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 am not frozen in stone, nor are you, but you are frozen in these lines and these lines will, I hope, give eternal life to you, to me. What then do I say with as much weight of responsibility as speaking words carries–to speak or not to speak must mean something to any human–speech as we know it humanly or humanely. I want to say that I have believed in the metaphysical veracity of Truth, upper case value insistent. What this says to you I will not imagine. I want to go on.
It was one of the biggest events the Met had ever had, when the Vatican Collection came to New York. What year it was I forget. I also forget where we ate lunch. We did eat lunch, the girl and I who went together to see the Vatican Collection–I was convinced that museums were the best places for a date.
When in the collection together we no longer stayed together but broke off from one another to look, to see, to examine, each separately, yes, as we say, on our own, each one to it. I stared at each piece for a long time–I could never measure time in the manner I would view in a museum; museums were one of the places where my sense of the passing of time was abandoned. I stared at many pieces that afternoon, each one for a long time or whatever amount of time I did. Afternoons disappear in a snap when I move from gallery to gallery at the Met or MoMA or the Whitney. For a long time after that afternoon I spoke about my experiences then at the Met . . . what I saw, what I felt as I did, see was what I did do–stand under, as we try to mean by seeing, how we understand when we have understood.
I recall having paused for a moment after a dream I had had–how long after I casnnot now recollect–and after having awakened to remember it the next morning an hour before dawn, lying in bed as I was, in the gloaming. I also remember something Da Vinci said to me in another dream. I recall a portrait of Jerome that I saw at the Me– the Vatican Collection–what was it about Da Vinci and Jerome and the wilderness and the lion and the book and was there a candle–I do recollect when I first saw Caravaggio’s La Deposizione, God! I was struck dumb–yes, God!
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 throats–not very Christian after having seen Christ being put into his tomb, by Caravaggio, the cornerstone of my faith? I might have thought the former in italics if I had been solipsistic, if I came from a tradition that enclosed its perceptions of the world in a binary frame, us and them. I opted instead to ignore the ignoble masses and focus on the art I had once in a lifetime to see. I recall the same was true around the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Sheep–people who might as well have gone baa-baa-baa all the way through the galleries and on their way home. Or is that the piggies who squeal all the way home–little toes, little piggies–none of the three little pigs would have gone wee-wee-wee all the way home–they were in their homes as the big bad wolf did his worst.
What else is there to say about the wilderness, the desert, the emptiness we face every day in a culture void of Truth–oh, here he goes again I can hear former friends say as they might have as we’d sit around a table in the English Major’s lounge when we were undergraduates. Yes, a society 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. What the fuck are you going on about I hear a boy say as if he were listening to us in a dream I dreamed how long ago now I cannot say.
What then is there to say? What would there be to say if I were one to know this without effort or confusion as to the rightness or wrongness of what I was thinking? My to be or not is contained right here in the writing, to write or not to write has become my to be or not to be, just as it might be for another who understands that writing is my right, my truth–that it is Truth or some way to find it, look for it, perhaps if finding it is too much to hope for in a society so committed to opposing Truth or even the entertainment of the idea in mind that there might be a thing called Truth, universal and transcendent of any of our particularities of race or ethnicity or religion or culture or language or institution or government or any one of many, many other variations of identity or lack thereof.