Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Desperate Conditions

27 December 2oo8. At a remove, desperate conditions can be desperately beautiful. In this picture of Pikes Peak, dangerously high winds are ripping shingles of snow and ice off the ridges and sucking debris out of the canyons. These conditions are harsh indeed for any mountaineer caught in them.

But from a vacant lot in a windless residential neighborhood miles away, there is no harshness, no danger. There is only the distant beauty of light on atomized snow, of shadows, and of the golden glow of peaceful patches of stillness on the foreground ridge.

Who then has the true experience: The mountaineer struggling against forces that threaten to overpower him and rob him of his vital heat? Or the aesthete looking on from afar, adjusting the brightness, contrast, saturation and other things for which the mountain has no name and in which the threatened mountaineer has no interest.

A wise man once said that a human being is a star's way of knowing itself. But if the human being approaches too close, his wings prove wax and melt, like those of Icarus, and the star knows itself no more.

There is a part of me that wishes to be intimate with violent elements. I have approached these elements and pulled back from them in my past, wings warped and singed but not melted away.

In the end there will be no pulling back.