Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’

Lisbon, 28th August, 1975

Dearest Lorrie:

I hope you are feeling well, and at peace with yourself—that peace you have been seeking for so long…I think that you have to cope with a very strong sense of a wrong or a sin that you feel your life is—not in a strict moral meaning but in a large one; maybe I’m saying it to you because I feel it myself.  Man is a moral or an ethical being—we have to give something back for the grace of life, we have to do something with ourselves; not only some moment, some achievement, but let’s say something that must be always present and at work. 

I suspect that you are not really contented with your life and with you, I think you want more, but have not been able to discover the way to reach it.  Your strong feeling about moral and spiritual decay around you, is it not a projection of an emptiness you feel within yourself?

It’s difficult to escape from our worldly ties; you are tied to many things, but at the same time, I think the main secret of life is to be able to reach for yourself—for your deep, ethical, axiological, teleological self—in any moment, age, circumstance whatsoever…

It’s a secret and the biggest challenge there is—and it helps to have a spiritual or religious view of reality and life; I have found that Christian theology plus humanistic philosophy can give the widest understanding of life, reality, man, society, history, being…One is not complete without the other; religion can unite you with God and with the brotherhood of man in a moral way, but it leaves out a whole range of vision; while philosophy, by itself, is work of the mind, without contact with the forces of life within matter, spiritual energy within all activity, significance within the flux of history…

Why Christian theology, and not Buddhist, etc?  All religions, I think, are true, but the Christian has the synthesis between spirit and human, between transcendence and action and its goals.  Of course we Christians neglected the spiritual side and are looking for it through oriental spiritual-isms; there is a dialectic of spirit and matter, spirit and man, spirit and history that is very complex; but each of us must look for our way, because there are as many ways as there are men.

I think, dearest Lorrie, that you are personally very near of God, and that this dissatisfaction that you feel always, this need of a unity that escapes you in the confused and decaying world of today, is spirit raising in you; spirit, that elusive insubstantial substantial, as was the expression of my friend and philosopher who just died, Jose Marinho. 

And, let me say it, I feel myself very near to you, I feel that we are and always will be much more than friends…

I haven’t been writing to you because I’ve been working on my book, that is now finished; I gave it yesterday to the editor and, if the literary crowd will like it, maybe it will be published in November.

The situation here is more clear now; the fields are being cleared, and we now know better what is happening.  The Prime Minister and a strong group of officers and soldiers of the M.F.A. are linked with the Communist Party and they intend to impose a communist “Popular Democracy” in Portugal; the P.C. is united now with most of the leftist armed organizations.  Their stronghold is Lisbon and the industrial areas—even if only proletarian Lisbon.  They have a real strength, are in power and intend to get away with their purpose—and we now know that they have been helping the communist movements in Angola, Mozambique, Timor, and it’s the reason for the civil war in Angola and Timor, that is getting horrible, with thousands killed…

But Portugal is an anti-communist country!  North of Lisbon—2/3 of Portugal— people oppose strongly the P.C. and they are destroying systematically all their centers; also the army and the M.F.A. are divided now, and more and more they are opposing this communist minority that gained the initial strength after the 25th April, with organization and lies:  they started by calling themselves democrats, and now they call “fascists” all non-communists, including the socialist and social-democrat parties;  we thought that the M.F.A. was not partisan, that it wanted a democracy, but we realize now that there was a communist group inside, and that it gained more and more power…

The situation is clear, but I think that anything can happen now.  The anti-communist sentiment is rising each day, the Angolans (we expect 500,000 in the next 3 months) are returning with nothing but hate for the government, the north will not go communist.  So—revolution, or a civil war (I don’t think it will be a long one, for it will be fought only in the area of Lisbon, as the rest of the country is anti-communist) is bound to happen very soon; that is, if the M.F.A. itself continues to hesitate with its internal decisions. 

The economy is finished; we are living on the gold reserves left by Salazar, and the government maintains the nationalized enterprises with big losses, because they are all losing money, including the banks.  There is an artificial life going on.  Cascais is full of people; they are spending gaily their holiday money without thought of the future, while the country is sinking.

The people in the country are more keen to what’s happening, and that’s why they started the reaction.  In Lisbon, the government is maintaining artificially all or most of the jobs, afraid of what would happen; but we have already 8 percent unemployed, are waiting for 500,000 Angolans, or more (100,000 are already here), with no jobs; one million unemployed are estimated by the end of the year—1 million in a population of 7 million!

We are seated on a keg of powder, I hope we can survive!  Pray for us, my dear Lorrie…

I try to be calm and have managed to write my book about everything (300 pages).  I’m waiting, now.  Sorry, very sorry I couldn’t see you this year again…

Love, yours, Antonio

Antonio Quadros, a prominent Portuguese writer, artist and intellectual, died in Lisbon in 1993 at the age of 69.  He was founder and director of the Institute of Arts and Interior Decoration (IADE) in Lisbon,  director of the publication Revista 57, and leader of a group of Portuguese intellectuals dedicated to developing a “philosophy Portuguese.”   In 2007 a  street was named for him in Cascais.  The book he refers to in this letter, Portugal Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, was published in 1976.
quadros.jpg

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Spring in Portugal

If Dostoevsky had been a Latin, it is certain he would have been a Portuguese.  One doesn’t sense this so strongly now that it is spring, since all springs everywhere are a denunciation of everything Dostoevskian.  The soul of man no longer festers in a silent alienation.  Spring turns it and the city inside out.  The sun strikes the darker corners and elicits new life, growth, movement.  The avenues are tendriled with living green.  The cafes sprout awnings; the sidewalks mushroom tables and chairs.  The city has reconstituted its links with nature; men have reestablished their connections with one another.  Drinking a cup of coffee at an outdoors café becomes an act of communion—one of the necessary rites of spring.  One separates oneself from the flow of traffic.  Lisbon passes before one with its small breaches of drama, and one senses it re-impregnated with the archaic springs of life.  There is a lilt to the sounds, a cadence to the movements, an intimation of some secret harmony.  And beneath it all is the regulatory rhythm of sex, like some primitive mysterious heartbeat.  One is always aware of sex in Portugal…even in the children.  Its antinomies are encouraged and ritualized in costume, act, attitude.  In spring the tension between the sexes is greatest, but so is the hope in the miracle of duality becoming oneness.

However, if one enters a Portuguese café in the winter, perhaps at the lower end of the Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon, one sees Portuguese men sitting alone at their tables, drinking not Russian tea, but tiny cups of black coffee and smoking their “black” cigarettes down to the very end with an expression of what one could call distance-absorbing…a kind of pensive nullification of their surroundings.  If one then hears the language in the background with its peculiar Slavic mushiness, one distinctly has the impression that each man is quietly musing over his own Notes from the Underground.  And it is not difficult to remember that not far away in the Praça dom Pedro IV (Rossio Square) the Portuguese Inquisition carried out its autos-da-fé.

Is the Portuguese soul more obscure, the language more difficult, the Tagus more inaccessible?  The world knows Pushkin and Eugene Onegin better than Camoes and The Lusiades, Dostoevsky and The Brothers Karamozov better than Eça de Queiroz and A Cidade e as Serras, the Red Square and the Kremlin better than the Praça de Comércio and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.  England proved that it is not size that forces a country upon world consciousness.  It could be a question of historical relevance.  Vasco da Gama and Magellan made their own imprint upon the world and opened sluice-gates of escape and influence for Portugal, but they were not enough to keep Portugal contemporary.  Portugal has had no Marx and Lenin to make her historically relevant.  Tomorrow everyone will remember Confucius.

The sea and the sun transformed Greek character (just as the steppes and the snow transformed the Russian) and the Greeks in turn altered the complexion of the world.  The Portuguese contain the sea and the memory of its vast transformations as secrets within themselves.  One is always aware of the sea in Lisbon…not as a destroyer of the peripheries by which men bind themselves, but as a daily regulator of human life.  Sitting at an outdoor café one can smell brine confused with the odors of the city…and one can always smell fish.   Portuguese fisherwomen thread the edges of the sea in the early morning and file into the city with fresh catches of linguado, pescado, sardinhas, gaping in trays on their heads.  Their cries end in a peculiar break that only a constantly rasped glottis could produce.  They form a basic element in a vast street orchestra of peddlers and beggars, of the blind playing accordions led by the halt with money-boxes.  Their repertory is irritating and strangely poignant with its reminder of the eternal human persistence to survive.  They turn the corner to return tomorrow with fresh supplies of fish, fruit, vegetables, newspapers…with the same cries, the same music from the past.  They return as yesterday returns and returns, and then one day, unnoticed, returns no more.

Portugal needs a Gorky to adequately portray its peasants.  But perhaps the basic character of peasants is universal.  Certainly Gorky described the Portuguese peasant as well as the Russian when he wrote of their peculiar vitality; their amalgam of sly cleverness, stupidity, simple virtue.  Does the labor of Sisyphus, the brute interminable struggle with sea or with soil, produce the same kind of faces, the same kind of superstition and acceptance—at the same time erasing and sharpening, caricaturing and dulling?  Or is there an Odysseus in each sailor; a Helen in each fishwife?

There are intimations of many profound contradictions in Portugal.  What are these and why do they exist?   What is their correspondence to contradictions elsewhere?  There is elegance and coarseness; the elegance of the young men of the upper classes with their short jackets, shiny jet-black shoes and hair, their graceful attitudes; and the coarseness of the illiterate, horny-handed poor.  There is intelligence and stupidity, great ugliness and great beauty…the rich and the poor.  Perhaps one extreme evokes all the others in Portugal:  the rich.  A simple formula is to eliminate the aristocracy and one eliminates poverty…and also paradox, equivocation, contrast.  But then what does one have?  More automobiles, more television…and the face of the city changes along with the face of its people.  Does it become less or more human?  Sartre and Jesus can only love the poor.  The rich have made contrasts possible…and also love.

The Portuguese sing of love in the Fado with a deliberately invoked nostalgic hopelessness.  Suffering is common to all life, to all mankind; but the memory of it is not.   Men suppress or mask its meaning and its recall.  But at night in the little cafes in Lisbon where one drinks vinho verde, the lights dim, the talking stops, the guitars initiate a melodic motif, the Fadista wraps her black shawl about her, begins to sing, and each Portuguese summons his unique and universal misery.  In Coimbra the students’ Fado perpetuates the suffering of the medieval troubador and the Fado is purer, more delicate, more sensitive—refined by the ages of all superfluity.  But in order to understand love in Portugal, to apprehend the Portuguese saudade, it is never enough to be only a spectator, only a listener.  One needs to be involved in love in Portugal in order to explore the possessiveness, the authority, the special conventions upon which the Latin male’s pride is based; in order to understand and feel the yielding and passivity, the intense maternity and earthy vitality of the Latin female.  One needs to be involved in sex and the family and the Church in Portugal, with its land and with its sea.

But this is all beyond the grasp of a foreigner who has been here only a few days or weeks or months.  Possibly the truth is like the black and white mosaic sidewalks along the Avenida da Liberdade.  But if so, its patterns are elusive, obscure.  The artist and the philosopher choose their vantage points and the pattern emerges—but one’s own perspective is either too close or too distant.  A city, a country, a people, is stamped with uniqueness; but there is always that mysterious and paradoxical many within the one that forms the one and at the same time makes it so difficult to apprehend.  Looking down from the Castelo de São Jorge at the red-tiled roofs and the rose, blue, yellow, white walls of Lisbon—or wandering through the narrow alleys of the Alfama, one has a multitude of impressions, a sense of the confusing many that composes the one.  But the one resists definition.

Perhaps the kind of impressions that flow over one’s mind, the unsorted and unevaluated flotsam and jetsam that one collects walking down the street with one’s ears and eyes newly keyed like a child’s, depend very much on the country from which one comes.  Only a Kleenex-habituated American would notice that everyone still blows his nose with a spotless starched white handkerchief.   The paper napkins (guardanapos) served in the restaurants are one-fourth the size of those in the United States.  But Kafka would notice that there is never a shortage of paper in the offices of a bureaucracy.

If Kleenex has not yet inundated Portugal, plastic has.  Just as there are the traditional street peddlers of fish, fruit, vegetables, flowers, etc., there are now the peddlers of plastic.  The latter evidently exercises a spell of its own.  The Portuguese home is replete with it…from artificial flowers in plastic vases, plastic vines on the ceilings, plastic carpets, curtains, dishes, to even plastic candles that negate both function and decoration.  The first step to the middle class is the loss of an archaic aesthetic sense; a denial of nature, and the hand as the adaptor of nature, in favor of the machine and its products; a denial of the unique for the universal commonplace.

But in Portugal one can escape the false interior by turning to the exterior.  One is aware of the endless, patient, inventive work of the hand.  Each stone in the pavement, hundreds of them, represent a flex of the muscle; a hammer raised and brought down…and behind it a man—feeling, perhaps thinking.  The machine releases man from this labor, but does it bring dignity?  One wonders, not about the stone masons, but the man who shines shoes.  He sits at the feet of a businessman, in dark suit and tie, and works with industry and attention, occasionally giving a smart snap to his rag.  Under his overalls he also sometimes wears a tie.  Clean his hands, take off his overalls, and he could be a businessman too.  What would he be in the United States?  Perhaps the manager of a supermarket…certainly not a shiner of shoes.

It is the exteriors of the city that reaffirm the dignity of the work of the hand.  Many Portuguese buildings are faced with colorful tiles; most of abstract design derived from the Moors; but others representing saints and heroes, geographical and historical pageants.  The balconies are opulent with genuine flowers.  The roofs are fretted with ironwork, stone vases, plaster arabesques—valid artificialities.  Function is gracefully embellished and affirmed by decoration.

But regarding the charming, broken, irregular Lisbon skyline one suddenly remembers the disaster-prone Candide and the earthquake of a mere two centuries ago.  One can still see the ruins of the Convento do Carmo in the Bairro Alto.  The roof is gone and the walls are now only an alfresco equation; at high noon without shadows, and enclosing a totally vulnerable quadrangle, accessible to wind, sun, rain.  All Lisbon suddenly seems vulnerable…not just to climate and time, which works out its necessities slowly and often with beauty and dignity, but to the sudden and capricious.  The red tile-shingled roofs, the charming crochets and exaggerations, the chromatic mosaics, the protruding balconies, abruptly seem threatening and precarious.  The strong evening wind has already toppled an occasional television aerial.  The apartments appear too high and narrow and fragile, like a thin man lurching on stilts.  One wonders if anyone ever has the courage to say that another bad earthquake would cause thousands of deaths, perhaps…Is there anyplace safe in Lisbon from flying tiles?

But even Dostoevsky did not think much about the potential evils of nature, except possibly of the Siberian winter…and that was inevitable.  He thought only of the potential evil in the heart of man…and of man’s need for faith and bread.  Does Leningrad have a spring like Portugal?  In Lisbon the transition from winter to spring is perhaps relatively trivial, but nevertheless, it works its metamorphoses.  There are parks in Lisbon where the hibiscus flower and children play their universal game of hide-and-seek.  Caught in the spell of their unconscious happiness, one forgets the games their elders play seriously without innocence or joy.  And walking along the streets one suddenly comes upon a square with a fountain and a statue of Neptune.  The water soars upward and falls back in an endless symmetrical rhythm—a transformation of liquid into light and color and music—a reassurance of man’s capacity to create form and beauty; to evoke facets of diversity from the one and to turn back the many into an integrated and  eloquent whole.

The exact date of this essay is unknown, but it was probably written in the mid 1960’s

Read Full Post »

A Portuguese Arrival

800px-torre_de_belem_20050728.jpg 

The Tower of Belem at the mouth of the Tagus River represents what a child, coerced by that instinctive and perpetual drive for order, silently tries to create at the seashore from sand, shells and ropes of seaweed. Begun at the end of the fifteenth century it rises from the Tagus River as a tribute to an archaic need for unity.  It also celebrates the primeval imagination of childhood; the desire to transcend the narrow limits of the familiar world; the need to pass beyond the realm of the ruled, the predictable, the secure—and to encounter chance.  Constructed on the boundary of the known and the unknown it performs the dual function of the boundary: to salute both the departure and the return.  It greets the pilgrim and the prodigal son, the crusader, fortune-hunter and outcast, as it always has—with an equivocal message.  When one understands the message of the boundary, one understands one’s own life.

When he wrote of that triste e leda madrugada, of that sad and happy dawn of his departure, the Portuguese poet Luis de Camões expressed the ambiguous nature of the crossing of boundaries.  One must leave behind all that is secure and cherished…and confront chaos.  But at the same time one rids oneself of the burden of the prosaic and conventional.  It is this delicious terror, this freedom, that marks the passing of the boundary.

Today I experience a lonely voyage in reverse of  Camões.  That triste e leda morning of departure is not from the shores of the Old World but of the New. Instead of the Tagus the boat slips out of the Hudson River. The skyscrapers of New York, forming a jagged, irreversible, manmade skyline, diminish in the distance.  There are no trees, no flowers to which one says goodbye…only pavement, concrete and glass. The land has been converted into a great city where nothing is known or cherished.  As one sails from the shores of this New World, one has a sense of departure, not from the familiar and simple and secure, but from the strange and confused and absurd. To the right is the gigantic Statue of Liberty with her arm upraised. One leaves the myth of freedom and the frontier behind.

The last night aboard ship I dream persistently of the Old World:  of towers and castles, of great walls and boundaries…and then suddenly I am thrust from sleep.  There is a moment of disorientation…a feeling of change, of hiatus.  I lift my head and look around the narrow cabin, at the other bunks where everything is motionless—only a hand dropped down over the side, a tuft of hair poking out from between the sheets.  Silence.  That is what is strange…no creaking, no throbbing.  The room is oddly stable.  The engines are stilled.  The immense heartbeat of the ship has stopped.  Motionless.  No rocking to and fro; no pitching back and forth.  The cradle is still.  A feeling of alienation.  One is deprived of the rhythm, the sound and movement that has regulated waking and sleeping for a week.

What has happened?  The clock on the dresser is ticking resolutely in the silent cabin. 9:25.  The boat is not due to dock at Lisbon until noon.  It seems like night without any portholes to let in the day. There are noises in the passageway.  I put on my clothes quickly, quietly, open the door and run along the passageway to the elevator.  A few people are hurrying about, some in their bathrobes and slippers.  The whole atmosphere seems charged with an air of change, as if a society has suddenly broken apart without warning; as if no one recognizes its connections any longer and communication is no longer important.  Eeryone is now concentrated at a point of departure, ready to leave in separate directions. Up on deck there is more confusion.  People greet each other distractedly, as if already parted and concerned with other affairs.  I run along the deck trying to find a place at the rail.  The ship has not stopped after all.  It is still moving, but it has now entered the River Tagus and is gliding serenely past the land.  There, almost close enough to touch is the Tower of Belem!

How curious an anachronism this old fortress seems in the gray light of the October morning…slapped by waves, besieged by winds!  It obstinately survives its past.  I catch sight of Gothic surfaces intricately carved and decorated in the Manueline style…and then I am pushed aside. The port side of the ship is massed with people.  The starboard is less crowded and from there I can see the river.  It is full of activity, a commercial coming and going intimately linked to the quotidian needs of the land…an activity deeply rooted to the past.  Near its beginnings the Tagus encircles the tenacious ramparts of medieval Toledo.  From this center it flows across the Spanish plains into Portugal where it becomes exclusively Portuguese, dividing the north from the south, demarcating Lisbon before it disappears into the Atlantic tides, and regulating the life of the fisherman.  The fishing boats depart as they have for centuries, in pursuit of sardinhas, linguado, pescado, bacalhau; and arrive with a fresh catch sold at this very moment in the markets and on the streets of Lisbon by the fishwives, varinas.

In the salt air with the spray wet on my face I imagine the little boats and everything on the river as free, patternless, independent of land…with the power to leave, with the power to arrive, like the sea birds who curve and vault about the ship.  I forget the prosaic and remember the poetic and historical role of the river.  “O Tejo que se abre aõ Oceano e por onde saíu e entrou a Glória de Portugal.”

This conjunction of river, land and sky is in essence what the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Moors, the Crusaders, a whole multitude of past voyagers have seen on arrival.  But the traditional view is obliterated at points, at other points contradicted or usurped by the modern.  The past and present interrupt each other in a series of confusing, shifting images.  Perhaps it is totally different after all, both the viewed…and the viewer. The wind raises brief white crests upon the restless and determined current of the river.  The shadow of an antique Phoenician sail cuts across the path of the liner.  Dream and reality merge for a moment, then separate.  On the heights above Cacilhas across from Lisbon an immense blunt white statue of Christ extends a benediction to the tourist…and to American enterprise in the emergent skeleton of a new bridge.  Behind this great modern dinosaur Lisbon coagulates into a dense vista of hills and narrow valleys encrusted with pastel buildings, red-tiled roofs.  The Castelo de Saõ Jorge still dominates the slopes where the Crusaders battled the Moors.

After his second visit to Portugal in 1800 Robert Southey wrote nostalgically that he “would give one eye to blind Fortune if she would let me look on the Tagus with the other.”   If today one could look at the Tagus with the eye of Southey one would perhaps see it as he saw it:  charming, picturesque.  Or if one could arrive as Camões, one would seek that comforting secure embrace of one’s own land, impatient as with the embrace of a mother who can no longer satisfy one’s needs, and yet curious to see familiar features, flesh and blood features emerge from the long memory of one’s generic past.

I arrive as a stranger.  A sea-bird swoops and cries and I remembers those wild cries whistling down the ship’s ventilators and dying away in my cabin.  It is at this moment of arrival on the river that I feel myself in limbo, between ocean and land, between the past and the present.  From the all-absorbing oneness of the sea, the world has turned again into an intricate multiplicity.  The ocean has relinquished its passenger;  the land has not yet reestablished its claims.  The change between the fluid dissolving panorama of the ocean’s horizon, the vanishing points of sea and sky—and the uncompromising elevations and depressions, the rejecting facades of the land, strikes one as too abrupt.  The banks of the river, although widening into a kind of inland lake, seem intrusive and restrictive.  One has a feeling of discordance between body and environment; a need to regain one’s sense of perspective.  The view suddenly shadows, trembles, fades, retreats like the images of a dream.

I look down at the white-flecked current of the river feeling that I have discovered the secret pulse of Portugal: that the Tagus is the nexus between land and sea; and that in the Tower of Belem, now slowly left behind as the ship moves upriver, the Portuguese have somehow symbolized this transition as of profound importance.  This singular monument, rising abruptly at a point of transition, has a puzzling dreamlike urgency.  Its nautical motifs are interwoven with the symbols of sacrifice and salvation and one has an intuition of it as in some way linked with the motives for pilgrimage:  with the need to discover and to create; to escape from order and to impose order; to experience the new, the strange, the unique; to shed the old and commonplace.  Driven by these paradoxical needs the pilgrim once set sail from this spot.  Today driven by the same paradoxical needs one departs and one arrives…but where?  Is one’s voyage illusory?  How does it compare with those of Luis de Camões, Fernão Mendes Pinto, Vasco da Gama, Fernão Magalhães.

In his Peregrinação Fernão Mendes Pinto wrote that he left the shores of his native Portugal to seek his fortune.  As Satan was invented to explain evil, Fortune was that mysterious agent invented to explain chance.  It had its own rules.  One could seek it only by entering a domain exempt from routine cause and effect; by risking everything and accepting the consequences.  In order to escape the oppressive destiny of his daily life Fernão Mendes Pinto was ready to offer himself to “both the good and the bad” that might befall him.  It was this offering of the self that defined a peregrination.  It was an attempt to break the confining limits of self and society; to atone for failure and to transcend that failure.  It defined both the secular and the holy pilgrimage, both the search for fortune and the search for meaning.  At the same time it was a crusade—an attempt to claim something for God and King…and finally for the self.

Before he left for India, Vasco da Gama spent the entire night praying in a small hermitage nearby, now the site of the magnificent Convent of the Jeronimites.  After consecrating his departure, according to Camões’ Lusiades, on the following day he went towards the boats in the “virtuous company of a thousand diligent priests…in solemn procession and with prayer to God.”  His countrymen stood in “aweful amazement on the beach, as the fleet gave its canvas to the wind and vanished from their sight.”

Vasco da Gama set sail with a purpose:  penetrating the ocean’s distances and charting chaos in the name of God, fulfilling the strange and lonely vision of Prince Henry the Navigator, bearing with him the hopes of his people.  He returned with the gift of his discovery, a passage to India—and to the world beyond.  Upon his return to the banks of Belem the cornerstone of the Tower had been laid…but as a boundary mark it was in a sense already obsolete.  Designed by Garcia de Rezende it had been intended as a fort to protect Lisbon from pirates.  Later it became a prison for political and military criminals, and it also served as a customs house.  But what was its true significance?  To commemorate?  To protect?  To imprison?

On this mist-heavy morning I imagine the crowds of Portuguese seeing their heroes off, watching them arrive.  The long banks of the Tagus no longer witness such arrivals and departures.  A few years ago the Queen of England arrived and rode from the docks in a slender, elegant white coach with brocaded cushions.  In 1961 the hijacked Santa Maria was met by a cheering crowd as she threw anchor in the Tagus.  But there are no more pilgrimages to strike the soul with “aweful amazement.”

By now practically everyone is on deck.  There is hardly space either at the port or starboard sides.  Some passengers are planning to disembark and their luggage is piled up around them at the gangplank exits.  Most of the other passengers look forward to a day sightseeing in Lisbon.  The sailors have roped off a part of the deck and they are ready with ropes and hawsers to secure the ship.  Huge cranes hover ready to pick the entrails of the hold.  I climb up beyond the restless mass of passengers, up to the small deck where the officers have their quarters.  I must grasp somehow the meaning of the River, of the Tower, of the arrival.  This moment is crucial…this feeling in limbo.  All one’s life is suddenly focused now on this question of alienation, of transition, of freedom, of the boundary.  These seem to be the clues somehow to voyages, to pilgrimages, to arrivals and departures, to life itself.

But I am distracted.  There is movement and noise everywhere.  Below on the docks stolid swarthy Portuguese run to secure the ropes.  A little dog follows them about excitedly, his barks lost in the general tumult.  Porters wait to carry luggage.  There is a small group of people on the upper terrace of the customs house straining to see those on the ship.  Some are waving.  Below the passengers surge about the gangways, their visitor’s cards clutched in their hands, waiting impatiently to leave the ship.  I catch sight of the sensitive little Spaniard with the perfect coiffure who owns a beauty shop somewhere in Oklahoma.  He is going back to Granada to visit his mother who lives in the caves of the Sacramonte.  Near him is the pudgy Puerto Rican who is going to study medicine in Barcelona.  A crowd of middle-aged women and one chinless old man, wearing blue insignias, on their way to visit the shrine at Fatima, are gathered around their priest, clamoring for his attention.  They call themselves pilgrims, pilgrims to Fatima.

Henry Adams called himself a tourist in France, but he was something more than that.  It was as a fugitive from what he called the multiplicity of the present that he was irresistibly drawn to the great Gothic cathedrals of the past.  He opened Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres with a vivid image from the boundary:  of a tower between heaven and earth, of Saint Michael “watching across the tremor of the immense ocean—‘immensi tremor oceani.'”  It was this medieval symbol of pilgrimage that animated Adams’ long reverie about the unity of the Middle Ages.  Some of these boundary marks of the past still stand.  Whereas once they had the magic power to initiate pilgrimages, they now serve principally as tourist attractions.  But occasionally they reveal their paradoxical message to the outcasts, the prodigal sons, the refugees from the New World.  They still have the power to evoke not only a confusion of historical images, but an imagination of those profound emotive forces of the past.  They summon from oblivion one’s own dreams of childhood…and for a moment the tourist is converted into pilgrim.

Extending down from the crown of one of Lisbon’s many hills one can see the ancient walls of the Castle.  At one time crossing the boundary meant leaving these walls, crossing the fields, setting forth over the land.  It meant risking the irrevocable loss of the familiar.  The world was once full of such walls, of boundaries, marking the division between cosmos and chaos; between the known world and the “unpeopled world behind the sun;” between land, sea and sky; between faith and heresy; between the kingdom and the wilderness.

In the other direction beyond the Tagus one can still see the dark horizon of the sea…the sea that above all was a periphery by which people bound their lives.  But at the same time it was a destroyer of peripheries.  It signified an end to the finite and the beginning of a crucial and perilous voyage into the infinite.  In a real physical sense it dispossessed the voyager of the land and of all that to which man is most rooted; of all that shapes and contains his identity.

If today on the ocean, one still has the sensation of being thrown to the horizons—of divestment, alienation and escape—it is only an illusion.  It is the New World, the frontier, that partly works this metamorphosis; that never allows one to take shape and to be rooted.  The modern ocean liner cleaves its furrow between fixed ports of arrival and departure.  Unlike the Santa Maria and the Vittoria it is not open to discovery.  The passenger is as protected from fortune, from chance, from chaos, as if he were in a cradle.  The ship imposes a quotidian order of its own, a substitute for the life one has left behind.  One need not face infinity nor the elemental self stripped of habit.  Habit is reinforced.  One is returned to the nursery, encapsulated, guarded from an alienating and cleansing encounter with the primeval.

A jet plane rips the skies overhead and fills the vacuum with sound.  The skies, like the seas, could be an interregnum of expurgation and revelation, of preparation for a renewed encounter with land.  But speed telescopes and diminishes.  One settles down in the plane, puts on one’s slippers, enjoys a meal, perhaps a movie, and arrives with one’s definitions intact.  Speed and comfort have turned the pilgrim into a tourist, a consumer of space and time.  Desire, desperation and dreams no longer forge paths into the wilderness.  Paths have become superhighways, paved and oiled for the pleasure-seeker and the collector of places.  Ironically one travels between contracting poles where one encounters the features of conformity, the geography of absurdity.  Thousands become tourists demanding packaged tours to packaged places.  Countries are consumed one after the other.  The past is devoured undigested.  Everything is designed to divest the traveler of any meaningful experience…to mask his deep loneliness and isolation.

And yet there are moments of vulnerability and of crisis that nothing can mask; that suddenly break open the brittle shell of habit; that reverse the conventional and unquestioned meaning of things.  Arrivals appear as departures, departures appear as arrivals…and I arrive on the shores of the Old World with a sense of returning home.  It is this return that assumes importance.  Is it also a kind of pilgrimage?…or is it a defeat?  Can one no longer accept change and the challenge of the unknown, the delicious terror of freedom?  Threatened by a sense of his own weakness and ignorance does the child run back to the arms of his mother; run from the seashore and his dreams of omnipotence; run from his little fort of sand?

The narrow line of the boundary places in sudden conjunction the Tower of Belem with the Statue of Liberty and they begin to yield their secret.  The fortress and the frontier!  From its commencement Western history has been a pilgrimage in one direction, away from the Walls, the Castle, the Fort, the Tower; a succession of departures beyond the framework of belief and law…towards freedom.  The unknown has been planted with the cross and the flag, explored and charted…but there has been no return.  The American pilgrims pushed forward frontiers, opened up virgin territories, broke open mythic cultures.  But they left something gaping, undone.  Tempted by visions of freedom and progress they converted themselves from pilgrims to pioneers and transformed their world into a  place of no return—a world of the boundary, a realm of continual transformation, of Ouranos divorced from Gaia.  Ironically, perhaps because of that refusal to accept the limitations of the frontier, their children attempt to destroy all lines of demarcation, all boundary marks; to produce mass in the guise of form; to convert image into process; to annul both the end and the beginning, genesis and judgment, center and circumference.  They have charted chaos by denying the principles of cosmos.  They no longer see the world as a unity, but as a frontier; no longer as an image but as a condition of explosive liberation from traditional connections.  Like contemporary art they have created a world that demands a moratorium on judgment and a willingness to accept the reversal of image into process. Freedom has turned the pilgrim into pioneer and then paradoxically the pioneer into a captive of the frontier.

The pilgrim set out on a search for truth and returned home with the mysterious potentiality to deepen the meaning of the prosaic.  The tourist, at once the victim and the victimizer—like Odysseus in his role of magician and trickster—everywhere destroys the individual and unique.  He reduces the aberrant and alien to a safe mediocrity.  His thoughtless usurpation and restless sense of incompletion is transmuting the Old World irrevocably into the frontiers of the New.  Unlike Odysseus he cannot escape the boundary to return and put his house in order.

The crowds push forward onto the gangplank.  The little dog retreats, the porters rush up with their carts.  The tourist itineraries are prepared, the orbits established.  The time has come to leave the boat.  But this moment in limbo becomes a long lifetime…with one saying, “I belong not only to the voyage but to the point of departure, not only to the present but to the past, not only to the sea but to the land…”  But the words are spoken to the wind…no one listens.  A fugitive from the frontier, I walk down the gangplank and onto the dock, onto historical Portuguese soil, only to find that I can no longer fit within the framework of the past.  I search for familiar landmarks, but find them absurdly altered by time, traditional patterns remaining as meaningless fragments within the imposed uniformity of the present.  I, the voyager, have put on disguises that, unlike Odysseus, cannot be thrown off at the crucial moment of self-revelation. 

* * * * * * * * * *

Above the Tower of Belem the sky is in constant movement.  Beyond is the sea.  Odysseus, metamorphosed, sailed the Portuguese horizon.  He parted with saudades on a “triste e leda madrugada,” knowing the ambiguity of departure.  For every voyage there must be a return.

I arrive as a stranger, in limbo between the past and the future, between unity and complexity.  Beyond the frontier one flees the absurd geometry of the future. 

I who am abandoned on a frontier without limits, without a history, without an architecture to mark the known from the unknown…return to Portugal to seek some message from the past, some symbol of my voyage.  I arrive with a fado from the sea, from the wind, in my heart.  I sense the secret of my saudades when I see the Tower of Belem.

Read Full Post »

Something Tragically Wrong

23 October 1969

Cascais, Portugal

Dear Jerry,

Your letter finally reached me after a round-about trip to Lisbon.  You used the address I evidently gave you my first week here.  I have used Posta Restante, Cascais, since April.

I hope that this letter reaches you since you told me that you were leaving soon for England.  Do you have any special plans for your trip?  I remember your telling me that you disliked London.

I continue to love Portugal.  In a purely personal sense I respond avidly to all the aspects of the culture that are genuinely Latin.  This is the great success, I believe, of Latin culture, that it satisfies the senses…whereas in the U.S. everything is done to deprive one of the sensual world (which is why drugs are popular there; perhaps they fill that vacuum).  But the name “Latin” doesn’t really serve for the culture that developed in the Iberian peninsula and spread principally to Central and South America.  When I think of the ancient Latins, the Latins of Rome…Caesar’s Latins…I think of a culture that absurdly formalized ways of Greek living and thinking.  In connection with Rome one thinks of rules and boundaries (and, of course, the wild excesses that resulted from all that).  Latin literature was quite sterile, even Ovid’s Metamorphoses that inspired Dante.  Actually the Latins didn’t become Latins as we now think of them until the Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, introduced the spiritual mystery and the symbolic sensuality of Christianity.  The Latins of the Iberian peninsula developed somewhat differently, due to the Arabic influence primarily, I believe.  And they interpreted Christianity differently.

I am beginning to think more and more that there was something tragically wrong with Greek culture…at least in its effects on Rome, Renaissance Italy, England and the West in general.  The Greeks saw the world in the wrong way.  They should have felt it more.  They gave us Reason at the expense of Passion.  The Arabs sensualized the Iberian peninsula and the Catholic religion provided the necessary tensions and dimensions to that sensuality. 

The process of Americanizing the world should be reversed.  I would like to Latinize the U.S.  It would be a great step forward if only Americans would all begin speaking Portuguese or Spanish.  Latin culture somehow doesn’t lend itself to technology.  The Latin bureaucracy, for example, is primarily designed to frustrate order and the Latins are basically anti-order.  They treat machines like toys instead of with the insane respect that Americans treat them.  It’s people, living breathing feeling people, who are important to the Latins.  Their curiosity is centered on human beings instead of on machines.  (By the way, I read about a Catholic priest’s experiment in New York this summer in getting people out on the streets and mixing with each other).  The café, the street, are the focal points of Latin culture…wherever one can see other humans.  No one could feel alienated or rejected here even if he wanted to.  Everyone is a source of interest. 

Herbert Marcuse has written about the sensual deprivation of American technological society.  However, in Eros and Civilization his solutions are Freudian ones geared to the machine.  He approves of technology.  Evidently in Lewis Mumford’s latest book he condemns Americans for reversing “necessity is the mother of invention” to “invention is the mother of necessity.”  Everything that can possibly be technologically realized is avidly accepted…i.e., superjets and trips to Venus…etc. ad. inf.  What can possibly be more absurd than machines controlling man rather than vice versa?  Man is a slave to his own frantic technological imagination.   He invented gods from primitive forces.  Now he invents the forces themselves to become gods.

Well, the Latins have taken to the automobile and even though they don’t treat it with respect, they are rapidly killing each other off.  Something must be done to save them from this menace.

The Latins (Portuguese, Spanish, etc.) condemn political parties in a desperate attempt to defend their governments.  However, in order to protect their way of life they don’t realize that they must do more than exclude politics.  Modern advertising and economics, television, tourists, automobiles…all these are insidiously and effectively destroying what is uniquely Portuguese.  These days one must make one’s raison d’etre explicit and politics, perhaps, could effectively do this.  I don’t know.  I do know that it’s somewhat difficult for Portuguese intellectuals to understand what I am trying to say.  Thus, while they condemn the U.S. for being “materialistic,” still they don’t perceive all the complex and subtle implications of freedom.  They don’t understand how easy it is to follow the path to that materialism by the means of the very “freedom” they espouse.  They suffer from not being able adequately to express themselves…and of course they condemn what are and what they consider are the repressive forms of their culture.   But Rousseau saw that freedom essentially means putting one’s personal freedom at the service of the community, not using it for oneself….which then no longer becomes freedom.

I think the main problem here lies in developing more understanding among the intellectuals so that they don’t flee, nor futilely simmer among themselves.  If only they could be convinced of the strength and value of their own culture and consequently emphasize what is good, alleviate the unnecessary suffering, etc., and present a bulwark against the destructive tendencies of the U.S. and the outside world.

There are so many problems.  You ask me about the war in Vietnam.  Have you read Mary MacCarthy’s article?  I think she clearly sees just what the Americans are doing.  How does one put a culture back together again, even if one does stop a war?  Things are never the same.  Of course, one must have some sense of ultimate values and that is what is lacking in the U.S.  The whole culture must be changed…and its easier to flow along with the tide, to follow MacLuhan or the pathetic protests of the hippies.  All this is another chapter.  Please write soon.  I would like to hear from you and I am always ready to expound my ideas.

I feel that I should return…but I feel sad at the thought.  It is difficult to know where I belong, but I suppose I have a fundamental responsibility there.  Perhaps there is nothing for me and I am relatively happy here.  But I don’t know.

Read Full Post »

It was April of 1962, a lovely “April in Portugal.” I was standing with one of my Portuguese friends in the Cais de Sodre Station in Lisbon, waiting for a train to the famous beach towns of Estoril and Cascais located a short distance from the city. The station platform was new, finished just a year before. I remember nothing special about that particular day, only a general feeling of excitement and anticipation. I had no conscious premonitions of any danger or of any future disaster. My friend, a young student at the Gulbenkian Music Conservatory in Lisbon, and I must have passed the time talking about his country and also perhaps about music and poetry. When I left Portugal a week or so afterwards, we corresponded and he sometimes sent me records of music that he had composed and played­­­­­­­-or poetry that he had written.

          A year later, in May 1963, I was living with my family in a large brick house in a small town in Connecticut. I don’t remember what I was doing the evening of May 27 and therefore it must have been like any other. I probably spent it reading in my study and then my husband and I went to bed at the usual time, around 11 p.m.  Our bedroom was on the second floor and was one of four large ones all leading into a long corridor. One of the other three was occupied by our young son. The others were empty and used at times as studies or guestrooms.

          Our bedroom window faced a quiet residential street next to the University. It was only a block long and had a minimum of traffic. Social life here was subdued and people retired early. I remember that at one end of the street was a house several centuries old, and across from it an ancient graveyard.

          My normal pattern of sleep is a healthy one. I tend to fall asleep instantly and deeply, then later in the night have periods of dreaming. It is very rare that I awaken before morning.

          As I mentioned, there was nothing unusual about that particular Monday night in May. It was just one more night among many in my life…until just before daybreak.  The preceding events were unimportant, therefore fuzzy. However, I remember clearly what followed.

          Suddenly I woke out of a deep normal sleep.  Surprisingly, I felt instantly aware of where I was and I knew that I had been asleep and not dreaming. I noticed that my husband was still sound asleep at my side. I turned over on my back, wondering what had wakened me. Everything was very quiet. For some reason I looked towards the door of our bedroom. To my astonishment I could see a human figure standing in the open doorway!  It was still dark but I could see perfectly well. A street light outside our window partially illuminated the bedroom.  Fear sharpened my senses and I stared horrified at the figure. It came clearly into focus and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Standing there in his trench coat, his hands in his pockets, in a familiar gesture with a familiar look on his face, was one of my Portuguese friends, the same one who had stood with me a year earlier waiting for a train to Cascais!

            My next reaction was dismay and apprehension. Rather than wondering, “How did he get into a locked house?” or, “How could he be here in my bedroom when he is in Portugal?”, I thought instead, “How can I explain his presence to my family?” And, “How can I get him out of here before my family wakes up?” But in those seemingly interminable seconds while I gazed, confused, worried and surprised, not daring to say anything to him, he began to fade before my very eyes! In the next moment, where a solid figure had stood, blotting out the hall behind him, was now empty space.

            For awhile I stared at the doorway, but by then I realized that no one was “really” there. Trembling, I lay back on my pillow, trying to analyze what had occurred. But there was actually no logical explanation. I knew that I was awake and had not been dreaming. What had jolted me from my sleep? There wasn’t a sound inside nor out of the house. There were no cars, no wind. My husband was still sleeping soundly at my side.

            It had been such a strange and real experience that I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay there for an hour or so until my husband awoke. I arose saying nothing of my “hallucination.”      

            Around eight o’clock that morning I was alone in the kitchen and turned on the radio for the news broadcast. The very first thing I heard was that a station roof had collapsed in Lisbon and that many people were killed and injured. When I heard this only a few hours after my strange vision of my friend, I immediately connected the two occurrences. I knew he used that station often on holidays since he had relatives who lived out at the beach, and I knew that particular Tuesday was a Portuguese holiday. Without hesitation I called Western Union and send a cable in French, the language we used together. “Etes-vous bien?” (“Are you all right?”) Then later in the day I wrote him a letter telling him of my vision of him that early morning and of hearing the news of the station collapse soon after.

            For two weeks I received no answer. Because of the strong imprint of the vision and the time of its happening I began to feel that I had had some premonition of death or disaster. I wrote several more letters that also went unanswered. Finally, however, I received a letter from my friend. I was relieved to see his handwriting and thought that it all had been a false alarm. Nevertheless, I discovered that the contents of the letter strangely bore on my experience.

            My friend began with an apology for not writing sooner and for not answering my cable. He knew that I would understand. Then he explained that he had been indirectly involved in an accident, the same one that I had heard about. He told me that I too had been involved in what had happened.

            On the night preceding the accident, the night of May 27th, he had written a poem and thought immediately of mailing it to me the next day so that he could receive my opinion of it. The next morning was a holiday and he was planning to visit his relatives at the beach. He awoke late and although he was eager to reread his poem, he dressed quickly, put it in his pocket and rushed out to catch a streetcar for the Cas de Sodre station. He decided that he would read the poem on the train to Cascais and then mail it after he arrived there.

            The letter continued: He arrived at the station, entered the turnstile, paid for his ticket and came out on the platform. He started for the track where his train would stop. Then he heard someone call his name. He turned around and saw in the crowd a friend of his from the music conservatory. He walked back to see what he wanted. His friend asked him where he was going and he replied, to Cascais, which was the end of the line. The friend urged him to accompany him on the local train as far as Estoril and then transfer to another. The express train that went almost directly to Cascais was just pulling in. My friend saw it and apologized that he was in a hurry. Actually, he wanted to travel alone so that he could reread his poem. Ordinarily he would have been glad to accompany his friend, but this time he said goodbye and entered the train that had just pulled up in front of the platform.

            He had just sat down when suddenly he heard screams and a horrible roar behind him. He looked back at the platform and saw the roof falling. Before his eyes his friend, and many others, were crushed to death. The scene was chaos. Without further description he ended his letter, “This terrible thing upset me so much that I have been in bed for two weeks, unable to eat, unable to do anything.”

            He said nothing about the vision I had of him, nor did I ever mention it again. But I still wonder about this: why he appeared thus to me just before or at the time of his dreadful experience? It is certain that he would not be alive today if he hadn’t intended to send that poem to me.

* * * * * * * * * *

February 28, 1976

Editor

Premonition

Reader’s Digest

Pleasantville, N.Y. 10570

Dear Sir/Mme:

Years ago as a small child I remember visiting my grandmother.  I was very awed of her and would shyly peek around the side of the house, knowing that she was always sitting in her hammock in the backyard reading a copy of the Reader’s Digest.  As soon as she would go into the house, I would surreptitiously take her place and read her magazine, watching with one eye for her return.  No one dared to sit in her hammock in her presence.  The only other thing I remember her reading was the Bible.  If you should print the enclosed article, unfortunately she won’t be able to read it and feel proud of her granddaughter.  Or will she?  Perhaps somewhere, somehow, she’s still reading the Reader’s Digest.  After having had the experience I’ve written about, I’m quite sure that anything is possible.  I am pleased that your magazine is opening its pages to such experiences.

My own experience was a true one.  I have spent some time in Portugal, living both in Cascais and Lisbon, and using that station many times.  My friend’s name is Tomas Santos and he lives at Liceu de Comoes, Praca Jose Fontana, Lisbon, Portugal.  I still correspond with him, but unfortunately threw out his letter some time ago.  However, I am sending a coopy of the news report.  This doesn’t mention the exact time of the accident, but it took place in the very early afternoon or possibly late morning…almost or exactly paralleling the time I had the vision—in Connecticut.

Thank you for considering my manuscript.  I prefer to use my own name.

Respectfully yours,

Lorrie Shadbolt (Tussman)

P.S.  At the time of the occurrence my husband, Joseph Tussman, a professor of philosophy, was teaching at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.  We lived at 730 Mt. Vernon St.  We now live in Berkeley, Calif.

I hereby affirm the account is true and that I have never written it down before nor published it.

Lorrie Shadbolt

img_6808.jpg

Read Full Post »

Cascais 1969

Cascais, Portugal, 6 October 1969

Dearest Mother,

The chestnut trees are beginning to lose their leaves and the chestnut vendors are appearing on the street corners.  The smoke from their charcoal braziers is part of the smell of winter in the city [Lisbon].

I have moved to a pension in the city—but the noise and the fumes and the insane traffic are almost more than I can bear.  I come back to Cascais every day to swim.  I am almost alone at the beach now and the water that was so tranquil during the summer has become wild and restless.  However, that doesn’t keep me from swimming—and the ocean temperature is actually warmer now. 

When I leave the train at the station in Cascais and walk along the Alameda Duquesa de Palmela I feel my spirit renewed.  Instead of the incessant roar of machines one can hear the murmur of the ocean—and the crow of a rooster.  There are palms and oleanders and chestnuts, a great stone house with towers, balconies and grills over its windows.  Inside the wall is a garden-Mediterranean style—with geometrical hedges and walks and arbors, just like the gardens I used to imagine as a child.  

The old streets of Cascais (like all the fishing villages I’ve seen here) are narrow and winding—Moorish style.  On the way to the beach I pass a typical small shop with marble floors, tile walls, boxes of fruits and vegetables on the floor, wreaths of onions and peppers hanging from the walls, several cages with canaries and a little red rooster hopping around freely.

There is a tiny ancient church nearby, built of stone and carved and ornamented in a charming fashion.  It survived the terrible earthquake of 1755 and the resulting tidal waves stopped just short of it.  It’s no longer used and is closed up tight.

The genuine mixes with the artificial here—like plastic flowers on the rough wooden table of a fisherman’s house.  The trouble with the tourists is that they come for pleasure—they come to look.  They’re always outside and they’re always disrupting—even with the best of intentions.  They come to spend money freely—and how does that appear, for example, to a hardworking fisherman who has to risk his life everyday to earn his daily bread?  There are so many poor here.  As yet they are honest and kind, for the most part, and treat the tourist well.  But of course just like everywhere else, they’ll learn to prosper by being dishonest.

The machine will take over—the desire for an automobile, a refrigerator etc etc.

Why am I here?  How can it be justified?  Perhaps it can’t—but it can be explained.  I agree with you that my place is in America.  I know that I must return.

Don’t forget one thing… You grew up knowing the west—part of its frontier life.  I never was part of it.  I knew tropical islands and the very edge of the continent, belonging more to the sea than to the land.  Americans are represented by New Yorkers, or conservative New Englanders, or stolid Iowa farmers—Middlewesterners with German backgrounds—all these people are much more alien to me than Latins are—whose emotional warmth and way of being I find easy to respond to.  Even you, my own mother, have a much more Latin nature than a typical American mother.

But aside from the personal attraction to Latin cultures, my being here has been a search.  I had to experience and understand other cultures in order to understand my own better.  I sense so many things wrong with the world.

Yes, we are living in a time of revolution.  The trouble is that no one really understands that revolution or has any idea about how to direct it or how to create a better society in place of the old mess.  The young people are rebelling against the mindless, spiritually and physically empty consumer-machine society that we have developed—but they are so lost—trying to escape into drugs and sex. 

What is my role in this world?  I still am not sure.  I do know that a woman has a primary responsibility to her family-otherwise the whole society falls apart…

The relationships between complex people are bound to be complex.  Too often one is bound by infantile needs—instead of mature responsibilities.  Misunderstandings build up.  It takes a long time to understand oneself and life doesn’t wait.  I feel that my place is with Joe—but it is very difficult.  He wanted a strange and complex wife—and then wanted her to be satisfied with cooking elaborate meals, entertaining and enjoying cocktail parties—and staying out of the intellectual world (except as a hostess) of which he was a part. 

However, men have enough problems in the world and their wives should not be additional ones.  Someone has to make sacrifices.  The woman should be loving and comforting and give a great deal on the personal level. 

So you’re back in Ramona!  I don’t like the fact that you have that long drive when you want to go to San Diego or Ocean Beach.  It’s so isolated!  

I am still waiting for that letter from Mary.  Love to all—you, Leo, Mary, Bobby, Bob.

Glad

Cascais 1969

On the beach at Cascais, November 1969

Read Full Post »