A novice touches the face of Christ with a paintbrush, intently adding the last drops of pigment to the wooden statue. Dutifully, she and three other women carry the Christ on their shoulders, through a chicken coop, and then outside. With some effort they balance the figure on a pedestal in the convent courtyard. Then they pray.
Pawel Pawlikowski communicates a palpable sense of fragility in this opening scene of his film Ida. The director lets us know that what we hold closest, what we believe is most real, is precarious. Our identities — the beliefs we hold about our past and our future — can, with the slightest push in the right place, collapse around us.
The Shape of Empty
It is too warm for February. The awful smell of misplaced airs seeps through open windows, is driven along halls by small talk about the weather, and arrives like a threat at my door. I shut the door to my office, blocking this spring out of place. It is cold here in the winter, or at least that is the usual working of things.
I teach Faulkner in February, so that we all must look out upon a dead sky drained of heat and understand our distance from the hot working sweat of Yoknapatawpha. This came to be years ago, when a football player in my class sighed in the middle of a discussion of As I Lay Dying. We had been talking about Addie’s impossible line: I would hate my father for ever having planted me. A girl with that young smooth easy skin leaned back in her chair and asked why Addie was so sad. That was when he sighed, deliberate and loud, resting his hand big and steady on the cover of his book. I leaned in, asking if he had anything he wanted to say.
“I stand upon my desk to remind [myself] that we must constantly look at things in a different way.” – John Keating, Dead Poets Society
We human beings are creatures of rhythm and contrast, but we think statically.
We are used to questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “What do you do?” as if one thing will become the answer for perpetuity. This type of thinking shapes, and is shaped, by static images of who we are. But these static images don’t fit our real lives. At least they shouldn’t.
Photographer’s Statement: This collection of photographs explores the visions and places of home. There is beauty in the transience of the places we’ve called home: while we are not often privileged to plant ourselves in one lifelong home, the places of our childhood remain joyfully rooted in the depths of our memories. These snapshots capture a few of the fleeting details which decorate the permanent landscape of a childhood home.
“The worst things humans suffer is homelessness; we must endure this life because of desperate hunger; we endure, as migrants with no home.” Odysseus says this as he travels homeward-bound to Ithaca in Homer’s The Odyssey.
In contemplating this passage, I began to wonder at the burden that a home can seem to be, as much as it can also seem like a haven. Being a stranger in some foreign place can feel a good deal like being displaced, and returning to a childhood home can feel equally unsettling. Places that were once home can become as foreign through the passage of time as distant countries, and it seems as if this consequence is irreversible. And so, if we are, as Odysseus says, “migrants with no home” — what use is it to contemplate our lack of one?
Silence is all we dread.
There’s Ransom in a Voice—
But Silence is Infinity.
Himself have not a face.
— Emily Dickinson
I once had a professor who described Emily Dickinson’s poems as diamonds— like great amounts of life’s raw materials formed into something dense and beautiful. It is precisely that quality of density that allows us to dwell among just four short lines of her craft, still discovering new meanings, new questions, new possibilities, and always sensing that what we hold is, like a diamond, a rare and precious thing.
Artist’s Statement: This collection of pen drawings is the artist’s personal interpretation of the theme “Sound and Silence.” These images seek to contrast and reconcile the mythical and the mundane, emphasizing the spiritual/existential depth that can be found in everyday scenes as well as complex metaphysical concepts. Our cosmos is strange, full of interior howls and shattering quietudes.
Matter and Substance (Prose Poem)
I had a dream wherein I could not hear the music for the loud, distracting discord of the damned sounds.
But then I noticed, perplexed: these too, in all their corruption, are like a kind of music—
inscrutable and distant, and yet more tangible.
To listen and to hear, then
—or, rather, to do these singly, without distinction—would be to be transfigured.
For to understand is not to know; to know sounds as music by necessity means the death of at least some understanding.
Silence is not the non-existence of sound; it is rather both its absence and potential. That’s the logic underpinning the sense of a “pregnant pause” and the absurdity of the “silence of outer space.” Sound cannot exist in a vacuum, so it is meaningless to call outer space silent in a way that it is not meaningless to call it dark. Pauses can be pregnant only because they could ultimately bear sounds.
Music seems to depend on sound. Even when we imagine music silently, the mind’s attention may turn to a fantasy of sound that, as it were, verges on sounding and only happens to remain silent. Yet the silences within sounding music — those pregnant pauses framed by sound, like the one after the oboe solo has trailed off in the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or the grand pause before the shocking C-minor tutti in the first movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony — hint to us that music might exist without sound. “The music is in the silences,” runs a familiar platitude. But if this is true, then it must imply that there can be music made of neither sound nor silence: an ineffable music of “pure” meaning.