Monday, August 4, 2008

Hamburg 2.1.2000: Die Pilgerin and Living into the Millennium

On the train home new year’s morning, all the sodden and sedate revelers around me, all I could wonder about was how people forget. How do we forget the 8 million Jews? The mentally and physically challenged, the gays, the Slavs, the Gypsies?

How have we so quickly forgotten the sheer facticity of slavery? How have we—our churches—forgotten segregation, which we defended? How does anyone celebrate again, with such unatoned-for guilt hanging over us?

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A detailed dream last night, visiting my father’s law office, with an inner dialogue going on inside me: I recognize that I give too little honor or attention to my father, and that it would mean much to him to have these; and at the same time, his drunken meanness has leached respect out of my heart.

It strikes me as I record the vivid details of this dream in my journal that I’ve now lived beyond the year in which my father died—i.e., 13th December of my 49th year. The dream/my inner self invites me to make peace with my father? As I write that it would be important to him for me to show honor, I actually write important to me.

My father’s gone. I live on. How to do so, the dream seems to ask? My vocation’s teaching, but in the dream, my office is contiguous to his, and I am not even sure of the office number—muddled, befuddled, in terms of vocation and purpose. He wanted me to choose the law as a vocation, and I defied him to do . . . what?

All this vs. the German context, travel, nature, new experience, these lazy decompression days, which enable me to dive deeper. The depths of inner calling will keep reasserting themselves.

The dream occurred on the 4th floor, the top floor: the final quarter of my life? It does feel that way. I’m not sure this is the floor I belong on, with my father who’s dead!

And why is he dead? He felt defeated, too, a failure like me? Dealing with him, making peach with him, is making peace with his own life and its torments.

All this against the context of teaching, too, which I seem to do well—but less as teacher-scholar than as therapist of troubled classes. What is my calling?

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Barlach museum: his wooden frieze figures—so much emotion compressed into such a compact space. IF only I could write poems like that. (Rilke did.) I especially like the old blind woman—the studied mildness of her expression, her folded, composed hands.

I like, too, the simple worn leather bench I’m sitting on—leather-covered, that is. The Germans do things like this so well, so carefully, and yet at the same time, with a throw-away air of insouciance.

(Now at the postcard display in the foyer): turns out I was wrong. The blind woman was Die Pilgerin. However, what I wrote about her features, her hands, seems even more appropriate, now that I know she was a pilgrim. I’m also struck by the figure of a believing man. Maybe the goal for me this millennium is to be a better pilgrim and believer?

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