It was meant to be the largest horse in the world when the future Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482 to conjure it up from the phantasmal world of the artist with his magic chisels. This fantastical statuesque beast, “Il Gran Cavallo” (aka “Cavallo”) was soon to be cast in bronze, standing 24 feet high as the greatest equestrian statue in the world, following the clay model of the equal height made by Da Vinci. Then war broke out in 1499, ravaging Milan and engulfing the clay horse, leaving Da Vinci alone with the original sketches of Cavallo to go back to the drawing room. Such was Da Vinci’s plan to restore the aborted birth of the magnificent bronze horse before it became indefinitely suspended by his death.
The story of the unfinished Leonardo’s Horse piqued my usual counter-popularity curiosity when I came upon an article in a magazine on the train. Since this year sees the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci, many an article has featured the masterpieces of Da Vinci and the background stories thereof, but to me none other than this story about Da Vinci’s last masterpiece is intriguing and worth the writing. In fact, this “Horse that Never Was” had spanned a phantasmagoria of imaginations throughout the centuries until a certain American art patron named Charles C. Dent intended to make it his lifelong goal to bring the abstract equestrian statue to reality in 1977 when he first learned about Leonardo’s incomplete project about which the National Geography magazine covered. Upon his death in 1994, American sculptor Nina Akamu continued to carry out where her Renaissance predecessor had left off based upon the surviving sketches as a substratum of artistic guidance and completed a bronze sculpture of the horse in 1999, which was dedicated in San Siro in Milan, Italy. The great statue of Cavallo is a sight to behold with poised magnificence: it commands a sense of legitimate attention in a moment of suggestively continuous galloping that looks wholly authentic and real, rendering a majestic impression of dynamic continuity to marching music as pomp and pompous as Radetzky March.
Da Vinci’s creation of the great horse proves to be his last masterpiece that truly links the past with the present and the future by the medium of art. It weaves the subjectivity of time into a grand tapestry of history and betokens cultural achievements as an intelligent collective enterprise. Akamu wonderfully re-created the great horse by internalizing the artistic sense of the Renaissance period by devoting her years of studying Italian Renaissance works of art in Italy as she pursued the highest levels of craftsmanship and professionalism in the field. Also, her love of animals, especially horses, contributed to the anatomical study of and aesthetic perspective on Leonardo’s Horse. Akamu’s recreation of Cavallo manifests beauty that penetrates minds of the beholders and lingers there in solipsistic ecstasy so deep and intimate that it feels almost physical. For our faculty, as it interacts with a plight of fantasy, is rather instinctive than reasoning; rather sensual because it delights in pleasure than because it thrives in disciplines. That is why “Il Gran Cavallo” is a gorgeous piece of art.
Great Philosopher Spinoza advised the mankind of how to endure suffering in days of yore: “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” The essence of this suprameaning of emotional suffering, which Spinoza also poetically termed Amore Feti (Love of Fate), is to endure what you can’t change but to accept it as it is, for there is a meaning to it in the dark night of the soul. In the terrible ordeal of the tormented soul, one has two choices to make: to yield to the force of deception calling for total abandonment of hope or to force oneself to turn to the voice of hope to sustain strength of the heart. The sovereignty of humanness is manifested by this holy office of selecting the spiritual choice in the darkest hour of the soul in the deepest valley of the abyss. “Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The story of Erika Jacoby”, a short documentary produced by Harvard Westlake-School, is one such tale of a survivor from the atrocity of moral and physical turpitude as a young child at Auschwitz during World War II.
A curious alchemy of illustrative animation and neorealist documentary delivers a momentum of pathos without elaborately scripted lines or special effects in the most powerfully elliptical way, which adds to the authority of truth that the story itself owns. Ms. Jacoby’s straightforward narration without a prolix litany of her woeful past is felt through the heart of the viewer, and it communicates to the mind of the viewer her smothered traumatic experience at Auschwitz, where she had to witness the death of her beloved and the enormity of evil reincarnate in the Nazis’ mass killing of the Jews and the violence against humanity through the eyes of a young girl. Accordingly, the film is seen in the perspective of a young child whose innocence betrays ingenuousness of the story and thus delivers the profoundness of such experience that sublimates it into the highest form of Art in the context of regarding Da Vinci’s aphorism of “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
This short documentary has chimed the hearts of thousands, including those judges at the Cannes Film Festival, which is one of the most highly regarded film festival (note that it’s not an “award” ceremony where only gowns and jewelry and tuxedos and fake smiles are visible.) in the world. It will be shown at the American Pavilion at Cannes this month as part of a series on young, emerging film makers, one of whom includes Ian Kim, who is son of Mr. Harry Kim, a corporate lawyer at a law firm I am privileged to work. The creators of this documentary will appear on stage at Cannes, ergo it will be a festivity of creation, a festivity of humanity. Above all, the fruit of this film is a triumph of human will that rose above the carnage of war and the degradation of dignity and a manifestation of meaning of life, will to meaning, freedom of will as also corroborated by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, founder of Logotheraphy and also a survivor of five concentration camps during World War II. Ms. Jacoby shows us what it means to have hope as long as she lives. Dum Spiro, Spero. This documentary will strike the highest notes of your heartstrings.
dons the barren places soon
with green sleeves and emeralds.
Author’s Note: It’s the end of April, which will never come back, vanishing to the horizon of time and space, the misty past with memories and images. I was on my last train home after work this evening and wanted to record this last day of April of 2019, which was my first April here in California. So as a ceremonial gesture of farewell to my Californian April, I wrote this poem as I was basking in the bright golden rays of the gorgeous Californian Sun that began to stay a little later than before.
Being biliterate and bicultural gives a writer a magical third eye to look into the universality of truth of humanity, the commonality of the standard of sentiments and judgment, under a veneer of anthropological ramifications of tribalism. It’s something of a textual witchcraft of the writer to see through the minds of one culture and the other and to conjure up One Whole Mind in the peculiar alchemy of literature. However, it’s a tricky craft that requires consummate narrative skills without infelicity of awkward expressions. That is why A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro, an English writer born in and moved from Nagasaki, Japan at the age of five, reigns supreme as a master storyteller in a class of his own writing that holds the curiosity of the reader throughout this mysteriously haunting and enduring story of a woman living in the blurry boundary of the past and the present.
Told by a first protagonist narrator named Etsuko, a Japanese woman living in an English countryside alone, it is a continual fugue of recollections, ironies, visions, and imaginations translated into an elliptical and atmospheric elegy of a woman with the feeling of being adrift on a life sea, trying to come to terms with a surrendering of the past that binds her to the memories of the calamities and absurdities all by herself in a land that shares no common history of her own. In fact, Etsuko’s narrative becomes her own story house, her own Mathom House, a museum of mental paraphernalia filled with the flotsam washed up by the past. All the apparatus therein is the detritus of her convoluted residues of all the memories of Japan, devastated by the calamities of World War II that has become part of her. The result of her story is a spiritual effect of exorcising a knocking spirit in the house that wanted to possess her body and mind altogether locked up in the feelings of guilt, regret, disappointment, and frustration.
Drawing on a wealth of imaginations based upon his own cultural backgrounds, Ishiguro creates a polyphonic work that elegantly interweaves multiple strands of historical, spiritual, and cultural contexts into a wholly solipsistic experience with his cracking narrative skills worth the reading. The best of all, Ishiguro writes with an intention to tell a story of an individual with whom the reader can associate or is familiar in daily life. His characters are felt real, and the words he employs are fluid and elliptical. Which is to say that his world of literature is quite existential but also imaginative. Just as Charlotte Bronte pronounced her identity as a”writer” not as a “woman writer” on her authorship of Jane Eyre, Ishiguro is an English writer whose subjects are universal and common to all as regards the principle of sentiments and reason. Nothing is alienating but everything is encompassing, which is why this book is appealing to the reader.
A day’s tasks are fulfilled.
The Evening Star is out.
Kiss the night, fancy the sweet.
Golden sleep comes at last.
Author’s Note: Shakespeare called sleep “a nature’s soft nurse”. Ditto. Sleep is a natural anesthetics to numb constraints of contemporary life and a medicine to invigorate our spent body and mind. And that is what I need now…