In celebration of the reemergence of lawnmowers and the shaving of legs:
“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett,
“I think trees should bloom earlier in the spring. They act like they are on a schedule. It’s not like they have anywhere to go.”
― Jarod Kintz,
In Quito we gawp at the ingenuity of Ecuadorian ancestors.
To the south, the endurance of dead Inka’s.
Ancient like wrinkled smiles to newborns.
A growing galaxy.
Incomprehensible evidence of time,
wrinkled roots laugh at the antiquity of man.
Basílica del Voto Nacional -92 years old. Incomplete.
Machu Pichu- 566 years old. Abandoned.
Amazon rainforest- 55 million years old. Home to 10% of all known species.
(According to local legend the day Quito’s Basilica is completed is the day the world will end. It seems unlikely).
Sound vibrations speed through Avenida Benavides like London 1 beds through auction. ‘Todo Benavides, Todo Benavides, Todo Benavides‘. The bus conductors advertisement merges into an ice cream van siren on a council estate. Like the rest of its parts, his grip on the converted people carrier is lose; one hand wrapped around a metal bar, the rest of his body hanging from an open doorway. As they pass, passengers and pastries are plucked from the streets like happily paying hostages.
Posted in response to the daily post photo challenge .
57 years ago a Peruvian immigrant snuck into British hearts and homes. Armed with a luggage label, hat and marmalade sandwich, Michael Bond’s stowaway embarked on life with the Brown’s.
In the half century since Bond wrote ‘A Bear Called Paddington’, Britons have stopped doffing their hats to strangers. (A modernity symptom that would have mortified Bond senior: he swam hatted in case of unexpected greetings). 2014’s ‘Paddington’ film however, demonstrates that despite societies’ ‘evolution’, Paddington’s themes of acceptance remain as relevant today, as when Jewish evacuees inspired Bond. Two decades after the book’s first publication, I watched cartoon videos of the bear’s misadventures with my grandparents. Marvelling at Paddington’s braveness (and oddity), I wondered about his homeland; the mysterious ‘deepest, darkest Peru’. As I grew and learnt about Incan wonders and Peruvian waves, my urge to mirror Paddington’s journey intensified. Another twenty years, and a graduate internship would land me in Peru. Unlike Paddington though, my tags defined me as an expat.
Had my Peruvian dream not been fulfilled last year, Paddington’s 57th anniversary might
have been as insignificant as his last. Instead of belittling the bear, I say this to demonstrate his cultural immersion. Like the anniversaries of Tea, Harry Potter and Yorkshire puddings, Paddington’s birthday passes unnoticed because we (or at least I), can’t imagine society before it. Google tells me that the book series has sold over 35 million copies. For those of you who aren’t numerically challenged, this figure will corroborate Paddington’s significance. However, it took my departure, and its surrounding Paddington references*, for the statistic to gain meaning. Thanks to the British embassy, and the Peruvian’s queuing for a picture with Paddington’s replica**, I later understood Google’s second figure: Bond’s works has been translated into 40 languages. (**In an interesting plot twist, a ceremonial Paddington statue followed me to the bear’s homeland).
(*almost as numerous as the requests for llamas).
After the statues unveiling, pictures of Aylan Kurdi drowned on a Greek beach humanised our refugee crisis: The world’s worst humanitarian disaster since WW11. It had taken 4 years of bombing, and a dead child’s photograph for the 250,000+ death toll to become tangible. It’s easy to admonish ourselves for needing to see Aylan. However, debating the morality of previous apathy is irrelevant and, excusable or not, it is understandable. We are an imperfect race living in an imperfect world: desensitisation is inevitable and arguably, necessary. (As someone who only appreciated the impact of Paddington Bear after flying to Peru, I can’t condemn anyone for not finding meaning in numbers). Humans are emotional and sentient beings, it’s no surprise that our emotional reaction was stirred by imagery not figures. Instead of rebuking mankind for the coping mechanisms it adopts, I want to appreciate how, once disaster reaches us on a human level, we follow the Brown’s example. The Syrian crisis overcame fear forged fences, because Aylan’s vulnerability was innately human. In his little shorts and t-shirts, he, like Paddington in his duffle coat, superseded race, religion and origin. He could have been any mother’s son.
4 months later and Aylan’s image faded. How else can 395 MPS voting to endanger his countrymen be explained? You don’t need a parliamentary seat to understand what children learn in school, violence promotes violence. Airstrikes cause deaths; none of them have any less significance than those in Paris.
The birth lottery should not allow anyone, even those ‘speaking on our behalf’, the right to deny a human’s safety. However, given our government’s initial response to Aylan and Syrian suffering, the result was hardly surprising. Now as it was then, it is the public who provide the human response to its neighbour’s trouble. As sensationalist headlines attempt to demean social media outcry and the 9-5 continues, Paddington’s anniversary has never been so significant. With his duffel coat and marmalade sandwiches he, like Aylan, replaces government statistics and fear of the unknown with something human, a love of marmalade, a dislike of baths and wellington boots.
‘Borussia Dortmund supporters (pictured in 2014) hold a banner during a match’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsnews/article-3221016/Bayern-Munich-raise-1million-euros-Syrian-refugees-provide-German-classes-meals-football-equipment.html
In the words of Oscar Wilde (because it was his birthday yesterday), ‘to define is to limit.‘
In a world where people shop in supermarkets or on rivers, walk in parks or through jungles, openness is crucial to not only success, but to life in general.This weeks (extra)ordinary challenge is another stroke of ingenuity because it understands and anticipates that what appears mundane to one, is extraordinary to another.
The wonder that variance in perception leads to seems particularly evident to me as I adapt to Peruvian life. Whilst to me a potato is an ordinary item, to a Peruvian the carb is so (extra)ordinary that there’s even a holiday to celebrate it (30th March). Whilst its therefore ordinary for Peruvian cafes to display potatoes, to see them in glass cabinets is to me extraordinary.
Being a keen photographer I have stumbled upon an effective method of judging someones normality perception: take a photo of what strikes you as extraordinary, its ordinariness can then be measured by the number of locals who stare at you.
Over 120 years after it was condemned and censored for its ‘unclean’ nature, I read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ on a sun lounger in Greece. Children squealed as they ran past me into the sunlit pool. I can think of few moments where my outside environment, and the internal one of a book, have clashed so horrendously. I read greedily but guiltily, concerned that in witnessing Gray’s depravities, I too would reflect the evils Wilde concocted. Occasionally i’d shut the book to ensure return to the Grecian pool side remained possible.
Reading a tale that illustrated humanities potential for depravity, whilst innocent children danced about me, was inappropriate. Which is why I could’t have read the most influential book of my life in a more fitting setting.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Wilde’s masterpiece yet, I hope that you read the following, (the books preface) in an appropriately inappropriate setting.
‘The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.
The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass. The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art. Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art. From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type. All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.’
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Thank you Oscar Wilde for your witty, wise and thought provoking words.