Hilltop Cloud

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I spotted this little cloud the other day as I was crossing Townsend Meadow on the way to the allotment. And though it has no obvious silver lining, it does seem an optimistic little entity. Very buoyant.

 

Onwards and upwards, everyone!

Square Tops #2 A big non-mingling hug to Becky for setting us off on this topping mission to keep spirits up every day in April. Follow the link to join in. Square offerings only.

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35 thoughts on “Hilltop Cloud

      1. Your remark intrigued me enough to look up its origins and in truth I’d never realised it was coined by Ruskin as a criticism of the Romantics. Evidently he didn’t like lonely clouds, as much as me! As a side note, did you know that Ruskin has a close connection to Walkley where I live? He built a museum here for the workers to enjoy and today has a park named after him that’s just around the corner.

      2. Now you mention it I seem to remember reading Ruskin when we were learning about the pathetic fallacy. A’ level English Lit was a long time ago! I didn’t know about the museum in Walkley. I hadn’t imagined Ruskin to be philanthropic in practical terms.

      3. I just chanced to watch a BBC programme about Chinese poet Du Fu. I actually visited his famous thatched cottage in Chengdu. Anyway, I just learned that one of his best loved poems is “Spring Scene”:
        In fallen states, hills and streams are still there
        The city is in Spring, grass and leaves abound.
        There are tears on the flowers, who feel the times
        Birds startle my heart, they too hate partings
        The beacon fires have been linked for three months
        A letter from home is worth a thousand pounds
        My grey hairs are scratched even shorter
        Soon it will not be enough to hold my cap.
        Flowers shedding tears and birds feeling loss: he beats the Romantics to it by a thousand years, so it seems there is nothing new under the sun!

      4. A very well-worked fallacy, but I really like the opening line, and the beacon fires. So thank you for the words of Du Fu. You’ve made me think that the pathetic fallacy (in less wrought forms) might be actually be part and parcel of how humans interpret their world. Levi Strauss contended that in traditional societies we used the natural world to ‘think by’ (because what else did we have?). I suppose the problem comes, when it turns too sentimental which it often did in the 19th century. Maybe the industrial revolution had much to do with that. All the dark satanic mills spoiling the view. Talking of which. More sun today. Hope you’re going outside for good dose of it.

      5. Yes, that’s really interesting. Oddly I nearly shared some thoughts along similar lines but then Du Fu distracted me (in a good way). So here’s what I was going to say before (or something like it):
        The sublime “spots of time” as Wordsworth called it, which I believe is a glimpse of the “oneness” of Eastern mystical tradition, happens once we become aware of the fluid permeability of the ordinarily hard boundaries between our inner life and the world outside. It is a rapturous state that I presume everyone experiences from time to time but most especially in childhood. I mention this only because on one such occasion, I actually sensed very strongly that my own moods although not shared, were almost reflected by the natural world around me and by the trees especially. In this sense the β€œfallacy” sort of seems quite real to me.
        Now I confess that I have never read Levi-Strauss (or other anthropologists) so please forgive my ignorance if what I am about to say sounds trite or plain daft. For traditional societies I imagine, the boundaries between the inner and outer worlds remain far more permeable because they have never learned firm distinctions made by civilisation in the first place. And in this regard, I would say I admire the primitive above the civilised, because it is closer to the truth.
        But that is also quite a Romantic view of course – so do you think it is overly sentimental? I ask because I’m really never sure of the proper divide between sentimentality and sensibility. I honestly wish it was clearer to me. Added to which, I wonder is sentimentally an inherently civilised fault? Can you be a sentimental primitive? I don’t have any answers, but just find the questions interesting.
        Well I hope you don’t mind me thinking aloud too much. And thanks for reminding me to get out into the sunlight more – I appreciate your concern although it makes me laugh too! That’s good by the way.

      6. Lots of interesting pondering here, James. My first thoughts on sentimentality is that it is a luxury of the civilised, which as you suggest has much to do with our separation from the natural world and I would also say the fact that most of us are no longer having to make our living in it directly. It is also the place where life and death are on the line – no frills attached; sentiment there could be seen as rather obscene even. That’s just my point of view.

        As to permeability between inner and outer worlds, I like the word permeability in this context. But I would say (lots of generalising here) in traditional societies that I know about there is no separation between the spirit-spiritual world and everyday life. All is sacred in some sense. Ritual is not like our going to church and taking holy communion. All of human existence holds together according to interlocking beliefs in how things should be properly done to maintain good order (however this is determined). Much of this is overseen and ensured by respect for elders alive and deceased, the ancestors, and performing appropriate duties towards them, measuring up to their expectations even when they are dead. In this sense there is no separation between the living and spirit world. This we could call a sort of sensibility because the awareness is part of ‘ordinary’ existence. But in any case it’s also often quite separate from beliefs in a creator or creators who are generally regarded as remote entities who should be actively thanked now and then for the provision of land and good rains etc (In this regard it’s interesting how missionaries in Africa dismissed the communities they worked among as animists because people acknowledged spirit in all things, animate or inanimate, which was deemed to be primitive. They are also said to have no god which is not true. Their perspective is simply different. The creator is not concerned with the activities of humans, though in times of trouble humans may call on him for assistance, and make offerings to that end.

        Thinking of the hunters for a second. They are quite different from settled communities in that they do not have need of the plethora of organising institutions required once people live together in one place, institutions which in the end become political or politicised even in small ways. In all hunting cultures that I’ve read about, there is inordinate respect for the animal that is killed for food. And often what surrounds the hunt – before, during, after, could be said to be sacramental in our terms, the spirit of the prey always invoked and thanked and honoured. There is great capacity for joy in all this. But there is also great knowledge: accurate observation scientific enquiry about the habits of the animals that are hunted. This was also what Levi-Strauss meant I think. The hunter-gatherers were the world’s first natural scientists. Nothing sentimental here then. More epic and elemental while at the same immensely low-tech and totally disposable.

        For myself I believe that standing on the surface of the planet, unshod, and wondering at natural existence, which I do every day, is all I need to know. But then I am lucky. I don’t have to go out and kill a deer in order to survive. We have got ourselves very confused and dislocated all in all.

      7. πŸ™‚ Forgot to mention the ginormous mythic dimension of landscape and the natural world: the power of metaphor in traditional life. But that might take a book’s worth πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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