Friday, 21 October 2011

the sea: wave 5

Elsew/here I could hear particles that are in that air … that they have something to say to the particles that are below me, in the water. That those that have entered the sieve of The Sea, and through its motion (longing for the land) have been ground so light as to wash up somewhere to be taken up by the wind, that spoon the sky uses to stir, lift, and mix. The greater the scale of your vision (in your head), the less the descriptor entropy becomes appropriate. There are so many things happening. And we arenʼt in control. And that is beautiful. That means the small moments of our lives exist in a system, and what joy they bring is perfect and especially enigmatic. This is a permission to look at the world, open to feeling, like yourself a net, things to remember, or interest, or excitement; the beauty is in the collection of things that you become. A collage. A good diary never makes that much sense to the little brother. Like a walk, ice cream, a performance, a book, or a painting ... the things they stand for, remembered.

Elsew/here: The sun goes down. The sky and sea become indistinguishable.

As if there were waves of darkness in the air, darkness moved on, covering houses, hills, trees, as waves wash round the sides of some sunken ship … The light had faded from the tool house wall and the adderʼs skin hung from the nail empty. All colors in the room had overflown their banks. The precise brush stroke was swollen and lopsided; cupboards and chairs melted their brown masses into one huge obscurity. (2)

Elsew/here, like a grain of salt becomes known by every molecule of water in a boiling pot and has the effect of raising the boiling temperature of that water, so is the effect of our buildings on The Sea. And just as the boiling potʼs water becomes vapor slowly, sending it and its humid saltiness into the air introducing itself to the air in the same way the salt met the water. All at once, a chemical wicking at light speed. As much as the waterʼs mood affects the land, so it affects the air, and in this way great changes happen slowly. Like the Seaʼs assault on our shores, The Sea is content with slowness. It takes the parish churches of our towns, as it always has, and introduces them to the air, the clouds, and those grains that were walls that protected our worship, or our thoughts, come back to us and try to find their way into the folds of our clothes, moving with an assist from the breath of wind to find the spaces at the threshold of our houses, to re-occupy. Stone is our most permanent building material, but its life isnʼt the width of a human hair on a 300 foot timeline of this world. It may be that you are breathing the parish church of St. James right now, a lone microscopic particle that remembers finding a hair in your nostril, now a part of you. And its time with you will be relative to the start of a blink of an eye. But that doesnʼt mean it doesnʼt happen. The gravity of a moment isnʼt judged in terms of its duration.

Elsew/here entropy is a microscopic phenomenon. Such a thing does not exist when viewing the earth from space, or the universe from the stars, or space from the edge of space. Matter has no death.

Elsew/here particles cluster into voices: (in order of encounter) Stan Laurel, Paul Valéry, Stan Laurel, Herman Melville.

Well I couldn't help it, I was dreaming I was awake. And then I woke up and found myself asleep. (Laurel) I was walking on the very edge of the sea. I was following an endless shore … This is not a dream I am telling you. I was going I know not whither overflowing with life, half intoxicated with my youth. The air deliciously rude and pure, pressing against my face and limbs, confronted me – an impalpable hero that I must vanquish in order to advance. And this resistance, ever overcome, made of me too at every step an imaginary hero, victorious over the wind, and rich in energies that were ever reborn, ever equal to the power of the invisible adversary …

That is just what youth is. I trod firmly the winding beach, beaten and hardened by the waves. All things around me were simple and pure: the sky, the sand, the water. I watched as they came from the offing, those mighty shapes which seem to be running from the coast of Libya, charioting their glistening summits, their hollow valleys, their relentless energy from Africa all the way to Attica across the immense liquid expanse. At last they come upon their obstacle, the very plinth of Hellas; they shatter themselves against those submarine foundations; they recoil in disorder towards the origin of their motion. When the waves are thus destroyed and confounded, yet seized in turn by those that follow them, it is as though the forms of the deep were engaged in strife. One sees white horsemen leaping beyond themselves, and all those envoys of the inexhaustible sea perishing and reappearing, with a monotonous tumult, on a gentle almost imperceptible slope, which all their vehemence, though it come from the most remote horizon, will yet never be able to surmount … (2)

Do you believe me or believe what I see? (Laurel) … consider them both the sea and the land; and do you not find an analogy for something inside yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life ...

Elsew/here the Sea is massive and its featureless-ness helps us to understand the size of those systems at play on this planet, whereas land betrays us into the lullaby of geographic specificity. Humanity is just as geographic as land, and we are function of these systems, and the motion of these systems is whatʼs awesome, and my impact, your impact, on these systems is nano, but the crater of impact isnʼt the measure of meaning, itʼs only a physical resonance. What is beautiful is inside you, the viewer. And to feel beauty is great, but not material, and not truth, and not eternal. In fact, beauty does not exist where one can smell eternity.

Elsew/here things are remembered, and their pattern comes together like a cloud atlas. A system viewed too closely for connections reveals none. Latent connections are like mist. Heat the air with your breath and they disappear like so much vapor. Intentions turning into words often sound like pain. Keep your love locked down. Internalizing the world happens like a collage, not like the linearity of external living.

Elsew/here erosion reveals fossils. Layers working back on themselves, patterns appear in complex systems when given the chance (time).

Elsew/here … “in the space of a few minutes, the bright sky darkened and a wind came up, blowing the dust across the arid land in sinister spirals. The last flickering remnants of daylight were being extinguished and all contours disappeared in the grayish-brown, smothering gloom that was soon lashed by strong, unrelenting gusts. I crouched behind a rampart of tree stumps that had been bulldozed into long lines after the great hurricane. As darkness closed in from the horizon like a noose being tightened, I tried in vain to make out, through the swirling and ever denser obscurement, landmarks that a short while ago still stood out clearly, but with each passing moment the space around became more constricted. Even in my immediate vicinity I could soon not distinguish any line or shape at all. The mealy dust streamed from left to right, from right to left, to and fro on every side, rising on high and powdering down, nothing but a dancing grainy whirl for what must have been an hour, while further inland, as I later learnt, a heavy thunderstorm had broken. 

When the worst was over, the wavy drifts of sand that had buried the broken timber emerged from the gloom. Gasping for breath, my mouth and throat dry, I crawled out of the hollow that had formed around me like the last survivor of a caravan that had come to grief in the desert. A deathly silence prevailed. There was not a breath, not a birdsong to be heard, not a rustle, nothing. And although it now grew lighter once more, the sun, which was at its zenith, remained hidden behind the banners of pollen-fine dust that hung for a long time in the air. This, I thought, will be what is left after the earth has ground itself down.” (4)


(1) Virginia Woolf, The Waves, Orlando: Harcourt Inc., 2006, p. 174.
(2) Paul Valéry, Dialogues, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989, pp. 111-12.
(3) Herman Melville, Moby Dick, New York: Norton & Company Inc, p. 236.
(4) WG Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, London: Harvill Press, 1998, p. 229.

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