Endings and Beginnings

“There is, so I believe, in the essence of everything, something that we cannot call learning. There is, my friend, only a knowledge – that is everywhere.” -Hermann Hesse

Last Entry…
For this year. Although I celebrate the New Year as I celebrate the Solstice, I move along with the conventions for convenience sake. This being the last entry for 2010, it is also the 920th entry of Turfing! I am very excited about this coming year, and thankful for what has occurred over the last. (more of this below) This entry, “Endings and Beginnings” focuses around Hermann Hesse. Hesse has not come up before on Turfing, although his was an early influence on my thinking. He is right up there with Alan Watts, and why I haven’t covered him before is a bit of a mystery to me. Just the same, a bit of attention on his works at this point seems right.

I hope you enjoy it! Have a Happy and a Safe New Year!

On the Menu:
Endings and Beginnings…
Herman Hesse Quotes
Othmar Schoeck – Summernight Op.58 for string orchestra 1/2
The Poet – by Hermann Hesse
Othmar Schoeck – Summernight Op.58 for string orchestra 2/2
Poetry – Hermann Hesse
Othmar Schoeck – Elegie op. 36 (Schluss/End/Fin)

Endings and Beginnings…

I sit here awaiting the coffee to finish brewing on this last day of the Gregorian calendar for 2010. The sky is sunny, some clouds, and we are just about at freezing temperature wise. I was outside early after an up and down night, and it is a beautiful day here in the Northwest. Perfect in so many ways.

I have been looking at comments from around the web and email this morning, and it seems most people are ready to let the past year go. As we stumble towards Hogmanay, I have to say, it was the worse of years, and the best of years IMPOV. I will not go into great details as it was a personal journey but the year started out poorly, and has ended up fairly well for us. I have regained much of what I lost psychically and health wise, and there is satisfaction in that.

I have watched the struggles of many of my friends and family and have felt despair with what they are feeling. You cannot discount what people are going through, and it seems to be a heap of misery for many with the way things are going. I want to say that people should not take on too much personal blame, as this is a shared condition, with many causes, and with the tired litany of social lies, er memes, bouncing around ones grey matter, it takes a bit to parse out. What we are seeing is a transformation, that has been swaying across political fields, religious and spiritual aspirations, and collapsing economic models.

One of the trends that I saw across many spectrum’s was a heady dose of Nolstalgia for what apparently we “had” before. The changes that are raining down are not in themselves bad, good or otherwise. They just are. Change is the constant, and it is picking up steam. We have an acceleration going on, and we need to loosen up a bit and let go of the illusion of control if we can. This does not mean breaking off engagement, but the opposite. For too long people have sat back and let the tides of commerce and government decide for them, abandoning the human community to the hierarchal manipulations.

We are seeing new shapes emerging out of the mist, and because they are new, for some this will give them pause. I urge though that we step together, and to start engaging with the future instead of gazing over our shoulders at what has been. Yes, nostalgia has its moments, but now is so much more important.

We are emerging into an open field of possibilities. Yes, bring what is good from the past, but let the old slip away if it no longer serves. Turn off the TV, calm the babble of the talking heads down, and engage with your friends, family and community. Here is what is real. Use social media but don’t drown in it. We need our attentions on the task and Joys that are beckoning to us if we but recognize what they are.

We have been given the gift of Chaos in these times. This is something not to refuse, because chaos churns the universe and throws up infinite possibilities in its effervescent dance. We are between the sun and the atom on a pivotal needle point with multitudes of beings dancing the greatest of dances, so much hinges on these moments. Between Tiamat’s and Abzû’s divine mating we find new Gods emerging, new points of reference and an infinite host of possibilities.

Shouldn’t we let something new and wonderful emerge from the threshing floor? Shouldn’t we take part willingly in this dance?

Bright Blessings on these Endings and Beginnings…

The roots of Hogmanay perhaps reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, as well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic New Year’s celebration of Samhain. In Rome, winter solstice evolved into the ancient celebration of Saturnalia, a great winter festival, where people celebrated completely free of restraint and inhibition. The Vikings celebrated Yule, which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas, or the “Daft Days” as they were sometimes called in Scotland. The winter festival went underground with the Protestant Reformation and ensuing years, but re-emerged near the end of the 17th century.

The Burning Of The Long Ship At The Edinburgh Hogmanay Festival…

An old custom in the Highlands, which has survived to a small extent and seen some degree of revival, is to celebrate Hogmanay with the saining (Scots for ‘protecting, blessing’) of the household and livestock. This blessing is done early on New Year’s morning with copious clouds of smoke from burning juniper branches, and by drinking and then sprinkling ‘magic water’ from ‘a dead and living ford’ around the house (‘a dead and living ford’ refers to a river ford which is routinely crossed by both the living and the dead). After the sprinkling of the water in every room, on the beds and all the inhabitants, the house is sealed up tight and the burning juniper carried through the house and byre. The smoke is allowed to thoroughly fumigate the buildings until it causes sneezing and coughing among the inhabitants. Then all the doors and windows are flung open to let in the cold, fresh air of the new year. The woman of the house then administers ‘a restorative’ from the whisky bottle, and the household sits down to its New Year breakfast.

An example of a local Hogmanay custom is the fireball swinging that takes place in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire in north-east Scotland. This involves local people making up ‘balls’ of chicken wire filled with old newspaper, sticks, rags, and other dry flammable material up to a diameter of 60 cm, each attached to about 1 m of wire, chain or nonflammable rope. As the Old Town House bell sounds to mark the new year, the balls are set alight and the swingers set off up the High Street from the Mercat Cross to the Cannon and back, swinging their burning ball around their head as they go. At the end of the ceremony, any fireballs that are still burning are cast into the harbour. Many people enjoy this display, and large crowds flock to see it.

Haste ye back, we loue you dearly,
Call again you’re welcome here.
May your days be free from sorrow,
And your friends be ever near.
May the paths o’er which you wander,
Be to you a joy each day.
Haste ye back we loue you dearly,
Haste ye back on friendship’s way.


Herman Hesse Quotes:
The call of death is a call of love. Death can be sweet if we answer it in the affirmative, if we accept it as one of the great eternal forms of life and transformation.

The truth is lived, not taught.

You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself. People are afraid because they have never owned up to themselves.

There’s no reality except the one contained within us. That’s why so many people live an unreal life. They take images outside them for reality and never allow the world within them to assert itself.

Those who cannot think or take responsibility for themselves need, and clamor for, a leader.

To be able to throw one’s self away for the sake of a moment, to be able to sacrifice years for a woman’s smile – that is happiness.

Othmar Schoeck – Summernight Op.58 for string orchestra 1/2

The Poet
by Hermann Hesse (1914), translated by Denver Lindley

There is a story told that the Chinese poet, Han Fook, while yet a young man had a strange and compelling wish to learn all there was to learn about the art of poetry, and to strive for perfection in the writing of it. In those days, he was still living in his home on the Yellow River, and with the help of his family who loved him dearly, he had just become engaged to a young lady of good family. The marriage was to be set for a day which promised good fortune. Han Fook was then twenty years old, a handsome youth, modest, well mannered, schooled in the sciences, and despite his youth, was already recognized among men of letters of his homeland for some excellent verse. Without being exactly rich, he had the prospect of an adequate fortune which would be augmented by the dowry of his bride. Since this bride was, moreover, very beautiful and virtuous, nothing seemed lacking for the young man’s happiness. Nevertheless, he was not satisfied, for his heart was filled with the ambition to become a perfect poet.

One evening, as a festival of lanterns was being celebrated on the river, it so happened that Han Fook was wandering alone on the far bank of the river. He leaned against the trunk of a tree which grew over the water, and saw reflected in the river thousands of lights swimming and shimmering. He saw men and women and young girls greeting each other on the boats and floats, all glowing like beautiful flowers in their festive dress. He heard the soft murmur of the shining water, the songs of the girls, the humming of the zithers, the sweet tones of the flutes, and over the whole scene the blue night hovered like the vaulting of a temple. His heart beat faster as he gave in to the mood rising within him. He was the only witness to all this beauty! Even though he longed to cross the river and to enjoy the festival in the company of his bride and his friends, he wanted even more ardently to remain an observer, to drink in his own impressions of the scene, and then to transform them into a perfect poem. The poem would reflect the deep blue of the night, the play of light on the water, the joy of the festival guests, and also the yearning of the silent onlooker who leans on the trunk of the tree over the river. He sensed that if even he were to experience all the festivals and all the pleasures of the earth, they would not make him completely happy, for he knew that he would remain an onlooker, a stranger, as it were, isolated in the midst of life. He sensed the unique quality of his soul, which at once compelled him to feel deeply the beauty of the earth, and also to know the secret longings of an outsider. The thought made him sad, but as he pursued it further, he realized that true happiness and satisfaction could only be his if he could once succeed in creating with his poetry a perfect mirror image of the world. In this way he would possess the world itself, refined and immortalized in reflected images.

Han Fook scarcely knew whether he was still awake or had fallen asleep when he heard a slight sound and saw a stranger standing next to the tree trunk. It was an old man with a venerable air, clad in violet-colored robes. Han Fook rose and spoke to the stranger with the usual words of greeting for old men and eminent people. The stranger, however, smiled, and spoke a few lines of poetry. The young man’s heart stood still in wonder, for in these lines was all the beauty and perfection which he had just experienced, expressed according to all the rules of the great poets. “Oh, who are you,” he asked, bowing deeply, “you who can see into my soul and who speak more beautiful verses than I have ever heard from my teachers?”

The stranger smiled the smile of one who has attained perfection, and said, “If you wish to become a poet, then come with me. You will find my hut by the source of the great river in the northwest mountains. I am called the Master of the Perfect Word.”

With that the old man stepped into the narrow shadow cast by the tree and disappeared immediately. Han Fook, after searching for him in vain and finding not even a trace, now firmly believed that everything had been a dream brought on by fatigue. He hurried over to the boats across the river and took part in the festival, but between conversations and the sound of the flutes, he continued to hear the voice of the stranger. Han Fook’s very soul seemed to have gone away with the man, for he sat apart with dreaming eyes among the merrymakers who teased him for his love-sickness.

A few days later, Han Fook’s father wanted to call his friends and relatives together in order to set the day of the wedding. But the bridegroom opposed his father, saying: “Forgive me if I seem to violate the obedience which a son owes his father. But you know how great is my longing to distinguish myself in the art of poetry. Even though a few of my friends praise my poems, I well know that I am still a beginner and still have a long way to go. Therefore I ask you to let me go for a while into isolation in order to pursue my studies of poetry, because once I have a wife and a house to take care of, I will be held back from those things. Now, while I am still young and free from other duties, I would like to live for some time for my poetry alone—and my poetry will, I hope, bring me joy and fame.”

The father was amazed at this speech, and he said, “You must love this art above everything else, since you even want to postpone your wedding because of it. Or, if something has come between you and your bride, then tell me so that I can help you bring about a reconciliation or provide you with another bride.”

But the son swore that he loved his bride no less than before, and that not even the shadow of a disagreement had fallen between them. At the same time he told his father that a great master had revealed himself to him in a dream on the day of the lantern festival, and that it was his greatest wish in the world to become the pupil of this master.

“Well and good,” said the father, “then I will give you a year. In this time you may pursue this dream of yours which may have been sent to you by a god.”
“It may be two years,” said Han Fook hesitantly, “who can tell?”

The father let him go and was grieved. The young man wrote a letter to his bride, took leave of his family, and went his way.
When he had traveled for a very long time, he reached the source of the river and found a bamboo hut standing by itself in the wilderness. On a braided mat in front of the hut sat the old man whom Han Fook had seen on the bank by the tree trunk. The old man sat and played his lute, and when he saw the guest approach respectfully, he did not get up, nor did he greet him. He only smiled and let his sensitive fingers play over the strings. A magic music flowed like a silver cloud through the valley, so that the young man stood in wondering astonishment and forgot everything else until the Master of the Perfect Word put aside his small lute and stepped into his hut. So Han Fook followed him with awe and remained with him as his servant and pupil.

A month passed, and Han Fook had learned to despise all poems which he had written before. He erased them from his memory. And after a few more months he erased even those poems from his memory which he had learned from his teachers at home. The Master spoke hardly a word with him. Silently, he taught Han Fook the art of lute playing until the very being of the pupil was filled with music. Once Han Fook composed a small poem, in which he described the flight of two birds across the autumnal sky, a poem which pleased him quite well. He didn’t dare show it to the Master, but one evening he sang it near the hut. The Master heard it well but said not a word. He only played softly on his lute. Immediately the air became cool and the darkness increased; a sharp wind arose even though it was the middle of summer. Across the sky, which had now become gray, flew two lines of birds in their mighty yearning for new lands. All of this was so much more beautiful and perfect than the verses of the pupil, that Han Fook became sad and silent, and felt himself worthless. The old man made this come to pass each time. When a year had gone by, Han Fook had learned lute playing almost to perfection, but the art of poetry appeared ever more difficult and more sublime.

When two years had gone by, the young man became overwhelmingly homesick for his family, for his homeland, and for his bride. So he asked the Master to let him travel.

The Master smiled and nodded. “You are free,” he said, “and may go wherever you want. You may come again, you may stay away, just as you like.”

So the pupil started on his journey and traveled without stopping until one morning in the dawn he stood on his native shore and looked over the vaulted bridge to his home town. He crept furtively into his father’s garden, and heard through the bedroom window the breathing of his father who was still asleep. Stealing among the trees next to the house of his bride, he climbed to the top of a pear tree and saw his bride standing in her room, combing her hair. When he compared the sight before his eyes with the vision that he had painted of it in his homesick imaginings, it became clear to him that he was indeed destined to be a poet: that in the dreams of poets there is a beauty and grace which one searches for in vain in everyday reality. So he climbed down from the tree, fled from the garden, fled over the bridge out of his native town, and returned to the high valley in the mountains. There as before sat the Master in front of his hut on his simple mat, plucking the lute with his fingers. Instead of a greeting, he spoke two verses about the blessings of art. Upon hearing these deep and harmonious sounds, Han Fook’s eyes became filled with tears.

Again Han Fook remained with the Master of the Perfect Word, who now gave him lessons on the zither since he had mastered the lute. The months vanished like snow in the west wind. Twice more it happened that homesickness overcame him. The first time he ran away secretly into the night, but before he had reached the last curve in the valley, the night wind blew over the zither which hung in the door of the hut and the sounds flowed after Han Fook and called him to return in such a way that he could not resist. The other time, however, he dreamed that he was planting a young tree in his garden and that his wife was standing by him and that his children were sprinkling the tree with wine and milk. When he awoke, the moon shone into his room. He got up, bewildered, and saw the Master lying asleep next to him, his gray beard trembling gently. Suddenly a feeling of bitter hatred towards this man came over him—this person who, it seemed to him, had destroyed his life and deceived him about his future. He wanted to fall upon him and murder him, when the old man opened his eyes and began immediately to smile with a fine, sad gentleness which disarmed the pupil. “Remember, Han Fook,” said the old man quietly, “you are free to do whatever you wish. You may go into your home country and plant trees, you may hate me, or strike me dead—it is of little importance.”

“Oh, how could I hate you?” cried the poet, deeply moved. “That would be like hating heaven itself.”

So he remained, and learned to play the zither, and after that the flute. Later he began to write poems under the Master’s direction. Slowly he learned the mysterious art of saying only that which is simple and straight-forward, but in such a way as to stir up the listener’s soul as the wind stirs up the surface of the water. He described the coming of the sun as it hesitates on the edge of the mountains, and the soundless slipping away of fish when they flee like shadows under the water, and the gentle rocking of a young willow in the spring winds. To hear it was not just to hear about the sun, the play of the fish, or the murmuring of the willow; rather it seemed that heaven and earth harmonized each time for a moment of perfect music. Each listener thought with joy or sorrow on whatever he loved or hated: a boy’s thoughts would turn to games, a young man’s to his beloved, and the old man’s to death.

Han Fook no longer knew how many years he spent with the Master at the source of the great river. Often it seemed to him that he had entered the valley only yesterday and been welcomed by the old man’s string music. Often he felt as if all the ages of Man and Time itself had fallen away and become insubstantial.

One morning he awoke alone in the hut and though he looked and called everywhere, the Master had disappeared. Overnight fall seemed to have come. A raw wind shook the old hut and large flocks of migrating birds flew over the ridge of the mountain range, although it was not yet time for them to do so.

Then Han Fook took his little lute and descended into his native country. Wherever he encountered people, they greeted him with the sign of greeting which is due old men and eminent people. When he came to his native town, his father, his bride, and his relatives had died. Other people lived in their houses. That evening, a lantern festival was celebrated on the river. The poet Han Fook stood on the far side of the river, on the darker side of the river, leaning against the trunk of an old tree. When he began to play his little lute, then the women sighed and glanced, delighted and disturbed, into the night. The young men called to the lute player, but they could not find him. They called loudly, because not one of them had ever heard such sounds from a lute before. But Han Fook smiled. He looked into the river, where the reflected images of a thousand lanterns were swimming. Just as he no longer knew how to distinguish the reflected images from the real ones, so he found no difference in his soul between this festival and the first one, when he had stood here as a young man and heard the words of the strange Master.

Othmar Schoeck – Summernight Op.58 for string orchestra 2/2

Hermann Hesse Poems

At Night On The High Sea

At night, when the sea cradles me
And the pale star gleam
Lies down on its broad waves,
Then I free myself wholly
From all activity and all the love
And stand silent and breathe purely,
Alone, alone cradled by the sea
That lies there, cold and silent, with a thousand lights.
Then I have to think of my friends
And my gaze sinks into their gazes
And I ask each one, silent, alone:
“Are you still mine”
Is my sorrow a sorrow to you, my death a death?
Do you feel from my love, my grief,
Just a breath, just an echo?”
And the sea peacefully gazes back, silent,
And smiles: no.
And no greeting and now answer comes from anywhere.

On A Journey

Don’t be downcast, soon the night will come,
When we can see the cool moon laughing in secret
Over the faint countryside,
And we rest, hand in hand.

Don’t be downcast, the time will soon come
When we can have rest. Our small crosses will stand
On the bright edge of the road together,
And rain fall, and snow fall,
And the winds come and go.

Lying In Grass

Is this everything now, the quick delusions of flowers,
And the down colors of the bright summer meadow,
The soft blue spread of heaven, the bees’ song,
Is this everything only a god’s
Groaning dream,
The cry of unconscious powers for deliverance?
The distant line of the mountain,
That beautifully and courageously rests in the blue,
Is this too only a convulsion,
Only the wild strain of fermenting nature,
Only grief, only agony, only meaningless fumbling,
Never resting, never a blessed movement?
No! Leave me alone, you impure dream
Of the world in suffering!
The dance of tiny insects cradles you in an evening radiance,
The bird’s cry cradles you,
A breath of wind cools my forehead
With consolation.
Leave me alone, you unendurably old human grief!
Let it all be pain.
Let it all be suffering, let it be wretched-
But not this one sweet hour in the summer,
And not the fragrance of the red clover,
And not the deep tender pleasure
In my soul.

The Poet

Only on me, the lonely one,
The unending stars of the night shine,
The stone fountain whispers its magic song,
To me alone, to me the lonely one
The colorful shadows of the wandering clouds
Move like dreams over the open countryside.
Neither house nor farmland,
Neither forest nor hunting privilege is given to me,
What is mine belongs to no one,
The plunging brook behind the veil of the woods,
The frightening sea,
The bird whir of children at play,
The weeping and singing, lonely in the evening, of a man secretly in love.
The temples of the gods are mine also, and mine
the aristocratic groves of the past.
And no less, the luminous
Vault of heaven in the future is my home:
Often in full flight of longing my soul storms upward,
To gaze on the future of blessed men,
Love, overcoming the law, love from people to people.
I find them all again, nobly transformed:
Farmer, king, tradesman, busy sailors,
Shepherd and gardener, all of them
Gratefully celebrate the festival of the future world.
Only the poet is missing,
The lonely one who looks on,
The bearer of human longing, the pale image
Of whom the future, the fulfillment of the world
Has no further need. Many garlands
Wilt on his grave,
But no one remembers him.

Othmar Schoeck – Elegie op. 36 (Schluss/End/Fin)


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