LOTUS BORN

Padmasambhava —the Lotus Born

.

………………..DIE LOTOSBLUME

………………..Die Lotosblume ängstigt
………………..Sich vor der Sonne Pracht,
………………..Und mit gesenktem Haupte
………………..Erwartet sie träumend die Nacht.

………………..Der Mond, der ist ihr Buhle,
………………..Er weckt sie mit seinem Licht,
………………..Und ihm entschleiert sie freundlich
………………..Ihr frommes Blumengesicht.

………………..Sie blüht und glüht und leuchtet,
………………..Und starret stumm in die Höh;
………………..Sie duftet und weinet und zittert
………………..Vor Liebe und Liebesweh.

……………………………………………….Heinrich Heine

………………..THE LOTUS

………………..The anxious lotus flower
………………..Avoids the bright sun’s light,
………………..She bows her head and dreaming
………………..Awaits the fall of night.

………………..The moon her nightly lover
………………..Awakens her secret place,
………………..And she unveils in his presence
………………..Her shyly blooming face.

………………..She blooms and glows and glistens,
………………. With silent gaze fixed above,
………………..Her scent, her tears, and the trembling
………………..For love and the great pain of love.

……………………………………………….Heinrich Heine
……………………………………………….trans. W.F.Kammann
.

.

Schumann’s setting of the poem is brilliant.

The music starting Sie blueht … rises until the word zittert when it falls back trembling. The last line descends over and over rising slightly only to descend deeper ending on the low note with the word “Weh.”(Pain).

Romantic, orgasmic, the music and poem combine to expose the shy desire of the poet which meets only with rejection and great pain.

The 1965 version by Rita Streich gives you a sense of the song.

The lotus rises above the mud and slime of the pool, yet depends on it for its existence. A symbol of the enlightened mind, the lotus gives birth to Buddhas.

Om Mani Padme Hum.

W.F.Kammann

………THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW DEVELOP THE THREAD

21 Comments

  1. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 16, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Here’s one from my garden in Chiang Mai.

    It’s hugely hungry, and grows up out of a large cement sewer pipe filled with fresh buffalo dung which we bury at the bottom of the pond once a year.

    The flower is about 8″ across. On the first day it blooms it’s pure white, on the second day it opens yet wider and turns pink, and on the third day it collapses bright red. That’s when it dies.

    This photo’s approaching the end.

    The leaves and stalks are hard and covered with prickles, so they’re not only greedy but hard to handle. The fish won’t touch them.

    ~

    Do you think Heine knew all that, Bill, about lotuses, love and enlightenment? Is it there in the poem?

    Christopher

    ~

    P.S. Here’s a photo of the same flower taken 24 hours before but from a different angle so that you can see the prickles on the leaves. It’s also as yet high up off the water, as if it would fly.

  2. wfkammann said,

    January 17, 2011 at 3:27 am

    The night-blooming “lotus” Nymphaea is not a lotus at all. It is a tropical water lily as is the blue lotus of the Nile, Nymphaea caerulea. It belongs to the family Nymphaeaceae.

    The Egyptian Blue Water-lily, N. caerulea, opens its flowers in the morning and then sinks beneath the water at dusk, while the Egyptian White Water-lily, N. lotus, flowers at night and closes in the morning. This symbolizes the Egyptian separation of deities and is a motif associated with Egyptian beliefs concerning death and the afterlife.

    Lotuses do not bloom at night. So, no, I’m not sure he knew all about lotuses. But it does add the dimension of death to the poem.

    The sacred lotus of the Buddhists is the large, very fragrant pink, rose or white East Indian lotus, Nelumbo nucifera.

  3. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 17, 2011 at 10:21 am

    I was vaguely aware of all that, like it was a hunch. That’s why I said,”Here’s one from my garden” — whatever it might be.

    In fact mine isn’t Asian in origin at all — this extraordinary plant has become a staple of aquatic gardens all over the world that have space for such a giant, greedy, unnerving flower. Yes, it’s still part of the Nymphaeaceae family you refer to, but it sports the suitably imperial name Victoria amazonica nymphaea — some 19th century botanist in tweed brought a seed from the Amazon in his pocket and planted it at Kew Gardens for Her Majesty!

    Mine closes at night as well, I’m afraid — I didn’t say that out of respect for you, Bill, as well as for the poem.

    What happens is that every now and then an improbable, sponge-like spikey green doughnut appears on the surface of the water at the same time as a single enormous bud — here the bud is just visible below the surface of the water.

    The bud then emerges as the leaf unfolds – ours grow up to two metres in diameter, at Kew they apparently hit three.

    Perhaps they have better dung.

    The bud finally opens, bright, unblemished, as white as in the second photo in my previous comment. It closes that night and then opens again for a second day, the pink gradually spreading under the hot sun. It closes again the second night, then opens on the morning of the third day red, and grows redder and redder as the day wears on, collapsing in the process. As in the first photo above.

    There’s nothing left to close on the third night but catastrophic decay.

    And the huge leaves pass too, taking about 10 days to reach their full size before they too decompose. Like reinforced cement structures under the hammer, in the end there’s nothing left but the structure.

    Here’s what I saw for breakfast today, the whole repast:

    All the green frilly leaves in the photo, the palms, the bamboo, the longan, the coconut fronds, are reflections in the dark water beneath the bud and it’s crude, embryonic leaf.

    Indeed, it’s always hard to distinguish between nature and what’s reflected in it if you’re a human being. You can see them having the same problem in the Missouri Botanical Garden back in 1902 in the photo with the girl on the leaf. Were they thinking of Heinrich Heine wrestling with the same dilemma when he wrote in 1827, “Die Lotosblume … starret stumm in die Höh?” And had they possibly heard Robert Schumann’s setting which was composed way back in 1840, or read the poem itself already translated into English by then?

  4. wfkammann said,

    January 17, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    A sidebar to the translation: The poem hinges on the fact that the word “moon” in German is masculine and “flower” feminine. In most languages, though, the fact that the moon is reflected light; changeable and cyclic in nature makes the word feminine.

    In a recent N.Y. Times article entitled “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?” (August 26, 2010) Guy Deutscher explores the word for bridge in German and Spanish. The word is feminine in German and Germans tend to think of bridges as slim and delicate while the Spanish attribute strength and endurance to their bridges.

    When translating, gender guides understanding in languages where nouns have gender. The rooted rhyzome pining for her lover as he races across the sky. The moon supplies the light which opens the flower and she stares silently trembling in mute anticipation of something that can never come to be in fact but burns with an aching pain in the emotions. Heine is clearly the shy lotus longing for the unattainable lover.

    What is Romantic? In music there is the introduction of sustained dissonance which may resolve or plunge into more complex harmonic structures. The Romantics bring emotional tension out of the courtly tradition; the clever trope; exposing the raw nerve; the gut wrenching pain; the agony of longing; suicidal despair (Goethe’s Werther or Novalis).

    What is Romantic?

  5. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    What is romantic indeed.

    We’ve just had an extraordinary visitor staying with us here in Chiang Mai, Clive Cobie, the keeper of a wood in the south of England who has a dew pond, a claypit, and a root store, makes his own charcoal, dresses his own deer, including stripping the tendons to make string — who altogether depends on the old country skills we’ve lost for his living. But his most remarkable facility of all, it seems to me, is his ability to write straight off in formal verse with the fluency and confidence of a Burns or a Clare —despite the fact that he has had none of “your sort of schooling,” as he explained it to me. He knows everything about the deer’s most intimate insides and habits but nothing whatever about hexameters and dactyls what is more trisyllables.

    And he dashes off verse on my lotus with all the vulnerability and yearning intact, both his and the flower’s — and we’re talking about a real lotus, not Sussex but Asia!

    That’s romantic, for sure — while W.F.Kammann is writing the word the keeper is out there writing the real thing!

    While I’m writing Comments about the lotus on my iMac up in my office Clive Cobie is down by the pond writing real poems on water, and in long-hand — which I only found out when he volunteered to read two of his new poems to us at the table last night, drawing out of his pocket his own little hand-bound book.

    And when I asked him if everybody could see he said fine!

    ………………………………….Clive Cobie
    ………………………………….The Keeper’s Cottage
    ………………………………….Tittlesfield
    ………………………………….The Haven
    ………………………………….Billingshurst
    ………………………………….West Susex

    • wfkammann said,

      January 19, 2011 at 3:18 am

      A lovely poem. In the end Clive’s lotus transcends the murky waters and purges negativity. Certainly consistent with the image of the lotus as symbol for enlightenment, but is it really Romantic?

      By contrast, Heine’s lotus’ yearning ends only with the great pain of love. Her silent night-vigil is doomed from the start; her glistening a reflection of reflected light. Christopher, you say “that’s Romantic for sure” but are you? I would say Heine is romantic for sure and this…

  6. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 20, 2011 at 11:07 am


    .

    On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

    Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
    Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

    .

    Gustave Courbet

  7. wfkammann said,

    January 21, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Chapman’s translation is a century earlier than Pope’s. He died in poverty and debt.

    Is that Romantic?

    Clarke noted the passage which most impressed Keats (the emphasis is Clarke’s own):

    Then forth he came, his both knees faltring, both
    His strong hands hanging downe, and all with froth
    His cheeks and nosthrils flowing, voice and breath
    Spent all to use, and down he sunke to Death.
    The sea had soakt his heart through; all his vaines
    His toils had racked t’a laboring woman’s paines.
    Dead weary was he.

    Discovering a new planet (Uranus) or a new ocean (the Pacific)? Is that Romantic?

    Preferring Chapman to Pope and earning the scorn of Byron. Is that Romantic?

    Or is it Byron’s club foot that’s Romantic? Or Keat’s consumption?
    Puccini’s La bohème certainly is?

    Isn’t it?

  8. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 21, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I would give a few years of my life to have written those lines, to have had the foolishness and the verve and the unself-consciousnessthe cheek!

    And the last line in particular — just like he says.

    ~

    Just reading Moby Dick for the umpteenth time in an edition Herman Melville’s great grandson gave me when I was 10.

    This is what he wrote on the flyleaf:

    That changed my life in my humble way, as Keat’s was changed by Chapman at that moment, and Ishmael’s by Ahab.

    ~

    So what’s different about all those things that belong to the “realms of gold” that Keats’ knew so well in comparison to the possibilities Chapman revealed to him in his rendition of Homer?

    What lies behind the “wild surmise” that so seized Cortez’ men in Keats’ account of the moment, and what other artists depict it, and how?

  9. wfkammann said,

    January 22, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Soon his steady, ivory stride was heard, as to and fro he paced his old rounds, upon planks so familiar to his tread, that they were all over dented, like geological stones, with the peculiar mark of his walk. Did you fixedly gaze, too, upon that ribbed and dented brow; there also, you would see still stranger foot-prints–the foot-prints of his one unsleeping, ever-pacing thought.

    But on the occasion in question, those dents looked deeper, even as his nervous step that morning left a deeper mark. And, so full of his thought was Ahab, that at every uniform turn that he made, now at the main-mast and now at the binnacle, you could almost see that thought turn in him as he turned, and pace in him as he paced; so completely possessing him, indeed, that it all but seemed the inward mould of every outer movement.

    “D’ye mark him, Flask?” whispered Stubb; “the chick that’s in him pecks the shell. ‘Twill soon be out.”

    The hours wore on;–Ahab now shut up within his cabin; anon, pacing the deck, with the same intense bigotry of purpose in his aspect.

    It drew near the close of day. Suddenly he came to a halt by the bulwarks, and inserting his bone leg into the auger-hole there, and with one hand grasping a shroud, he ordered Starbuck to send everybody aft.

    “Sir!” said the mate, astonished at an order seldom or never given on ship-board except in some extraordinary case.

    “Send everybody aft,” repeated Ahab. “Mast-heads, there! come down!”
    When the entire ship’s company were assembled, and with curious and not wholly unapprehensive faces, were eyeing him, for he looked not unlike the weather horizon when a storm is coming up, Ahab, after rapidly glancing over the bulwarks, and then darting his eyes among the crew, started from his standpoint; and as though not a soul were nigh him resumed his heavy turns upon the deck. With bent head and half-slouched hat he continued to pace, unmindful of the wondering whispering among the men; till Stubb cautiously whispered to Flask, that Ahab must have summoned them there for the purpose of witnessing a pedestrian feat. But this did not last long. Vehemently pausing, he cried:–

    “What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?”

    “Sing out for him!” was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of clubbed voices.

    “Good!” cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones; observing the hearty animation into which his unexpected question had so magnetically thrown them.

    “And what do ye next, men?”

    “Lower away, and after him!”

    “And what tune is it ye pull to, men?”

    “A dead whale or a stove boat!”

    More and more strangely and fiercely glad and approving, grew the countenance of the old man at every shout; while the mariners began to gaze curiously at each other, as if marvelling how it was that they themselves became so excited at such seemingly purposeless questions.

    But, they were all eagerness again, as Ahab, now half-revolving in his pivot-hole, with one hand reaching high up a shroud, and tightly, almost convulsively grasping it, addressed them thus:–

    “All ye mast-headers have before now heard me give orders about a white whale. Look ye! d’ye see this Spanish ounce of gold?”–holding up a broad bright coin to the sun–“it is a sixteen dollar piece, men. D’ye see it? Mr. Starbuck, hand me yon top-maul.”
    While the mate was getting the hammer, Ahab, without speaking, was slowly rubbing the gold piece against the skirts of his jacket, as if to heighten its lustre, and without using any words was meanwhile lowly humming to himself, producing a sound so strangely muffled and inarticulate that it seemed the mechanical humming of the wheels of his vitality in him.

    Receiving the top-maul from Starbuck, he advanced towards the main-mast with the hammer uplifted in one hand, exhibiting the gold with the other, and with a high raised voice exclaiming: “Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw; whosoever of ye raises me that white-headed whale, with three holes punctured in his starboard fluke–look ye, whosoever of ye raises me that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!”

    “Huzza! huzza!” cried the seamen, as with swinging tarpaulins they hailed the act of nailing the gold to the mast.

    “It’s a white whale, I say,” resumed Ahab, as he threw down the topmaul: “a white whale. Skin your eyes for him, men; look sharp for white water; if ye see but a bubble, sing out.”

    All this while Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeg had looked on with even more intense interest and surprise than the rest, and at the mention of the wrinkled brow and crooked jaw they had started as if each was separately touched by some specific recollection.

    “Captain Ahab,” said Tashtego, “that white whale must be the same that some call Moby Dick.”

    “Moby Dick?” shouted Ahab. “Do ye know the white whale then, Tash?”

    “Does he fan-tail a little curious, sir, before he goes down?” said the Gay-Header deliberately.

    “And has he a curious spout, too,” said Daggoo, “very bushy, even for a parmacetty, and mighty quick, Captain Ahab?”

    “And he have one, two, three–oh! good many iron in him hide, too, Captain,” cried Queequeg disjointedly, “all twiske-tee be-twisk, like him–him–” faltering hard for a word, and screwing his hand round and round as though uncorking a bottle–“like him–him–”

    “Corkscrew!” cried Ahab, “aye, Queequeg, the harpoons lie all twisted and wrenched in him; aye, Daggoo, his spout is a big one, like a whole shock of wheat, and white as a pile of our Nantucket wool after the great annual sheep-shearing; aye, Tashtego, and he fan-tails like a split jib in a squall. Death and devils! men, it is Moby Dick ye have seen–Moby Dick–Moby Dick!”

    “Captain Ahab,” said Starbuck, who, with Stubb and Flask, had thus far been eyeing his superior with increasing surprise, but at last seemed struck with a thought which somewhat explained all the wonder. “Captain Ahab, I have heard of Moby Dick–but it was not Moby Dick that took off thy leg?”

    “Who told thee that?” cried Ahab; then pausing, “Aye, Starbuck; aye, my hearties all round; it was Moby Dick that dismasted me; Moby Dick that brought me to this dead stump I stand on now. Aye, aye,” he shouted with a terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose; “Aye, aye! it was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day!” Then tossing both arms, with measureless imprecations he shouted out: “Aye, aye! and I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out. What say ye, men, will ye splice hands on it, now? I think ye do look brave.”

    “Aye, aye!” shouted the harpooneers and seamen, running closer to the excited old man: “A sharp eye for the white whale; a sharp lance for Moby Dick!”

    ~

    In his letters Melville described the novel as a romantic and fanciful adventure, yet the final novel took a far different turn. During this time Melville had become deeply influenced by his author and neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose cynical and imposing works bear some resemblance to the tragic epic that Melville produced. Shifting away from the romantic adventure he had promised his publisher and influenced by Shakespeare and Hawthorne, Melville delivered instead a bleak and digressive narrative.

    The reputation of the novel floundered for many years, and it was only after Melville’s death that it became considered one of the major novels in American literature.

    A bleak and digressive narrative? Is that Romantic?

    Christopher,
    You must excuse my naïveté. I really AM interested in exploring just what Romantic means. A hopeless questing, an intimate emotion, suicide, the tragic flaw worn on one’s sleeve….. Is Hawthorne romantic? Starting in the 19th century we see Darwin, Humboldt, Scott and Hillary…. Where and when does it start and has it stopped yet? And just what is it? …The Romantic.

    And in painting; is it just the Caspar David Friedrich you post that’s Romantic? You seem to want to hint. Tell me: “What is Romantic?”

  10. wfkammann said,

    January 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    This was Hawthorne’s take on the man.

    “…took a pretty long walk together, and sat down in the hollow among the sand hills (sheltering ourselves from the high, cool wind) and smoked a cigar. Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity, and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he had pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persists — and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before — in wandering to and fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other.”

    Reminds me of someone I knew years ago in Paris, but I’ve lost touch with him.

  11. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    That was yours truly — and you lost him at the time but, whether fortunate or not, found him again, your shadow still lost without a label in the lost and found.

    ~

    Romantic = willing to be lost.

    Classical = willing to be found.

    The poles between which we are all hung out to dry.

    Christopher

  12. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I think the best description of the difference is still in that famous Keats’ letter upon which so much dreck has been written — because we all have to call upon our “clerk-like manner” to make sense out of it, and do. That’s why I want to quote it all, and not just lift out of it the hackneyed slogans and phrases which so bedevil all academic attempts to make sense of it, including my own.

    Keats never returned to the formulation either, at least as far as I know. And for very good reason. Indeed, just the thought of what might come to him brought the blood to his forehead he says in the following, poor guy.

    Call him Ishmael!

    To Richard Woodhouse…………………………….Hampstead, October 27, 1818

    My dear Woodhouse,
    Your Letter gave me a great satisfaction; more on account of its friendliness, than any relish of that matter in it which is accounted so acceptable in the ‘genus irritabile’. The best answer I can give you is in a clerk-like manner to make some observations on two princple points, which seem to point like indices into the midst of the whole pro and con, about genius, and views and achievements and ambition and cetera. 1st. As to the poetical Character itself (I mean that sort of which, if I am any thing, I am a Member; that sort distinguished from the wordsworthian or egotistical sublime; which is a thing per se and stands alone) it is not itself – it has no self – it is every thing and nothing – It has no character – it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated – It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the camelion Poet. It does no harm from its relish of the dark side of things any more than from its taste for the bright one; because they both end in speculation. A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity – he is continually in for – and filling some other Body – The Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them an unchangeable attribute – the poet has none; no identity – he is certainly the most unpoetical of all God’s Creatures. If then he has no self, and if I am a Poet, where is the Wonder that I should say I would write no more? Might I not at that very instant have been cogitating on the Characters of Saturn and Ops? It is a wretched thing to confess; but is a very fact that not one word I ever utter can be taken for granted as an opinion growing out of my identical nature – how can it, when I have no nature? When I am in a room with People if I ever am free from speculating on creations of my own brain, then not myself goes home to myself: but the identity of every one in the room begins so to press upon me that I am in a very little time annihilated – not only among Men; it would be the same in a Nursery of children: I know not whether I make myself wholly understood: I hope enough so to let you see that no despondence is to be placed on what I said that day.
    In the second place I will speak of my views, and of the life I purpose to myself. I am ambitious of doing the world some good: if I should be spared that may be the work of maturer years – in the interval I will assay to reach to as high a summit in Poetry as the nerve bestowed upon me will suffer. The faint conceptions I have of Poems to come brings the blood frequently into my forehead. All I hope is that I may not lose all interest in human affairs – that the solitary indifference I feel for applause even from the finest Spirits, will not blunt any acuteness of vision I may have. I do not think it will – I feel assured I should write from the mere yearning and fondness I have for the Beautiful even if my night’s labours should be burnt every morning, and no eye ever shine upon them. But even now I am perhaps not speaking from myself: but from some character in whose soul I now live. I am sure however that this next sentence is from myself. I feel your anxiety, good opinion and friendliness in the highest degree, and am
    ……………………………………………………………Your’s most sincerely
    ……………………………………………………………John Keats

    .

  13. wfkammann said,

    January 23, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Classic = willing to be found.

    Behind Mozart’s birth house in Salzburg is Fischer von Erlach’s Kollegienkirche.

    The church is a triumph of the late Baroque and the Italian stucco work is exceptional. No Gothic vault, no stained glass; nothing to press you down or make you feel small and insignificant. The architecture allows you to expand and fill the space.

    Very self affirming, yet very grand. The putti have certainly found each other. Originally there was no altar; only a stone tabernacle.

    Classic = willing to be found?

    You may be on to something here, Christopher.

  14. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Bill,
    You start this thread off with a Youtube clip of Rita Streich’s performance of Robert Schumann’s setting of Heinrich Heine’s “romantic” poem, “Die Lotusblume.”

    Listen to it again and ask if this music goes better in a Baroque setting or a Gothic? Does it sound more like the putti sporting themselves in the Kollegienkirche pure white plaster, or the naked lotus and the rank illicit lover in Heine’s poem (“der buhle” isn’t even in my Collins German Dictionary!!!)?

    Is the form, the tenor, the “brilliant” aesthetic of this setting, and Lieder in general, for that matter, what you listen to when you look out at the exquisite world of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting of the mighty artist confronting his wild, primordial landscape? And if you say definitely yes, as I do, then ask yourself if the same music could accompany Gustave Courbet’s vision of the wilderness as he expresses it in what he sees in his equally dramatic self portrait.

    Do you hear Rita Streich, her voice, her training, her nuance, her brilliant aesthetic, more in the Kollegienkirche in Salzburg or in Gaudi’s Sacra Famiilia in Barcelona, for example, in your fantasy of Galahad’s Grail Chapel or with your neck naked on the block before Sir Gawain’s Green Mound?

    In Lascaux or Grand Central Station?

    ~

    “The lotus rises above the mud and slime of the pool, yet depends on it for its existence. A symbol of the enlightened mind, the lotus gives birth to Buddhas.” That’s what you wrote at the end of your introduction to this thread.

    In my experience, when lotuses rise above the mud and the slime they usually end up with their necks cut off and thoroughly dead in a vase!

    Beautiful, inspiring, Good even, but dead.

    I’d take neck-nicked but head still connected to my feet.

    Christopher

  15. wfkammann said,

    January 24, 2011 at 5:04 am

    Romantic = willing to be lost

    The classic has nothing festering in it. Yes, they all have syphilis and are dying young but it’s not Romantic, it’s Tragic and Classic. Certainly Milton’s Satan is the inspiration for English Romantics but Satan is NOT romantic. He is tragic.

    The Romantic is like a festering sore that cannot be concealed. Keats’ letter tries to assure his friend even as he describes a scene where “the identity of every one in the room begins so to press upon me that I am in a very little time annihilated – not only among Men; it would be the same in a Nursery of children.” No self, no ego, nobody home, just a cypher standing in for others. Is it Romantic to be nobody?

    Hawthorne writes that Melville “informed me that he had pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief.”

    Nietzsche had God dead by then and everybody with a brain in his head knew it. Is that a precondition of the Romantic? The idea that we no longer have one magnificent and tragic sacrifice on the cross but are now left with the petty personal woes and emotions: the “paper moon floating over a cardboard sea”. Or is the Romantic the reaction to that fact? Neo-Gothic architecture, the longing for “the mediæval grace of iron clothing”.

    Think of Schumann’s fourth finger on his right hand. And Clara’s dalliance with that bearded lout. How they must have laughed at him, the self absorbed cuckold. Finally mad and institutionalized.

    Romantic = wrenching emotion, madness. Pain! Great Pain!!

    Enlightened Love and Equanimity are not Romantic. They are the antithesis of Romantic. They are blissful; serene; constant; eternal. Milton was blind but not pitiful. Great Enlightenment thinkers secretly said they believed in the God of Spinoza. When Rationality goes begging, does the Romantic seep in?

    Wagner, one of the worst scoundrels of all time, with his Aryan epic, his leitmotifs, his Liebestod. An egotistical bully burning Liszt’s furniture to keep warm. “I’m Entitled” was his motto. And yet his harmonies pave the way for Schoenberg and the annihilation of music. “O Du Lieber Augustin, Alles ist hin!”

  16. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

    There is no doubt in my mind that the second gravest obstacle to seeing clearly is trying to see clearly, the first being seeing clearly itself.

    Indeed, clarity for human beings comes at a terrible price: certainty, confidence, positivity, a sense of order that includes chaos at the one extreme and control at the other. Terrible. And of course that’s inevitably followed by collapse: yet another theory, religion, or breakthrough in science bursts upon the scene and enlightens us.

    Or anti-theory, anti-religion, anti-breakthrough in anything anywhere, equally.

    ~

    The lotus in the vase every time, i.e. with its heads cut off!

    ~

    Like the word “Spiritual,” which instantly destroys any possibility that whatever it might have indicated is still there.

    On the other hand, the unexamined life is truly not worth living, and we must find the courage to try even if we have to use our own eyes in the process — knowing our eyes are about as isolated from whatever it is that’s out there as anything except possibly the brain. (There are 130 million receptors in the retina but only 1.2 million fibers in the optic nerve, and the scrambled mess is upside down as well. And that’s before you even get to the synapses!)

    And then we freak out, and in some periods of history that’s seen as good and we’re, hey, Artists!

    ~

    The Buddha said that thinking is like a shoe we wear on the foot in order that the foot can eventually touch the ground. Wear the shoe long enough and the sole will wear out — think until you stop thinking!

    ~

    Sometimes a bit of tuberculosis, syphilis, or delirium tremens can speed up the process, as there’s no greater incentive to stop thinking than disintegration and death.

    Romantic = willing to be lost.

    On the other hand, lost isn’t really lost until you’re absolutely certain something has been found, as Galileo found out when he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, even to himself, that the earth revolved around the sun. He knew it didn’t, of course, and yet still it moved, he said, or whispered — down on his knees before the Altar of Truth. And we, his descendants, think he meant Science not Revelation, whereas he was big enough almost certainly to have meant BOTH!

    ~

    The shoe is worn out when you can’t think anymore — though who would wish that on anyone?

    Christopher

  17. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 25, 2011 at 8:54 am

    “On ne découvre pas de terre nouvelle sans consentir à perdre de vue, d’abord et longtemps, tout rivage.”
    …………………………………………………..André Gide, Les faux-monnayeurs (1925)

    [Trans: “One doesn’t discover new lands without first being willing to lose sight of, once and for all, the shore.”]

  18. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 25, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Nowadays that seems pretty obvious, but it didn’t always.

    The “rivage,” the “riviera,” the river bank where you tied your boat up, your port, in other words, or in a wider context, your village, church, manor, fort, barrack, corral or stable. Outside that shelter there were wolves and other creatures that had their territory too and didn’t want to share it with you, and that meant not just people out there, strangers, in other words, but ghosts and spirits. You didn’t go out there at all if you could possibly avoid it, which is why banishment was the worst possible penalty short of death that could be imposed upon a member of most communities in the past.

    And still is in many parts of the world.

    Protection, a safe, recognizable identity, that’s what you struggled for until very recently, and even artists, even poets, even scientists and philosophers sought protection and patronage. Only when those sort of people, artists, thinkers, stopped seeking protection, patronage, and permission, only then were they freed from the external restraints imposed by custom, tradition and religion, and could do what we call “be original” — which the vast majority of the people in the world today don’t want to be at all, including my wife and her family here in Chiang Mai. They want to be safe on the rivage. They want their artists to be like craftsmen, gifted, of course, but also satisfied with what everybody knows already. They don’t want anybody to take risks, including deciding to “express themselves” as we call it, “let it all hang out” or whatever.

    Most people aren’t interested at all in what’s out there, what’s alien, uncivilized, uncultivated, unwashed!

    (Christopher Columbus’ sailors were panicked — they hated every moment of the voyage, and he had to trick them to keep them going, make them feel they were much closer to home than they were.)

    ~

    The loneliness of the artist is a very new existential condition dating back just a couple of centuries. Indeed, we can date almost exactly when the misunderstood genius with his illnesses and bizarre behavior made his first appearance on the urban stage, hanging out with the low-life or up there in the grenier or garret. We can discuss the sociological pressures that made him too, both to be despised and to feel superior because of it — inevitably mostly Marxist.

    ~

    Romantic = willing to be lost.

    Classic = willing to be found.

    ~

    Now what’s really interesting is to look back over all this material and winnow it for value.

    What are we saying? Where does this go?

    Where do we go?

    Christopher

  19. wfkammann said,

    January 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    WE are off to Ecuador for a few weeks to visit the Lovers of Sumpa.

    Are they Romeo and Juliet 5,000 B.C. or a couple of adulterers who were stoned to death?

    Romantic or Classic?

  20. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    If a Chinese watercolor, a Japanese rock garden, a Hopi Indian sand painting, a Paleolithic cave site, or a Tibetan charnel ground — Classic.

    In the context of this thread, i.e. in the muddled heads of a couple of old men hard at work in the Lotus Born Lost-and-Found of our memories, dreams and reflections — Romantic.

    Finding out where we are by first acknowledging we’re lost.


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