Monday, September 29, 2008

Musings in Stockholm

So does it matter to see the gold leaf in the Golden Hall of The City Hall of Stockholm? Would it be more than seeing: feeling, say. Sensing, experiencing, re-experiencing all that has transpired, all that is represented there. Certainly it would be extraordinary to set foot in this place. But would it be life changing? Would I be cheating myself to miss it? Is it even open today to tourists? I think of Notre Dame, Chartres--even the Golden Gate bridge. And I wonder how I am changed by having visited these places? Am I changed by them?

Travel can be a sort of conquering, I realize. A tally, an accumulation of destinations. A passport can become document from which to brag: "Look, I've been here and here and here!" Postcards too, for that matter:

"Greetings from Stockholm--ha! Who'd have thought?!?"

I don't mean to be bragging when I write this. I am not bragging. But I might as well be. Does my family need to see an image of this place they will never visit? And why is it we have gravitated to the cities? Do I want to encounter all the great cities of the world one by one? After all, there is a whole world beyond these cities that is all but irrelevant to what goes on in them.

Why am I here?

There is too much smoking here, I know that. For all their consciousness about biking and recycling, spas and saunas and etcetera, I wouldn't expect this. Why don't they just stop smoking? That would make a huge difference. Extend lives. Provide clean air to all beings great and small.

Why am I here? Am I here to experience Love's particular way with the Swedes? To determine what is present, what is missing in this realm?

So much rushing: a city is for rushing. And why? Why is all this rushing, this busyness necessary? Nothing is urgent, really. Nothing. Not even medical emergencies are urgent. The presumed urgency (sirens, ambulances, medics rushing) is to prevent death--ha! As if death can be avoided. Do we want to live forever? We avoid it, forestall it at all costs, yet death is the prize. We don't understand this. Or we don't live as though it is true. Death is the prize, my friend, the award that waits patiently for our eventual acceptance of it.

The "German church" is very old. It sits perched upon Gamla Stan. Hessam took us by there last night. We peered into--through--one stained glass panel. "The mother of God," I called it. It was beautiful, indeed. There is even more beauty inside, I am certain. I will make it there today, our last day--see for myself feel...
; I will make it there, or I will not. I will make it to the Golden Hall or I will not. For how, how is this any less beautiful, to sit in full sun upon this bench supported by cobblestones, the sparkle of trembling water displayed like a luscious repast before me; the chirp-tweet-peep of this bird in the willow above me could not be sweeter. How could those rooms be more beautiful than this?

Life is enough, it is. It is enough to live well, no matter where I place myself, where I find myself, where I choose to do that living. Rushing is not what living is about. Rushing is for those who have forgotten how to live. Some fill their bellies with too much food to conquer the emptiness that comes of forgetting. Forgetting is an exodus, an eviction of sorts. Some rush to maintain their forgetting.

My mind moves to a photographic exhibition in Paris. March, 2008: Saul Leiter, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. I could describe a handful of the images for you: many were indeed memorable and have stayed with me. But what is most lasting is the synergy, the way in which we were so wonderfully (gracefully, joyfully, richly, smoothly), my beloved and me, together. We flowed, and Life flowed with us. We moved with Her as through music.

You can try to tell me that we are the same in different places, just the same no matter the place, but I won't believe you. That's crazy. It's like saying I am exactly the same no matter who I am with, and this is not so. There is a chemistry, an exchange, an interchange: interaction, reaction. There is harmony or disharmony or something in between: this one brings out the worst in me, and this one, the best. That's just the way it is.

And so I tell you this: Stockholm is not our place. It is a strange thing perhaps to say about such a pristine, achingly beautiful, romantic and dynamic place, but it's true. I knew it early on. Our challenge here has been one of pacing. Pacing and timing. We have been asynchronous here, and I can't say exactly why. Is it the aggression, the hardness that rises to the surface now and then and is not beautiful? In any case, the task has become to survive this city. We will get out in the nick of time.

It could be that I am dying, I think, and what follows that thought is this one: of course. Of course I am dying. It's only a question of sooner or later.

I am exhausted: this I know. Did I let Stockholm exhaust me? I do believe so. Did I come here to consume something? To take from Stockholm? What have I to give to Stockholm? In the abstract, lots. In reality, very little. Very little because Stockholm is not my place, our place. Stockholm is a fine first date after which there will not be a second: Stockholm is an exquisitely beautiful city I will never love. Why? I don't know. I know that it feels good--very very good--to be writing. I know that a banana never tasted sweeter than this one I've exhumed from my bag, my "stolen" banana from the hotel. But I don't know why I will never love Stockholm. And anyway, why ask why? Some things are just so. You live with them, live by them. You do not try to change them.

This week, I have not loved well. I am suddenly not fashionable enough, not worldly enough, not quick enough, not wealthy enough, not beautiful enough. Would travels to all the great cities of the world redeem me? I sure hope not. To wear my passport stamps like badges: what would that prove? Life is not time to be filled, nor is it a series of destinations to be claimed. Life is already complete. Nothing more needs to be brought to Its table, already abundantly, lavishly, elegantly set. The perfect atmosphere has been provided for our Loving. We pull up to the table and allow ourselves to be nourished, or we do not. Sometimes, every now and then, we get a glimpse of Providence. We breathe--respire--and with that breath relax the tight hold we keep on things. Life loves this! "Ah!..." it seems to say, "at last! At long last I can have my way with you."

No sooner are we delighted than we are lost again: poof. It is as if we had been sprinkled with fairy dust, but the dust has worn off. We are back to our own devices and our struggle.

I have lost my way, my relationship with ease this week. I have bedded down with struggle. It has not served me well, this choice, but I chose it anyway.

Why? What has happened here?


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