I like this: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=240814
And its corresponding Q&A: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poemcomment.html?id=240814
In Schumann’s Violin Concerto, the last movement is marked “Lebhaft, doch nicht schnell” (lively, but not fast), and if there’s anything that violinists want in the last movements of violin concerti, it’s something fast and flashy, which will open up the heavens and bring down the house. Schumann’s piece has a very odd final movement, a slowish polonaise, like someone dancing with lead weights in his shoes. Very few musicians have wanted to play it because it’s not showy, but the recording I have, by Gidon Kremer, has a performance in which it’s played at the marked metronome speed, which gives the music exactly the really weird feeling-tone that it deserves—like a birthday party seen underwater.
Also lovely: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=240816
The relationship between our actual, moment-by-moment, and fundamentally unknowable life and our sense of a fate (some declarable, nameable accounting) is a subject to which it seems I keep coming back. “Fate” is a summarizing idea, a constructed story. Its abstraction lives several elevator floors above the ground level of actual events. We have experiences, we make choices, they matter. But they do not add up to one sum. Summary is not the point of a life, nor are the stories we en-self ourselves by. Something closer to relationship is, and a full response (and responsibility) to the question each moment asks, as it runs through us.
We’ve all had the experience of lifting some fantastic stone out of a streambed or off a wet beach, and then finding it later, dry on the shelf, quite plain and dull. “Why is this here?” you wonder, when it catches your eye at all. Some experiences are like that. Their full inhabitance requires the moment in which they lived.
Real beauty, for me, is never a distraction. If it were, then it’s not beauty—it’s prettiness, or decor. If some sting of death-knowledge or transience is not present, beauty turns saccharine, or simplistic, and is no longer beauty. Wallace Stevens put it unsurpassably well: “Death is the mother of beauty.”