Sunday, March 11, 2007

assessing asses in Albanian

What methods of assessing donkeys in Albania can teach us all.

First of all before we begin let me tell you there are several international charities committed to dealing with abused donkeys and giving them peaceful retirements. I urge you to seek these out and donate.

Next, as an aside, the Albanian name for donkey is 'gomar'. In other forms, the diminutive and the plural, it can mean automobile tire or motor mechanic. Albanians, as we all do, do not like to give up their roots easily as time passes and things change. The language works in a way, for example, that the word turkey might become, through a construction like `small talk turkey', a parrot or, equally, a poem.

Now I am entering into this discussion not as a dilettante. I did assess donkeys in Albania and I do know how to make love in Albanian. The root is 'duo'.

There is a right way and a wrong way to assess anything in Albania. In fact to do anything. If you do it the wrong way you are called a gomar. If you are a gomar in Montana, however, you might be a congressman, and son of a congressman. But not in Albania.

Donkeys can be assessed in a way usefully applied to Chinese cats. That is, it doesn't matter whether they are black or white but whether they catch mice. That is cats in China and only in certain classes. Donkeys of course do not catch mice except by accident when eating. I was assessing them as to whether they can climb a mountain carrying a burden. But the principle is the same. It is the same as with poems. They have different colours too, like donkeys, but that doesn't matter much in terms of their purpose.

What is the purpose of a cat in Toronto or Vancouver? The same difference.

Anyway we gathered a bunch of donkeys in Albania in a mountain valley town called Puke which means something like Puck. That is a playful spirit in many languages. You can name a donkey 'Puck'. Or a loved one, or a town. You can say `te duo Pucki'. But you can't say 'te duo gomari' neither in the day nor night. That is indescribably wrong. Well in Albania maybe not in Montana. This is away in which donkeys are different from poems and people.

I paid an Albanian to help assess the donkeys for three reasons. One is that I knew nothing about the art or science involved but wanted to learn at a fair price and two the donkeys would be carrying pipe up through a guerrilla zone and the helper was probably one of them. Guerrillas not donkeys, although every Albanian is a gomar about something to every other one.

Finally it was because they were not his donkeys or a relative's.

He was from out of town (from up the mountain actually).

This worked as the donkeys were not stolen, nor was the pipe. However the water pipeline we built to the town was blown up, but only after it was completed and the donkeys had left. Evidently the guerrillas thought we should pay rent for the mountain.

As you do for a donkey.

Like a poem, or love, or a cat you do not assess a donkey as to whether it is good or bad, whether it is strong or weak, a strong donkey is not necessarily good for anything. Whether it is merely beautiful or well bred. You do not assess its relatives and birthplace.

You do not assess it by hitting it with a stick and calling it names. In fact in Albania this is particularly useless as the worst thing you can call anything is 'gomar.' I know this because I am published in Albanian.

You assess it as to whether it is fit for purpose. As a thing in itself for a purpose. Can it get up that mountain with a load of pipe, never mind how it behaves or how it does it because that is up to the donkey person with it. But can it do it?

Because that is the beautiful thing, the true thing, the purposeful and consequential thing. The thing in itself about that old donkey, or young one or three footed one. It is that right donkey for purpose. There can be no other except another like it.

Assessing a donkey is like reading in some ways. You don't do it by calling the book names. You don't do it by wondering how Jesus might read it, or do it the way you might skin a caterpillar, or make love in Albanian.

When assessing donkeys for climbing mountains you don't do it bycopying the way the fearsome donkey whipping bully in the next valley assess donkeys. That is you don’t learn to see donkeys his way or you will get hit, like a gomar assessing, too. That is the same as with reading or loving.

They were beautiful and true those donkeys in a long chain going up that mountain, pipes on their backs, honking and wheezing, doing it in their own terms, in the rain and sunbursts, to help create a line for clean water down for the little kids in Puke. Whether they knew it or not.

Just as they should be. And I donated to their charity for that reason.

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