed past the road in a direction that led to no path nor to any apparent destination. That is perhaps the best summary of these hills and a perfect definition of life as it may seem to the person sometimes.




Along those roads that I longed to walk away from, craving the smell of the earth and the peace and quiet of the journey à pied, were over three score goshawks adopting various poses: one, perched upon a lone wooden post; another, at the top of a tree; a third, burrowing in the black, black earth, etc. Which reminds me of the blackspot road sign we passed - we may as well have entered a black hole, everything familiar was left behind and we drove into more fog and the birds got bigger, the smaller ones probably knowing better than to fall prey to those difficult terrains.
The mind and the soul may be starved for the larger landscape and when finally allowed to gaze at pastures that extend to the horizon, it may suddenly etch those impressions not so much to hoard them as to replenish the empty rooms, so empty that any portrait might also be useful in the time to come.
If as adults we do not know that whatever obstructs, contorts, denies, too, shall pass, perhaps we have not done our growing and if we do know such things, it is wise to store up on whatever leads the imagination back to its sources.




This long journey made today, to the desert and back in a roundabout way, was medicine for all of the petty indeterminacy of the two-faced, which, we may remember, is the symbol for the dual tragic-comedic masks of Μελπομένη and Θάλεια - the Muses of sad song and joyous flourishing, who are the sisters to the Muses of epic poetry, history, lyrical poetry, erotic poetry, hymns, and astronomy. There was something said about how theatre (whose two-faced symbol may also have birthed Janus, the god of this month and who is usually depicted above doorways) derived from what was originally temple worship. There is something that may be said about how to consider sources (such as retreating from pettiness to the perspective of history) shields one from the fracturing of vision, where things divide and multiply, seemingly without end in a rather uninspiring and oppressive way.




Sir Arthur Helps writes about how the temptation to create drama out of life stems from an ill-informed tendency towards entertainment. I shall cite it almost in full because I know I myself will want to come back to these words from time to time: "people will backbite one another to any extent rather than not be amused. Nay, so strong is this desire for something to go on that may break the monotony of life, that people, not otherwise ill-natured, are pleased with the misfortune of their neighbours, solely because it gives something to think of, something to talk about. They imagine how the principal actors and sufferers concerned in the misfortune will  bear it; what they will do; how they will look: and so the dull bystander forms a sort of drama for himself. ... 
"These poor people have nothing to think about; nature shows them comparatively little, for art and science have not taught them to look behind the scenes, or even at the scenes; literature they know nothing of; they cannot have gossip about the men of the past (which is the most innocent kind of gossip), in other words, read and  discuss history; they have no delicate handiwork to amuse them ; in short, talk they must, and talk they will, about their neighbours, whose goings-on are a perpetual puppet-show to them."
It may be the Janus of January that brings the two-faced into prominence: one may prefer indeed to think of it hung upon the door as a sign. If one has grown at all, one shall not take things at their surface value. The journey to the desert may remind one of those larger expanses, beyond the houses of nature in cement, beyond the petty collectivity that man sometimes imposes on the land,  out of tune.



4 comments:

  1. "the fracturing of vision, where things divide and multiply, seemingly without end in a rather uninspiring and oppressive way."

    Upon re-reading, am reminded of a passage in the Birth of Tragedy in which Nietzsche speaks of the man of science seeking after truth, only to find an endlessly fractionating realm that never ends:

    But science, spurred by its powerful illusion, speeds irresistibly towards its limits where its optimism, concealed in the essence of logic, suffers shipwreck. For the periphery of the circle of science has an infinite number of points; and while there is no telling how this circle could ever be surveyed completely, noble and gifted men nevertheless reach, e'er half their time and inevitably, such boundary points on the periphery from which one gazes into what defies illumination.

    http://nietzsche.holtof.com/Nietzsche_the_birth_of_tragedy/the_birth_of_tragedy.htm

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    Replies
    1. What a gem of a citation - thank you!

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  2. The journey to the desert and to the village of ornamented yet abandoned house village seem very dreamlike. Your insights to the journey are both profound and inspiring.

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