The Primacy of Beauty — Part III
It’s alright for the beggar to brag that he is a King today. His royal tent is a shadow thrown by a cloud; his throne room is a sown field.
In Persian poetry and North African architecture, the garden is forever celebrated. The supreme setting for the art of living, an auspicious place for the intertwining of romantic and spiritual love, unfolding in their own internal vitalities.
Eden, the eternal garden, a place we remember in our hearts from a time where our language was still too incomplete to describe the world which appeared in all its sublime immensity. The garden is a place of homeostasis between two cosmos. It is the union of the realm where the deep, inscrutable truth and beauty of the world meets the realm of purposefulness where we must strive to maintain our inborn complexity in the face of a dissipating and entropic reality.
For nobody is going to give us the power to run our own life, our own community, or opt out of the culture of commodification. Nobody will give us the opportunity to live where we are connected to our own nature. Nobody can give us the ability to control our own resources, which rests fundamentally in metacognitive integrity and the instinct for beauty. The culture of Epimethean slavery aside where the world would not give this to us — it could not even if it would.
The garden’s walls are architected with the full knowledge that we often live a “vision of a future teeming with the monstrous forms of life and death, clamorous with the cruel battles of hunger and thought.” This vision of the world and the future can also bring a sense to the heart that our person has done wrong. That it is missing the mark. That our mere finitude is never sufficient to the tombstone reality of life’s challenges, and yet it should be and it must be. That somehow beneath our noses we gradually come to believe ourselves as born only of knowledge and not of myth and meaning, composed only of discreet data and not meta-being. This vision conjures a metaphysics of its own — a dark nihilism which denies the possibility of the transcendent.
The garden is a homecoming once again, where beauty does in fact live and is in fact redeeming. But it is not an unbridled sensual paradise. It is not a place to escape discipline. It is more a place where we may make reparations to the sacred gods we have been willfully ignoring. And yet it is delicate enough to remind us that the impetus of our knowledgeability, all the mind-hewn imperatives demanding us to do thus and so, are something of a flat joke when compared to the immense beauty in which we really live.
Hear a ghazal by Hafez:
“The garden is breathing out the air of Paradise today,
Toward me, a friend with a sweet nature, and this wine.
It’s all right for the beggar to brag that he is a King today.
His royal tent is a shadow thrown by a cloud; his throne room is a sown field.
This meadow is composing a tale of a spring day in May;
The serious man lets the future go and accepts the cash now.
Do you really believe your enemy will be faithful to you?
The candle the hermit lights goes out in the worldly church.
Make your soul strong then by feeding it the secret wine.
When we have turned to dust, this rotten world will press our dust into bricks.
My life is a black book. But don’t rebuke me too much.
No person can ever read the words written on his own forehead.
When Hafez’s coffin comes by, it’ll be all right to follow behind.
Although he is a captive of sin, he is on his way to the Garden.”
In his question, “Do you really believe your enemy will be faithful to you?” he seems to ask — do you really believe in the might of your knowledgeability? Will your enemy, all of the needs of this world, really retain their same nature? Or will their capriciousness make the exacting rigidity of your knowledge obsolete?
As I write, I watch the sunlight glide across the desert mountainside south of Santa Fe. Not one single moment presents the same ochre bluffs and indigo shadows. Knowledge and the grandiosity of rationalism are like this it seems, a snapshot of a silhouette cast by a cloud quite unaware of the effects of its transposition through the heavens. There is instead a kind of optimistic nihilism in this comment, “His royal tent is a shadow thrown by a cloud.” Nihilistic of the metaphysical power of our enemies, the power of commoditized knowledge, of the vision of our unrelenting finitude. The beauty of the homecoming in the garden is when we can unhand the tools suited only for a world clamorous with the cruel battles of hunger and thought.
Hafez continues: “When we have turned to dust, this rotten world will press our dust into bricks.” The impetuousness and conceit of our knowledge feels in our deepest region like a sin. He seems to say that life without a garden which can communicate up into our awareness a prime transcendent locomotion not only makes a mockery of our so-called ‘glories,’ it is as unforgiving as being cast out of Eden and into a hell of consuming meat puppets. And Hamlet knows why:
Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of
earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he
was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw!
All the great men’s bones are there to be made use of by commoners.
Of course the garden is a metaphor for the deliberate, conscientious cultivation of our lives geared toward preserving a sense of sacredness and transcendence and defending it from the dissipating entropy which can turn us cynical or much worse. Each of us are called to create these walled gardens with energy and imperative, upstream from any of our other pursuits — work, family, hobbies, etc. Likewise, we believe we are called to help do this with actual architecture as well. So it is our austere hope that our extremely modest way, our garden, Rubaiyat Marrakech, may be a refuge for you from the dark nihilism of a clamoring world and its metaphysics of slavery. Amongst our trickling fountains we hope you instead find the optimistic nihilism of a world redeemed by beauty.
About Ross Calvin
Ross was the CIO of Agrigentum Capital, Ltd., a private investment manager focused on transitional macro themes and volatility. He is now the founder and CEO of Thermahash, a blockchain infrastructure provider.