Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"rough winds do shake the darling buds of May..."

That I haven't posted anything here for a while might seem to indicate a loss of interest in self-publishing, but that would be precipitous, to say the least. It will come as no surprise to anyone that, after having read Steven Pinker's latest, "The Stuff of Thought," I would beg off as being suffused in that very same brown study of gray matter. It is of such relevance to my thesis on the other blog (on this subject, if you haven't visited) that it appears that the Work there might have to undergo (if not drastic then at certainly pertinent) revisions before the conclusion would be secure enough to satisfy inquiring minds. Such as mine.

However, one point on which I have gained some firm footing is the way that metaphor weaves in and out of our thought, expressions, language, our very lives. It is not like I haven't known of the purpose of the Central Binding Metaphor (let's call it CBM to save some time--I do so enjoy acronyms, even better when they become words) for some time, it was just when you place it, as Pinker did, at the summit of a series of proofs, that it sort of pops out at you all over again. The use of "as a" frames our discussions, issues, answers; the whole of our existence is set as much by how we describe it.

Now, I know that Materialists will state that there is a firm, concrete Reality which owes nothing to our descriptions of it, and that--in substance, and please note the codicle!--I will be glad to grant. My only question would be: can you get everybody to agree that a chair is a chair and only a chair and that all chairs are equal and all that and speak only in the English language?

But I have yet to introduce the relation of the preface to the most salient point of this essay: The Title. Yes. The Bard's Sonnet 18, arguably his most famous, came to my mind when visiting Washington, D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival last weekend. The classical view for Westerners is, traditionally, colored by any chance memory of Japanese fans or room screens or wall scrolls in delicate sumei strokes, sipping green tea to the strains of "Sakura"... The reality is more like the Mongol Horde, using double-wide troop-carrier strollers as their advance guard, tromping about the tidal basin in a death shuffle as fervent as hadj-bound muslims attempting to circle the kabbah seven times. This is, you may note, an absurd metaphor. Ok. Maybe not. Envisualize a religious devotion wherein it is the adorant's responsibility to take continuous still-life pictures of themselves and their loved ones, without including others in the lens, from as many points as possible within a 360-degree circumference, and to not only cell-phone transmit and conference, but to do so within the two days between storm fronts. The Ideal and the Real: now you may see the gap more clearly.

That's whitecaps there, and not from the falling petals. These buds ain't just shaken, they're stirred.

So? Are we talking troubled waters?

Yet what good is a metaphor if is does not resonate to higher planes, greater issues? Despite the fact that the President was overseas for our jaunt, from start to finish, it was the kitty-faced Elf's determination to simply bask in the sunshine of his love (to paraphrase the Cream's big hit...which was also one of the few covers in the Jimi Hendrix catalogue, just to show you its ubiquity), along with the floating clouds of yoshino (the only cherry blossoms that deserve the name as differentiated from the "Wild Mountain" cherry trees--where the green leaves are a dead giveaway--and the loathsome "false" cherry trees that bloom as late as a week after). So, in extending our comparison to the new "Camelot", the "winter of our discontent" given way to this "son of York" (ok, stretching it a bit...), the Spring of...well, let's not belabor this further. Like there isn't enough Shakespeare here already.

It was more to bring up the weather, you see. I know I am not alone in having a fascination with it, the Weather Channel itself having shown up as a topic in movies and tv shows, just the view of it out the window as a George Kuchar film subject (for more on that, see mediafunhouse.blogspot.com) and, yes, as I may have said before, is the only front page item in every newspaper throughout the known universe. Then it can also be employed to compare the situation in the ecotropic dominion (is this a word?--dunno, but I like it...it stays) to that of the political realm.

As I have made the acquaintance of neither lottery winners nor the independently wealthy, almost everybody I know is struggling against the big blow after the downpour of money bummers. And, like the above (ok, now we're talking simile, but that's ok too; no reason to limit our expressions), we may just be having a holiday in the calm. But still, it was a lovely couple of days, which is actually, if you follow the haiku vision of Life, exactly the purpose of a cherry blossom festival. You are supposed to stop. Consider the moment. Look at the fluffy white hovering around the low-lying trees with the same hazy quality of morning mist. Look at the beautiful petals--even now!--starting to drift away in singles, couples, then torrents. Small wonder it drives her to tears.

We can't tell if the present Chief will be one of the greats, but he has a great start. Right now, he appears to be in the same space as Sunday's viewing: bright and summery, dry and comfortable, mild temperatures. There are clouds on the horizon, sure, but none today, and that's what matters.

So, to return to the preface, it is the framing of this that is most important. Those of us who do not have control of nations or wealth or influence must content ourselves with the liberty of choosing where to fight our battles and when. And when not fighting to appreciate the luxury of simply existing, with a fraction of our attention attuned to an aesthetic beyond these things. (Which, incidentally, is not translated into Latin as Procul Harum, even though the British pop-psyche band touted that as their origin--another case of bad translation...yeah, like that's going to stop me from thinking of it every time I hear "A Whiter Shade of Pale"? Gimme a break!) Some might call this "god" but others prefer a more organic spirituality.

Me? I like cherry blossoms.