Friday, December 14, 2007


Introspective December continues

Several members of my family read this blog from time to time (Hi there). Helps keep me honest - not to say that I'm not scrupulously honest anyway, but, well, you know. Anyway, my uncle Robert emailed this morning with a thoughtful response to my last few posts, and with his permission I'm adding some of it here. What I've been fumbling to say lately brought these quotations to mind, so he sent them along. The first comes via e.e. cummings, i: six nonlectures (Harvard 1953). In the first [non]lecture, he quotes from Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. In the copy I have here in the shop (Norton 1962) the passage is translated thusly:

"Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just toward them."

Cummings goes on to say: "In my proud and humble opinion, those two sentences are worth all the soi-disant criticism of the arts which has ever existed or will ever exist. Disagree with them as much as you like, but never forget them; for if you do, you will have forgotten the mystery which you have been, the mystery which you shall be, and the mystery which you are - ..."

The final quotation Robert sent, regarding living well and fully, and Kent's/Aristotle's "Happiness is activity of the spirit...," is from Bernard Berenson's Aesthetics and History (Pantheon 1948):

"Let me say then that by 'life-enhancement' I mean the ideated identification of ourselves with a person, the ideated participation in an action, the ideated plunging into a state of being, or a state of mind, that makes one feel more hopefully, more zestfully alive; living more intense, more radiant a life not only physically but morally and spiritually as well; reaching out to the topmost peak of our capacities, contented with no satisfaction lower than the highest."

Hopeful and radiant, two of my favorite words. But Rilke really speaks to me even more. I read this and it flashed across my mind like a shooting star - That's exactly what I meant, but I couldn't find the words. I read on in the book, and Rilke continues, saying that one's opinions should be left to "their own quiet undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything." Don't fall into the trap of criticism, particularly when there is so much to love instead? Form opinions from a place of love? I can do that.

My day is now shot - nothing else will get done because I find I'm sitting here reading the rest of Letters to a Young Poet, which I've always meant to read but somehow never have. Turns out that today's the day, thanks to Robert.

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