Posted in book review, Poetry

The Girl Without Hands

The devil came upon a poor miller
In exchange for wealth with luster
And wanted his daughter’s hands
Though it pained her in blood and tears.

Now the girl without hands wandered off
Day and night with her tears washing off
The pain she suffered from the promise
Her father made with the devil for riches.

The girl without hands came upon a garden
Where Tree of Fruits of Grace seemed to beckon
with the susurrus of leaves coaxing her
And she saw a besotted king approaching her.

The girl without hands became a queen
But the devil returned with a scheme
To kill her and her son for their pure souls
As bounty for his region against angels.

The girl without hands fled with her son
Deep into a forest where seven years began
Until the king found them in Angel’s Hut
And the girl with no hands was no more.

Posted in book review, 미분류

Democratizing Delicacies

The delicacy of life that sprinkles flavors to our otherwise mundane routine of everyday life is not a prerogative of the rich. American Catholic saint Dorothy Day once gave a diamond ring donated by a wealthy woman to a poor demented old lady and riposted to a chiding onlooker thus: “Do you suppose that God created diamonds only for the rich?” In this light of democratizing luxuries, Chef Marie-Antoine Careme championed the world of haute cuisine available to all walks of life and shared his knowledge and experience of Haute culinary arts for the use and enjoyment of the public.

Born into a poverty-stricken peasant family in 1784, Crame was abandoned at ten by his father, who told him to make use of his cleverness for his future. Before long, Careme found an apprenticeship to a famous patisserie. That was the beginning of his long, epoch-making legacy of master patisserie. With an innate intelligence and passion for culinary art, he opened his patisserie within a couple of years. His ingenuity for culinary art and a happy chance led him to a top diplomat’s chef to cook diplomatic banquets, for which he became the most sought-after chef in Paris. The success catapulted him to opening a famous patisserie at 19 on the rue de la Paix, baking the wedding cake for Napoleon and Marie-Louise of Austria. If Napoleon conjures up an image of a scrumptiously layered piece of Napoleon, Careme is smiling in a constellation of artists in heaven. Careme’s popularity endowed him with a celebrity figure in post-revolution, industrial age Europe where the luminary la dolce vita aristocrats commandeered was beginning to shine on those on the low rungs of social ladders. Careme might have been an ambitious entrepreneur to mark his name all over Europe with the crowning glory of lucrative success, but no one else but he tried to share the taste with the crowd indiscriminating class distinctions in his time.

Careme’s success story has a familiar rags-to-riches repertoire with a combination of chance and apposite time surrounding his rise to success interacting with his talents. But why not the taste of the fame when his triumph of will over strife inspires achievable hopes and approachable aspirations? Careme personifies overcoming the mantra of existentialism that experience precedes essence. The fact that his own indigent family abandoned Careme didn’t dispirit his connatural intelligence nor did it plunge him into a Slough of Despondency. Or that didn’t really matter to Careme with his eyes, nose, and hands tuned for the world of delicacy that used to be exclusive for the rich and whose heart made it accessible to all. Indeed, the man was not a saint, nor do I intend to canonize him. But at least his actions and legacy deserve appreciation and admiration adorned with flowers and bonbons.

Posted in Miscellany

the world in my eyes

On one fine day, a tiny Bushman in Southern Africa comes upon an empty coke bottle thrown from the cockpit of an airplane to desert sand. Thinking it is a gift from the gods, the man sets out a journey to return it to them. Along the journey, the Bushman encounters a pastiche of humanity in a kaleidoscope of the events he comes upon till he reaches an edge of a high cliff mysteriously enveloped by the rings of clouds and throws the bottle into the deep, exclaiming, “The Gods Must Be Crazy!” As I see now, I am in the chorus with him on the top of the cliff overlooking the world.

Nevermore than now have I witnessed the epic moments of history that appear to be atavistic in terms of nature, motive, and consequence. A convenient way of relating the human tragedies to the scourge of gods and God will only put me on a par with Pangloss, the ever-positive pious philosopher who thinks all is God’s will for the best in the best of all possible worlds. The Taliban chanting the name of Allah in their will, Christians taking pride in being a new chosen people, and other zealots of any religion all have had recourse to their deities and used their belief systems as weapons of dominance over others. From the Coronavirus pandemic that forever changed our ways of life to the collapse of democratic Afghanistan by the Taliban and the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, I see a phantasmagorical display of people’s faces in sorrow and distress in my mind’s theater.

Following the news about the current situations of Afghanistan and its people links me to the Trojan War, which lasted about ten years with the Greek allied powers destroying Troy in the end. From the burning city of Troy comes Aeneas, a royal warrior who escapes the mayhem with his family, carrying his elderly father on his back, holding his little son’s hand besides. That image is always particularly heartfelt because of the Trojan hero’s humanness, unlike his more glamorous Greek victors. What happened in the past happens now and will always, such as the images of parents passing babies to soldiers across the sharp razor wire two young, Afghans falling from a plane climbing high in the sky, and the lifeless bodies of the young and the old, women and men strewn over the dusty ground outside the airport in the aftermath of suicide bombing.

Back in the States, Hurricane Ida ravaged Louisiana, leaving thousands of people stranded, homeless without power (for about a month from now), and sufficient supplies of sanitation, clothing, and food. They lost everything, and nothing is what they have now. I cannot erase the image of a woman from a news interview who said the hurricane took everything from her family, then breaking into tears. Then there is news about an elderly man viciously attacked by an alligator in a flood presumed dead while his wife took a little boat to get help outside their flooded isolated community. Would the man have been swept away by the rapid stream of the flood? Would the alligator that had attacked the man have returned to him for more? Or would the man knowing or believing that was his end have let himself dissipated into the murky waters?

Is this the same kind of significant feeling of epic moments I am experiencing as what George Orwell should have felt when witnessing the death of a Burmese condemned man on his way to the gallows, the carnage of WWII, and the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War? Orwell posited that one of the reasons he wrote was to record historical moments he was living with his own perspectives and feelings, not necessarily popular or compromising. My intention to write this essay is similar to Orwell’s but more with sheer egotism of getting the heartfelt sorrow off my chest and tears away from my eyes. But I am not so sure if that proves effective with the images still vivid in my mind.

Posted in Miscellany

St Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

I have recently read an article about how the prosperous presence of wolves reduces the number of deer road-kills because their very predatory sense intimidates their prey, one of which is the deer. Fewer traffic collisions mean fewer government funds to spend on the aftermath of car and traffic accidents from animal crossings. So far, so good. But what about the resolution about protecting livestock from wolves, which has become an economic issue disturbing the farming community? So here are my small suggestions that I deem mutually benefitting people and wildlife by virtue of Charity, Faith, and Hope.

The article continues to support recolonization that the reduction of traffic collisions resulted in economic gains, which outweighed the costs of livestock losses by nearby cattle ranchers whose livelihood feels threatened by their lupine marauders. I remember reading newspaper articles and tweets about ranchers in Washington that the multiplication of wolf population engendered their livelihood and that clamoring for lupine rights outright disregarded human rights to make a living. When I commiserate with the woes of the ranchers at the same time, and also hope best for the great grey wolves, my mind’s eyes see the visceral images of the Maasai in Tanzania and African lions living in co-habitation. The Maasai find the most cost-effective and nature-friendly way of guarding their livestock against the lions by establishing chain-like fencing supported by the thorny African myrrh trees. I am sure the American contemporary can take cues from the Maasai and adapt them to their environment.

I like wolves for their commendable fidelity to spouses and respectful sense of a society that emits from their majestic composure. I also admire the fortitude of cattle ranchers who are vigilant of the livestock their families subsist. Both beasts and men have reasons to live for and kill for. Yet, there should/must be a way of satisfying the needs without losses. Indeed, the medieval Italians knew exactly about the problem, but no more understanding and effectively than St. Francis of Assisi in meeting with the Wolf of Gubbio. Francis admonished him for his terror of fear over the people and made a pact with him publicly at a popular marketplace that if he ceased his predations, people would feed him from their very doors. The Wolf put his paw in Francis’ hand as a gesture of agreement, a sort of beastly hand-shaking. Can I make a wish for the miracle once again in my time? I believe I can, if they or we want to, for sometimes we as part body and part spirit can do beautiful things together.

Posted in Poetry

Braveheart

Beneath a new visiting sun
Sees a woman through tears,
Sorrow of the heart she feels
As it deepens into a sea of pain.

Beside her an ailing old woman
Lies in natural amnesia for woes
She wishes to send away in vain
When a life’s grip is relentless.

Fear crowded, tension soaring
Zealots of God clad in weapons,
Fierce eyes searching for victims
Outside is the terror reigning.

Demands of life, duties of care
A caryatid bears on her head,
She faces the faces of terror
With a brave heart for the fate.

Author’s Note: Yesterday, I wrote about my essay on the current situation of Taliban-seized Kabul in Afghanistan but still could not take it off my head because I felt for their fear for unknown futures. An article of the day from Reuters was about the ordinary Afghans who had to make livelihood even against a possibility of danger that lurks around everywhere where thousands of people are attempting to escape from the new Taliban regime, often futilely. Therefore, this little poem, albeit insignificant willy-nilly, is my small tribute to the brave ordinary people on the frontline with life in Afghanistan who are just like you and me. The heroine of this woman is another Me in Afghanistan who shares a similar life story.