Pictures are text and text are pictures

xharcoal landscape drawing with trees

A friendly reader mailed me two incredible text quotes, one from Sartre and one from Vaclav Havel, which I want to post here.

From Nausea by Sartre
“So I was in the park just now. The roots of the chestnut tree were sunk in the ground just under my bench. I couldn’t remember it was a root any more. The words had vanished and with them the significance of things, their methods of use, and the feeble points of reference which men have traced on their surface. I was sitting, stooping forward, head bowed, alone in front of this black, knotty mass, entirely beastly, which frightened me. Then I had this vision. It left me breathless. Never, until these last few days, had I understood the meaning of “existence.” […] We were a heap of living creatures, irritated, embarrassed at ourselves, we hadn’t the slightest reason to be there, none of us, each one, confused, vaguely alarmed, felt in the way in relation to the others. […] In the way, the chestnut tree there, opposite me, a little to the left. And I—soft, weak, obscene, digesting, juggling with dismal thoughts—I, too, was In the way. […]
The word absurdity is coming to life under my pen; a little while ago, in the garden, I couldn’t find it, but neither was I looking for it, I didn’t need it: I thought without words, on things, with things. Absurdity was not an idea in my head, or the sound of a voice, only this long serpent dead at my feet, this wooden serpent. [...] I understood that I had found the key to Existence, the key to my Nauseas, to my own life. In fact, all that I could grasp beyond that returns to this fundamental absurdity.”

From Letters to Olga by Vaclav Havel
“Again, I call to mind that distant moment in [the prison at] Hermanice when on a hot, cloudless summer day, I sat on a pile of rusty iron and gazed into the crown of an enormous tree that stretched, with dignified repose, up and over all the fences, wires, bars and watchtowers that separated me from it. As I watched the imperceptible trembling of its leaves against an endless sky, I was overcome by a sensation that is difficult to describe: all at once, I seemed to rise above all the coordinates of my momentary existence in the world into a kind of state outside time in which all the beautiful things I have ever seen and experienced existed in a total “co-present”; I felt a sense of reconciliation, indeed of an almost gentle assent to the inevitable course of events as revealed to me now, and this combined with a carefree determination to face what had to be faced. A profound amazement at the sovereignty of Being became a dizzy sensation of tumbling endlessly into the abyss of its mystery; an unbounded joy at being alive, at having been given the chance to live through all I have lived through, and at the fact that everything has a deep and obvious meaning— this joy formed a strange alliance in me with a vague horror at the incomprehensibility and unattainability of everything I was so close to in that moment, standing at the very “edge of the infinite”; I was flooded with a sense of ultimate happiness and harmony with the world and with myself, with that moment, with all the moments I could call up, and with everything invisible that lies behind it and has meaning. I would even say that I was somehow “struck by love”, though I don’t know precisely for whom or what.”

Both texts evoke pictures or imaginations from our memories of trees. The texts do not only evoke pictures they need them to come to existence and to be understood.

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