Friday, August 15, 2008

Beauty: fractured or pristine?

Even out here in Goma, images from the Olympics can be had. Coverage is spotty and one cannot actually sit down and watch the Olympics, but visual impressions and reports are getting through in drips and drabs. Watching synchronized diving, or gymnastics, it's obvious that the Olympic ideal is perfection of form as the pinnacle of beauty. Very few can achieve this ideal, hence the rarefied competition among elite athletes. Echoes of classical Greece are obvious, a vertical society despite its democratic pretensions. Cosmology can do that to a people.

The Olympics are tailored to this particular ideal of beauty as the rarefied perfection of form. No room for fractured beauty, obviously, as that would disqualify. Although pristine beauty is by definition more rare than fractured beauty, I tend to champion the latter because it's more pedestrian, more democratic because accessible to all of us, if we open our eyes wide enough. I love cosmologies, but only for their literary value. It's too late to actually believe in one. Fractured, democratic, horizontal: that's where I'm most comfortable. Zeitgeist I guess.

Of course, fractured beauty abounds here in Goma. As my boss and I bounced along these terrible roads the other day, inhaling pounds of volcanic dust (always in the air) and diesel fumes blasting into the car from all the trucks lumbering by in the other direction, the boss mused that we were on a merry go round. Everybody's on the narrow road at once, with dozens of moto taxis blurring past, honking constantly (think rickshaw madness in Delhi). The 360 degree view is just heads bobbing up and down, some buzzing past, others slow or stationary--pedestrians lost in the melee.

So instead of being overwhelmed by the oozing human morass of it all and thinking cynical thoughts about the Congo, my boss reverts into a childhood reverie and comes up with the merry-go-round comment. A kindred soul: he can appreciate fractured beauty too, I thought.

The first thing I'll do when I get off this merry-go-round and return home: ride my beloved bikes, of course, then open a book of Borges stories and sit by the sea. Nothing could be more pristine ... or magical.


Anonymous said...

Do you champion for “fractured beauty” because you are in Goma and always traveling the roads of the less fortunate “terrible roads” or you just like “fractured beauty” because it is natural beauty and it needs no rework? comestics that cost few hunderds.


edward b. rackley, phd said...

fractured beauty is often accidental, which means there is nothing elitist about it. it is available to everyone and generally has little or no economic value. the rich and powerful cannot monopolize it.

Anonymous said...

Imagine a world without the Continent of Africa. I am from Africa and I left there in a young age, however reading many books about Africa and many websites including yours make me wonder! Why all the sufferings in the continent? I told my mother we are been cursed by who knows! Or, should we blame Ignorance and lack of basic education. I blame dictatorship and I pray of living a world without dictatorship and I hope Africa sees the light before is it too late or is it too late??? I often blame on African men! And they think anyway I am women and of course I don’t know anything. However, other none Africans also blame foreign “aid” as the major setback for the continent like this book “The Road to Hell” of Michael Maren. Others like your self think not foreign aid but the African people are to be blamed on their issues, because “they don’t elect the right officials”. A friend once said “Africa should be removed from the map” I was sad to hear that… and I said, cool lets move the whole continent to North America.

Is there a hope???

A child from war zones/refugee camps!