—Bach (JS): Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 - 7. Sanfte Soll Mein Todeskummer
When he accepted the Nobel prize in 1982, Garcia Marquez described Latin America as a “source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”
But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam’s twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man’s legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who’ll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can’t bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can’t count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother’s,
it will always whisper, you can’t have it all,
but there is this.
When we took Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” into a maximum security woman’s prison on the West Side…there’s a scene there where a young woman is told by a very powerful official that “If you sleep with me, I will pardon your brother. And if you don’t sleep with me, I’ll execute him.” And he leaves the stage. And this character, Isabel, turned out to the audience and said: “To whom should I complain?” And a woman in the audience shouted: “The Police!” And then she looked right at that woman and said: “If I did relate this, who would believe me?” And the woman answered back, “No one, girl.” And it was astonishing because not only was it an amazing sense of connection between the audience and the actress, but you also realized that this was a kind of an historical lesson in theater reception. That’s what must have happened at The Globe. These soliloquies were not simply monologues that people spoke, they were call and response to the audience. And you realized that vibrancy, that that sense of connectedness is not only what makes theater great in prisons, it’s what makes theater great, period.
When you feel you have lost everything, you still have
- unexpected kindness in strangers
- the rest of the world to travel
- languages to learn
- animals to take care of
- volunteer work to do
- the power of a good night’s rest
- the changing of seasons
- infinite things to learn
- billions of people to meet and possibly love
- billions of people who might love you back
Needed this today
I’m going to be the bad person who flips the affirming meme to negative, but you know the worst thing about losing your mind? You don’t have those things. Any of them. It’s like a checklist of the things you abandon any hope of ever regaining, on your way to suicide.
Some may be objectively impossible - you can’t read or learn a language if you can’t think - and others subjectively so - being loved feels meaningless/shameful/threatening - but they’re all gone.
The upside is that if you do get your mind back to keep, those things are inexpressibly sweeter. I just translated a meta from Russian mostly for the sake of the meta itself, but there’s also a part of me that sings because I can do it, when I thought it was gone.
So I’m afraid you can lose all the things listed above, and more. But ultimately just one more reason to value them if you have them.
I actually remember posting this. That I had lost the ability to take any joy in the changing of the seasons. Or the sunset. Or the stars. That I could not read any more. Or think a straight thought. Yes, you can loose all of this. And it is devastating. But when it comes back, you appreciate it more than ever before. So yeah. What pennypaperbrain said. And actually, this is a great list of things to enjoy when you are really, really low on money…