Saturday, July 11, 2015

Something less than a divine comedy

What you see before you is a work by Domenico di Michelino entitled, "Dante and the Three Kingdoms," done in 1465. It is oil on canvas and can be seen at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Firenze. Look at the book held in the painting by Durante degli Alighieri -- more often simply called Dante. If the gods of actual art and the politically correct of infinite idiocy will forgive me, I will offer a recent translation of the words shown on the pages of that book. They seem to be a foretelling of a time in the future and read: "We are reasonably certain that Fram is somewhere on the grounds or in the building, but his present whereabouts cannot be ascertained. He seems to move around with some frequency. We will update you when we have more to report, and, rest assured, we are confident that he will not escape from here." Finally, the music. I have used this particular video a few times since beginning this blog. Boston is my favorite band. I fell in love with this song and the guitar riff the first time I heard them; I was driving on Interstate 90 from one side of southern Minnesota to the other. Claude Monet is my favorite Impressionist. Together, this mix of music and art form an insurmountable blend of sound and image.

An observation
by the Lycian prince Glaucus
in one of Homer's
timeless masterpieces:
"The Iliad"

"Why ask my lineage? Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men. Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth, now the living timber bursts with the new buds and spring comes round again. And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away."

A couple of lines

spoken by Thomas Hudson
in one of Ernest Hemingway's
sort of forgotten novels:
"Islands in the Stream"

"I would rather have a good Marine, even a ruined Marine, than anything in the world when there are chips down."

"We wait always for something that does not come, he thought. But it is easier waiting with the wind than in a calm or with the capriciousness and malignancy of squalls."

Who, me?
In sort of a morbid mood, I guess

I still am into quotes .... for a while, anyway.

I have been re-reading a few books. Homer and Hemingway most recently, you might correctly surmise.

It occurred to me that I probably would have read three or four times as many books as I have if I did not re-read so many. It is a pleasant dilemma to debate within .... would it have been wiser, more beneficial, to have read more books than to have re-read so many? Well, it is an easy problem to resolve because, obviously, there is no right answer, no definitive way to resolve the question.

I also have been preoccupied with death, and looking for books which lead me in and out of that mode. Who better than Homer and Hemingway? That preoccupation comes and goes, rises and falls. I suspect it does with many people.

The latest "spell" for me began during a conversation with a neighbor about my mother's death in September 2012. Two months after her death, a man who lived kitty-corner across the street died. Two months after that, a man kitty-corner across the street in the opposite direction died. The neighbor told me he believed in the adage that death comes in threes, and he insisted these incidents proved him right. Hmmmm .... well, maybe ....

From there, my mind began to drift. My father, who I never really knew, died a few decades ago and my step-father, who was among the reasons I left home three days after I finished high school and went off to my first war, has been gone a while, too. I am an only child. I am it, in a generational sense, a fact which lurks in my id and even emerges in dreams.

Then .... then .... then, there are other deaths in other places and other times which become little different than a memory from a dream or, after a time, seem like just another winter snowfall which gradually melts away and is forever gone.

My former wife No. 2, who was given a death sentence from the clutches of inoperable cancer a few years ago, but beat it through simultaneous intense chemotherapy and intense radiation and greater will power than I could ever gather, has had a re-occurrence. The survival question is in doubt again, which means the thought never leaves my mind entirely. I can only imagine what it is doing to/in her mind.

Anyway, you never know when the reaper might come. Right?

So, I have not only had death on my mind, but I have been planning for it in both realistic and symbolic senses. Seem morbid? It seems practical to me. Death is difficult enough for family members without having to make decisions about funeral and burial details. I know that from experience.

I want to make certain that when "my time comes," all my children have to do is to call my buddy, Morrie, at the funeral home and say, launch "Plan A: Double Check My Pulse First, Please." If I happen to be out of the country when the big moment takes place, "Plan B: One-Way Economy Flight," is neatly typed, ready and waiting in the contingency drawer of Morrie's desk.

I am not kidding, although the instructions have titles considerably less colorful. All I have left undone is to pick a spot in one of five likely cemeteries, four of which have family plots. The other is sort of a military "hangout."

But, I enjoy being unpredictable. Depending upon circumstances at the time and my mood, I might emulate one of my favorite writers, Ambrose Bierce, and simply disappear .... although, unlike him, I would not vanish into Mexico. The thought has crossed my mind that it would be fascinating to end up in a place like a crevasse on the Greenland Ice Cap. That way, some day Ötzi The Iceman might be joined by Fram The Iceman and we could compare notes and exchange stories of our days and our times.

That was the realistic element. On the more fanciful side of my personality and symbolic side of my beliefs, I want to be put into the earth ready for whatever awaits. I have a list. On it, I have a few specific books I wish to accompany me in the casket, a couple of handguns, some ammunition, a Marine Corps combat knife and dog tag.

I do not wish to "depart" without a stuffed rabbit from my early childhood "who" my mother kept and "who" now has his own room in this house. His name is Blackie, by the way, earned from spending many afternoons in a sandbox.

I know what clothing I want to be wearing and what I want in the way of survival gear stuffed into the bottom of the casket. My favorite canoe paddle is on the list. I want my silver Thor's Hammer around my neck (I am still looking for a gold one, if you know where one might be purchased.), and my 1876 dime on its silver chain.

Of course, I want a bottle a brandy, a bottle of cognac and a bottle of Benedictine, as well as a box or two of cigars with plenty of old-fashioned stick matches.

I could go on, but you get my drift. I am not assuming I will require any of these items in the great beyond, but, remember, part of my work experience has been to write contingency plans for everything and anything -- and, I was most thorough at it.

I am thinking it simply makes me feel good to do these things, and it might cause an archaeologist to let out a scream of joy and happiness a few thousand years from now when "she" rips into my tomb and hits paydirt.

I know I will be wearing a smile .... like Scaramouche .... Morrie will see to that in case I am unable ....


ANITA said...

Ohh come on dahling dont be in a such bad mood!

Come along with us to the spanish islands!

great post as always:)))

A Cuban In London said...

Well, that was some post!

First of all, I love impressionism. Along with surrealism, it is the reason why I fell for the visual arts all those years ago.

Death, huh? Didn't you know, me ol' china (look it up, that's some proper Cockney rhyming slang I'm giving you now) that we are all dead now? Ahhh, but you might say, I breathe, I move, I defecate, I might even dream sometimes. From a humanist point of view, all I can say is that that is our pretence, our excuse to be on planet Earth for sixty, seventy or more years, if we're lucky. We all know what happens at the end, don't we? But it's the "way" we go that matters to me.

Good post. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

Fram Actual said...

I would define it more of a serious mood, a studious mood, a comprehensive mood, Anita .... not a bad mood. Are you familiar with the Boy Scout motto? It is: "Be prepared." Well, I was a Boy Scout.

When you say "Spanish islands," are you referring to the Canary Islands? I was invited to go there for a couple of weeks once, but did not. It could be I made a mistake by not going. Anyway, it would not work for me at this time, either. If that is your destination, I wish you a safe and an enjoyable trip.

Thank you, Anita, for your comment and your kinds words about my post.

Fram Actual said...

I have been to Claude Monet's gardens at Giverny, and it is my hope to return there again some day. A traveler can feel Monet's presence there yet to this day.

I was not familiar with the expression,"ol' China," CiL. Interesting. Thank you. I will remember it.

The advantage of being an agnostic (in many, many ways, not only in a religious sense), is that an individual does not have to spend a great deal of time or energy wondering if his position is correct or incorrect, while still having a semblance of hope lurking in the recesses of his mind.

Following your point a bit, my mind is undisciplined enough (perhaps, unhinged enough) to sometimes wonder if on one of those occasions when I had a so-called "brush with death," that I actually did die and have been existing in some form of altered state between this life and the next .... or, maybe, between this life and oblivion.

Anyway, for me it is enjoyable to think about such things and to be ready for it as much as possible in the sense of not being a burden to anyone.

And, the irony of death is that if this earthly existence is all there is, when one dies he will never comprehend that fact because the end actually is the end .... click ....

Thank you, CiL. It is nice to have you back here again.

Kaya said...

You wrote a very profound post Fram,

I reread it a few times. I thought about people you wrote, About your father you never met and about your mother. About your ex wife and how she fights cancer. I also thought about Morrie - Tuesdays with Morry - and his words " if you understand death you learn how to live..."

Several months ago my cousin died and since that I am thinking often about death. I still can't accept his death and can't accept that I will never ever be able to hear his jokes and his voice again.

I try right now after my cousin's death to make a piece with death but it's not so easy. Anyway, I reread your post twice; it's very powerful and touched my soul and heart. Thank you Fram that you so sincere talked about life and death.

Greetings from Utah.

Fram Actual said...

You are a very insightful reader, Kaya.

I know how many people visit my blog, but I have no idea how many actually read any given post or simply glance at it, and among those who do read it, seldom does anyone take the time to leave a thoughtful comment.

I recall when being a working journalist wondering how many people actually read what I wrote. Other than a few occasional "letters to the editor" or comments elsewhere (usually in bars and saloons), there rarely was a clue anyone ever read anything.

Two things prompted me to write this post at this time. One reason is that, like you with your cousin, I have been thinking about some people who are gone forever and missing not having them in my life beyond being memories. I have been trying to comprehend and accept their absence from my life in the context of thoughts such as that expressed in "The Iliad" through the words of Glaucus: "And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away."

The other reason is practical. Realistically, I have dodged a number of bullets during my life, some literal, some figurative, and I know that the reaper cannot be walking too far behind me. I have jumped into any number of fires not caring what the outcome would be .... and, even in medical sense, I think I have smoked more cigarettes and drank more liquor than most men would in two or three lifetimes, and, actually, I am not that old yet in terms of accumulating these numbers. And, having gone through the responsibility for arranging three funerals and handling legal matters for three estates, I want to make my departure as seamless and smooth as possible for my children in a "business" sense.

I have a great curiosity about death. I believe I can see "him" when he sometimes lurks near me .... stalking, looking for an opportunity to catch me or someone else nearby off guard. He wears white, not black. In some ways, when I am feeling arrogant, it becomes a game for me and I will taunt him. But, then, in a while, I will think of those who are gone from my life and become serious again.

I have a few cousins on my father's side who initiated contact with me a few years ago. One lived in Stockholm. She was the only one with whom I have had actual conversations about my father and other members of the family beyond the trivial. She died recently, and it is like the only link I really had to my father is now gone. This, to me, simply is life happening to us, fate, if you will, and, to me, it is like the purpose of these twists and turns is to provide some unknown power/entity the opportunity to watch us and to learn how we will react. Anyway, I keep looking for reasons and for purposes, and I try to see what is beyond my mind as well as what is within it.

The only thing I will say about Morrie is that it would benefit everyone to have him or one like him to be part of their experience.

I am glad you came and read and wrote a comment for me, Kaya. I visit all of your posts, although, as you know, I seldom leave a comment. I sometimes wonder about your thoughts regarding Russia and Vladimir Putin and Lithuania. It cannot be a comfortable and secure feeling that you have, and who can predict where the winds of war will blow next in Europe.

Thank you, again, Kaya, for coming to see me and for your comment. It was a most pleasant surprise.

Hey, there is a storm outside -- thunder, lightning, a downpour of rain ....

Smareis said...

Olá Fram!
Uma bela imagem. Uma obra de arte. Um óleo sobre tela que deve ser uma peça bem valiosa. Romantismo- Impressionalismo- Surrealismo pesquiso sempre que posso as obras dos artista. Tem um rede do pinterest que as pessoas sempre estão a compartilhar pinturas de famosos na arte. Sempre estou por la dando uma olhada.

As telas de Claude Monet é impressionante, essa técnicas de pintura ao ar livre é que o transformou num grande artista. Eu sempre que posso faço pesquisa na internet sobre os grandes pintores do passado, e o Monet tem uma história de vida bem curiosa.
Ele batalhou pra ser um grande pintor. Seu pai desejava que Claude Monet continuasse no comércio da família, mas ele desejava pintar. Foi a sua tia Marie-Jeanne Lecadre que o apoiou e incentivou a seguir a carreira artística, pois ela foi também pintora.
O termo impressionismo surgiu devido a um dos primeiros quadros de Monet, "Impressão, nascer do sol", de uma crítica feita ao quadro pelo pintor e escritor Louis Leroy: "Impressão, nascer do Sol” – eu bem o sabia! Pensava eu, justamente, se estou impressionado é porque há lá uma impressão. E que liberdade, que suavidade de pincel! Um papel de parede é mais elaborado que esta cena marinha. A expressão foi usada originalmente de forma pejorativa, mas Monet e seus colegas adotaram o título, sabendo da revolução que estavam iniciando na pintura.
Realmente essa musica é maravilhosa... A Man I'll Never Be(um homem que eu nunca serei) A letra da música é bem curiosa.
Sobre a morte, por mais que o ser humano não os queira sempre estão a pensar. E quem não pensa Fram? Eu só passei a pensar mais na morte depois que meus pais morreram alguns anos atrás. Aqui eles dizem que a morte vem em grupo de sete. Quando começa a morrer pessoas na rua, só vai parar quando completar sete. Mais sou bem realista não acredito em ditado que envolve o outro lado do universo. A morte vem pra todos e estamos na mesma estrada, cada um tem a sua vez de ter que ficar numa estação da vida. Nossa vida tem começo, meio e fim, isso não podemos fugir, apenas precisamos entender que nossa hora vai chegar só que não sabemos como e quando. Não tenho medo da morte, tenho medo de como era vai chegar para mim. Isso que é assustador. A gente vive em corda bamba apenas temos a certeza de uma coisa somente na vida. Vamos embora um dia! A morte, por mais que o ser humano não os queira sempre estão a pensar. E que não pensa Fram? Eu só passei a pensar mais na morte depois que meus pais morreram. Aqui eles dizem que a morte vem em grupo de sete. Quando começa a morrer pessoas na rua, só para quando completa sete. Mais sou bem realista não acredito em ditado que envolve o outro lado do universo. A morte vem pra todos e estamos na mesma estrada, cada um tem a sua vez de ter que ficar numa estação da vida. Nossa vida tem começo, meio e fim, isso não podemos fugir, apenas precisamos entender que nossa hora vai chegar só que não sabemos como e quando. Não tenho medo da morte, tenho medo de que forma ela vai chegar. Isso que é assustador. Na verdade Fram ,acredito que quando é chegado o momento o abraço do CRIADOR dá um consolo devido à pessoa que irá partir. Deus é supremo maior, pai e criador, acho que um dia todos mudaram de visão quanto a isso, quando for chegado o momento da partida.
Respeito o modo de pensar dos ateus, cada pessoa tem direito a esse respeito, foi isso que o Deus me ensinou, respeitar ao próximo como a sim mesmo. Cada um faz suas próprias escolhas. Embora não acreditar em nenhum ser supremo, sei que os ateus valoriza muito a vida por causa exatamente desses fatos. A morte é um mistério por isso é que assusta. Os familiares sempre ficam com a pior parte, a dor, a ausência e a despedida pra sempre.

Acho que já falei demais Fram!
Tua postagem é muito sábia e inteligente.
Obrigada pelo comentário e pela visita. Fico feliz quando vejo seu comentário no meu blog, sempre muito inteligente e dentro do contexto proposto.

Uma ótima semana cheia de sorrisos e calor do sol.

Fram Actual said...

It was eleven years ago when my June and July were spent roaming a bit in England, France and Italy, and a day of that time was in Giverny and in the gardens once the center of Claude Monet's universe.

Up to that point, I had not given a second thought to impressionism or to those who "composed" their paintings in that form. I think being able to see the landscape -- Nature itself -- where and as Monet experienced it is what won me over to appreciate and, maybe, to understand the world as he saw it.

I have not studied Monet's life or work at all, but I would like very much to return to Giverny. I think this is an instance where I prefer to "feel" my way into a mood rather than to study my way into it through my usual patterns -- which are to read and to experience. I guess being there and trying to sense/feel/absorb the artist in his own element is to experience. But, no books this time.

Yes, "A Man I'll Never Be," is a most wonderful song in many ways. The lyrics, apparently, are generally interpreted to be a man acknowledging to himself that he can never live up to the expectations or ideals of the woman who loves him. The question, I suppose, is what he will do about it: Try harder; walk away; or leave things as they are, hoping all the while that she keeps thinking of him as more and better than he really is.

I suppose I will confess that I decided years ago this is one of three songs I would like played if there were to be a memorial service for me upon my death.

I agree with everything you said about death, Smareis. In many ways, it seems to be more difficult for those who are left behind than it is for the person who dies. This is especially true when those who die are family members. There are many times in the years which follow the death of a loved one when you think of them and miss them and wish you could have just a few more minutes to be with them and to tell them how much you love them.

In my own sense, I have no urge or wish to die, but I do not feel fear of it. I have seen violent death and watched peaceful death. I think I would prefer to slip away as an old man lying in a meadow on a sunny, warm, autumn afternoon, watching the clouds drift by overhead. I think it would be like entering a dream .... where the dream would take me to cannot, in my mind, be answered until it actually happens.

Perhaps, what bothers me about life is not understanding why any of us are here living it. Life largely seems to be without purpose to me.

All right .... enough for now ....

Speaking of which, just remember you can never say too much as far as I am concerned, Smareis. And, I am always happy when I discover you have left a comment here for me.

Yes, I have the warmth of the sun with me in many ways this week. I hope the same is true for you .... later ....

PhilipH said...

This is quite overwhelming Fram; your post and the following comments. A gigantic coverage of life and its aftermath.

I do not fear death. Sometimes when I've been ill in hospital I almost felt it would be the best outcome, for me. What I am worried about is a long painful prelude to the scythe putting me out of for good. Being an atheist I am not scared of going to Hell or Heaven; they do not exist. Some poor souls who DO believe are quite terrified of dying because they assume they will be punished for all their wrongdoings on earth. No funeral for me. I am booked up to go to the Hull University Medical School. These schools and hospitals are always glad of few more bodies to play around with. Also I think the funeral business is one big con job.

You mention Hemingway. This giant man was fascinated with many things, including war. I helped an ex-RAF bomber crew member write his memoirs of his time in WW2. "An Electrician Goes to War" by Ken Whittle. No a great book in the literary sense, but just one man's time as a wireless op/air gunner (wop/ag) in Blenheims and Mitchells. I just did the typing etc. In part of the book he mentions his meeting this great man Hemingway who flew WITH the bomber crews whenever he could wangle it. I've just posted a copy of this book to Snowbrush, whose blog I always read, in return for a book he posted to me recently: My Two Wars, by Moritz Thomsen. This is a beautifully written book about Moritz's battles with his father and his battles with the Hun, flying in bombers while he was stationed in the UK. Both of these books show what men, usually young chaps, had to go through for years. Death was a beckoning finger to them all which they had to put up with and 'press on regardless'.

Ken died, from cancer, soon after his book was privately published. He survived cannon shells, flak, crash-landings and other close calls, only to be written off by a cruel disease.

As we grow older it is normal to talk and think about leaving this life. What really pisses me off is when young children have their lives taken by disease, illness, sick bastard paedophiles and other murderers. These never have a chance to struggle through life at all.

One of my favourite comedic actors, Kenneth Williams, took his own life with some pills and a bottle of booze, leaving just a short note: "What's the bloody point". Procreation would be my answer but poor Ken was homosexual (though he refused to admit it) so he wouldn't, couldn't perform this basic function.

The trouble with YOUR post, and the comments, means that one could go on ad infinitum ... so I'd better surrender now.

Fram Actual said...

Well, I am glad you found your way back here, Philip. I enjoy your company.

There are times I write posts so long they are uninviting to the reader simply because of their length. (I learned that in the newspaper business.) But, as I frequently say, I write for myself and if other people happen to read what I write, so much the better.

As I mentioned in the post, death has been on my mind much of the time the past few years. I was about to say that ordinarily it is not so omnipresent, but that is not true. I have a great curiosity about death and, consequently, I think about it and wonder about it and read about it with some regularity. I think I might have written it out of my system now for a while, but I am certain some event will take place in the not too distant future to bring it to the surface again.

I have known a couple of people who donated their bodies to medical schools, but I cannot envision myself doing what you are planning to do. Frankly, I would prefer to have my remains found in the faraway future so archaeologists can ponder what brought this fine and handsome specimen of a man to be buried with pistols and a canoe paddle and three bottles of liquor. I like the idea of being a mystery in death as well as in life.

In regard to Ernest Hemingway, there have been periods in my life when he was my favorite writer, and like a school boy in search of a hero, I have followed woodland trails and Parisian streets with copies of his books in my hands. His fourth wife, Mary, was born and raised in a Minnesota town about two hundred miles north of my present residence. On a whim, I wrote a note to her a few years before she died. She was kind enough to answer it, as well as a few later notes.

In regard to the Hemingway war element you wrote about, I think you would be interested in the "Sidebar" post immediately before/below the "Divine Comedy" post. If nothing else, it is considerably shorter.

I read somewhere that if a person lives long enough, most certainly he will die from the effects of cancer. It is just a matter of time. I have known a number of people who found their solution to life in suicide -- a couple due to inescapable depression, one because of money problems, three or four because of woman problems, and some to escape the last few months of life in the clutches of cancer. I suppose this is one reason I think about death with some regularity .... I am a contingency plan writer, remember.

So, Philip, thank you, for your presence and your words. I found them enjoyable and interesting to read. Do not be a stranger, please, and I wish you would post on your own blog more often. How else am to learn about "merry old England" ????

Something special ....