A short story by Martin Bax, the founder of Ambit
Few bus travellers have had the exquisite experience of seeing a wild bear. For an Englishman, the surprise of seeing such an animal walking along by the side of the road is immense and the incident stuck firmly in my mind. For the bear it was quite otherwise. There was clearly no surprise and no consequent pleasure. Plodding his way along the hillside, he took absolutely no notice of the bus load’s excited behaviour. Perhaps he hunched his shoulders a little but he certainly didn’t look round or stop, he just plodded on to wherever he was going in his interminable search for honey.
Day by day, we plod on: bus after bus crashes down on us. We are struck from in front, behind, both sides, and fear finally to be squashed flat by something dropping plonk on top of us. These buses which obtrude on us, are the discordant opinions of those about us and their divergent voices are too obtrusive to be shrugged off, we have to sit up and listen to what they have to say.
What is more these scribes require us to take action. Month by month, day by day, they present more causes, more problems about which (if we have any social conscience at all, we are reminded) we must take decisions. We must decide whether we should be marching to Aldermaston, weigh up the claims of the various politicians, settle our minds about the smoking/Cancer scare and weigh up each day the rival soap claims.
Our problem is we find it impossible to make up our minds. We lack the information, we lack the time, we lack above all the interest. We feel tired. Listening to the partizan of one side or the other, the way ahead seems clear but we are easily confused by the counterblasts from the opposition and we’ve forgotten those arguments presented to us earlier which would have routed our present antagonist so completely.
We are apathetic. Vast numbers of our countrymen share the same vice. “Apathy” – it is the cry of the gallant enthusiasts who are opinionated, know what they want and are trying to carry it out. We hunch our shoulders and plod on. Human beings in their buses have become too complex for us, we are inclined to hope. they’re rather boring. We doubt if there is a field of activity worthy of our attention.
In this crisis, Art, that mysterious elusive human mystery, remains. Its nature undetermined, its purpose undefined, yet its flashing beam illumines the desert of life. Moreover it’s appreciation is so individual, so personal that every man can have an opinion as valuable as the next. Art allows us to assert ourselves in a world where our individuality seems half submerged. It is our honey and it is worth breaking into a trot to get a whiff of it.
Can Ambit give you the scent? We don’t know. We hope that what we offer you is the true honey. On the gramophone, “Fats Waller” has been squawking out one of his extraordinary love songs:-
“If this isn’t love it will have to do –
Until the real thing comes along.”
If this isn’t Art, it’ll have to do – until the real thing comes along.