“In exhibiting the horrors awaiting all human beauty, already lurking below the surface of corporeal charms, these preachers of contempt for the world express, indeed, a very materialistic sentiment, namely, that all beauty and all happiness are worthless because they are bound to end soon. Renunciation founded on disgust does not spring from Christian wisdom.” Huizinga, J.. The Waning of the Middle Ages: A Study of the Forms of Life, Thought and Art in France and The Netherlands in the XIVth and XVth Centuries (p. 126). Normanby Press. Kindle Edition.
“Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.” From “Tenderness“, Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Naomi Shihab Nye.
Imprisoned in time by a pandemic, we are all old now, reprising bad decisions and bad relationships, the only ones we will now own. As the Other withdraws over the event-horizon it seems that we only exist as Other. The Moon is meaningless: it has its own sky. And yet it is still there in ours, like the immediacy of memory, or the sharing of infant seriousness. Has an entire system of meaning traumatically collapsed? Perhaps, but the fundamental system remains: sensuality. Even after death, sensuality remains. Corpses stink. And our death meditation remains what it is, the sensuality of timeless country. Where is the mouth to the cave of sensuality? Kindness! Country is kindness. It owes its existence to me as I owe my existence to it. We share something of infinite tenderness: sensuality. Sensuality is kindness, two-of-a-kindness.
I have been sharing all my life, in much the same way that my youngest darling grandson is currently learning how to speak, by learning cues by trial and error, and saying the first thing that comes into his head, usually with transformative consequence. His adult erudition is inevitable, because none of his loved ones will ever allow its infancy in insignificance or irrelevance to be forbidden. And because of that, his speech will be shaped by kindness, and I hope one day he will open the box of my notebooks, and share his tears. (The catastrophic slithering of a memory of mammoths plucked from the ice of the primordial Yarra at a lichen-encrusted Abbotsford bench; the magic of architecture which unfolds of its own accord: the desirability of innocence.)
There is nothing the old, like the Moon, can teach the young; the young have assumed an inheritance from still extant benefactors hanging on their capacity to embody the joy they give the old; the old and the young are quarantined from each other. The Moon is outdoors; country no longer has an outdoors. The Moon is not to know this of course—how could it know anything of Earthly affairs it supposedly influences? It can barely distinguish continents—but a rumour has gone viral that country may never have existed. For the time being, the young are sacrificing everything they value to preserve the old, as though given enough time, values will become their own monuments to something other than the waning of youth, the health of the pharmaceutical industry, the power of the Hippocratic Oath, and the harvest of seed.
But how long will this last? So many signs holding the life of a human together depend on constant reinforcement of the roles humans learn to play by forgetting woe. Too many humans have lost their roles and traumatically thereby their experience. Too many roles were incompletely learned before they were expunged. Can they be assumed again? Is there a template? Many generations of humanity have died without hearing an orchestral recital, let alone the performance of works their enjoyment might have confirmed as immortal, such as Beethoven’s Spring Sonata, or Wagner’s Liebestod. In too many spirits they were never composed. The cave leading to the eternal underworld may be ringed by your parents’ assays of serious music: Bach, Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Fauré, Elgar, etc., or perhaps the Reader’s Digest collection of operettas, but my grandfather could never plier, and I doubt your grandmother could ever whistle, let alone queue a playlist.
The openness of a vowel is non-gustatory; the emptiness of a bowel is non-binary; the orbit of a satellite is non-accusative. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust. Let no one deride the rites of death. Let all be present in its cavernous jaws. Grasp an opportunity! The ocean is full of tears: taste yours! Make something of this crisis! Relate to country! Imagine it wearing your clothes, the slippers your kids will give you for Mother’s Day! Weigh your emptiness! Be kind to the Moon! Share your isolation! We’re all in this together!