Saturday, January 8, 2011

In These Bodies

The Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague
In these bodies we will live.
In these bodies we will die, and
Where you invest you love
You invest your life.

- Mumford & Sons, "Awake My Soul"

* * *

The world is pocked with sacred sites, places where believers believe, where memory is not the past, but the present. These places usually have a connection to death. Sometimes on a grand scale (Gettysburg, Auschwitz, all of Cambodia), sometimes on a more personal scale (Yeats' gravesite, the Taj Mahal, etc). These places become sacred to the living because we are spooked by the death they echo. These are places of no answers, only longing.

One of these places is the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague. It is sacred on many, many levels. For believers it is the ground that took in the bones of Rabbi Loew, the creator of the Golem. For the rest of humanity it is a staggering testament to the fact that prior to WWII over 600,000 Jews called Prague home, and after the war, well, you know that answer.

There are still more intimate places of the sacred that are known only to the one who understands those places to be sacred. For me the list would included the spot alongside a tiny creek in SW Michigan where I scattered my father's ashes, a restaurant where the meal was useless, but the company the best I have known, the corner of Ridge and Noyes in Evanston, the "L" platform at Wilson, the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, 2716 W. 84th Pl, and on and on until the list is so long, so complete that I have included every bit of ground I have touched since I first touched the ground.

I have said elesewhere here, that to unfuck your life you have to give thanks for all of your life - the painful, shitty parts as well as the days and nights your life slid in greased grooves, and it is so. It is so. But because you are fucked, you won't be able to believe it. And that sucks for you.

But riddle me this, since you know your time is finite why are you wasting it in useless suffering, in fearful dithering, and for no reason other than your pride is wounded by the inherent unfairness of knowing your time is finite?

* * *

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin:
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing did we make.)

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved.)

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)

- T. Roethke, "I Knew A Woman"

* * *

My fucked friends, you should do more fucking. The world is not a playground with set rules, but rather an empty canvas wherein you create the rules. The sacred soaks from every pore and covers each whether we notice it or not, whether we believe it or not. It is simply the nature of nature to be so. You fuck yourself when you try to tame, conquer or suss out the infinite. You are here to make a stand, to make investments in the prosaic nature of the infinite. You are here to love the fact you are here.

Each place is sacred. Each person you encounter the same, and of course, so too the one you see in the mirror. Quit acting like this is a big deal. Get in there and enjoy yourself. See what you can make of it with the time you have left. If you let yourself enter the stream, there will never be enough time anyway, but that's not the point. Is it?

Jump in. The water's fine.


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