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Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?

Some, the saints and the poets, maybe. — Thornton Wilder, Our Town

There are no words. One experience unites all humans. Without regard for income, race, religion, language, or geography, we face the same end. Death is universal. In our last walk down the corridor of mortality we are united. Yet, we have no words, no language to express the incomprehensible, reality-shattering vastness of death.

Sure, we have clichés. "I'm sorry for your loss." "Perhaps it is a blessing." "At least he's not in pain, now." "She's in God's hands now." "He's in a better place." "Time will heal." "It's for the best." "It's all part of God's plan." The phrases are rituals of a sort, formulae we have developed to serve as proxies of our bewilderment and fear.

Official clichés have evolved, as well. "Died in service." "Combat losses." "Civilian casualties." "Troop deaths." "Fallen in battle." "Acceptable loss." Each phrase carefully avoids the staring eyes with lids fixed open in rigor, the purging of bodily fluids, the escape — banishment — of another soul from its body. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

Our feeble language robs even the act of dying of its reality. Rarely do we say, "so-and-so died last night." The word feels too bald, too final. We hide behind euphemisms, hoping their impotence will erase the truth. "He passed away." "She passed on." "We tried, but we lost him." Lost — where does one lose a soul — in a drawer perhaps? Here, we move into the realm of medical euphemism. "Cardiac arrest." "He coded." In veterinary medicine, we have our own dialect for death — "put to sleep," "put down," "euthanized." Only in moments of bitter exhaustion do I admit that in this process I kill an animal.

Perhaps the clichés shield us from the shattering, inevitable truth. In the end, every dignity, every secret is stripped from us. Death is not a peaceful sleep, a graceful slip into a higher plane. The body's decay begins before the soul departs. Whether suddenly traumatic or slow and declining, death robs us of the careful protections we have placed upon our body. No ointment, unguent, or garment can hide the failure of these pretty boxes, the carefully decorated shells we inhabit.

Even those who believe in a purpose, a continuity beyond death fall back upon cliché and formula. Immortality, even a perfect one — especially a perfect one — is vast and horrifying beyond human comprehension. Our brains are wired to accept neither end nor infinity. Both terrify.

The false shelter of our clichéd, greeting card death leaks. Blood seeps through the cracks. How does one tell a mother who has lost her child that "it is part of God's plan," that "it is for the best"? When confronted with the monstrosity of that last phrase, a mother I know whose children were killed at the hands of evil demanded, "What could be better than my children?" What indeed? The father of a dear friend died in the slow ravages of cancer, and I had no words beyond "I'm glad for your sake that it's over, and I'm sorry for your loss." Nothing more to offer after 20 years of friendship.

In a strange and dangerous paradox, numbers and geography diminish death in our minds. One person dies near home or in the limelight of celebrity and we rally around, cloaking the tragedy in candles and stuffed animals. Thousands die in a natural disaster in a far corner of the world, and we shake our heads, say, "Isn't that awful," and flip back to the reality TV program of choice.

Perhaps the magnitude of mass death weighs too heavily upon the soul, squashing empathy. Yet, when we allow the numbers to inure us against the pain of mass extinction, we risk our humanity. Our instinct to turn from mass death enables those for whom genocide is a tool, and renders all humanity more vulnerable to the havoc wrought by disease and disaster.

If we looked beyond the stock phrases, would we see the abominable folly of our petty squabbles? Would we see that we are all walking down the same cold hallway, toward the same end? What happens if we draw the curtain that veils the madness that is human existence? Will we fragment, break under the unbearable weight of reality, or will we find words at last?

The poets come closest.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause… — William Shakespeare

Though wise men at their end know dark is right / Because their words had forked no lightning they / Do not go gentle into that good night. — Dylan Thomas

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood / For nothing now can ever come to any good.  — W.H. Auden

Each man's death diminishes me. — John Donne

No words. We have no words.

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About Christy Corp-Minamiji

  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com NancyGail

    Nice work.

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Thanks, Nancy!

  • http://mizbviewsfromthetower.blogspot.com Jeanne Browne

    As a writer, a minister (Interfaith), and one who frequently contemplates death – my own and that of others – I commend you on the words you found to describe the words we cannot find. I don’t fear death but I dread the process of dying, the awfulness that often precedes death. Since I don’t believe in heaven or hell but do believe that spirit is energy and energy never dies, it transforms, I figure death is a combination of rest, relief, unconsciousness, new consciousness, and mysteries we can’t imagine. But I figure if we can make it through life, and that’s no day at the beach, what could death present us with except nothingness or a new adventure? Either way, we’ll cope. It’s the death of others that leaves us speechless and divides our lives into distinct periods of Before and After. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to consider life’s ultimate unifier – wordless though it may be.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Another good article, Christy.

    Personally, death scares me a lot. I can’t buy into the unsubstantiated mysticism that seems to console or deceive those faithist folk; so as far as I can tell, when one’s personal movie is over, the screen goes blank and that is it.

    I really don’t want to miss the unfolding human story, particularly as we seem to be on the verge of leaving behind a lot of the current problems that afflict humanity (on the verge of in evolutionary time, not personal time) and I will absolutely definitely avail myself of any of the promising life extension technologies that are starting to emerge if they reach the stage of practical application before I die.

    I shall feel particularly cheated if I do actually die before getting off this planet and/or meeting an intelligent alien being!

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I shall feel particularly cheated if I do actually die before getting off this planet and/or meeting an intelligent alien being!

    I don’t know about us living long enough that getting off the planet will simply a matter of buying a ticket and boarding a seat in a spaceship. I used to think that’s what would happen. I get more pessimistic as the years go by of seeing this. But this much I will tell you. You may well get to meet an intelligent alien being (and, no, I’m not talking about G-d). And if you do, I hope you are wearing brown trousers and I hope your friends are up-wind of you….

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Thank you all for the comments. On a personal level, I do believe in some form of existence beyond death. However, I sometimes wonder if that belief simply stems from a fear of annihilation. Sentimentality surrounding death irks me, however. Whatever death is, it’s much too big for a Hallmark card.
    I guess my personal philosophy is an agreement with Einstein. “I cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos.” I’ve seen too many patterns in my life not to believe in some form of order. I think that we (humans) are the chaos.
    Good luck with the alien quest, Christopher.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Christy,

    When I think about death, I try to get myself to think about what my life has meant to others, so far. Obviously, if I need to feel better about myself, I need to look at the good I may have done, and occasionally, my wife needs to remind me of the good that I’ve done, and how my presence has affected others to the good. I do not have any trouble imagining the evil I’ve done.

    In spite of the obvious, that our future is merely the maggot and the worm, too many people have come back from death with reports of something that constitutes an after-life for me to arrogantly dismiss them, their passionate reports, or the changes they have made in their own lives as a result.

    This is something I strongly suggest you consider. I bring before you the example of “Kof-Kof”, an Argentinian toddler brought to Israel with a genetic disease that only Jews get that would be best treated here. It is no fun to lose a child, especially one you have made so many sacrifices for. But when “Kof-Kof” died in December of 2001, I sat with his parents and did the best I could to explain to them that for all the pain of loss they suffer, “Kof-Kof” managed to do something they might not have done otherwise – come home to Israel to live. This was something good.

    Even “Kof-Kof” did good that affected others, even though he was a mere toddler, and even though it appeared that his future was merely the maggot and the worm. He affected his mother, father and sister and all the unborn children that will hopefully be born here by bringing them all home.

    None of us lives in vain.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, maybe meeting an alien would make you poop your pants but it holds no fear at all for me!

    Christy, it is perfectly possible to have order without a creator… And as there is zero evidence for the existence of superbeings, Einstein’s contention lacks foundation.

    Ruvy revisited; just because some people who have had near death experiences have reported something that possibly seemed like some kind of afterlife to them does not mean there is. On the other hand, the fact that nobody has ever come back from actual death and revealed that there definitely is an afterlife is pretty good evidence that there probably isn’t…

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Ruvy,
    Thank you for your insights and for the anecdote. I do appreciate the crux of the story; however, I still have difficulty finding the “good” in the death of a child. I think it’s the sense of disrupted potential that offends me. I don’t know what our purpose is, so I do try to live a life with as much meaning as possible. Like everyone, I think I fall down on that one quite a bit.

    Christopher, I accept your view on the lack of evidence for any divinity. However, I can’t help pointing out that proving a negative is also problematic. Production of evidence is dependent upon human discovery and recording. I guess, for me, the jury is still out.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Christy,

    If you merely look at the death of a child as disrupting potential and allowing it to offend you, without considering the surrounding circumstances in a broader view, of course, you will feel that there are “no words”.

    When my wife lost a son at 16 weeks pregnancy, it certainly seemed that there were “no words”. And for months afterwards, whenever she saw a baby, or a pregnant woman, it hurt her. But the obstetrician who delivered the dead foetus was very nasty to my wife, telling her “congratulations, you had a son.” His hurtful behavior caused her to switch doctors and she got much better care from the subsequent physician – a man who watched over her carefully, who encouraged us both in our quest for a child, and who made damned sure that she got the best of care when the second child she carried was delivered at 27 weeks instead of 40.

    The cut off potential of the 16 week old foetus resulted in the improved care for the subsequent foetus, who is now a young man over 20 years of age. More to the point, in addition to that care, he encouraged my wife to have a number of uterine fibroid tumors removed, and the pregnancy of the third child was far less stressful, even though he too, was born early.

    I suffer from a chronic neurological condition. For all of my hating having it, it saved my ass a number of times in my life. It is likely due to that condition I suffer, that I am still alive today, instead of a statistic, a man killed in a car accident on the highways of Israel, where people drive like madmen.

    I can attribute all of this to chance. some people would, and would not accept any kind of evidence that it was other than chance. That’s alright, so long as they don’t shove their opinions down my throat.

    No man lives in vain. We all have a purpose in G-d’s universe, whether we comprehend that purpose or not. Half the fun in life is searching for that purpose.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Christy, the “proving a negative” issue is just one of the rhetorical tricks faithists use but it isn’t a valid argument. It isn’t necessary to prove that something isn’t true, it is up to those who make an assertion to prove it.

    Ruvy, whilst I like most of your #10, it falls down at two points.

    Firstly, it takes a certain kind of strange blend of callousness and commitment to make the argument that the loss of the first baby was okay because it lead to subsequent better medical care and then to a successful birth. Presumably the same kind of thinking can be used to justify any past bad event if it leads, albeit indirectly, to better results later. Like, the holocaust was okay because it lead to the founding of Israel, for example?

    Secondly, you don’t appear to like it when other people “shove their opinions down your throat” yet apparently you don’t have any problem about doing the same thing yourself. Doesn’t the double standard there trouble you at all?

    I’ll not comment on your final paragraph.

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Christopher,I agree, *any* assertion is susceptible to proof. I was bringing up the proving a negative in that context. I think that since neither hypothesis can be proven at this point, or likely ever, both the denial of or profession of a deity are subject to question. My own faith is based solely on what I want to believe, and I am definitely aware of the limitations and probable delusion of that state.
    Ruvy, thanks for sharing your story. As I’ve seen in your posts elsewhere, you obviously have a tremendous commitment to your beliefs. I don’t think I’ve ever been capable of that degree of certainty about anything. I don’t agree with you on some points, but I definitely respect your conviction.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    it takes a certain kind of strange blend of callousness and commitment to make the argument that the loss of the first baby was okay because it lead to subsequent better medical care and then to a successful birth.

    I don’t know, Chris. I read my comment to my wife – it was about her – and she agreed with me. I’ll tell you one thing about Adina. Whatever she is, she is not a callous person. She is extremely sensitive and sweet and giving (so unlike her husband). Also, I did not say the loss of the first baby was good. I said that hurtful as it was, and it was hurtful, that good came from that loss. There is a big difference between the two.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    …just because some people who have had near death experiences have reported something that possibly seemed like some kind of afterlife to them does not mean there is. On the other hand, the fact that nobody has ever come back from actual death and revealed that there definitely is an afterlife is pretty good evidence that there probably isn’t….

    The “near death” experiences are so-called because the people who experienced them actually were dead – and came back a short time after dying. They weren’t “nearly dead.” They were dead, but doctors were working to revive them desperately – and succeeded. Obviously individual cases vary. Somewhere there is a Lancet article summarizing all this. Possibly the individual circumstances can be dug out, if they interest you, Chris.

    Of course, if you define “dead” as “dying and not coming back”, then you can’t be proven wrong in your assertion, can you? You will have constructed a neat tautology.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Beautifully written piece. Of course we have ‘no words': how can we? All the words in every human language that has ever existed were invented by the living.

    Even if, as some claim, it is possible to die, be revived, and then report back on the experience, it is still the language of the living which is used.

    So we are left with the terminology of the medics and the mystics, none of which can hope to adequately address an experience which is not only inaccessible to us but may not even exist…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You know, Dreadful, there is a funny kind of interaction going on between experience and language.

    At times, the former sort of “precedes” the language – in which cases we either discover the language appropriate for it (in case it wasn’t part of our active vocabulary prior to then); or in the most radical cases, invent the term/concept.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, dying isn’t like when a light bulb burns out; it isn’t poof, you’re gone.

    Obviously it is possible to die and then be resuscitated but that is clearly not the same as being beyond resuscitation. In the future, with greater medical knowledge and equipment, it will quite probably be possible to revive people even more than it is today. As yet we simply don’t know where exactly the point of transition from revivable to beyond rescue lies. It follows therefore that the reports of those who have had near death experiences can not possibly actually be reports from some notional afterlife, nor can they be criticised for their descriptions of very personal close calls.

    I don’t see any tautology in my statement that nobody who has ever actually fully died has ever come back from the other side. Surely that is the test that would make the case that there is another plane of existence beyond this one, yet it has never happened. It seems pretty compelling to me…

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Very profound article and interesting comments that have followed. It reminds me of the song by Tim McGraw “Live Like You Were Dying”…

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Wow, I really didn’t expect so many comments on this piece since it was primarily borne out of a very personal frustration with the inadequacies of our language. It’s great to see so many thoughts and opinions on this subject.

  • Clavos

    Good piece, Christy.

    A week ago today, the most important person in my entire life, my wife, died. We shared more than 40 years of life together; they weren’t all good, particularly not the last four, during which she was inexorably consumed by her infirmities as the medics and I stood helplessly by, powerless to arrest the process, but in their entirety they were sublime.

    You are so right about the lack of adequate words; I like to think I’m a decent writer, and I want so badly to honor the the exquisite human being whose life intertwined with mine for so long, yet I find myself searching vainly for the words with which to express adequately the import of her life; a life lived in fullness and heroism, but in the end, as this comment attests, I fail.

    It is the final, most cruel irony.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Wow, Clavos, I am SO sorry about your wife. We are here for you..not sure what that means exactly, but I think you get my point! xo

  • Deano

    Clavos,

    Words always seem like the most inadequate of vessels with which to convey sympathy…

    “Twere all one,
    That I should think to love a bright particular star
    And think to wed it…”
    – William Shakespeare

    I am so very sorry for your loss.

    Sincerely,

    Deano

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    I wasn’t sure about saying this in the comments space, so forgive me if it is wrong to do so, Clavos, but I think Nancy would like it if you carried on some of her bravery, optimism and love as your personal tribute to all the things you shared together.

  • Clavos

    Thank you, Christine. Her death wasn’t unexpected, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.

  • Clavos

    Deano,

    As a lifelong lover of good writing, Mr. Shakespeare has always been a particular favorite.

    That’s such an appropriate and powerful quote, thank you.

  • Clavos

    Chris,

    Words such as yours can never be wrong in any setting, and I opened the door, as it were. Thank you for them.

    I do apologize to Christy, however, for hijacking your thread, however briefly, but your eloquent essay is very timely and pertinent for me, and BC and its participants have been for years a source of pleasure and a source of friendship, as evidenced by these comments above.

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Clavos, once again, I wish I had words beyond I’m sorry. Your own words have definitely conveyed your love and loss.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Christy,

    There are certain fundamental issues that are bound to get comments, and death is one of them. There was an article about women who could not conceive. It’s a couple of years old, and almost every day there is a comment on it. There was another article about a cat dying that is something like four years old that keeps attracting people. Cats have this nasty habit of dying off without their owners’ permission!

    I used to be the master of ceremonies for an English lecture series for the Root & Branch Assn. in J-lem. The most crowded lecture I remember was one by Dr. Gerald Schroeder, an MIT physicist who has lived in Israel for many years and who lectured on life after death. The article I wrote here on that lecture generated over 100 comments.

    Just something to think about….

  • zingzing

    very sorry to hear that, clavos. i hope the best for you.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Clavos,

    I would like to give you this song…

    Jackson Browne-For a dancer

    I am very sorry for your loss Clavos.

    sincerely,
    Jeannie

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Hey Clav. Good to see you here.

    Love you.

    Cindy xxxooo

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I like to think I’m a decent writer, and I want so badly to honor the the exquisite human being whose life intertwined with mine for so long, yet I find myself searching vainly for the words with which to express adequately the import of her life; a life lived in fullness and heroism, but in the end, as this comment attests, I fail.

    Clavos,

    First of all, I offer what puerile consolation I can on the death of your wife. Were it your mother or father, I could say something intelligent beyond that, having experienced the pain of both losses myself. The only thing I can say is that the forty years you shared together, good and bad, and the fact that you can say that your wife was your best friend, and mean it, are the best words you can say.

    You yourself need time to heal to the degree that you can. I could never have written any kind of memorial piece for either my mother or my father when they died. Now, three decades later, I can. With time, you will be able to also.

    I did want to share this story with you. It is apropós, from one writer to another.

    In 1980, I learnt that my Aunt Kate had passed away. So, I sat and composed a note to my uncle, feeling at first that I didn’t know what to write. Eventually a note did emerge on paper and I posted the note and that was that.

    Some months later his younger daughter wrote me a note saying that her father had received many many condolence notes from his many many friends and acquaintances, and of course from his family and that he had answered them all, every last one of them – except mine.

    She wrote me that he could not answer and had asked her to answer in his stead. She wrote further that I should be a writer, for I had moved her father so.

    barúkh dayán ha’emét Blessèd is the True Judge

    May G-d comfort all those who mourn their loved ones.

    Reuven

  • STM

    Clav: G’day mate,

    Hope you’re OK.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Hello, Clavos, and I hope you’re here to stay. The BC community isn’t quite the same without your humor, wit and yes, sarcasm, too.
    My thoughts are with you.

    Roger

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Oh, shit, Clav, I had no idea. Hadn’t noticed your absence, to be honest. :-(

    If there’s anything I or any of us Blogcriticos can do… (can’t think what that might be, but…) just name it.

    Seems a bit cowardly to use the words of other at a time like this, and I’m not sure if this is suitable right now, but at times like this I always go to that glorious old boozer Dylan Thomas:

    “And death shall have no dominion.
    Dead mean naked they shall be one
    With the man in the wind and the west moon;
    When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
    They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
    Though they go mad they shall be sane,
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
    Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Did he die of liver failure, Dreadful?
    It’s the club of James Joyce.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Strangely, no, Roger – although he surely would have if he’d had the chance. The actual cause of death was pneumonia related to chronic bronchitis – although the autopsy did show severe alcohol poisoning.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Only 39 years old when he died. But only the good die young.

    You must be proud of him, being a Welsh. There had been too many Irish and Scottish luminaries.

    I like that poem. Haven’t read much by him, but what I’ve heard, a very dynamic poet.

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.net Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Ah, Dylan Thomas — now he had the words. His use of language is gorgeous. In fact, my youngest child got stuck w/Dylan as her middle name after him. Glad you posted that one, Dr.Dreadful*and* the autopsy followup.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Just the opposite to the tack taken by his literary nemesis – Samuel Beckett.

    Come to think of it, Dylan was a romantic, after Byron and Shelley, with traces of Robert Burns – for spice.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Perhaps Beckett was closer to understanding the futility of language and lack of meaning, to the absurdity of it all, than Dylan Thomas.

    And so was Camus.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    But Camus is more readable!

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Than Beckett, anyway. Arguably than Thomas also.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Forget about Godot. That’s the quintessence of minimalism. Try The Unnamable.

    Or early Becket, before the influence of Joyce. (“Anxiety of influence” is the proper term, for Joyce wasn’t to be outdone.)

    His conscious decision to learn and to write in French was prompted by the fact that English was to rich a tongue for him to be able to shed it (like he wanted to).

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    too rich . . .

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I’ve been waiting for Godot for awhile now. I don’t think he’s coming.

    (One of my favorite plays, ever.)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Mine too. Hilarious and depressing at the same time, like a lot of good comedy.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You have? I gave up. But the play is a masterpiece.

    And that’s in an age of “No More Masterpieces.”

    But contrast, please, with Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. There are important parallels but just as important dissimilarities.

    Personally, his Long Day’s Journey . . . is my favorite. Or The Glass Menagerie by TW.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’ll join you folks shortly for this moveable feast after some grocery shopping.

    Thou shall not live by words alone.

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Haven’t read Waiting for Godot in years; should do a re-read with some life behind me. I think it may largely be wasted on undergrads. The Glass Menagerie is an alltime favourite of mine, though.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Thornton Wilder is one of my favourites. Now there’s minimalism for you. But few other playwrights have captured the American experience so vividly. I love Our Town, The Happy Journey and Pullman Car Hiawatha.

    For a more realistic approach, there’s Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Expertly constructed; even the stage directions are beautifully written.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’re up on me there. I’ve still got to read some of Pinter’s plays.

  • Clavos

    Belatedly,

    Thanks zing, your wishes are a comfort.

    Jeannie, thank you. I’m a Jackson Browne fan and that song is particularly appropriate. You’re sweet.

    Cindy, Je t’aime aussi. Merci, mon amour.

    Ruvy, Thank you my friend. In lieu of writing my own tribute at this time, my wife’s brother has started his and has honored me by asking for my advice and editing as he crafts it.

    Stan, Your call the other night was a beautiful bright spot in an otherwise very sad week. Thank you from my heart, mate.

    Roger, thanks and thank you for the email, as well. I’m not up to my sarcastic self yet, but stand by. :-)

    Doc, I just sent you an email. thank you kindly, good sir.

    To all of you: Your kindnesses at this difficult time are proof positive to this old cynic that there does yet remain significant good and hope on our contentious old planet and in the hearts of its denizens.

    May all your most precious dreams be realized.

  • zingzing

    clavos, when the time is right, write something about her and post it in the politics section. it won’t be contextually appropriate in the strictest sense, but it will be appreciated, and cathartic, i hope. even if we disagree with you, we all appreciate you. and we can all agree on this.

    R.I.P., and i’m sure i can speak for all of us when i say that we all want nothing but happiness for you. you’re an intelligent man with a heart. i’m sure you will recover.

    (i worry that i overstep my bounds, but i just want to show support. if any of this is stupid to say, i can only plead emotionality.)

  • zingzing

    sincerity, after my usual vomiting of sarcasm, is difficult to convey with any believability, but i hope that this is one occasion where everyone can believe me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zing, sarcasm and sincerity are perhaps two sides of the same coin. And neither convey a lack of heart.

  • Doug Hunter

    Clavos, when we first come here it’s just pixels and words on a screen, but with time those names become people and that text becomes a voice. Your voice has rang honest and sincere with a bit of wisdom to me. I was aware of some medical issues from your posts but I really had no idea, I’m sorry for your loss.

  • zingzing

    i just hope we can all remember that politics is, while being something worth arguing over, an incredibly small piece of life, and that we are all connected through our common humanity instead of divided by our petty differences. love and caring are ideas that make us whole, while political differences are just constructs we let get in the way. we all have the same goal, and the same end. what we do here is argue about our differences, but we should also, when the opportunity arises, celebrate our commonalities, even if it means communal mourning.

  • STM

    Cheers Clav. Hang in there mate. It’s good to see back on here. Not much I can say, but I hope everything went well on Friday – and thanks for the video. It tells a lot of her story.

    Doc: I think we have to add Robbie Burns to that list of poets who’ve drunk themselves to death.

    I’ll tell you something else. He’s lucky he moved from the place he grew up in, the little cottage in Alloway, Ayreshire.

    I went there many years ago and the doorways are so low from memory, you’d be at constant risk of banging your noggin’ every five minutes. Imagine a brain-damaged Robbie Burns (addled beyond what a lifetime of drinking vast quanitities of whisky can do), and we’d have had no poet with a true Scottish voice.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Or perhaps, we use it (politics) as a foil at times – in order not to show our humanity.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    For some reason, this poem comes to mind when you spoke of Burns (don’t ask me why):

    Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
    We people on the pavement looked at him:
    He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
    Clean-favoured and imperially slim.

    And he was always quietly arrayed,
    And he was always human when he talked;
    But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
    “Good Morning!” and he glittered when he walked.

    And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
    And admirably schooled in every grace:
    In fine — we thought that he was everything
    To make us wish that we were in his place.

    So on we worked and waited for the light,
    And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
    And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
    Went home and put a bullet in his head.

    Edwin Arlington Robinson

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    A musical rendition: Sounds of Silence.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Better sound.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    With lyrics.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I just hope we can all remember that politics is, while being something worth arguing over, an incredibly small piece of life, and that we are all connected through our common humanity instead of divided by our petty differences.

    I wish politics were a smaller part of my life. Then it would be fun to argue over – like baseball or football. And I wouldn’t have to be so passionate about it, or so damned serious. Unfortunately, for all of us in Israel, politics is a bigger part of life than most of us would prefer. That said, we all are bound by our common humanity and in the end cannot afford to let our petty differences divide us. All too often, the world forces those differences upon us.

    To get to the point.

    Clav, you’re an old cynic, but you ring true, like a silver doillar, even if I disagree with you at times. It’s rough to stand alone. It can be damned hard. So just keep your phone bill and electric bill paid. We’re all just a few keystrokes away, and no matter how much we disagree with you, we’re friends here.

    And if the chance comes your way, fly over here to Israel. That glare of yours will scare half the bureaucrats and goons at Ben-Gurion Airport. The other half have the same glare you do….

  • zingzing
  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    How we walk on the moon?

    Very carefully, with tiny baby steps.

  • zingzing

    the video is very literal, but the words and images are not.

  • zingzing

    nor the cello.

    look up arthur russell. one of the american greats.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I was being facetious. I shall. Does it derive from reggae?

  • zingzing

    no. fuck the police.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t get it.

  • zingzing

    “walking on the moon” is a police (sting’s band) song that is very dub reggae influenced. “fuck tha police” is an n.w.a. song.

    arthur russell’s stuff is definitely his own. he ran on his own influences… i thought you might be referencing the police song, but i guess i was wrong.

    russell was very much his own thing. he took from various genres, but always went off in his own direction. he was active from the late-70s til the early-90s, but he only came to any prominence in the last 5 years or so. since then, there have been releases of his disco productions, classical compositions, pop albums, cello stuff and minimalist-based albums. he’s an incredible artist who only began to explore his creativity before he died.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, the Ginsberg association is kind of odd. He was born in 1951 for Christ’s sake. I didn’t know Ginsberg was still active. I’m still having trouble with Philip Glass. Haven’t listened to enough of his works, I guess, for it to grow on me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Anyway, if you’ll be around tomorrow, we can continue. Otherwise, have a great vacation.
    I still think Richard Strauss is unsurpassable, unless you want to go atonal. And then, it’s Bartok.

    Don’t you think?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Again, have a good one, zing.

    And don’t waste your life on BC, for Christ’s sake. Make something of yourself, become somebody, get a job, complete your education. You’re too smart to be idling your life away.

    Just kidding.

  • zingzing

    fuck glass. steve reich. terry riley.

    (that said, russell is no longer active, as he died in the early 90s… but you might know that by now.)

    glass is minimalism-lite. reich and riley are pretty easy as well. beyond that you get into lucier and conrad, and then you find your way to la monte young, who will totally take apart your sense of time and space.

    glass is shit. eno might be a good place to start if you’re coming from him. but look for reich’s “come out.” and take some drugs.

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Roger and Zing, can’t thank you enough for posting those music clips. Especially the Simon and Garfunkel. Oct. 7 is not historically a great day for me, and I’m currently waiting to see if one of my patients is going to decide to live or to join the legions “under the blue tarps,” so listening to those kind of gave me a lift. Thanks.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, Christy. I myself am kind of surprised how one thing led to another – from Robert Burns to Richard Cory poem, and then to the Sounds of Silence (which I did not know was based on the former). So yes, it kind of hit me, too. And I’m glad it had done some good.

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    I seem to vaguely recall the Richard Cory/ Sounds of Silence connection from my senior high school English class. (Entirely too many years ago.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Look up the thread, Christy, just before the Simon and Garfunkel link. It’s a short poem and I cite it in its entirety. Somehow I thought it was by Robert Burns, but I was wrong. But anyhow, it somehow seemed to jibe with the rest of the thread.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Comment #61 in fact.

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Oops, this is what happens when I stay up past my bedtime. Darn horses. Chased down the squirrels in my brain with the help of Google. It was Simon and Garfunkel’s Richard Cory song adaptation that was playing in my head. I think my brain is broken. The poem I knew, the link got twisted in the neural maze.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    OK, Christy. It’s time for bedtime.
    Happy dreams.

  • http://lightonthepage.com/ Jay Landar

    That’s well written. Yet somehow we have to cross that threshold in our minds as well as in reality. It can be done by approaching the permanent, indestructible core of being within – if that isn’t too much of a cliche.