Wednesday 25 June 2008


Wrote a bad villanelle, spent all day at it, shall have another go tonight, now that I'm back home again (long walk today).

As usual, the problem is the rhyming while keeping the sentences fluid and natural. I mean that is my goal, not what I've achieved. One of the recommended texts (on the villanelle) said, the success is in the attempt. A useful way of looking at it.

Reading: someone lent me a book about the Sarajevo Haggadah, called People of the Book, (Geraldine Brooks, 2008, Viking Penguin): thought I'd allow myself to read it as a reward for finishing one course. It was not a reward. The characters are beautiful and clever, unreal: the curse of the 'special', particularly when there is no reason for them to be special except that the author says so, I mean, it is not through some believable development that they become so except an accident of birth. That does not make for depth.

I have been affected by the text about Cezanne and Rilke's flaming arrow. In my case it was at the most a twinge: how to do the best you can, if you do not give it everything, focus entirely?

I know of a musician who refuses to father children because they would distract him from his work. Hard on the partner. This text makes such total focus a more common attitude than I had thought. I was also reminded of the monks in the film, Into Great Silence, devoting themselves completely to what is important to them. Of course, no children.

Devotion makes me think of mothers. Their devotion is why there are fewer women geniuses than men, their own desires and wishes coming second, or who knows, third, last. I once asked a Rabbi why, in orthodox Judaism, it is necessary that there be ten men rather than ten people, present before a service may start? Why are women not included?

From what I see in our liberal community, which does not differentiate between men and women, the women have the knowledge of devotion, they take over the tasks that run the community as a matter of course, it is just one more thing that needs to be done. Men appear to be less inclined that way. We have a few who are, and those, I realise as I write , are also outstanding fathers. Could it be, I asked the (orthodox) Rabbi, that it is because the men need to be made to do it, or they will not know about devotion? That the devoting needs to be seen as a male activity and obligatory, for them to engage in it?

He agreed that it was so.

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