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12 May 2014

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, Silence the pianos


Vleeptron will be inactive for the next 2 or 3 or 4 days.

My beloved brother Maury passed away at his apartment in his beloved Silver Spring, Maryland USA, and his Unitarian-Universalist church -- he was its Music Big Cheese for decades, and many other things of great value to lots of people -- will hold a memorial service on Wednesday. Then a shiva -- that translates pretty near as a Jewish wake -- at his son David's house.

He loved this poem, made famous in the movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral."

* * *

Funeral Blues
by W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks 

of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


Mike Stone said...

Sorry to hear that. You'll be in our thoughts.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Thanks Mike, thanks Amy, thanks Pat, thanks everybody.

Pat, when I get back I'll do a better job of translating. but if you're talking about shivah -- I think it's Hebrew rather than Yiddish/Old German, so my spelling is a transliteration, and there are probably 3 other accepted spellings.

But I am just guessing Schiwe sitzen is a Yiddish/Germanized phrase for -- well, family and friends sitting around after the formal funeral services. A rabbi usually drops by in the evening to lead everybody in the kaddish, the Hebrew prayer for mourning.

There's usually lots of good food. I guess that's to encourage everyone to keep up their strength and their connection to this world and its pleasures.

I'm sure a got a lot of that all wrong.

PatFromCH said...

Nope, you got that all right, as usual (shive actually means something with sifting. Strange but it makes sense somehow, a period of transition. And I thought only the medieval theological scholars were mystics...).

Reckon it depends on family tradition and practice though yet that rule about covering mirrors rings a faint bell with me for some reason:

Vleeptron Dude said...

Orthodox Jews -- or any Jews who, like you, remember the old tradition of covering mirrors -- yes, this is what you do in the mourners' house after the death of a loved one.

The only time it was explained to me -- by someone about as schooled in Judaism as I, certainly no authority -- is that covering the mirrors de-focuses our usual thoughts about ourselves and our day-to-day concerns, and helps us to think about the loved one who is gone now.

All more accurate explanations of covering the mirrors in the mourners' house will be greatly appreciated by the Huckleberry Finn of World Jewry.

Note these lines from Auden's "Funeral Blues" (and the W.H. = Wystan Hugh suggests he was Welsh, not Jewish):

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum ...

so the instinct to interrupt our day-to-day petty self-pleasing concerns when a loved one dies, and severely force ourselves (at least for a few days) to replace them with pain and grief -- this must be universal.

Vleeptron Dude said...

I'd say universally human, but I've seen many grieving cats and dogs, and in "King Solomon's Ring" Konrad Lorenz tells stories of grieving birds reminded of their lost companions years after they died.

Ghosts may not exist to haunt the living, but love certainly exists and certainly haunts our hearts for astonishingly long periods of time.

Auden was wronger than he knew when he wrote:

I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong

Don't dismiss mysticism as a long-forgotten instinct killed by science and the Age of Reason. These are certainly bad times for astrology, by the mystics have never faltered or given up their wish to perceive the parts of Reality (Sufis themselves call Sufism = "The Real") which Science and Reason, and the senses with which we were born, have accustomed us to believing were the entirety of Reality.

If anything, your countryman Sandoz chemist Albert Hofmann

rekindled mysticism explosively throughout Earth and the human race when he tasted a drop of a new lab molecule and then rode his bicycle home to have lunch on Monday 19 April 1943.

I'm not suggesting that LSD is indeed the reliable 1-step Portal to the Mystic Realm, but it sure inspired gazillions to try to follow that Yellow Brick Road to Mysticism.

Many of them stopped taking the Chemical Express entirely, but sought the Mystic Realm through spiritual and experimental means.

My reading of the Modern Mystics convinces me a few of them got there, and (like Buddha) left clear instructions on how any of us could get there, too.

Maury's life was a tug between his music and his spiritual quest, and that led him deeper and deeper into the Mystic paths. His library of Oriental and Mystic texts -- well, it was astonishing.

Okay when I push Wikipedia's deutsch button on one of my fave Platonic Objects

I get this werde fur "sieve":

Das Sieb des Eratosthenes

Are there 2 or more words for my English concept of sifting? Aber danke for this, I always thought shiva came from Hebrew.

The spelling shive is probably preferred to distinguish it from the Hindu goddess Shiva.

Oh, of course we have returned from Washington DC. In both directions, AMTRAK ran as smoothly and on-time as the world-reknowned Swiss Watch.

We'd locked all cats in the house for our trip, and expected to open the door and be savagely ripped to shreds by angry cats, but (after a dash outside to pee) they all came back inside that purred and filed no cruelty complaints. While outside, they encountered their first porcupine (Stachelschweine) and were fascinated by it -- but had the brains not to get close.

Later they hogged the bed to sleep with us. When Stewie (Stewart Wallace Darnley) purrs in his sleep, he's as loud as a gasoline lawn mower. Yet it's the most peaceful, beautiful music.