June 28th, 2008

alexander calder

Morning moving along -

The deck is wet, luxurious thick smacky fog wet kiss bliss, and I am absorbed in Jacques Lusseyran's book, And There Was Light.  

This truly is a must-read, an immersion into all the ways we see and read light.  

It also documents the fear that allowed Hitler to do what he did, and exclaims on what this country was and how it was perceived.

Jacques is a teen-ager when the Germans invade France.  He is also blind, but that is only an aid in anchoring his formation of a youth resistance against the Germans.  At one point, in his memoir he writes this about America.  It is 1942 and he has a teacher who is unafraid to teach.

    "The U.S.S.R. was an unknown quantity but America was no less so. "As for them," our teacher used to say when he was talking about America, "if they are only as skillful as they are generous, we shall all be saved!"

    "The portion of the future which lay on the other side of the Atlantic was greater than Europe liked to admit. There was a vast continent there, filled with resources, teeming with people, growing in almost geometrical progression. America represented the greatest triumph of the spirit of adventure that man had ever managed to achieve. Excitement and egotism were part of it, as they are with all young nations, but America also had one of the most solid reserves of tolerance and confidence to be found anywhere in the world.

    Americans loved to invent, to build, in other words they loved action, and if they could only keep this taste intact for a long enough time, they would become Europe's first hope, perhaps her only hope, ghastly as it might be to admit it."

He writes of fear and how it can shut down a country, of freedom fighters who are labeled terrorists, and again, fear, fear, fear and what it does, and the exhilaration that comes when one uses their intellect to fight.   He was in an accelerated program at university, and responsible for 600 youths in the Resistance and he writes the following of that time.   Keep in mind he is blind.

    "The time was surely blessed when I was only aware of my body as something that gave me pleasure. The fifteen-mile hike I took with Jean each Sunday was enough to wipe away the small physical discomforts that came from mental strain. At night we were dead tired. The next day, when we got up at five o'clock, it was as if it were the first day of the world.

     The well of my strength never dried up. The later I stayed up, the better I slept. The more I learned, the more I was able to learn. My memory only knew how to say yes. It made room for everything, for the thousand and fifty Paris telephone numbers I needed for my work in the Resistance, and which I had learned by heart in 1942 to keep from writing anything down. It made room too for the system of monads according to Leibnitz, for Turkish history in the nineteenth century, even for those fifteen pages from the letters of Cicero in Latin. Whenever a new contingent of facts presented itself, my memory, instead of tightening up at their approach, expanded. It was much simpler that way.

     My mind was a world in growth, one which had not found its limits. And if my intelligence hung back a little at the effort, I could always turn to other worlds within myself, to the worlds of the heart and of hope. They immediately sent up a relay, and I kept running continually."