Now we explore level one of development in our relations to the physical world. The first thing we must do is engage the world, at a basic level – get out of bed if that is the issue.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. [The Bible, Genesis 3:19.]
Last week, we explored the first steps in our development of interpersonal relationships. This week, we explore the first steps in our development of our engagement in the world.
In our quasi-liturgical calendar, the distinction of engaging the world follows naturally after the preceding weeks, which have set the framework for all that will come: the ideal is followed by the reality of suffering; then the pause of humility leads us naturally to the beginning of engagement. It is time to begin the journey again, in a new way. It is time to emerge from our cocoon and engage.
Technical and Analytical Readings
- Paul Holinger, M.D., What Babies Say Before They Can Talk: The Nine Signals Infants Use to Express Their Feelings (Fireside, 2003).
- Linda Acredola and Susan Goodwyn, Baby Signs: How To Talk With Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk (Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., 1997).
- Sara Bingham, The Baby Signing Book (Robedrt Rose, 2007).
A committed ethicist with a single-minded devotion to service might protest that crafts are diversions from the work of the world. I reply that crafts are ways of calming and refreshing the self and more fundamentally, of engaging the world in some small way.
- Amy Sedaris, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People (Grand Central, 2010).
- Susan Peterson, The Craft and Art of Clay: A Complete Potter's Handbook (Overlook, 2003).
Therapists use crafts to assist people with emotional pathologies.
- Umberto Boccioni, The City Rises (1910)
- Vincent van Gogh, First Steps (After Millet) (1890)
- Vincent van Gogh, The Sower (1888)
- Paul Gauguin, A Seashore (1887)
- Mary Cassatt, Children Playing on the Beach (1884)
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The First Step (1876)
- Ivan Aivazofsky, Seashore (1840)
- Salvador Dali, The Spectre of Sex Appeal (1934) (shadow side: Dali depicts himself as a child, expressing his fear and fascination)
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
François Couperin, Leçons de Ténèbres (Lessons of Darkness) (1714) (approx. 65 minutes), is “a setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah . . .” Like much of Couperin’s music, and consistent with the work’s title, it conveys a feeling of beginning to emerge from darkness. That is what we do when we begin to engage the world. This is all the more true for people coming out of depression or other illness. “This is very expressive, exposed music; it takes superb musicians to make it work, for they must make the music sound like simplicity itself.” This is in keeping with the early stage of ethical/personal development the music suggests. “Couperin's three Tenebrae settings are all for Maundy Thursday . . .” Best recorded performances are by Lesne & Dugardin in 1991, Daneman & Petibon, with Christie, in 1996, Gens & Piau, with Rousset, in 1997, and Kirkby & Melon, with Charlston, in 2005.
François Couperin’s chamber music:
- Sonades et Suites de Simphonies en Trio: Premier Ordre – La Françoise; Second Ordre – L’Espagnole; Troiseéme Ordre – L’Impériale; Quatriéme Ordre – La Piémentoise
- Concerts Royaux (1722): Premier Concert in G major; Second Concert in D major (master class) ; Troisiéme Concert in A major; Quatriéme Concert in E minor
- Les Goûts-réünis ou Nouveaux Concerts (1724): Cinquiéme Concert in F major; Sixiéme Concert in B flat major; Septiéme Concert in G minor; Huitiéme Concert dans le gout Théatral in G major; Neuviéme Concert Intitulé Ritratto dell’amore in E major; Dixiéme Concert A minor; Onze Concert in C minor; Douziéme Concert in A major;Treiziéme Concert in G major; Quatroziéme Concert et dernier de cét œuvre in D minor
- Le Parnasse ou L’apothéose de Corelli Grande Sonade, en Trio (master class)
- Concert Instrumental sous le Titre D’apotheose: Composé à la mémoire immortelle de l’incomparable Monsieur de Lully
- La Sultane
- La Superbe
- La Steinquerque
- Pieces de Violes(1728): Premiere Suite; Second Suite; Le Rossignol
- Creation stories are best seen as metaphors for a child’s emerging awareness of the world. An excellent example is Haydn’s Die Schöpfung (The Creation), heard here in performances conducted by Karajan, Bernstein, Harnoncourt, Jochum, Fischer, Gardiner in 1996, McCreesh in 2008, and Antonini in 2020.
- Bach, 6 Sonatas for Two Keyboards and Pedal, BWV 525-530 (Trio Sonatas) (1727-32)
- Minimalist music is especially suited to this subject of rudimentary engagement. Simeon ten Holt’s Piano Duo, “Canto Ostinato”, linked here in a three-hour performance, a 99-minute performance, and linked here in a briefer performance in seven segments (1– 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7), captures the essence of it.
- Ustvolskaya, 12 Preludes for piano (1953)
- Zelenka, Ouverture à 7 Concertanti in F Major, ZWV 188 (1723)
- Bibalo, Sonatina 2A: Astrale for Wind Quintet: 1. Antares - Grave; 2. The Pleiades - Scherzino; 3. Lentissimo
- Bohnke, Piano Concerto in D Minor, 14 (1925)
- Weinberg, 24 Preludes for solo cello, Op. 100 (1969)
- Pierre Danican Philidor, Suites for Flute and Basso Continuo
- Carl Friedrich Abel, Cello Concerto in B-flat Major, WK. 52 (1759)
- Felix Blumenfeld, 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 17 (1892)
- Pierre Jalbert, Air in Motion, for flute and string Quartet (2019): “. . . the title refers to the flute’s ability to generate beauty from the simple aspect of air moving through the instrument.”
Performances and albums:
- Borah Bergman and Roscoe Mitchell, with Thomas Buckner, “First Meeting” album
- Australian Art Orchestra, “Umi No Uzu” (Stirring the Oceans), inspired by a Japanese Creation myth
- Chen Ming-Chang, “Maborosi” (1995) (41’), is the soundtrack to the Taiwanese film by that name, about a woman who re-emerges from depression after her husband commits suicide.
Film and Stage
- Apur Sansar (The World of Apu): having lived through a series of disasters, the protagonist in Satyajit Ray’s premiere trilogy has soured to the point that he abandons his son; after becoming thoroughly unsympathetic, finally he returns to be engaged in the world and his responsibilities
- Hope and Glory, about wartime London under siege, seen through a child’s eyes: I file the film under engaging because the child protagonist does not yet appreciate the significance of the events taking place around him
- Kings of the Road: the road serves as a metaphor for life, as the filmmaker-protagonists struggle with withdrawal versus engagement.
- My Neighbor Totoro: two young girls learn to confront life as it is.
- Maborosi “follows the spiritual odyssey of Yumiko (Makiko Esumi), a young Japanese woman recovering from her husband's inexplicable suicide.”
I hear the workman singing and the farmer's wife singing,
I hear in the distance the sounds of children and of animals early in the day,
I hear emulous shouts of Australians pursuing the wild horse,
I hear the Spanish dance with castanets in the chestnut shade, to the rebeck and guitar,
I hear continual echoes from the Thames,
I hear fierce French liberty songs,
I hear of the Italian boat-sculler the musical recitative of old poems,
I hear the locusts in Syria as they strike the grain and grass with the showers of their terrible clouds,
I hear the Coptic refrain toward sundown, pensively falling on the breast of the black venerable vast mother the Nile,
I hear the chirp of the Mexican muleteer, and the bells of the mule,
I hear the Arab muezzin calling from the top of the mosque,
I hear the Christian priests at the altars of their churches,
I hear the responsive base and soprano,
I hear the cry of the Cossack, and the sailor's voice putting to sea at Okotsk,
I hear the wheeze of the slave-coffle as the slaves march on, as the husky gangs pass on by twos and threes, fasten'd together with wrist-chains and ankle-chains,
I hear the Hebrew reading his records and psalms,
I hear the rhythmic myths of the Greeks, and the strong legends of the Romans,
I hear the tale of the divine life and bloody death of the beautiful God the Christ,
I hear the Hindoo teaching his favorite pupil the loves, wars, adages, transmitted safely to this day from poets who wrote three thousand years ago.
· James Joyce, “Lean Out of the Window”
Now, in 1482, Quasimodo had grown up. He had become a few years previously the bellringer of Notre-Dame, thanks to his father by adoption, Claude Frollo,—who had become archdeacon of Josas, thanks to his suzerain, Messire Louis de Beaumont,—who had become Bishop of Paris, at the death of Guillaume Chartier in 1472, thanks to his patron, Olivier Le Daim, barber to Louis XI., king by the grace of God.
So Quasimodo was the ringer of the chimes of Notre-Dame.
In the course of time there had been formed a certain peculiarly intimate bond which united the ringer to the church. Separated forever from the world, by the double fatality of his unknown birth and his natural deformity, imprisoned from his infancy in that impassable double circle, the poor wretch had grown used to seeing nothing in this world beyond the religious walls which had received him under their shadow. Notre-Dame had been to him successively, as he grew up and developed, the egg, the nest, the house, the country, the universe.
There was certainly a sort of mysterious and pre-existing harmony between this creature and this church. When, still a little fellow, he had dragged himself tortuously and by jerks beneath the shadows of its vaults, he seemed, with his human face and his bestial limbs, the natural reptile of that humid and sombre pavement, upon which the shadow of the Romanesque capitals cast so many strange forms. Later on, the first time that he caught hold, mechanically, of the ropes to the towers, and hung suspended from them, and set the bell to clanging, it produced upon his adopted father, Claude, the effect of a child whose tongue is unloosed and who begins to speak. . . .
It was the only speech which he understood, the only sound which broke for him the universal silence. He swelled out in it as a bird does in the sun. All of a sudden, the frenzy of the bell seized upon him; his look became extraordinary; he lay in wait for the great bell as it passed, as a spider lies in wait for a fly, and flung himself abruptly upon it, with might and main. Then, suspended above the abyss, borne to and fro by the formidable swinging of the bell, he seized the brazen monster by the ear-laps, pressed it between both knees, spurred it on with his heels, and redoubled the fury of the peal with the whole shock and weight of his body. Meanwhile, the tower trembled; he shrieked and gnashed his teeth, his red hair rose erect, his breast heaving like a bellows, his eye flashed flames, the monstrous bell neighed, panting, beneath him; and then it was no longer the great bell of Notre-Dame nor Quasimodo: it was a dream, a whirlwind, a tempest, dizziness mounted astride of noise; a spirit clinging to a flying crupper, a strange centaur, half man, half bell; a sort of horrible Astolphus, borne away upon a prodigious hippogriff of living bronze.