Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category
4 June, 2010, Toulouse
Very tired. It occurs to me that I was searching for something, hoping to find a transformative moment in all this wandering. But it never came, of course. These things never come from outside — always from within. One can find inspiration beyond oneself, but this forever needs to be accompanied by work and the will. Even the word itself — “inspire” — is evocative of breath and the spirit one brings to an experience.
Has all this been spiritual, spirited or just a sham? All three, I suppose. I guess I was seeking escape. But one cannot escape from oneself. Work, career path, finances (especially after all the money I’ve blown on this trip…) loom and I can’t just avoid them. Feels like I’m being dogged by the dastardly Demiurge. Who am I without all these “things”? Maybe that’s the crucial question. And moreover, a totally banal insight.
I am, I think, a social creature thrown into the role of loner. Or maybe it’s a role I choose. That’s always been a struggle. Anyway, at this point maybe I’m just homesick for a home I don’t really have. A Friday and Saturday night in hopping Toulouse solo is probably not going to help this. Bound to exacerbate it, if anything.
3 June, 2010, Albi
No longer on the Cathar Trail but still on the trail of the Cathars. Arrived this afternoon, in the hot sun, in Albi. Found suitable lodging and went off towards the cathedral, Sainte-Cécile, which is beyond imposing. It screams out in brick and mortar the spiritual anxiety which once existed in the minds of the organized church and French crown in this area. Overcompensation doesn’t begin to describe it. Its functional, almost military exterior is sharply contrasted by a gaudy, even somewhat tacky, interior. It’s dripping with Baroque bluster. A treasure room houses lugubrious holy relics, raunchy a la Rococo. A veritable counter-reformation cabinet of curiosities. The largest brick church in the world, it looks every bit the fortress.
Albi itself is everything one imagines in a medieval farm town, with lovely winding streets and staircases. After a rest, I went out for a before dinner stroll. Sun was just setting, casting beautiful light on the town. Found myself overlooking the river Tarn and the old bridge at the Place du Château, which marks the sight of a long-gone castle once held by the murderous crusader Simon de Montfort. Many were the times Montfort took up the cross and sword against heresy. Cathar history is everywhere here. There was a cat sitting by the square, with devilish and mean-slitted eyes, watching me warily; almost felt the gaze of a dark and daemonic incarnation — the inquisitor’s strongman in feline form.
At dinner, I happened to strike up a conversation about the region with a local theater owner, a true homme de la Midi. He too seemed fascinated with Cathar history, and reminded me of how different the south was from the north, even until quite recently. His parents spoke the langue d’oc (hence Languedoc), and his sense of being southern and different was palpable. Dualism abounds in French history. He told me I must go to Cordes, a classic example of a medieval village nearby that is soaked in Albigensian and Cathar history. Suppose I will hang out a couple of days here and explore. Tired with a week left in France, but tonight feel less so.
Who were the Cathars? This, after all, is the deeper question behind all this wandering and random rambling. Well, for one, they are whatever anybody wants them to be. Especially in the last couple of days, I have encountered a myriad of interpretations regarding their legacy and meaning. Some of it is interesting. Some of it is kitsch. Having lived so long ago, it seems impossible to imagine that their place in history is anything but completely malleable. I still think, however, you gain insight by virtue of space. These rugged hills, where you can just set off and hide. Maybe that’s a key. Perhaps some were disgruntled and disillusioned crusaders, some Templars with money, others just oddballs who saw too much or learned too much in their crusading, and thus came to these mountains and helped lay the foundations for unusual spiritualisms and the so-called heresy. Then there was the fierce notion of the local and the communal that you can still sense in this region. The logistical explanation — that this was one of the last places in Western Europe where the French crown and the Roman church didn’t have a powerful influence, must be considered. The Cathar region was also then a crossroads, a point to cross the Pyrenees from France to Spain, and a place between “Europe” proper and the old influences of the Muslims and Jews in Spain. Some of the symbols employed by the sect and their brethren remind of this conspiratorial — or perhaps more properly interconnected and intertwined — vision of Christianity.
Twelve-pointed “Occitan” or “Cathar” cross (Astronomical/astrological significance?)
The Gnostic cross. A cross…Or a crossroads?
Words fail a full mood
Mournful horn beyond the rocks
Low sea, fog, and you
“The preface to the present edition I must, alas, sign alone. Marx — the man to whom the whole working class of Europe and America owes more than to anyone else — rests at Highgate Cemetery and over his grave the first grass is already growing. Since his death, there can be even less thought of revising or supplementing the Manifesto. All the more do I consider it necessary again to state here the following expressly:
The basic thought running through the Manifesto — that economic production and the structure of society of every historical epoch necessarily arising therefrom constitute the foundation for the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently (ever since the dissolution of the primeval communal ownership of land) all history has been the history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating classes at various stages of development; that this struggle, however, has now reached a stage where the exploited and oppressed class (the proletariat) can no longer emancipate itself from the class which exploits and oppresses it (the bourgeoisie), without at the same time for ever freeing the whole of society from exploitation, oppression and class struggles — this basic thought belongs solely and exclusively to Marx.
I have already stated this many times; but precisely now it is necessary that it also stand in front of the Manifesto itself.
London, 28 June, 1883
From Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, ed. David McLellan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 44.
Sat watching a trio of otters having lunch by the shore. One of them swam off but the other two busied themselves with their meal. As one crunched hungrily at a piece of mussel, the other languished on the beach — stretching and grooming with furious nibbles and scratches. Then, suddenly, the two turned and dove into the water, swam out briefly, and came right back to shore, shaking off and flipping their wet otter tails back and forth. It was all so unaffected and relaxed. Leisure incarnate. Just taking a dip.
They resumed their meal. The larger of the two went back to preening, getting quite fluffy in the process. He turned to look at me briefly, and as the other finished her meal the two rubbed their heads together, nuzzled and “kissed” each other, and ambled with a waddling gait up the beach to new adventures…
Just watching “otterness”. Just watching.