Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Getting up - In honor of Elytis by Hatto Fischer

During the night everyone frooze
for none of the windows would really close.
The next morning things were made far worse
by everyone out of step, the voices hoarse.

Still, the pilgrims made desperate efforts
to get up early, just like on any other day,
but to no avail; they simply failed
to keep their promise to be up by dawn.

They were very tense. During the entire night
they had sat up, if not to listen to horrid stories
which could haunt them later, then to assertions that religions were the cause of war! Someone had referred to Constance de Volney! He claimed religions would uphold inequalities through a belief in one God, and thus they would assert themselves by sword and cruxifix! That argument was still pounding in their heads
when finally they did manage to leave their beds. But instead of getting ready for that day,
they got entangled in new battles of words. They argued about the meaning of the ‘holy land’. That heated up the debate, and let them forget their host. Instead they threw words at each other as if stones. Everyone was hit hard. No one escaped unhurt. The dispute was so intense that they lost all measure. Unsure how to get out of this fight, they just continued blindly, mad at each other, that is until the poet entered. He wished them a very good morning with a warm smile! Immediately his presence pacified their angry thoughts. Yesterday, after dinner, he had invited them to stay the night. But now lacking sleep, they felt dazed by the morning light. No wonder! The evening before the poet had sensed their pains. As pilgrims always on the road, sand and sun their constant enemies, they had moved on with the caravan, always through the desert, till finally, water bottles already dangerously empty, they reached this strange city. Immediately they sensed something was about to happen. Everywhere hung broken mirrors - from trees, balconies and even rooftops. Not knowing what it meant, they were afraid to make any sound. They crept
like shadows along the houses. Still, their steps would ricochet of the walls
as if the entire city wanted to mock them for their fears to be seen. Finally they came upon a solem house with a large wooden door. They stopped. Stood still. Held their breath. Heavy their thoughts. Something on the door of the house had caught their attention. Someone had written on the wood:‘Praised be – Axion Esti!’ Before they had a chance to ask themselves what it meant, an elderly man stepped out of the house and invited them in. Still shaken from their journey and their throats dry, they followed him suit, but only after much hesitation. Unsure what awaited them, they feared a rejection of their souls or else a trap with no escape! For sure, their doubts about his hospitality made them feel like fools! Or something worse than that. Even lunatics! It is always the same with travellers since lost in many secret ways. They entered a huge room with wooden beams upholding the ceiling. In the middle was a fire place with big logs burning. Above the fire hung a large cooking pot. Everything was so inviting. Along the walls, there were many bookshelves, and in-between paintings. A pleasant scent filled the entire room. It intoxicated the pilgrims to the point of being confused by their own thoughts about this man. He seemed to know their needs as much as the time zones they had crossed. Without much ado, he gestured to them to sit down at a long table. The table was made out of solid wood, slim in width and thus elegant. Once seated, the pilgrims asked themselves, but who is this man? Instead of getting an answer, he started to set the table and to serve them. He brought good wine, some bread to break, and soon after came warm food. The pilgrims became conscious of one main fact: in this room
there ruled another tone, one which is not harsh, but gentle. There was no aggression in the air. Only true words counted. Then the man introduced himself as a poet of simple words. He graced his introduction with still further gestures of hospitality to ensure everyone was at ease, indeed felt to be equal at the table. When compared as to how otherwise they were treated, this was soothing.
In this warm atmosphere they started to open up slowly, even smile a bit.

They had experienced along the road many kinds of societies,
but none would have ever invited them in out of fear of strangers. Rarely had they been shown so much trust as by this man. All too often hospitality vanished to leave them in doubt. "Dear guests, allow me to say a few words to welcome you.
We have to acknowledge what affects human relationships.
It can be our families, money, but also something else,
something which opens up an abyss in which we all can fall.
Yes, the fall of human beings can be quite steep, especially when one person betrays another human being,
and even worse has given up his own dreams.
Often the latter is overlooked; we see only Judas,
but forget what dreams we had when still children,
while as adults we no longer recall their colours.
Any betrayal relinquishes co-existence; it converts
prejudices into convictions, which once challenged,
instead of being open to doubt prompts a lashing out.
This is what Brendan Kennelly meant when he wrote
'most difficult is to unlearn learned hatred!'
It connects with what Michel Foucault conceived to be
the problem of communication, insofar no one speaks
with the other, as long as victory is necessary.
Since victories leave the many defeated, their silence strengthens only the powerful ones in their convictions
not to trust the defeated, and therefore demand still more
of the same. But to just obey, that is not really life,
while those who command seal only their fate as shown by what took place on the land with the poison ivy.
It was around the time when resistance broke out in Greece
during World War II. It prompted German troops to round up all the men.
They had to stand in a row like soldiers. Then the German officer
placed himself in front of them and commanded everyone
to step forward, give his name, and step back.
When it was the turn of Manolis, he refused.
The German officer shouted out his command once more:
'Hervortreten!' Manolis did not move. Just a second passed
before the officer pulled out his gun and shot Manolis.
At this point Elytis stepped himself into the poem, and said:
'little did this officer realize then, there ended his life,
while that of Manolis just began! Life be praised! Axion Esti!" The pilgrims realized by referring to Elytis, their host
wished to draw their attention to who has future, who not. While thinking about it, the poet put fruits on the table. It reminded of Cezanne's still life. Then the poet continued:

"As to this city, its people know 'a past of the future' exists; but they do not know the present, and thus depend upon written messages which are slid underneath the door to keep them informed about life. Hence doors are not simply opened; they require many keys to be unlocked!" Silence. The poet looked at them. Briefly he closed his eyes. Then he looked up as if to follow the flight of a bluebird. The pilgrims understood that he wanted them to listen carefully as to what 'Axion esti', embedded in the Greek light, can mean. "Listen. There are crosses to bear. There are crosses to be made. People come and go. Churches open their doors. Many come back. Take a second look.
Affirm what they see. Others do not. Why not? Tell me, where have they all gone to? Tell me, pilgrims, why war?" That sudden question at the end perplexed them.
None of them knew what would be the right answer. They knew only one thing: history is full of wars!
If one lesson they had learned, then not to take sides. The poet continued: "If only people would observe more the nuances in daily life,
then they could understand much better man's search for justice!
Here a kind word, there a good question or some keen observation,
that and more can make all the difference. And to tell a story,
the incomplete must link up with what was left uncomplete.
For Michel Angelo a stone was more complete than his own sculpture.
Thus true stories do not to leave everything till the bitter end. Rather they begin with an insight which works itself through time.
It is like grasping the hands of the others, since friendship and trust
are needed to go along with spoken words resonating with the past.
That is the search for new meanings with a future yet to be seen!

The same applies to boys who climb up trees or run down stairs. Or think of boats tied to piers; they await the men who shall go fishing
when the morning breeze signals the coming of another day at sea. But Minotauros did not capture a fish; instead he brought home
a big, strong bull. With him he entered the labyrinth to discover
that the dead ends had no mirrors as foreseen by King Minos, but walls. It made many of those encountering the wall look older, only few
came out looking much younger. Here the writer Ernst Schnabbel conveyed
a message about the 'I' in dialogue with kings: Daedalus gains freedom
by trusting that nothingness in-between columns is the right distance. Seldom people find that in their relationships. Still, when in love,
it suffices to just dangle your feet in the water, eat figs, or dream
while looking into the horizon. Indeed, life is without a definite end." Because the pilgrims were listening to him so intensively,
they did not notice at first that a woman had entered the room. She was most beautiful, had fine lips and a serene composure. With sure steps she approached them to greet each one of them.

The Pilgrims were taken back by her grace and beauty.
But just when she was about to speak to them, they were
startled by something. A strange noise had erupted directly
outside the door. It filled the large room with weird sounds.
Outside a donkey had broken loose, gone wild.
He seemed to crash through the marketplace. Judging by the sounds, he must be leaving behind
a huge path of the most terrible destruction.
One could hear ceramic pieces crashing to the ground,
or it seemed the donkey tobbled everything in the way.
Mixed in were the screams of people; some swore,
others shouted loud out of despair or to alarm.
Someone said later that his flight from slavery
was a courageous dash into freedom, but to others
it seemed to be more a wish to show his anger at man.
The people ran in all directions, more confused than ever.
Inside the Pilgrims sat up strainght and started to fear
what would follow such an incidence? Was it a kind of omen,
a kind of sign? This upheaval on the market place may mean
a lot. They looked to the poet to say something.

Yet despite the frightening sounds outside
he stayed calm and just listened.
Only once the noise outside had subdued,
and the woman had come to his side, he spoke.
"Now you can understand why people are disturbed.
Most likely to them the donkey signals new times.
Once many changes are about to happen, they fear
that nothing shall be the same again. Gone the past!

People fear as well everything shall stay the same,
so they are caught in-between past and future.
This 'past of the future' is an uneasy form of existence.
It leads to experiencing only certainty in uncertainty.

Once upon a time people knew that the market and morality
were intertwined to ensure just prices. Now, they think,
those times are by-gone. This is why in this city they reflect
existence in the broken mirrors as fragmented realities.

Many feel their lives to be incomplete and regret a lot.
Unable to live intensely, they end up being unfulfilled.
And without love they cannot stay together in a natural way.
Instead they submit to power and believe in a fake unity.
Panic breaks out if the fake unity fails to give them security. Distrusting the others, they are hedged in by fear.
For power is vindictive, unnatural and very far away
from any nuance of understanding what human reality entails.
Only when free in the imagination to roam freely
like children do in the city's streets, then people
shall not be drained of life. Yet if they lack poetic words,
all will desire just one thing: leave me alone!

But to be left alone, it shall mean wealth and market forces
can intertwine to give the rich more power and force all others
to accept things as they are, while becoming poorer than the poor.
They end up living in poverty, a poverty of human experience!"
There was a long pause in the room. Some pilgrims sighed.
They started to understand what philosophy means,
namely to let words speak to reveal practical wisdom in a poem.
Only then they noticed that the poet listened carefully to them.

The poet took then a book, opened it, and took out a letter.
Before reading out aloud the content of that, he explained
the woman beside him, that she had written this to him.
So, dear pilgrims, here comes into play the history of man.
"We describe like in ancient stories our understanding of love as a home of silence. No one speaks about true love anymore. Happiness is a mere dream. That is normality. And we fear that soon there will be no water and no land for our sheep to graze. Thus, if it is true that delayed actions are about man's search for truths,
then why distort feelings even when we feel ourselves to be out of step and time?
Naturally many a poem may have been created out of the pain that follows a loss of love. Are then all poems written in the awareness as to what has been lost? Out of pain?
Apprehending this, there is still a long way to go before able to say what happened. For that are needed sober voices. It includes other feelings to give those foolish ones,
who want to try out love, another chance. Indeed, if redemption does not work here,
and no one forgives, then questions have to be asked about the story told, for people
need to know where can be ascertained a degree of certainty about the motives of man?"
The poet put down the letter and gazed in the round of the pilgrims.
They started to settle down in their thoughts. And sensed what difference
it would make if mankind would understand delayed actions as a wish to be truthful, then patience would lead to not demanding everything immediately.

The art of waiting for things to come forth all by themselves
can be matched by greatness in gestures and life be seen differently
- like a canoe which slides silently through the water.
Such poetic metaphors help eyes to escape the triviality of things!

And much more important shall be that they allow everyone to say
what he or she wants, and what belongs to whom, and this in a language
freed from slavery. Possible is then an elementary answer to fear. For the desire for a truthful love is greater than what reality can give.
Many shape their lives like poets when at home, in private.
Then they are ready to transform mirrors into sand to write in.
With that the archaic wish to travel through the universe returns
with the speed of light to earth. And opens up the doors. At this point the young woman besides the poet
gave the pilgrims to understand every human being
is like a living picture, ready to tell stories to which they can listen endlessly, during the day.

Important is that these thoughts are written down.
For precious are these reflections. Like imaginary witnesses,
it engages all in an intensive dialogue with others, and life itself.
It is like that woman beside the poet speaking to their imagination.

Touch the sky, the moon is not far away.
Touch to know the wonder of the open sky.
Unlimited is the horizon: an infinite unknown,
so trust love coming unexpectedly your way.

All what is needed is to reach out and beyond. And in so doing, acknowledge that the desire
stems from being born free and to stay the same
all the way. It leaves no other alternative.

Nameable are actions undertaken for the sake of love, since
accountable to the soul and ready to uphold human dignity.
Nothing more is needed when others expect some concrete outcome. For everyone needs a lift in spirits, a chance to be engaged. Together the woman and the poet recalled how natural forces
beside the sea leave behind traces along the beaches
to be noticed when they would walk into the sunset,
if only to return next day before dawn when light graces earth:

 The sand, the shell, the footprint. With such prospects for the future,
getting up should not be a problem,
concluded the poet.
He said that so suddenly that the pilgrims were startled.
Creative tensions had given their imagination wings,
but this analytical part was like sobering down, at the risk
to destroy the last illusions they had kept for special times.

In so doing he seemed to ask the women to show them the way out.
The streets of the city with the broken mirrors waited for them.
But after this encounter with the poet, they seem to reflect their faces
in a complete mirror of his seeing eyes along with his hospitality.

Now they understood him quite well what it means to be praised well. Silently they all got up, bowed deep down their heads to thank him. They wished to show their deepest respect, but were unsure if enough. As they passed by him to the room, he was like a child wishing them well.

‘Axion Esti’ became a breeze of salt in their lives.
It gave them a new conviction in themselves. They stepped out into the streets without complaining about the leaking roof above, the windows which didn't shut properly.

Perfect is merely the determination to be destructive no matter what. Overruled, people cannot come to see the destroyed roof of the house. Everything appears familiar once other things disappear, fore mostly people. Subsequently reason cannot be conceived any longer as seeking the right distance.
From such terrible things people must recover by poetry bringing forth language. It should not end in the master commanding the dog to fetch the stick. Thrown at a distance, the stick distracts only contemplation about normal distances between expectations and fulfilments too often burning candles snuffed out by the wind.
Hatto Fischer Note: The original poem was written in German under the title: “Aufstehn” as part of the collection called ‘Wunder Schrei – wounded scream’ written in Berlin and Athens 1995. The poem was translated by the author one day after the burial of Elytis in Athens, namely 21.3.96. Re-written as part of the preparation for the World Poetry Movement Festival in Medellin, Colombia to be held in June 2012.
Berlin, Nov. 13 - 27, 2011.

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