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Posts Tagged ‘human condition’

 

 

Of the very substance,- Ah dust I am,

Veiled, the light of wisdom is but dim:

Its sovereign rays penetrate however,

Dispers’d through my sentient flesh, a prism.

 

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All the world is a cage

And all the men and women merely shut in:

They have their grand stands and low stools

To sit or wax wroth in righteous ire

upon principles they never practise.

 

One man in his time is many things

So well he notes the moment.

All seven ages he plays with

One string : gimme gimme gimme.

Infants may cry for loose ends

While the man for loose change

All the world is a cage

Where we ourselves do

serve the gaoler: how sad

We never think what is free

Nor stake claim as freeborn?

benny

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Prayer Before Birth

 

I am not yet born;O hear me.


Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.


I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,


with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.


I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.


I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
my life when they murder by means of my
hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me

In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
waves call me to folly and the desert calls
me to doom and the beggar refuses
my gift and my children curse me.


I am not yet born; O hear me,


Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
one face, a thing, and against all those
 who would dissipate my entirety, would
 blow me like thistledown hither and
 thither or hither and thither 
like water held in the
hands would spill me.


Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

Louis Macneice(1907-1963)

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Five months before the earth opened and swallowed his home, Buddy Wicker welcomed inspectors sent by State Farm Insurance to his house, who surveyed the property and deemed it free of any sinkhole risk.

Last week, a 20-foot-wide sinkhole yawned under Wicker’s Seffner, Fla., home, killing one of its residents, and sucking down a bedroom. The entire home was later demolished.(ack:http://www.lohud.com/usatoday of March8,’13)

Sinkholes are frequent in Florida area in the spring and summer seasons.From the above new clip it would seem we are not often certain over what we base as certainties. Let me quote a passage from my 2006 book The Life of Aesop

‘An anecdote that Maimonides told of his master impressed Aesop greatly. He said how Iadmon had set his eye on a piece of land that promised a great deal. It had a well and consequently a fertile soil. So he moved heaven and earth to acquire it. After he had paid in gold and took over he found to his chagrin the well had overnight gone dry! Unknown to him the City had earlier diverted a canal in another section far from the spot. But just as soon as Iadmon had begun improving his property he was without the water! Well many crowed he had it coming to him. Iadmon naturally made a loss!

What diverted Aesop was the idea of it. He thought of an unseen world that sustained another world in which man planted and harvested, a world where he made claims and fought tooth and nail to make riches. If he thought of profits from a deal it soon spiraled onto many more deals. More profits. Would he not if he could, decimate every competitor in his path? ‘A man so wheels and deals without fully realizing the risks involved.’

Aesop asked the little master if he were not nervous of things going wrong. “Politics is a very fickle master to serve,” he said. The little Master replied, “All that negative thoughts cripple you from venturing forth. You must be bold in order to win Dame Luck!” He was sure his pessimism arose from miserable experiences of his infant days.’

Who would cease to take risks in life? Only the cowards, I dare say. But we ought to understand we can only give our best shot in any enterprise and leave it that. Where your win or loss is going to affect your family and many others you need to have a plan B. Success in life is for the brave at heart, and for the smart.

benny

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A Cruel Joke 

Nothing cheers up folks as Old Ichabod
Who has no fixed abode.
He doesn’t live here or there
But everywhere folks watch out
For a sight of Old Ichabod.

We have care and tear of living
On the edge without satisfaction;
Make us laugh, no matter what.
Sight of you is an unction.

Nothing cheers up folks as Old Ichabod
Who is set in ways very odd;
He is gaunt and in much want.
So much was plain, and death came
Without notice to Old Ichabod.

Old folks and infants passing
The pauper’s last resting place
Took that as a cruel joke:
‘There was none to take his place.’

12-25-06

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Vredens Dag-1943
Based on a novel by Hans Wiers-Jenssens, Carl Th.Dreyer’s Day of Wrath remains an intense, unforgettable experience. The credits against the score of Dies Irae, chanted by a solemn choir on the background sets the tone. One might expect the film to be a moral play from a casual reading of the plot. Consider the plot: Anne, the young second wife of a well-respected but much older pastor, falls in love with her stepson who has come home. The film could easily have slid into the other extreme judging by the bare storyline. The film is not for those who approach a film to satisfy their prurient interests.  Carl Dreyer is in full command of his material never swerving to please either.  He leaves the film open ended and it makes it all the more compelling drama somewhat like Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel. Was Anne similarly guilty or not is left to the viewer and there are no easy answers.

Set in Denmark in the 1600s Dreyer’s austere narrative does not let off the aged, devout minister, Absalon (Thorkild Roose) for marrying a far younger wife, Anne (Lisbeth Movin). His moral authority places him head of the religious council and in power over life and death of members of his parish. But is he what he seems to profess? All his professed piety is negated by his foolish May- December marriage. As the film progresses we know his gravity and condescending concern for her is more a manifestation of the aridity of his soul.  He can well dispatch a helpless woman to her death who knows too well the circumstances by which he claimed the young bride.  With her death the minister has merely bought time. None of his fellow clergymen shall know he conspired to release Anne’s late mother, an accused witch, in return for Anne agreeing to marry him. This is the moral dilemma number one.

Abaslon’s unmarried son (and Anne’s stepson), Martin (Preben Lerdoff Rye) poses the second. In the final scene we feel with Anne in the manner her last remaining support is cut off. Martin is as much guilty of lust but having tasted stolen bread in secret, the gravel that he spits out is his lack of moral compass. He gives in too easily to ‘religion’ of  his departed sire and superstition. The shot where Anne stands by her husband’s coffin abandoned and accused by her peers is all the more keenly felt since it is a commentary of Martin’s betrayal. It breaks her will so much as to let her tormentors do what will. But was she really guilty of Absalon’s death?
Whether Anne is really guilty or not is left unanswered as the scene in the first half where Absalon reveals about her mother. She was a witch who could with her powers work with the dead and the living to bring anything to pass. He shares this piece of news concerned that she as her child possessed the same powers, and in the perilous times when witches were hunted and burned she should be very careful. Next shot we see her enunciating the name of Martin clearly and trembling with desire. The viewer knows the name is spoken with all her  being. Was it the desire of a woman awaiting for a physical union with one who is in his prime? Or is the cold power of a witch manifested here? In whichever case Martin responded because of his human fraility. Whether Martin answered her call on incantation or by his own physical desire makes him equally guilty. But he is not punished. Moral dilemma of man answering his natural urges is solely on his own human  condition: in other words witches or demonic possession are simply labels to paper over one’s moral lapses.

While largely Dreyer’s essay deals with a forbidden love triangle there are two characters whose formidable presence delineate the moral ambit of the three characters. Anne’s tragedy is what imposed by hereditary. Herlofs Marte (Anne Svierkier) at the beginning of the film comes to Anne in fright; her appeal for refuge is on the basis she is the daughter of a witch of her own coven. Anne in helping her has already placed herself on the wrong side of the powerful Council.
Marte who is accused of witchcraft knows society for what it is. She knows what beats behind the straitlaced minister and his ilk. She is unrepentant and is not taken in by the moralizing prig whose heart is all angles as sharp as the scythe of Death. She cries out  “I fear neither heaven or hell; I am only afraid to die,” and it is merely admission of her human fraility that is beyond pretensions or need for redemption. When she falls along with the burning stake it is as she falls on us. It is an unforgettable cinematic moment.
At the outset we witness an intimate domestic scene that is a commentary on the household. It is not Absalon or his wife but his mother who is in charge. She is a veritable Gorgon. Naturally Anne could not do anything right and when her mother-in-law accuses her of engineering her son’s death we are left with no doubt as to the motive. Mother of the minister and in her dress and conduct a matron of unassailable virtue she is unrepentant and unredeemed as much as Herlofs Marte occupying the other end of local community in Norway.

Filmed during the Nazi occupation of Denmark, Carl Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (Vredens dag) is a harrowing account of individual helplessness in the face of growing social repression and paranoia.  Exquisitely photographed and passionately acted, Day of Wrath remains an intense, unforgettable experience.
Cast
Lisbeth Movin
Albert Høeberg
Preben Lerdorff Rye
Sigrid Neiiendam

Credits
Director    Carl Th. Dreyer
Screenplay    Carl Th. Dreyer
From a novel by    Hans Wiers-Jenssens
Producer    Carl Th. Dreyer and Tage Nielsen
Cinematography    Karl Andersson
Editing    Anne Marie Petersen and Edith Schlüssel
Music     Poul Schierbeck
Memorable Quotes:
Rev. Absalon Pederssøn: There is nothing so quiet as a heart that has ceased to beat.
—-
Martin: Shall we ever find each other again?
Anne Pedersdotter: Who shall prevent it?
Martin: The dead.
—-
Anne Pedersdotter: I see through my tears, but no one comes to wipe them away.
Trivia

Though the film is outwardly a chronicle of a religious witch-hunt, it contained many subtler comparisons to the behavior of the Nazis (torture and questioning) and Carl Theodor Dreyer fled Denmark for Sweden where he remained until the war was over.

Dreyer
‘Much of Dreyer’s austerity in dissecting the frailities of human heart and psyche without sitting in judgment of moral compulsions he is more a coroner than a surgeon. Hysteria of witchcraft and heresy of 17th Century had given way to Eugenics and racial purity demanded by the Nazism. Looking at society conditioned by Luther or Calvin authority of the godly required scapegoats. The church leaders based their policy on the Holy Writ while the Nazis policy of lebensraum  drew their own conclusions from Spencer and Darwin. Dreyer’s concern was for those who made up society, Everyman on whom was the burden of making the policy of powers- that- be  work. In locating the areas of putrefaction he didn’t make them monstrous or innocent. Absalon,  Jeanne d’Arc, one mythical and the other historical, were victims of greater forces.
Dreyer’s upbringing was neither strict nor Lutheran. Born out of wedlock in 1889 to a Swedish servant (who died horribly a year and a half later trying to abort a second child), he was adopted by the Dreyers in Copenhagen, who gave him a nonreligious upbringing and whom he grew up despising religiosity. Absalon’s mother must have touched a familiar chord in him to make her as instrument of hatred masquerading as propriety. ‘The slow pacing is necessary for the intensity and the sexiness under the gloom to register. Freely adapted from a Norwegian play… Anne Pedersdotter that Dreyer had first seen in 1909, Day of Wrath looks today more cinematically advanced than any other movie released in 1943.

The film’s handling of period is unparalleled, achieving a narrative richness that may initially seem confusing. Set in 1623, when people still believed without question in witches, the film views that world from a contemporary perspective without for a moment dispelling our sense of what it felt like from the inside. Dreyer pulls off this difficult task through his singular style, involving a sensual form of camera movement he invented: the camera gliding on unseen tracks in one direction while uncannily panning in another direction. It’s difficult to imagine—a three-dimensional kind of transport that somehow combines coming and going in the same complex journey—but a hypnotic experience to follow. The film’s first real taste of it comes fairly early, when we follow Anne in her sinuous progress towards the torture chamber where Herlof’s Marte is being interrogated. The camera tracking with Anne around a pillar prompts our involvement while its simultaneous swiveling away from her establishes our detachment. And enhancing the strange sense of presence that results is Dreyer’s rare employment of direct sound rather than studio post-synching—giving scenes an almost carnal impact..’ ( Ack:Figuring Out Day of Wrath- Jonathan Rosenbaum/Criterion collections, 20 Aug 01)
benny

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Through A Glass Darkly ©

Let the child in man
Speak without lisp;
And let its wisdom unalloyed
Give Old Adam the way out.
Kaleidoscope so I deem
What we through glass darkly
Trace our journey,-
Beginning by the end
Of all journeys we span
Yet another garden:
Old ‘Zekiel’s vision we must span
In our crack’d glass
Yet again: half child and half man.
See the child that I was
In a halo of light is merged
With Adam in a shroud:
Kaleidoscope, so I deem.
Benny

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Cries and Whispers (Swedish: Viskningar och rop) is a brilliant film from Ingmar Bergman, dealing with human suffering. As with the next film I have here included, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,in Cries and Whispers women dominate and men are only introduced to reinforce the intensity of their lot. From the four characters here represented they are anything but nice. But then considering how they have so long been hemmed in by gender politics these are survivors (of their subservient role), in terms of both gender and sexual politics, it would be too much to expect them to be sweet under adversity.
In fact the film is loaded with adversity of pain both physical and psychological kind, that each of these four characters undergo.
‘The movie is built out of a series of emotionally charged images that express inner stress, and Bergman handles them with the fluidity of a master… Each sister represents a different aspect of woman—woman viewed as the Other—and the film mingles didacticism with erotic mystery.’— Pauline Kael

Cries and Whispers takes place at an old English manor and revolves around four women: Agnes (Harriet Andersson), Maria (Liv Ullmann), Karin (Ingrid Thulin) are sisters while and Anna (Kari Sylwan) is the faithful maid of Agnes.
Agnes, the owner of the manor, is a young, virginal woman terminally ill with womb cancer. Agnes’ sisters, Maria and Karin, are unhappily married and have come to the manor to help take care of their dying sister. The film depicts Agnes’ last two days of life in terrible agony and her death. As with most of Bergman films religions plays a vital role. Here the role of religion is examined in context of physical torment of death and disease. The name Agnes means lamb and it serves as a clue to her death that resonates with death and passion of Jesus on the cross. Towards the end the scene where Anna cradles the lifeless body of Agnes is like a tableau, a visual reminder of Michelangelo’s Pièta. Agness is a kind of martyr who serves to bring the two sisters to open up emotionally at least for a short while. The chaplain who administers last rites to Agnes, seems to represent organized religion and his confession of his lack of faith gives the whole film a depth because of the religious motif is consistently sustained in so many ways. Males, as represented by the doctor and the Chaplain, are completely useless in providing any comfort to Agnes. Also, Karin and Maria’s husbands utterly fail to understand the emotional needs of their wives.
The tragedy of human suffering is not that it is visited once in a life time but that echoes in memory even after death of someone. But as much sisters might grieve over their lost chances the pain of neglect shall linger on. As Vladimir says in Waiting for Godot, ‘Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens) But habit is a great deadener.’ (Act-II)
The film was written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. It stars Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin and Liv Ullmann.

Unlike most of Bergman’s films, Cries and Whispers uses saturated colour, in particular crimson. ‘All my films can be thought in terms of black and white, except for Cries and Whispers. In the screenplay, I say that I have thought of the color red as the interior of the soul. When I was a child, I saw the soul as a shadowy dragon, blue as smoke, hovering like an enormous winged creature, half bird, half fish. But inside the dragon, everything was red’. This quote from Bergman I used already in part  while discussing The Seventh Seal.
‘The color red dominates almost every single scene that takes place inside the manor,… and most probably, is also used as an allegory for the interior of the womb. White is a color often linked to the virginal Agnes, and stands symbolically for sexual repression. Finally, black is a color that Bergman has consistently associated with priests and Christianity in his films.’( quoted from Marco Lanzagorta)
For his work on this film, Sven Nykvist won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and the film was also nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Director, and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced. Unusual for a foreign language film, it was also nominated for Best Picture, not for Best Foreign Language Film.
In closing let me quote from the master, “I believe that the film—or whatever it is—consists of this poem: a human being dies but, as in a nightmare, gets stuck halfway through and pleads for tenderness, mercy, deliverance, something. Two other human beings are there, and their actions, their thoughts are in relation to the dead, not-dead, dead. The third person saves her by gently rocking, so she can find peace, by going with her part of the way.”
— Ingmar Bergman, from his workbook for
Cries and Whispers (22 April 1971)

Cast

* Harriet Andersson — Agnes
* Kari Sylwan — Anna
* Ingrid Thulin — Karin
* Liv Ullmann — Maria (and her mother)
* Anders Ek — Isak, the priest
* Inga Gill — Story teller
* Erland Josephson — David, the doctor
* Henning Moritzen — Joakim, Maria’s husband
* Georg Årlin — Fredrik, Karin’s husband
* Ingrid Bergman — Spectator (as Ingrid von Rosen)
* Lena Bergman — Maria as a child
* Lars-Owe Carlberg — Spectator
* Malin Gjörup — Anna’s daughter
* Greta Johansson — Undertaker
* Karin Johansson — Undertaker
* Ann-Christin Lobråten — Spectator
* Börje Lundh — Spectator
* Rossana Mariano — Agnes as a child
* Monika Priede — Karin as a child
* Linn Ullmann — Maria’s daughter

Directed by     Ingmar Bergman
Produced by     Lars-Owe Carlberg
Written by     Ingmar Bergman
Music by     Johann Sebastian Bach, Frédéric Chopin
Cinematography     Sven Nykvist
Editing by     Siv Lundgren
Running time     91 min
Language     Swedish

Memorable Quotes:
Anna:[reading Agnes' journal entry] “Wednesday the third of September… The tang of autumn fills the clear still air but it’s mild and fine. My sisters, Karin and Maria have come to see me. It’s wonderful to be together again like in the old days, and I am feeling much better. We were even able to go for a little walk together. Such an event for me, especially since i haven’t been out of doors for so long. Suddenly we began to laugh and run toward the old swing that we hadn’t seen since we were children. We sat in it like three good little sisters and Anna pushed us, slowly and gently. All my aches and pains were gone. The people I am most fond of in all the world were with me. I could hear their chatting around me. I could feel the presence of their bodies, the warmth of their hands. I wanted to hold the moment fast and thought, “Come what may, this is happiness. I cannot wish for anything better. Now, for a few minutes, I can experience perfection. And I feel profoundly grateful to my life, which gives me so much.
__–
David: Come over here Maria. Look at yourself in the mirror. You are beautiful… but you have changed. These days you cast rapid, calculating, sidelong glances. You’re gaze used to be direct, open, and without any disguise. Your mouth is an expression of discontent and hunger. It used only to be soft. Your complexion has become pallid, you use make-up. Your fine, broad forehead now has four creases above each eyebrow… And this fine contour from the ear to the chin… it’s no longer quite so evident. That’s where complacency and indolence reside… Look here, at the bridge of the nose, why do you sneer so often, Maria?… Beneath your eyes, those sharp, barely visible wrinkles of boredom and impatience.
—-
Maria: You’ve changed. Is there someone else?
David: There always is. Besides, I thought the problem didn’t interest you.
Maria: It doesn’t.
—-
Karin: It’s true. I think… about suicide. I’ve often thought about it. It’s… it’s disgusting. It’s very degrading and everlastingly the same.
—-
Karin: [to Maria] You look so disconcerted. You thought our talk would be different, didn’t you? Do you realize I hate you and how foolish I find your insipid smile and your idiotic flirtatiousness?
[exhales]
Karin: How have I managed to tolerate you so long and not say anything? I know of what you’re made – with your empty caresses and your false laughter. Can you conceive how anyone can live with so much hate as has been my burden? There’s no relief, no charity, no help! There is nothing. Do you understand? Nothing can escape me for I see all!

(Ack:wikipedia, Marco Lanzagorta,imdb)
compiler:benny

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The Baby In Me©
It was couple of months since I had seen Rabbi Benn Weiss. I knew a joke that could cut the long lull in our conviviality. As soon as I sat down I asked,” Tell me Why did my Maths book crash?”
“You mean your computer?”
I let out a yell. “ Rabbi since I haven’t been here for a while your mind has become rusty. Think hard again, Why did my Maths book crash?”
Rabbi laid aside his Torah and waited. I said,” My Maths book couldn’t take it anymore. Too many problems.”
Meanwhile some visitor came to chat and I could understand the man was so excited while he talked about the first steps his baby took. Flashing the snapshot of the event he said, ”It brings tears almost..sniffle”
After he had left the rabbi said, ”The parents are so eager to see their baby take the first steps. Jake, what do you think?”
“I can only say hearsay,” I answered,” my mater says I never looked back since. I kept on walking out of her reach.”
“You are your own man. But still baby talk hasn’t left you.”
Parents are so proud to see their baby take the first steps. But in that act the baby has in a way declared its independence. Inversion principle is at work here.
benny

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I am quoting my neighbor: ‘ When I was a boy after reading Pinochio I could not help checking my nose in the mirror; it was on every day basis. Luckily I was not caught out. My nose remained as it was.
Then came the phase when every time a girl came in my view I had to check myself. Oh boy there was plenty of change down there; I felt no embarrassment though. On the contrary it was fun time.
I am in my third phase and every time I read the obit section in the local paper I have to check my pulse. My pulse seems to be O.K. But I miss the fun part.’
benny

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