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Showing posts from February, 2018

Be careful what you wish for: The Return from Troy

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Ends never justify means.

The Trojans fell not only for the deception of the Wooden Horse but Odysseus' promise to the collaborator, Antenor, that anyone who surrendered would be spared. But both Agamemnon's duplicity and the barbaric logic of pillage swept such a promise aside leaving behind carnage and a burned, destroyed city.

During the course of which Athena's temple is desecrated. Athena, until then a dedicated supporter of the Greek cause, turns and out of the jaws of victory falls defeat. Many of the winning kings return to find themselves deposed from their kingdoms and Agamemnon is murdered by his wife consumed by the suffering he has inflicted on her. Many of the men are lost on their way home in the storms that Poseidon, a stalwart of Troy, sends in retribution at its destruction.

Odysseus is cast adrift by his own guilt - and wanders forth on a circuitous journey that will only slowly return him to home after great trials.

All of which is deeply re-imagined i…

Borders - what are they good for?

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One day arriving at the office in Macedonia, my assistant informed that my Roma cleaning lady had been in touch. Under the mat outside my flat, she had found an 'object'. The intention of the object (whose character remained undescribed) was malevolent but rest assured, though she did not think it meant for me but the flat's owner, it had been dealt with safely! It was one of a number of tangential encounters with a world of magic that came my way living in 'the Balkans' including a memorable storyline about the 'evil eye' (equally, thankfully, not directed at me).

I was reminded of this reading Kapka Kassabova's "Border: A Journey on the Edge of Europe". Her exploration takes her further east than mine - to the place where Greece, Turkey and her native Bulgaria meet. It is a place - in her account - that remains 'apart' - depopulated by the shiftings of border, culture and economics - and saturated in both the edges of the known - gh…

Patrick Pye: In gratitude

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I met Patrick (pictured here with his wonderful wife, Noirin) at the First Temenos Conference on Art and the Renewal of the Sacred. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/visual-art/patrick-pye-stained-glass-artist-and-one-of-the-great-individualists-has-died-1.3386935

Our first agreement (of many) was that the conference title ought to be reversed. The sacred, as such, was never in need of renewal, it was for us to allow the sacred to be the re-newer in and to us. This agreement was reached over tea (and whiskey) at the end of the conference's first day and this late night gathering simply became ritualized over the course of the conference. Patrick, Peter Malekin, then Reader in English Literature at Durham University, and myself assembled over the appropriate liquids in the comfy corner chairs analyzing, celebrating and critiquing the days contributions, discussions and performances of what was, for all of us, a remarkable event. Not least remarkable was that these …

The Art of Loading Brush: A beautiful instruction in loving attention

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When St Augustine lay dying, the Vandals were literally at the gates of Hippo. He might have imagined that his legacy was at the point of crumbling away.

Reading Wendell Berry's latest collection of essays,"The Art of Loading Brush" put me in mind of this because they do have a valedictory flavor of a man poised if, not on his death bed thankfully, mindfully approaching his "endpoint", in his eighties, looking back, thinking of legacy. Not surprisingly too, he might find himself imagining that the Vandals are at the gate.

The dominant mode of "agriculture" is the industrialism of "agribusiness" that continues its apparently relentless march despoiling land, polluting waterways; and, destroying communities - especially the small mixed family farms that the agrarian Berry has spent his lifetime defending. He rightly recognises that, on one level, the membership to which he belongs, most closely, is diminishing - the number of small family far…

The War at Troy

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Lindsay Clarke's 'The War at Troy' starts with a simple conceit. This account is one given by Odysseus to a friend (and bard) at Ithaca, complete with the bard's sympathetic additions and amplifications. Thus, it can avoid being simply a prose version of Homer's poem.

What it achieves is a remarkably confident panorama of the trails leading up to the war that honors the reality of the Gods, the drive of 'fate' and yet inserts sufficient psychological realism and backdrop to connect you, the modern reader, with the unfolding realities. They, the Greeks and Trojans, were different, their world view explicitly saturated in myth, a world enchanted; and, yet, they are like you because, however, differently perceived, many of their drivers are ours. We have tended to hide our myths, not a overly helpful practice, as the repressed, as Freud noted, always returns, often in more painful guises.

Meanwhile, we too fall in love with an alluring fantasy that drives you…