Suspecting perhaps the bittersweet (tinging on harsh) discovery of what my friend Wyatt encounters on his return to post-Katrina New Orleans for his first time, I forward on, since he is a pianist:
"I believe that peace lies within the small and the magnificent. Born in blades of grass, living in golden sunlight, filtering through dusty shadows that whisper of tinkling piano keys. Growing in the quiet that can be found in a world that is never silent, and dying in the abandon that comes after the rain, only to be born again. Search and you will find beauty." - Sonya Kitchell, also a musician
In our first exchange since Christmas Day, Wyatt replies, beginning: "Deep inside the decay here, there is a beauty here that will not be taken away...."
...and there's more. He ends sharing that he wishes to share "what I know of this place and find new places in a wyld adventure....stay in touch it's a small world"
I reply back:
wonderful to hear from you
it's been ages since i have been in nola, but i do remember an authentic graciousness, a charming beguiling beauty
i once in my writing wrote that volcanic soil is some of the richest, fertile in the world
but nothing grows on that terrain while the ash is still smoldering
it takes time
after the tsunami, it took me a long, long time to recover, probably 1 1/2 years - though i'm alive in a way i'd never been before - something about death makes life more poignant precious
voltaire i think after the Lisbon earthquake & tsunami in 1755 said oh heck maybe I said it: that creativity rises from the ashes
that the mythological phoenix rises from the ashes reborn
anyhow voltaire furiously wrote his most famous book, Candide, after the huge disaster
interesting, since candide means optimism in French
i'll be out for mardi gras & wyld adventures (my whole life unfurls in a perpetual expedition in grace)
p.s. very small world, but very big stars
I was moved by the gift of reading This Raft of Self: Explorations on the Edge of Knowing (available online with gorgeous photography via PDF), by Dan Oestreich, particularly Dan's meditation on Beauty.
We need not evaluate beauty. We don't have to surmise and come to conclusions: So what do I think about this beauty? What you think is superfluous. Beauty renders you thoughtless so that you may yet fall into that gap of sheer perception without interpretation. And thus sheer enjoyment and spontaneous movement.
"Now, you are learning something fundamental - how to exist before the mind. You are learning how to be present before a thought arises on the screen of consciousness." - Aziz Kristof
In Dan's Beauty essay, he begins: "In his famous poem, Archaic Torso of Apollo [see 'Continue reading this post' for a translation by Steven Mitchell], Rainer Maria Rilke perfectly expresses the energy that beauty brings. Looking at the statue carved centuries before, Rilke discovers: "You must change your life." For beauty takes us beyond the edges of everything we know and reminds us of all we could be, the life we have not yet given ourselves."
It's mighty courageous to disagree with my favorite poet. But I don't think beauty compels me to change my life. Change is going on and ongoing no matter what.
Beauty, to me, dissolves my resistance to dance and sway with the symphony of flux that's already resounding moment-to-moment.
Beauty maybe then serves to melt me out from the chair backed against the wallpaper, and before I know it I'm not sitting out the tango.
"No, there is not more beauty here than in other places, and all these objects, which have been marveled at by generation after generation, mended and restored by the hands of workmen, mean nothing, are nothing, and have no heart and no value; - but there is much beauty here, because everywhere there is much beauty." - Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, Rome, October 29, 1903
Beauty compels me to stir gently from the trance that beauty isn't every where right here and now. And that is the beauty of art. And that is the beauty of myth. Ursula K. Leguin, speaking of Rilke's poem, observed:
"True myth may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry and artistic renewal. The real myth is not destroyed by reason. The fake one is. You look at it and it vanishes. You look at the Blond Hero - really look - and he turns into a gerbil. But you look at Apollo, and he looks back at you.
The poet Rilke looked at a statue of Apollo about fifty years ago, and Apollo spoke to him. 'You must change your life,' he said."
When the genuine myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life. - "Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction", 1976; reprinted in The Language of the Night, 1989
Maybe though it was all a simple typo, maybe it's: You must change with Life.
images this Hubble telescope image of the Trifid Nebula, a stellar nursery 9,000 light-years away is where new stars are born and nursed, and it reminds me of the first two lines of a poem I'm composing today: if said angel wandered the earth | she gallavanting mistletoe in a sphere of lapis; a celestial geode via Hubble telescope that looks like an splayed open poppy offering itself to the galaxies; a halo of light around a star in the Milky Way, and it's named Starry Night because its beauty brought to recollection in the Hubble astronomers Van Gogh's own inspiration
ARCHAIC TORSO OF APOLLO
by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Steven Mitchell
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell