Posts Tagged ‘tragedy’

From Andalusia to Zagreb

August 24, 2019

Breeze blew ‘cross Byzantium

   ages ago,

passing passion along from ancient souls

   o’er peninsulas and shoals.

From Alexandria to Andalusia

   it blew the Medi stirring of our arcane East

   by westward winds past the European feast.

So it drifted between Aranjuez and Zagreb

   in periodic flow and ebb

   with rhythmic ebb and flow

   through passionnata on stringéd bow . . .

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g91kQyy4G7E.

   . . . at providential and the muse’ behest,

   and set in sculpting stone: eternal rest;

   portraying Piéta Jesu through Michelangelo,

  Pieta

   as still the women come and go

   ‘cross Eliot’s wasteland scenario.

From Ave Maria in Madrid

   this opus we/they did;

   even SaintSaens’ secular Swan

   summons that age-old bond:

   reflecting melancholic tension

   in existential apprehension

   again and again and again;

   the passion passes

   through striving laborious hands

   in colored or melodic strands.

On moonlit nights;

   sonata strains reflect the light

   from hand to frantic hand

   and back again.

Did history require

   two world wars

   and a string of smaller frays

   to say

   our living legacy dies daily?

Yet does our living tragedy thrive daily,

   in this human soul of frailty.

Why even a saintless ’60’s Superstar

   drove our anguished digression,

   our zeitgeist obsession,

   as passion passed through

   rejected hands again

   as passion passed through

   conflicted lives again

   as passion passes through

   immigrant pathos again

   and again and again

   to reveal those nail-scarred hands again

Again.

   Must be something to it;

   we should not eschew it:

Those despiséd and rejected ones of men–

   again and again and again:

   the passing man of sorrow,

   yesterday, today, tomorrow—

   the woman acquainted with grief,

   through death that steals in like a thief

   the stranger and the strange,

Again and again and again.

Must be something to it;

   we should not eschew it.

Glass half-Full

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The Deep

May 26, 2018

As we grow older in this world, we gain a deeper understanding of  what is going on here. But it can be discouraging. In many ways, what we find is not pretty, and it makes no sense.

The disconnect between the way the world is and the way we think it should be becomes an existential crisis for those of us who are sensitive to such issues.

Attached to this dilemma we find a long historical trail of people attempting to deal with the problem. Along that path we find tragedy, depression, pathos, melancholia, despair, existential crisis, schizophrenia and a myriad of other assorted travesties.

But there’s a favorable output that sometimes arises through this conundrum. It’s called art.

And music, and literature.

I’ll not get into the specifics of it; but we discern, threaded through our long, strung-out history, an overwhelming human opus of emotional and soulful profundity. It  has been woven through the sad, dysfunctional and tragic tapestry of our apocryphal struggle for meaning. It has been sounded forth and sculpted continuously even as our very survival is perpetually  called into question.

The depth of this existential crisis is expressed by the poet when he desperately cried out:

“O my God, my soul is in despair within me;

therefore I remember you from the land of the Jordan,

and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls unto deep at the sound of your waterfalls;

all your breakers and your waves have rolled over me.”

From the mountaintops of human awareness, and from the turbulence of many wanderous shore epiphanies, we homo sapiens somehow manage to  bring forth as offerings a cornucopia of creative endeavors; they are birthed in desperation, and they are often borne in desperate attempts to somehow attain hope.

You catch a hearing of that struggle to which I allude, in this music, composed in Spain in 1939 by Jaoquin Rodrigo:

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9RS4biqyAc

You can catch a glimpse of it in Picasso’s mural, composed in Spain in 1937, after the Luftwaffe bombing of Guernica:

  GuernicaPic

But in my exploration of these matters, the most profound expression of the pathos curse is manifested in the life of one person who, by his laborious struggle, imparted the purest and most enduring message of love ever etched upon the parchment of human history; but his great gift was rejected through our judgmental travesty: a sentence of crucifixion.

ChristCruc

Yet out of that most extreme humiliation there arose an even greater opus of creative, persistent love : resurrection.

If you can even believe it.

Smoke

The Scarecrow some of us have known

March 11, 2016

We put ashes of my nephew away yesterday, in the cold ground. It was a sad event, tragic that a young man could strive through the difficult decade of being between age 20 and 30, only to have it end abruptly.

Searching for love, with a false start or two, and fathering two young ones into this world along the way, Erik had just started to turn the corner between bittersweet street and true love way with his very own soulmate, Nora. Then he passed away. Absolutely no one was expecting it. It was a tragedy for our large extended family. On a perfect March day, we put what was left of his earthly remains away, but not the memories.

His sister Samantha, my niece, pierced the hearts of us all with her tender remembrance of Erik’s life–his unique presence in the history of our world, his wry humor, his fierce determination to provide for the young family despite all the pitfalls of finding and retaining work in this fiercely competitive world. More importantly though, his sister brought to our gathered attention his intense love for his children, his blooming love with his newfound bride of five months. And then his sister mentioned the bluebird.

In many ways, the young man who passed reflected the troubles of our times. At age 30, he was a tender shoot, untimely snipped by death’s sharp shearing. In sibling Samantha’s sensitive eulogy, she explained why Erik called his wife, his true love, “bluebird.”

It was a reference to a very timely, profound love song by a young singer I had never heard of. But at the memorial ceremony, a recording of the ballad was played for us to hear as we reflected up the life and childlike legacy of the deceased.

As an aging songwriter of sorts myself, I was struck dumb with admiration when this line–about the power that is unleashed in a lonely heart when absolute love is at last discovered– poured out of the sedate funeral home sound system:

“In my heart stands a scarecrow, and if he’s hurt he doesn’t say so; he chases everything he loves away.

But at night, when it’s colder, there’s a bluebird on his shoulder, and he whispers that he’ll hold her one bright day. . .”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WfwNwjbbpA

Such a love song I have never heard. And such a life as Erik’s will never again be lived again. John Fulbright’s tender love tune came to my attention through this memorial to Erik, his beloved widow Nora, and his sister’s remembrance of it all. The song, linked above, captures more than I could ever explain in words.

Thank you, Sam, for sharing this rich love of life lived by your brother, which has now been passed to us by his passing.

Glass half-Full

The Calling of Anarchy

January 5, 2016

The calling of anarchy says:

Tear down, tear down the Old way, for when it is destroyed, the New way will be brought in, and when the New way is set in place. . . when the New Order is instituted, then all things will be made right and wise people such as yourself will be in charge of things, and your troubles will be over.

But that surely is gobblydeegoop. I mean, isn’t it?

I myself have, in my life, encountered the power of this deception. I have heard that Siren call of anarchy. It is a cry familiar to me. It arises not so much in me as in the world out there somewhere, with some instigator’s persistent call to rage, rage against the machine. Somewhere in between my ears, it beats a drum of discontent that would compel me, if I were to follow that terrible summons, to do terrible, destructive things.

Although I have never succumbed to it, I know its voice. It is the insidious voice of rebellion that would compel men into the abyss of anarchy, and women into the chasms of despair.

Harken not to it, my brother. Heed it not, my soul. For it leadeth not where thou wouldst want to go.

I’m not making this up; this is a very real thing in the world today. But it is nothing new.

In the final chapter of his 1971 journalistic book, Kent State, James A Michener describes the strange experience of a troubled young woman. She’s a runaway teenager; she had forsaken the comfort of middle-class life to wander the streets and cities of America in search of something, possibly a magical place called “California.” But during her journey to the elusive place, the girl found herself one brisk Friday night in Ohio, kicking around in Kent, looking for some excitement, or some meaning in life, or just something to do, when, about midnight, she came across some “trouble on the street.” As Michener describes the scene in which rioters were protesting Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia:

” ‘Cambodia,’ she says, ‘Cambodia did it. They built a fire out there (on a downtown street, ed.) and were circling around, chanting’. . . (She) joined them, dancing about the trash fire in the street. It was what was happening and she wanted in.”

And so the young women was caught up in that moment, and caught up in the excitement and the gravitas of the protest, having answered the call to meaningful action, which can, in the heat of human manipulations, sometimes slide into the calling of anarchy, and so one thing did lead to another and then a couple of days later, the young woman found herself suddenly fallen upon a parking lot, with shots ringing in the air around her and when she looked up there was a young man lying next to here with his head down but blood flowing out of it because of the fatal gunshot. But then  she dragged herself up. In the misery and tragedy of that moment, she cried out. . .

Also in that moment, the photographer who happened to be nearby quickly snapped a picture. A little while later, through a series of electronic wonders beginning with the photographer’s pic as published in his paper’s next issue, the mournful, confused face of the wandering teenaged girl was flashed around the world for all the world to see.

The look on the young woman’s face documents the utter dismay of a generation, my generation. Millions of people around the world have seen, and wondered about, that picture. James Michener calls her the woman with the “Delacroix face.”

Her face does resemble the face of Lady Liberty, as rendered in “Liberty leading the People,” a famous painting by Eugene Delacroix that depicts an idealized image of the French Revolution.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Delacroix

I guess there is a fine line somewhere between Liberty and anarchy. Only those who have suffered in the fog of war or in the great Struggle for justice can know the difference.

The poet W.B. Yeats mentions this dangerous tendency of our world in his poem, The Second Coming:

“Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned”

The “ceremony of innocence,” is, in our present American culture and this historic time, the ritual of going to college or university. In our case study above, Kent State, the “ceremony” was not drowned, but rather, mortally wounded. This happened when duty-bound Guardsmen, who were generally the same young age as the students, were pressured, in the midst of frantic, anarchic circumstances to fire into a wildly unpredictable, rock-hurling crowd. Historic research reveals that “somebody” had fired a first shot, the fatal result of which that anarchy was suddenly catapulted  into tragedy.

Tragedy. Life is tragic. This is one outcome of anarchy.

It makes me wonder, and I find myself thinking of that old Moody Blues tune, Melancholy Man. . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO3IG-oRpis

In our present day and time, anarchy could–and already has–generated tragedy. . .in Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, Paris, San Bernadino, Riyadh and its aftermath, and in many other places. I am reminded of the prophet whose words still ring true after after twenty centuries:

“Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

His words were spoken about a religious building, but it seems that the anarchic spirit of our age is bent on terrorizing and destroying  many diverse persons, many places near and far, and a multitude of buildings and things.

It’s the calling of anarchy. Don’t get sucked in.

Here’s a better response: Do what is right, and pray.

Glass half-Full

Aftermath of a Musical Dream

October 18, 2015

While catching up on some tasks around the homeplace yesterday, a mid-afternoon weariness came upon me, and so I decided to take a little siesta.

Having finished the outdoor chores, I was inside the house. WDAV was tuned in on the radio. My favorite deejay, Mike McKay, was introducing the station’s 3 pm airing of a performance by the Charlotte Symphony.

I lost track of what Mike was saying as I stretched me weary ole bones upon the floor to partake of a wee bit of personalized yoga recovery, otherwise known as dozing off while stretching.

The next thing I know, my mind was stirred in wakefulness that attended a hearing of some incredibly beautiful music.

The experience was ethereal, as if I were dreaming, and yet there I was, my conscious attention approaching some orchestral destination that was being played out in my mind, or in the airwaves, or in the room, or somewhere I’ve never been.

I listened.

A little while later, I checked the WDAV website to find out what that music was that had stirred my awareness up from a necessary mid-afternoon slumber.

http://www.wdav.org/1_33_38.cfm

Now, the next day, a little Google search brings me to some comprehension about the source of yesterday’s dreamy revery: Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on a theme by theme by Thomas Tallis.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasia_on_a_Theme_by_Thomas_Tallis

This symphonic piece was composed in 1910, and later revised in 1913 and 1919.

When I read the Wikipedia info about the dates of  this music’s conception and revision, I immediately thought of the First Big War, which had happened from 1914-1918. That war has been a subject of my research for the last few years, as its aftermath pertains to the novel, Smoke, that I published last year.

The composer, a Brit, Ralfph (pronounced Rafe) Von Williams wrote the music in 1910, four years before the cataclysmic conflagration of early 20th-century European history, World War I. He later revised that music in 1913, just before the war started, and then again after the war had ended.

And I am wondering, this bright autumn Sunday afternoon, if that traumatic experience of world war might have had some effect on Mr. Williams that compelled him to revise his 9-year old masterpiece.

I think that First Big War did had an impact on this incredibly voluptuous statement of orchestral pathos, or tragedy, or whatever it is this haunting Phrygian melody imposes on my soul.

The music is similar to, and a compositional precedent to, a famous piece written two decades later by Samuel Barber,  Adagio for Strings (1936).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adagio_for_Strings

That’s another great, prescient pre-war piece of musical angst created four years before a Big War (the Second one).

Perhaps there is some composer out there today writing such a piece, but entirely new and expressive of whatever the hell is going on in our world today.

I wanted to provide a link so you can hear the piece of music that has inspired all this. So I went back to the WDAV website, which represents a great media source for classical music enrichment and enjoyment. It was there I had learned the name of the music.

I treasure WDAV and support their work with an annual contribution. However, for purposes of this online presentation I . . . long story short, stumbled upon this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihx5LCF1yJY

from BBC Symphony Orchestra, which is captured for YouTube in a performance at a cathedral in England. If you watch the performance, you may agree that both the music and the setting represent the union of two elements of our profoundly great Western cultural heritage: music and church.

After composing, Vaughn Williams noted an association between this Fantasia and the message of Psalm 2:

Why are the nations in an uproar

and the peoples devising a vain thing?

The kings of the earth take their stand

and the rulers take counsel together

against the Lord and against his Anointed?

 

Smoke

Opportunity Lost in Ferguson

November 25, 2014

Officer Wilson will have no opportunity to be publicly exonerated.

I have been thinking about him, and the man he shot. Like many Americans, I have been wondering what exactly did happen on that fateful August night when Officer Wilson, in the line of dangerous duty, killed Mike Brown with a gun.

Based on media-driven hearsay, it sounds to me like the young policeman would have had a pretty solid defense of his actions while attempting to enforce the law. I think, as most other white folk probably do, he would have been found not guilty in a court of law.

But who am I to say? Nobody. I’m a thousand miles away, a merely curious news-seeker with no access to the facts.

Since there will be no trial, and hence no public discovery of what actually happened between Officer Wilson and Mike Brown, we will never know.

Now this tragic death becomes an open wound in our national conscience; it will not heal.

There will be no sworn testimony from Officer Wilson, nor from any witness, no questioning from a defense attorney, no cross-examination from a prosecutor.

As citizens in a nation of laws, we will never know what evidence and testimony might have been called forth in our Officer’s defense in a court of law.

But we need to know. As a nation at black and white crossroads, we do need to know what happened.

As a result of our failure to follow through with due process, the severe wound that has been opened up on our national corpus will not heal; it will fester until it boils up with infections of chronic misinformation, severe political manipulation,  unresolved grief and destructive rage.

We have lost an opportunity. The United States of America will have no close-up examination of what routinely happens between a black shoplifter and a white cop on a dark night in a city that keeps no secrets.

The sad consequence of no indictment in Missouri is that police work in our cities will become more difficult, more dangerous, not less.

And Officer Wilson will have no opportunity for public exoneration from his hastily fatal decision on that dark Missouri night.

Show me some due process, and this could turn out differently for our people.

Smoke