Wilderness

What else is there to say about the wilderness, the desert, the emptiness we face every day in a culture void of Truth, committed to re-enforcing the ideas that there is no Truth, that there are no little truths, that there is no transcendence, nor absolution, nor objectivity. We are no longer beings of spirit, but first and last beings of material, beings of use, each a means to an end, each alone and fragmented, each only capable of any power en masse. Each of us is no longer macrocosm in our guiding metaphysics. We are merely numerical. Our ethics or morality or sociology and our politics are all branches of Arithmetic and Book-Keeping.

I recall having paused for a moment after a dream I had had, after having awakened to remember it the next morning an hour before dawn. I also remember something Da Vinci said to me in another dream. I recall the aforementioned portrait of Jerome that I saw at the Met when the Vatican Collection came sometime in the mid eighties. I don’t recall the year or the month, even; I do recall the crowds, the lines, the tickets, the jostling, the baa-baa sheep in flock after flock, the faces I would have loved to push in, teeth I would have been overjoyed to kick down their throats . . . I opted instead to ignore the ignoble masses and focus on the art I had once in a lifetime to see.

It was one of the biggest events the Met had ever had. I forget where we ate lunch. We did eat lunch, the girl and I who went together. A museum was one of my favorite date spots. When in the collection together we no longer stayed together but broke off from one another to look, see, examine separately, on our own, each one to it.

I stared at each piece for a long time; I stared at many pieces that afternoon for a long time. For a long time after that afternoon I spoke about my epxerinecs at the Met.

I swore for a time I had seen the statue of the Emperor Augustus from Prima Porta breath. It did. It took a breath. I saw it. I did. I did not imagine it. I know what is meant by living stone. I understand what Goethe meant when he said architecture was music frozen in stone. I know statues and architecture are different, but how much are they really different from one another. I’m not even sure how different architecture and statuary are different from ballet. I know they are in the ways they are delineated within a category of acceptable critical appraisal and understanding, but whether ballet is so much different in the representation of form than statuary–great statuary is motion, movement, being frozen in stone?

I couldn’t take my eyes of Caravaggio’s dead Christ in his La Deposizione. It was tremendous, the painting, the dead Christ, enormous.

The medieval galleries are among my favorites at the Met. I love our day trips to the Cloisters.

I had a dream the other day about Jerome in the wilderness; there’s always someone in the wilderness. I recall a Sister in Catechism class telling us the life of the Baptist. I liked the Baptist when I was a boy, the Baptist spent a lot of time in the wilderness with the Essenes, a radical monastic group of celebit Jews in the desert. Jeremiah became a friend in reading when I was a teenager. The Lamentations fit my mood, pretty much the zeitgeist too. Anyway, Jerome stands above my side of the bed in the dream looking down on me watching you (this is to you, your form–all that about Velasquez, you know–we made it to the Prado last summer in Madrid). I see him but do not move my eyes from your form, the line of your torso in the street light lit room, the bed by the window facing the floodlight that bounces off the wall to meet the street light on the bed. I hear him say something in the dream. The lion the lion!

I pray before a triptych at the Met, Ave Maria Plena Gratia, and all that. I remember growing up thinking that Protestants and Jews were too materialistic. I know my immigrant friends from the Soviet Union are. Humans are not beings of spirit, but beings of material, only material, therefore are means to an end, always in every communist philosophy. I think as would the monks, or a hermit perhaps in a cave in the mountains. I remember a portrait of Jerome by Da Vinci, the former the first comprehensive translator of the Canonical biblical texts into Latin and a friend of Augustine. Jerome is in anguish in the wilderness with a lion ready and waiting nearby, and with his candle and book and quill also nearby outside of his cave. A city is seen in proportion to its distance, Da Vinci one of the first to introduce perspective and the relativity of distance into his painting.

 

I watch you lying naked  along the edge of the bed nearest the windows, Velasquez has nothing on my eyes. The light shines on you as well as the wall perpendicular to the windows, a triptych of frames, I imagine an altar panel in wood from the middle ages, I recollect the fragments of medieval sculpture at CLUNY in Paris one February–terminally gray, I recall having said. The sun decided to shine on our last day. Paris was beautiful even if gray for nine days, overcast horizon to horizon, as far as our eyes could see from atop the Arc de Triomphe, from atop Montmartre, just below Sacre Coeur. Gray, gray and more gray.

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