Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Within and Without.

Because sleep did not serve its purpose last night, I sought refuge in our old shelf. I looked at what was left there. My old books in order: Twain, Maugham, Wilde, Baker, Gogol, Sartre, Kafka, Miller, Austen, Dickens, Fitzgerald, Walker .. side by side with Japanese dictionaries, Spanish - English books, Dansk-Engelsk, Engelsk-Dansk, and my old, old Thesaurus.

I did not pick out any one of them. Instead, I stared blankly at a pocketbook of short stories. I freed it out from the dusty shelf. I started reading in random.

Knut Hamsun's "The Call of Life" about a young man wandering on the dark streets of Copenhagen where he met and made out with a woman who had just been widowed. 
"A man marries. His wife is thirty years younger than he. He contracts a lingering illness. One fair day he dies. And the young widow breathes a sigh of relief"
Ivan Bunin's "Sunstroke" about a fleeting romantic encounter of a lieutenant and a married woman on a ship.
"The breeze had died down, the room was stuffy and dry, as in a wind furnace... And he remembered yesterday and this morning precisely as if they had been ten years ago."
Johannes V. Jensen's "Lost Forests" about the relationship between the owner and his slave who sought freedom in the forest. 
"In such wise the slave's spirit was deepened. As his longing brought infinity into time, so his world became infinite, and his thoughts boundless. Every evening the slave  stared thoughtfully into the distant west, and each sunset brought more and more depth into his soul."
Then there's Herman Hesse. Oh yes, how could I forget. After many years, I reread one of my favorite stories: "Within and Without"
"There, in Erwin's beautiful script, he read the words: 'Nothing is without, nothing is within; for what is without is within'."
That  phrase caught me anew. Nothing is without, nothing is within; for what is without is within. I lingered at my favorite line, repeating it over and over. Finally, I acquired new understanding of the phrase which I found in the words of the character named Frederick:
"'Take this with you as my parting gift. When this thing that I am now placing in your hands ceases to be outside you and is within you, come to me again! If it remains outside you, the way it is now, then this parting of yours from me shall also be done forever!'" 
It was Hesse who once said, "There is no reality except the one contained within us". Very true. My life is my reality. What I am searching for is already within me.  I tried to alter that once... failed as I might... and as fleeting as it was...  within and without ---

there's love, I carry on.

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