|Eugene Delacroix, Woman with a Parrot, a tiny painting.|
By the fire last night, over a small celebratory cocktail, tasting the hot cross buns I had made for New Year's Day, Stephen wondered, in that perennial awe, what is it all for, about, all this chaos of life, of thought, matter, and events? After decades of it, one can still be astonished and confused, maybe even more so, really. Yet I felt certain at the time that I knew the answer: all the chaos is there so that artists can make, again and again, provisional, temporary order of it, meaning of it, some harmony, some new dissonances, some selecting of the everythingness. Of course it is the other way around. It all just is, Spinoza's eternity, raging on, careless of us. But we do, we cannot help but make contact with it and respond to it in our little ways. We are called upon to express our awe, our pain, our confusion, our desire, our appreciation. And it is important that we do. The way that a Sappho fragment comes down to us over the ages as a precious oracle...a few broken lines from the stylus of some one person who saw in a particularly beautiful way, who happened to stop to write down what she saw for us. Truly amazing, what we have, what has been saved (just as amazing, and tragic, what has been lost). My friend, Adaline, just made an album. You should all listen. Just one lovely young woman, with a rich and complex soul, a beautiful voice, a musicality shared with the birds and the wind and the sounding boards of wood and ivory and metal.
And I am honored that one of the songs is for me. I had written her a letter, after hearing her sing once, and she wrote me the song, in response. It reminds me of Emily Dickinson's "letter to the world". We all have letters to the world. I am so grateful for those who have had the courage to write them down. I am thinking of a medieval Japanese poem, written by a woman longing for her lover, a page from Leopardi's diary, documenting pain and loneliness and an attempt to understand mankind, of Goethe's Faust, not small at all, but just one work of his many, which he allowed to grow over decades, which he allowed to be born, and I am thinking of a tiny gem of a painting I got to see with my own eyes when in New York City, Delacroix's Woman with a Parrot, which sparkles with iridescence, small enough to slip into one's purse. Moments of seeing, feeling, moments of thought, captured for all eternity. Sometimes just barely saved from the fires of wars and inquisitions and iconoclastic mobs, sometimes just barely captured by the people who made them, so fleeting are the moments of vision, like dreams already slipping from the mind. These arrangements of shapes, words, ideas, attempts...all just barely existing, and so powerful nevertheless.
I want to live in such a way as to facilitate these capturings, to be ready when they come, to believe in their importance, to write them, to draw them down. That is why I have come here.