Monday, 14 July 2008

Dear shadow

You have a dream. You find yourself walking through Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting "Netherlandish Proverbs", surrounded by figures re-enacting countless proverbs, sayings and aphorisms. The scene needs decoding. Above you, a man "hangs his cloak according to the wind" (adapts his viewpoint to the current opinion), whilst his neighbour "tosses feathers into that same wind" (works fruitlessly). A third figure "gazes at the stork" (wastes his/her time). And so it goes, according to accepted wisdom.

The sun is still climbing. You become aware of the shadow that your body casts on the ground. It is indistinct, and falls towards the sun rather than away from it. As you make your way through the characters and their travails, you begin to be overwhelmed by the burden of intersubjectivity, the sheer agony and exhilaration of being alive amongst other people also living, and yet long since dead. You think about joining them, leaving the darkness behind.

The realisation dawns that you have been here before, and some familiar words ring out, seemingly sung by a group of fleet foxes, sitting watching the humans from the slopes of Tiger Mountain, just outside the frame of Bruegel the Elder’s painting…

“In the town one morning, I went
Staggering through premonitions of my death-
I don't see anybody that dear to me.

Dear shadow, alive and well,
How can the body die?
You tell me everything,
Anything true.

I don't know what I have done-
I'm turning myself to a demon.
I don't know what I have done-
I'm turning myself to a demon.”

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