December 02, 2008

Perhaps, A Birthday

Maria Callas maintained that she was born on December 2. Some dispute exists concerning the accuracy of the claim; certain records indicate December 4 to be the correct date. A small matter, especially in light of the miraculous accomplishments of this supreme artist.

To honor her achievements, I humbly direct you to two of my personal favorites among my hundreds of essays -- my first discussion of Callas's life and career, "For Maria Callas, Now and Always: All Things Are Connected," and a follow-up piece, which includes a description of a particular evening at one of Callas's Juilliard Master Classes (which I attended, and it is one of my most cherished memories), "Flecks of Light, Points of Understanding, and the Gift of Sight." The latter also discusses Stephen Sondheim's remarkable creation, Sunday in the Park with George. "Flecks of Light" never attracted much notice. I admit that the rapidity with which it sank into oblivion fills me with considerable sadness.

I write a great deal about politics and foreign policy. Some may find this surprising, but in a very different world, I would rarely discuss those topics, certainly not to the extent and in the detail I do. I write about them because I feel I must. If we appreciate and think we have some understanding of the needless horrors unfolding in the world around us, I think we have a certain obligation to share our observations with others, in an effort to at least minimize the likelihood of the worst possibilities being actualized, to whatever extent we can. I should rephrase that: I feel such an obligation, but I will not presume to say whether others should feel the same way. In fact, I am deeply grateful that certain artists do not spend their time on such matters. Instead, as Callas did, they provide us with a glimpse of a very different world, one of surpassing sensitivity and inexpressible compassion and understanding. Or, rather, a world that would have remained inexpressible, but for their own creativity and artistry.

And if that world of sensitivity and compassion were to be more realized ... well, I would spend my time writing about art, psychology and culture, and perhaps I would start one of the novels kicking around my brain.

So, perhaps a birthday. And someday ... perhaps ...

Which reminds me: there is one more essay I recommend, which follows up on "Flecks of Light": "Cultivate Your Sense of Wonder, and Live Ecstatically." You need to read the full article to understand what I meant by my conclusion:
I now add that, when you engage in this process, you yourself live ecstatically -- today.

And that is everything.
Once again, for Maria Callas, for helping me to understand this kind of ecstasy, and for providing me countless occasions when I can experience that ecstasy as a reality.

Truly, La Divina, now and always.