Monday, April 13, 2015

Musings on Europe

Musings on Europe -- prodded by ogling the amber Holbein-ish shots in Wolf Hall & reading a travel article on Maastricht, a sort of microcosm of European density and pleasure and strangeness and unforced self-understanding. Wincing from the lingering sting of Henry James' felt sense of 'absence' - cultural thinness - as an American - facing the blunt impossibility of 'consuming' Europe and making it utterly complexly a part of you (history, language, immense sensitivity to cultural nuance, not to mention money: you'd need all of that) - a 'consumption' which an accident of birth (say, being born in Maastricht) would to some large degree have made inevitable -

and then the sense, come to (after all) later in life, that this may not primarily be a time for amassing new data (other than the 'data' with which every openly-felt moment floods you) but of sensitizing yourself to the traceries you can now make out of a lifetime's effects - and following those - to, as it were, DO something with them: 'make art,' maybe, or simply reflect in a way that prods you to some kind of fuller more intensely particular sense of being here. Odd, this paradox of 'self-actualization', if that's what it is: attention paid simultaneously to the specifics of what's in front of your nose, and of your own temperament, of which you now probably have some greater grasp than you used to -- and (somehow) a wholesale embrace of how little you know about any of it.

But Europe, for me, is always the hidden prize of this: as much as New York gives gives gives all that's in it, every breath it and I take, fully & openly & bewilderingly, Europe holds it in. You cannot barge into it. You have to work hard to see & know it. And after a while, you run out of time. If you're American, it really can't be done. Ask Henry James, who tried more than anybody.

pic: me sitting on the left bank of the Seine, late August 2012. Unless it was the right bank. Well, left or right, it was right.

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