For your first essay, meditate upon an object or thing that we often take for granted: a key, a camera, a coat, a cocker-spaniel, a kite, for example. (It doesn’t have to be alliterative with “key”.) We are experimenting here with both content (what you are writing about), but also form…how it looks on paper. Feel free to try some of the techniques or styles in the first three essays we have read (“JoyasVoladoras,” “Short Talks,” and “Voices”). Also feel free to write straight up if you prefer.
• Explore it as an object first, its appearance, size, shape, texture, composition, symmetry or asymmetry, etc. Do this with “cubist” attention, in other words, from every angle, from near and far away, intensely close-up or from a great height.
• Then explore it as a function, that is what it does or can do, what it doesn’t or can’t do, what it’s used for (if anything) in all of its possibilities, how its use or function affect its design (and/or vice versa), the history of its use (if relevant) and future of its usefulness (speculate!).
• Finally, meditate upon its meaning or connection to humankind, beyond its function. How does it help define us as thinking, breathing creatures? How does its presence enhance our lives? How would its absence rob us of something? How did it become something that we could afford to take for granted? Where would we be without it?
If I were writing about a key in terms of its appearance, I might focus not on any individual key but rather on the multiplicity of keys: skeleton key, key-to-the-city, house key, car key (and key-less cars), those plastic hotel keys, piano keys, key idea, the key to one’s heart. How far I would go in physically describing those would depend on what seemed most interesting to me. What would be boring would be to describe each one or to walk through a bunch of keys on a key ring and describe them in the same way.
If I were looking at the functionality of a kite I would go to youtube and type in the words “Washington Kite Festival” and watch what people can do with them, what possibilities are out there for giant, beautiful kites. I would explore weather kites and balloons, revisit Ben Franklin and his (maybe fictional) story of discovery of electricity. I would try to find out something (from reputable sources, not WIKI) about the history, social and otherwise, of kite-making, flying, etc. I might end with a meditation on whether or not the kite has a future. (Parents used to take their kids to the park every breezy day and fly kites. When I was about five our yard backed up against a wide open field behind an elementary school, and every evening if the weather was nice parents and kids were there by the dozens, flying kites. I haven’t seen a kite for years…where did they go?)
Finally, if I were meditating on the cocker-spaniel and its meaning and connection to humankind, I would have to talk about the simple joy of being, how the connections between “man and beast” suggest that all life depends on other life, that we need echoes of ourselves to make sense of ourselves but also to remind us of our responsibilities to ourselves and our fellow creatures and our planet. How possible it is to communicate with another form of life! How the joy of caring for another makes our tedious, stressful lives worth living! How happiness is not just a human emotion!
Here’s a meditation on water from James Joyce’s Ulysses:
(Leopold Bloom, one of the novel’s two main characters, returns home late one night and decides to make a pot of tea. As he runs water into the kettle and sets it on the range, he begins thinking about water)…
What else did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, wattercarrier, returning to the range, admire?
Its universality: its democratic equality and constancy to its nature in seeking its own level: its vastness in the ocean…its unplumbed profundity…the restlessness of its waves and surface particles visiting in turn all points of its seaboard: the independence of its units: the variability of states of sea…its climatic and commercial significance: its predominance of 3 to 1 over the dry land of the globe…its capacity to dissolve and hold in solution all soluble substances including millions of tons of the most precious metals: its slow erosions of peninsulas and islands…its weigh and volume and density; its imperturbability in lagoons and highland tarns: its gradations of colours in the torrid and temperate and frigid zones…its violence in seaquakes, waterspouts, Artesian wells, eruptions, torrents, eddies, freshets, spates, groundswells, watersheds, waterpartings, geysers, cataracts, whirlpools, maelstroms, inundations, deluges, cloudbursts…its secrecy in springs and latent humidity…saturation of air, distillation of dew: the simplicity of its composition, two constituent parts of hydrogen with one constituent part of oxygen: its healing virtues: its buoyancy in the waters of the Dead Sea: its persevering penetrativeness in runnels, gullies, inadequate dams, leaks on shipboard: its properties for cleansing, quenching thirst and fire, nourishing vegetation…its metamorphoses as vapour, mist, cloud, rain, sleet, snow, hail: its strength in rigid hydrants: its variety of forms in loughs and bays and gulfs and bights and guts and lagoons and atolls and archipelagoes and sounds and fjords minches and tidal estuaries and arms of sea: its solidity in glaciers, icebergs, icefloes: its docility in working hydraulic millwheels, trubines, dynamos, electrical power stations, bleachworks, tanneries, scutchmills: its utility in canals, rivers, if navigable, floating and graving docks: its potentiality derivable from harnessed tides or watercourses falling from level to level: its submarine fauna and flora…numerically, if not literally, the inhabitants of the globe: its ubiquity as constituting 90% of the human body: the noxiousness of its effluvia in lacustrine marshes, pestilential fens, faded flowerwater, stagnant pools in the waning moon.
Joyce, James. Ulysses. (The Corrected Text, Hans Walter Gubler, ed.). New York: Vintage Books, 1986 (original text 1922).
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