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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

What do Teachers Make?

I found this by accident, and am so glad of it.  This is a piece by Taylor Mali, a well known Slam Poet and teacher.  As a teacher, i wish more of my colleagues felt this way.  Enjoy:

03:16 – June 03, 2007

Here is the text from it:

What Teachers Make, or
Objection Overruled, or
If things don’t work out, you can always go to law school

By Taylor Mali
www.taylormali.com

He says the problem with teachers is, “What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”

He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true what they say about
teachers:

That those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the urge to remind the other dinner guests
that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.

“I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor”
“Be honest. What do you make?”

And I wish he hadn’t done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
which is, if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and I can make an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

You wanna know what I make?

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence.
No, you can not work in groups.
No, you can not ask a question (so put your hand down)
Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?
Because you’re bored and you don’t really have to go, do you?

You wanna know what I make?

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home at around dinner time:
“Hi, This is Mr. Mali, I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something your son did today.
he said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?”
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and who they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
beautiful
over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And then hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them realize that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a difference! What about you?

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I dont know what to say, other than just to listen to it, and try and not cry. All the more poignant now that we are hearing of the slaughter that is going on in the streets of our beloved country.

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The Cretan Glance

Odyssey: A modern sequelThis was somethign that i sent to a bunch of friends in email some time ago, but has stayed with me. It is part of the Introduction to Nikos Kazantzakis‘s The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, translated by Kimon Friar. Being a huge fan of Kaztzakis after reading his famous and controversial “The Last temptation of Christ”, and “Saint Francis of Assissi” you can imagine my joy when i found an old version of the Modern Odyssey at Elliot’s Bookshop, back in Toronto. I bought, and never read it. I decided sometime ago to find give it a shot, and i was reading the introduction when i came across this, which truly struck me.
i will apologize ahead of time, for the lengh of this, and i realize that you may very well not really even read the whole thing, but that’s alright. i dont mind. I took immense pleasure in it today, and i just wanted to share it.
All emphases are added by me, and i’ve occasionally inserted comments in the brackets and in green[ ].
———
kazantzakis“a man, writes Kazantzakis, has three duties. His firs tduty is to the mind which imposes order on disordr, formulates laws, builds bridges over th unfathomable abyss, and sets up rational boundaris beyond which man does not dare go. But his second duty is to the heart, which admits of no boundaries, which years to pierce beyond phenomena and to merge with somethign eyond mind and matter. His thrid duty is to free himself from both mind and heart, from the great temptation of the hope which both offer of subduing phenomena or of finding the essence of things.
A man must then embrace the annihilating abyss without any hope, he must say taht nothing exists, neither life nor death, and must accpt this necessity bravely, with exultation and song [how lovely ]. he may then build the affirmative structure of his life over this abyss in an ecstasy of tragic joy [ahhh...how lovely and tempting]
A man is now prepared to undertake a pilgrimmage of four stages. At the start of his journey he hears an agonized cry within him shouting for hlep. his first stepe is to plunge into his own ego until he discovers that it is the endangered spirit (or “god”) locked within each man that is crying out for liberation. In order to fre it, each man must consdier himself solely responsible for the salvation fo the world, because
when a man dies, that aspect of the universe which is his own particular vision and the unique play of his mind also crashes in ruins forever
[how beautiful, anthropocentric and narcissistic].
In the second step, a man must plunge beyond his ego and into his racial origins; yet among his forefathers he must choose only those who can help him towards greater refinement of spirit, taht h may in turn pass on his task to a son whomay also surpass him. The thrid step for a man is to plunge beyond his own particular race into the races of all mankind and to suffer their composite agony in the struggle to liberate God within themselves. The fourth step is to plunge beyond mankind and to become identified with all the universe, with animat and inanimate matter, with earth, stones, sea, plants, … with the vital impulse of creation in all phenomena. Each man is a fathomless composit of atavistic roots plunging down to the primordial origin of things. A man is now prepared to go beyond the mind, the hart, and hope, beyond his ego, his race, and mankind even, beyond all phenomena and plunge further into a vision of the Invisible permeating all thigns and forevr ascending [sounds almost oriental/eastern in its implications, doesn't it?]
The essence of the invisible is an agonized ascent toward more adn more purity of spirit, toward light. The goal is the struggle itself, since the ascent is endless.
God is not a perfect being towards whcih man proceeds, but a spiritual concept which evolves toward purity as man himself evolves on earth. he not Almighty, for he is in constant danger, filled with wounds, struggling to survive; he is not All-holy, for he is pitilss int h cruel choice he makes to survive, caring entiher for men nor animals, neither for vitues nor ideas, but making use of them all in an attempt to pass through them and shake himself free [my note: doesn't this almost seems like a personification or humanization of some eastern beliefs? not to mention 'natural law'] he is not All-knowing, for his head is a confused jumble of dark and light. he cries out to man for help because man is his highest spiritual reach in teh present stage of his evolution. he cannot be saved unless man tries to sav him by struggling with him, nor can man be saved unless God is saved. On the whole, it is rather man who must save God [how beautiful....]. …
…The essence of God is to find freedom, salvation. Our duty is to aid him in this ascent, and to save ourselves at last from our final hope of slavation, to say to ourselves at last that not even salvation exists, and to accept this with tragic joy [so much contradiction, so lovely]. Love is the force which urgs us on and which descend on us as a dance, a rhythm. Injustice, cruelty, longing, hunger and war are laders that push us on. God is never created out of happiness and comfort, but out of tragedy and strife [wouldn't nietzsche be proud?].
The greatest virtue is not to be fre, but to struggle ceaselessly for freedom [i can't help shaking off the feeling that there is far more latent in that, than is evident on the surface] ….
….Nietzsche confirmed him in his predilection for the Dionysian….vision of life: ….of ascending life, of joy in action , of eecstatic motion and inpsiration, of instinct and adventure and daungless suffering, the god of song and music and dance; as opposed to Apollo, the god of peace, of leisure and repose, of aesthetic emotion and intellectual contemplation, of logical order and philosophical calm, the god of painting and sculpture and epic poetry. … however, that though this was for him a predilection and a biased emphasis, it was not at alll a rejection, but rather an assimilation of hte Apollonian vision of life.
…. he then recounts how Dionysus came out of India clad in multicoloured silks, laden with bracelets and rings, his eyes ringed with black, his fingernails painted crimson. But as the god proceeded into Greece, his adornments fell from him on by one until he stood naked on a hill at Eleusis. Dionysus, the god of ecstatic and visionary drunkenness, had turned into apollo, the god of srence beauty. such, wrote Kazanzakis, is the progress is of art. Ultimately kazantzakis wished to combine the two in what he called the ‘Cretan Glance’. [more on that in a second]
kazantzakis also took the exaltation of tragedy as the joy of life, a certain ‘tragic optimism’ of the strong man who delights to discover that strife is the pervading law of life, the ‘melancholy joy’ which Wagner discerned in the last quartets of Beethoven [the pleasure of paper-cuts some might even dare say].
Henri Bergson…For Kazantzakis, as for Bergson, intuition (allied to instinct) is a more penetrating and more Dionysian vision which seks the essence of things, but both based their ultimate hop on the itellect which, as it growns stronger and bolder in evolutionary growth, sems to embody best the highest forms through whcih the elan vital may find its supreeme expression. …. Kazantzakis writes: ‘they ar no successive degrees of evoltuion, they are simply direction whcih the same fermentation took. Difference of quality and not of quantity exists between instinct and intellect. Instinct knows things, intellect the relationship between things. Both are cognitive faculties … intution has the advantage of entering into the very essence of life, of feeling its movement, its creation. But it has one great disadvantage: it cannot express itself.’ Language is an instrument of the intellect. That philosophy which wants to interpret experienc and to understand the essence of things cannot do it with the intellect alone. ‘intellect must therfore work hand in hand with instinct. Only the intellect, says Bergson, can seek to solve some prlbems, though it will never solves them; only the instinct can solve htem, though it will never seek them……
‘Life’, write kazantzakis stressing his words by underlining them, ‘is what inspiration is to a poem.
Words obstruct the flow of inspiration, but nevertheless they exprss it as best they can. Only the humanintellect can dissect words, sor unite them, or delineate them grammatically; but if we are to comprehend the poem, something else is needed; w must plunge into its heart, we must live in its inspiration, …. only then may the words lose their rigidity and inflxibility or may the current rush on its way once more ….
Like all poets, Kazantzakis is not much a sytematic Philosopher as one who, reachign out the tentacles of his mind and spirit, and garsping whatever might bring him nourishmnt, sucks up all into the third inner eye of vision peculiar to himself alone, and moves the reader with an imaginative view of life so intense as to be, in truth, a new apprehnsion. Basic to all of Kazantzakis‘ visions, as to that of Yeats, has been the attempt to synthesize waht seems to be contraries, antithess, antinomies. [talking about the Cretan Glance] this eye, this glance, between teh eye of the Orient (or Dionysus, who came from India or Asia Minor) and the ye of the Hellenic Greece (or Apollo_, Kazanzatkis called the Cretan Glance.
He make two distinctions between Greec and teh Orint. the chief characteristic of Greece is to erect the secur fortress of the ego, th fixed outline which subdues diorderly drivs and primivite demons to the dictates of the enlightened and disciplined will. the supreme ideal of greec is to save the ego from anarchy and chaos. The supreme ideal of the orient is to dissolve the ego into the infinite and to become one with it. He writes: ‘odysseus does not, like th greeks, cast a veil over chaos, for he prefers, instead, to keep a sleepless vigil and to increase his strength by gazing into it; yet he never abandonshimself to chaos, for on the contrary, until the very last moment, when Death appears, he stands erct before chaos and looks upon it with undimmed eyes.’ This attitude toward life and death is not Greek, nor is it Oriental.
He then goes on to trace the origins of his ‘cretan glance’: the cretan bull-fights has no relation to thos of modern spain. [i found this final passage very beautiful] The cretans confronted the Bull – the Titan-Earthquake- without fear, with undimmed eys, nor killed him in order to unite with him (the orient) or to be released from his presence (Greece), but played with him at their ease. “this direct contact with the bull honed the strength of the cretan, cultivated the flxibility and charm of his body, th flaming yet cool exactness of movement, the discipline of desire, and the hard-won virility to measure himself agaisnt the dark and powerful bull-titan. And thus the cretan transformed terror into a high game wherein man’s virtue, in a dierct contact with the beast, became tempered, and triumphed. The Cretan triumphed without killing the abominable bull because he did not think of it as an enemy but as a collaborator; without it his body would not have become so strong and charming or his spirit so manly. Of course, to endure and to play such a dangrous game, one needs great bodily and spiritual training and a sleepless discipline of nerves; but if a man once trains himself an becomes skillful in teh game, then evryone of his movements bcomes simple, certain, and graceful. The heroic and playful eyes, without hope yet without fear, which so confront the bull, the abyss, i call the cretan glance”

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Francis Bacon’s Triptych

I’m standing, finally, before the Triptych. It is perhaps odd that such a hideous and anxious set of imagery should be an identifying feature and hallmark, for potentially my greatest joy.

When I first saw the image, several weeks ago, on my computer screen, it was new, and it startled me. It made me feel empty in the pit of my stomach. Standing before it now, in its full size, is worse. I wish there were no other people. Empty with just me.

I do wonder about what makes me want to keep staring at it however. There is a pleasure I get from the horror of it. A pleasure from the claustrophobic blood, and feeling of being in a veritable nightmare.

There is not a single part of the image which does not contribute to the general sense of nightmare, horror and anxiety. It is not a horror or anxiety borne out of a fear of survival, or imminent danger. But rather something growing out of hopelessness, decay, deformation, being in the presence of a monster that will not kill you, but rather disgust you.

The downward bend of the neck, bending perhaps under the weight of … i dont know what. The teeth, oh! the teeth. Is it laughing? Is it mocking me? Is it baring its teeth as its sole defence?

The red stripe, is like a red carpet, there with the sole intention of featuring the hideous monster, mocking him before the audience … us who stare with unsatiable appetites.

“Come one, come all. Ladies and Gentlemen, stare at the star of the show: the hideous, formless monster”

Is it in pain? Or is it not even capable of pain? Or perhaps that is the only thing that it can feel?

Waht if .. what if it is look in a mirro? what if, he too is fascinated by his hideous form? Unable to take its absent eyes ooff its own shapeless mass … those blood-red lips … in that abnormally small hand pale ‘face.

On each side two other deformed entities, one screaming silently …. perhaps jeering … the other much more resigned to its hideous existence, only stare on, perhaps even feelign pity for the Monster-on-display.

Is this how Bacon saw himself? or is it how he saw everyone? We all do have our hideous side, and are we not, in some perverted way, fascinated with it? With its dark formless creations and desires? Maybe I can’t stop staring at this nightmarish scene, for the same reason taht i couldn’t stop reading Notes from Underground">Notes from Underground, because Dostoyevski too perhaps was presenting me with the monster in my basement, and i found it fascinating in teh same perverse way. Are all like that … or is it just me?

I cannot help but find it odd that I should have the association with this image that I do. And yet at the same time ….

==/

This was an excerpt from my Ireland-England 2007 Travel Diary. The paintings are by the Irish painter, Francis Bacon. While i can claim a certain connexion with music, and a limited one with Sculpture, I am very uncultured when it comes to painting, and most of all contemporary and modern art. This mostly is due to my own dogmatic and close-minded approach and rejection of modernism and post-modernism. However, that is changing. I was introduced to Bacon, and specifically by a very dear friend several months ago, and it touched me on a very deep level. It fascinated me. Just as my rejection of modern non-rhyming poetry was shattered some years ago, when i opened my mind, i feel the same is happenign towards modern, and post-modern art. Anyways, when she showed me the central piece of the Triptych, i was so completely overwhelmed by it and emotionally struck, that i was determined to understand this. So when i was in Cambridge, I forced Jai to come with me to London one of the nights, and we headed for the Tate Modern, where this painting finds its home. I arrived there 30 minutes before closing time. So i sat myself on the ground in front of this painting for those 30 minutes until the ushers, ushered me out. It was an incredible experience.

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At the Gates of the Underworld

Little red dragonflies are flying back and forth harmlessly all around me, engaged in seriously in their own business. The water undulates serenely. The white goose stands on the ledge at the edge of the water. Calmly, he looks around, takes a couple of paces back and forth and then returns to the edge. He looks down in the water. Another goose, this one with black spots on its body is in the water. At first glance he looks like he is eating or searching food, with its head under the water. But he’s not. He’s dead. Caught between a rock and the edge of the lake, his body is moving freely to the rhythm of the water. It is Death, in its purest, most natural form. Not ugly, nor beautiful, but something transcending these insufficient mundane and manmade descriptions.

The dominant sound is the wind blowing through the branches and leaves of the trees. In the distance, birds chirping, or a duck quacking. The red dragonflies continue to buzz around, oblivious to the events around them, oblivious to all but their own mysterious business. The white goose, still not uttering a sound, looks up, walks a few steps away, and then comes back again. Once more he looks down at his fallen comrade. A gust of wind shakes the leaves, and pushes some of the dragonflies out of their way. But they don’t seem to mind; they readjust and continue on. A troop of ducks is in the middle of the lake, swimming around leisurely without any particular aim. The dead goose continues to bob up and down in the shallow water, and his companion continues to stand guard.

Several minutes pass. The air and the water, and the creatures go on as before. Only the white goose seems to be aware. Only the white goose seems to care about the dead body floating at his feet. But he keeps silent. He occasionally looks down at his fallen mate, staring for several seconds and then back up again. What is he thinking? I know he realises what has happened. I can see it in the eyes. There is concern there, perhaps. But each time he looks up, his regard contains a sense of determination and acceptance. And then he goes on with his silent vigil, pacing wordlessly, soundlessly, and faithfully. The loyal goose then looks and stares in the distance, as though waiting for something. What he awaits, I shall never know, save perhaps at The End. He then lowers his head, looks at the fallen brother and resumes his silent, calm vigil. Which he will undoubtedly continue for as long as it takes.

§

How ironic, or perhaps rather fitting all the events on this trip have been. From a postman named Antonio telling us about the “Il Postino” connexion of the lovely island of Procida, to the young man Arcangelo appearing nearly out of nowhere only to guide us to the Solfaterra and now the Lago Averno, it seems that no event has been without its due sense of irony and fittingness. So now why should I be surprised at finding such a beautiful scene of Death and Life, at this lake, where in ancient times it was believed that the entrance to Hades, the underworld, the Land of the Dead was located. The poignancy of the scene, its simplicity and naturalness has utterly stunned me.

Nature or rather Life itself offers us lessons at every turn it seems. So much to learns from these geese. The acceptance of Death – and by consequence the acceptance of Life. The acceptance of the passage as a normal and permanent part of life. The ever present spectre of impermanence, the all permeating notion of transience, in every single aspect of existence. That goose knows that his comrade is dead. He knows it. And he accepts it. He does not go into denial, does not cry and beat itself physically or emotionally. He accepts because he has to. Because it is a part of existence. Because he knows – even if it may subconsciously or innately – that life moves along lines which none can see. And he accepts that, and yet he will stand by the side of his fallen friend.

Our resistance in accepting death, especially of loved ones, is borne out of our own selfishness. We mourn because it is us who are deprived of the presence of the departed. What would life be without death? Nothing. How can we try and separate the two when they are two sides of the same coin? Can we enter a room without leaving another?

§

The dead bird lies there as lifeless as ever. The companion stands guard as loyally as ever, not a sound being uttered. He will eventually leave. And he too will eventually die. And the sun will continue to shine donw. The red dragonflies will continue to buzz around attending their mysterious business as seriously as ever, and the wind will continue to blow over the lake and shake the leaves in the trees.

 

This was an excerpt from my Italy Travel Diary from this past summer. It was the penultimate day and we had just arrived at the Lago Averno, by a most tortuous and misguided of paths, dead tired and hungry, only to find the place utterly deserted. We hopped a fence, and my two companions collapsed on the ground and fell asleep upset in the midday sun (the photos are all courtesy of various – generous – people on the web)

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I had one of those moments in life which are as beautiful as they are rare, when you are truly MOVED by something. 

Have you ever wondered what the Slogan of this blog means, when it says:

Never stop being amazed

It’s not a cheesy line from a sports shoe advertisement. Even if it has been made into that, it is not meant in that spirit.  Nor has at anything to do with the content of the blog. Not really. It’s a philosophy and way of life.  While that is an entire discussion unto itself, the idea is that one lives in a way that you are surprised at all times.  Can you imagine it? you can be surprised at the most simple of things.  Think how full of wonder the world becomes, every single moment?

To achieve this, we must unlearn everything we know, and most importantly, MOST IMPORTANTLY, live without expectations.  I cannot tell you how many times in my life this has hit me.  Whenever (almost without fail) i have gone into someting with expectations, i have been disappointed.  On the other hand, the most amazing, memorable and pleasants moments of my life, are when i have gone into an event without the slightest expectation. 

Many of these such incidents have been when i’ve gone to a concert not knowing what to expect.  The first was the first time i went to a piano recital.  It was the immitable Vladimir Ashkenazy.  He was playing the piano sonata no. 17 of beethoven (the tempest), which i’d never heard.  By the end of that piece i was felt nearly out of my body.  Another such incident was the first time i heard the 3rd piano concerto of Rachmaninoff live, being played by at-the-time-unknown-to-me russian virtuoso Boris Berezovsky. It was as though Rachmaninoff had been reincarnated.  I could list some others, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

One of the greatest things about living in Paris, is the fact that on any given night of the week, there are at least 3 or 4 classical concerts, either free or quite cheap in various churches or small theatres.  Tuesday nite i went to the small but nice Salle Cortot, because there was a program of 3 young pianists, playing around 30 minutes each.  It was free, and some of the pieces were ones which try to not to miss a chance at seeing live (there was a chopin scherzo, rachmaninoff’s vocalise, etc.) but there were also some pieces i didn’t know, or didn’t care for.

The first kid, 17-year russian, did some liszt and rachmaninoff, with more theatrics than should be allowed at his age.  Technically he was fine, but nothign moving. But then again i wasn’t expecting anything of that order from a bunch of no-names.  The second was a japanese-american girl of 21, a prize-winner at some smaller scale international competitions.  She was alreayd much better than the russian teenager.  Her chopin scherzo was commendable if not memorable.  She also played an apparently famous piano sonata by Samuel Barber (1949) which i had not heard about, but was pleasantly surprised by (because i can’t stand much of modern classical pieces). 

The last pianist of the night was a round-faced bony-cheek young Jie Chen.  Much like the others, and not surprisingly, she was an unknown name.  A petite and delicate little lady.  The first piece on her list was a Busoni transcription of a Bach Chaconne.  While i had heard of ‘the chaconne’ before, i’d always glossed over it.  I shouldn’t have. From the first note she played i knew somethign was going to happen.  Ironically enough during the first two pianists performances i was casually wondering to myself, what is it that sets one pianist apart, makes one stand out in yoru memory and the other not? And i was unconciously lamenting the fact that it had been some time since i’d truly been moved during a performance of live classical music (despite the long list of world famous performers i’d seen in teh past two years). 

There is something about Bach.  There is one Bach, and only one.  No other composer is like Bach.  No other composer of his own era, nor of any other era quite has what he has. It’s not even something expressible.  He was/is visionary.  He wrote baroque music but he was so far ahead of his time, with a voice so unique and so beautiful, that i dont know if you can even put him in that era.  For me, this aspect of Bach sometimes comes out when other composers of other eras take his music and adapt it.  The best example i can think of this, is the Liszt’s transcription and varaitions on Bach’s “weinen, klagen, sorgen, zagen” cantata.  It is a divine piece of music. other examples could include the motif for Brahms beautiful and haunting fourth symphony.

One of the modern composers who had a great relationship with Bach, was the italian supervirtuoso Feruccio Busoni.  He did numerous transcriptions for piano of Bach, cantatas, chorale preludes.  The haunting Chaconne in D minor, is one of them.  The original, part of the Partita number 2, is a visionary piece of music for the violin.  The Busoni transcription is just as incredible, possibly even more beautiful, becuase of the richness of the piano sound.

And so i sat there, stunned for 12 minutes, unable to help the tears welling up in my eyes, feeling my entire body vibrating, about to float away. I am so glad i had no idea to expect that.

Thank you Jie Chen.

So, now for you listening pleasure, Here is the lovely and incredibly talented french pianist Helene Grimaud performing the Bach-Busoni Chaconne in Dm (BWV 1004) (turn your lights off, and just sit back and listen):

[dailymotion 4dL1FSavD82u75OYS]

And here is violin original by the legendary Jascha Heifetz

[tags]classical music, piano, bach, busoni, chaconne, grimaud, heifetz[/tags]

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Yesterday, sadly, Legendary Russian cellist who became one of the symbols of the resistance against Soviet rule, the man who played his cello at the berlin wall as it came down,  Mstislav Rostropovich, died at the age of 80. 

It always feels so sad, when a wonderful musician of his kind dies.  But we shoudl remember that it was a privilege to be alive when he was and to be able to hear him. 

And regardless, musicians such Rostropovich never die, because they will live on through their music

01:59 – September 16, 2006
01:59 – January 16, 2007

[tags]slava, rostropovich, mistislav, russia, cello, cellist, [/tags]

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Beautiful Words


Malheureusement, on vie dans une monde ou l’arbre qui tombe fait plus de bruit qu’un forêt qui pousse.

(English Translation: Ufortunately we live in a world where the one tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows)

I heard Abd Al Malik say these in and interview yesterday. He is an award winning french rap artist and a fascinating character and an intellectual.  He has a life history which is just as fascinating. 

This was his answer regarding a question regarding the riots that took place last year in the rough suburbs of paris and the whole idea of the mal-integration of the people from arabic and african origins into the french society.  There is no response which could be more apt, beautiful and simple.  Especially one that comes from someone who lived and grew up in one such neighbourhood.

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A dental way of Life

Considering my unfortunate current dental situation/crisis it’s only fitting!La vie, c’est comme une dent
D’abord on y a pas pens�
On s’est content� de m�cher
Et puis �a se g�te soudain
�a vous fait mal, et on y tient
Et on la soigne et les soucis
Et pour qu’on soit vraiment gu�ri
Il faut vous l’arracher, la vie

Boris Vian

(Thanks to FUMACAS for the poem.)

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Inscription (Kateebeh)

This is a poem by Akhavan-Sales a contemporary persian poet. This poem is titled Kateebeh in pesian which means Inscription. It has always been one of my favourites, and one which at the time of my encountering it, had a profound effect on me. This is a translation by Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak:


Inscriptionby
Mehdi Akhavan-Sales
translated
by
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak

The stone lay there like a mountain
and we sat here a weary bunch
women, men, young, old
all linked together
at the ankles, by a chain.

You could crawl to whomever your heart desired
as far as you could drag your chain.

We did not know, nor did we ask
was it a voice in our nightmare and weariness
or else, a herald from an unknown corner,
it spoke:

“The stone lying there holds a secret
inscribed on it by wise men of old.”
Thus spoke the voice over and again
and, as a wave recoiling on itself
retreated in the dark
and we said nothing
and for some time we said nothing.

Afterwards, only in our looks
many doubts and queries spoke out
then nothing but the ambush of weariness, oblivion
and silence, even in our looks
and the stone lying there.

One night, moonlight pouring damnation on us
and our swollen feet itching
one of us, whose chain was the heaviest
damned his ears and groaned: “I must go”
and we said, fatigued: “Damn our ears
damn our eyes, we must go.”
and we crawled up to where the stone lay one of us, whose chain was looser

climbed up and read:

“He shall know my secret
who turns me over!”

With a singular joy we repeated this dusty secret
under our breath as if it were a prayer
and the night was a glorious stream filled with moonlight.

One…two…three…heave-ho!
One…two…three…once more!
sweating sad, cursing, at times even crying
again…one…two…three…thus many times
hard was our task, sweet our victory
tired but happy, we felt a familiar joy
soaring with delight and ecstasy.

One of us, whose chain was lighter
saluted all, then climbed the stone
wiped the dirt-caked inscription and mouthed the words
(we were impatient)
wetted his lips (and we did the same)
and remained silent
cast a glance at us and remained silent
read again, his eyes fixed, his tongue dead
his gaze drifting over a far away unknown

we yelled to him”

“Read!” he was speechless
“Read it to us!” he stared at us in silence
after a time
he climbed down, his chain clanking
we held him up, lifeless as he was
we sat him down
he cursed our hands and his
“What did you read? huh?”
He swallowed and said faintly:
“The same was written:

“He shall know my secret
who turns me over!”

We sat
and
stared at the moon and the bright night
and the night was a sickly stream.

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