Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Charles Olson, Mayan Letters

Because there was a concept at work, not surely 'sacred,' just a disposition to keep the attention poised in such a way that there was time to (1) be interested in expression & gesture of all creatures including at least three large planets enough to create a system of record which we now call hieroglyphs; (2) to mass stone with sufficient proportion to decorate a near hill and turn it into a fire-tower, or an observatory, or as one post of an enclosure in which people, favored by its shadows, might swap camotes for shoes; (3) to fire clay, not just to sift and thus make cool water, or, to stew iguana, or fish, but to fire it so that its handsomeness put ceremony where it also belongs, in the most elementary human acts. And when a people are so disposed, it should come as no surprise that, long before any of these accomplishments, the same people did an improvement, if one likes, of nature — the domestication of maize — which is still talked of as one of the world's wonders!

1 comment:

  1. Our oldest technology, the technology of maize. I remember the conversation we had, about that book, you know the one. Let us say, the culture occurs when the attention is "so disposed," sharpened on the stone that lies in the way, on its obstinacy of being an obstacle. What to do; rather than move the unmovable boulder, you grind it down, or massify it, amassing other stones, building upward. You discover shade this way, and as Olson points out, commerce. Nothing sacred in that: no godliness in the act but the act itself. The supremacy of the Attention on elemental acts, a physics of response.