Friday, December 30, 2016

new year's prayer

The earth demands blood.
It's a well-worn trope of horror fiction, playing on the city dweller's unconscious fear of the rural; knife-wielding druids, pagan ceremonies, fertility through sacrifice. Well-known too, as the dark heart of the 20th century; Blut und Boden, boots and runes, the bleak magic of destruction and hysteria. Yet for all the horror, it is perfectly natural. 'Adam' is known to be the masculine form of the word Adamah, earth, and related to the word meaning blood; so the earth only wants what is hers by right, and violence is the song of the earth singing her children home. Dust, to dust.

But what, then, of all things which are not Matter?

The part of town where i lived in my earliest youth, which is not where i currently reside, was built in the late 1800s amid the dunes, to accomodate the sudden influx of new residents, mostly retired army personnel and its attendant economy . Wedged between a triangle of cemeteries, it packs wide streets and alleys, turreted villas and workers' housing, squares and courtyards all in a relatively small area of unremarkable neoclassicist and eclecticist bourgeois architecture of the period, readymades for the gentrification of a later century. Having lived there as a kid has made it old stones, its fountains, its ivy-covered walls the earliest model of 'home' and 'world' to me, and whenever i pass the borough these days, the gently sloping streets still call to me with the siren song of their remembranced stone, and offer their hard, unyielding presence as proof of my exile. Nostalgia, far from being some wispy, dreamy sentiment, is in fact a gross, material, tactile thing. Not a presiding spirit at all, but the very thing presided over.
Memory and place are made of the same stuff; earth and blood; sinew and mud. Dust and dust.

Yet within this tiny knot of streets, there are also other residents; a twist to the left, a sharp turn right within memory and place reveals glimpses. Intimations of the dunes hidden beneath the pavement; the way the large old house sits atop that slight incline, concealed by pine trees; the way the farthest wall of the Sephardic cemetery at the end of the lane catches the last of the noonday sun in winter; the spires of the palatial neo-Gothic edifice shrouded in mist, their scale unmoored, become Faery towers.
The carved leaf-and-bough faces of the Green Man leering down  from the pillars at the park entrance. Lights behind the roset windows of the boarded-up church at night. The house you're sure was here, set back deep among the other buildings, but that you can't now find.

What are these?

Real, they are not; not in the way of bombs in Syria, and hunger in the homeless shelter around  the corner. But things that are not Matter are not necessarily things that do not matter. That they exist at a remove from the world, does not mean they have no function in it. Such imaginings and visions, although they are non-facts and non-places, in their phantasmagorical extrapolation are extensions of the world. A Non-world, if you will, as outpost of existence, an archipelago of meaning in the Void. For every corporate-owned stretch of concrete, someone's fond remembrance of it as a field; for every charmless thoroughfare, a lover's memory of it as the place where a ring or kiss was first offered and accepted; we make our home  in two worlds at once; make our way through both.


The earth demands sacrifice, but so do these places and moments that extend from it into our imaginations; the half-remembered vistas and dissolving corridors of the last dream traces in the pre-dawn light that stay with you throughout the day (ghostly complement to the mundane) ; the brief jolt of a stranger's face mistaken for that of a long-lost friend; the impractical notion toyed with for its own sake; the envisioning of the route of a train not taken; glimpses, flashes, imaginings; the Non-world is vast.
And the nature of the sacrifice owed to it?  It demands to be seen.
Drawing attention to it, drawing it, writing it into existence, is service and ceremony, ritual and practice. Work that i predict will be as difficult in 2017 as in any other year, and more difficult still, and even more important. 
For us, there is only the trying.

" Set your foreheads against the ignorant hirelings"

-Wm Blake

1 comment:

Muriel Bellini said...

great text and drawings! thanks Ibrahim