December 13, 2007
December 9, 2007
Chimuelo -sin los dientes de la leche-
soy el retrato duro de un pirata
dormido en la corriente, sin la pata
de palo, cerrado un ojo en Campeche,
por culpa de la desfondada Meche
que piedrota me dio con una lata.
Así anduve de aquí a salto de mata,
antes de conservarme en escabeche.
Hubo una guerra en mi rostro arado.
.....la saga etílica y el frío
adoctrinado desde la intemperie.
Sobrio los doce pasos e inclinado.
Los meses en la cárcel del estío.
Y una mirada de mujer en serie.
December 4, 2007
December 2, 2007
The elusive nature of the world’s most famous brand, not to say the curious road to its definition, will be illuminated next week as never before when the Library of Congress unveils an addition to its permanent collection nicknamed “America’s baptismal document.” The document in question, a four-and-a-half-foot-by-eight-foot map, will be receiving national-treasure treatment more appropriate to a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster. After all, in its 200-year history, the library has never waited longer, nor paid more, to acquire any single object: 100 years and $10 million were spent obtaining this last surviving print of a map of the world made in 1507 by an obscure German cartographer, Martin Waldseemüller — a map that happens to feature the first use of a certain seven letter word with an understandable appeal to our de facto national library: “America”. To house this treasure, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has built an encasement. At 2,000 pounds, its pressurized, argon-gas-filled environment is the largest case of its kind — big brother to the only other such cases NIST has made, those that protect the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The Waldseemüller map, of course, is no charter of freedom, but as both it and the “America” it coined turn 500 this year, the map’s prominent inclusion in the story we tell about ourselves offers a glimpse at a kind of lexicographic liberty — how a word acquires meaning, often despite itself. For the story of the naming of America is one we think we know: Amerigo Vespucci, that famously self-promoting explorer, outfoxed not Columbus the discoverer but Columbus the marketer and managed to wheedle his name onto a whole hemisphere of continents he didn’t deserve. “Strange,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “that broad America must wear the name of a thief. Amerigo Vespucci, the pickle-dealer at Seville, who . . . managed in this lying world to supplant Columbus and baptize half the earth with his own dishonest name.” The only problem with this story — one in which America’s name harbors a prophetic seed of self-promotion that later flowers into a full-fledged huckster’s paradise — is its inaccuracy. The real story is more telling still, and begins with Waldseemüller.
Created collaboratively in 1507 in the French town of St. Dié by Waldseemüller and his humanist colleagues, their ambitious series of woodblock prints represented the most comprehensive collation to date of the Western world’s geographical knowledge, crediting Columbus and Vespucci by name for features discovered during their explorations of a few years earlier. A handbook published with the map offered Waldseemüller’s reasoning behind placing — in the southern quadrant of his map’s western hemisphere; on a lumpy banana of land meant to be the continent to our south — the name “America”:
[A] fourth [continent] of the world . . . has been discovered
by Amerigo Vespucci. Because . . .
Europe and Asia were named after women, I can
see no reason why anyone would have good reason
to object to calling this fourth part Amerige,
the land of Amerigo, or America, after the man of
great ability who discovered it.
The “good reason” to object to calling it “the land of Amerigo” would have been that among Vespucci’s “great abilities,” discovery wasn’t one. Waldseemüller seems to have been misled by a document known as the Soderini Letter, a narrative account said to have been by Vespucci but believed by modern scholars to have been forged by unscrupulous publishers. The letter reports that our shores are populated by giants, cannibals and sexually insatiable females — and implies that Vespucci reached this mundus novus pornographicus before that fellow Columbus. Though Felipe Fernández-Armesto, author of this year’s excellent “Amerigo”, makes very clear that Vespucci was not above self-promotion, he also argues persuasively that Vespucci had nothing to do with the Soderini Letter, nor therefore the elevation of his name to hemispheric heights. Waldseemüller seems to have later wised to his own credulity, removing “America” and replacing it with “Terra Incognita” on his subsequent maps. Still, he couldn’t erase the path his first map cut through the world: “America” had spread across maps and globes and minds, irreversibly.
Whereas Waldseemüller’s map seemed to have disappeared irretrievably. Despite what was said to be an initial printing of 1,000 copies, none were known to have survived into the 19th century, until an Austrian Jesuit priest named Josef Fischer, who taught high-school geography and history at a boarding school, finally found one. In a footnote to his forgotten opus, “Discoveries of the Norsemen in America,” Fischer recalls his scholarly sleuthing in a German castle: “I had spent two days in carefully examining the contents of Prince Waldburg-Wolfegg’s library. The following day I came across a Codex, elephant folio, dated 1515.” In it, Fischer found a rare engraving by Albrecht Dürer that was “carefully entered in the catalog of the unique Wolfegg collection of engravings.” What was not noted in any catalog were the folio’s further contents: several large maps that sat unnoticed for some 300 years — one of which featured an unlikely detail. “I turned over some more sheets,” Fischer explained, “and on Sheet 9, I found ‘America’ printed in large type.”
Fischer knew what that “America” meant, but what — beyond Emerson’s erroneous sense of America embodying a hidden fraudulence — does “America” mean? Vespucci’s given name is said to derive from the Old German Almaric, which literally means “work ruler” — a derivation that one nomenclatural historian called “a curiously appropriate title for the new world of labor and progress.” Curious indeed, given that those who first heard it would have thought retirement: Waldseemüller’s map claimed America was filled not merely with giants and loose natives but also with piles of gold. In any case, the word quickly took on the talismanic power that foreign names often do. “America” has stimulated generations of imaginations, filling them with hope for something better or hatred of something worse. The “America” of
And it is, in fact, a similar chance for redefinition that the Library of Congress is now providing visitors. Yes, the case, which dwarfs those of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, is somewhat grandiose, perhaps suggesting a characteristically American presumption. And yet, if we can see past the 600-pound piece of glass and the argon gas within and stare at a space on the map barely an inch long occupied by seven significant letters, you cannot help seeing an “America” that, very briefly, has been shorn of all meaning. It is — and most usefully — once again a newly minted word, one that might still mean anything.
November 23, 2007
“I have already mentioned some of the lessons I believe I have learnt about philosophy: the ramifications which make study of the physical universe and of the mind relevant to each other, and to how to live. But what have I learnt about the history of philosophy, since I started in 1980 to read it as a continuous and continuing story, instead of skipping from one famous name to the next? I have already mentioned my first lesson, that intermediate philosophers may be needed for understanding later ones. In addition, I had learnt how ideas can be transmuted. One striking example was the transmutation of a Stoic theory of how to avoid agitation into a Christian theory of how to avoid temptation. Another was the harmonization of Plato and Aristotle, which, in the Neoplatonism, produced a new philosophy that was identical with that of neither.
But I also got a sense of how ideas can be revived in very different contexts. Berkeley’s idealism was designed to solve a problem ok knowledge – if we know only the ideas in our minds, how can we know about tables and chairs outside our minds? Answer: tables and chairs are bundles of ideas in the mind, sometimes of ourselves and always of God. This, I came to realize, is a revival of the fourth-century theory of St Gregory of Nyssa. Material objects, he said, are bundles of God’s ideas. But his reason was to do with a quite different problem converning causation. If cause must be like effect, how can an immaterial God have created a material world? Answer: the world is not material in the way you think. Material things are bundles of God’s ideas. Same theory: different reasons. Of course, Berkeley may have known of Gregory, and he does give Gregory’s reason as a supplementary one.
[...] I am inclined to wonder if there are any ideas that could not be revived in a new context. [...]
The possibility of reviving ideas is part of what gives point to philosophers studying the history of philosophy. It liberates us from the circle of ideas which happen to be most recent and expands the philosophical imagination. The opposite utility has also been illustrated, that history can make us question the soundness of some of our inherited presuppositions, as with the supposed harmlessness of killing animals.
This idea of history as liberating contrasts with the view that we are trapped in our circles of ideas and the ancients in theirs. On this view, ideas are so tied to the context of a given time that we can easily say they could not have been thought of before that date, or could not be taken seriously after it. There are also ideas, on this view, so entrenched that we can foresee that our own circle will not give them up. Again, history, on this view, mereley shows us why we have inevitably come to adopt certain views, and discard others. This is the opposite of what I think.
Admittedly if we revive an idea, we may need to detach it from its original background, as ideas about when it would be just to go to was may get detached from their backgraound in natural law. But detachability is not only an interesting historical phenomenon. It is also what helps to make ancient ideas directly applicable to modern philosophy, or, as in the examplo of justice in war, to life. As historian, one must be keenly aware of the original background, or one will miss significan differences. As philosopher, one may consider how far the background can be detached.
I do not wish to deny that there are limits to the repetition of ideas. A particularly itneresting one which I have mentioned is that I have found at most likeness, never exact similarity, in the case of non-Buddhist Indian philosophy, perhaps partly because it was until recently the guarded preserve of Brahmins who felt the west could teach them about technology, but not about philosophy.
To return to the ramifications of philosophy, they are so extensive, and the cultures which have studied them so varied, that Gregory of Nyssa’s charming idea is surely right: there is room for the understanding to make perpetual progress and one need never grow tired.
November 19, 2007
November 18, 2007
November 12, 2007
El capítulo "Victoria y Gabriel" de Al filo del agua, de Agustín Yáñez, contiene las mejores páginas que haya leído sobre las campanas. Para Gabriel, la campana es metáfora de Victoria; para ella, lo es de él; para el lector, lo es del amor imposible de esa pareja:
La Muerte misma -¡qué angustiosa!- que angustiosa disloca el esqueleto de los días, minuto a minuto, a segundos descoyuntados, como dicen que lo hace también el Amor. Así las angustias cuando se ignora el mal que tiene postrado al paciente, transcurren las hipótesis de los médicos, el daño se agrava, se frustran todos los recursos, el enfermo es llevado a ciegas y a locas, desesperadamente. Dicen que el Amor es también como la Muerte. ¿Será ésta o el otro quien descoyunta el pulso de Gabriel? ¿Ésta o el otro hace florecer la fiebre? ¿Amor o Muerte marchita el ánimo? Dicen que Amor es género de Muerte. ¡Cuán extraño latido el alterado latir de las campanas, cada día más sensible: alucinadas en rebato sin tino; presas luego de mortal decaimiento! Campanas de aleluya en toques de ánimas. Campanas que languidecen a tiempo de repicar.Inmediatamente recordé esa extraordinaria escena final de Andrei Rublev, de Tarkovsky.
- Gabriel está jugando con las campanas, dicen las gentes en el encierro de patios y recámaras.
Pero ya son muchos días. Eso no puede ser diversión. Entonces dicen las gentes, al encontrarse por las calles:
- ¿Qué le sucede a Gabriel?
El desconcierto de las campanas comienza a ser intolerable.
- Gabriel, dicen las gentes en la plaza, está burlándose del pueblo.
Al llamar una tarde para la conferencia de las Hijas de María, las campanas doblan. Desvanecido el equívoco, revienta la indignación:
- Gabriel está burlándose de nuestras tradiciones.
Otro día el toque de las ocho de la noche parece repique de posadas.
- Gabriel está burlándose de nuestros muertos.
O se ahogan las esquilas por la prisa con que se las volteaba, y las campanas por el frenesí de los badajos, o sonaban tan desabridamente, con tan exasperante, desacordada lentitud de relojes a los que les falta cuerda.
- Qué: ¿Gabriel también se ha vuelto loco?
Fueron ocho, doce días desasosegados.
- ¡Esto es inaudito!
Descompuesto el ritmo de las campanas, todo el pueblo marchaba mal. Pensamientos, comunes pasos alterados. General inquietud.
- ¡Es el colmo!
Ya no se podía trabajar y, menos, rezar. Ya no se podía estar a solas. Se dejaba sentir la gravedad del encierro. Se reparaba en la tisteza, en los anhelos contenidos, a la manera como se repara en la propia respiración, en la sístole y diástole del propio corazón.
- Esto no puede seguir así.
Fueron doce días desajustados. El Señor Cura se rindió al clamor general nacido en la clausura de casas y conciencias; hubo de rendirse a la propia evidencia, y relevó a Gabriel.
¡Qué vulgares, qué sordas tocaron las campanas en manos filisteas! Lo prefirió la mayoría, rencorosa, inolvidando el desacato. La minoría se rebelaba: era preferible oír gritos de vesania, con acentos de vida, que no muertos tañidos, mecánicos. La minoría los rechazaba. Eran insoportables a las orejas de cristal. Fueron insoportables para Victoria, tan insoportables, que la expulsaron del pueblo antes de lo que la dama proyectara. Y nadie supo la causa de su repentina retirada, sólo entrevista por algunos que tuvieron la malicia de conciliar la marcha de la señora con el asalto inesperado de la torre, por parte de Gabriel, quien dobló las campanas tan tremendamente, que muchos lloraron como en calamidad pública, como si vivieran el día del juicio, que no de otra manera, entonces, geminarán, se desbaratarán, se quebrarán los bronces del mundo.
Fragmento de la fundición de la campana:
Fragmento del levantamiento de la campana, que no tiene nada que ver con aquella apoteósica, por hollywoodesca, de 1492:
November 5, 2007
October 31, 2007
Here I proposed cruelty as the worst moral badness.
Now, two quotations of the English edition of In The Land Of Pain by Alphonse Daudet, on medical cruelty:
Jean-Martin Charcot was notorious for his blunt speakint to patients and their families. (...) He once said to a patient: "You're in the position of a man sitting in shit with a sabre flashing above his head: either dive in or have your head cut off". If he was being tactful, he might announce bad news in Latin (note on p. 23 by editor Julian Barnes).
The way nurses talk: "That's a lovely wound... Now this wound is really wonderful". You'd think they were talking about flowers (p.27).
October 27, 2007
October 24, 2007
October 20, 2007
"Captain Jack Sparrow" by Carina Berlingeri
October 15, 2007
período | periodo
icono | ícono
ibero | íbero
pentagrama | pentágrama
olimpiada | olimpíada
mímesis | mimesis
atmósfera | atmosfera
afrodisíaco | afrodisiaco
paradisíaco | paradisiaco
médula | medula
cardíaco | cardiaco
alvéolo | alveolo
dinamo | dínamo
cartomancia | cartomancía
elixir | elíxir
austriaco | austríaco
reuma | reúma
omóplato | omoplato
anémona | anemona
policíaco | policiaco
zodiaco | zodíaco
balaustre | balaústre
amoniaco | amoníaco
October 14, 2007
oculto; no te ciñas a la apariencia vana;
husmea, sigue el rastro de la verdad arcana,
escudriñante el ojo y aguzado el oído.
No seas como el necio, que al mirar la virgínea
imperfección del mármol que la arcilla aprisiona,
queda sordo a la entraña de la piedra, que entona
en recóndito ritmo la canción de la línea.
Ama todo lo grácil de la vida, la calma
de la flor que se mece, el color, el paisaje.
Ya sabrás poco a poco descifrar su lenguaje...
¡Oh divino coloquio de las cosas y el alma!
Hay en todos los seres una blanda sonrisa,
un dolor inefable o un misterio sombrío.
¿Sabes tú si son lágrimas las gotas de rocío?
¿Sabes tú qué secreto va contando la brisa?
Atan hebras sutiles a las cosas distantes;
al acento lejano corresponde otro acento.
¿Sabes tú donde lleva los suspiros el viento?
¿Sabes tú si son almas las estrellas errantes?
No desdeñes al pájaro de argentina garganta
que se queja en la tarde, que salmodia a la aurora.
Es un alma que canta y es un alma que llora...
¡Y sabrá por qué llora, y sabrá por qué canta!
Busca en todas las cosas el oculto sentido;
lo hallarás cuando logres comprender su lenguaje;
cuando sientas el alma colosal del paisaje
y los ayes lanzados por el árbol herido...
[Este cuadro de van Gogh me enseñó a buscar el sentido oculto de los edificios.]