Nature - DeadSunday, July 21, 2013
The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant’s existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. The ceaseless activity of their own inherent nature makes these stages moments of an organic unity, where they not merely do not contradict one another, but where one is as necessary as the other; and constitutes thereby the life of the whole.
Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
A Naval Captain had ordered me to show up two hours early every day from my comfy pension in the suburbs of Buenos Aires to where he was at the Argentine Naval Ministry. I told him that this was impossible as there was no train that left where I lived that would get me to the ministry at his chosen hour. Remembering the very words of the definition of insubordination I told him something that went like this, “Sir I categorically refuse to obey your order.” The chubby Captain, most of us despised him for being a lackey of the Senior US Naval Advisor, somehow sucked in his stomach and told me in a very calm voice, “In war time I could have you instantly shot. I could send you to the Argentine Antarctic Zone for a long time and the only females you will ever meet there will be penguins. But I will put you under arrest for a week here in the Ministry and you with have no problem doing the work that I need you to do.”
That afternoon I went to Pigmalion (no y in that spelling) on Corrientes, very near the Ministry and purchased Friederich’s book The Philosophy of Hegel. Like other times that I went to that bookstore which specialized in books in English I did not see the blind Argentine writer who liked to frequent the bookstore.
To this day I have put a particular attention on language and the meaning of words in the two languages I speak. Sometimes we do not give much thought to the meaning behind a word. As an example the word converse is rarely used in English. In Mexico they like the odd-sounding verb platicar which comes from plática which is a discourse or speech. In Argentina we like to use conversar. If you think of the meaning it literally is to speak in verse. That makes conversar a very beautiful word.
In the same way I give as an example the expression still life. My friend the young photographer Nicole Langdon Davies asked me today, “Do you take photos that aren't people?”
Here is a still life of plants from my garden that I placed on my scanner. It is a still life. But consider how you say this in Spanish, naturaleza muerta or nature deceased, nature dead.
Combining both the term in English and in Spanish gives me the ability to reflect. My time in that navy brig was not wasted.