Jonathan in It'ly

Monday, May 22, 2006

After Dongo

Hey, fellas. I'm back in Rome. Its nice to have clothes to change in and out of. Yeah, I only took one pair of socks and one pair of we-won't-say-what and so it was kind of nasty. But Gillian says they aren't doing much better on tour, so that made me feel better. Anyway, the owner of the house is still in Tunisia, so its just me and good ol' Helmut again. Yesterday he made a fabulous lunch AND dinner and I am expecting something for dinner again today. What a nice guy. He was a professional dress-maker, custom designed and hand-made dresses. Interesting life he's had. Anyway, its good to be back. It is HOT in Rome.

These pictures are dark, sorry. I got to the Lake Monday night at around 8, had a quick lesson, and then went to dinner with Nabore and the other students. It was nice. The pictures are of the mansion in which the guest lessons take place (if its just Nabore they usually have them in the other, smaller, building which is shared by a music school for little kids. This is obviously much nicer. Unfortunately I took my camera along on the day that it wasn't sunny. So imagine the sun shining, the birds chirping super loudly, the breeze- slightly moist- blowing Jasmine and other blossoms into your face, the deep blue-green of the lake full of fish. I ate one of them fish. It was good.

The ivy-invested walkway is a normal road traipsed by the very old and bent people who live on the hill. Its a REALLY steep hill. Not only do they build houses there, but they also fill all the extra space around the house and walkways and cliffs and trees with some kind of alfalfa. They were cutting it when I was hiking. SUCH HARD WORK!! Its so beautiful there. Dongo is my favorite place in the world.

I had to take a night train on Saturday, so didn't get home until 6am. It was 't too bad! I actually slept pretty well. Anyway, that was the week. I had about 5 1-hour lessons with Nabore, one with John Perry (on vallee d'Obermann, VERY good lesson) and one with LeRon somebody, the physiologist-pianist for the Academy. That was really interesting. We worked on the coda of the Scherzo and then ended up just talking about scales. He video taped me playing and then we watched it on a TV with slow motion. It was INCREDIBLY enlightening. I am doing silly things with my hands that I am not even aware of. Little flexations of muscles that throw the hand off balance or slow it down. My wrist is tight. Grrr....We literally spent over an hour just talking about how to play a scale. Amazing. Today I tried applying his teaching on Mozart, and it helped a little already. yay.

Times up! Catch ya later.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Took lots of photos today. It was raining hard this morning, but then lightened up. The clouds became these huge floating cotton balls, looking very heavy and wet, but surrounded by a very optimistic blue sky. And there are roses and roses and roses....amazing.
There has been an Austrian friend of the house staying with me this week. He is gone now to visit another friend near Napoli, but will be back in a week and stay until June. He's a nice, round fellow probably around 70years old. A GREAT COOK! And he shares his food with me!!! In fact, after the first night, he made it a point to stop by my bedroom in the morning to ask what I'd like for dinner! He wouldn't let me pay for the groceries, either. We had fish twice, fried artichoke hearts, butter-fried turkey, and some kind of amazing pork steaks. Wow. What a nice man. Yesterday we had FHE in german with a neighbor down the street (who is also Austrian). It was a good time. They tried to include me in the conversation using his very poor English and her Italian but it was German most of the time. Whoever says German is not a beautiful language is crazy.

Good lesson today. I played the first movement of the Bach suite (English Suite No. 4, in F). AS SOON AS I WAS DONE HE JUMPED UP OFF THE COUCH AND SAID "THAT WAS GOOD!" He was very pleased and I was about 10times more pleased than he. Its the first time he's every really liked my playing (or at least the first time he's SAID so). He did offer some help on it, and then we got to Mozart, which elicited some of the usual immature insults from him, but I didn't mind one bit. I have it all on tape, too.

That's all the news. The rest of this post is a talk by Bruce Hafen given in 1983 called "A willingness to learn from Pain". It was the ever-amazing Gillian who gave me a copy of it, along with many other of her favorite talks, in a binder before I came here. The binder has provided good insight and food-for-thought, but this was entirely different. This talk, tonight, over my plate of boiled broccoli and ravioli, spoke directly to me and clarified AN INCREDIBLE amount about myself. It is truly beautiful. I know it won't mean the same thing, exactly, to anyone else, but here it is anyway because everybody should read it at some point.

Bruce C. Hafen, “A Willingness to Learn from Pain,” Ensign, Oct. 1983, 63We can learn something worthwhile from our experience with spiritual and psychological suffering—those pains of the heart that may come from a wounded conscience, loneliness, disappointment, or a love that is lost.
Some will remember Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the literate wife of the famous pilot, Charles Lindbergh. The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, which finally resulted in the child’s death, once captured the attention and sympathy of the American nation. In looking back on her life, Mrs. Lindbergh wrote:
“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.” (Time, 5 Feb. 1973, p. 35; italics added.) We will all suffer in one way or another, but we need a certain perspective if our suffering is to teach us.
A few years ago our family inherited a dog—a friendly little pup who was all black except for two white paws and a splash of white across his chest. For our three sons, he was to be a real pal. One afternoon I was interrupted at work by a call from home that told a sad story: “Dad! Dad! Our dog is dead!”
“Oh, no!” I said. “I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
I have seldom seen such looks of gloom as those that met me when I arrived. A motorcycle had come out of nowhere; nobody really knew how it had happened. The rumpled little body was laid to rest in a corner of our backyard in a ceremony that was brief but mournful. I don’t know when I’ve heard so many questions asked all at once about the meaning of the resurrection. But the answers didn’t help—the boys were despondent beyond comfort. As we trudged back to the house, I remembered, but chose not to repeat, what a friend of mine had heard one of his children say on just such an occasion: “Not much of a funeral for such a good dog.”
After that experience, my wife and I resisted for awhile our children’s repeated requests to get another dog. Among the reasons for our reluctance was our desire to spare our children the grief of another event like losing the black puppy. Then we found ourselves asking whether the joy of companionship with a puppy would not more than offset that risk.
I have found in working with others that many of our decisions are influenced more than they should be by our desire to avoid sorrow, distress, frustration, and other kinds of psychic suffering. We understandably prefer almost anything to that kind of pain.
Our culture has become as skillful in the art of neutralizing emotional and spiritual pain as in sedating physical pain. Medicine is, in a sense, symbolic of our age. Unquestionably, medicine is often a blessing; but as all must know by now, the drugs of our time, both the literal and the figurative kinds, also offer escape—not only from pain, but also from responsibility and reality. And thus some people have developed an instinctive inclination to chart their course, both short and long range, by choosing those alternatives that will minimize their exposure to the uncomfortable consequences of taking life as it comes. Avoiding or escaping discomfort becomes almost a guiding purpose of life, as if getting around such pitfalls were the essence of a happy life.
The gospel teaches, however, that the presence of painful experience is an important element in man’s capacity ultimately to experience joy—and not just because it feels so good when the pain stops! I do not encourage the outright seeking of pain; for it, like temptation, will find us soon enough. Nor can I feel good about the martyr who strangely seems to enjoy and prolong the misery of his misfortunes—the type who is willing to suffer in silence as long as he is sure everybody knows about it. My concern is simply with those whose priorities and responses seem carefully designed to avoid or escape from psychic pain, almost at any cost. Let me illustrate.
Consider the pain that comes when your conscience cries out against something you have done or are about to do. There are various ways of responding to that pain. One response tries to outwit the pain by changing one’s basic attitudes toward the actual existence of God and the validity of moral laws, claiming that neither really apply. That change may take some time and effort, but those who have rearranged their view of the universe in just that way have found that somehow the new view makes them more comfortable—because it makes the pain subside. How sad! For this change represents only a temporary period of self-deception. Sooner or later, in this life or the next, they shall again see reality as it is and feel their pain all over again, even to “weeping and wailing.” In like manner, we may find temporary relief from pangs of conscience by inventing some rational explanation why “this time” what we did was not wrong.
Tragically, those who continually manipulate their conception of reality will discover that while they no longer feel pain when violating a commandment, they also no longer feel the kinds of joy they once knew. What they do not realize is that both their pain and their joy are natural responses to things as they are. Since their highest realizations of joy flow from their accurate perceptions of God’s reality and the joy of the Saints, the removal from their mental framework of both God and the Saints automatically removes the joy associated with both.
Of course, it is still possible for such individuals to substitute some form of pleasure, so that one who turns his face from God to avoid facing him may still have his fun. But being deprived of true joy is a terrible price to pay to turn off the pain of deserved guilt. Building an entirely new worldview in one’s mind in order to keep the pain turned off is a formidable task, since the universe that really exists is impossible to change.
Fortunately, there is a better alternative. The pain of a wounded conscience comes to us not just to cause suffering. It is an invitation for us to respond in a way that will ultimately lead to joy. To accept the invitation early, we simply need to stop—in midair if necessary—and turn away from whatever we were going to do. If it is too late for that, the invitation of an aroused conscience can still be accepted by a visit with the bishop and by a few other well-known steps of repentance. This approach will also stop the pain, but it will also leave you true to yourself and to the universe of God’s reality. At the same time, your capacity for joy will be undiminished—it may even be enhanced through newly discovered self-control. Then the next time the pain of conscience comes, it will come as the voice of a friend, to tell you those sensitive, painful kinds of things you would hope a true friend would share.
Consider briefly the kind of pain we encounter in the field of formal learning. There are classes or subjects that sometimes seem like a pain in the neck, or maybe they seem painfully dull to us. In such circumstances, those who do not sense their own responsibility to read and think and understand, simply turn off. They have grown accustomed to just changing the channel if a learning experience doesn’t hold the promise of being “fun.” Far better it would be for them if they would cope with the growing pains of discipline, initiative, and determination to stay with a difficult task until it is mastered, until they earn the joy of true understanding. But all of this may sound “boring”—that ultimate ugliness—to those who believe they have a right to be entertained.
Another kind of emotional pain to which we all seem subject arises from the risks we take in allowing ourselves to love others. There is no suffering quite like that which comes when love is shattered. After years of patient waiting for what seems like the right time, one may open up his or her heart to another, only to find that tender heart bruised or broken when the love is not returned. We therefore bear a grave responsibility for the purity of our motives when some trusting heart has offered us entrance. Anyone who stands on that threshold stands on holy ground, which must not be exploited or defiled. But should a relationship so develop that, even in spite of honesty, caution, and goodness of motive, a parting of the ways still must come, we must not let the pain of that moment make us so resentful or bitter that we become unwilling to risk opening our hearts again. That kind of risk is necessary, because loving simply has its risks. In a sense, there is no love without certain kinds of fear.
One of love’s fears stems from the continuing possibility that one we love, whether sweetheart, father, child, or sister, may not return after saying good-bye to us one day. Such fear is the constant companion of the wives of soldiers—or even the parents of teenagers just old enough to drive. I will confess that such fear—such pain—comes over me at times, because I have not held back in giving my heart to those special ones who are in my home. I know that leaves me vulnerable, but it is a risk I am willing to take; its pain is far offset by the abundant joy of love.
There are similar risks in deciding to marry, deciding to bear children—you never know what burdens you may be called upon to bear as a result of those irrevocable commitments. I have seen those who bear such burdens—the wife who becomes chronically ill, the malformed child, the duty to care for helpless in-laws; these are the risks of love. But love is worth them all. Love is indeed refined and deepened by them, if our love is pure.
There are many other kinds of pain associated with learning what God would have us learn here. There are the growing pains that come from learning through our mistakes—for to learn from our own errors requires that we honestly acknowledge them, something that will always be painful for those who strive for competence. It is also painful to become as independent as we must be, learning not to expect others to solve our every problem and meet our every need. It sometimes hurts to be realistic, or to wait when patience is required. But the Savior of the world knew all these kinds of pain, and many others we can never comprehend. “Man of sorrows” was his name. (See
Isa. 53:3.) Surely, he was “acquainted with grief.” Only he was capable of absorbing the mental and spiritual anguish inflicted by Gethsemane. As he himself tells us of that pain—how sore we know not, how exquisite we know not, how hard to bear we know not. (See D&C 19:15–19.) Yet when he elsewhere says, “my joy is full” (3 Ne. 17:20), we are assured that a fulness of joy for one such as he, must be richer, fuller, again more exquisite than we may ever know in mortality. There must be some natural relationship between our capacity to be taught by pain on the one hand and our capacity to receive joy on the other. That might be worth remembering when our own pain seems sore and exquisite. (See Alma 36:21.)
There is one other kind of pain of the heart that is familiar to most of us. We call it homesickness. If you feel a little homesick when you are away from home, that is probably a good sign—both about your home and your priorities. Of course, a serious, long-lasting case is probably not healthy for young adults who are gradually being weaned and prepared to build homes of their own. But I mention the idea of homesickness for a larger purpose.
I was once present in a student ward sacrament meeting where a member of a temple presidency was talking thoughtfully about temple work. Just before his talk the choir had sung “O My Father.” (Hymns, no. 139). I was a stake president at the time, and as he was about to finish, I received a message inviting me to say a few words before the meeting closed. I began reflecting about the temple, asking myself what it really meant to me. I found myself thinking of it in these terms: the temple—a symbol that we are not of this world; a place where earth and heaven meet; a place where homesick children think of home.
The singing of that beloved song had stimulated my memory to recall, for some reason, an evening in the home of a warm, bright, and sensitive woman in faraway Germany. As missionaries, we had gone to her home for a peaceful few minutes of refreshment and conversation with her family following their baptism. Because she spoke fluent English, she had added a couple of Tabernacle Choir records to her collection during her investigation of the Church. The records were playing in the background as we sat together and talked about our blessings. When the choir began to sing a beautiful, moving arrangement of “O My Father,” we stopped visiting and sat back to listen to the hymn. When it was over, we were all a little misty eyed. Then she told us in quiet, reverent tones that listening to this song had been a major turning point in her prayerful evaluation of the restored gospel. She told us about the German word sehnsucht, a poignant, meaningful word that has no exact equivalent in English. I suppose the closest translation would be “a longing for home,” but the German word has elements of both longing and searching. She told us that during most of her life she had felt a strange longing for home—a sehnsucht—that had often made her melancholy, at times a little lonely, but she could never identify that for which she longed. She told us that she had been impressed with the occasional references to such a feeling in the writings of some great European authors, who thought it might have something to do with an innate, almost subconscious human yearning somehow to make contact with the essence of nature and meaning in a universal, cosmic sense. The first time she had heard this song, she then knew what her longing was, and where it came from. “Yet ofttimes a secret something Whispered, ‘You’re a stranger here,’ And I felt that I had wandered From a more exalted sphere. … But until the key of knowledge Was restored, I knew not why.” Then, “When I leave this frail existence … Father, Mother, may I meet you …” As she described it, I too felt the longing for home, and I too knew where it came from. (Hymns, no. 139.)
Both that experience and that feeling are sacred enough to me that I hesitate to talk about them too frequently. But I felt impressed to talk about them in that meeting in order to explain more fully why the temple means what it does to me.
After relating this story, I felt impressed to share an agonizing experience I had had that same after noon interviewing a young couple from our stake who had wanted to be married in the temple but who had put themselves into a position where they were not worthy to enter that holy place. As I tried to describe how those two people felt about wanting, in a sense, to go “home” but not being able to go there, I found myself thinking about my own longing for home. The almost overpowering thought came to me—what if I were unworthy? What if I could never return? What if, after having to turn away my head in shame from that eternal home, I were once again to hear the song “Father, mother, may I meet you …”? I really don’t think I could stand it. I would spend eternity trying to find some way of shutting off the pain of a longing that could not be fulfilled.
I suppose I will remember for a long time both the words and the feeling expressed by the young man who said the closing prayer in that sacrament meeting: “Please help us, Father. We want to come home.”
My present sense of the sehnsucht, as poignant and piercing as it sometimes is, has become the source of my deepest possible motivation, constantly reminding me that everything here is temporary but the gospel. That kind of pain, that kind of homesickness, is a feeling I never want to lose. For if I lose it, through my rationalizing, my behavior, or my treating lightly the things of God, I know when that great and dreadful day comes when all our knees will bow together, that very pain will return with full-blown and everlasting intensity.
So I am willing to remain vulnerable to those painful realities that inevitably come with facing the truth about myself, with learning, with growing, with loving, and with trying to be faithful. Pain of that kind helps me remember that I am in contact with life as it was meant to be experienced, thus preparing me more fully for that appointed reunion with those who sent me here—when, at last, my joy may be full.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

wad ah wanduh'full wehhhld

I love how anything OLD here gets crumbly and then sprouts flowers! This is a shot from right outside my apartment. Not too shabby, eh? Beats pictures of herpes simplex and varicella zoster, eh, Nigel?

So it is not OFFICIALLY tourist season, but I don't know how it could get worse! The traffic from the Church to my place was AMAZING! These people are ingenious drivers, though, I have to hand it to 'em. In Rome when the light goes RED, people making left turns quickly try to fill up the intersection so no one with a green light can pass. Its a sly way of making their trip shorter. The people with the green light don't, of course, WAIT for the miscreants to get out of their way- they go on ahead and get as close as possible to the intersection-blockers, shouting cool words which I haven't learned yet, and gesturing wildly with their hands (not just middle fingers, but noses and elbows, too). Some of the smaller cars can actually make it THROUGH this tangle. That's lucky for them, unless they have to go into the oncoming traffic to accomplish it, in which case they come bumper to bumper with the bus. Then we all have to stop. The obvious solution to this whole mess, as the enlightened 20% have discovered, is for everyone to blare their horns for as long intervals as possible. Unfortunately, it hasn't caught on yet so its only 1 in 5 cars using their horn with no effect. Maybe the ratio will go higher as the weather gets hotter and people are able to think more rationally in their vehicles.

I'm VERY glad I don't have to drive in Rome!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

the weekend

Sweet cuppin' cakes!! Gillian explained how to position the photos! YAY! And look, I clandestinely took pictures of the archive during the rehearsal on Saturday. Don't tell. Isn't it a beautiful place? The acoustics are pretty nice. I was turning pages for the pianist. THey played Schumann's Piano quintet, and then the Quartet played the Brahms a minor Quartet. It was a good concert. Fun to turn pages. Turning pages can be far more tortuous than being the performer, but I beat the odds and finished the concert with no regrets. Phew.

At the lunch break for the rehearsal I was planning to go home and take a nap and call Gilly, but then Francesca (the Archive lady) told me that the Academy (Nabore's academy) was paying for lunch so naturally I went along with 'em. It was funny because they chose a pretty cheap restaurant. They only got the cheapest "house" wine -3.50euro for the liter- instead of the 9 - 30 euro bottles that Nabore gets every lunch AND dinner. The Violist got this TINY bowl of spaghetti and the rest of the time ate bread. My kind of guy! It was totally fun, and even though all the conversation was in Italian I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and took part now and then. The quartet is a nice group of guys from all over Italy, who've been playing together for 10 years! The pianist was a very skinny dude from Milan. He was older but studied with Nabore 2002-2004. Nice. He said I turned pages well.

OHH! I made the most AMAZING spaghetti of all time on Saturday night. I finally bought some meat last week (some fat, red sausage links) and have been trying to figure out how to use them. This time I took them OUT of their intestinal package and fried them up with garlic, purple onions, and lots of pepper. Then I also had bought a large jar of tomato sauce which cost about the same amount as that many fresh tomatoes. Not seasoned, just saucy tomatos. mmmm. Then I made a huge salad. The spaghetti had way too much pepper, the salad way too much oil, and the water I was drinking had too many insect footprints on the inside of the glass, but it was DANG GOOD!!
Sunday night was another recital- Vittorio, who I had met at the Academy in Como when I was there last summer. He is a VERY, VERY cool, sweet guy. He has very messed up teeth, and is tall and lanky so he's not the best looking guy in the world. But he's married to this french girl who is also quiet and sweet and (stop reading, Gillian) REALLY pretty! It makes me so happy that they are together. Looking at goofy but kind him with this really pretty girl just makes me happy. He played Mozart A minor sonata, Schumann Symphonic Etudes and the 2nd Brahms sonata. The concert was in a bookstore! not ANYTHING like the archive where the previous 2 have been. It was exactly like SAntaquin Elementary's school library, with the exceptions that its a third the size, has a cafe attached to it, and a nice Yamaha grand. Apparently they have lots of concerts there. I will be doing my own recital there June 3rd. You are all cordially invited. It costs 4 euro.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Half a report, the other half thoughts

This is a really long post.

Its another rainy day. I got up at 5:20 and made a lil' breakfast of Potates, sausage, carrots and tomatoes (and a tiny can of pear juice) in time to talk with Gillian for a while. For some reason which hasn't been explained to me yet, the Italian transportation employees (i.e., bus and train drivers) have scheduled strikes. sometimes its for a specified amount of time, other times no one knows how long it will last. Sometimes it is just the drivers of one particular bus number. Today it was from 8am-4pm involved most of the buses including the one I take to and from the Church. Fortunately the Senior missionaries at the Church warned me about it yesterday so I planned to leave my place around 7:30 to ensure I didn't have to walk. I'm a lazy American, would I ever want to WALK? JK, I'm not lazy but it would have taken about 1.5hrs to walk the distance each way. PLUS I took my laundry (Yes, mom, I finally have clean clothes) and that would have been an extra pain. It was inconvenient enough as it was trying to crowd onto the bus this afternoon! I've never seen it so full! It was as though no one could handle the fact that the buses weren't running all day, and so for the first hour after the strike they had to GET ON just to reassure themselves that all was right in the world. That's one way to overcome your fear of people and make friends. I don't think the old lady I was smushed into liked me very much...

Anyway, I practiced 5.5 hrs today. Yippee.

A few days ago Gillian gave me a speech about how most of the world will not survive a cataclysmic event because we are so antiseptic that we have no natural immunity to a lot of otherwise common germs. The germs will kill us all. Well, I am finding out that I must either have a natural immunity already or am getting one fast. Or maybe the cockroaches just aren't that germy. I guess they probably aren't really cockroaches because they don't run fast at all and are pretty small. But there's lots of em and they come out in the dark. Last night they were inspecting how well I washed the dishes, which was thoughtful of them but also made me rewash. So, mom, I am building my health AND getting lots of practice cleaning...oh, AND exercise: picking up my foot and putting down hard, over and over and over.

I just finished reading "Memoirs of Hadrian" by Marguerite Yourcenar. It was written in 1951. Originally french, the translation is AMAZING. Really interesting, poetic language. The book is in the form of a letter from Hadrian (Emperor of Rome around 100AD) to his adopted grandson, Marcus Aurelius. Its pretty interesting, but dark and kind of gross in places. Its interesting because the author obviously researched TONS and so the details are pretty believable; even his personality is believable. He is portrayed as a totally amoral person, yet very thoughtful, artistic, and wise- in the sense that he was willing to call his own mistakes, not live solely for himself, and try to do as much stabalization for the empire as possible. Apparently the empire reached its largest point during his reign? Anyway, he also was homosexual and amoral. there are some very interesting passages about Judaism which is obviously applicable to Christianity. Here's one, Hadrian telling at the end of his life the story of the many year war with Israel before they were subdued for the 2nd or maybe 3rd time. (for those of you who feel obligated to read everything I write, umm, if you aren't interested, don't read)-

"As I said, nothing in all that was beyond repair, but the hatred, the mutual contempt, and the rancor were so. In principle, Judaism has its place among the religions of the empire; in practice, Israel has refused for centuries to be one people among many others, with one god among the gods. The most primitive Dacians know that their Zalmoxis is called Jupiter in Rome; the Egyptians, though so pround of their myths some thousands of years old, are willing to see in Osiris a Bacchus with funeral attributes; harsh Mithra admits himself brother to Apollo. No people but Israel has the arrogance to confine truth wholly within the narrow limits of a single conception of the divine, thereby insulting the manifold nature of the Deity, who contains all; no other god has inspired his worshipers with disdain and hatred for those who pray at different altars. I was only the more anxious to make Jerusalem a city like the others, where several races and several beliefs could live in peace; but I was wrong to forget that in any combat between fanaticism and common sense the latter has rarely the upper hand. The clergy of the ancient city were scandalized by the opening of schools where Greek literature was taught; the rabbi Joshua, a pleasant, learned man with whom I had frequently conversed in Athens, but who was trying to excuse himself to his people for his foreign culture and his relations with us, now ordered his disciples not to take up such profane studies unless they could find an hour which was neither day nor night, since Jewish law must be studied night and day. Ismael, an important member of the Sanhedrin, who supposedly adhered to the side of Rome, let his nephew Ben-Dama die rather than accept the services of the Greek surgeon sent to him by Tineus Rufus. While here in Tibur means were still being sought to conciliate differences without appearing to yield to demands of fanatics, affairs in the East took a turn for the worse; a Zealot revolt triumphed in Jerusalem.
An adventurer born of the very dregs of the popel, a fellow named Simon who entitled himself Bar-Kochba, Son of the Star, played the part of firebrand or incendiary mirror in that revolt. I could judge this Simon only by hearsay; I have seen him but once face-to-face, the day a centurion brough me his severed head. Yet I am disposed to grant him that degree of genius which must always be present in one who rises so fast and so high in human affairs; such ascendancy is not gained without at least some crude skill...I believe rather that his untrained mind was of the type which is taken in by its own lies, and that guile in his case went hand in hand with fanaticism...
Severus was quick to grasp that such an elusive enemy could be exterminated, but not conquered; he resigned himself to a war of attrition. The peasants, fired by Simon's enthusiasm, or terrorized by him, made common cause with the Zealots from the start; each rock became a bastion, each vineyard a trench; each tiny farm had to be starved out, or taken by assault. Jerusalem was not recaptured until the thrids year, when last efforts to negotiate proved futile; what little of the Jewish city had been sapred by the destruction under Titus was now wiped out.
...In the Spring of the third year of campaign the army laid siege to the citadel of Bethar, an eagle's nest where Simon and his partisans held out for nearly a yaer against the slow tortures of hunger, thirst, and despair, and where the Son of the Star saw his followers perish one by one but still would not surrender. Our army suffered almost as the rebels, for the latter, on retiring, had burned the forests, laid waste the fields, slaughtered the cattle, and polluted the wells by throwing our dead therein...
...On a cold morning in February, I sat leaning against the trunk of a leafless fig-tree to watch the assault which preceded by only a few hours the capitulation of Bethar. I saw the last defenders of the fortress come out one by one, haggard, emaciated, hideous to view but nevertheless superb, like all that is indomitable...children sneering defiance, already turned fierce and deformed by implacable convictions, boasting loudly of having brought death to dozens of legionaries; old men immured in somnambulistic dreams...On the other hand, the Christianized Jews, whom we had not disturbed and who harbored resentment against the rest of the Hebrews for having persecuted their prophet, saw in us the instrument of divine wrath. The long series of frenzies and misconceptions was thus continuing."

I think one of the reasons that passage struck me was because I, like most people, am really bothered by the stupid, stupid war going on STILL between Jews and Arabs. The same thing that causes people in Iraq every day to blow up themselves and a few other random souls. I also recently had a talk with Nabore that echoed things I heard lots of Japanese people saying: anything that requires you to believe IT to the absolute exclusion of everything else is DANGEROUS. I can definitely see that perspective. I can also see how obvious it is that God is One and therefore Truth is One, and why on earth wouldn't He have ONE set of teachings? But how does one explain that to someone who has only seen the above perspective? The perspective that people who believe their god is the ONLY true one are usually the people who kill other people senselessly and don't get along well with other people, or who refuse to study Greek, or experience wine or friendly sex, etc. etc? How does one explain or justify monotheism in this world? Another question: how does a monotheist ensure that he doesn't BECOME a Simon, or an Iraqi strapping explosives to his body?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

a tourist

Today is rainy. I got to the church at 9:50 this morning and practiced straight until 2. thats a record. After a nice lunch break I got 2 more hours in. A satisfying day, but not very interesting.

Yesterday I didn't practice a WINK. Instead, after a wonderful talk with Gillian I went back to sleep. It was surprisingly DEEP sleep, and I'm willing to avoid feeling guilty by assuming that means I NEEDED it. Has anyone ever had the experience where you are sleeping, and KNOW you are sleeping and try to wake yourself up but CAN'T DO IT? Its weird, and a little bit scary. Its happened to me twice, and the 2nd time was yesterday morning. The first time was last semester when I took a nap on top of one of the organs on the 1st floor of the HFAC.

Anyway, so here are some photos. I visited the Vittorio Emmanuelle Monument, which is that huge white building they call the "wedding cake". It was finished in only 1926 but uses all Classical styles. I am amazed at the scope and depth of the symbolism. There are SOOO many statues that represent all kinds of Nationalistic ideas. I didn't quite get them all, and frankly wasn't THAT interested. It is beautiful, though. It is also conveniently situated in the center of a cluster of amazing Churches, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. So I visted them all! well, not all the churches, but a few big ones and 2 small ones.

After getting home I went jogging in the Villa Borghese and was there in time to watch the sun set through the trees in a brilliant orange color about this color. or this. Somewhere in between. Anyway, it was gorgeous. A good day.

Monday, April 24, 2006

lunedi, Aprile 24

Blogs are weird. I liked Ryan's! Who are all those WEIRD starwars fans you know?

Since Thursday it has been pretty busy around here. Nabore had a concert last night with a Russian violinist and Bulgarian Cellist. They did the 3 Schumann Piano Trios. It was a 2 hour concert of VERY difficult music- difficult for audience as well as performers. I was lucky enough to turn pages for one of the rehearsals on Thursday, and I was at two of the other 4. It was AMAZING!!! Incredible musicians. Great music, too. Unfortunately the concert was a lot worse than any of the rehearsals had been. The ensemble fell apart, and no one was playing very well technically. I was disappointed, but still enjoyed it. I learned SO MUCH by watching Nabore play. He really is good. I respect him, and even if he is a punk when he teaches, and even though he has an embarassing picture of himself in the program (I can't describe it- he has one hand on the keyboard with a light shining on only that hand, and the rest of him is dark. His face is gazing innocently upwards at the light....its too much!) he is STILL a giant of a musician. The people he has associated with, the pianists he has taught, and the lifestyle he lives is one in a billion. In the concert he wore this incredibly ornate embroidered jacket that must have been some kind of traditional Greek costume. was super, super amazing to hang out with these guys. Fortunately they chose English as the most mutually accessible language so I got to listen in on their conversations: "William, deed you ever hear the recordingu ofu Schnabel, Heifitz and Rostropovich playingu the Trout? Eet ees eeencrrredible!" "Oh, darling, I was THERE! Yes, I was there! It was phenomenal, but did you know I played it with Amadeus? Oh yes, I played with them many times" "Ilya, did you know that aòlksjdfowie just sold his Guarnarius?" "NO! He did?" "Yes, and he sold it for 2 million"...etc. I mean, that's the best I can do at imitating them. It was way better in real life- a mixture of hilariously nerdy and fascinatingly elite.
The concert and all the rehearsals were held in this beautiful library of a 1670 Palace called Palazzo Altieri. The caretaker of the archives (which is the room in which the concert was held) wouldn't let me take pictures because its not a museum, its "my house". Yeah, crazy. Do a Google search on it and see what building she calls "mia casa". The Archive room is a very high ceiling, and fits about 300 people in it. The walls are lined with 15 foot bookshelves that are FULL of books, letters, and other documents dating 1610 all the way through 1900s. Wow. You walk through the enormous wood doors and smell OLD PAPER. Its beautiful. And it was especially beautiful to see the 9 foot Steinway sitting at the far end. mmmmm. A really magical place for that kind of concert.
Afterwards we stayed out until VERY late. I met 3 other students of Nabore's, one Italian, one Bulgarian, and one Indian. They were all nice, and I had a good time visiting with them. The Italian one invited me to practice on his piano whenever I need, and to play ping pong with him. Massimiliano was also there, and it was good to see him. If anyone hears of a movie with Brad Pitt called "Frank" coming out in the future, Massimiliano is supposedly composing the soundtrack. I know, its fishy, and he's always telling these outlandish stories that MIGHT be true, but really could be totally not so I don't know. Anyway, it was a good evening. BUT, I stayed up way too late and have to go to sleep now!
No new pictures today.