Posted in moral philosophy, tagged character, circumstances, creative genius, Gaugin, Stendhal, TE Lawrence, Thoreau, Truth, Variable Speeds on December 16, 2008|
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Where does life of a man or woman begins? Birth is merely a point, a reference point, a milestone as death is. Influences of life from its parents have already made its own impressions even while it is still a foetus. A life is measured between birth and death as a way of convenience. But it misses the essentials, which are supplied by life. Stendhal in his own time had to put up with indifferent public and conspiracy of silence from literary critics of the day. Nevertheless he kept on with his writing of which a few perceptive minds, Honorè de Balzac was one, were enthusiastic about. Stendhal dedicated his ‘ The Charterhouse of Parma’ to these ‘ happy few,’. He also predicted that he would be read some 50 years hence which uncannily was proved true.
Oneness of things works on a different timescale than we hold. We have a quality time and it is for doing the needful things like our creature comforts. We are simple and misguided to think of success in terms of material riches. It is arbitrary. Creative genius of Van Gogh or Gaugin was such that they had different priorities in life and they outraged the conservative tastes of the day.
Van Gogh sold only one painting in his troubled life and now his works are priceless. Paul Gaugin’s bad luck persisted throughout his life. He left France and Paris the art capital of the world hoping that the king of Tahiti would buy his works. Before he could see him the king had died leaving him to fend for himself to a yahoo life as TE Lawrence qualified any life that was given into ‘ possession of aliens.’ Worse still his only skill, which he possessed was of not much use in Tahiti. He was forced to a life in a limbo entirely cut off from the world of art, which was necessary for him. Three years after his death in 1903 in Marquesas islands, an exhibition of his retrospective works held in Paris was a triumph. It caused a revival and interest in his works. Soon he was judged as one of the greatest painters who had impressed upon the 20th Century art.
One may in course of his or her life come up for many disappointments. What are many missed opportunities or disappointments of a genius if he is denied what is his due? It is not that the public or the masses are dumb but the sorrows of a genius owe to the fact the public and the genius march to a different beat; The public have their opinion on tastes and would act as an arbiter of what is good and what is bad. These guardians of morality derive their authority from their perception of finite time: they fashion their judgment to explain their times from their insufficient evidences; they are like automatons sold to the tyranny of time. Creative minds have a different concept of time. As the sage who said, these march to a different drummer than they. Character is what balances a life whether it is done on the coordinates of time or Time. These variable Speeds still give Character its recognizable form. Truth.
Truth is that quality which, like a keystone, holds all facets of a life where influences, what is derived and what is patently homegrown, are in equipoise.
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Once while waiting for a customer to come Agostino sat on his front veranda and whittled away a piece of wood out of odds and ends piled in a basket. His penknife went on with a sure touch, and the man with whom he had some business to talk over startled him. To that purpose they had agreed the night before the hour and the place. He had completely forgotten about him! The fellow did not frown at his neglect. Instead he stood there rooted and then squealed; and said the face was the spitting image of the stove maker. “Why look at that pendulous nose and his double chin!” Before he could add a word Agostino abruptly changed the subject. He didn’t want to waste his time he explained by way of an apology for his curtness. He was rather put out for his lapse. Nevertheless the customer went that day happy because he had done a thorough job with his broken down chair.
That evening Agostino while going through the day’s events knew he had discovered another side to his many talents. He picked up the figure of the stove maker. It was his spittin’ image. Well he was ugly. Yet something in that soothed him in a way he had never before felt. It was inexplicable! Like some sorcerer he had lifted some discard and given it a new dimension- a second chance!
In the days to come he applied his leisure wholly to carve figures in wood. At first his figures were quite crude; yet he kept at it till he could invest character in the way he set out features and posture to a form. With patience and perseverance he polished his craft till he could take pleasure; even the tedium of creation gave him joy. Art was not in his axe; neither was it in his penknife or awl. But something in the way he applied his hands so closely to a block of wood, and tried to keep to what he had only imagined worked. It made the piece of wood something else.
It made all his toil worthwhile.
Such was his thrill that he invited those who happened to pass by to take a look. They said with one voice, ”How smart the oddjobs man is!”
Agostino made three dolls no bigger than his palm. It took him about one year. He had drawn them from life and gave them familiar features that however were so mixed.
Yet that didn’t fool his young admirers. They could detect who served as a model for any particular figure they happened to examine. One day Cyprian, the son of the drover hazarded to give name to one doll but the sudden arrival of the doll-maker put a stop.
Agostino did not care much for the children who stopped by to watch him at work. Being much of a loner he learnt to work on despite of their curiosity. Slowly more children from the neighborhood came to look at the handiwork. They watched with bated breath at the furious way he blocked out in wood and how his strong hands glided over details as if the metal knew its routine. While he worked on the head his chisel cut away only the non- essentials and lo and behold the nose, ears or the chin they could see come largely unscathed. Thereafter while he applied cuttlefish bone along the surface smoothening the skin it always caused great commotion. ‘Will he succeed or miss? The children would wonder. Had he rubbed too hard and knocked out a nose or an ear that would have rendered all his effort in vain. No, his attention and mastery over his material always succeeded.
In their awe Agostino thought they were sincere and let them free run of the house. He even let them handle the dolls as long as they were gentle. He liked the way their eyes lit up to watch his creations. Soon the children from the neighborhood become a constant fixture in that cottage by the Cloud Peak.
Unknown to him they thought he was a sorcerer. He had carved three dolls at first. They saw his cleverness was inhuman. Cleo Nike who never liked to speak ill defended the doll-maker thus, “Agostino is regular like you and me. But may be too clever for my liking.” Ambrose who was treated as an idiot, said all those dolls were done in memory of those children lost so young and in suspicious circumstances. How they laughed him down! What followed it got somewhat out of hand. Only the timely arrival of the doll-maker put a lid on the rough play.
‘ Agostino is a wizard!’ It was their secret and they shook hands on it. They would never breathe a word of it to their parents.
Whatever they might have thought of Agostino it was at his cottage they always converged. Those three dolls had grown larger in number, and there were a few girls adding to the collection. By the time he had made ten dolls, five of them boys the children could well anchor their fantasy to the five pairs.’ Watching the dolls’ had became a routine and these five pairs had taken a life of their own filling as large as life. It made their fantasy world colourful and always gave them something to talk about.
Agostino indulged their presence only as admirers who did rightful homage to his handiwork. They were intrusion, nevertheless an unavoidable distraction.
After he had finished the twentieth doll he stopped. It had taken three years of constant toil. Since he worked as oddjobs man he took to applying final touches after supper. Till late into the night he could work by the candlelight sitting by the workbench and before the fire. That rounded off each day satisfactorily.
He showed the same care in their dress as he took in giving names and character. He dressed them in clothes, which were currently in fashion. With loving care he stitched dresses in bits and pieces of silk, calico and natural fibres he could lay hands on. Those sequins and mother of pearl in-lay work he had saved came now handy.
He fell in love like a foolish father with all of them. Still he had his favorites. Marcos, an ivory skinned lad with curls of wool was dressed in sailor suit with gilded buttons. Deborah had a dress in long skirt with four flounces and a blouse. She showed a shepherd’s crook in her hand and a basket of wool, which was picturesque. ‘For a shepherdess on her way to market she was dressed, too pretty.” so said the stove maker once. When the news reached the ears of the doll maker he said,” Bah!” He wanted his creatures to look their best. He was looking into an ideal world rather than what their humdrum lives would have warranted. Thus he happily worked out details for each. It made sense to him.
Ah, the dolls took so much of his time and during the day he kept them arrayed on the workbench. With great care he put each away for the night on a shelf he had fixed between two windows.
He knew he was neglecting his career. Making dolls now took his all. But he was old and he assured himself that he had reached a point where he needed not do anything where he could not put his heart and soul.
(to be cont’d)
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