Tuesday 26 August 2008

instead of 'ars poetica' 2

The Glimpse.
The waves, as I drove back this afternoon, and the high foam, how it was suspended in the air before it fell... What is it that happens in that moment of suspension? It is timeless. In that moment (what do I mean) the whole life of the soul is contained. One is flung up - out of life - one is 'held', and then, - down, bright, broken, glittering on to the rocks, tossed back, part of the ebb and flow.
I don't want to be sentimental. But while one hangs, suspended in the air, held - while I watched the spray, I was conscious for life of the white sky with a web of torn grey over it; of the slipping, sliding, slithering sea; of the dark woods blotted against the cape; of the flowers on the tree I was passing; and more - of a huge cavern where my selves (who were like ancient sea-weed gatherers) mumbled, indifferent and intimate...

Katherine Mansfield, who doesn't write about pictures here, but for me this is what photography is about: the glimpse.


  1. this photograph is completely lovely. and the writing too...

  2. thank you katrina.
    about Katherine, yes, I sort of fell in love with her journal and have been quoting her endlessly :-)

  3. you are quite obsessed with this idea of 'other selves', aren't you? (though I understand that this passage is a quote - but then, you selected it)
    this picture seems like it could be so easily part of your 'dream series' too...

  4. It is what photography is about - and the caption is what prose poetry is about. A wonderful example, in my view.

  5. I copied this passage out last night -- he question at the end: 'Shall one ever be at peace with oneself? Ever quiet and uninterrupted -- without pain -- with the one whom one loves under the same roof? Is it too much to ask?'

    it seems very much like what V. Woolf wrote in her diaries and also very much at the heart of 'Bliss'

    Thank you for turning my attention to her -- it was the quote about her Grandmother with a bowl of hot bread and milk -- such a wonderful storyteller

  6. yes, zuma, quite obsessed :-) but here the focus was on the 'glimpse', that moment of suspension when the time flow ceases and the world seems to be flooded with grace and meaning, suddenly immersed in an unconceivable harmony. when one perceives everything as from above, directly, one is conscious of everything, the beating of one's own blood as well as the trembling of the smallest leaf in the farthest tree... not with or through the mind, but with the soul. for the briefest of moments... yet a moment which bestows sense upon everything. but I don't know why I am talking about this, Katherine has already done it, and infinitely better :-)

  7. dave, I am glad you agree. it is nice to hear from you again.

  8. clavdia, hi! yes, she is fabulous, isn't she?
    you know, I had copied the final lines too, for my post, but then I hesitated and finally decided not to, even if they are essential. but I thought they might perhaps not fit into the photography connection, maybe I was wrong.

  9. Such beauty.
    What are you doing with your photos--they are almost meditating open at the molecules. Like a breathing of mater.

  10. Roxana, instead of multiple selves wouldn't it be nice to find -and hold on to-our true self? It would be like finding our name or choosing a picture amongst a selction to see which one was fairest.

    Not that I have anything against plurality or multiplicity-as if our self was a series of broken images, a broken circle.

    But I like what you/K.M. write about the glimpse. It reminds me, in a way, of a painting by Titian when "the moment" is upon us.


  11. oh mansuetude - I can't even try to thank you for these words, they are too much...

  12. anonymous, hi :-)
    I think I can ask: and what is 'the true self', does it really exist? without being immediately labelled as postmodern :-)
    The Indians would say that only Atman is the true self, but one needs meditation to know it - well, Schopenhauer gives art a little credit too, but only as a momentary glimpse (yes ffflaneur, I think you are smiling now if you read this :-). so we are back at the 'glimpse' idea.

  13. Roxana, I think our true self is like our name with God. No, not Atman, but our unique name, our style of being (is that what panache means?).

    Perhaps it's like the story that rumi narrates..of a prostitute who makes it to heaven and who asks the angels, in surprise: "how come I made it?"

    they reply: that night, remember, you took out a bowl of milk for a cat scared by the storm.

    Perhaps there are certain gestures that reveal out true self ..Leonardo's hands in the Last Supper: the self-revealing gestures of the soul and when we screw up we like to say: 'I wasn't myself'..I think the medievals would call them 'accidents'.

    Now, a time has elapsed. Can I call you postmodern?

    but I find it strange that you should question this. Your blog-or what I've come across-seems to be full of wonderful expressions -in words and images-of what I think most here would recognize (or like to believe to be )your true self.

    to be ec-centric isn't, I think, all it's cracked up to be.

  14. billoo, always nice to hear from you :-) you've been kind of quiet lately, I hope you are doing fine.

    of course, you can call me even Al if you want :-) [now that I think about it,I could have used this for my ars poetica-posts: why am I soft in the middle now/Why am I soft in the middle/The rest of my life is so hard/I need a photo opportunity/I want a shot at redemption]

    or postmodern or whatever, but are you sure this would be my true name? :-)

    but why you think one couldn't be true in multiplicity. why couldn't there be many true selves? and of course this is not a postmodern idea, I mean look at the polytheistic religions, God has many faces and aren't all of them true? is there one more true than the others?
    or take the example of a very old culture, the japanese one: the word for 'self', jibun, 自分, is made up of 'my', or 'self', and 'part' - they see the self as something continually changing, depending on the relation to other people/the world, all the time a different 'part' of something. hard to talk about just 'one true self' under these circumstances. does this make the ancient japanese postmodern ? :-P

    oh but this is such a long discussion and I tend to avoid intellectual debates on my blog :-) many people find this boring, I guess, but what can I do :-)

    and anyway, there isn't just one answer to this problem (sorry, again multiplicity :-), even among people who hold on to the idea of a single true self, you come from a culture where - perhaps, I don't know - 'our name with God' is a very important concept, but an Indian has his own understanding of 'Atman', and a Christian would define 'the true self' differently.

    maybe it is easier to limit the discussion to arts: there is perhaps something like 'the true self' of an artist, the unique style defining him or her. if you think you can see this in my pictures, then I cannot but be happy.

  15. Yes, busy, but one must not track time like that!

    I like your point about polytheistic faces. Yes, I'd say one is more true..that is the Face that has no face ..the voice (sorry, old Jewish roots I guess)

    The name that names least is the name. Perhaps this , too, cannot be spoken (in our Tradition God has 99 names and only the devil knows the 100th). But "the one" is not one as a number-but nor does it exclude multiplicity at a particular level.

    I think the same "principle" is reflected in the saying: the "haqiqah" (inner truth) is one but the "sharia" (ways/paths) are many.

    Zeus wants to and does not want to be named. Perhaps like the anons who write here or elsewhere.

    I was only joking about the postmodern thingy [I should have added my clownish face, " :-) " since you couldn't pick up the tone of my voice]

    But imagine the confusion if in the arms of a loved one one kept on calling out different names!

    I don't think a Christian or a Hindu would necessarily 'define' our true self differently. Perhaps, yes, at the exoteric level.

    and yes, I do think this a post-modern view: the continual making of the (nomadic) self as opposed to an 'identity' or 'essence'. Or maybe not. maybe it's an old discussion: must one be outside the stream to see the flux? If there is only flux (sovereign becoming I think someone said) then waht of the "suspended self" , what of the timeless?

    okay, you can delete this now! :-)

    and yes, I do see a unique style-though I can't put my finger on it.

  16. b, why should I delete that?

    this I like: 'But "the one" is not one as a number-but nor does it exclude multiplicity at a particular level.'

    but here I have to disagree, and I am surprised you say that :-) no, no confusion at all, actually I think this is one of the oldest love games of mankind: inventing different names for the beloved, playing with many names according to various moods, sweet secret names...

  17. haha! :-)
    well, I dare you to then!

    Of course, you're right (as usual!) ..when playing games we invent names but what I was thinking of was: face to face, in the arms of the beloved. Then?

    And because the secret name is only known to the lover it really is only one name -or when spoken to 'the one' it really is only one.

    but this is just wild specualtion. the proof of the pudding...