All entries for May 2005
May 24, 2005
May 20, 2005
May 14, 2005
…words in the Counting Crows song, "Anna Begins". I normally hate songs where the person is actually named, but this one I like. There's something mystical about the phrase "Anna begins"; why? Does she begin because she has been put in a song and is now known? Because she is having a fresh start? The song goes, "every time she sneezes, I believe it's love": so what, then of when she speaks?
I am fascinated by words, and by names—names are the ultimate words, because they really designate what they represent. The name 'Emma' is not just a name, but an indicator of me, or of some other Emma – the word is performative, because it does not end in being thought or spoken, but it sparks something else in the speaker, the listener, the thinker – a picture, an emotion, a memory, the image of a person, hollowed out and not whole, but nonetheless somehow present.
The Bible is almost obsessively concerned with words and with names. When God created the world, he did so by speaking it into being: "Let there be light". God has many names -Lord, Master, King, Father, Son, Holy Spirit – but his real name is 'I AM'. "I am who I am", he answers Moses when Moses asks the name of the God who is sending him to his people. To me, this says that no word can possibly sum God up or name him; you have to look at him to see who he is.
In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet famously cries "wherefore art thou Romeo?" and exclaims that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. When I was studying the play in Year 9, there ensued much debate about whether a rose would really be as beautiful if it was called a cabbage. Somehow it seems doubtful; words in themselves have a beauty that is able to captivate and transform. I think that to give a woman the name Hester is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy (I wonder why there aren't all that many Hesters around today?)—with an ugly name, surely you would just be a slightly different person. In fact, you would probably be a slightly different person had you been called anything else. There's something about the sound and shape of a name that somehow shapes you. Think about the way we shorten people's names and give them nicknames. Something about that is about wanting to possess the name, somehow to personalise it, to fit it better to our experience of the person. Amy (sorry) might not like being called Shamstick 5000, but there's something touching in the experience of knowing that for some reason someone crafted a name to you. Some of my friends have nicknames in my head that I wouldn't even call them to their face because it would seem too intimate, too much like giving myself away. What I call them is a picture of the way I feel about them.
Some guy in Shakespeare's time that I read about earlier said you should be wary of falling in love with words, for you fall in love with a picture. I think that's the point. Words are enough to render a picture so beautiful, so powerful, so immanent… that the picture is almost tangible. Why do lovers (and maybe not in real life, although probably, when no-one is looking) say the name of the person they love, over and over? Like Orlando in As You Like It repeating Rosalind's name over and over in verse. Names are incantatory, spell-like. We say the name to invoke the person. Say it enough, and it's almost like they're there. I bet lovesick people wouldn't be able to move themselves to tears without the name of the person they love to stir up the emotion. Notice how some people give exes or people who have treated them badly, other puerile names to mask the real one. Or how people refer to someone they like as just "him" or "her" or "you know". To say their name is just too powerful, gives too much away of what we really feel, and it leaves us exposed.
People often comment to me how people are willing to talk about God, but not Jesus. I think that it's because God, or certainly to a pluralistic culture, stands for something abstract, something bigger than human, a divine force. Not someone with a name. "I am what I am". But God is what he sent to be a picture of himself: Jesus. To say that name is to conjure up the very living God; to do that, for some people, is a miracle. For others, it is something that makes them afraid, unsure. Other people turn Jesus' name to an oath, because they know no other way to deal with this huge, beautiful, incantatory, powerful, dangerous name than to try to make it safe by debasing it. Most don't even realise what it is they are doing.
I can give no justice here even to my own thoughts on this matter, let alone to the subjects with which they treat. I simply don't have the felicity of words to deal with a subject so big (and no doubt to some people it doesn't seem big at all, but abstract, or pointless). To try to explain it, here's a poem I wrote some time ago about the power of words. It probably won't mean anything to anyone, but I'll leave it here as my best way of using words to explain what I mean.
Sometimes I forget that I can't make it black.
Not often, but sometimes,
Rapt in words that mean nothing,
I believe that none of them do,
And stop breathing.
All our tiny life is held in a word,
And when words leak to confusion,
Our life drains from us, slowly, thickly.
Tonight I feel that I would breathe cotton wool
Rather than spill another word.
May 11, 2005
It's complicated, it's messy, and it's time consuming… perfect for evading revision! Today, people, we are going to cook…
Italian Meatballs (serves 2, just to be different!)
Some pork or beef mince, I think I used 250g pork, but to be honest, I just made it up
1 Slice bread, crumbed (can be stale, wouldn't recommend mouldy though!)
1 small/medium egg
2 tsps tomato purée
1 apple, grated (or an onion, if you want to be conventional :b)
Italian seasoning/mixed herbs
Salt and pepper
1 can chopped tomatoes
A little sugar
Whisk up the egg, the apple (or onion) and tomato purée together in a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, a generous sprinkling of herbs, salt and pepper, and mix together. Heat some olive oil in a saucepan, and empty the can of tomatoes into a fairly large saucepan, adding some water, sugar, and more herbs. Bring the tomatoes to the boil, and keep stirring.
Meanwhile, make the meat mixture into balls and fry for about 5 minutes each until brown and firm. When each meatball is cooked, add to the simmering tomato mixture (you can turn it down when you start adding the meatballs).
Finally, when every meatball is cooked and added to the sauce, cook some spaghetti, linguine or tagliatelle and serve. Yum!