Monday, April 7, 2008

Feeling Mortal? See a Circus, Eat Pizza, Read Eliot

With people dropping like flies lately, I've been feeling oh so mortal. So what, do I turn vegan and hire a personal trainer, start investing in second hand spirituality books? Nah... I just went to John's Pizzeria, inhaled a couple of slices, and had that wondrous feeling that, if every moment I've got left can be as perfect as their pizza, I'll be ready to go when my time is up. The flowers on the trees and the sound of birds singing helps out as well, but--damn!--that New York pizza really does the trick, especially from John's. The best!

My California nieces visited recently. One's six, one's ten. Beautiful girls. Very insightful. Took them to the Ringling Bros. Circus and got another shot of vitality. The ultimate spectacle; the guaranteed method to be "distracted from distraction by distraction." You could get lost in it. Afterwards, took the girls for pizza at an Upper East Side Ben's. Not a great slice, but decent. Said the astute 10-year-old, "Where I live, in California, the best pizza is Domino's. I think it's pretty good. But this pizza is much, much better." Ahh, from the mouths of babes...

The distraction line is from one of my all-time favority poems, T.S. Eliot's Burnt Norton. The whole piece is one hell of a way to be distracted permanently. Here's an excerpt from part II:
from Burnt Norton, by T.S. Eliot (part II)

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.


Oh yeah, one other form of therapy: The ultimate uplfiting song about the inescapability of mortality, Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready. The other day, I tracked down 9 versions on YouTube, and each one is performed with individual soulfulness. Performers include: the original by The Impressions; Curtis Mayfield with Taylor Dane (live); Al Green (live); The Chambers Brothers (live); Eva Cassidy (live); Ziggy Marley (live on Letterman); Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart; Jeff Beck (live), and--perhaps the most unique version of them all--Vanilla Fudge (live, from a Bonn, Switzerland concert during their 2004 reunion tour). They're all in the little player below. Which one's your favorite?

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