A manner of expression

Things speak to us in many different ways.  It is not only through speech – though even that is so diverse a method of communication to include incalculable meanings of words, intonation, dialect, volume, delivery – not to mention the abiding influence of the appearance of the vocalist. There is too the appearance of whatever surrounds us. The way Nature speaks to us. The way a child’s beautiful face speaks to us. Then of course there is music, and musical instruments (the grand piano being my favourite), musicians and singers, and the types of music (jazz, rock, country, rap, classical, opera, schmaltz). Art of every description (oils, acrylics, pencil, water colours, wood, glass, plastic, steel, bronze, stone, paper, photography, furniture, rugs and those silly accessories like paperweights and millefiori). Literature and poetry. Dreams. Convocations (school, theatre, church, synagogue, temple, boards, clubs, fraternities and sororities). Food and appetites. Architecture. Automobiles. It is easy to become adrift on a sea of impressions and expression.

Personally I am particularly affected by technology (which admittedly is an oddly chosen manner of expression). Technology is such a paradisiacal term that I am never certain whether the allure is pervasive or a singular festish of my own. I know (and accept) that there are some people – especially the elderly – who often mock technology as an obstruction to the simple life or the good ole days. I’m normally all for that. Repetition is good. However, without a word of doubt or hesitation, technology has changed my life. That is not something I would normally say about just anything.  Certainly I might like something or be drawn to it; but I wouldn’t regularly say it has changed my life. I like to pretend at least that I am insulated from the world to a degree, perhaps not emotionally, but in the more prescriptive, identifiable ways. Indeed as a confessed dilettante it is not what I see about technology that so dominates me. True, the fabrication and construct of the iPhones and computers matter to me, their look, touch and feel; but not so much because of their appearance as their unseen but otherwise discernible quality of production. It probably explains my fascination with watches; that is, the technology, the microscopic cryptic means by which the mechanical details perform with such laudable precision. Engineering of any degree normally has an application to something. Technology as a type of engineering insinuates the final product. Technology manifestly changed my life not only as a faculty or facility but as a manner of expression. I still wrote the same stuff in the same detail; but the presentation, the accountability and exactness of it was astonishing. It removed what might have been a history of inadequacy and irregularity. It was (and is) an obsessor’s dream-come-true!

Jewellery fascinates me too, not only the stuff I like for myself but also the stuff I buy for others. I have never viewed jewellery as an expression like cosmetics (hair, nails, makeup, surgery);  rather the attraction of jewellery for me is the base product itself (gold, silver, tungsten, titanium, whatever). Though I haven’t owned any pink Egyptian gold (but certainly white and yellow) I’ve experimented with every karat of gold, 24K (peculiar to Chinese products), 18K (which I universally employ for the sake of conformity), 10K (when starting out) even 10K GF (gold filled usage in rimless glasses for example) and finally my grandfather’s gold Pochelon et frères pocket watch with a 9K chain (which I inadvertently discovered on my vanilla coloured waistcoat included copper for firmness but which also stained). And then of course there’s platinum! Jewellery is a perfect example of the expressive capacity of things, touch, feel, colour, weight, size. I don’t confuse that tactile manner of expression with the more vulgar theatric possibilities, not because they aren’t of equal value but because the one is internal, the other external. Perhaps I can dignify the one as substantive, the other as demonstrative. I have had a lifetime struggle with jewellery as a manner of expression because it has taken me that long to figure out what works for me, the perfect combination of all those internal characteristics as well as the related and unavoidable external definition (which by the way I hardened to the point of switching watches time and again until I achieved at last the correct “expression”).

A manner of expression (even if attributed to the internal elements of a product or person) seldom fails to exhibit as well the external characteristics of the person to whom they speak. It is in fact more of that dangerous warning, “We see in others what we see in ourselves” or “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, “What’s bred in the bone will out in the flesh”. For this reason as well the choice of a particular manner of expression is limitless; each individual’s response to the expression is likely different if carefully calculated.

It is a privilege to devote oneself to expression.  While I recognize that the practice of law was an expression of sorts, it was primarily (and without the fluff) a devotion to work and detail. Having the time and opportunity to capture the variety of manners of expression is hugely rewarding. To lapse into the vernacular, it is now not about what I can put into it but what I can get out of it!! Crass, I know. But like anything else in life it has come at a price. I can perhaps mollify the vulgarity by saying too that the clarity of vision and detection isn’t a casual pastime by a conscientious absorption, like listening to Bill Evans.