Text and image

We tend to think about our lives in terms of narrative, of teleology. We refer to our story; we talk, write, tell. It occurred to me that there is another way of expressing our lives which departs from (without invalidating or disavowing) a linear narrative: and for now I will use the word collage. Of course this idea is nothing new. If I affix images, objects and words to a wall, a “story” may emerge without an authoritative narrative. If I can approach this from another angle: I was recently looking at the paintings of the French “academy” painters Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 – 1904) and William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905). I admire both painters for their skill and nuanced stories in paint: I find it interesting though to juxtapose these works with the paintings of their contemporaries, the impressionists, and to explore the contrast (not only painterly and thematic, but psychological and psychical). The spaces which open up when juxtaposing these works of art fascinate me. For now, I simply use this to illustrate the contrast between narrative (or storytelling) and impression. (The term “Impressionist” was originally an insult inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “Impression, Sunrise” (1872). But what if the impressionist way of seeing is closer to our way of encountering the world? Without the imposition of the voice of an authoritative narrator, but rather an invitation to see the light playing on landscapes and cathedrals, on gardens and water? The 20th century saw a greater and greater movement away from the academicians (we have the post-impressionists, the expressionists and so on). Van Gogh, Klee, Rothko, each in their way express this idea for me, of articulating an inner vision without an imposed story – the painting no longer a prescriptive linear narrative, but an image inviting a glimpse of the artist’s soul, his or her vision. (20th century poetry, dance and theatre all similarly opened up new ways of seeing).

And so back to my tenuous thread of thought: what if I experience and express my life as a collage of impressions rather than a story? (Can a Rothko canvas say more than a thick biography?) Or is this to move towards madness? (Are the mad lost in a landscape of chaotic, broken, shard-like, impressions?) I find that in discussions about theology and philosophy there is this insistence on teleological inquiry, what Jack Miles in his book Christ: a crisis in the life of God referred to as the insistence of attempting to look through the stained glass window rather than at it.

Is it possible that we might speak by covering our walls with the metaphorical postcards and letters and drawings and musical notations and objets trouve and photographs and memories and hopes which together form an open, non-linear, impressionistic vision? It might not be enough, it might be a partial vision, and like the BBC docudrama The Impressionists, we might need to “interview” our subject. For now though, the collage fascinates me…



Aporia (Ancient Greek: ἀπορία: “impasse, difficulty of passing, lack of resources, puzzlement”) denotes in philosophy a philosophical puzzle or state of puzzlement; “a difficulty, impasse, or point of doubt and indecision”. “… a point of undecidability, which locates the site at which the text most obviously undermines its own rhetorical structure, dismantles, or deconstructs itself”. “Wolfreys in his essay “Trauma, Testimony, and Criticism” characterizes trauma as aporia, a wound with unending trail. Valiur Rahaman in his book Interpretations: Essays in Literary Theory (2011) explained aporia as a creative force in both the artist and his/her art. It is, for him/her, an edgeless edge of the text or a work of art. (Source & Citation: Wikipedia)

I, Thou, and the infinite

A Meditation on Martin Buber


“When I behold another, I am beholding a world of infinite possibilities, both painful, bound, and even malevolent, but also divine, unencumbered, and capable of great joy. I can listen to a story, and yet I can know that the story I hear is only one point of light that I happen to be standing directly in front of. However, the person I behold exudes multitudinous rays of light that I can barely fathom to see. And the same is true for me. I am aware that the possibilities I have within me are infinite, and that it becomes even more apparent to me when I am in relationship with someone who is just a few steps beyond my little skull and skin encapsulated world. When I attempt to hear something outside of myself and actually hear something new, my sense of self expands and my horizon is broadened. The relevance of this to the aforementioned freedom is that this kind of interaction not only illuminates the many wondrous aspects of self via reflection and absorption that can occur through relationship, it also builds bridges to roads that people may not even think they are capable of traveling: roads that lead to a becoming we cannot yet behold, but place our faith in. The benevolence of a present interaction with another person can help build that faith, for we are presenting that hopeful part of our self that another may not yet identify with. However, our persistence to believe in the potential of another may lay a solid foundation for the faith that is necessary, i.e. the “daily bread” that sustains us during our great adventure through life as we best know it.”


Thou art there

“We read in the psalm: “If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in the netherworld, behold, here Thou art.” When I consider myself great and think I can touch the sky, I discover that God is the faraway There, and the higher I reach, the farther away he is. But if I make my bed in the depths, if I bow my soul down to the netherworld, there, too, he is with me.”

Martin Buber: Martin Buber’s ten rungs, collected Hassidic sayings

No absolute formulas

“I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen in a man’s life. As we live, we grow and our beliefs change. They must change. So I think we should live with this constant discovery. We should be open to this adventure in heightened awareness of living. We should stake our whole existence on our willingness to explore and experience.

Martin Buber