mansueta tene

On the weekends I take a longer walk. On one of the streets I pass, there is a rock stack. One week it was just two rocks, then three, until, at the time of this photo, an arrangement of rocks and wood. My oldest two children go to college in Maine and I have seen many of these types of stackings there: Acadia Park is famous for them. I think of it as a kind of sculptural graffiti (admittedly undoing the meaning of the word “graffiti,” but I like it all the same). This is hardly a new phenomenon. Some of the earliest graffiti comes from Pompeii, one of which reads – mansueta tene: handle with care (okay, it was on a phallus, but there is something earnest in the plea,no?)
I wonder where the impetuous comes from. Is it an expression of our relationship to nature, our apparent need to rearrange things to suit our aesthetics or exert our “control” over our environment. Or is it a declaration of our need to be acknowledged in relation to other people in the world: when someone else, the other, passes by they will know- I was there. I exist.

We can never get away from our central position in the world. It really is all about me. The me-ness of everything. But when I pass something like a rock stack, I take temporary leave. This seems to me an important function of art. The temporary leave taking of ourselves to see another. Yes, I feel you. You exist.


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