IN PRAISE OF THE STILL UNWEIGHED: Off the Record at Eighty.

……………………………“I am on the side of angels and of dirt.”
………………………………………………Sir Stanley Spencer (1891-1959)

The Lovers (The Dustman) (1934) *

……

…………….GRAVITY’S RAINBOW:
………………………..Sunday in the park with Sir Stanley

……………………O rejoice in the women,
……………………and the white perfect ducks
……………………with their fashionable heads in the mud,
……………………how they tether themselves down
……………………with pegs in the ground
……………………so they won’t float up in the air,
……………………the feathery dry air that is brighter than gold
……………………but stays unredeemed on the shelf.

……………………For the ducks like the women
……………………turn weight upside down
……………………by the water on Sunday to stay down,
……………………not to be better, or up nearer the sun —
……………………like buskers, fine philharmonic
……………………conductors, preachers, teachers,
……………………invalids in chariots, toddlers and clowns,
……………………all creatures with sweet little flippers that tickle the air,
……………………as pliant as play-dough or beeswax,
……………………useless as paperweight slippers,
……………………ballast for butterflies, barbells for kittens —
……………………perfect as the lead in the magician’s tight furnace
……………………or the sticky brown muck in God’s oven.

……………………“O the big wide basket of my body,”
……………………the duck woman cries,
……………………“O the piles of starched linen, the fillips,
……………………the white cotton aprons and tea-towels
……………………folded so nicely in my trembling arms,
……………………down on my knees by the pool!

……………………“Take this fine little turn-up,
……………………for example,” she says,
……………………“do you see how it’s paddled and done?
……………………“The masterful curl at the end of the tail,
……………………how the bottom turns upward as if at a ball,
……………………the crinoline, the petticoats,
……………………the old-fashioned drawers that kick highest of all —
……………………and O how they flutter with each do-si-do,
……………………and how the heart goes — can’t you feel it?
……………………And aren’t it worth the applause?”

…………………… “Come on in then, come on in!”
……………………the duck-caller cries,
……………………and when she comes in on his arm
……………………to waddle like a lover on the velvety floor
……………………or soon to be mother,
……………………which is very good too,
……………………how he dips by the water for a nod or a snooze
……………………any day in the park, old poet by the pool —
……………………takes his nap on a folding green chair and the paper,
……………………a moist royal nap amongst women,
……………………head-over-heels in God’s pool.

………………………………..from GALILEO’S SECRET: Two Decades of
……………………………………….poems under House Arrest. Part 5, p.58.
…………………………………………….[from an unpublished m.s.]

…………

AD HOC
This poem from the very end of GALILEO’S SECRET has a whole bibliography just waiting to be discovered by some ardent young academic a few years after my death. “And the guy never got published,” he may recount breathlessly to his friends over his latte at Starbucks. “So nobody’s ever done him!”

For a whole lot more on what’s to be done, the discussion continues below — and needless to say, anybody is welcome to join in ruffling through the profligate mess. **

……………………………………..Christopher Woodman
…………

……* NOTE #1:
“dustman” in England is to this day what Americans call a “garbageman.” In Sir Stanley Spencer’s The Lovers (The Dustman) (click on the title to see the whole painting better), the dustman/artist is in the arms of the most important lover who is offering him the last of the fresh milk in a jug. The other lovers are offering him bits of sacred garbage from the “dustbins” he so loved to see set out on the street every Tuesday morning in Cookham: a broken teapot, some cabbage leaves, an empty jam tin.

I have just added an INTERJECTION on Sir Stanley Spencer here. Indeed, you should have a look in this particular ‘dustbin’ ahead of time as this whole “off-the-record” thread has been conceived in similar terms. In other words, you have to look!

……** NOTE #2:
A REPLY can be inserted anywhere you wish in the discussion. A COMMENT will always appear at the very end of the thread.

…………
…………………THE DISCUSSION CONTINUES IN THE COMMENTS

HOW BAD IS THE DEVIL?

Mantegna 466

At the very end of his life, Andrea Mantegna inscribed the answer to the question on the tree in this delicate cameo-painting of Delilah snipping away at Samson’s hair — as if the fountain next to the tree weren’t clarification enough.

If it’s hard to read the words on the tree, you can click on the tree itself to read them more easily — and if that’s still not enough you can click yet again on the bigger picture. Then it’s a piece of cake — that is, the riddle’s a piece of cake, not the beautiful, dignified, introspective young woman trimming the hair of her grizzled, old, pumped-up and psyched-out lover, the act that reduces all men to the divine fools they are destined to be. Because the Divine Fool is the true message of the Samson story, it seems to me, that is if you read the details of the story very carefully — or, alternatively, if you carefully and exhaustively read your own life, or even read me if you know where to look — which is why I am writing what follows, to find out.

I’m going to leave some space on that now, for reflection.

[ADDED A WEEK LATER]

My reflections on Mantegna’s dictum, foemina diabolo tribus assibus est mala peior, are developed day by day in the Comments below, and if you are interested in such things I hope you will be able to read them with as much hope for an answer as I posted them. On the other hand, if you’re impatient you can skip ahead to a specific discussion of HOW BAD IS THE DEVIL IN THE END.  But fasten your seat belts as you scroll down, because jumping ahead is going to make for a very fast ride!

And those of you who start at the beginning, be warned as well: the discussion that follows thrives on hair-pins and other sticky corners, and very often paints itself into untenable places as well — I do hope you’ll be charitable and forgive me for all the dead-ends. I’m an Old Father William, and all I can tell you is that this is how it goes. Indeed, that’s part of the riddle of knowing where you are in the space you inhabit, and it doesn’t much matter whether it’s on earth, in space, buried in your own person or in some other idea or dimension, or perhaps even suited up in a New Age space-vehicle transitting infinity to arrive where you actually are, like in Carl Sagan’s Contact.

Wrapped up in your own cocoon like Eve, in other words, even if you’re a man and not yet ready to be that beautiful, powerful, and fey. Or a snake with your own tail in your mouth like Satan in the Garden of Eden — indeed, you may even be impatient enough to want to go straight to the discussion for men and women who are no longer inhabitants of the Garden of Eden but would like to know what really happened back then.

……….1.) CLICK HERE TO START AT THE BEGINNING OF THE END.

Or if, like most of my friends, you’re more interested in my own demise as a soi-disant angel and poet yet again you can begin at that end:

……….2.) CLICK HERE FOR THE END OF WHAT WAS ACHIEVED IN THIS THREAD.

Or if you’re really impatient and just want to know what happens at the various ends:

……….3.) CLICK HERE FOR THE SECOND TO LAST POSTSCRIPT.

And finally, if you don’t want to begin at any end but just keep on fooling around like Old Father William:

……….4.) CLICK ON THE END OF HIS NOSE TO SEE HOW EVERYTHING GOES.

Christopher Woodman,
Chiang Mai, March 3rd, 2016
….

THIS THREAD IS CONTINUED IN THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW.

 

MAKE IT NEW!

 Aborigine Woman

                               Many thanks to AUSTRAVELPHOTOGRAPHY for the photo. 

People have always felt the world was going down the tubes — from “hey, look at her!” to “ubi sunt,” indeed long before anybody ever thought to make it new!

One of the cultures I most admire is that of the indigenous people of Australia. What culture has ever produced greater artists, richer myths, or more healing images? Yet when they lost their past, all 30,000 years of it, it took just a few decades to bankrupt them entirely, economically, culturally, emotionally and spiritually. On the other hand, the tragedy was caused as much by our culture’s inability to cope with change as it was with theirs. They couldn’t deal with us any more than we could deal with them, a heart-breaking impasse for everybody involved right to the end, and still with us.

Two observations on “Make It New” with regard to the gifts of these extraordinary people.

The Australian aborigines were always in a sense  “contemporary” — they were “cartoon” artists, after all, and every image and artifact they made was “pop” in the sense that everybody was a fan, everybody loved it, read it and danced to it. Secondly, their culture didn’t change — for whatever reason they were locked in a time-warp, as we might say looking out into space, and as a result nothing ever became “dated” what is more “old fashioned” for them. “Make it new?” Why everything was new already!

I make these observations very much without blame — Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel combined with James C. Scott’s The Art of NOT Being Governed confirmed what I had always suspected, that the Australian aborigines’ lack of ‘development’ had nothing whatever to do with inferior genes, hands or minds. On the other hand, they didn’t “change” at all in our sense — but that’s not quite the same as I have come to understand the word in Buddhist terms. The Buddha insisted over and over again that denying change was as self-destructive as any form of greed, control or domination. Anicca, or “impermanence” as it’s usually translated when the sutras are rendered into English, is the only certainty in life, says the Buddha, and holding on to things as if they weren’t going to change is the root of all suffering. That’s the fundamental Buddhist teaching, in fact, that Change and the inevitable Suffering that arises out of it are the fundamental truths of all being.

What’s really different about our times, it seems to me, is what is happening to time itself — the speed of change, as if we were already strapped in the rocket that will deliver us from our dwindling planet into the arms of space.

Try this to put our own sense of time into perspective:

I never even heard of television until I was 8 and didn’t live with a set until I was 42! Even more astonishing, I learned all my maths and physics without a calculator, sailed all over the world without a GPS or other electronic aid, and didn’t touch a computer keyboard until I was 52, the same age at which I published my first poem. And if that last one doesn’t put the word “dated” into perspective for a poet in America, what does?

But we’ll come back to that.

I just want to add that I’m not a Buddhist, whatever that might mean, and feel very strongly that in the light of Eternity there are other “universal truths” beside CHANGE and SUFFERING. Indeed, one of the reasons the aborigines are so important to me is that they tell me more than any other people I have ever encountered about who I really am — particularly as I look in the mirror on my birthday, not a pretty sight at all at 74. But then the old wizened aborigine that looks back at me over my shoulder tells me that nothing that really matters is ever outdated. Change is nothing in the light of eternity, he tells me — and I don’t mean by that Heaven or Eternal Life, God forbid, or indeed anything my new-age friends in white call ‘Spiritual.’ I mean eternity in the sense that I believe Einstein imagined it, or Stephen Hawking in his space-age body, our own little naked good-fella in Cambridge, who grappled with the dreaming that is  Cern. Or what surely must have occupied the mind of Galileo Galilei during those 8 years under house arrest in Florence or me here at my tiny speck of a desk in Chiang Mai.

Do you think when the first white man arrived in Australia an aboriginal would have had a problem showing him a God-particle? Had the white man been able to ask, that is? Had he had the intelligence or expertise to navigate that sort of thinking?

And of course, had the good-fella been willing to betray such truths by sharing them with such a big, crude, ignorant stranger?

Christopher Woodman

………THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW DEVELOP THE THREAD