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"I regret the things I didn't do, not what I did."
(Ingrid Bergman, 1956, interview upon her return to New York to pick up the Film Critics Cirle Award for "Anastasia")
You must remember this?
Up and Down. Today we mostly know Ingrid Bergman for her role in "Casablanca," a movie considered an average mass production when it was made, nowadays an unforgotten and often quoted classic. What is mostly forgotten is that Ingrid was really known for another thing, too: It was a huge scandal when she separated from husband and kid for her new love in Italy. And that just after starring in such morally perfect film roles as a catholic nun and Jeanne d'Arc, the French national heroine. Below article was inspired by reading her biography, while it takes a different approach, jumps from thought to thought and always back loops to Ingrid's outstanding life, the beings of a Swedish rose and notorious actress.
Crossing Casablanca. Here come some more thoughts after watching "Casablanca" again a few days ago. The black and white movie classic from 1941, still so colourfully told - about idealism and passion. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a plot around a doomed love in Morocco, still not occupied by German forces as the rest of France is. A story about a lost love regained after many years. By the way, flying to the Canary Islands for vacation, we had once passed over Casablanca, without stopping there though. In a way Casablanca is the story of instability. Both in a bigger context in times of war, and in terms of insecurity about your own next move in a very small, very personal context.
Bye, Rick. After a while it can get difficult, when the connection is gone. The look at each other that used to lead to a smile, now just results in another complaint. While really longing for somebody to laugh with about simple things, little things. And to trust everything. What a change. Facing a major decision, there may be a mixed feeling between making a big mistake and missing a big chance for a turnaround in life. But ten years later, what will happen? You only find out what you had, when you start missing it! As Rick put it in the movie: "If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."
Hello, Sorrow. How can we achieve a minimum of hurting others around us, and maximum happiness for us at the same time? On top of that, usually there is pressure by those, who try to influence us not to follow our own but other interests. Is it just some kind of door closing panic, as we say in German for a feeling of getting too old for a partnership? Or is it something deeper, a real chance for a turnaround? But things always look beautiful, when you are far away, don't they? On the other hand, would you throw it away or let it go by, after waiting too long without acting? Are you strong enough for a that risky move or not? These and other thoughts may cross someone's mind, when being at the edge. At the moment of decision, at the moment of truth.
Klimt's famous painting and a scene from Notorious with certain commonalities...
Time Goes By. With Ilsa's reply: "But what about us?" Rick responded: "We'll always have Paris." Meaning the sweet memories of a brief time together, of something that was so special but couldn't persist. Because it wasn't followed up any longer, not fought for enough, not given a chance. "I remember Paris in '49, the Champs Elysees, San Michelle and old Beaujolais wine. And I recall that you were mine in those Parisienne days...," as Gary Moore used to sing in "Parisienne Walkways" together with late Phil Lynott. (Combined with Phil's actual birth year, the mention of Paris could be understood as reference to his lost father, whose last name had been Parris, spelt with double-r though.) Foreshadowing without giving away too much, in the flash back scene in the Paris cafe La Belle Aurore Ingrid did let the audience know that love wasn't enough. The tragic ending made "Casablanca" immortal. But did they do the right thing, breaking up contact, going back to the easy solution, not changing their status quo for the sake of a bigger cause? Afraid of destabilizing their environment by taking the risk. As a result, didn't they miss that chance for a turnaround in their lives to the better? Always thinking back to what they had, as Sam, the piano player in Rick's Cafe, plays "As times goes by" again. Until their memories slowly fade… Would we make it better?
"You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply. As time goes by.
And when two lovers woo, they still say, I love you.
On that you can rely, no matter what the future brings.
As time goes by."
Bogey-Man's Best. Ingrid brought an ambiguity to Casablanca to match Bogart's. As scenes were still being rewritten during shooting, Ingrid was confused about what she should feel toward Paul Henreid and Humphrey Bogart. When she went to the director Michael Curtiz or to the writers, the Epstein brothers, begging to know which man she loved, she was told to "play it in-between" until they had figured out the end. Bergman has talked about an alternative ending, which was never shot, in which she would stay with Bogart. But by the time the film shooting wrapped up, any other than the sacrifice ending would have made no emotional sense any more. Later, the movie has been read as an allegory of America's movement from neutrality to war, with the title "casa blanca" - white house in Spanish - signifying the White House in Washington DC and Rick a reluctant President Roosevelt, who finally commits America to the war. But in a romantic interpretation, it remains the story of love lost for the greater good. A publicity campaign spoke of "Exit the 'Bogey-Man" as Humphrey Bogart, "that screen villain of deepest dye", was now a hero. But no one could have imagined that it would remain meaningful for audiences so many years later and, in a way, would make Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart immortal. Bergman would often say about her film partner Bogey: "I kissed him, but I never knew him..." Who knows how many people may have had similar experience? "Well, it was nice while it lasted," as "Slim" Lauren Bacall put it in "To Have and Have Not" two years later. She got married to Bogey right after "Dark Passage (1947)," a movie that upset studio head Jack Warner, as it mostly featured a subjective camera view-point and the audience couldn't see the face of its star until about an hour into the film.
Slaves of missed Chances
Public Uproar. In reality, "Casablanca" had a parallel in the life of one of its most celebrated cast. Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982) had been known for her very natural performance, between the lady of easy virtue with Spencer Tracy in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Arzt und Dämon, 1941)," spying in Hitchcock's "Notorious (Berüchtigt)" side-by-side with Cary Grant, and saint-like in "Joan of Arc (Johanna von Orleans, 1948)" as the French National Heroine in times of English occupation during the 100 Years War. The more the public was surprised by the scandal after the married woman had fallen in love with another married man during the filming of "Stromboli (1950)." As it happened, no one really understood such an unexpected move. They would only have each other, at least until they built up new social relations around them and gained understanding by their families with the times, and by the audience of their movies. Being afraid of all that, should they have rather dumped what they had found together, returned into their previous harbour that was already crumbling and given up their dreams? Or been strong and gone through it together? In response to screams like "What morals are these?" she might have thought: "Let anyone who is without sin throw the first stone!" Her pregnancy made the new relationship an accomplished fact. Moving from Hollywood back to Europe, the Swedish actress had to leave her first husband and daughter behind. With the Italian director Roberto Rossellini she would have three more children, including actress Isabella Rossellini (who also had a guest role in the TV-series "Alias").
Forgiven Comeback. Following several movies with her second husband, her performance as the impersonator of the Russian Grand Duchess "Anastasia (Die grosse Liebe der Anastasia, 1956)," member of the in 1918 assassinated Tsar family, marked her Oscar-crowned Hollywood comeback. Playing a character torn between amnesia and hope, "the dazzling return of Ingrid Bergman," as the trailer had promised. It was her second Academy Award after "Gaslight (Das Haus der Lady Alquist, 1944)." The play has its title from the gaslight that gets lower in the evening, followed by strange noises from upstairs, where there couldn't be anyone possibly, apparent symptoms of beginning madness.
Shortcomings of Success. The third and last Oscar she would win for a supporting role in a slow all-star movie, Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express (Mord im Orient Express, 1974)." She had insisted to be cast against type in the deglamorized role of the Swedish missionary with the convincing accent... Filmed in Swedish all the way through, "Autumn Sonata (Herbstsonate, 1978)" is an Ingmar Bergman movie with Ingrid of the same last name. A quiet and still very intense film by the famed Swedish "Women Director," an eloquent story of accusation by a neglected daughter and her retarded sister (almost mixed up retired and retarded again), displaced by their working mother who used to travel places for piano concerts and pursue her career at cost of normal family life. Some critics have pointed out slight parallels with Ingrid's own life as an actress, which was also full of time on the road.
Breakthrough to Reality. "Under Capricorn (Sklavin des Herzens, 1949)" is an unusual Hitchcock movie. A costume picture playing in Down Under of the 1830's (as the English movie title uses the astronomical reference for the southern hemisphere), where they let gone-byes be gone-byes. Ingrid Bergman plays a disillusioned Irish noblewoman, who once ran off with her stable boy (Joseph Cotten) to start life afresh in this new country. It is a tale of a sacrifice out of love (as the German movie title translates into "Slave of the Heart") as well as pulling yourself together again, instead of constantly drowning demons of the the past in a drink. Watching "Notorious" again after years, I couldn't help myself opening a bottle of wine afterwards. Not of vintage year 1934 (which would be broken by now) as in the movie and not full of Uranium sand nor poison, a little maybe, if you consider red wine as such. Even if we are aware that some habits are considered slightly unhealthy, we may continue to pursue them. As Alice Cooper, the "beer drinking minister's son" (as by the lyrics of "Guilty"), described in his 1989 comeback song "Poison": "Your poison running through my veins, I dont wanna break these chains!" In his case, this was not about drinking without thirst nor smoking despite warning labels on cigarette packages, but a fatal attraction to somebody. One of my favorite music video clips at that time, besides Queen's "Breakthru," filmed on a speeding train, with the chorus: "If I could only reach you, if I could only make you smile! If I could only reach you, that would really be a breakthrough!" Wouldn't it? Reaching out for somebody, touching each other's feelings, with a smile of happiness in the face, in the eyes...
Hemmingway-Objective. Aliean Harmetz' book "The Making of Casablanca - Round up the usual subjects" reveals that after the end of shooting, composer Max Steiner persuaded the producer, Hal Wallis, to replace the song "As Time Goes By" but, luckily, Ingrid Bergman had already had her hair cut short for her part in "For Whom The Bell Tolls" and could not reshoot the necessary scenes. Ingrid, with her European background, had almost been out of work since the US entered World War II and accepted the part of Ilsa Lund in "Casablanca" only because she had been initially turned down for the role she really wanted - playing Maria in Paramount's film version of Hemmingway's Spanish Civil War novel "For Whom The Bell Tolls", the runaway leader at the box office in 1943. Bogart and Bergman's "date with fate" in "Casablanca" opened, when American troops landed in North Africa. Its plot pleased the American chief propaganda agency, the Office of War information, and the fact that its writers had rejected the standard Hollywood ending only showed "that personal desires must be subordinated to the task of defeating fascism." An idea to update the movie and end it with the Allies routing the Nazis was luckily dismissed again. Also the announced sequel, "Brazzaville", was never made.
Intense Biography. In a way "Ingrid," as is the title of her biography by Charlotte Chandler, went for the door that was opening, let herself go, lost control for something better at that time. Even if in her case it didn't last forever. Which you can never tell in advance. Probably at first she had thoughts like, "I am not lucky, I met you too late." Maybe she was waiting for a miracle, which, if it happens, will be a serious topic later. On the other hand sometimes, if there is a chance and you don't take it, you may be sorry forever. Like in the old Viennese song about an old man, a senior official, quietly drinking in the corner of a Wine Tavern, sometimes just sighing. "Der alte Herr Kanzleirat - the old councilor of chambers," still dreaming of a marriage that he had missed. Lacking someone for his heart, now he drinks a little more of that wine.
Thorny Rose. "You are beautiful, talented and famous. You are an actress, who is the envy of everyone, who knows you!" Her answer: "Then they don't know me." - Those are lines from her next movie "Indiscreet (Indiskret, 1958)." Portraying a successful actress, who falls in love with an (apparently) married man, played by Cary Grant, there is always some doubt: "Evidently your honor is stronger than my beauty." In the light comedy "The Cactus Flower (Die Kaktusblüte, 1969)" she performed next to "Dentist" Walter Matthau (also pretending to be married) and his much younger girlfriend Goldie Hawn, in her breakout role not wanting to be a home breaker. Ingrid gave the stiff-as-starch nurse-receptionist, thawing up and dancing wild, emerging out of the middle of protective thorns and in the end blossoming in analogy to the cactus on her desk. The colour of some cactus flowers is maroon or chestnut-brown, actually close to the German word "Maroni," for freshly roasted, hot chestnuts that are sold on street corners during the cold season of the year. In 1984, not a cactus flower but a beautiful dark red rose was named after her, the "Ingrid Bergman Rose." Just how many people have a flower named after them? Although, as the music group Poison once put it: "Every rose has its thorn. Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song..."
Brief Encounter. Does happiness last long or is it just present in a number of fleeting moments? Even during the best times of our lives, we may slowly but surely get used to more or less carefree living and not value and treasure any more, what we have achieved in present and past. That is when we may start sweating the small stuff, get too easily disappointed and dream of things seemingly out of reach. Ingrid was introduced to Hollywood in 1939 by film producer David O. Selznick for a remake of her Swedish film "Intermezzo", in which she plays a piano teacher who falls in love with a married violinist. Experiencing happiness, one could only have once in a lifetime, she is being compared to a merry Viennese waltz, from the "time when Vienna was a happy city", a contemporary reference to Austria's occupation right before World War II. However, in order not to build happiness on the unhappiness of others, she sacrifices her hopes and joys to remain an Intermezzo, a brief encounter in the life of her beloved one.
Life Mission. Happiness, well, something to pursue, I guess, although not easy to achieve sometimes. Following her Hollywood return with "Anastasia" and "Indiscreet," Ingrid Bergman did another remarkable movie. Called "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (Die Herberge zur sechsten Glückseligkeit, 1958)," it is based on the true story of Gladys Aylward, who felt a strong call for China and, as not found qualified enough to be sent as a missionary from England, just went there on her own. Being appointed by the local Mandarin (Robert Donat in his very last movie) as foot inspector against binding that is meant to keep girl feet small, she earns the confidence of the people she has helped in and around Yuncheng in the remote province of Shanxi, who then call her "Jen-ai," the one who loves people. This is the more remarkable, as people on the countryside call men in the next village foreigners and suspect them. So why should they listen to some from far away? The advice she is given says: "But remember, you are a foreign devil here!"
The Greatest Happiness. The missionary overcomes initial rejection by believing that God has sent her to China to rescue a hundred orphan children from the invading Japanese troops in 1938 and lead them over the mountains into safety in the city of Xian near the yellow river (Huang He). At one point in the movie, the half-breed colonel in the Chinese Army, played by German actor Curd Jürgens, is told: "A life that is planned is a closed life. It can be endured but it cannot be lived." The movie title itself is explained as following: "Everybody in China wishes you the five happinesses, wealth, longelivity, good health, virtue and a peaceful death. Each person decides in his own heart what the sixth happiness is." (More on the Confucian happinesses can be found on the "Wishes"-page.) And to reach that state of happiness, often there is something to put at stake first, quite some risk to take without knowing the outcome for sure. With the Austrian pop singer Ambros: "Ohne jede Warnung fällt hinter Dir die Tür' zu und Du kannst nie wieder zurück - Without any warning the door closes behind you and you can never go back again!" Time will tell what we really want and what we actually do, which may be even different.
Weather Report. Distance in a way makes things appear more beautiful than they are. This goes both for timely distance as well as a further away location. It is hard to be separated for a long time but maybe even harder to be together for sometime without conflict. Debating the same things over and over again without measurable progress or improvement is very tiresome. Getting from nought to a hundred to imprint the situation in the other's mind helps as little as constant ignorance, while annoying the other with the same things over and over again. What it takes is a strong will to cooperate and some sensitivity with matter and person. Where there is a will there is a way. Where there is no plan any more there is just walking at the edge - with a high probability of downfall, just like in the weather report. Some do later miss what they have deserted, feel guilty and broken when just remembering the good times. Others overcome their despair paired with idleness and instead take the chance to build up something even better.
Time Heals. If we would have to give everything up and are not ready for that, will we ever be? Do we have to sacrifice our dreams for an earlier assumed responsibility? Postpone until the circumstances change and by doing so lowering our chances to ever achieve our silent aim, even if it breaks our heart? And over the years slowly turns it to stone. We may face a resulting deep sadness, which we need to fight in order to be able to go on at all. Oh, we often pretend to be so tough, and then there is this weakness, vulnerability, right under our surface. Why do we pretend to be something we are not, even sometimes get angry when others scratch this protective and still so thin hard shell off, and reach for the soft core. Why do we sweat all this small stuff that is not important, really, in the end? Why are we afraid to give up what we have achieved, hold on to the unimportant and pretend it is the essence of life, when it is just in the way? What does it need to take heart to just go for it? To go for the a new beginning and a second chance, which doesn't come that often in life. Not just flushing our dreams down the toilet, but trying to make the impossible possible in the end. For it may be the last chance we will have. And over-discussing it doesn't help either. It just makes us forget that we don't act and helps us justify our motionlessness and inflexibility out of lack of confidence and fear of risking too much and losing it all. Has anyone ever said to you: "God gave me the chance to meet you, but he didn't give me the chance to be with you..." When you look back, what do you feel? "Now we only have memory, and …it may fade as the times move on. What kind of ending it will be? Sometimes it was sad to think of that, but sometimes it also makes a little bit happy. At least I did ever have you for a moment." After a while you may be confronted with the question: "Not sure what else still remains between us. Can you tell me?" Then you know that things have changed over time that is supposed to heal the pain, not make it worse. But nobody wants to wait for a hopeless plan, would you?
Something Remains. Sometimes there is just a stranger coming along, entering your life out of nowhere and turning it upside down, when you would expect it the least. Without knowing much about each other, people may feel drawn to each other in immediate friendship just like in Louis L'Amour's 1953 breakthrough Western novel "Hondo," banned on film in the same year starring John Wayne and recently dug out again and restored on DVD. When those significant encounters are over, it may feel as if "his footprints were gone from the yard, yet something remained, something intangible, yet present." As Tina Turner would sing: "But I still remember you, just like a rose after the rain... Something beautiful remains!" That is how I feel about some people and that is how I wish some of them could feel a little bit about meeting me. There is wisdom as well as unspeakable sadness in words like these: "When you were the age of the boy it was an awful thing to see a friend ride off. Later you learned that nothing was for long." Also during my life I have said good bye to many people from different corners of the planet and often wished, I could hold on to some moments among each other. Or at least be allowed to see them again one more time, one last time.
The Longest Kiss
Notorious Bypass. Did you know that there used to be a regulation about the maximum length of a kiss in a movie scene? That rule was bypassed by director Alfred Hitchcock during the filming of "Notorious," when Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant's kiss was broken up by dialogue into smaller portions. All in all it lasted three minutes on one take without violating the limit on kissing of 6 seconds imposed by the Hollywood's Production Code. ("No kiss shall last more than six seconds, and kisses on film will be executed with closed, dry mouths.") The latter had been established in the 1930's in response to pressure by groups such as the Catholic Legion of Decency. The movie became famous for the longest kiss in screen history at the time. In the 1960's though, the Hollywood Production Code fell apart. Instead, the Motion Picture Association of America established the system of labeling movies according to age and suitability for specific audiences. To this day, Hollywood pictures tend to be very liberal in terms of extreme violence, very bad language and affairs of any kind, while remaining very restrictive with being unclothed.
Golden Painting. Do you know the painting "The Kiss" by Vienna Art Nouveau-painter Gustav Klimt? An intimate embracement beyond comparison of two people with a significant difference in body height, as if that would matter. Painted with oil and gold plating, it represents how wonderful and golden everything is when you first kiss someone. Holding each other as tight as only possible depicts a transformation into unity among those, who care for each other more than for themselves. In 2008, Klimt's famous picture was 100 years old. Maybe that is the longest kiss then... Arriving at Vienna Airport, an advertisement for Belvedere Castle, which hosts Klimt's famous painting, would read the caption: "Just as close as a kiss."
Short & Simple. Another day expanding my vocabulary during a leadership training session, I was somehow disappointed to find out that "Kiss" was just another acronym for "Keep it short and simple." How uninspired, to degenerate such a beautiful word into a memory hook. Why not just stick to the old rule: "You can talk over everything, but not over 5 minutes." And "KISS" rings another bell, as name of the face painted music group, rumoured to stand for "Knights In Sat an's Service."
Nosey Question. Speaking of more kisses, right after "Casablanca," Ingrid Bergman participated in another remarkable movie, the lengthy film adaptation of Earnest Hemmingway's novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls (Wem die Stunde schlägt, 1943)." Playing an innocent girl in the 1930's during the Spanish civil war, she even asks Gary Cooper how to kiss: "Where do the noses go? They are not in the way, are they?" Finally, wounded and unable to ride a horse, he tries to stop the following troops long enough that the others can escape. Convincing her that even if he dies, he will always be with her: "We won't go to America this time. Wherever you go, I go. Go now, be strong - take care of OUR life!" Then as the soldiers attack, the bell tolls... When will our bell toll, sooner than we think? And will we still live on in someone's heart then? Far away, too far away...
Fatal Decision. Catching up with the original thought at the beginning of this article, there is "Casablanca," where they didn't get each other in the end, and there is Ingrid Bergman's life: She gave up everything for her second husband in a pursuit of happiness, one of many theoretical citizen rights, even certified in the Constitution of the United States. But how to best achieve it, really? Is it better to give it all up for love or does a more unemotional approach pay off long term? As love is not just the only thing in life, which is usually full of so many details. So many constraints and social weight, conflicting interests and happiness among some, possibly causing sorrow among others at the same time. Those that think they have a right on us, possess us, may control our life, and maybe threaten to hurt themselves, if we ever leave them behind, in order to make us feel guilty and scare us into motionlessness. Condemned to follow our fate, which may in be other hands, we may feel that we have no right to change things. And so we are stuck with what we call responsibility up to a point, where the load overwhelms us, fills us with sorrow and bitterness over the years until we look into the mirror one day and don't recognize anymore, what stares back.
Race Horse Power. While Ingrid's first husband was said to have kept her like a race horse, with the first enthusiasm gone, cracks showed also in the relationship between Bergman and her second husband. As Rossellini's behaviour became more dominant, as if defending a prey he would try to keep her from making movies with other directors and by that more than endanger her formerly so successful career. At one point he supposedly claimed that he had already picked out just the tree he was going to crash his car into, if Ingrid would abandon him. In the end he found himself a new family and probably lived happily ever after. Whatever such a decision will be like, most important is not to let others make this decision for you or manipulate you by saying bad things they will do to you or themselves. Remember, you are a solely responsible adult. We may struggle, postpone, until we are either forced into a move or miss our chance when it is too late. When a non-decision turns out to be a decision against it, against a change, a possible improvement, the path to cloud nine, in German referred to as "Siebenter Himmel - Seventh Heaven," where we just feel relieved, relaxed, revived. And then it may happen. Reality strikes back. Distance shows, different occupation and obligations take over. Keeping busy as another form of self-protection maybe, from the happiness of reunion, which can be overshadowed by the deep sadness of departure.
Needless to Say. Maybe there never was a chance, really, although they imagined one in their day dream, a dream of another life that would not come true. A little spark of hope may still be hidden somewhere in the surrounding darkness. But then again, if no one fights for it to burn and just lets go, also that last light will soon be extinguished. Daily routine takes over among those empty robots remaining, who know deep inside that they had to give up the impossible, or the possible, which hurts even more. As you leave places behind, which you had once called home, so you leave people behind, which you had felt for. And later you start making excuses in front of others, hoping that they work, while you know they don't hold out against yourself. Did we have a choice after all? Or was it as Clint Eastwood says in "The Bridges of Madison County (Die Brücken am Fluß, 1995)": "I don't want to need you... because I can't have you!" Some may fight it as long as possible, and still the affection breaks through. But is it just something that can't be, do we have to abstain from fulfilling our longing? On the other hand, there is a saying "You only give up a letter (in German: Aufgeben tut man nur einen Brief)" that suggests never to give up, except when you mail a letter and give it to the post office.
Being Stronger. As the back cover of "The Bridges of Madison County"-book puts it: "If you've ever experienced the one true love of your life, a love that for some reason could never be, you will understand why readers all over the world were so moved by this small, unknown first novel that made it a publishing phenomenon and #1 bestseller." Speculations, why Francesca stayed on, include that her guilt about leaving husband and children would have soured her new relationship. In order to maintain the integrity of her family, she forced herself into a sacrifice by making a decision that "it will be the last time I meet this man not matter what happens." She even stayed on with her old life on her own, after the kids were out of the house and her husband had passed. Instead of going to Kincard, she preserved what they had had together by giving him up. Director Clint Eastwood offers an answer: "I think that she just kind of thought that he had assumed another life. She assumed that his life had changed. She was more in love with the memory of the time they had together." And so if two people are sure that they belong together and they can't be, it is one of the biggest sacrifices on earth. To accept the impossibility of happiness is hard. On the other hand it may be like with an umbrella. When you take one with you, it surely doesn't start to rain. And if you don't have the umbrella with you that day, you will end up soaking wet. Also, as you stay in touch, you may have to wait forever for a new chance to come in this life. But when you give each other up and break up contact, a chance may arise just half a year later, and you wouldn't even know. And so it is questionable, what to do. Whether to sacrifice dreams too early or suffer maybe a lifetime. To let go the nearly impossible or to continue believing in the smallest chance. It is sad that sometimes one thing has to break apart to make room for another. "What is too old that must die, something new comes into the world. It needs space, it must breathe, and it costs money." As goes the Ambros song about "The Meaning of Life," concluding that "you got to be stronger." That interplay between coming and going has never been more immediate to me than when I called a cousin at the hospital. We had known each other since the days of childhood. Now she asked, whether she could tell others the big news that I expected a child. Within the year she had to go. One month later her friends assembled at the grave for her thirtieth birthday. Why...
Laugh at Yourself. In 2002, Robert James Waller would publish "A thousand Country Roads", a continuation of the celebrated novel "Bridges of Madison County". The widely unnoticed sequel had the globetrotting photographer Robert Kincaid reminiscent "a matter of tradeoffs. The road versus the settled life. I'd never thought much about that until I was in my early fifties. I met a woman then, and I would have thrown aside everything for her, the road included. But there were things in the way for us, and that was my one chance and afterwards I went back out on the road with my cameras. Now, in my later times, I've given up the travelling, yet I am still alone." And it is the story of a boy searching for his father, about the happiness of confrontation paired with a deep sense of guilt about fathering a child, not knowing about it and not being there to help his mother during the growing years. It is the story of a smile "in the warm and embracing way of a father saying goodbye to a son he had not seen for a long time and with whom he had not spent enough hours." As by the same book, there are "two main indicators of maturity: One is the ability to laugh at yourself. Most people take themselves and their lives a lot more seriously than circumstances call for, have trouble seeing the absurdity of the whole business. I keep myself amused by laughing at all the dumb things I do. And I do a lot of them, so I'm pretty well entertained most of the time." The other sign of maturity is "the ability to grin in admiration, instead of sulking in envy... Sat in a cafe in Paris once, before the War, and listened to a guitar player, gypsy fellow named Django Reinhardt, who had only two workable fingers - lost the use of the other two in a fire - but still played with unbelievable speed and purity. I had the same reaction then. Admiration, not envy." My own thoughts circle around the many times, we have heard others and ourselves say, I wish I could do this or that, too. Why don't we just smile in amazement and be happy for those, who have got a talent, which we may lack, rather than let competitive thinking break through all the time and wish, it was our own?