melting & burning


Face to face – Zalman Shneour (1927)
May 19, 2014, 2:11 am
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LISTEN (Yiddish)

It’s a frightful terror, to remain
with yourself face to face;
you’re mirrored in the world-abyss,
an endless spiral staircase.

The quiet weeps. The blue above
is desert, bare and hot;
you flee to hubbub, to streetlights,
towards the steaming pot.

You water down the bitterness
add onions, something sweet.
You cuddle up to every dog,
in dirt you warm your feet.

As winter comes you stockpile Love,
with the coal, oil and wood –
“I lie to you and you to me
this way we both feel good!”

* * *

I’m drawn to him whose cradle once
was rocked by a gale
who grew up vagabond and free,
at odds with God and Devil

who resists sinking like a fly
in sticky happiness
or being bound by friendship’s cords
like a horse in harness.

Who locks away his sufferings
like pearls in a drawer
and shares or sows each bit of joy
declining thanks at all.

Hands full of strength, soul full of light
and a face like a stone…
Calmly to gaze upon himself
in the abyss, can he alone.

Translated by Leigh Fetter and Andrew Firestone

 

– מיט זיך צו בלײבן אױג אױף אױג
;דאָס איז אַ גרױסער שרעק
דאָס איז אַ שפּיגלען זיך אין תּהום
.אַ שװינדל-טרעפּ אָן עק

– די שטילקײט װײנט. די פּוסטקײט בלױט
;אַ מדבר איבערן קאָפּ
.מען לױפֿט צום טומל, צו אַ לאָמפּ
.צום פּאַרעדיקן טאָפּ

,מען װאַסערט-צו די ביטערקײט
;מען ציבלט זי, מען זיסט
,מען טוליעט זיך צו יעדן הונט
.מען װאַרעמט זיך אין מיסט

,מען גרײט אױף װינטער ליבשאַפֿט אָן
:– װי האָלץ און נאַפֿט און קױל
,איך – דיר אַ ליגן און דו – מיר”
“!…און ס’איז אונז בײדן װאױל

* * *

מיך ציט צו יענע, װעמענס װיג
;אַ שטורעם האָט געװיגט
,װער ס’איז געװאַקסן האַרט און פֿרײ
.מיט גאָט און שד צעקריגט

,װער ס’היט זיך זינקען, װי אַ פֿליג
;אין קלעפּעדיקן גליק
צי, װי אַ פֿערד, געפּענטעט שטײן
.אין פֿרײנדשאַפֿטלעכע שטריק

,װער גרױסע װײטאָקן באַהאַלט
;װי פּערל אין אַ שאַנק
און טײלט און זײט זײן ביסל פֿרײד
.און שעמט זיך פֿאַר אַ דאַנק

,די הענט פֿול קראַפֿט, די זעל פֿול ליכט,
…דער פּנים װי אַ שטײן
,נאָר דער קאָן רואיק אָנקוקן
.אין װעלט-תּהום, זיך אַלײן

Thank you Yiddishpoetry.org!

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January 13, 2014, 4:24 pm
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Man, then, in his quality of an isolated individual, only sees, hears, touches, tastes, and smells in so far as is necessary for living and self-preservation. If he does not perceive colours below red or above violet, the reason perhaps is that the colours which he does perceive suffice for the purposes of self-preservation. And the senses themselves are simplifying apparati which eliminate from objective reality everything that it is not necessary to know in order to utilize objects for the purpose of preserving life. In complete darkness an animal, if it does not perish, ends by becoming blind. Parasites which live in the intestines of other animals upon the nutritive juices which they find ready prepared for them by these animals, as they do not need either to see or hear, do in fact neither see nor hear; they simply adhere, a kind of receptive bag, to the being upon whom they live. For these parasites the visible and audible world does not exist. It is enough for them that the animals, in whose intestines they live, see and hear.

–Miguel de Unamuno, Tragic Sense of Life 



Spinoza on being
January 13, 2014, 9:45 am
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From Miguel de Unamuno’s Tragic Sense of Life (text here)

To be a man is to be something concrete, unitary, and substantive; it is to be a thing—res. Now we know what another man, the man Benedict Spinoza, that Portuguese Jew who was born and lived in Holland in the middle of the seventeenth century, wrote about the nature of things. The sixth proposition of Part III. of his Ethic states: unaquoeque res, quatenus in se est, in suo esse perseverare conatur—that is, Everything, in so far as it is in itself, endeavours to persist in its own being. Everything in so far as it is in itself—that is to say, in so far as it is substance, for according to him substance is id quod in se est et per se concipitur—that which is in itself and is conceived by itself. And in the following proposition, the seventh, of the same part, he adds: conatus, quo unaquoeque res in suo esse perseverare conatur, nihil est proeter ipsius rei actualem essentiam—that is, the endeavour wherewith everything endeavours to persist in its own being is nothing but the actual essence of the thing itself. This means that your essence, reader, mine, that of the man Spinoza, that of the man Butler, of the man Kant, and of every man who is a man, is nothing but the endeavour, the effort, which he makes to continue to be a man, not to die. And the other proposition which follows these two, the eighth, says: conatus, quo unaquoeque res in suo esse perseverare conatur, nullum tempus finitum, sed indefinitum involvit—that is, The endeavour whereby each individual thing endeavours to persist involves no finite time but indefinite time. That is to say that you, I, and Spinoza wish never to die and that this longing of ours never to die is our actual essence.



January 13, 2014, 9:36 am
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Man is said to be a reasoning animal. I do not know why he has not been defined as an affective or feeling animal. Perhaps that which differentiates him from other animals is feeling rather than reason. More often I have seen a cat reason than laugh or weep. Perhaps it weeps or laughs inwardly—but then perhaps, also inwardly, the crab resolves equations of the second degree.

And it is useless to speak, as we shall see, of men who are healthy and men who are not healthy. Apart from the fact there is no normal standard of health, nobody has proved that man is necessarily cheerful by nature. And further, man, by the very fact of being man, of possessing consciousness, is, in comparison with the ass or the crab, a diseased animal. Consciousness is a disease.

Among men of flesh and bone there have been typical examples of those who possess this tragic sense of life. I recall now Marcus Aurelius, St. Augustine, Pascal, Rousseau, René, Obermann, Thomson, Leopardi, Vigny, Lenau, Kleist, Amiel, Quental, Kierkegaard—men burdened with wisdom rather than with knowledge.

–Miguel de Unamuno, Tragic Sense of Life 

Text here



January 3, 2014, 12:35 pm
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“What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human … is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.”

— David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest



I – Rabindranath Tagore
November 18, 2013, 7:41 pm
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I wonder if I know him
In whose speech is my voice,
In whose movement is my being,
Whose skill is in my lines,
Whose melody is in my songs
In joy and sorrow.
I thought he was chained within me,
Contained by tears and laughter,
Work and play.
I thought he was my very self
Coming to an end with my death.
Why then in a flood of joy do I feel him
In the sight and touch of my beloved?
This ‘I’ beyond self I found
On the shores of the shining sea.
Therefore I know
This’I’ is not imprisoned within my bounds.
Losing myself, I find him
Beyond the borders of time and space.
Through the Ages
I come to know his Shining Self
In the Iffe of the seeker,
In the voice of the poet.
From the dark clouds pour the rains.
I sit and think:
Bearing so many forms, so many names,
I come down, crossing the threshold
Of countless births and deaths.
The Supreme undivided, complete in himself,
Embracing past and present,
Dwells in Man.
Within Him I shall find myself –
The ‘I’ that reaches everywhere.