Diaspora, Tiresias in an age of voluptuous and blind images

“Ancient mariners had a glorious phrase:

‘We have to sail; we do not have to live’

I want to seize the spirit of this phrase for myself

transforming it to personify my way of being

It is not necessary to live; what is necessary is to create

I do not count on enjoying my life; nor do I think of enjoying it

I only wish to make it a grand life

Even if it means that my body and my soul serve as the fuel for this fire

I just want to make my life a legacy for all humanity

Even if it means that I lose it as my own

I increasingly think like this

I increasingly put in some of the animical essence of my blood (…)”

Fernando Pessoa

“Navigare necesse; vivere non est necesse.”


This final phrase (‘We have to sail; we do not have to live’) uttered by Pompey, the implacable Roman general (106-48 BC), to his nervous sailors who refused to travel during the war (in Plutarch’s Life of Pompey), is an excellent motto for the current contemporary global scene. It could even be a good motto to help achieve a state of “animical essence”, like in the verses of Fernando Pessoa’s poem-manifesto. In contemporary society, inundated by a kind of genetic imagery and with an excess of excessive information (or “data”, to use a more suitable English word), living is not enough – it is essential to “sail”. It is essential to weave through the various layers and to know how to decipher the best language to be used in communications, while producing content and value. Producing content is the totemic act par excellence of our times (with all the paradoxes that this responsibility causes), in the contemporary context of voracity. Excess appears mixed with a kind of existential anarchy or emotional disorder and it is especially important to know how to navigate and stay afloat in the stormy waters of today’s world. In these tumultuous waters, content and data expression goes beyond just the national context. It is already out of control, in harmony with the rituals of the voluptuousness of images, almost as though blinded by its mass system of reproduction and the progressive banalisation of the artistic gesture, wrapped in a strange sensuality and a yearning for pleasure. This is the moment that produces the most interesting questions of contemporary creation, around the world. It is the eternal quest for aesthetic and ethical references, the pacification of the animical aspect lost in existential doubts and the absence of metaphysics.

“In Canto 1, Tiresias predicted that Odysseus (Pound) would ‘return through spiteful Neptune’. The god who rules the sea of time and history pursues the voyager, smashing his fragile raft at the end of Canto 95, but ‘Leucothea had pity’, and the drowning poet comes safely to shore. In Canto 116, we hear that he has been saved again, this time by ‘squirrels and blue jays’. He appears to have made peace with Neptune, whose mind, like his own, is ‘leaping / like dolphins’. The suggestion is that Pound/Odysseus has been able to catch, and to record as images, only glimpses of that flashing sea, or ‘Cosmos’.”

George Kearns on the epic poem “Cantos” by Ezra Pound.

In the sea of time and history in which we live, it is essential to evoke Tiresias, who, in my view, is still a living metaphor, a beacon par excellence that could accompany this mariner/Ulysses/Pound – the creator of data – of the citation from George Kearns. Thus, in this “sea” where it seems one is always drowning in the entrails of memory and global diasporas, the fate/production of the creative gesture assumes the responsibility of a successful conclusion (creation of value, of images, of creative echoes). This is achieved through the redeeming expression of the creation / the future / the quest / or a mythical pleasure where one finds the perfect form of art, be it aesthetic, political or conceptual. Tiresias is precisely that mysterious figure who acquired the gift of foresight (the gift of prophecy) at the same moment when he went blind. Legend has it that this occurred while he was mediating in a dispute between Zeus and Hera as to who obtained greater sexual pleasure, if it was the man (according to Hera), or the woman (according to Zeus). Aware of the consequences of irritating the most powerful of all the Gods, he was forced to reply, “If pleasure were divided into ten parts, the woman has nine and the man one”. Furious at his answer, Hera cursed him with blindness and Zeus gave him the gift of foresight to compensate for it. Another version of the myth has it that Tiresias lost his sight because he had dared to look at Minerva while she was bathing in a spring. Be that as it may, Tiresias is a complex, sinister and fascinating figure, who on the one hand has the gift of being able to see the future but who is paradoxically prevented from seeing owing to his daring.

Just like Tiresias, Pound or Ulysses, the contemporary creation of data is lost in this odyssey of memories and layers of information, images, flashes of the great “cosmic sea”. Like these mythic figures, the human that creates expression, emotion too can serve us as a guide to our labyrinthine times. In today’s society one continues to live in an eternal odyssey, where perception bestows a certain fear of existing, a certain “blindness” and an obsession for glimpsing the future, dealing every day with the voracity of the mechanics of things (to cite Camões). Our planet is surrounded by a vortex of images, noise and information – propagated by conventional media, by photography, cinema, television and, above all, now via the Internet, the place where all the data flows.

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