solitary

“Reachable, near and not lost, those remained amid the losses this one thing: language.

horsetooth reservoir… Nikon D750 f/7.1 1/25s 85mm 100 ISO

“It, the language remained, not lost, yes in spite of everything. But it had to pass through its wounded wordlessness, pass through frightful muting, pass through the thousand darknesses of deathbringing speech. It passed through and giveback no words for that which happened.” ~Paul Celan* (cited: V. Schwarcz, Bridge Across Broken Time p. 85)

*Poet, translator, essayist, and lecturer, influenced by French Surrealism and Symbolism. Celan was born in Cernăuţi, at the time Romania, now Ukraine, he lived in France, and wrote in German. His parents were killed in the Holocaust; the author himself escaped death by working in a Nazi labor camp. “Death is a Master from Germany”, Celan’s most quoted words, translated into English in different ways, are from the poem ‘Todesfuge’ (Death Fugue). Celan’s body was found in the Seine river in late April 1970, he had committed suicide.

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…illuminated by electric bulbs

Exile’s Hope

light blub

 We become one man

awash in dreams

as you tell old stories

from back home.

The string of recollection

rouses new hope:

maybe here,

in exile,

we will craft

even livelier tales,

brimming with wonder,

illuminated by electric bulbs,

mirroring the sheen

of ancient cinnabar.

This night’s prattle

meanders along a foreign river,

revives a sorrow soul

as if no earthy shadows followed.

                           ~ Chen Yinke*

 

*cited in:

Ancestral Intelligence

Vera Schwarcz

memory

if I go to heaven I will forget you,

and

if I go to hell you will forget me.*

memoryportraiture
self portraiture created through the use of mixed media

In China a person who will not forget the past is described as ‘one who did not drink Old Lady Meng’s soup.’ Borrowed from Buddhist folklore, Old Lady Meng dispenses the Broth of Oblivion to souls leaving the last realm of the underworld on their way to reincarnation. After drinking her soup, the soul is directed to the Bridge of pain that spans a river of crimson water. There, two demons lie in wait: Life-Is-Not-Long and Death-is-Near. They hurl the soul into waters that will lead to new births.

Old Lady Meng is more than a quaint antidote for the Greeks’ Mnemosyne. She embodies a psychological understanding about the forces that promote, indeed demand, forgetting for the sake of ongoing life.  It is not enough to note that water is linked with amnesia in Chinese folklore as much the same way that the river Lethe is associated with forgetting in Greek mythology. The challenge here is to make sense of the distinctively Chinese attachment to remembrance in spite of the benefits of Old Lady Meng’s soul.

In Jewish tradition, too, the benefits of amnesia were acknowledged along with the sacred commitment to recollection. There is a midrash, or Torah-based story, that teaches us a lesson similar to that of Lady Meng: ‘God granted Adam and Eve an all-important blessing as they were about to leave the Garden of Eden: I give you, He said, ‘the gift of forgetfulness.” What is so precious about amnesia? Why would God, who demands fidelity to memory, offer the relief from recollection? Perhaps it is because without some ability to forgive and forget me might become bound by grudges and hatred. To remember everything may be immobilizing. To flee from memory, however, leads to an ever more debilitating frenzy.(40-41)**

source:

*Arang and the Magistrate

Munhwa broadcasting corporation 

**Bridge Across Broken Time

Vera Schwarcz