Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lightness and Being

"Innocent but also full of gravitas", wrote a dear friend in response to a recent post. At first his words struck me as irreconcilable. How could it be both? Would it be possible to be at once light and heavy? Rainer Maria Rilke's Evening - sometimes translated as Sunset - tracks such a tension, of a world simultaneously climbing to heaven and sinking to earth, both star and stone. And this lightness, this weightlessness of levitas, is then inseparable from the weightiness of gravitas. Lightness, innocence, carry a burden of being of less consequence than the dark and brooding leaden weight. The ton of feathers is less dense, more vapid, than the ton of lead.

Weightlessness, like fragility, like the glance as opposed to the gaze, presents an alternative way of being - for a moment, for an age. Ignasi de SolĂ -Morales' 'weak architecture' - or fragile architecture - circles such a conundrum. As does Edward Casey's 'glance-world', which stands in distinction to the piercing weightiness of the gaze. These light forms are nimble, and challenge a preoccupation with permanence, intensity, solidity. Even within the idea of memory, lightness pulls against a weighty recognition. The West's predilection for those monuments which seek to endure, to be everlasting, completely miss the point of memory. Instead a moment of gravitas dissolving into levitas, into the ether, might be more true to the passage of time ...

Rainer Maria Rilke, Evening
The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion of what becomes
a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.

Evening, St Petersburg, jb

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