FathomOnline

 

 Fathom 2006

Cover

 

Inside Cover

 

Poetry

 

Wesley Colbath (2)
Colby Gaudet (3)
Ami Harbin
Chrissy King (2)
Jean-Marc Prevost
Sarah Robart
Heather E. Thomson (2)
Johanna Bargman

 

Prose

Melissa Barr
Deanna Foster

[PDF]

Melissa Barr

 

 

Socrates Was Not Socrates:
A Parable of Sages

     Socrates was not Socrates at all, but a beggar man who walked into a tavern that was not a tavern so much as a metaphor of one, and in that tavern sat a collection of Creatives, of one form or another. Using a crutch he hardly needed, swathed in a cloak of dirty, common brown, he eased into the oily light cast by the single lamp on the table and listened. Nothing was being discussed at all, or nothing of any value, and the opinions and beliefs of those gathered there slipped past each other like ships on the calmest of seas.
     With a slight and crooked smile, Socrates bent to make the first ripple.
     “But art,” he said, in the middle of a meaningless conversation about everything and nothing. “What is art?”
     “Art,” said the man nearest to him, drawing back as to avoid a smell of peasantry that Socrates did not smell of. “Is a freezing of something, a picture, a memory, on canvas, represented with realistic integrity,” Rembrandt said this with all the dignity and regality he could muster, while seated with this odd collection of peasants and Gods.
     “What creativity is there in that?” sneered Monet, echoed, unwillingly, by the collective voice of Pre-Raphaelites, bathed in vivid, garish colours that reflected the fury in their eyes.
     “What is creativity, then?” Socrates asked, lifting one brow.
     “Creativity gives one the poetic license to see demons and monsters where there is only really shadow,” murmured Joan of Arc, her face seared and scarred by her own shadows who had once come to claim her.
     “Creativity leads people to new ways of thinking, that then inspires them to fight against the system that is in place to protect them,” George W. Bush said suddenly, drawing all eyes to him, right where he liked them to be. Stalin, beside him, nodded in agreement.

     “When I am afraid,” Vincent Van Gogh began, only to falter and stop.
     “Yes?” Socrates who was not Socrates prompted gently, lulled by the madness swirling in the strange man’s eyes, as if it were a lullaby.
     “When things get too tiresome, that is when I go out and paint the stars.”
     “Socrates said––” began Wordsworth.
     He was interrupted by Pope Innocent, who snapped, “I don’t give a damn about Socrates. A heretic, like all the rest.”
     “Don’t give a damn, or don’t know a damn?” Socrates asked.
     There was a ringing and sudden silence.
     It was broken, finally, by a hesitant voice from the shadows.      “Socrates and Aristotle––”
     “Yes?” Socrates prompted again, searching the shadows in vain for a speaker.
     “Had sinful relations,” said Bush, with all the voice of judgment in his tone.
     “And if they loved each other?” Socrates countered. “Is love creativity? You imagine the entire world in one man.” He glanced at Oscar Wilde for support, but got only a delicate sneer in response.
     “Love,” said a voice from the shadows, Aries or Aphrodite, though no one could tell in the dark, “is like creativity. A physical manifestation of desire.”
     “You ancient Gods! You know nothing! Art is supposed to give order to things,” Newton snapped.
     “I am not yet a God, but I know everything there is to know,” Bush claimed, with arrogance and certainty.
     Another silence fell, condemning and angry, eyes refusing to meet, and hands clenching to fists.
     “Politics,” Wilde said with snide delicacy, after the silence had grown sharp. “You know nothing of art, creativity, beauty. You see fear as a prison. Art is about risk, as is life, and love. A condemned man in an ancient prison will play the role of a dying man on stage with all his heart, before he is slain in the course of a play. That is life and that is art and what more matters?”
     “There is neither art nor creativity in death,” Wordsworth exclaimed, incited to sudden fury. “Art is emotion, reflected in tranquility! What sort of tranquility is to be found in death?”
     “The ultimate sort,” Tennyson said quietly, solemnly, his words echoed by God, who sat close beside him.
     “Art is nothing,” Leonard Cohen said suddenly. “It is a bloody burning thing you hold in both hands. It is nothing. A force, like gravity. It is imagined, a human concept.”
     “Very post modern,” Queen Elizabeth applauded.
     “Well,” Socrates said delicately. “We are all products of our time.”
     “Or products of our upbringing,” Freud said, nodding his head. “Or our childhood. Our mind is most creative while asleep, and those images that emerge there, while not art, are certainly some degree of creative representation of the self.”
     “That’s certainly a creative way to look at it,” Queen Elizabeth said dryly, and Socrates could not help but laugh.
     “But you, sir,” said Rembrandt, with a subtle sort of sneer. “You’ve yet to give us your idea of art, or creativity.”
     Socrates considered for a moment, eyes the very bluest of blues, lips pursed in thought, and when he finally spoke, it was with all the determination that the old can muster when telling the young what they ought to believe. “Art is doing something, anything, with a creative intention, and a creative intention produces nothing less than art.”
     “Art cannot exist without creativity and creativity cannot exist without art?” Newton said, incredulous. “It is not possible! Neither would exist at all!”
     “Or both would exist, hand-in-hand, in every person, every creature, every force in the world,” Socrates said serenely. “Creativity is a language that is understood by every man who reads a book, every woman who looks at a painting, every child who stares into the clouds in search of tigers, pirate ships, or butterflies. It is spoken by every animal who knows that certain colours mean venom and others are mere illusions. It is in every spider’s web, every formation of leaves on the ground.”
     Understanding, suddenly, Newton said, “It is like gravity, binding everything to the Earth.”
     “Creativity is not a force,” Socrates corrected gently. “It is a method, a way of seeing, speaking, and breathing, that binds the living to the dead, the dead to the living, the living and the dead to the non-living and the yet to be born. It is everything. I shall tell you a story if you would care to hear it.”
     They did wish to hear it, and in a voice cracked with age, and yet smooth with the velvety assurance of a wisdom beyond their years, Socrates told them the story.
     “Little Boy Blue went to school each day with a cap, an apple, and books tied with a ribbon and the first day he went, he smiled. The sunshine was bright, the skies were aglow, and poetry trembled on his lips and danced with the wonder in his eyes. ‘I shall teach you,’ said his teacher, with eyes dark as coal, ‘about Shakespeare, and Malory and Keats. About why Othello killed Desdemona and jealousy and hate. I shall teach you of Lancelot, Guinevere, and morality, about rhythm and rhyme and the meaning of meter. Together we shall take Shakespeare apart, lines crumbling to words, words classified by diction. We shall pry apart Malory, Christian doctrine and all. Poetry shall shrink beneath our gaze into word sound and rhythm. Bare bones of literacy, metaphor and meaning.’
     And Little Boy Blue, he listened and learned, and soon skeletons of poetry, shadows of prose, danced round his pretty head, and crumbled to dust. The poetry in his lips died in a whisper that ran down through his heart and out through the very tips of his fingers, spilling without a trace into the mossy ground. If once he saw shadows of prose dancing in his blue blue eyes, they’d died with the wonder that might once have been.
But he learned and he memorized, though word had no meaning, no passion, no life.
     Years would pass and time would not be kind, until all of the blue had bled out of his eyes. His greyed head would not be filled with poetic wonder, mere calculations of meter, theories on meaning. The old do not learn and cannot be taught; Shakespeare was a dead man and who danced with the dead?
     But as Old Man Gray lay weakened and dying, a child, a girl, took his hand and she whispered, ‘I shall teach you of Shakespeare,’ she said with a smile, ‘and the boy who inspired him to count all the ways, of rough winds and darling buds and a sweet summer’s day. I shall tell you of Milton, who was cast into darkness, blind eyes and an imagination as wild as any could dream. He sat blinded in darkness and recited his poetry, lest Satan never see the Garden of Eden, Eve never fall for an apple to be followed by Adam. I shall teach you of Donne, who wrote love songs with laughter, and Sydney who died so that another may drink water set aside for the rich. I shall teach you of passion, art, and integrity, of the power to speak when all voices are silenced. I shall teach you of the power of the written word and its spirit. I shall tell you of Shakespeare and the company he keeps, the paupers and princes, immortalized in poetry and prose, the ladies and their lovers painted in word.’
     And the old man, he wept, and his lips began to tremble as the poetry that had fallen from them so many years before now bubbled forth once more. His eyes, they brightened and shone.
     ‘I am not yours,’ he said, voice old and cracked and strong, speaking to phantoms of measure and meter. ‘I am not these lips, these eyes, this tongue.’ I do not end at these fingertips, nor can I be measured or cut into feet. I am not a rhythm, nor made just to rhyme. I am not a symbol, nor archetype, nor any type of fallacy. I am the passion of Othello, of Guinevere and her knight. I am not something to be counted, to be measured or weighed. I am not this body, these hands, or these eyes. I do not squint when I look into the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars. My eyes are wide and shining blue, wherein dance the madness, the enchantment, of poetry, and I cannot help but dance with it. I am not yours, a dead man I am, and Shakespeare, Malory, Milton are the company I keep.’”

     Silence fell as Socrates finished his story, and the first to speak was Aristotle, the voice from the shadows Socrates had not been able to see. “Creativity is art, and art is any action undertaken with the intent to be creative, seeing things not as they are, but what they should be. Creativity is opening one’s eyes, is living one’s life, is loving as love inspires one to love. Creativity is what makes up the matter of the world, what drives it towards its ultimate telos, its ending, and so everything in the world is art. Art is everything and nothing.”

     Socrates, smiling faintly to be beaten at his own game, winked slowly at his protégé, and murmured, “Creativity is the inspiration we spend our lives waiting for, unaware that it is what compels us to leave one breath and draw another.

 

last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul