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Cruel is the Lesson of the Play
A Narrative Poem – Cruel is the Lesson of the Play The Stage is set Four metres off the floor: Windowpanes in frames of steel – Seven vertical as A, B, C, D, E, F, G, – And nine horizontal in a row, which Sums up to sixty and three squares. A sheet of plastic, transparent, Is taped on window panes, except At lower left, pane One A, the tape Gave way, which forms a gap, An access to a narrow space Between the glass and plastic sheet, While two metres lower, a door is An entrance to the factory’s premise – And also exit, out into An endless SPACE. This is the stage where play begins With RED ROBIN emerging in low flight, Soars upward through the rafters, back And forth, around, in the attempt to exit at The windowpanes into the blue sky. Looking on, I’ve given up to count The futile returns, to break the rift From space to SPACE. RED ROBIN aims repeatedly for the sky But crushes anew into the hazy wall. It’s all the same – What seemed an exit at first – Becomes deception. I nod my head and say: when will birds Ever learn about those windowpanes, And open the door below, but my signal is In vain. RED ROBIN discounts my deed, so As if this was another trap. Then, startled by the many rejections To penetrate this translucent wall, It stumbles on to the gap at pane One A, Squeezing through the narrow space Between the glass and plastic sheet, on To One B, Two B, Three C, across, up To Nine G – then slowly slides down To Eight B – hard pressed against The glass, resting, hesitating. Again, I shake my head: There’s no way out, I say – If only you would know but You are just a bird. RED ROBIN flaps once more its wings, Squeezes upward – reaches Nine G – then lodged And cornered – kicks, flutters in despair, with dust And feathers flying until the tape on window pane Nine G gives way – presenting the escape. All right, I say, relieved. If I could fly, I’d show you the way, But then if I could fly, I wouldn’t know. RED ROBIN continues to circle, then aiming Again, beak first, at the transparent wall (With no lesson learned), slides down to find Again the gap at One A where itself winds up The narrow space onto the top, in search of An exit as before, while I know, It leads to nowhere. Every so often, I take time out to see RED ROBIN passing through the maze. I try to measure its intelligence. Most combinations have been explored, so as To choose the moves in chess. However, Despite the pattern – how innovative the play Progresses on the sixty and three panes – All hope must shatter on square Nine G And new faith dwindles more and more Every time at One A. This is the play – and how I sympathize! Somehow I must fulfill my own task, which Is nothing more but drowsy repetition. I sense that I return continually to My own Square One. And I keep thinking – Could this, up there be I? Perhaps it is And someone at another level, outside Myself, is watching me – is nodding Its head – all-knowing while I, stubbornly, Insist to break a transparent wall; while I Repeatedly choose the way alike The bird that ends in a vacuum, then I exit in vain without a choice, repeatedly To find myself only at old beginnings? It’s getting late.RED ROBIN’S flights are slowing, so do All efforts to penetrate the glassy wall, only Advances through the narrow space, From window pane to window pane – Still fluttering, squeezing upward, somehow It reaches pane Nine G, exhausted at The end but dim beginning of the cycle. GIVE UP, I say – do not pursue Your unknown fate, when RED ROBIN, To close and finally, drained of strength, Glides slowly down along the wall to meet A gentle breeze, warm sunlight through The open door that sends it renewed With energy into the infinite SPACE. And here, I nod my head and say: So it must be – although not fair – Cruel is the lesson of the play, To Which one, inside is not aware, But when one is then he can see – It breaks one’s heart To witness such Blind agony.
Understanding Art Over the many past centuries, the upper class only had reasonable contact with art that was of a higher standard. Consequently, they understood its application and purpose. For the common, uneducated person the nature of those realistic paintings, without considering its meaning, were still pleasant simulation of nature. It is possible that since those times one is think that everyone should be able to understand Art. However, there is a good reason why this cannot be so. Art, telling us in words, music and images, who we are, has gone through many changes in its form and appearance. They all correspond to an epoch in history when we experienced the lowest human standard fighting wars, followed by destruction and more hate, shifting to the highest achievements at intermissions, by, again erecting, constructing, inventing and creating from a nature given, spiritual capacity mirroring our existence. A rather large group in society believe that painting is a simulation of an apparent reality, nothing more. They have always acknowledged the skill to execute an object as the main purpose, but considering the importance Visual Art has taken in daily life generally, there is no surprise to find a lack of understanding. Language, such as, is the only creative expression that has some advantage in comparison with other art forms, which does not always mean that literature is widely understood but already the broadly distribution and accessibility is a benefit through theatre. The other advantage is that language has a practical use in everyday living and is a basic subject taken, so far, seriously in education. From that point of view, it is a personal choice and gift to develop this communicative tool to a higher level and understanding. Music, in comparison, has no practical use, except for enjoyment and entertainment; it belongs generally to the performing arts. The participation as a performer depends on early education. Its effectiveness varies and the choices multiply with time. Through technology, we have no lack of exposure around the clock. Still, from having talent and mastering an instrument, it is a long stretch to compose music, unless one lowers the norm and bar, what we still consider as music and excellent, to child’s play. That applies as well to other creative categories. Then there is visual art, painting, perhaps a stepchild, because it is a stationary and a soundless occurrence, restricted to one site only, if chosen at all, placed on a wall, waiting for a viewer passing by. For the reason that visual art (aside from applied art, which is important for advertising or some aesthetical use in society alike), does not directly touch anyone’s life, and takes partly a back seat in education as well. It is usually also the last item, if it has any value at all, that a household will acquire. Of course, we have acknowledged for many decades expressive drawings of children and taught art skills in senior classes but passed on very little about creative meaning or Art history. To some extent those instructions are as luxurious as music, and yet this silent expression, the interpretation of our visual world in subjective colours and forms, deal with dimensions that should be explored. Although the artists have greater insight through extensive studies and practise, the viewer’s mind has the same opportunity to find knowledge that helps reading Visual Art. I am using the word reading for viewing a painting because there is an ABC that is form, colour, composition and more that becomes a style and language. Of course, reading a painting does not, as far as time is concerned compare in the same way than reading a book. (However, one should make the effort to take nothing for granted and give it more than fifteen seconds.) To begin with, there is, as established, overall better training and teaching for language and the written word, something we cannot claim for visual images. For that reason, alone the public looks often at a painting as if written in a different, unfamiliar code. Various expressions: For every Style, so to speak, we have certain forms, colours, spaces, compositions, subjects, and even techniques in place. Looking at these or even more details in a work of art, compared with another, a viewer should normally contemplate over the many possibilities, unless a trained expert’s eye is searching for specifics that may show or not. But reading would also mean to think about those attributes mentioned above and come up with individual creative interpretations. It follows; the prerequisite in reading a painting would acquire some knowledge and overview of arts development: First, we have a general impression and expectation. Unconsciously we ask ourselves – what is familiar or new, different, offbeat, and what appears to us like an old hat? Understandable, the latter will make the viewer move on faster. We could say the same about a work that goes beyond our understanding, except here we should consider our shortcomings. If anything, to agree will depend on interaction with the artist and other creative individuals on one end, and the viewer on the other end. What then is the Artist’s objective? I believe his/her first concern would have to be the task as how to follow an intuition of transformation truthfully, regardless what the viewer may say or think, or if it will make any money. Only then, the artist is free to create. However, few who set out have the drive and determination or lucky support to follow their star. Most artists settle for concession. Either way, they create by insight; work alone also on different levels with variant expressions. The same goes for the viewer whom we also could divide into, more or less, knowledgeable individuals. This would largely find a degree of understanding. As pointed out –Some of us have accepted Visual Art as a language, as one reads literature or analyses music or various art forms – others merely believe that art should speak to everyone, something one can understand at first glance. (The latter probably mean the Applied Arts or Entertainment.) Then, a last group has no link to visual art at all. Regarding language, we would call them illiterate. Nevertheless, whatever stage one occupies the subject, minds should not become complacent. Active involvement is essential. In other words – one should try to seek knowledge in a field that has appeal and exercise a creative mind, so one can elevate the level of appreciation. Most artists take this path: They study, discuss, compare, and consider diversities. Classical Art consists mainly of skill, technic, aesthetics (Composition), symbols, and metaphors. The first three qualities gave overall viewers always the impression that they understood its presentation. In other words, the simulation of figures, structures, landscapes were obvious – no guesswork. However, even so, the content as the primary aim lays often in allegorical symbols and metaphors, one cannot understand without necessary insight and preparation. Changes that took place in the first half of the twenties century was ignored for the earlier strict emphasis on skill and aesthetics. Perhaps Surrealists excluded. With this mode disappeared realism as well. Photography replaced mainly that function of reproducing a sight or view. However, on the upside, the Impressionists showed new light and colour, a new point of view that no one had ever paid attention to before. The Cubists removed a spacious dimension on a given area, according to their own perception, but had a keen interest in composing and shifting planes, a view that is unrestricted to one point of view. This was the beginning to consider Art as an independent expression. In other words, visual art had now much less to do with simulation of an apparent reality but the mission was transformation. Everything that followed, they created within those guidelines. Expressionists emphasized psychological characters of objects or situations. The Surrealists gave an opportunity to retrieve the unconscious. Moreover, the abstractionist avoided simulation of outward reality entirely, alone to find reality within. (Perhaps another form of surrealism.) What followed were added changes and will continue. My consideration of “Understanding Art” will leave it at that because much of contemporary or experimental art, as for example “Minimalism” or “Installations” need usually all the rhetorical help they can muster. It is art, that is often not very much to look at but one can discussed its approach endlessly, and would need a separate enquiry. Nevertheless, in general, once we inform ourselves about developments of art in history, we will expand our horizon. Every epoch, meaning ‘changeover’ that occurs in society, has its own highs, and lows in every respect, and creative minds are the first ones reflecting on it – in many ways even to start the change. We must view art in this context. In every era, artists have striven to refine style or language in their meditative work and mirror the time we live in. Once we consider all possible angles, looking at art, we begin also to set aside inflexible judgments. Besides, appreciation of Visual Art should not be limited to personal preferences, e.g., the spectacular or sentimental – as Sunsets, Horses, Seascapes, etc. We rather should contemplate over the alteration from old, universal themes into a new light and perspective. For the question: “What is Art actually?” it is best that we never know, because if we did, we would stop to develop and grow. One thing is certain – the most important knowledgeable ingredient in life as in Art is transformation, but without innovative perception, we would carry out very little. Inspired awareness should make involvement more enjoyable and above all more balanced. ***
I. THE MANIPULATOR II. THE COMPULSIVE LIAR III. THE MIND-TWISTER IV. THE UNJUST ONE V. THE JUST ONE VI. THE SLY TRANSMITTER VII. THE BACK STABBER VIII.THE INFORMER IX. THE VERBALLY OVERBEARING ONES X. THE FACEBOOKOBSESSOR XI. THE CONCLUSION JUMPER I. THE MANIPULATOR Is Non-stop in motion, discontent with matters the way they have become; he must alter current configurations that displease his playful mind. His aim is not to change the chaos into order, repair the broken – mend what is torn or beautify the mediocre. No, his objective is to render all quarrels, change, remodel sentences and tailor facts for his own gain. He feels to rearrange whatever is neat; to twist the straight, unravel the genuine and forthright. He plots without a story and reinvents a situation with way-out opinions. Nevertheless, whatever he deals with is not for progress but for self-esteem to reconstruct without sense so he may rule and command his own world of make-believe. *** II. THE COMPULSIVE LIAR like the Exploiter, will also change what passes through His blunt, judgmental, censoring mind that suffers from blindness to reality. Suffers as those who are blind to colours and believe that whatever we call red, in fact for them is green, grey, or something else that we do not know, because we cannot see into their minds, nor have a reference to their sensation, so as the liar has No reference to what we call a comparative truth. His driving ego cannot understand the injury, caused to Himself that could rescue him from faithless lies. Instead, He will modify disputes and themes, in question or not, to assure His vanity and Self-righteous power may remain Intact. Since nothing else is worse to the obsessive Liar than a defeat of his own truth to make him think that for once, a verdict (true as light of day) degraded him. As end-result, besides his own sightlessness to ‘reality’, conniving needs, He will ignore the evidence and call the facts as they appear in warping mirrors falsifying all true reflections. *** III. THE MIND-TWISTER Is rather intimate with you while searching high and low what makes you tick, while saying – ‘I tell you the truth’. And you believe that what you hear is like the naked landscape of his mind, inviting you to enter. Trustfully then you assume, thinking ‘now he will see me as I am and find my virtues.’ But little do you know that in his mind his statement was merely an intent he will never honour. It is like an illusion that only will encourage you to open up and transmit your secrecies. Meanwhile, past this Twined and twisted magic, his busy and deceitful hands would snatch what you had offered, and twirl, spin and twist it in a silent hurricane past recognition and hurl it into an ugly lie that ever had invaded your exploitable, searching mind. *** IV. THE UNJUST ONE survives far-off from stable dwellings like wolves roam in the wilderness who follow an instinctive pre-set cycle. He chases His own needs that are cursed with human wickedness, alike theft, shameless disregard, resentfulness and revenge. He bears a resemblance to wolves that hunt, except for evil human traits clinging to Him like tar and make Him blind to insight and reason, while abusing anything to reach his reckless objective, disrupting order to which he does not concede, nor trust. However pays the price yet again in a cycle of catch 22 – between offences with harsh punishment, for which he will revenge himself. But then again they will punish him to no other end as being exiled and cursed as a pitiful product of creation that will be damned to linger segregated in the wild like howling wolves in winter’s cold and gloomy nights. *** V. THE JUST ONES (sarcastically) provides His opinion with certainty: “In all fairness,” He will Exclaim, “If it were up to me, I would hang them all. There’s no excuse for all those many crimes!” The Daily News informs Him, Her on page one – where they report on Murders, Rapes and Thieves. Of course, the Just Ones had never done any of those crimes, so it is only fair that They are judge of those Transgressions. No, They never sunk to levels of misdeeds, committed in desperation; all They ever did perhaps was to tell a White lie, discriminate or feed on bigotry, or maybe would try to keep down and out all who tried to come up for air—but always, you must understand, for a damn good reason. No, They never have carried out those crimes, except perhaps had cheated secretly on Their spouses; abused a poor, defenceless soul or crucified someone’s timid ego insidious and slowly in a cold and silent war. The Just Ones had never anything else except had it Their own way, because Their claim is to be the fairest, unbiased Judge that is infallible and peerless. Of course, they never grew up with parents who would beat Them senseless for minor fallacies or for no reason at all – beat Them just for being a part of poverty, misguided and unwise breed, poor health or ill fortune, expanding into repeated, senseless fights and exploitation. Likely some Now-offenders, whom They should hang, have been the victims of Their past in which our way of Justice had already haunted Their existence with efficiency because the apparent willing voices call relentlessly – demand equity if not revenge but have put to rest unbiased compassion. *** VI. THE SLY TRANSMITTER engages himself between the source and His receiver, alike an Antenna, except that He is not a cold and passive component. He never is at the beginning, nor at the end of a conversation or engagement; does not establish an idea, however toys with the received, as we arrange the rows of letters in a scrabble game, transforming the content before transmitting it. Whatever He is trying to convey will change the meaning. For example, from ‘very kind’ to ‘evil mind’. However, we have never a script or some Digital devise to replay the switch of words, in order to expose the cunning transmitter. We only pick up reports from His Antenna, reflecting imageries in mirrors or as smoke-Signals that go from mountain- to mountain-peak, reporting that the enemy must be around the bend, when in fact, He is within us. *** VII. THE BACK-STABBER Is not what you think—a sneaky attacker, ambushing from behind, no, He is polite and kind, will listen, agreeing with your Heartfelt desires; pretending to shelter you from attacks, like Hagen did who in the Nibelung’s assured to safeguard the Invincible Siegfried, except for the mark between his shoulder blades that made Him mortal. Moreover, while you too believe of being safe, one day it may surprise you when, in spite of pleasant words and praises, you will notice a show down of mean intrigues. It will makes you swim against the crowded stream of twisted perverted events, realizing that for every step ahead, the sly conniver thrusts you two steps in reverse: Invisible forces find your fragile sign that use your strength to advance like the deceptive Hagen, when his deadly spear had pierced the spot between the shoulder blades of the unconquerable Siegfried. True, Hagen stood his ground as Brutus did when Caesar fell, knifed by Nobel Romans who were absolved from guilt — secretly, likewise you too may observe, with every stab at you, a smile of the obscure one, or find that He has vanished silently, akin the scheming Brutus or Hagen before your eyes. *** VIII. THE INFORMER has no News Agency, He does not write or print nor Does He broadcast when spreading his message. His approach is trivial and may meet you offside to let you know about discriminative activities against you, to win your confidence and trust that later He will pass on Distorted to someone else. He is a likeable body, selected by superiors and used by them like Wikipedia that will inform about associates in question and speak so well of those He expects a favour; of others that He needs, desires, uses or abuses. At any point, He will release His information freely as a disease and spare no one. Whatever it is – He has heard it first – perhaps will say, “I hate to break the news to you but your employer may let you go”. The Informer is the mercy Executioner with endless awkward abundant Judgmental material filed away to be selectively retrieved like nuts, hidden by squirrels in autumn and re-claimed in winter. If you have given the Informer your entire trust to be stored away – He will find it, crack it open, and spread it all over common places. He will achieve that minds confront Each other over something they had said to one another, yet, they never really did. He is never short of wit and stories, anecdotes. His mission is to rise above His subjects that He by the way dishonours and seen in his deceptive window of Impulsive events. *** IX. THE VERBALLY OVERBEARING ONES They are determined to bring Their point of view across, regardless how muddled its content, however, They will not miss a beat and run you over verbally so as machineguns fire and forcing the enemy into submission. There is no chance replying or cut in for one second – it’s like a one-way street on which one will be run over when entering at the wrong end. Their gift is juggling words before they are able to think of them, without a pause or intermission, while deaf to answers that come from you across the table, unless you wave your hands at their nose and shut their babbling mouth. The only successful option is avoid a conversation over the phone and say, please Email or text me, write a letter per post as long as you wish and I will reply. Alternatively, not. *** X. THE FACEBOOK OBSESSOR makes Them happy. Before They had signed up, They were ignored, a nonentity, known merely in a narrow circle as Their family, few friends, small gatherings that had no sense, no gratitude, who got the better of everything and dialogues went on, without conclusion, endlessly, forever, a waste of time, quickly coming to a dead end. However, Facebook-connection, has unlocked the many doors, a world that is open now to all and everyone, with links, as chains that row on row present Images, worth a thousand words if one could unriddle them. Moreover, sentences of plain and tame connotation, clones of empty content, go back and forth, pretending its Technology has blessed us with creative power, when in fact has handcuffed us alike the image in the Sorceress Apprentice. Yet, there is no lack of search, and communication becomes as once we had accused old women meddling in affairs and gossiping about others across town. However, about the Facebook obsessed with dubious replies, their exercise resembles more like clearing out a reservoir of uncertain thoughts as one discards leftover junk in ancient dwellings. They do that all hours, day by day and nights; Their prying gives Them no rest, regardless how trivial the findings are. They cannot miss nor neglect a thing or else They would return to former ranks of being again unknown, being no one, and the new won, apparent good friends, who, as it seems exalt each other, they would abandon Them and lose Their self-assurance, within an elusive state. *** XI. CONCLUSION JUMPERS are anxious meddling in one’s affairs. They are not waiting until all the facts are in, if ever possible. Their restlessness averts those reaching fair decisions, enticing Them to make quick judgments, forcing Them in short-sighted fashion to beat, as a main resolve, the opposition that extends the spiteful argument; They speak and act ahead of time, before the words In its connectivity have ripened, until there is only a minimum of doubt of its validity. Equally, they long so much for a verdicts and result of their own making, so that there is no other choice as come to an End, by jumping the gun, without the evidence and certainty of those enshrouded still in a helpless question. ***
At All Corners
Poem – At All Corners Of the earth Little Devils Mischievous Light fires And pictures amuse When seen external They Appear like comic strips But within its blazes burn Like senseless hell- Where eyes go astray And what is called soul Becomes tormented While brains evaporate in Distressing heat And charity plunges Into a pit – Destination Cancer At all corners Of the earth Devils Light Fires
Sing to the Wall a Requiem
Poem – Sing to the Wall a Requiem a wall, dividing you and me – dividing us since I remember. Once I assumed that you were I, until it proved suspicion looked through mirrors loopholes, secretly striking me as a game of which one grows tired. Sing to the walls, unseen, raised between mankind – dividing him since ancient time; sing to hoisted flags, hidden arms, readymade — waiting for hours born out of darkness. Waylaid by terror, eradicating last hope for communiqué, suspicious loopholes with one-eyed ghosts engage deceivingly. Red sky and six feet of earth surround the buried – while survivors urgently try to carve symbols and names into walls to immortalise the fate of fatal mistakes that no one ever will remember. Sing to the wall a Requiem.
Serpent or Lifeline
At last, I reach the top of the 200-metre steep snowfield. Inserting my peg-hammer into the loop on my harness, I gaze up the remaining 400-metre sheer rock wall I still have to climb. Looking back down, the glare on that white surface is almost blinding me. In Crossing the snowfield and resting while catching my breath, the entire mountain range was calm. For a few moments, everything down the valley was quiet too; I heard only the crackling of the melting ice shield covering the snow. As I Looked into the blue sky, I saw two majestic eagles. They were circling high above me, as I have seen them often in the Rocky Mountains, back home in British Columbia. I said to myself, majestic yes, but they are just looking for prey and I don’t intend to fall into their clutches. Stepping toward the rock wall, only one thought keeps racing through my head: no time to lose! Then, as I am about to raise my arms to find a grip, I hear the familiar sound of yodeling. Not again, I mumble into my beard. The voice that came from above startles me. No doubt, this must be my friend Wolfgang, from the town of Schladming, we had left last night. We both began our ascent here this morning at 5:00 a.m., before sunrise. Later at a 1500-metre altitude, we took separate climbing routes. Around 3:00 p.m., we are curious to see which one of us will be reach first the 2837-metre peak of Hohes Kreuz, in the Dachstein Alps of the province Styria, Austria. Some people in Schladming and the surrounding towns have called us “The crazy Alpinists”. Nonetheless, this competition has been our tradition for ten years. By now, we have carried out this friendly contest five times, while taking alternate routes every time. Wolfgang is ahead with three wins in reaching the summit first, against two wins of mine. Therefore, to make this contest at least even, I would have to beat him today. But, according to this familiar tune, peculiar in the Alps, I just had heard, Wolfgang appears to be already above me. In any event, just to think about this likelihood makes me incredibly tense. To be fair, in all this, he may have a slight advantage. The Dachstein Range is almost in his backyard. Until my late teens, it was mine too, except in the last fifteen years I had to come from Canada to climb these mountains. Before that, we were longtime school friends. They call us “The crazy Alpinists” for two good reasons. One is, because we climb solo, and two, we make it competitive. A third reason I could easily add myself — we are not professionals, nor are we famous. However, we are still young or at least think so, and cherish the excitement. We had already competed in grade school, in gymnastics, skiing, tennis, cycling, but rarely in academic subjects. Often we merely played practical jokes, which have carried over into my visits as this one. Lately, those pranks have let up, although Wolfgang tries to hang on to this annoying old habit. He tricked me four years ago when we climbed the same path as today. Beyond the cliffs, he installed a loudspeaker, which he could activate from below through a wireless microphone. That way, he had me believe he was ahead in order to demoralize my efforts. Regardless, I kept climbing — and in spite of this trick, Wolfgang came in second. He certainly looked disappointed because for someone who went to all this trouble before my arrival, he had very little to show. Consequently, when the word got around, everyone thought it was funny. Climbers who meet him occasionally in the mountains still ask, “How many loudspeakers do we have again today, Wolfgang?”At the moment, to hear him yodel from a similar place, it bothers me a lot because I feel that I should be ahead of him. Moreover, I am doubtful that he would use the same hoax twice, particularly since he failed the other time and became the laughing stock of this region for years. All the same, I cannot detect if the sound came from a loudspeaker or directly from him. With the echoes that bounce through the valleys, it is difficult to tell where the sound originates. I keep thinking, maybe he is ahead after all. Then again, if he were, he may not resort to this method. He was usually more creative than that. Whatever the facts, there is no time to consider and I vigorously begin to climb the almost vertical wall, restraining myself to reply with a yodel of my own. Why not let him guess my position? At first, my climb feels as if it were child’s play. Then, as I reach approximately ten metres, I pull my weight a bit higher to grasp another protruding rock, which suddenly breaks off. I slip on my wet foothold, kick in a split second at the rock face, push myself away from the wall, and drop straight down onto the steep snowfield. Although I miss some rocks that stick out and land on my feet to prevent injury, my boots have no grip on the slanted ice field, I end up on my belly, unable to stop but continue to slide quickly down the slope, feet first. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. My mistake peers unforgiving into my eyes. To begin with, I should have looked for a runner in the rock, and since we had taken this route more than once, I should have hammered in a peg somewhere or looked for one we had used earlier. That way, I could have secured myself with a rope. Such are the rules. Nevertheless, I suppose my mind was more on Wolfgang’s climb than on my own. Blaming him for my mistake was useless at this point. My immediate concern is to come to a halt and to stop the sliding. Yet, as much as I brace my legs to find a firm object, I can’t feel any resistance that would slow down my speed. Either I am in an awkward position or the snow surface, smooth like a frozen pond, prevents this effort. I know what awaits me at the end of this long slope. The 200-metre cliff took me one and a half hours this morning to climb, and I am quite certain that the way I’m sliding, it will take much less time to go down! Frantically I pull out my peg-hammer, though it should be more like an icepick for this particular terrain. With the sharp edge, I pound into the surface that became a sheet of ice during the cold night. My peg-hammer runs along in the icy snow like a knife glides through butter. I just keep slithering down, my body squirming, while my climbing rope that should have been my lifeline, unwinds and tangles above me like a serpent. I think, by God, there must be something else to a stop me besides the cliff and sheer drop that is awaiting me. Not knowing why, I am shouting, “Wolfgang, Wolfgang, where are you!” Of course, not much good that is going to do me. He is probably on his way to sweet victory or sitting somewhere having a snack. On either side of me, small, broken tree-stumps, roots, dwarf pines and rocks pass by. In the attempt to hook on to any of these objects with my peg-hammer, I have it eventually ripped out of my hand. Looking down, I see the edge of the cliff coming closer, and I recall Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “A Descent into the Maelstrom”, where an ocean whirlpool draws in the narrator’s boat like a magnet. I also recall tales about men in capsized boats, who go down the Niagara River and face the edge of the mighty, roaring falls. Appalled, I look back up, watching my useless rope, still dangling above me, reminding me of past images. Memories flash by, where extension cords or hoses became my tormentors: my power drill cord that would tangle around me and stop me in my tracks. Or, in summer, when watering flowers and vegetables, dragging the garden hose behind me — nine times out of ten it would wind itself around a pulley that should guide only — giving me a jolt to bring me to an undesired stop. The same scenario when mowing the grass with my electric lawnmower, pulling a 20-metre cord behind me, passing a few minor plants, bushes, twigs, table legs, lawn chairs and again pulleys. I remember, there was almost no time when a cord would not hang on, loop around or get wedged in, at just about any of these items, and jerk me in more than one way. In such annoying moments, how often have I said sarcastically to my tormentors, ‘Go on, and keep doing it, as long as you play the same game when it will actually serve me—one day, perhaps somewhere up in the Rocky Mountains!’ Today, right now, is a great opportunity. Maybe those tangled lines did not just serve to pester me. Could my rope now help, not hinder, and become what this tool is supposed to be — my lifeline?! Instead of catching on to passing objects bringing me to a stop, this rope, fastened to my harness, is dangling above me like a serpent that will steer me into a deadly void. That’s it for me, I think, as I watch the cliff edge approaching. Perhaps, after all, I truly will become a welcome victim for the eagles high above. Suddenly I hear a loud voice yelling, “Paul, watch out! Turn around, quick!” ‘Watch out!’ at this crucial moment is an understatement. I roll around and see in a split second a rope stretched over my body. I raise my arms and catch the rope. With great relief I feel for a moment resistance, but my weight and momentum unravels the rope at one end. Holding on tight, I continue to slide down, praying the other end fastened to a short pine tree may hold… It takes me only a few seconds to find a foothold and finally come to a stop; hanging on another lifeline. ‘You lucky devil’, I mumble into my beard! There is a moment of utmost silence. Only a few patches of icy snow trickle down. I hesitate to follow its path, but looking up, I cannot believe my eyes. Wolfgang stands at the cliff’s edge, bracing himself by holding my apparently useless “lifeline” in his hands. He is nodding his head, shouting, “I’ve got you. Don’t worry! Are you OK, Paul?” I wave my hand, which is about all I can muster at this moment. “Hold on tight”, he hollers and pulls firmly on the rope attached to my harness, as I slowly seek support and grips to climb up to his level. “That was a close one, Paul” he says and gives me a big hug. “What the hell are you doing here?” I yell at him. At once I sense it didn’t come out the right way, because I am surely very thankful that he is here. Regardless, I let him have it just the same: “Wolfgang, have you used your stupid loudspeakers again? You promised…” “Calm down, Paul, it’s not like that at all!” He put his arm around my shoulder. “Come and sit down,” I hear him say in a gentle voice. Without a doubt, my scraped and bruised body needs some time to relax. Then Wolfgang explains that he actually never tried to compete today. It was also true that he didn’t resort to a loudspeaker. The yodeler I heard came from one of his friends he employed for that task who had climbed ahead of us earlier. I knew it, Wolfgang just couldn’t give his trickeries a rest. Still, I was lucky that he had stationed himself at this place while watching all my moves with his binoculars. Of course, no one can know with certainty that if Wolfgang were not there, everything would have happened just in the same way. After a rest, we decide to take the easiest path up and over to the Glacier Restaurant at 2700 metres. Along the way, we meet Wolfgang’s yodeling friend, who observed the whole disaster and waited for us. “Sorry about that”, he says and I nod while he joins in our ascent. It was still a good stretch to the restaurant, but a walk in the park compared with our climb. Once we quench our thirst, we take the cable car that goes down the south face of the Dachstein. Looking through the windows, high and safe above this grandiose rocky mountain, I feel somewhat cheated in my result. Just the same, I am more than ready to stop for the day. When we arrive at the valley stationhouse, Wolfgang calls his girlfriend to pick us up within the hour. “Now, we need another drink,” Wolfgang says, pushing us into the Gasthaus pub. Minutes later, we are sitting in front of a bottle of plum brandy, which is the last thing that I will remember of this day. Seven years have since passed. Both Wolfgang and I got married. His wedding photo hangs in my studio, showing him and his wife wearing over their formal wear their climbing gear with rope. I’ve never tried to figure out the exact symbolism of this picture, if anything it appears surreal, but certainly confirms that he is a fanatic mountaineer. However, from other sources I have heard, he gave up climbing. Maybe Wolfgang must have realized that there is more to life than dangerous obsession. I can relate to that as well. As for myself, I am trying to pass on to the young what one is not supposed to do, although they will strive and find out for themselves how vulnerable their lifeline may become. Otherwise, I still think occasionally of my Alpine adventures and whistle the Styrian hymn that begins with the words: “On Dachstein’s heights, where eagles soar . . . “ The End
More Light Within
David Anderson worked eagerly all morning on a painting. He barely felt the freezing temperature in his unheated studio, or paid any attention to a missed lunch. Only a rattling noise, coming from the letterbox at the hall, made him stop. He held his breath. The tin sound was similar as if one had caught their prey in a trap – where he was now the hunter. After all, maybe this was his lucky day. Immediately, he dropped his brushes on the paint- covered worktable and ran to the entrance to find a small, familiar package. He guessed right. Canada Art Council returned a CD with about forty images of paintings that he had submitted two months ago, hoping for a grant. Ten years had passed since he graduated from Art College. Galleries and public places displayed his work since then. Occasionally he would sell, but his meagre income came from scenic work for TV or films – so he could pay the rent for this studio, located in an industrial area. The Canada Council sounded promising. He had heard over the years of several artists who received support from the Government. It would have come in handy. David ran an exacto knife through the package. However, in his excitement he cut the enclosed letter in half. He already saw himself taping an enclosed cheque together. Just the same, no such luck. Instead, the letter read: ‘Dear Mr. Anderson: we regret to inform you that the Selection Committee did not recommend a grant for your project or suggest the purchase of any work you had submitted for consideration’. There were a few more lines about future submissions as an encouraging gesture. He got the message; besides, it was his third try anyhow, just so nobody could say he was not willing to give it a chance. As he leaned back in his chair, looking out the window, he observed the grey sky of Toronto. He now could feel the November cold. Earlier that morning, he was full of vigour and imagination, but presently he felt exhausted and starved. All at once, his surrounding made him weary. Everything reminded him of all the connections he couldn’t make, promotions he didn’t get, critics who couldn’t care less about his work and paintings he couldn’t sell. He glanced at the canvas on his easel. Some creative doubts crossed his mind. Where was that certain acknowledgment and light that an artist and every good work must bear? An entity, one cannot explain but worth pursuing. David Anderson went over to his painting, gave it a challenging stare, and felt like driving his fist right into the canvas. After a moment of hesitation, he rushed over to the closet to pick up his jacket. On his way out, his hands nervously felt for an object. He finally grasped a glass jar of green powder paint that he then fired against a wall. The jar shattered into a thousand pieces, setting free the contents that moved as a green cloud, slowly through the studio. To walk was sometimes the only thing left to do. It would get him from A to B; frequently insignificant points only. Psychologists recommend walking when distressed or in despair. Today, point B was just about anywhere. After an hour and a half, he found himself downtown, in the centre of a crowded street where everyone seemed to hustle with a purpose in mind. He barely noticed how he had gotten that far. At first, it seemed he was interested in window-shopping but his thoughts were elsewhere, until a bookstore window brought him back to the present. Avoiding his reflection on the glass, he thought of all the books he could never afford to purchase. So many editions from which to select, and it was increasingly more difficult to keep up with new publications. This made everyone’s life more interesting or confusing. As he looked at some novels and art books, a face suddenly blocked his view, inches away, between him and the window. David backed up to give himself space, assessing the situation. He observed a man who must have been in his forties, unshaven. He wore a heavy set of eyeglasses. Behind them lay watery, blue, bewildered eyes with an unbending expression. The man, dressed in an old, black coat carried a portfolio at chest’s height that hung on a leather strap around his neck. A white cane in his right hand pointed forward. Standing there, his lips moved ever so slightly with the attempt to speak but they produced no sound. While David made his observation, he searched in his pockets for some loose change. “Good afternoon,” the man finally said hesitantly, refusing the offer, “it is very generous of you, sir, but although I’m a needy artist, I like to work for a living!” “Good for you,” David replied and thought, that sentence sounded notably familiar. The other thing was, he just couldn’t figure out what part he was supposed to play by supplying work for this needy artist. “Do you know, sir,” the man continued, “If I had my adequate eyesight, I could do something for humanity. I could entertain them.” Then He mentioned a well-known cartoonist of the past who had disappeared from the printed page a decade ago. “Yes sir that is I. I’m glad you remember. You see, since eight years I suffer from loss of vision. Sometimes to distinguish objects is difficult. It’s worse than the sun’s eclipse. A cure? Who can tell and who knows? Sir, if you could only imagine, what it means to be a painter who has lost his vision! Is not everything form, colour and movement?” David nodded. No argument about that. The half-blind cartoonist looked intense at David’s face. “Sir, you have an interesting profile, if I may say so. Perhaps you could spare fifteen minutes. I would like to sketch you or else I cannot accept the change you have offered me.” David had at first good intentions to give it straight to the man. This wasn’t the day to test his tolerance. Somehow, it was absurd. The College of Art had awarded him a prize for one of his portraits and now this half-blind cartoonist… It was incredible. However, then another voice said, are you the same guy who despises artificiality, quick judgments and smart remarks? Besides, this man with his portfolio seemed to take it up with all those dedicated musicians who work for a hand out at subway stations. For an instant, he looked at his watch, pretending he was busy but the other voice said whom are you trying to fool? “All right,” he said to the cartoonist, “I think, I can manage to sit for a quick sketch.” Both agreed to use a small restaurant in a side street. Entering the place, David introduced himself and the Cartoonist replied, “Very good to meet you, sir. Call me Ben.” They sat down in a quiet corner out of the way. “Have you eaten, Ben?” “No, Dave, only had coffee and bread with margarine this morning.” David ordered a hamburger and a cola for Ben and a glass of orange juice and ham sandwich for himself. Although starved, he didn’t want to eat while modelling. Nothing else was worse than a target, moving or chewing. He set himself for the pose and the half-blind artist began to draw the profile of the other artist who had his perfect vision. While sketching, the cartoonist made some flattering compliments to establish a link between artist and model. People who came into the restaurant for an afternoon snack, were a bit puzzled by the display that is usually a private exchange. The cashier also watched, suspiciously at times. David thought it was amusing that for once he was the model. In fact, he had given up painting portraits. One hindrance was that no paying client requested such an item. The other obstacle was in comparison to photography that is never supposed to lie, the artist in a portrait may be subjective. Thinking about those implications, suddenly something dropped to the floor. He turned sideways and noticed Ben who had covered his eyes with one hand, the other hand searched for the cola on the table. His sketchpad lay under a chair. “I’m so sorry,” he said, “it will take only a minute.” David helped him with the drink and picked up his sketchpad. “Are you all right, Ben?” “Oh yes, don’t worry, it happens only occasionally. I’ll be fine.” His mouth changed into a twisted shape, perhaps caused by pain. He reached into his chest coat pocket for what looked like medication that he gulped down with the drink. “Here is my sun’s eclipse again,” he said in a faint voice. “Trust me; I’ll be fine in a minute. You know, I have this enormous confidence in my medication. Perhaps you are too young to realize that the medical profession can only rectify your ailments so far.” David sipped on his orange juice and took his sandwich. What could he say? However, he could have made a few comments about life’s frustrating moments on canvas any time. Ben, with eyes half shut awkwardly finished his hamburger as well, wiped his hands with a few tissues, and then fumbled on the floor to find his sketchpad. “Here it is, my good man,” David said, handing him the pad. “Thank you so much, sir, I apologize. I can see it now and feel a lot better. Is it okay if I continue? I’m trying to make it quick.” “Please, I’m glad you’re back at it.” Before going on, Ben folded his hands over his forehead. He remained in that position for about half a minute motionless, almost breathless, before he picked up the pencil again. He seemed now totally composed, except that he worked vigorously for the duration. All that time, he kept talking into his sketch as if he had to convince himself and wave off wicked spirits. Then, at once, he stood up: I’m done. There it is. Would you like to see it?” David rose as well, stretched his neck and arms: “Yes, I would,” he answered and took the sketch. He was curious to find out how this artist had summed up the essence of his likeness. It is true, we have a limited opinion about our own profiles, but still, the sketch had, apart from the beard, limited likeness that was not even a caricature. It was perhaps something in between. The lines appeared exercised after a pattern. They would also stop, break up, and carry on in different areas, like made without looking. David had, as a rule a sharp tongue. He lost a few artist friends that way. He couldn’t stand obvious bad art. The half-blind cartoonist waited as if it would be ‘Judgment’s Day’. One could see that his entire existence depended on this evaluation. “You know, I do some painting myself,” David said. He tried to sound modest. “Now – amazingly – I could tell by the way you were modelling.” “Really,” and against his principles a lie crept in: “I think you’ve done very well.” The tense, unshaven face of the cartoonist eased for a few seconds, showing a contented smile, but his eyes remained watery, without expression. “It is very kind of you,” he said. “Is that the way you make your living?” David asked. “No, disability income is helping me out. Still, just the same, I spend six to eight hours a day in the city. I always find something to do. Sometimes I run into a buyer. Perhaps you would like to see what I have. Everything is priced low.” He opened his portfolio and removed some small ink-wash drawings, watercolours, depicting landscapes, still life, dogs and horses. “No, thank you, Ben.” Immediately he visualized his some fifty paintings that lay piled up in his studio with no place to go. As he reflected on stock, storage, and distribution, his eyes must have stared at a watercolour of a sailboat. “Would you like this one?” Ben asked. “Well, yes, no, I mean, not too bad but I’m afraid I haven’t got enough money on me to pay for it.” What a barefaced lie, his other voice said. “If you like it, Dave, I’ll just give it to you.” “No, I couldn’t accept . . . It must mean a lot to you. At least let me. . .” David opened his wallet and correcting himself, he added, “Sorry, forget it. I’ve just enough to pay for the tab.” “No money, please take it! I’m grateful, sir.” Why did people who liked his paintings have no money either? Perhaps they pretend like you, the other voice said. In addition, he reasons, a poor person can afford to praise an artist; it’s understood that he’ll never buy the work. “I’ll tell you what; let me give you an even five.” “If you insist, sir. God bless you! Whatever you do, I wish you luck!” David handed his bill to the cashier, “Eighteen sixty five, please!” the cashier said. David opened his wallet and froze. All he had left was fourteen dollars. He could have sworn that he had more on him. “Eighteen sixty-five, please!” the cashier repeated, waiting impatiently. Damn it, David said to himself. He looked at the cartoonist who waited already at the door and obviously had the five dollar bill of which he was short. However, he couldn’t resell the sailboat or ask him for the money. “I don’t understand,” the cashier said, “people have money to buy his tasteless stuff but they can’t pay the bill . . .” “Do you mind?” David interrupted. “I do,” the cashier said boldly. “I’ve seen him here more than once. He has no Vendor’s License. Why don’t you take your business somewhere else?” “We will, certainly,” David replied extremely annoyed. “So, can you pay or what?” David went again through all his pockets. It didn’t look good but at the end he found a wrinkled five-dollar bill in his back pocket. It was a gift from heaven. The cashier looked already at the approaching manager, as if to say: One of those; all vagrants look for the change they don’t have.Out on the street, the half-blind cartoonist, full of gratitude shook David’s hand: “Thank you again, Dave! You made my day. Moreover, look”, he opened his arms, “fantastic, I sense more light again!” Feeling his way, by using the white walking stick along the edge of the sidewalk, he disappeared soon in the crowded street. He seemed to walk with confidence, like someone who had accomplished a mission. David Anderson’s eyes followed him until he had disappeared from sight. It began to snow. He lit himself a cigarette, shoved one hand in his coat pocket and stuffed the two sketches in the other. Leaving in the opposite direction, he vanished between the crowds like someone who wasn’t quite sure about the expansion of his mind, about the source of creative energy. However, somehow he had to agree with the half-blind cartoonist. Equally, he also perceived now MORE LIGHT WITHIN.
Don Quixote’s Illusions
Don Quixote Rescue is out of sight A long-standing fear Driven into his corner By devil’s advocates Portion of his mind Await the judgment While swords strike A cloud of raging smoke To part elusive space In waiting for an Endless void where Invasive ghostly giants Crusade at him Whom he has to battle Where souls and spirits Undefined Prevail. “Don Quixote’s Illusions” / Painting / 1998 / Gifted
We have encountered craters on the moon and touched the edge of endless solitude; patriotic fascination has stunted the world. New chapters of man’s glory are to be written – and parallel goes the reality of mortality. We have confronted countless craters on this earth, inflicted by cruelty and greed through domination that has not served research or new discoveries. We have met craters that had no visits, but one would flee from, as one flees nightmares in desperation; visit craters at which a lost child only wanders over desolation, confused, doubtful, not aware that this is the reality of mortality. –***– painting – “Condition Unchanged” / 1969 / JR.