Friday, July 04, 2003
From ‘Le Voyage’ by Charles Baudelaire – First stanza
For the child, in love with globe, and stamps,
the universe equals his vast appetite.
Ah! How great the world is in the light of the lamps!
In the eyes of memory, how small and slight!
We yearn for what we will not have. Whether trying to rekindle lost memories, seeking to achieve inner peace or attempting to rid ourselves from existential ennui; yearning becomes our constant companion and driving force. It’s the mind’s subconscious ticker tape, beaming a non-stop amalgam of passion, melancholia and purposeful intent. 24 hrs a day.
Yearning in Abkhazia
Murat Yagan, who was born in Abkhazia. The region, tucked into a corner of Georgia on the shores of the Black Sea, is famous for its long-lived Circassian people, its traditions of honor, hospitality and chivalry, and for a philosophy called "Kebzeh."
Yagan, now 87, is working to preserve Kebzeh for future generations, and to help it spread beyond Abkhazia's borders.
Yagan, says Kebzeh could be of immense value to the world. The tradition stresses a rigorous program of character building. Yagan as a youth learned martial arts, horsemanship, and rules of civility, manners and etiquette.
"It is based on... universal values," says Vyacheslav Chirikhba, an Abkhazian diplomat. "The respect for elders, respect for women. A person is regarded as someone who is a member of society, rather than as a completely isolated individual."
Says Yagan: "Yearning,is the only means to elevate human motivation from survival to ascension in the direction of an unknown better."
The Nature of Yearning
There is a loneliness in the masses of humans that scares me sometimes. To walk a crowded street may seem horrible and frightening compared to the serene beauty of Nature. When sadness grabs hold of my soul I seek the calm solitude of the forest or the streaming water. There I can rest and let Nature's unconscious patterns sweep into me and fill me with an incomparable calm. Amongst the trees, or close to the water, I feel safe and my thoughts adapt to the rhythmic flow of life around me. The languid motion of foliage or the neverending chaos of water can amaze me for hours and leave nothing but calm and beauty in my soul. Those are the times I am filled with the yearning and the poetry of Nature itself.
Torgny Bjers – ENCYCLOPAEDIA KARDIA – Nature of Yearning
"All the activities of life seem merely expedient — only a shadow play without substance. I am suffering within my skin, within the hollows of my skull. I yearn to live with purpose, yet my eyes are too coated to perceive worthwhile purposes in the 'get up/go to work/come home/eat/watch television/go to bed humdrum.' I ask others why they are doing what they are doing. After they say they are making a living or starting their kids through the same ultimate process, I ask them again. Then they say they don't know!
‘On love and lust’
Love does not depend on reciprocation. Its nature is permanence, a quality of our immortal soul. Love does not need to get anything or any response—it is self-sustaining.
If we say we love someone, mate with them and after a time there are no feelings of inner fulfillment, we have been immersed in lust, not the permanence of love. We have only been depending on the partner to fill our sense needs.
Real human love manifests at the time on our spiritual path when we begin to care about others as well as ourselves. People whose consciousness is centered on their sense gratification will not be able to experience an interchange of love with another person.
Yearning for America
Excerpt from a letter to the editor – Wall Street Journal May 23, 2002-09-03
‘More importantly, people around the world yearn to hear American music, to see American videos, to understand American ideals, to glimpse American freedom, and to taste a better life.
Nothing frightens the followers of Osama bin Laden more than the dissemination of American ideas; why should we stand in the way?’
‘The Femme Fatale has just one chink in the armour of her self regard. Deep down, she knows the men in her life are all scumbags, and that her success will last only as long as her beauty. She yearns to find a strong but decent guy who will see through to her inner self - a yearning sometimes strong enough to make her throw caution (and common sense) to the winds.’
One may conclude from the ‘evidence’ that I've gathered that ‘The Yearning’ offers only open ends. It knows
victorer nor loser, and holds reciprocation constantly at bay. Yearning is the thread of exploration that we cling to until our death.
In the last stanza of ‘Le Voyage’ Baudelaire pleads for emboldenment and recklessness:
Pour out your poison, and dissolve our fears!
Its fire so burns our minds, we yearn, it’s true,
to plunge to the Void’s depths, Heaven or Hell, who cares?
Into the Unknown’s depths, to find the new.
posted by Walter at 7/04/2003
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
VACHEL LINDSAY – Ventriloquist to "The Beats"
I read a wonderful anecdote in “Robert Graves – His Life and His Work” by Martin Seymour- Smith. The passage occurs in a letter written in 1920 by Graves (1895-1985); the renegade poet and WW1 veteran. Graves describes an occasion whereby he, in a mischievous scheme, ventured to shock the lethargic and predisposed Oxford community with a tremor of his own making.
At the time Graves was reading English at Oxford’s School of English, then headed by Sir Walter Raleigh. He soon found the English teaching tedious, which rallied him to “wake Oxford up”. Graves managed to persuade Raleigh to invite the Illinois poet and artist Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) to recite his poetry at Oxford. At the time Lindsay was on a visit in England, for recitations at Cambridge University, and Westminster Central Hall.
Lindsay: performer, storyteller, traveler and entertainer had honed a unique public signature. Instead of presenting dour discourse, Lindsay; the “Preacher of the Gospel of Beauty”; looked at poetry as a theatrical performance which he dubbed “The Higher Vaudeville”. Vachel Lindsay was a troubadour, who injected his recitations with aural and visual stimuli, a feat generally performed for an attendance of middle-class business- and women’s clubs. An iconoclast in his time, Lindsay was an early precursor and architect to the Jazz Poets and the Beat Generation.
From the letter that Robert Graves wrote to a friend at the same day of Lindsay’s performance at Oxford, 19 October 1920:
“Vachel Lindsay was a staggering success. I meant to hit Oxford a pretty heavy blow by arranging for his invitation by the University, but did not expect to inflict a knockout as occurred…. By two minutes, Lindsay had the respectable and intellectual and cynical audience listening. By ten, intensely excited: by twenty elated and losing self control, by half an hour completely under his influence, by forty minutes roaring like a bonfire. At the end of the hour they lifted off the roof and refused to disperse, and Raleigh in returning thanks said he had never been so moved by a recitation in his life- quite like the pictures.”
“Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” is one of Vachel Lindsay’s better known poems.
Imagine Lindsay ‘reading’ the poem in a fashion much like the following account from: The West-Going Heart: A Life of Vachel Lindsay, by Eleanor Ruggles, which describes Lindsay reading a first performance of “The Congo” before a gathering of parents, neighbors, and other residents of Springfield, Illinois, Lindsay’s hometown:
“When the citizens saw him stand up and throw back his head and heard him emit his barbaric "Boomlays" ("Simply bellowing," remarked one of them), when they saw his eyes begin to roll like a man's in a fit and his hands shoot from the cuffs of his dress suit and jab the air and his body rock and shoulders weave to the tom-tom beat of "Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo," they sat at first stunned. The performance took seven minutes. As it went on and on, a few people turned away their heads to hide their embarrassment but many more let out snorts and giggles that swelled a rising wave of laughter.”
ABRAHAM LINCOLN WALKS AT MIDNIGHT
(In Springfield, Illinois)
It is portentous, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house pacing up and down,
Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yards
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.
A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.
He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.
He is among us:--as in times before!
And we who toss and lie awake for long
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.
'His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why,
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.
The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnoughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.
He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn-
Shall come;--the shining hope of Europe free:
The league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.
It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seen yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?
From: The Congo and other poems (1915)
Though Lindsay found a receptive audience in the Oxford community, another account quoted from “American memoir” of a Lindsay reading given at Yale University; paints a less indulgent and almost foreboding picture. It may help to understand why Lindsay was eventually led to his untimely and tragic death:.
From “American Memoir” by Henry Seidel Canby:
“The nice boys from the ivory towers of the best schools and the Gothic dormitories of Yale tittered at first. But as he began to swing the persuasive rhythms of General William Booth Enters Into Heaven and The Congo, and as the rich imagery lifted the homely language into poetry, they warmed, and soon were chanting with him. Yet to them it was only a show--America, a rather vulgar America speaking, but not literature as they had been taught to regard literature.”
On December 5 1931 Vachel Lindsay committed suicide, drinking a bottle of Lysol.
Allen Ginsberg, the driving nucleus of the Beat Generation, wrote a tribute which testifies to a lasting kinship with Vachel Lindsay in Kaddish 44:
Vachel, the stars are out
dusk has fallen on the Colorado road
a car crawls slowly across the plain
in the dim light the radio blares its jazz
the heartbroken salesman lights another cigarette
In another city 27 years ago
I see your shadow on the wall
you're sitting in your suspenders on the bed
the shadow hand lifts up a Lysol bottle to your head
your shade falls over on the floor
ROBERT GRAVES - His Life and His Work, by Martin Seymour-Smith. Hutchinson 1982.
posted by Walter at 7/02/2003
Sunday, June 29, 2003
“I was too talented to save myself”
Karl Lagerfeld – Johannes B.Kerner Show- May 2002
In October 2002 last I watched the Johannes.B.Kerner Show on German ZDF TV, which featured Karl Lagerfeld as its principal guest. The interview had been taped earlier that year and documented among other things Lagerfeld’s successful diet regime, conducted jointly with French dietician Dr. Jean-Claude Houdret. Purportedly the diet was comprised of cacti, fish and horse meat. Lagerfeld shed a massive 42 kilos as a result of the purgatory, slimming down to an almost anorexic 60 kg.
The Johannes B.Kerner show first started in 1998 and since 2002 has been on air 4 times a week. The broadcast rates as one of Germany’s foremost talk shows; reaching a 2 million plus audience. For the occasion the prodigal son Lagerfeld was given carte blanche and a solo podium, an exception in an otherwise 3 guests format.
During the broadcast a relaxed and informal Lagerfeld (aka Kaiser Karl) appeared dressed in atypical attire: clad in a pair of ultra-slim Diesel blue jeans (size 25), combined with a Hedi Slimane black jacket, a high collared white shirt, and black tie.
Kerner countered the rejuvenated, talkative and high spirited Lagerfeld, who was eager to engage the host’s questions concerning his diet: “I am a Museum at the front, and a Lyceum at the back”, or questions relating to his privileged youth in Hamburg: “I have no connection to my past”, as well as his troubled relationship with an eccentric mother: “(Carl) You’re so dumb, you could compete with von Ribbentrop”.
Presenting the host with a regal portrait of himself shot by Helmut Newton, a close friend who photographed him over many years, he commented: “That’s how my mother would have liked to see me best, looking like von Rathenau or Stresemann” Later during the interview he would state casually: “I had a wonderful childhood, my parents were never there”.
Lagerfeld, a precocious and cosmopolitan youth with a propensity for linguistics went to Paris at age 15: from then onwards he would embark on a Protean career, first to become an assistant to Pierre Balmain at age 17, where he would stay for three years. Another three years later at age 20 he was offered a position as artistic director at Jean Patou, a happy but fairly humdrum occupation for him at the time, nevertheless one which helped him broaden his interest into other venues; such as history, architecture, music, and specifically the French 18th century.
His big break and subsequent status as a foremost fashion designer and visionary came in the 60s when Lagerfeld capitalized on the emerging ready-to-wear market. He became an independent fashion operative, who would design anything from clothes, fabrics, to accessories. Currently Karl Lagerfeld produces 7 collections a year: for his own line, Chanel, and furs for Fendi.
Lagerfeld has also been active as a costume designer for both Opera and the Cinema. He published anthologies of photographs, illustrated books, and has since become publisher, artist, and designer combined. During the Kerner interview Lagerfeld professed of his zest for everything related to paper. He estimates to have accumulated a personal library of more then 230.000 books and manuscripts. Yet Lagerfeld is not a person steeped in the past. He considers himself a Renaissance man, dedicated to craft and technology alike: “Thinking in terms of “The good old days” is a contamination of the presence”.
Recently he switched to digital photography, and opened a bookstore in Paris as well. Aptly called Editions 7L (his lucky number). The capital L also identifies Lagerfeld, Librairie, and Lille, which stands for 7 Rue de Lille, where the store is located.
To complete the 7L conundrum: 7L also serves as a witty linguistic pun in French: sept elle, can be pronounced as “C’est Elle”, meaning “It’s her”.
In the Kerner show the tanned, pony-tailed, bespectacled and manicured Lagerfeld: “I am not an exhibitionist”, dictated his style Bible to an amused and empathic host, who was accompanied by an animated studio audience, eager to indulge in KL’s barrage of personal maxims and wise-cracks: “I can write equally fast as I’m talking”, “I don’t drink, so I never attend cocktails”, “My problem is, I never tried hard enough”, “I am a façade”, “I am an ancient spoilt child”, “My only podium is life”, “Loneliness is a luxury.”, and so on.
Lagerfeld belongs to that rare species of artist enamored with the Midas touch. Always eager to play down his luck, he has shed a previously industrialist image and reinvented himself; a move that could endear him to a younger audience. Karl Lagerfeld can be typified as an astute survivor and veritable latter day Proteus; beamed by the Gods, blessed with the enviable capacity to slip past the caprices of actuality, and stay out of fashion’s snake pits (-).
In an interview with PaperMag editor Kim Hastreiter Lagerfeld offered his own explanation for his enduring creative genius:
“In my work, I never have the feeling that I have done enough. I have this stupid attitude; I always think I could do more, I could do better. Therefore, I have to start again. As long as I'm doing something, I believe in it, but as soon as it's finished, I feel I can make the next one better. I think it's very healthy if you're not attached to your own past. I do nothing else. I don't go out a lot. I don't tell myself I'm so busy. I just do it.”
Oddly enough Karl Lagerfeld remains a celebrity sans bio. None has ventured yet to write his biography; official or unofficial. As to the reason why? KL made a fleeting comment regarding to this matter himself in the above quoted Johannes B.Kerner Show:
“Nobody can write my biography, none knows me including myself.”
For the PaperMag interview: http://www.papermag.com/magazine/mag_01/mag_sept01/karl_lagerfeld/p2.html
posted by Walter at 6/29/2003