Elaine is back from India. Her friend wanted to show her his village. It was difficult arranging water she could drink, and they defecate in the open air, in a field reserved for it. She brought back pictures of the people, and we exclaimed How Beautiful! One particularly stood out, a middle-aged to elderly man. Perhaps it is that his face is unaffected, with no mask like we all wear, as Grayson Perry points out.
While still at school, Emma, later Madame Bovary, had a reputation for great piety, weeping over the statue of Mary or her rosary beads, before they got to know her. S told me that being brought up Catholic, she stared at the statue of Mary long enough to see it move- “Of course it moves! Your eyes go all funny!” praying for success in exams with her rosary round her neck. And now, for her, spirituality must be rigorously without emotion. Feelings are the siren to drag her away from any spiritual depth or insight.
If for me it is the opposite-
Here am I, typing on a blog, and I will break off to comment on other people’s, like a man drinking Carlsberg, on a bench in the town centre, haranguing the passers-by. I am afraid of the silence, so it seems to me I live my life at half-mast or less. Entering the silence, at meeting or at home, I am overwhelmed by my feelings, so at home, as if living on valium, I hold them at bay by playing on my computer, getting peevish at things which do not matter.
Then I enter the silence, and feel what I feel.
Do not tell me that is unreal, or a temptation, or an immature place on a long road towards another maturity. It is where I am now, the right place to be. Perhaps it is not so for everyone: feeling is the thing from the depths of me which I have to come to know, just as the narrator in In search of lost time gets so overwhelmed by feelings he does not recognise at the time, and cannot see the humanity of others, not even his partner Albertine’s. This is my task now, and something else is yours, and each of us may have easily mastered something the other finds supremely testing. Or something. That is a possible map of the shifting territory.
That was a way of putting it- not very satisfactory;
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
with words and meanings.
Since I am on Eliot, I should go further- You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy– Eliot appears to support S’s view. I am where I am. On the bus going home I saw a woman quite as beautiful as any of those Indian villagers, whether her face was relaxed, or unaffected, or without a mask, or whatever it was. Had I plucked up the courage to ask to photograph her, and she had agreed, it would not have been for me to share her face here. There are always other faces to see.