Thursday, February 10, 2011

Answer #176 - Himmelhochjauchsend oder zum Tode betrübt

Goethe made the reference to the artistic temperment in Das Leiden des Jungen Werthers. The translation from my Dutch friend, Ben, is 'cheering from sky high or deadly sad.'

I admit, there's not much middle ground. I think, in this way, of Cohen, not unlike Beckett, and yet - plumbing the depths and the multitudinous winters of the soul for pearls or crystals. The difference - Beckett spent countless hours in dark spaces, at least too dark for me to stay in with him (heh. and that's saying something) - didn't seem to cheer from sky high - Cohen moved through the waters and up, like a dolphin, bursting into the air long enough to whisper Hallelujah.. so beautifully that the sound will carry across God knows how many bursts of solar radiation.. and diving back down again.

I'm neither of those people, and to little dispute. Cartoonish scenes and sensibilities dance in and around me half the time, and holding on to the shaky framework the world takes so for granted daily, washing its doggies and driving its buggies, whirling endless through color and sound.. it's challenging. Most of the time, I'd rather write the new world into play, rather than put on my gravity boots and trudge through the jello of repetition and cordialities in this one. But, hell, I'm a paying member of the human club and there are certain obligations that come with carrying the card. Sadly, the percentage of club members that can currently influence world legislation have embraced the notion that goo for brains in the exploitation of every possible resource is a card member privilege and the key to happiness, marching the rest of us like Lemmings to fiery, oily seas. Nice looking as we trot, though. Well, some of us. Occasionally. So lately I want out of the club some, but there's a nasty ritual that goes along with exiting. I think it involves paddles and swallowing goldfish.

As beautiful as the German phrase is, this is where things begin to go a little dark for me and Yankee philosophy comes in.

Himmelhochjauchsend oder zum Tode betrübt can be treated with any number of small pills. We're the pharmaceutical kings of the world (say it with me: S O M A). No worries, no issue, no moon boots through jello. We Yankees have lots of clinical names for such malaise and its associated symptomology because we like categories and specialities, and we really really like people in lab coats that charge us lots and lots of money to diminish humanity to microscopic misfires of glands, serotonin uptake and peptide receptors.

We're good at this.

We need, however, to be better at hearing whale song and interpreting the chitter of dolphins.

And there's no pill for that.

So. Which is the better longitude?

I'm going with Goethe today. Himmelhochjauchsend oder zum Tode betrübt. And leaning toward the longitude just nearer the sun. Boxes of clouds under each arm, heading to the memory of last year in the Kenai Peninsula, where the curious harbor seals followed us along the beach for an hour, just watching, just wondering, maybe even waiting for us to say something they understood.. somewhere between the sky and the water.


  1. Yes. And yes again. February is a cruel month of necessary darkness and that most horrible of pains--a glimpse of light. I get to the 17th and people wanna cake me 'cause DECADES ago me momma labored me out of her. Celebration has to be DREDGED up from this month. I am learning.

  2. I spent a week in Homer, AK a few years back--the last glorious vacation with my now late husband. Homer--Where bald eagles soar by the hundred (seemingly) over the spit. At land's end.


Comment and I swear I'll read it.