Market in Genoa, Italy. 2013.
Sunday afternoon, I was reading D.H. Lawrence Mornings in Mexico, a book that describes Mexico in day-to-day early stages. As I arrived at Chapter 4 – Market Day, it captivates me in such a way that I began to read it audibly. At some more difficult parts, I had to stop and reread silently until 2-3 times. It starts with a thesis:
To buy and to sell, but above all, to commingle. In the old world, men make themselves two great excuses for coming together to a centre, and commingling freely in a mixed, unsuspicious host. Market and religion. These alone bring men, unarmed, together since time began. A little load of firewood, a woven blanket, a few eggs and tomatoes are excuse enough for men, women, and children to cross the foot-weary miles of valley and mountain. To buy, to sell, to barter, to exchange. To exchange, above all things, human contact.
It continues to emphasize on how the act of bargaining’s sole purpose is not to acquire money. There’s more to that:
It is a bargain. Off you go with multicoloured pinks, and the woman has had one more moment of contact, with a stranger, a perfect stranger. An intermingling of voices, a threading together of different wills. It is life. The centavos are an excuse.
The marketplace, which fulfills each of its participants, is more pleasant than religion.
It is fulfilled, what they came to market for. They have sold and bought. But more than that, they have had their moment of contact and centripetal flow. They have been part of a great stream of men flowing to a centre, to the vortex of the marketplace. And here they have felt life concentrate upon them, they have been jammed between the soft hot bodies of strange men come from afar, they have had the sound of strangers’ voices in their ears, they have asked and been answered in unaccustomed ways. … There is no goal, and no abiding-place, and nothing is fixed, not even the cathedral towers.
The chapter closes by leaving me a substance of contemplation between the value of the tangible and the intangible. Lawrence uses the term “spark of contact”, or perhaps in my term, cycle of memories.
Nothing but the touch, the spark of contact. That, no more. That, which is most elusive, still the only treasure. Come, and gone, and yet the clue itself.
The money gained from the transaction “will disappear as the stars disappear at daybreak, as they are meant to disappear. Everything is meant to disappear. Every curve plunges into the vortex and is lost, re-emerges with a certain relief and takes to the open, and there is lost again.”
Only that which is utterly intangible, matters. The contact, the spark of exchange. That which can never be fastened upon, for ever gone, for ever coming, never to be detained: the spark of contact.
Like the evening star, when it is neither night nor day. Like the evening star, between the sun and the moon, and swayed by neither of them. The flashing intermediary, the evening star that is seen only at the dividing of the day and night, but then is more wonderful than either.