Leaves brilliant and transparent in the wind, squirrels darting back and forth gathering the last of the acorns. Next week an evening of chamber music at a neighbour’s home, the anticipated thrill of hearing live music. Friends gathering around a fire in silence listening to music played in our midst, silent companionability. What we can’t get from CDs or downloads of MP3 players, the excitement of music being made in our presence, musicians playing, singing, their skills and mistakes, the imperfections and moments of transcendent consummate beauty.
Wasted time. Thinking how often I find myself exasperated and bored after being lured in to read some website article or editorial argument by a sensational headline, only to find padding and emptiness. It takes vigilance to avoid reading rubbish. Daniel Dennett’s tools for thinking:
…when you want to criticise a field, a genre, a discipline, an art form …don’t waste your time and ours hooting at the crap! Go after the good stuff or leave it alone. This advice is often ignored by ideologues intent on destroying the reputation of analytic philosophy, sociology, cultural anthropology, macroeconomics, plastic surgery, improvisational theatre, television sitcoms, philosophical theology, massage therapy, you name it.
Dreaming of bare dusty plains all around Troy, the sea glittering in the distance. Daunted as I read by my ignorance and misunderstandings, that I keep trying to read into the ancient text and not from it. Glimpses of a world that was so utterly different, so utterly itself. Virginia Woolf (who learned about the great Greek myths from her brother Thoby and his fellow Apostles at Cambridge, Virginia the daughter of a Cambridge literary scholar, herself barred from academia, barred from academic clubs and societies, Virginia reading the Greek classics all the same in a room of her own):
Does not the whole of Greece heap itself behind every line of its literature? They admit us to a vision of the earth unravaged, the sea unpolluted, the maturity, tried but unbroken, of mankind. Every word is reinforced by a vigour which pours out of olive-tree and temple and the bodies of the young. The nightingale has only to be named by Sophocles and she sings; the grove has only to be called “untrodden”, and we imagine the twisted branches and the purple violets. Back and back we are drawn to steep ourselves in what, perhaps, is only an image of the reality, not the reality itself, a summer’s day imagined in the heart of a northern winter.
Although the texts that are keeping me so happily occupied this winter season are demanding, difficult and obscure, we have reminders of beauty and pathos in contemporary performance art. For the ancient Greeks, the great defining moment of life is the final moment of death. In this final moment, the dying man or woman speaks a last farewell and says something of what has been a guiding force in life, what they now glimpse to be the deeper purpose, the meaning of that life, short or long, tragic or glorious.
We don’t think like that any longer, we fear and avoid mention of death as a teacher, even though we feed ourselves images of ghoulish and violent death as entertainment. But here in the film Blade Runner (from the Philip K Dick novel Total Recall), as the character Roy is dying, he gives what the ancient Greeks would have called a soliloquy, the god speaks through him, he grieves his ebbing life and then he lets go. He is not ‘human’ perhaps, he is filled with replicant memories, but at the moment of his death his memories become his own – ‘I’ve seen things you people would not believe‘ — and he reaches full personhood,the deepest fullness of grief and is able to do honour to his own life.
His great grief is that ‘all those memories will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.’ He transitions into the recognition that all that is unique and loved and irreplaceable in our individual lives is also blurring, dissolving, passing away. Nothing of us may survive. And yet — as he dies, he releases the dove held in his hand, he lets go and we see that white dove soar upwards and another moment is created anew from time [hora], the unceasing flowing passage of time. A time for letting go.