Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Vision of the City

The Vision of the City - The Art of Thomas Cole

(Thomas Cole, 1842, The Voyage of Life, Youth)

The river flows out of Eden and into the World. No-one can look back at the garden, Eden is now only a fragmented, distorted reflection in the river, knowable only in art, forgotten even in memory, for the Vision of the City fills the horizon before us. "Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man" (Genesis 3:22-24). Man must leave the garden, the river flows out of Eden, perhaps it is the flow of life in the Irenaean fashion, for the Vision of the City is palpable indeed, man reaches out as if he could hold the horizon in his hands, not the foolish hope of youth as much as the beginnings of rationality: history is for fools.

DEAR love, for nothing less than thee
Would I have broke this happy dream ;
It was a theme
For reason, much too strong for fantasy.
Therefore thou waked'st me wisely ; yet
My dream thou brokest not, but continued'st it.
Thou art so true that thoughts of thee suffice
To make dreams truths, and fables histories ;

(The Dream, John Donne)

The dream means moving, for the dream is not a symbol but its finding out, the act of the dream is the search for the meaning of the dream. Debussy works to manifest the vision (orchestral renderings do a better job):

(The Sunken Cathedral, Debussy)

"'Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbour
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.
At the moment which is not of action or inaction
You can receive this: "on whatever sphere of being
The mind of a man may be intent
At the time of death"—that is the one action
(And the time of death is every moment)
Which shall fructify in the lives of others:
And do not think of the fruit of action.
Fare forward.
O voyagers, O seamen,
You who came to port, and you whose bodies
Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea,
Or whatever event, this is your real destination.'
So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna
On the field of battle.
Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyagers."

(The Dry Salvages, T.S. Eliot)

(Ansel Adams, 1942, The Tetons – Snake River)

The plant's name is 'The Old Man Becomes a Young Man.'"
Then I will eat it and return to the condition of my youth."
At twenty leagues they broke for some food,
at thirty leagues they stopped for the night.
Seeing a spring and how cool its waters were,
Gilgamesh went down and was bathing in the water.
A snake smelled the fragrance of the plant,
silently came up and carried off the plant.
While going back it sloughed off its casing.'
At that point Gilgamesh sat down, weeping,

(Tablet XI, Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest written story on Earth, somewhere between 2750 to 2500 B.C.)

And how does man conceive of the river? First he is amazed at the movement, at awe in youthful novelty, then the movement becomes non-movement, it becomes a state, pretending movement, a way of life frozen in utility, a state is always a tool, a method, the river draws us to the City, and is at the same time the builder of the City, it is itself the Vision. Rivers can not help but to "snake", its movement is the movement of temptation, it is the image of dissatisfaction, of non-fulfilment, an insatiable appetite for movement, always going downwards, towards the sea's throat, never ascending to the mountain spring, the high-place, the Eden as mountain temple. The Vision and the river are one, both intangible, both only reflection, never positing, only reacting.

"I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,
In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,
In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,
And the evening circle in the winter gaslight."

(The Dry Salvages, T.S Eliot)

No comments:

Post a Comment