Monday, 4 February 2008

Steve Long 2008

I have a photo of a large lion taped up on a partition by my desk, because I like the lion and because of the Hoban connection. I say the lion is large, well it is, literally huge. At Whipsnade zoo, not far from my home, they carved a lion shape in the chalk of the hillside some years ago, in the tradition of ancient and not-so-ancient chalk figures in the landscape of southern England. In recent years the zoo people have taken to illuminating the lion's outline at night, and last spring I attempted to photograph it. I don't have a fancy camera, and what I ended up with, flash turned off, camera zoomed right in and held as firmly on the top of a gate as I could manage, was a somewhat blurry but (what I think of as) atmospheric photo of the lion. There are better photos of it on the internet, but I like mine. There is a sense of movement in the photo (maybe even motion/stillness to use a Russ-ism), that for me gives it an interesting quality.

That was the inspiration for my SA4QE this year. Being tight for time I thought the least I could do was 4Qate at work, and I printed the following quotations on the regulation Ryman "gold" paper and taped it up below the lion photo. Both are taken from The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz.

Jachin-Boaz… took the master map out of a drawer and spread it on the counter for his son to look at. "I have been working on it for years," said Jachin-Boaz, "and it will be your when you are a man. Everything that you could wish to look for is on this map. I take great pains to keep it up date, and I add to it all the time."

Boaz-Jachin looked at the map, at the cities and towns, the blue oceans, the green swamps and grasslands, the delicately shaded brown and orange mountains, the clear lines in inks of different colours that showed where all things known to his father might be found by him. He looked away from the map and down at the floor.

"What do you think of it?" said Jachin-Boaz.

Boaz-Jachin said nothing.

"Why won't you say anything?" said his father. "Look at this labour of years, with everything clearly marked upon it. This map represents not only the years of my life spent upon it, but the years of other lives spent in gathering the information that is here. What can you seek that this map will not show you how to find?"

Boaz-Jachin looked at the map, then at his father. He looked all around the shop and then at his father, but he said nothing.

"Please don't stand there saying nothing," said Jachin-Boaz. "Say something. Name something that this map will not show you how to find."

Boaz-Jachin looked around the shop again. He looked at the iron doorstop. It was in the shape of a crouching lion. He looked at his father with a half smile. "A lion?" he said.

"A lion," said Jachin-Boaz. "I don't think I understand you. I don't think you're being serious with me. You know very well there are no lions now. The wild ones were hunted to extinction. Those in captivity were killed off by a disease that travelled from one country to another carried by fleas. I don't know what kind of joke that was meant to be." As he spoke there opened in his mind great mystical amber eyes, luminous and infinite. There blossomed great taloned paws, heavy and powerful. There was a silent roar, round, endless, an orb of reflection imaging a pink rasping tongue, white teeth of death. Jachin-Boaz shook his head. There were no lions any more.

[...]

Darkness roared with the lion, the night stalked with the silence of him. The lion was. Ignorant of non-existence he existed. Ignorant of self he was a sunlit violence with calm joy at the centre of it, he was the violence of being-as-hunter constantly renewed in the devouring of non-being. The wheel had been when he ran tawny on the plain, printing his motion on the grateful air. He had died biting the wheel that went on and left him dead. The wheel continued, the lion continued. He was intact, diminished by nothing, increased by nothing, absolute. He ate meat or he did not eat meat, was seen or unseen, known when there was knowledge of him, unknown when there was not. But always he was. For him there were no maps, no places, no time. Beneath his tread the round earth rolled, the wheel turned, bearing him back to death and life again.

Through his lion-being drifted stars and blackness, morning sang, night soothed, dawn burst its daylight from the womb of vital terror. Oceans heaved, frail bridges spanned the winding track of days, the rising air sang lion-flight in wings of birds. In clocks ticked lion-time. It pulsed in heartbeats, footsteps walking all unknowing, souls of guilt and sorrow, souls of love and pain. He had been called, he had come. He was."


from The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz


At the bottom I simply put the SA4QE web address, because if anybody wanted to know more they could just ask me. Shame that nobody did. Possibly just too weird in an engineering R&D department!

I like the first passage just because it makes me think about the relationship I had with my father as a young adult. Russ has captured that difficult time when I wanted to be independent, and anything Dad did or told me was of no interest to me, and the frustration Dad no doubt felt at my rejection of his attempt to pass down to me the wisdom of years. Perhaps this is typical of many father / adolescent son relationships, but I shouldn't make that assumption.

I like the second passage simply because it is Hoban as his best, his most articulate and powerful. The words are a joy to read.

All the best,

Steve

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