Monday, August 15, 2011


 "If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death Perhaps the world can teach us as when everything seems dead but later proves to be alive" — Pablo Neruda

Sometimes there must be a pause from worries, from wishing, from wanting. In the space created by that pause one becomes simply quiescent. That is where I am right now, in a space that has no room for  worrying where and how to grow new trees, for the wish to rush towards great struggles, quick solutions, urgent decisions.  I tried to explain this process to my nephew, whose colloquial English is not yet perfect, and he asked,
"What does it mean, 'survival mode?'"
 I rell him  that it means to push everything aside and concentrate on being. I am not sure that is a good explanation. The expression is so fluid I can infuse it with my own meaning and so can he. Language is imprecise and filled with ambiguity. One rarely sets everything aside for longer than a few hours. Modern life does not permit such luxuries. Obligations one takes on without any thought of future interruptions tug at one's mind--the cat must be fed, meals must be cooked, plants must be watered, messages must be answered at some point. One must sort  essential matters from the non-essential. One must make minor decisions--review copies of books can e read later,  the lawn will keep on being ragged for another day, the ambitious writing project can be shelved for the moment.
There are things one can do while the pause button is on--one can talk to family and friends. I speak on the phone with my daughter every day and I devote at least two hours in the evening to IM distant relatives.In between I exchange e-mail messages with neighbour and friends. Such, such is the tenor of modern  times that I do see someone close to me regularly while others become electronic presences on my computer screen.  It is all contact that does not disturb the stillness, rather it nourishes and protects it. Besides that, there is always  music. My choice is a  treasure trove of Brazilian songs that ranges from recordings of indigenous Kaapor flute players, to Afro-Brazilian ritual chants, to brand new compositions by young Brazilian musicians from various ethnicities. I find audio books  good choices, as well. The website houses, among other data,  a great collection of works that have entered the public domain. For now, since the survival mode resists intellectual demands,  I choose THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, by Baroness Orczy over A DIALOGUE CONCERNING , ORATORY, by Tacitus and I choose   Trollope over  Vitruvius.  Ther is no stridency, no ponderous thought in thes echoic. I can just be.

Brazilians have a different way of expressing  this pause button stage. They call "to lie like milk (in a vessel.)"
Americans say, to be  "like honey in a jar." I find it singularly appropriate that both cultures express calm, peace, quiescence in terms of  food and drink. I think they humans in most  parts of the globe recognise that stress and strife are depleting while peace is nourishing. Change comes whether we wear ourselves out with fretting  or whether we choose to be still and grow stronger. There is nothing new in gathering one's power quietly and carefully. Strangely, it never ceases to a be a process of discovery.

A fading August rose.

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