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No snow either and quite a bit of sun early on. I felt a little tired at church today and had some trouble singing but I came through well enough, even if with a slightly scratchy throat. Charles Howes did the service and had an excellent program about the importance of love, “standing on the side of love” as the UU’s say.

Charles reminded us of the nastiness and evil prevalent because of lack of love. For example, in Boston people stealing parking spaces and breaking windows because of frustration with the snow, and three young people in North Carolina senselessly murdered by a frustrated person who felt they took his parking space and that they deserved to die because they were Muslims. Very very sad and very tragic. Lives at basically their beginnings, early twenties, wiped out. Whole futures that now never will come to be.

How incredibly precious is life. To waste it is the ultimate tragedy.

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This movie directed by Ingmar Bergman is not what you’d call upbeat. It’s a sad tale of repression of human emotions in the presence of a terminal illness of one of three sisters. Only the maid servant freely expresses her love for the dying sister. Reconciliation of the two living sisters seems to occur at one point only to disappear again at the end. Bergman clearly doesn’t think much of well healed self-satisfied people who he believes often live inauthentic lives of hypocrisy and repressed self-hatred.

There is an interesting interview of Bergman and his friend, Erland Josephson, done in 1999, on the DVD. I enjoyed this discussion very much between the two wise old artists (Bergman was 82 at the time and Josephson was 77), and the interviewer, Malou von Sivers, was very good. She asked them probing questions about their lives, loves, and views on death. Ingmar was not so concerned about his own death whereas his friend Erland was not at all looking forward to it. Bergman died in 2007 and Josephson in February of this year, 2012.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview that says a lot to me:

von Sivers: I think of Strindberg, whom you both love, of his play Thunder in the Air. There are in the accounts of ageing a feeling of reconciliation, together with the pain. I get the same feeling when listening to you. I don’t know if this is just my impression. Is it wishful thinking on my part, that ageing brings reconciliation?

Bergman: (To Josephson) Do you want to start, or shall I?

Josephson: You start. I can carry on.

Bergman: We should talk in chorus, as we both feel the same way about growing old. We were never told it would be so hard. It’s hard work. It’s very hard work. Especially when you feel yourself waning, and your ailments begin to take over. Ridiculous, slightly humiliating ailments begin to take over. Before you get used to this, and they become part of your life, you have a hard time. Ageing is strenuous work. It isn’t something often talked about. We should talk more about it. Ageing in itself is a full-time job. Making yourself function in a reasonably dignified manner. We’ve talked about this.

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A poem by Yeats

Just now I’ve been skimming through the poems about aging on poetry.org. This one by Yeats which once I had memorized spoke to me.


When You are Old
by W. B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Yes, I dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and see too their shadows deep. Did you know the end was near? You so liked “The End” by Mark Strand. Yes, I loved the pilgrim soul in you, but feared the sorrows of your changing face. And now my Love has fled and is hidden somewhere amid a crowd of stars. Can I find you there?

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I still think a lot about Cynthia and still have trouble conceiving that she’s gone. I remember the time late in her illness when I took her to church with me. This was on a Sunday in December 2010 before Christmas. At the end of the service she had always been called upon to “form the circle”, that is, ask everyone to hold hands around the sanctuary and lead “Carry the flame of peace and love until we meet again.” In our small church she had been chair of the Worship Committee and often its only member. Well, on this occasion Richard, our minister, asked Cynthia if she could again lead the forming of the circle. She had been in a bad way, talking very little and was very uncomfortable, hardly wanting to go to church. Suddenly I was amazed as she rose to her feet and very clearly asked people to form the circle, mentioned things about the sermon, brought up some other appropriate things (I don’t remember the details), and led people in the closing words: Carry the flame of peace and love until we meet again. She was back to her old self, in spite of her crushing illness, just for those few minutes. Totally amazing! How did she do it?

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