Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.
On this Ash Wednesday, whatever people believe or don't believe, the story of Jesus is beautiful: an innocent being willingly sacrifices himself with the intention of saving others, and not only forgives but loves those who treat him cruelly and haven't even asked for forgiveness.
It doesn't really matter if there was a virgin birth or if someone could walk on water for me to believe that divinity (or human capacity for it) somehow exists.
To put it in Dostoevsky's words:
"s'il n'existait pas Dieu il faudrait l'inventer. And true enough, man has invented God. What is so strange and extraordinary is not that God really exists but that such a thought -- the very idea of the necessity of God -- should have occurred to a vicious wild animal like man, for that concept is so holy, so touching, and so wise that is does man too much honor."
I'm awed and encouraged when I witness beauty, whether it be in a kind act, flowers, fabric, architecture, music...or a mirror (jk...sort of ;) The human impulse to create and our ability to appreciate it is wonderfully mysterious and rejuvenating to my spirit.
(btw, these are all old photos from 2010 when Herr Johann went on his pilgrimage through Israel and Jordan).
Petra was carved from stone in as early as 312BC.
Herr Johann was born in as early as 65million years BC.
This old macbook was made in as early as 2009
These Dead Sea Scrolls were written in as early as 408 BC
When I was in university I went on a silent retreat, which meant I stayed in this cushy Jesuit resort on a mountain somewhere to meditate and wasn't to speak for five consecutive days. I was permitted 30 minutes a day to talk with a mentor about an assigned bible passage reading. I remember getting all jazzed up about metaphors of time and human consciousness in my readings and meditations...
I tried to discuss these thoughts with my mentor but she kept saying, "how does this relate to Jesus?" I got so annoyed that after a few minutes I said I didn't want to talk anymore. For the rest of the retreat we would just sit silently during the 30 minutes we met. I'd brood to myself about how limitingly literal she was, how I wished I was paired up with one of the intellectual Jesuit priest professors...
On the very last day there was a message about when Jesus washed his disciples' feet, and at the end my mentor brought a basin of warm water, a towel, and washed my feet. I'd spent an entire week thinking I was better than this woman because I was better at reading Tillich, Thoreau and Nietzsche. I didn't deserve to have anyone wash my feet, yet she so humbly and lovingly did. I burst into tears and those things literally wouldn't stop, despite how embarrassing and undignified I thought it was.
I'd been so proud about being smarter and more inquisitive for some truth that I became unkind. Wanting to be smart, and being curious are certainly good things and a part of my concept of (and the pursuit/bidding of) God, but love and humility are essential.
So to be more like Jesus...
In Isreal where Jesus walked
Outskirts of Bethlehem where Jesus got coffee
"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind." -Kurt Vonnegut
Some months after I moved to Vienna I sought counsel from a friend for an unpleasant situation I’d found myself in. He listened quietly and patiently throughout, including my indulgence in several long-winded details.
“Well, what do you think I should do?” I finally asked to break his composure.
“That depends on how much you want to suffer,” he said, composed.
After a pause, during which we both expected a response from the other, he
clarified, “You must first decide how much suffering you can tolerate. Then, stay in
the situation as long as it doesn’t pass that threshold.”
“I get that. But why would I want to suffer?”
“Because it’s fun.”
“No. Fun is fun.” Another pause – I had perplexed him.
“Ah, I forgot,” he said. “You’re an American. Americans like to be happy. I’m Russian. Russians like to suffer.”
If Americans like to be happy, and Russians like to suffer, then Austrians like to raunzen. I was first introduced to this word while an Austrian friend of mine was taking a short trip out of Vienna. He sent me an unrelenting number of text messages: the train was stinky, the beer was awful, the windows were dirty, the lady sitting beside him was unpleasant…
In response to each text, I offered suggestions for what he could do (eg: open the window, order another drink). Finally he texted (in all caps): ICH WILL JETZT RAUNZEN! (I WANT TO RAUNZEN NOW!)
The point of raunzen was at first incomprehensible to me. Raunzen seemed pointless and a waste of time. The tedious details one offers when speaking about an unpleasant situation ought to be approached as one does a math word problem: isolate the relevant bits that find a solution.
Since living longer in Vienna, I’ve begun to grasp this concept. I'd become acquainted with the Russian and the Austrian in the famous Café Hawelka. These regulars sat for hours in what is called “their second living room” smoking cigars, drinking terrible coffee, and complaining about the new waiter, the cups, the “bloody” tourists, etc. Yet they’ve frequented this café for over ten years now, to the point where mail will be delivered to them there. Raunzen is a privilege granted to the regulars – it binds them to the café and each other.
This raunzening Austrian I mentioned early was perpetually lagging a few feet behind me one evening while we were taking a walk. When I, annoyed, asked him why he was walking so slowly he responded, “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere,” I conceded.
“Then what’s the rush?”
“Isn’t is boring?!” was my automatic response.
Perhaps it’s not happiness that Americans are pursuing, rather boredom that we are running way from. After all, it does seem too obvious to pursue happiness in order to be happy.
In Thomas Mann’s short story Disillusionment, the narrator is asked by a strange man in regards to his trip to Venice, “Does it come up to your expectations? Surpasses them, eh? You did not picture it as finer than the reality? You mean it? You would not say so in order to seem happy and enviable?” He then continues to recount the disillusionments of his life. Regarding his unrequited love he says, “So this is the greatest pain we can suffer. Well, and what then – is that all?” On seeing extravagantly praised works of art, “It is beautiful. And yet – is that all? Is it no more beautiful than that?”
Maybe Austrians see the world through rauzen-colored-lenses, preferring its bitterness to the irreversible blandness of disillusionment and disappointment that comes with resolving these raunzen-able situations. Raunzen is an expression of life, how one feels and is touched. When one is against something, he feels his own will. And as long as one raunzens, he is is not alone - if only in connection to the patient listening.
A couple years ago the Europen Union smoking ban was implemented in Austria, prohibiting smoking in Café Hawelka. Some smoking regulars have left to find a new place to set roots and cigar ashes, but many have begrudgingly stayed. After all, with the new smoking-ban they have lots of raunzening to do.
Started the day with brunch at the Morgan Library and Museum
my dream library
Permanent collection includes manuscripts of Beethoven, Mozart, Puccini & Verdi
Beethoven's manuscript is riddled with edits and a visibly labored process (left), while Mozart's FIRST DRAFT manuscript below is absolutely pristine. Mozart's genius came with such ease, as if he were just a vessel that the divine flowed through.
He doesn't seem human to me. It is sublime but can make me feel alienated.
Beethoven labored, and still is absolutely of the divine. His compositions move me on levels that Mozart, is its perfection, cannot. It's inspiring, comforting, and encouraging to see and hear this divinity, arrived at by toil and struggle of humans.
RAWR!!!! SNARL!! SNAP!*U$#(% WELL MAKE A BEETHOVEN OF OUT YOU!!!!!!!!!!!
(Pelle makin' babies cry...teaching them how to toil and struggle)
* * *
There was also a marvellous Proust exhibit!
(maybe this is the workings of Vintuel's Sonata)
"...Great works of art do not begin by giving us the best of themselves. In a work such as Vintuel's Sonata the beauties that one discovers soonest are also those of which one tires most quickly, and for the same reason, no doubt - namely, that they are less different from what one already knows. But when those first impressions have receded, there remains from our enjoyment some passage whose structures, too new and strange to offer anything but confusion to our mind, had made it indistinguishable and so preserved intact and this, which we passed ever day without knowing it, which had held itself in reserve for us, which by the sheer power of its beauty had become invisible and remained unknown, this comes to us last of all. But we shall also relinquish it last. And we shall love it longer than the rest because we have taken longer to love it..."
(In Search of Lost Time)
* * *
After Morgan's we went to Ladurée where Pelle got to ride the carriage in the display...
...get pampered on the counter...
AND GET A NEW RIBBON!!!
He was a little bashful the rest of the day with his pretty blue ribbon...
Hiding behind my Three Naked Ladies cocktail at Cafe Luxembourg
...and stealing my gooseberries
One of the most stunning cathedrals I've ever been to.
* * *
At Cafe Sabarsky I really feel transported to Vienna. Even the guests are Viennese. We were there with Julia who we both met at Leopold Hawelka's 100 year birthday celebration at Café Hawelka a couple years ago.
The first time we were at Cafe Sabarsky she said:
"They're all Austrian. I can see the inbreeding in their faces!"
* * *
...and as always, end with an espresso.
(That's blood, not ketchup)
After he ate his burger, he ate Pie & Burger
Trump Soho lamb burger (seriously one of the best burgers ever...even better than the doggie one).
Doggie Bowser Beer & Burger.
(Dukie trying on his new Thunder Shirt)
The beer tasted awful, but the doggie carrot cake was quite tasty!