Friday, November 17, 2006

The Great is less than the Good.

When a tradesman finishes his apprenticeship he might go on to become a journeyman (Geselle) of his trade, an intermediate stage on the way to becoming a master tradesman. Students do so as undergrads who move on to masters degrees and then to doctorates. The purpose of the training is to become good to the point of being professional. It never worked out that way in practice, not even in the Middle Ages when the colleges trained the clergy at universities, some brilliant scholars remaining forever clerks while plodders with office skills moved on to become Popes. And many a journeyman remained in servitude to the Master who had a guild-place the journeyman could not attain to for reasons of who can say, but not from lack of skill. Life ain't fair. Sometimes it sucks. Regardless, it always ends.

In the Middle Ages, Journeymen, particularly in Germany, used to hit the road after they completed their basic training as apprentices, as they graduated to journeymen. They donned the duds of their trade and moved from place to place learning from other masters as they travelled, hence, "journeymen." I met one once, and I am delighted and pleased to this day. He was a carpenter. I watched him build a staircase.

The owners of a ghetto flophouse were in constant trouble with the city due to the conditions of the building they owned, it being in danger of falling oversideways; and yet the owners of the building were somehow able to forestall condemnation of their building over and agian until finally they were forced to at least build a safe staircase up the outside of the building so tenants could reach the second floor somewhat safely. The owners, pathologically cheap, found a young German working illegally in the country, and because they could get him for less than the market price they hired him for the job. He built a staircase that remains one of the finest things I have seen over the course of a long and strange lifetime of hazzard and exultation. It was just some wood cut and hammered and put up the side of a falling down shack. It was just that and a work of beauty the likes of which I have seldom seen before or since. Not El Greco, not Pope Gregory, not Saint Cyril. The man was a wood butcher. His work was... it was the work of Man.

I also knew at the time a master sculptor who worked in wood. He had skill the likes of which I have seldom seen in living artists. Who else can I think of who rivals his skill as a sculptor? I can think of no one. His art work is stunning for its skill and aesthetic value; but the work itself is disgusting in itself, the themes being ugly and hateful. Owning any one of his pieces today would make me a filthy rich guy, and I'd be more than happy to part with them. i got scoffed at for observing at a fete that though he has the skill of a grand master he has no morals. I'm so fuckin' old fashioned. And that was 25 years ago. These days I'm outright cranky. I love the staircase but not the sculpted figures that are truly art.

Our own? What do we do? Our own might well give power of governance to the lady of the Left, Segolene Royal.