AN OVAL FACE, which baldness makes almost round; a high forehead; ocean-green eyes, contracted through long hours of lamp-light reading; wrinkles carved by expressiveness; reflective mouth, prominent nose, noble countenance. What life, what love and pain and experience are revealed through those features? Is it a mask, or a lamp, expanding the soul’s rays? The mirror made of rock is too solid, too static, to tell. We need a different kind of reflection: the eyes of another human being. Tell me what I am; look at me, not only with your physical vision, but with the comprehension of your heart. Lips that smiled and were pursed; lines traced by laughter and sorrow; eyes twinkling by joy or glaring in anger: penetrate beyond the surface, the ambivalence, the ebb and flow of qualities. Green eyes, deep and minute fountains: can you sense the tears shed in compassion, the moments transfixed in beauty, the contemplation of truth? Shimmering through this face there is a light not altered by age, mood or expression: can you mirror the meaning of these signs?
An entry in Maria del Mar’s blog brought to my mind what is in the media now: the 100 anniversary of the birth of Octavio Paz. So let me copy here one of Paz’s poems, as well as two paragraphs from his speech in acceptance of the Nobel Prize. You could ask, why? And I will answer: because languages are not separate vessels, but always in communication. I admire Paz as a poet; not much as a thinker. But there is no doubt about his mastery of the Spanish language: he wrote poetry that shimmers like a gold medal in the sun; he wrote prose that is precise and rhythmic and passionate. We can learn from this. And once we become more adept at tasting the fecundity and beauty of our native tongue, it will be easier for us to perceive those qualities in any language.
Habla deja caer una palabra
Buenos días he dormido todo el invierno y ahora despierto
Una piragua enfila hacia la luz
Una palabra ligera avanza a toda vela
El día tiene forma de río
En sus riberas brillan las plumas de tus cantos
Dulzura del agua en la hierba dormida
Agua clara vocales para beber
vocales para adornar una frente unos tobillos
Toca la cima de una pausa dichosa
Y luego abre las alas y habla sin parar
Pasa un rostro olvidado
Pasas tú misma con tu andar de viento en un campo de maíz
La infancia con sus flechas y su ídolo y su higuera
Rompe amarras y pasa con la torre y el jardín
Pasan futuro y pasado
Horas ya vividas y horas por matar
Pasan relámpagos que llevan en el pico pedazos de tiempo todavía vivos
Bandadas de cometas que se pierden en mi frente
¡Y escriben tu nombre en la espalda desnuda del espejo!
Moja los labios en la piedra partida que mana inagotable
Hunde tus brazos blancos en el agua grávida de profecías inminentes
Comienzo con una palabra que todos los hombres, desde que el hombre es hombre, han proferido: gracias. Es una palabra que tiene equivalentes en todas las lenguas. Y en todas es rica la gama de significados. En las lenguas romances va de lo espiritual a lo físico, de la gracia que concede Dios a los hombres para salvarlos del error y la muerte a la gracia corporal de la muchacha que baila o a la del felino que salta en la maleza. Gracia es perdón, indulto, favor, beneficio, nombre, inspiración, felicidad en el estilo de hablar o de pintar, ademán que revela las buenas maneras y, en fin, acto que expresa bondad de alma. La gracia es gratuita, es un don; aquel que lo recibe, el agraciado, si no es un mal nacido, lo agradece: da las gracias. Es lo que yo hago ahora con estas palabras de poco peso. Espero que mi emoción compense su levedad. Si cada una fuese una gota de agua, ustedes podrían ver, a través de ellas, lo que siento: gratitud, reconocimiento. Y también una indefinible mezcla de temor, respeto y sorpresa al verme ante ustedes, en este recinto que es, simultáneamente, el hogar de las letras suecas y la casa de la literatura universal.
El sentimiento de separación se confunde con mis recuerdos más antiguos y confusos: con el primer llanto, con el primer miedo. Como todos los niños, construí puentes imaginarios y afectivos que me unían al mundo y a los otros. Vivía en un pueblo de las afueras de la ciudad de México, en una vieja casa ruinosa con un jardín selvático y una gran habitación llena de libros. Primeros juegos, primeros aprendizajes. El jardín se convirtió en el centro del mundo y la biblioteca en caverna encantada. Leía y jugaba con mis primos y mis compañeros de escuela. Había una higuera, templo vegetal, cuatro pinos, tres fresnos, un huele-de-noche, un granado, herbazales, plantas espinosas que producían rozaduras moradas. Muros de adobe. El tiempo era elástico; el espacio, giratorio. Mejor dicho: todos los tiempos, reales o imaginarios, eranahora mismo; el espacio, a su vez, se transformaba sin cesar: allá era aquí: todo era aquí: un valle, una montaña, un país lejano, el patio de los vecinos. Los libros de estampas, particularmente los de historia, hojeados con avidez, nos proveían de imágenes: desiertos y selvas, palacios y cabañas, guerreros y princesas, mendigos y monarcas. Naufragamos con Simbad y con Robinson, nos batimos con Artagnan, tomamos Valencia con el Cid. ¡Cómo me hubiera gustado quedarme para siempre en la isla de Calipso! En verano la higuera mecía todas sus ramas verdes como si fuesen las velas de una carabela o de un barco pirata; desde su alto mástil, batido por el viento, descubrí islas y continentes – tierras que apenas se desvanecían. El mundo era ilimitado y, no obstante, siempre al alcance de la mano; el tiempo era una substancia maleable y un presente sin fisuras.
Although we have already finished our Mandela set of activities, this is a worthy adition: a recent article written by Bono about the man he personally knew and admired. Interesting not only because of the subject, but also because of Bono’s excellent style. So, a good model for an article.
Secondly, another act by the same man: a colourful and unconventional speech he gave at Pennsylvania’s university. Bono can no doubt be rather infuriating, but he has his talents. After all, he is Irish, so he has the gift of the garb, meaning, the gift of eloquence.
I apologize for not having published this post on Friday, as I said I would. I am really sorry for that. As there has been a delay on my part, I will extend the time you have to write some of the tasks, as specified below
You must give it to me on Tuesday. If you have not been able to complete it for Tuesday, then, Thursday
Write a formal letter of about 180-200 words addressed to the Director of Jameson Printing Company, Leeds LS4 7TJ, UK. The purpose of your letter is to present the work of a NGO in which you take part, and try to persuade the company to contribute to it by editing posters and brochures, free of charge, for a campaign the NGO is preparing.
You must hand this in on Thursday
Write a formal e-mail asking for information and addressed to any real-life e-mail address from an institution of your choice. It can be asking about a course, a hotel, anything. You must find an e-mail address on the Internet and really send the e-mail. Once you have done this, you must forward it to me. Finally, if your receive any answer, you must send me the reply as well.
You must send this before the end of this week
The Institute for Reasearch into Global Issues has asked you to write a report about a particular global problem of your choice. You will write between 175 and 200 words and follow the conventions of reports in terms of heading formalities, subheadings introducing parts of the report, formal language, etc. You will cover:
- Definition of the problem
- Data and current situation
- Proposal for useful measures or solutions
Sorry for missing the lesson today. I had to get into bed due to illness. The remaining speeches we can have next thursday.
For next tuesday you should write an essay of 275-300 words. Free subject. It is an opinion essay: if you want, you can follow the directives in the photocopies, but you can also write in a freer fashion. Also, in the grammar, there is a unit in the vocabulary section called Global Issues. Please, if you could do that too.
This is a link to an essay by George Orwell, so that you can keep learning fron good models.
Hello, all. This is a little present I would like to share with you. It’s a brief piece I have written withing the process of my colaboration with a friend psychologist, and which will be published shortly in my literary blog. The theme is the magical world of childhood. It’s made of my memories and also of imaginative intuition -and both things probably merge ultimately into one. Hope you enjoy it. Please, let my know your impressions.
The child by Emilio Alzueta
It was silence everywhere. The blackbirds and the finches sang around the ash grove, and the breeze plucked its melody from the branches and leaves. And yet it was all silence, because all of these sounds were woven into a transparent stream of music, and what is music but a manifestation of the harmony hidden in perfect silence? The child, who was sitting in the park, cutting colored papers and sticking them in a canvas, heard and understood this, not with words, but with the immediacy of being part of it. He was no more than three or four years old and still enjoyed that perfect comprehension that growing and schooling fragment and tarnish until the blackbirds and the ash tree and the breeze become different things that must be memorized and catalogued. But he was very small and children their age are surely loved and educated, but hardly understood.
His grandmother’s called his name from the chair where she was sitting with a friend and the baby’s carriage. The baby was the child’s brother, and sometimes awoke in him a mixture of deep interest and extreme dislike. Yet he was mostly unimportant, especially at this hour in which the colored papers and the canvas created designs that kept the child absorbed and oblivious to the world. Now Granny had called his name. Only some months ago she would have needed at least three repetitions, because the first sound would have fallen like a pebble in the stream of music and silence. This time, however, it awakened him and made him go to fetch his biscuits and juice. Then he sat again, looked at the words at the top of the canvas, and read the first one. When people said his name they didn’t just address him, but seemed to be convinced that they could conjure up what he was, but was that possible? It was this relationship between names and things, between letters and sounds that was beginning to fascinate the child more than anything else. On his way home he would keep asking his granny about the meaning of the shops’ signs. ‘What does it say there?’ As if determined to crack that code of language by himself, he would recognize the patterns of letters and astound the adults by his ability to read words and sentences before having ever been schooled in reading.
But the adults didn’t know that, when he was alone in his room, he would say: ‘hand’, ‘bed’, ‘flower’ and felt how the essence of these things jumped from their contours with the radiance of being. You will probably ask: how is it possible to attribute to the experience of a small child such terms as ‘essence’ or ‘being’, which have been discussed in dense volumes and abstruse language by philosophers like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas? The answer is, however, simple, but difficult to swallow if you believe that the discursive mind and the senses are the only modes of human knowledge. The child perceives such things directly, as if he would taste an orange or touch a piece of wood. It is partly the closing of the eye of his heart and partly the utilitarian way in which he is conditioned to think about language that make him eventually believe that numinous direct experience is impossible and that the only way to approach being is by the flattened senses, experiment or discursive thought. But for our child, alone in his room, fascinated by the miracle of words, these were truly magical spells, and the illumination of things perfectly responded to the exact combination of sounds or letters.
The fact that he was learning to read in such a spontaneous fashion and that his vocabulary was still so limited, also made it possible for him to believe that language was able to relate –not in a lineal fashion- to all that he saw and experienced in the world. And this was much larger than the physical. For he was at that age in which the invisible realm is beginning to pale away, but can at times still be perceived: the light of angels and the vibration of rocks and trees, and the depth and numinous qualities of objects that he would later hear to be reduced to atoms and molecules. Only a few weeks later, in bed, after his mother had kissed him good night, he saw a figure of light appear by his bed. They lived in a flat in the middle of a city but this was indifferent, because even among the hushed noise of night traffic and the ugly modern buildings, that primordial figure gradually manifested in the room until it could be perceived with enough clarity. It had no smell or sound, but it shone forth with a wave of warm purity, a mixture between his mother’s embrace and the silver reflection of the moon in a stream. The child didn’t for a moment think about what name to give to that being, but surely he was convinced that she had a name and that, somehow, this magic word would bid her to return, making her flow through the window to dispel all darkness, in an inaudible lullaby of light. Little did he suspect that this would be the last time in which the angelic realm would manifest to his eyes and that very soon, as his proficiency for reading and writing cemented at school, the magical qualities of language would temporarily fade away and the essences of things would become hidden, opaque inside their form and their names, as it is proper in the real world.