When you put something “out there” on the Internet, you have no idea where it might wind up. Among the friends who received the above email was one who lives in New York City, a gifted man working as a language translator. He in turn forwarded the email to a friend of his named Danielle, a professor of French Language and Civilization at Sorbonne University in Paris. (There is no question that the Internet has become the fundamental infrastructure for the “global village” foreseen in the 1960’s.) I was thrilled that the painting and story had most unexpectedly made its way to the Sorbonne! One never knows… Here is how she responded to my friend’s email, as then forwarded to me: .
..agréable de recevoir de tes nouvelles. Le tableau est magnifique, à la frontière entre le figuratif et l’abstrait et avec une force qui nous submerge. Quant au texte, il est vraiment émouvant; cette rencontre entre un homme, plein de sensibilité et cette petite fille est unique. Ils se sont compris parfaitement et peut-être que plus jamais cette petite fille ne sera aussi merveilleuse: elle apprendra à dire ce qu’il faut au moment où il faut et… tout sera perdu.
And here, the translation he kindly provided me:
It’s so good to hear from you. The painting is magnificent, on the border between the figurative and the abstract, with a force that pulls us in. The text is truly moving. This encounter between a highly sensitive man and this little girl is very unique. They understood each other perfectly and perhaps this little girl will never be as wonderful as now: she will learn to say what is expected at the moment, and then… all will be lost.
I’ve never written Danielle and expressed how good it made me feel to receive her e-mail, nor what a wonderful gift I feel was so casually made through that note. Until today. Thank you, Danielle. I appreciated your insight, and its truth. It was indeed a singular moment in time, and I suppose somehow precious for that very reason. And the greater truth, of course, is that they all are. As so beautifully expressed by Robert Frost, Nothing gold can stay. And I think too of the words of Tennessee Williams, in the closing paragraph of his magnificent 1948 essay, On a Streetcar Named Success (and actually, I think of the last sentence here quite often) :
Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction, that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that’s dynamic and expressive–that’s what’s good for you if you’re at all serious in your aims. William Saroyan wrote a great piece on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having. “In the time of your life–live!” That time is short and it doesn’t return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, Loss, Loss unless you devote your heart to its opposition.
The strange and undeniable truth is that anything, no matter what, would be a HUGE drag if it lasted forever. And when we get caught up in the humdrum or workaday doldrums, it seems that it will remain so forever. But it won’t. And, in the same mystical field of my “inner peripheral vision” that I somehow knew that one fine day I would once again meet up with that little girl, in Heaven, I feel this:
That it will all seem different on our death beds.
In the final moments before that great transition, each simple breath will resound with meaning. A new and vast perspective will somehow “click” and all things fall into place. Maybe because we will have been finally and at last stripped of the grinding and awful delusion that “we have forever,” all that we have known will somehow shine with its own light, and be transformed in our understanding. In the end, it will seem all too short, all of it, and thus unbearably sweet. Even the roughest and most dreary parts of our experience: the supremely challenging times and our darkest nights that seemed to never end, the dead-end moments of utter “failure,” the moments of inconsolable grief that seemed to erupt from within our broken hearts and then sear and finally consume us, All of it. It will all suddenly somehow fall in to place, and the details may blur (or perhaps not) but the picture as a whole emerge most clear, and the times of our life will seem whole after all, and unbearably sweet, and all too short. And, if that may be so, then why not now?
So, as the light of another day fades outside my windows, and another calm Sunday eases gently forever into memory, I feel it past time for me to step up and away from the glow of this too-used computer, at last! And in parting, I say once again Thank you, Danielle. Merci bouceaups