This and That [put together for Aaron Asphar, and his blog: philosophy, critical theory, Western negativity, the body + the poetics of culture]
Oranges and Mosques
Mosques stand out as different in the cityscape just as oranges stand out in the display in a grocer’s shop. The orange is one of our favourite fruits. The mosque is the gathering place for the Muslim faithful.
When we look at a grocer’s display, the oranges shine out like small suns from their crates, their colour telling us they give us vitamins as the sun gives us light. The orange is the most famous fruit; it is both sweet and bitter at the same time.
Mosques beautify the cities as their most truthful ornaments. They are places built from faith in God even though we cannot be sure that God exists.
Just as the mosque strengthens the faith of Muslims so does vitamin C in oranges keep all the cells of the body together. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant, revitalizing the body and preventing cell damage. It strengthens the immune system and the orange’s fibre improves our digestive function. People gather in a mosque to pray to God as vitamin C is gathered in an orange to impart health to those who eat it. The souls of Muslims are revitalized each Friday by their communal prayers. The letter C is the symbol for the vitamin and the crescent moon for the mosque. People make the mosque as segments do the orange. The mosque contains Holy Korans, the orange seeds. Just as a glass of orange stimulates best in the morning so the walk to the mosque for the first prayers at sunrise give the worshipper true satisfaction. As the minerals in the ground impart their orange colour to the fruit’s peel so does burnt earth become terracotta brick with which we build our mosques. So many mosques are covered in half orange shapes, domes. Just as people go to mosques to admire the architecture and without praying so supermarkets, aware that city secretaries hesitate to buy oranges because of the need to peel them, now sell ready peeled oranges in sealed containers. The smell of freshly peeled oranges mirrors that of freshly washed believers, faces, hands and feet. Lightning bolts sometimes hit mosques and nurses train themselves to give injections on oranges.
All earth is an orange when Muslims are praying. Mecca is the mark of the stem. The believer’s body in the prostrate position forms the shape of a segment of orange. The rising sun in an autumn sky peels itself into an unwatchable fire that each day shines down, watching the believers treading their paths to the mosque. Some one, two, how many worshippers might decide by chance to carry in their pockets an orange? How can an orange so full of praying segments remain hidden in a pocket and not through the action of prayer, almost by force, fall out onto the mosque floor to reveal its bright beauty rolling among the praying people. The mosque imparts calm and faith as the orange freshness and health. All believe in oranges even if as yet we are not all Muslims.
Both Oranges and Mosques have great value simply because God is great.
Bridges and Brassieres
Both bridges and brassieres are places for romantic meetings. Both of them are combinations of aesthetics, technology and beauty and both confront the issue of access head-on. The Wonderbra is the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, while a La Perla bra is a positive Brooklyn Bridge of a bra.
Let’s imagine that you love a bridge so much, that you wish to fall into the abyss it crosses with it in a crumbling crash of debris, then the only way to get over the agony of that love is somehow to unloose the bra hooks of a woman that you meet on the bridge so that you can marvel at the cascade of breast that tumbles out. The trouble with releasing those bra hooks is that your hands are so busy with the dexterous intricacy of fingers, metal and cloth that you never manage to get your head far enough back to be able to enjoy the sight of freshly freed “breast flesh.” Bridges are often built over stretches of sea or rivers in which naked women swim. Bodies in themselves often function as bridges.
So many cases of unrequited love, in which a man has been forbidden from ever having the hope of opening his loved one’s bra, find a solution in a threat to jump off a bridge. The more you open or close bras, the better you know that the ease with which a bra is undone or done up is proportionate to the weight of its contents.
While bridges are public works, bras are the most private articles of clothing. On bridges we walk with our feet. On bras we walk with our fingers. Just as bridges are useless without routes to get us to them, so bras cannot exist without panties. Just as bridges need gaps to cross, so bras need breasts to contain. The most precious of all-bridges and bras are those that cover liquid, be it moving water or gently leaking milk. A bridge hangs between two pieces of land, whereas a bra is wrapped around a ribcage and a spinal column. Some few bridges open in the middle and are raised up and some few bras are opened or closed in front.
Bridges are built out of cement, wood, aluminium, steel, reinforced concrete or even plastic. Bras are made of plastic, cotton, elastic, viscose, or silk. Some women have large collections of bras in their drawers. Few of us are wealthy enough to own many bridges. Depending on the strength of the materials used, the marching steps of a battalion could destroy one; while equally the studied gaze of that same battalion could burst open the other so that it falls in a crumpled heap on the ground. Bras are washed in washing machines, while bridges only have the rain to clean them. In the modem age bridges can go anywhere, even fly over each other. Bras only ever sit one on top of another when they are out of use in a drawer. There is even a canal bridge that carries water and boats hundreds of feet up across a valley floor.
Columns are the nipples of suspension bridges while nipples are the columns that suspend breasts. The charm of bridges is that they resemble bras hung out to dry, horizontally of course. In fact it is one of the great aesthetic sins of washerwomen to hang out a bra any other way than horizontally. Shouldn’t we ask a woman “What size of bra is your bridge?” In that case a bridge should be asked “What size of bridge is your bra?” Bridges and brassieres, Causes of Sighs.
Chimneys and Pens
Both chimneys and pens initiate special symbolic resonances in the brain. Chimneys remind us of industrial society and its aftermath. Pens remind us of the human spirit. We consider chimneys soulless objects but pens equally have produced works that deny the very soul of humanity. A pen was used to write ‘Mein Kampf.’ Hitler never learnt to type.
Humans first moved from caves to houses at least partly through the wish to control smoke. Cities only developed after the creation of the chisel which is the mother of the pen.
A small homestead in the hills produces from its chimney the warm smell of the hearth. Factories belch their fumes over the townscape and from an off-shore oil rig a flicker of squirming flame attempt to outshine the smoothly sinking sun on the western horizon. Slithers of cloud oblivious to their bastard factory origins mutate the unchimneyed sun’s light into a pink, mauve, gold and orange cosmic reaction to the sphericity of Earth.
Chisels and their daughters, pens and printers trace their ancestry back to the great valley civilizations. Soon smart quills will allow writing in the air to be stored in a computer thousands of miles away. Even that crucial touch of pen on paper is to be sent up in smoke by the inventiveness of the human brain.
The first couple of centuries of the industrial revolution saw us ignoring the libelous smoke that chimneys were writing in the sky, until the strength of the pen’s evidence, ill health, climate change, became too weighty to disregard. It must be remembered that writing is symbolism and symbols form the strongest evidence.
Smoke rises while ink falls. Both use all the colours of the rainbow in their polluting and writing. A chimney might stain a white bird just as a pen sometimes makes a squiggle. Air pollution is the result of many chimneys as libraries are the result of many pens. Just as the falling of acid rain is thanks to chimneys so the applause at the end of theatrical performances is originally thanks to pens. What comes out of chimneys leaves a seemingly momentary impression, while what comes out of pens leaves a permanent one.
Chimneys get blocked especially during the winter due to birds seeking warmth. Equally pens get blocked through changes in temperature causing malfunction of ball-baring and ink. Chimneys have valves, hats and tops as do pens. All chimneys have hung their heads in shame since the time that they were used in concentration camps to expel burnt souls into the atmosphere. Pens too, hate to find themselves in the hands of evil writers. Chimneys stimulate the eye to look up while pens encourage the eye to look down at the material on which one is writing. The writer’s hope is to lift up the reader from mere street level to the height of chimneys. A whole economic system writes with chimneys while only one man, on his own writes with a pen. Can we imagine that both chimneys and pens will be no more, no more smoke, no more ink? The chimney is being superseded by clean technology, the pen by the key-board, but somehow we find it difficult to envisage their complete obsolescence.
Both of them are the agents responsible for the way we live today, good or bad. Using a pen is like using a chimney, to create and form meanings instead of products. Though pens are younger than chimneys, they are likely to have a much longer life in the end. In the Greek tragedy, ‘Chimneys and Pens’, man has found a way to be hubristic with chimneys. Will man now find a way to be hubristic with pens?