My soul clamours for an outpouring.
My feet desire the monotony of a walk, a stroll.
My mind wants to be inspired.
My heart needs to feel.
Got up early again, but this time, I’m greeted by an overcast Sunday morning. Grey, gloomy, foreboding.
I find myself back at the Organic Deli for waffles, no… pancakes (they weren’t serving waffles today) with some greek yogurt and fresh berries. Been having random cravings lately that drive me nuts until I get them sated. Which is new for me – ask around, I’ve never been one to clearly know what I want food-wise haha.
Still grey out.
So the Ashmolean Museum (Museum of Art and Archaeology) beckoned.
(I would later lose myself in there for hours on end.)
(I’d end up setting up shop in Quarterhorse Coffee to write my afternoon away.)
Started off in the “Money” gallery, pretty interesting how money has so much relationship with culture and power. Some light-hearted stuff came in the form of Disney dollar notes, which people exchange for with US dollars for use in Disney theme parks and of course, as a form of keepsake. And a 5 pound note commemorating George Best the football legend. Or the 1000 lire note from Italy back in 1990 with graffiti celebrating Lazio’s win of the national football league 99/00.
Missing from the case was a USD 50 note which apparently had “Lesbian Money” stamped over it, apparently a common practice in a bid for financial self-identification in the LGBT community, especially in the USA and the UK. The label where the display lay bare only read “Temporarily Removed (21/3/2011)”.
A smooth copper coin with a faded inscription then caught my attention.
An Australian convict’s love token. Convicts made such tokens during their long sea voyages to Australia to be sent back to loved ones in Britain. That particular token was inscribed with:
When this you see, Remember mee, Tho’ I in distant parts may be.
How would that be like? When all you have to hold on to is a cold copper token from across the vast seas.
Fittingly enough, the adjacent gallery was devoted to “Writing”.
I was immediately confronted by a large runestone. The plague read: “Swedish runestone written in memory of a mother, father and brother (about 1100)”.
And the first line on the description: Runestones were created in memory of the dead.
I don’t know why exactly but something stirred within me. Perhaps I wondered what would be remembered of me when I go. Perhaps I wondered who would remember me. Have I lived it right? Am I living it right? Or… will I ever live it right?
But I guess we never do, do we? It’s the human condition. We strive and still fall miserably short.
Then again, I am reminded: there is grace. There is mercy. There is acceptance. There is forgiveness.
There my soul finds rest.
The gallery’s displays described the purpose of writing.
Counting: the one basic reason for ever needing to write in the first place.
Recording: the recording of facts, of important decisions; to be “chiseled on stone for all to see or to be kept safe in a treasury”.
For all to see – that’s heavy.
To keep safe.
Communicating: to record and transmit thoughts/ideas/orders from person to person. It can range from the simple (an instruction perhaps), to the personal (a letter about the difficulties of life maybe), and even the complex (an official bill or law to be passed for example).
Decoration: For decoration’s sake or give an object meaning.
That is oddly profound – the idea that writing on something can give it meaning. To imbibe value and importance to an inanimate object.
Divine inspiration: people’s wishes/thoughts directed at their gods in a cry for help, when an ordinary object transforms into something sacred.
Identity: To identify a person/a people, to tell us who they were and what they did.
Why do you write? Why do I write? What does my writing say about me? Does my writing say anything at all?
There is care in the way the people of the past approached writing. Writing – sometimes engraving, sometimes woven into fabrics – was intricate, well thought out. Words were not thrown around loosely. Every word had meaning. Every stroke had significance. Every character was critical. Every line had a role to play.
There is a design. Thoughts woven into every line, every thread.
There is expression; there is skill embodied.
Writing can transform the ordinary into something extraordinary.
I cross into the next gallery on “Conservation”.
The contrast is apparent.
We are caught in the cycle of consuming and discarding in the midst of mass production.
No one could suppose, who has not tried it, what an immense amount of time is needed to preserve things. – William Flinders Petrie, Hawara Journal, 1888
In the past, things were made over time, with effort. The idea was to restore, rather than discard. To preserve, rather than destroy.
There is an interactive display – a piece of material with a digital counter. The material is half-contained in an enclosed container, with another half exposed. The idea is to touch the exposed half and the counter records the number of touches. The exposed half has deteriorated clearly.
Natural oils on your fingers apparently are the culprit. They get absorbed; they attract dirt. They are acidic, which clearly helps.
The counter reads 7433840.
Can anything be left untouched by time?
What breaks in a moment may take years to mend. (Swedish proverb)
It’s the same with life and relationships, isn’t it?
We’ve become a careless, thoughtless, absent-minded generation.
We chase, we pursue. We give up, we throw in the towel.
We pick the easy way out. The path of least resistance.
The wounds of the past. Haunting.
They seem to chase me down at every corner.
Closing in, always looking over my shoulder.
I know it’s a vicious cycle.
But it’s too hard.
Right now, honestly… I chose the guilt and the regret.
Rather than the pain of trying to forgive.
Rather than the pain of reliving every painful memory.
I’m sorry, I’m weak.
They say strength is promised.
He says to rest. To cast my anxiety upon him. To be still.
My hands are clenched so tight.
I think I’ve forgotten how to unclench them.
Bright colours for an interlude.
“Contemporary Art” gallery.
Joseph Beuys and Jörg Immendorff.
Vibrant colours that speak of their political sentiments, how they believe art has a role in changing how people think and how they live their lives.
“Art belongs to the people!”, they cry out.
“The Ancient World” and so on. The history begins to blend.
I sense my attention shifting.
Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises. – Demosthenes (384-322 BC)
“Crossroads are more than points where roads meet.” They are essential places where people come together to exchange goods, information and gossip.
This talks about converging. But crossroads, they too describe a departure. A choice.
Which way to go; there is a decision to be made.
In our time cities are free of walls, which only encircle the farthest bounds of empire. (Aelius Aristides of Mysia, orator and hypochondriac, in his praise of Rome, AD 143)
I think we have progressed beyond physical walls now. (Think Berlin Wall.)
Walls today come in the form of ideological differences. Differences we can’t, or we refuse to, reconcile or to understand. There is a divide of minds, of hearts, of souls.
We still pay the price, day in day out. At every moment in time, someone somewhere suffers because of these walls. People who try and make others subscribe, no – submit to their point of view. Their narrow point of view. How proud can humanity be?
Walls also come in the form of the emotional defense.
You know what I mean – I need not say more.
A frame fresco painted around 30 BC = AD 30 for a house in Pompei.
It depicts Psyche, a young woman who represents the soul, being tortured by 3 cupids.
The tortured soul. Tortured by love.
“The myth of Cupid and Psyche, popular in Roman literature and art, explores the extreme emotions of passionate love.”
A sculpture of Nike, the Greek personification of victory.
A sculpture of the naked boxer. Looking away in silent pain. Broken nose, blood oozing from the cuts in his shoulders, upper arms and swollen ears.
Do you hear the whispers from the past?
Of untold stories.
The roar of wars.
The love stories of old.
People going about their day-to-day in a different world to ours.
Perhaps all this history we think we know… perhaps we’ve been wrong all along.
Perhaps we’ve been presumptuous.
Perhaps the cloud of witnesses past sit and laugh at our ignorance.
The world belonged to those who know how to wait. – Sir Arthur Evans
Even as I continued to transverse between the galleries, progressing through time and history…
There is a deep sense of melancholy.
Of the rise and fall of empires.
Of life and death.
In the midst of trying to remember, to record… Of the forgotten.
Of love and loss.
Here is where I stopped for an hour. Because I had no idea how to round this piece off.
I am under the impression that my writing has betrayed my current state of mind.
That the masks are peeling off with every piece that I write.
Not sure if it’s a good thing. Hm.
For one, my body language and facial expressions are very clear when I write.
They just surface. I can’t hide it.
I sigh. I squirm. I grimace. I fight back the tears that well up.
I smile. I stifle a laugh.
I furrow my brow. I stretch. I sit up. I look around.
(Right now, there’s a definite follow-up date going at the table next to me.
Too many names of friends being mentioned to be a first date.
So loud so clear I can’t shut it out.
Mountain-climbing. London. Packed lunches.
BBC girl and British guy.
She laments her lack of mandarin-speaking practice. Dwindling vocabulary. Too many repeated conversations.
More mountaineering society talk. More polite laughter.
The conversation fades into the cafe buzz.)
Time to get a move on.