Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Flags and Words

On my last trip to Cádiz, I took some time to watch a 3-metre Spanish flag undulating and unfurling in the breeze. Here is a rather poor quality video of it. 

As I watched I was moved to remark to my Dark Lady on the beauty  
of its movements and commented that what it was really doing was giving form to the air that moved it.

On later reflection, I concluded that the same could also be said of words. They are a way of expressing the essence of the torrent of ideas and emotions that we all try to communicate to our listeners. We all know that, however rich our mother tongue  - and, indeed, our own personal vocabulary - saying all that we want to say can at times be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Words, like flags, can only give the merest hint of our underlying thoughts and emotions.

Since the dawn of time flags and standards have been used as a rallying point for warriors in battle. Now, luckily, a flag can mean many things. In Britain, as in Spain, flags today are a symbol of regional or national pride of and our confidence in the future.  Thankfully, in recent decades our national flags have been stripped of the more sinsiter messages with which ultra-nationalists in both countries endowed such emblems. Today this abuse no longer exists and a flag flying in the breeze can be appreciated for what it really is, a thing of beauty whose only message is that of giving form to the wind - as our words can also be used to express, however poorly, our finest emotions. Our less noble sentiments need fewer words - usually monosyllabic plosive ones.  These latter are not flags, but mere litter being blown about in the gutter.

Thanks to MB for such an impressive photo
Since the original post, MB, a dear friend and seasoned aeronaut, has sent me some of his favourite flag photos. As an aeronaut, the study of wind and the air is of great interest to him. Here's one he took in Cuba. In the distance you can see the old fortifications of La Habana - the fortifications that were the model for those of Cádiz, as mentioned in an earlier post: We Know Where you Woz

Speeding across the Bosphorous, where Europe meets Asia.
Finally, and for me the most exciting, one from MB's visit to Istanbul:

Later on the same day while visiting the city's Parque Genovés, which gives onto the Bay of Cádiz, I discovered a monument dedicated to All of the Fallen in the Battle of Trafalgar, inscribed with the names of the Spanish, British and French ships that fought so heroically and bloodily on October 21st 1805. A fine, generous sentiment from the city of Cádiz which lost so many of her sons, pressganged into sevice, that fateful day.

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar moment of enlightenment years ago when I saw a pigeon land among the crowds at Liverpool Street Station. The station was being virtually rebuilt at the time, despite being kept in use, and the ground was covered with a thick layer of fine dust. As the pigeon landed, dust arose all around him for several feet and I realized, as in a flash of understanding, how the pigeon, and all birds, flew by being supported on a wave of air. We see the pigeon but do not usually see the wave of air that accompanies him. The dust had for once made it visible.

    In the same way, I would say that what the flag's movements make visible is not just the wind but the interaction between the wind and the flag. The flag is moved by the wind but the course of the current of air at that point is modified by the presence of the flag. It is a dance in which one partner is invisible to us except for the effects on the other.

    I agree that a monument in which the fallen on all sides of the conflict are remembered equally is indeed a generous and humane gesture. It is such rare gestures that give me flashes of hope for the future of mankind among the general gloom and depression that I feel most of the time.