Searching for the Mental Plant

By Fadi Abu-Deeb

Erik Satie

Listening to some pieces of the Gymnopédies and the Gnossiennes by the French composer Erik Satie, I always feel as if I’m living in the 18th or the first half of the 19th century. Among other images, I’m walking into a Parisian alley, perhaps searching for a French book talking about some kinds of wildflowers. A book which has hand-drawn or primitively printed plant illustrations. I am probably not the only one who is fond of these type of drawings. Small ‘bourgeois’ curiosity and furnishing shops have many such botanical illustrations as wall art, sometimes with long thin lines referring to their roots, stems, corollas, and stigmas. Or perhaps the lines are the work of my imagination?!

Sometimes I feel that I’m looking for a book explaining Goethe’s Theory of Colors, or some physicists’ far-fetched ideas, which haven’t found their way to the field of recognized science. It feels necessary to read a book in a language that I don’t know very well. Or is this really what I want? I think I mean in a language that I’ve just mastered if it is possible to frame this issue temporally. To be clearer, before myself first and foremost, I want it to be a language that can carry a dream, an open horizon and, in my mind at least, one that is untainted with everydayness and insults people cast at each other. This is it.
I imagine the paper to be slightly thick with a semi-rough surface, tanned and smelling of a mixture of paper and dampness that is ineradicable from the deep memory, old wooden shelves, and the dust of bygone times.
With this music comes an impression of the delightfulness of sciences in its beginning, when they were still astonishing (they are still though), and when researchers, scholars, and interested people used to marvel at their discoveries, just as they would marvel at children at their first steps or first words. When knowledge was rather away from routine, intensive administration, and the acrobatics of mass media channeled to us with millions of comments and opinions. Or this is what I would like to think. It’s an impression of the essence of the phenomenon! It is like the delight we feel in a small shot of vodka or burning cognac at night, after a long cold and tiring day, full of ideas and enjoyable speculations about history, spirit, physics, and life. A small shot that leads to a sweet sleep, promising other alleys, to look for what I will be told at night, or dawn, or to search for that crazy Archimedean notion that occupies the mind, suddenly, with all the power of certainty.


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