morning riddle


I’m having to write my blog posts earlier and earlier because my days are starting earlier. Yesterday, I had an 8:15 AM Urologists appointment (annual prostrate check– all is well in this area). This morning, in order to pick up our CSA package before noon, I am choosing to get over to the Farmers Market when it opens at 8 AM.

This means having to plan my morning a bit different. I still managed to do most of my morning ritual reading. I begin with a few pages of Daniel Kahnemen’s Thinking Fast and Slow. Then I read  marvelous poem by W. H. Auden called “The Riddle.”

I think it helps to read Auden in order. I am slowly working my way a poem or two at a time through Part VI of his collected poems. The years this section covers are 1939 through 1947. These were devastating times in the U.K. WWII and the aftermath.

Also I have read critics who say this is a turning point in Auden’s work. Be that as it may, I am enjoying his work.

“The Riddle” follows a poem called “Like a Vocation.” In the latter poem, Auden seems to be understanding his love for his lover as similar to understanding one’s vocation in life. Very beautiful. In “The Riddle,” he returns to his need to see things clearly  however disturbing.

The “riddle” is that we heighten our experience of existence raise our experience existence when we love each other, but the ensuing clarity brings us to the realization that we live in a “savage solitude” (I love that phrase). And we are only able to discover this in the “eyes of” our “beloved.” “Existence is enough” even though we are ultimately alone.

I think Auden gets the paradoxical mix right: redemption, the  mirror of our self in the eyes of the one we love and our ultimate savage solitude. Nice.

After Auden, I turned once again to A Secular Age by Charles Taylor. Then a few electronic pages of Peter Berger’s A Rumor of Angels. These last two thinkers are helping me understand my relationship to religion in my life. Both write in a conversational manner. Both flirt with profundity. It’s a good way to start my day.

I’m feeling pretty good about all the tasks that were facing me at the beginning of the week. Yesterday I was able to outline a list of anthems for my choir to learn and perform between now and Advent (December). I drew almost exclusively on anthems in the library this time.

The only exception was planning to do a little adaptation of “In Paradisum” from Duruflé’s Requiem. I purchased a use copy of the organ score of this wonderful work this summer. I have come to realize that it was in performing this work (in the chorus) that I first truly had the rich experience that simple Gregorian chants can provide.

Duruflé wrote this requiem to honor his father. He chose to base it on  chants that were the daily ordinary chants sung in the Catholic church. First hearing these chants through Duruflé’s beautiful prism  of his composition was an experience of a lifetime.

Now at least I know that the melodies like In Paradisum are for me rooted in his understanding and use of them, despite the fact of having used them in many various ways myself.

In this arrangement I will give the chant to the choir (Duruflé begins with it in the Sopranos but then hands it on to the organ/orchestra and has the choir sing a love choral part) and give the organ the other parts. It should make an easy and beautiful anthem which won’t annoy too many people unless they know the Duruflé well.


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