Late-summer reflections of a geezer

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Upton_O_Goode
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Late-summer reflections of a geezer

Postby Upton_O_Goode » Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:38 pm

People under 50, stop reading right now. I doubt if these ruminations will arouse anything but contempt in you. I wonder how many oldsters here have had an experience like this.

For some reason, I woke up this morning with an earworm of an old popular song my aunt used to sing: “I wonder what’s become of Sally.” That brought back the whole now-vanished world of my parents and grandparents in which I lived for so long, and I began to think (unreasonably) what a pity it was that none of them are any longer alive. Well, that’s normal these days, when I compare the America I’m living in with the America I used to live in.

But then I made it worse, by working on an encyclopedia article I’m committed to while listening first to Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, and then to Tchaikovsky’s Sixth. Melancholy pieces, both of them, but absolutely gorgeous, my favorite music. But that led me to feel that it was just not fair that Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky had to die. To get out of that mood, I turned to a short story by Tolstoy that I read back in 1962, called “Albert”. Albert is a homeless street musician, but very talented, and a society lady brings him to one of her parties so her guests can hear him. Here’s the way Tolstoy describes the result (and it’s one of the finest prose passages I’ve read anywhere):

Leo Tolstoy wrote:One of the guests, who had drunk more than the others, was lying on his back on the divan and trying not to move, so as not to betray his agitation. Delesov was experiencing an unaccustomed feeling. Something like a cold circle, alternately contracting and expanding, was squeezing his head. The roots of his hair had become sensitive, a chill was running up his spine; something approaching ever closer to his throat, like thin needles, was pricking at his nose and the roof of his mouth, and his cheeks were wet with unnoticed tears. He was shaking himself, trying to hold them back unobtrusively and wipe them away, but new ones came and flowed down his face. Through some strange conjunction of impressions, the first sounds of Albert’s violin had transported Delesov back to his earliest youth. A weary man, no longer young, tired of life, he suddenly felt himself to be a seventeen-year-old, self-satisfied and handsome, blessedly foolish, an unselfconsciously happy being. Memories came to him, of his first love for the cousin in the pink dress, his first avowal of that love in the lane of linden trees, the heat and the ineffable beauty of the spontaneous kiss, the magic and unsolvable mystery of the nature that surrounded him. In his memory as it traveled back in time, life glistened in a mist of undefined hopes, incomprehensible desires and absolute faith in the possibility of an impossible happiness. All the unappreciated minutes of that time rose up before him, not as insignificant instants of the fleeting present, but rather as still-life, ever-expanding, and poignant images of the past. He pictured them and wept, not because a time had passed that he might have used better (if that time had been given back to him, he would not have undertaken to use it any better). He wept simply because that time was gone and would never come back. The memories came of their own accord, and Albert’s violin kept saying the same thing over and over: “It’s over for you. The time of strength, love, and happiness is gone forever. It’s gone and will never come back. Weep for it, weep out all your tears, die weeping for that time; that’s the one best happiness that remains for you.”
"Still, doubts gnawed at everyone. And under no circumstances could I acknowledge my own similar doubts. In order to coax the participants into psychic stability, I had to appear to be rock-solidly convinced of the necessity of carrying out this horrifyingly cruel command."

Rudolf Höß, hanged facing Auschwitz, the camp he commanded, in April 1947. He admitted to 1.1 to 1.5 million murders carried out under his command. Eichmann told him the number was 2.5 million.

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Re: Late-summer reflections of a geezer

Postby Poodle » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:04 pm

I know those earworms. I know those thoughts. My choices would be early Steeleye Span and Ray Bradbury, but I know what you mean.

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Re: Late-summer reflections of a geezer

Postby Upton_O_Goode » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:46 am

Poodle wrote:I know those earworms. I know those thoughts. My choices would be early Steeleye Span and Ray Bradbury, but I know what you mean.


And I know what you mean. Thanks for writing.
"Still, doubts gnawed at everyone. And under no circumstances could I acknowledge my own similar doubts. In order to coax the participants into psychic stability, I had to appear to be rock-solidly convinced of the necessity of carrying out this horrifyingly cruel command."

Rudolf Höß, hanged facing Auschwitz, the camp he commanded, in April 1947. He admitted to 1.1 to 1.5 million murders carried out under his command. Eichmann told him the number was 2.5 million.


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