Memory, Satisfaction and Confusion

[Tower by an unknown Flemish master]

Last night was my first class at St. John’s in the position of tutor, and once again I found myself in Annapolis, tracing the paths that were so familiar to me, thinking thoughts that had grown foreign, and savoring the taste of satisfied nostalgia.

When I left Annapolis for NY I intended to leave behind a life of solitude, quietude, and an over-abundance of inwardness. New York provided me with the breath of new air that I so craved, but I was incorrect in thinking that a new lifestyle would be the better lifestyle. During those first few months in New York I found myself missing my former life terribly.

I missed sitting in my quiet sunlit kitchen, listening to classical music or some recently discovered album, beginning my studies into aesthetics or simply reading a new and challenging work of literature. I missed the silence of early weekend mornings in Annapolis when I could walk down to the docks, visit my fellow baristas, and pass an hour with a cup of coffee and one of those delicious scones that I have never found replicated anywhere.

Even the sidewalks there fill me with joy: uneven and treacherous, but constantly unexpected. The roots of decades-old trees twist between the bricks, heaving them and creating new definitions of “level.”

I missed my runs across the lamp lit bridge, starting at sunset and ending at twilight, and the little art shop that always had such unexpected bits of paper that I still use in my little, forgotten projects.

When I began my reading and preparation for class last night, I decided to pull out an old notebook, well, not so much old as discarded. It’s a wonderful notebook, large sheets of grid paper, separated into five different-colored sections. I like to use grid paper because it tends to accommodate smaller, boxy writing. The first two sections of this notebook actually still contain the studies and notes I was working on when I left Annapolis, ranging from all of my beloved notes on
FMR magazine to my laconic writings on Gilson’s Art of the Beautiful and Lessing’s Laocoon.

I stumbled across some very interesting notes which had started from an essay in v. 36 of FMR and worked its way through the pages of a variety of different works of literature. (I should back up: last night’s class reading was Genesis Chapters I – XI. I had particularly wanted to spend some time on Babel, which wasn’t in the cards, leaving plenty of time for some great discussion of the relationship between God and man).

In the two-year-old notes out of this notebook I found quite a few excerpts and comments that I plan on sharing here (don’t know why I didn’t before), but the ones that stood out the most were my comments on an essay titled "The desert of namelessness" by Giorgio Manganelli. This volume also contained excerpts from Augustine's City of God as well as various representations of the Tower of Babel, of which Mr. H at the now-quiet
Giornale Nuovo has posted several.

In Manganelli's article he quotes Borges on the Tower of Babel:

The labyrinth of Crete and the Tower of Babel in the plain of Shinar: no other buildings constructed by man within recorded history are as disturbing and rich with significance as these. In a note on the Tower of Babel written for FMR shortly before his death, Jorge Luis Borges declared that this strange structure -- which has never ceased to fascinate artists and writers -- 'continues to project its shadow over the imagination of men.' Perhaps because the confusion of tongues still exists. Or because each time man dreams of a daring, new project, he is assailed by the memory of the first great technological disaster. Or, in the end, simply because the tower, like the labyrinth, remains an enigmatic symbol of the mystical and the infinite.

I’m currently reading some Samuel Beckett which has been recommended to me so many times that I was starting to develop a guilt complex about my negligence. I’m also planning on resuming some of the studies I left off when I moved from Annapolis to NY and lost access to the wonderful library that I called home for two years.

And to Mr. Fabbri, if you’re still reading, thank you so much for recommending that film. I watched it on New Year’s Eve, just as the year was changing, and it was perfection.