Sunday, November 25, 2007

Justice is still a one-word prayer

There is this wonderful man, John Berger. He writes books. He is respected in the art world for his seminal text/film Ways Of Seeing.

His latest book, Hold Everything Dear, is a meditation on the state of the world post-September 11. His writing is generous, empathetic and lucid. He stands out from other political activists with his non-hardlined, deeply thoughtful and beautiful language.

Now, how many political commentators can you think of who write beautifully - about what is essentially a horrifying situation?

John Berger's another giant who walks this earth. His voice is quiet and powerful.

Justice is still a one-word prayer, as Ziggy Marley sings in your time now. The whole history is about hopes being sustained, lost, renewed. And with new hopes come new theories. But for the overcrowded, for those who have little or nothing except, sometimes, courage and love, hope works differently. Hope is then something to bite on, to put between the teeth. Don't forget this. Be a realist. With hope between the teeth comes the strength to carry on even when fatigue never lets up, comes the strength, when necessary, to choose not to shout at the wrong moment, comes the strength above all not to howl. A person, with hope between her or his teeth, is a brother or sister who commands respect. Those without hope in the real world are condemned to be alone. The best they can offer is only pity. And whether these hopes between the teeth are fresh or tattered makes little difference when it comes to surviving the nights and imagining a new day.

From the chapter, I Would Softly Tell My Love

12 comments:

gnute said...

By the way, did you know that the word 'seminal' shares the same root as 'semen', and so it implies an initiating of events? ...

Betta said...

newt, I did not know that.

Zedeck said...

hm, curious: what spurred you on to this etymological trail?

gnute said...

I notice how some people have been misusing the word 'seminal' when they really mean to use 'significant', not knowing the origins of the word.

You know, hubby said J Berger's an 'idiot' because his way of reading art is superficial?? Haiyohhh. Comrade, watudu.

Zedeck said...

hm, true: i've done it myself, on occasion. i guess that comes from readers without dictionaries at hand -- a practice that should be revived, i suppose.

hm, what makes a reading of art not superficial?

gnute said...

I don't understand hubby's comment about Berger's superficial reading, so let me speak outside the context of Berger.

There is a prominent newspaper art critic in N.Z. who has obviously written reviews for far too long, as he can only judge a show by how colourful it is, and anything conceptual is often dull to him. Such is his method of measuring the success of exhibitions. Haha. This is oversimplified, of course, but you get my drift.

Perhaps one of the elements of a non-superficial reading - of anything, not just art - is surprise. You capture your reader by saying something surprising, because (I quote Bill Watterson) nothing's more surprising than the truth.

Zedeck said...

i think i'm losing that element in the stuff i produce; becoming predictable. to myself, if to no one else. feel rather helpless: i constantly try to fight the bile inducing sensation that i'm treading old ground -- but it seems all this struggle produces is missed deadlines.

gnute said...

I think a good idea would be to leave the country for a while... my dear writer Zee. When we're caught up in the thick of it, we tend to be too sure of ourselves and that's when it collapses. Some distance helps us see how small our ideas are, and the uncertainty becomes a good thing because it means we have accessed a larger universe... IMHO.

Zedeck said...

hm, you've got a point -- though, mind-hacking myself, i also think that part of the problem is internal: there is something unhelpful in the way i view the world.

tried changes of scenery in the past few weeks, and thinking about previous travels, i realised that i'm beginning to see everything as variation: things are only different in degree, socio-politically, artistically, geographically; the larger universe is still the same universe. i like drawing connections and discovering essentials, but taken to its logical conclusion those proclivities are becoming a crutch; the rewards of variety and nitty detail become paltry.

need to rediscover pleasure in those things. i'm not sure if a change of scene would help if i don't first escape the trap of my own small head ... in fact, i'm beginning to suspect that the problem may be too much flow: i'm becoming a nomad, both literally (i spend less nights at home than elsewhere) and figuratively (the insomnia and irregularity and unbound work schedule, meeting people and hearing so many stories they all condense into the same stuff, over and over).

gah.

Zedeck said...

god, i sound like a fuckin emo kid ...

gnute said...

You sound world-weary. I don't know a 'cure' for that, I've never had the chance to be that way! I'm just a kid inside; I wonder at stuff and hang around with people who also wonder at stuff.

Zedeck said...

i wish i were like that more often! actually, i am a lot of the time, but the wide-eyed-ness dissipates when the night ends and i go home.

woo, woo ...