Plato was wrong about the perfect.
I do not know what the word “perfect” means. I know what we think it means, but its meaning crumbles in my hand when I squeeze it.
So here’s a tomato, an unexpectedly beautiful November tomato I found in the garden last fall.
It’s not perfect in a Platonic sense, but it was perfect for that particular day in this particular life.
I ate it, of course (what else would one do with a tomato), but its image lingers because I took a picture of it when I saw it. A picture is all that is left of this tomato–soon after this photo it became tiny particles breathed and pissed out of my body.
The Greeks have proven troublesome, at least to me. John gets right to the heart of the problem. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.
Western culture picked that up and ran, creating all kinds of masterpieces we ogle (or are supposed to ogle, anyway) while the tomatoes get eaten, breathed and pissed out, then reconstructed again, over and over.
The perfect tomato above no longer exists but still feels real. Photographs and words will do that.
A spoken story dies with the storyteller. The parts of the stories that matter or resonate or are crudely funny get passed along to younger mortals, who, after sharing stories and eating tomatoes that they exhale and piss out, also eventually die.
Somewhere along the way, several thousand years ago, written language was invented. When the stories can no longer be changed by the wiser among us, words become our prisons.
We work for words, for the abstract, for the future, for money, for fame, for recognition, for a lot of things, but unless you are directly working with the ground or water or air, you are living in a world that does not exist. Literally.
When we confuse the abstract with the real, and we do–every single day–we are reliving the story of original sin, a story that survives because it’s a story that matters.
And still does.
Pay more attention to the voices of the living. The letters of the past are no longer edited, no longer ours. Let them go.