TAFEL

village éternel cut out

Art     body     collage     Food     soy sauce     video

On a sunny Sunday somewhere in Paris, feeling less outside my body as usual, I’ve found the time to write:
letters and words
some gestures, some thoughts
a lot of frowning and staring around.
I’m switched on and it’s Time to connect some ideas.

– deep into thoughts only relatively present –

A couple of weeks ago I’ve watched an episode of Chef’s Table about Jeong Kwan, a Zen Buddhist nun cooking temple food in South Korea. Her way of cooking reflects her view of life. She gives nature the time to grow, respects the flavor of each ingredient and believes in the healing and spiritual power of food. Living is cooking is serving the higher cause. Arrogance is alien to her, time is on her side.

At some point she talks about soy sauce:

Chef's Table - Jeong Kwan

Chef’s Table – Jeong Kwan

“These kind of soy sauces are passed down for generations. They are heirlooms. If you look into yourself, you see past, present and future. You see that time revolves endlessly. You can see the past from the present. By looking into myself, I see my grandmother, my mother, the elders in the temple, and me. As a result, by making soy sauce, I am reliving the wisdom of my ancestors. I am reliving them. It’s not important who or when. What is important is that I’m doing it in the present. I use soy sauce, and I acknowledge its importance. It is no longer just me that’s doing things. It’s me in the past, in the present, and even in the future. Soy sauce is eternal. It is life itself.”

Chef's Table - Jeong Kwan

Chef’s Table – Jeong Kwan

There are two ideas I’d like to extract from this quote

the present
the transformation

There is no division in time, no sooner or later, no trichotomy of past, present and future. The present is an endless variety of being and as such is all connected. Time is not an abstract or external thing, but only through and within matter is it part of life. And so is soy sauce a revelation of eternity. And so are you and I eternal. Coocook crazy. But it’s quite comforting my life was or will be lived another time.

The present self is not the only self. My body doesn’t have to be a tragedy – it’s despite the body I become an element in the cycle of matter and time. It’s belonging in a broad sense to whatever is relevant. 

Addendum of nonsense: I was visiting the cemetery of Père Lachaise, enjoying all the names on the graves as a materialization of the gone away, thinking about Jeong Kwan’s words, when a good friend let me know she’s expecting a child. 

Addendum of nonsense: the clover I see in the Parc of Belleville is the same clover that grows at home.

© Maud Gyssels

© Maud Gyssels

And all this might be a rational understanding of what the body already knows. It’s inner knowledge, wisdom of the flesh, the soy sauce of ancestors. The process of fermenting is a process of transformation and being reborn. But what’s important, is that I’m doing it in the present. What does it mean to be in the present, to be one of the endless varieties? In the words of T.S. Eliot The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; Eliot, T.S. (1921) ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’. My body is a fermentation of matter and time. As well, my body is fermenting matter and time. It eats them alive! Huh?

It means I can transform and find myself in anything. I can sense the timeless as well as the temporal within one body. To see the soy bean in the soy sauce. Fermentation is a way to reinvent and that’s a good thing.

Addendum: The latest video of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, called Something Wonderment showed me the possibility of the caterpillar to become a butterfly. This transformation appeared as a metaphor for feminist power to overcome the cliché of cuteness as feminine: here.

Addendum: the fermentation as feminist thinking: here.

– trying to find my point

I think I should finish this letter with one of my collages, an image in four parts about continuity and rebirth, Le Village Éternel. Black ink, think of soy sauce.

Le Village Éternel, 2017 © Maud Gyssels

Le Village Éternel, 2017 © Maud Gyssels

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