Contingency – Essence – Knowledge
I am currently in Colombia on a beach, far away from the crowds because of the pandemic. And every year that I am on that beach, Picasso’s painting Les pauvres au bord de la mer (title in French) comes to my mind. From this painting, more than a century has passed, and we still witness the same inequities. I keep thinking about them, the reason I wrote, during the pandemic, a novella on our society’s current conditions. What follows is an excerpt of the novella. Eos is a young “comfortable” Epitolian on a mission…
Never had Eos seen so many streets and buildings, workshops, shops, houses … what congestion! In front of a ceramic factory, a young man about his age threw three lekythoi* up into the air, caught them, then casually threw them again sideways, back and forth. Never had Eos observed such skill. The young man noticed his enrapt audience of one and casually spoke to Eos while keeping his eyes riveted on his ceramics, “Have you never seen a juggler?”
“Never,” replied Eos. “Where I come from, it’s a small place, you know … there are no jugglers.”
“And where is your home, stranger?”
“Oh! Far from here” replied Eos.
“As far away as from where I come?”
“I don’t know. Where are you from?”
“I don’t know, from afar, I am told.”
“So you are a ‘juggler’?”
“Yes, I juggle with lekythoi. It’s better than amphorae, much too heavy.”
“And have you been doing this for a long time?”
Curious, the juggler stopped throwing and inquired, “Where you come from, is it a good place to live?”
“I don’t know. I am told that I come from there. We live as people do here.”
“Oh, well! So I’ll just stay here then.”
“What do I see on your lekythos?” Eos asked.
“The first drawing represents ‘contingency’, the second ‘essence’, and the third ‘knowledge’. I don’t know the true meaning of the images. Someone just told me the words. Should I accidentally break a jug, I simply enter the factory to have the missing image replaced. Perhaps this is superstition, I don’t know. These images cost little. I would prefer images of battles or a beautiful maiden, but those are more expensive.”
“Have you been doing this for a long time?”
“Oh yeah, all my life. It is my livelihood. If you give me a few coins I’ll juggle your contingency, essence, and knowledge.”
On the ground at his feet, Eos noticed a plate where passers-by had thrown down coins. He replied by rummaging through his pouch, “These few figs are all that I can offer you, Great Juggler. They are yours. Please, juggle me well, for a long road lies ahead.”
“Fear not, Stranger. I shall.”
The juggler took up his lekythoi and threw them into the air, while Eos slowly drew away, and resumed his walk within the maze of the Workers’ Plain.
Pablo Picasso, Figures by the Sea, 1903, oil on canvas, Smith College of Museum of Art.