Mercury day poetry: ‘On a walking tour’ and Theodor Adorno

In an earlier post, Bobbie talked about our thinking about the shootings in Connecticut and just how one goes on creatively in the aftermath of such horror.

Theodor Adorno, who wrote, “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” was center stage.

Below is a poem that Adorno discusses in the critical essay in which he wrote that sentence. (For the truly intrepid, a link to that essay is right here.) It is by Eduardo Morike, and this translation is by Charles L. Cingolani. (Link here.)

On a Walking Tour

I enter Into a friendly town,
Where streets reflect the red evening glow.
From an open window
Down across the richest flower carpet one hears
Golden sounds like a bell drifting in the air,
And a single voice seems like a nightingale choir,
Making the blossoms quiver,
Bringing the air to life,
So that the red of roses glow richer yet.

Amazed I stand there long, frightful in my joy.
How I got outside the gate,
In truth I know it not.
Ah here, how the world is bathed in light!
The sky billowing with purple clouds,
Behind me the town in golden haze;
How the brook rushes here, and rushes down at the mill!
How overjoyed I am, how confused —
O Muse, you have reached my heart
With a breath of love!


That we’ll soon be entering into new towns is not lost on me.

In his essay, Adorno focuses on the reflective moment in the poem and how it occurs after the speaker leaves the town, the scene of all this joy. But this isn’t Wordsworth’s emotions recollected in tranquility. This is poetry seen with a Marxist eye, with the town is objectified, the speaker isolated. The attempt to make the feelings — joy, love — real collapses because our actions have proven that we are not capable of such grand gestures. They have proven us to be barbarians.

Posted by Steve


Finding peace in the practice in a troubled time

Last night, Steve and I were watching the evening news, and experiencing all the sadness that it brought, when he turned to me and said, “I don’t feel like posting.”

He hesitated for a moment, and then quoted German philosopher Theodor Adorno: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

Adorno argued that the extravagant cruelty of humanity against itself makes creative acts inherently selfish, self-centered, and indulgent in the extreme. “Self-satisfied contemplation,” he called it. So I understood what Steve was saying.

It can be difficult to believe, in the face of horror, that creativity can go on—that anything can go on. The images from Connecticut shock the soul. And seeing them over and over, with no chance for catharsis, can be emotionally exhausting.

Comfort came from Robert Moses, in a message to the readers of Namarupa. I thought I’d pass it along to you. He wrote:

Hearing troubling news on a daily or almost hourly basis these days is indeed unsettling. Yet there is always hope. There is always the glimpse of love no matter how clouded things may appear to be.

Robert suggests—prompted by a message from Ammachi—chanting what we recognize as the closing prayer of the practice. It’s ancient prayer from the Rg Veda, known much more widely as the “Mangala Mantra.” It’s a reminder that there is, of course, solace in the practice itself.

svasti prajabhyam paripalayantham nyayeana margena mahim maheesah
gobrahmanebhya shubamsthu nityam lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu
om santih santih santih

As we prepare to embark on our Sadhana Yatra, it was good to be reminded that the reason for the practice is to improve the world—that our leaders take the right path, that we be faithful, that the world will be happy, and that there will be peace. It was good to be reminded that there is still poetry, and that there is also love.

Posted by Bobbie