Home / English / Culture / Anthropology of Journey – an anthropological view of the Jaan Kross poem

Anthropology of Journey – an anthropological view of the Jaan Kross poem

Discovering the World
All people were born
By the blue sea.
All fathers Are bent over their looms
Weaving the texture
Their children proceed.
All children run from the chatter of the loom
To watch on the coast of the blue sea,
With their toes in the water,
Ships vanishing into the horizon.
Because children must run there
And ships must vanish there,
And their toes must get wet.
And everyone gets under way
As everyone must set off.
Everyone
Some for the sake of all,
A few for the sake of many,
Each for their own good.
Because everyone should discover their own world.
On the way
He should allay the grumble
And smother rebellions
Within himself against himself,
For thousands of hands hold them back.
The habit to keep to the coast
Horror stories, retold for generations,
About water monsters and live sulphur seas,
And falling into nowhere on the edge of the world.
Fear of icebergs the breath therof
Having been felt with one’s lips,
And of rages of fire,
Having witnessed their outburst,
And waterweeds resembling hovering green cords.
And something so huge
No full stop can be put after it:
The unknown
And they still reach their destination
As everyone reaches there to a certain extent
And discovers a new world, a new mainland
A new island, a new islet, at least a new piece of girt,
A new foot of ground for one’s heart or thought.
Even if one has to wear
His fetters of time and space,
The irons of his own limits,
Or shackles of envy of his mates,
Even if it is later found that the ground he found
Or the thought he thought,
Or the love he loved,
Is not at all the one he believed it was,
Still, everyone is
On behalf of everyone
The viceroy of the world of his.
Because everyone gets on the way
And everyone gets across to a certain extent.
All fathers are bent over their looms
Weaving the texture their children proceed.
And all people were born
By the blue sea.

This poem played the role of the principal theme or message of the MUSIC BOAT – the international youth musical in Pärnu on 2-9 August 1998.

At present days the world seems to be able to embrace on the whole, because any information is accessible for us. But the facts multiply at a fast rate and we cannot really acquire all of them. The world reminds Internet web and we cannot find one absolute centre today. This situation can cause some confusion and helplessness: we all-even subconsciously- want to know our own place in the world, we want to belong.

We can hear about anthropology of loneliness today: we are without the roots and places become devaluated, losing their self-existence. But nobody wants to be lonely, so we search for our identity and this attempt is very often done by journey. What we can do is to care about development of our own sensibility to make our thoughts grow more beautiful. Then we can enter into relations with other people and make these ties really true and strong. We all need a stability of a local, personal place seeing each other in the immensity of common world.

Jaan Kross, 81, has often been nominated for the Nobel literature prize. The author is himself no stranger to prison camps – he was captured by the Germans in 1944, then was arrested in Tartu in 1946 and spent eight years in Siberia. His best detailed historical novels (e.g. “Michelson’s matriculation” 1976), explore the dilemma of intellectuals trying to keep their Estonian awareness. Everything reflects upon the struggle to maintain integrity and identity under foreign rule. This problem has been always important for the Estonian people, who had been without their own land, language for ages.

Like many other Estonian men of letters, before Kross has started writing prose he had been involved in poetry. Let me present a kind of anthropological view at that poem which is put above.

Everything and everyone starts at the blue sea, says Kross (I think we can put an equality sign between him and lyrical subject), where All fathers are bent over their looms Weaving the texture their children proceed.

The millions of threads – human beings, which are all joined inside the stitch of humanity: we all belong to each other, creating History through the continuity of our ancestors’ work. And everything has its own place, its own time, because everything has been established at the beginning at the Great First Loom. Children run to the coast, ships are on the sea… This is the source of a peaceful feeling Because children must run there And ships must vanish there, And their toes must get wet.

But there is a day in man’s life, when it is time to break this silence As everyone must set off.

Everyone must begin the journey – Some for the sake of all, / A few for the sake of many, / Each for their own good.

We have said at the beginning, that – what is of course obvious- nobody wants to be lonely, so we search for our identity. Maybe we search for it, because we have that feeling of responsibility for changes in the world: we know that we should not complain if we do nothing. We must break this loneliness and feel responsible for the world, because we should feel responsible for another man. And maybe – at the end – we will see that the way to our identity led through Another…

But why we have to leave the coast and go, go somewhere? Because everyone should discover their own world.

“Their own” – so it is important to remember that my world can be totally different than yours and it is no use in being angry or sad: that is what makes our existence wonderful- the difference of our worlds, where each of us is his own “viceroy”, as we can read further in the poem.

On the way we should not be idle – we have to allay the grumble / And smother rebellions / Within himself against himself. Just work on ourselves, engaging all senses, when the new experiences are coming Fear of icebergs the breath therof Having been felt with one’s lips, And of rages of fire, Having witnessed their outburst, And waterweeds resembling hovering green cords.

Try to imagine that!

And what about horror stories, water monsters and live sulphur seas, edge of the world? That is the matter of memory of our roots: with whom we have been connected through the ages, what kind of power has language for us (all those things retold for generations), how much dreams do we need and that what has already passed… Cosmic dimension of every place, where there is the center of the world, golden branch and gods fighting with heroes.

The Unknown that is what attracts us, huge and indescribable adventure. However there was a time for Kross, when the world about him grew threatening and his choices were few, he still kept faith: “Our youth added a sense of adventure to the conditions under which we lived” – he explained. So maybe we should always take care for element of youth inside each of us? Destination is different for different people, but on the first level we all have to discover a new world, a new mainland / A new island, a new islet, at least a new piece of girt. This “new world” we can understand as the unknown space inside us and also this “new mainland” can be found in another man…. We have to find at least A new foot of ground for one’s heart or thought – the new landscape for feelings to grow, because thanks to the expedition we develop ourselves getting richer and making rich others through our own experience we share with them. Isn’t it the true anthropology – this priority of journey and entrance into someone’s world? Disillusionments. Because of the Fetters of time and space, the irons of his own limits, shackles of envy and because our imagination has gone to far Even if it is later found that the ground he found Or the thought he thought, Or the love he loved, Is not at all the one he believed it was.

Yes, it may be depressing, but we never know if something what is unwanted now, wouldn’t cause a good effects later. And a pain enriches us too. Even more than happiness.

Nevertheless – despite of disappointments Still, everyone is On behalf of everyone The viceroy of the world of his. Because everyone gets on the way And everyone gets across to a certain extent.

We are related to each other, running from the same texture at the blue sea. Suppose that you don’t feel “enriched” through this journey – but maybe you have unknowingly made richer another man. Just because you were near him. This is the meaning of the journey and life – to ask about yourself and others. And go, go further…

All fathers are bent over their looms

Weaving the texture their children proceed. And all people were born By the blue sea.

About Klara Sielicka-Baryłka