Sunday, February 07, 2010

by the 13th century, caravan routes connecting India (hence indigo), and the Middle East to the ports of Venice and Genoa, Amalfi and Pisa, were carrying what today no less than back then seems quite magical: dyes and colored velvet, silk, damask (from Damascus), muslin (from Mosul), baudekin (from Baghdad), cotton (from the Arabic qutn), taffeta (Persian, tafta, meaning silken cloth, to shine), satin (zaytuni), and mohair (from the Arabic mukhayyar, meaning choice or select).

names such as damask or muslin carry with them a tremor. exotic yet familiar, they stress the English-speaking tongue in unusual ways. stripped of their history no less than of their place-reference, such as Damascus in Syria or Mosul in Iraq, they have become naught but names, less than names, really just sounds, we might say, yet for all of that, and indeed because of that, something else hovers in the aura that the sounds can, on occasion, provoke.

the tongue remembers but you do not. life moves on while all around you lay traces of lost eras, active in the present, hanging on the wall, covering the windows, not to mention the couch on which you sit or the dress that you will wear tonight....

what would happen if one tries to redeem both name and constellation? the name opens like a flower. this is something more than relating facts about the past, something more than reading off meanings in a dictionary.

...what then happens to our sense of the senses when they are blended the one with the other, let alone with such history? how can such a mix be reduced to physiology or a body out of history, a taste to taste-bud reaction, color to a retinal bleep? Does not world history enter into the innermost physiological essence of such buds and bleeps -- just as world history is itself made out of the passion for such sensations?

to slip into the blue of your blue jeans is to slip into a surprising and unexpected encounter with the past -- old Cairo in your jean's bottom - but without your having the faintest idea of what you are slipping into. where might such affinities reside? how might they be awakened and in that sense redeemed?

(what color is the sacred? p.145, 155, 157)

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