13.0257 Phoenician disputations

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 4 Nov 1999 19:42:15 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 257.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1999 18:51:51 -0500 (EST)
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: restless re rootless


Who is this Phoenician guy?

Your circling back to the lone figure of the trader echoes eeriely
with the fourth section of EliotUs _The Wasteland_

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.

One reads on, learns that Phlebian corpse has passed on to the whirlpool, and
one comes to the invitation to "Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome
and tall as you." Short people get off the hook and need not, for the
moment, contemplate the vanitas theme. Indeed anyone can get off the
hook unless they occupy the position of pilot, someone at the helm for
the "you" of the poem refers internally to "Gentile or Jew/ O you who
turn the wheel and look to windward".

Intrigued, I took a little spin leeward (nice to think of an archive
being temporarily on the sheltered side of the datastream). I found
that Maureen Donovan read your spring time pointing to Phoenician
traders and inventors of the alphabet as an implicit and strong
endorsement of networking in both the social and computational senses.
I went back and checked the record. You did indeed use the plural in
that previous invocation.

But, I feel partly responsible for this recent downsizing in your
Phoencician cohort. I did after all use both terms, composer and
performer, in the singular with every intention of eliciting the image
of the individual --- the node in the network. And you most
delightfully hyphenated the functions demonstrating thereby they could
nest in one body. We are still in the realm of sets of behaviour.

However, unlike Eliot's poem, there is no easy way, for me, to find a
lever of non-identification in your invitation to contemplate a model
of behaviour. You wrote:

So, again, I recommend we begin with the image of the rootless
merchant-trader, not a slave to anyone, not denizen of yet another
fortified city, but a new kind, with a unique sort of perspective.

If the composer-performer hyphenation is meant to be homologous to the
merchante-trader hyphenation, then there is something at odds in the
attribution of rootlessness. Just as composer-performer implies the
pair "plan & execute," the merchant can be the sedentary city dweller
and the trader, the roamer. However, the daily commute from home to
place of business may mean that the merchant-city dweller actually
travels a greater distance than the trader who is perhaps inclined to
seasonal displacement over vast distances but very much bounded to
camp while _in situ_.

Of course, this toying with scales does not advance the
consideration of your original question as to positioning of
the scholar-figure in relation to the inventor-explorer and
the trader-merchant.

Allow me to dwell on the attribute "rootless":

The full biomass of even the most sturdy of oaks ressembles
the drifting spores of mushrooms: not all acorns have
sprouted; not all saprophytes feed at once upon the same
detrius. Reproductive reserve may be that unique sort of
perspective on the unhidden hidden...

My oaken example is inspired by an institution which has as a motto
"velut arbor aevo" and remains silent with regards to the invisible
growth referenced in its source:

cresit occulto velut arbor aevo fama Marcellis
Horace _Odes_, Book 1 Ode 12

The motto with its silencing of silent growth stands at the base of
the crest whose topmost part displays a tree sans roots but
bearing fruit. See

I shall avoid allegorical readings of this material and simply
conclude that it is the restless not the rootless, that read as Humanists
from the swaying crowsnest (royal oak become mast) or calculate as Humanists
from the humble patch of garden dirt enriched by oak leaf humus.



------------------------------------------------------------------------- Humanist Discussion Group Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/> <http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/> =========================================================================