Quoting Others

Reading the world

‘The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.’ Jean Paul

We are privileged to have learned to read, not just the signs that constitute written language but the world too, is a text, a complex system of signs, which should be read. The world is open to interpretation, we construct meaning out of just about anything, the frivolous, the mundane, the essential, they all take turns to boldly shout, ‘It’s a sign!’ But for better or for worse, our readings of the world are not fixed. As we grow older and become more proficient at reading the world, the people, images, ideas and places that constitute our individual worlds constantly invite ‘second’ readings. Our world-views then, are constantly in flux. Would it not be tragic if we looked at the world everyday with the same eyes, refusing to make sense of it? As Alvin Toffler said, ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.’

“Ode to My Socks” by Pablo Neruda (translated by Robert Bly)

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.



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