One morning before work I finished my book, “The Story of the Stone”, an 18th century Chinese classic by Cao Xueqin in five volumes. When the goddess repaired the sky, one vast stone was left, unused and rejected. The stone had magical properties and the story of its life was written upon it. It shrank itself down to the size of a fan pendant and our hero was born with this magic jade in his mouth. He is the stone incarnate; his name, Bao Yu, means “Precious Jade”.
The Story of the Stone is the story of Bao Yu and the 12 beautiful girls, companions of his youth whom he concludes to have been his moral and intellectual superiors and especially the love between him and Dai Yu, the most particular of them all. She is surely the most romantic heroine in fiction.
As a pubescent youth, Bao Yu visits the Land of Illusion in a dream where he is allowed to read in the official registers – riddles which tell the fate of each girl.
It has been quite astonishing to me to understand the enormous wealth of this family whose ancestors were legendary for the service they performed for the Emperor; and to follow the circulation of this wealth as it is distributed to so many retainers, along with their families and friends in mutual support. The family purpose is to keep up and enjoy a grand protocol. And this protocol – their ceremonies and daily duties – is an outward show of family integrity, which is an unfailing testament to the importance of the Emperor in his role of maintaining stability and the perpetuation of heaven and earth. Each girl’s character is forced to shine so strongly under the pressure of her prescribed role in the scheme of things.
Bao Yu and these, his girlfriend relations, are allowed to live each in the pavilions of the garden with their personal servants. The garden is wonderfully described; it is a place of poetry and refuge. It was built for the visit home for one night of Bao Yu’s elder sister, the Imperial Concubine.
The things they say to each other; who they are!
The structure of events is rooted in kharma; the rhythm, the voice which tells the story, recreates a world of people who are immediately intimately present to you. The things that happen are so unexpected, so real, so original – because the characters are alive.
Collapse of the fortune looms and when it comes so quickly it is seen to have been dependent on the events caused by human behaviour.
I may have told you this before but I say it again: This has been my most important reading experience, as if I have lived two lives – my own and the life of the people in the book. The book is a fictional story of real people and real events.
On the archway leading to the Land of Illusion, Bao Yu reads:
Truth becomes fiction when the fiction’s true;
Real becomes not-real when the unreal’s real.
Gold Label: I pinned down the ideas for knitting, sitting with my assistant, Luca, so that he could draw the diagrams properly and send instructions to Italy. I will be able to get an idea of how well they will work out when I go to Italy on Friday for the Menswear show because the finished men’s samples include the same yarns. Whilst working on this I took a square foot sample of knitted stitches I liked which had a corner cut off it and place it on top of a similar sample. I decided to make a dress from the first sample with cut out holes patched with the other sample. I thought I might copy the placing of coloured patches on some of the beetles (At this point, beetles are one of the inspirations for the collection.)
I told this later to Andreas and he said we could apply this idea to these dresses – this will mean that these dresses will be all pulled around and ragged. I was really excited because this is a real key to the collection – it helps pull other ideas together in my mind.
Visit to the Seed People (Gaia Foundation): Liz and Edward, founders of the Gaia Foundation, invited Cynthia and me to dinner. They had made the film “Seeds of Freedom”, which I mentioned in an earlier blog, and they realized that we needed to know more about the work of the foundation and about seeds. The Gaia foundation works internationally to regenerate cultural and biological diversity and aims to restore a respectful relationship with the earth. They work with indigenous people to secure land, seed, water and food security and sovereignty so they can better cope with climate change. www.gaiafoundation.org
About GM seeds we learn:
- GM seeds have been modified to be resistant to pesticide; their growth is boosted by fertilizer.
- The seeds from these crops are not good for replanting because they have been force fed; the farmer must always buy new seeds.
- The pesticides which coat the GM seeds destroy all other life and poison streams and groundwater. Superbugs come along. You lose biodiversity – crops that have developed resistance to changing conditions and are tough through experience.
- It is a myth that GM drought-resistant seeds could be developed, especially as this is not in the interest of the food corporations (like Monsanto).
- GM seeds have a negative effect on soil fertility and the nutritional value of foods – the GM plants are not able to absorb the minerals we need to be healthy.
Monsanto is run for profit – not for food security. Now we’ve just learnt that Obama, who promised pre-election that at least GM foods would be labelled, has appointed Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto employee and lobbyist, as the head of food safety in the US – unbelievable. And he’s making no moves towards GM labelling. Self-serving cretin!
We enjoyed our evening and lost all track of time, until we realized it was 1.00 am. Liz has a soft, clear South African accent and Edward a lovely English voice and both expressed their ideas with simple clarity. We discussed everything about the universe from seeds to cosmic forces. Liz told me that she had witnessed four times in her life and in different parts of the world the result of the rainfall ensuing from a rain ceremony.
Liz gave us each two booklets, one commissioned by the Gaia Foundation:
“Opening Pandora’s Box: The New Wave of Land Grabbing by the Extractive Industries & the Devastating Impact on Earth”, “Securing Future Food: towards ecological food provision” and a book, “The Great Work” by Thomas Berry. I have been working my way through this book. It is an interesting overview, by a theological sage, of the history which has brought us to the unprecedented danger we now face from the earth’s inability to cope any more with our present way of life.
I will discuss the book when I finish reading it (or maybe as I go along) but one thing it has made me do up until now is to clarify what I mean by “our terrible financial system” which I refer to all the time as the cause of climate change; I mean Corporate Capitalism – more about this next week.
Menswear in Milan: Andreas and I travelled to Milan on Friday. It was hot! Andreas worked on the show and I didn’t need to join him until late afternoon on Saturday. So I stayed at home reading and sleeping.
They were still doing the casting and the fittings at the showroom. I chatted to the models and helped with styling some outfits and the running order and wrote the press release. Andreas was able to leave with me at 3.00 am, leaving our team to finish the organizing and, as the show was not until 3.00 pm, Sunday, we had a good sleep.
I dread doing the interviews because I feel it is difficult to constantly think of things to say about fashion. Nevertheless, I shouldn’t let it cloud my enjoyment of the show because once I start I’m alright. I am much more comfortable talking about the serious problem of climate change or our dangerous lack of culture.
The show was lovely. In the evening our friend Gian Mauro, who is a lawyer, gave us and our friends a big party in his apartment on the roof.
Monday we worked in the Milan showroom. It is crowded with our other lines and our staff from all over the world and we present and sell.
We flew home by 7.00 pm but we were too shattered to go to see Pamela (Anderson) who was in London. She was attending the 30th birthday party of Prince Azim of Brunei – and she gave him a present of 30 acres of rainforest from Cool Earth. Wouldn’t it be great if he gave us some more money?