Monday, January 7, 2013

Moving from the Other to a You

Only in the beauty created
by others is there consolation,
in the music of others and in others’ poems.
Only others save us,
even though solitude tastes like
opium. The others are not hell,
if you see them early, with their
foreheads pure, cleansed by dreams.
That is why I wonder what
word should be used, “he” or “you.” Every “he”
is a betrayal of a certain “you” but
in return someone else’s poem
offers the fidelity of a sober dialogue.

This poem by Adam Zagajewski, translated into English, begins an article in the Kyeongyang magazine by a professor, with a doctorate from an American university in modern poetry, in the English Department of a Korean university. She summarizes what the poem has meant to her and wants to share her feelings with her readers at the beginning of this new year.

When she became aware that for most of us our waking hours are taken up with the 'I', she doesn't know. But it's clear to her now that everything we attempt: decisions, successes, failures, self-examinations, understandings, sorrows,  despairs--all have to do with the "me." Which makes every thing we attempt to do difficult, and going to another level requires more effort than should be necessary.

This is the way our understanding usually comes to us, she says. Everything starts with me but unknowingly, the other doesn't remain the other but becomes an intimate and a warm mystery of 'you'. The other should come to us as a 'you'.  Therefore, if the other can become a 'you', and we let it remain the other, this is a betrayal.

When I am tired by struggling with others, she writes, facing failure on the  battlefield of life and yet still able to stretch  out my hand to the unknown other, the loneliness of the narrow way  I am walking becomes wider. When we have many other 'I' s walking the same way, we turn into a community.

Throwing off the self, she continues, I am able to see the beauty of the other.  When I am able, using all my strength, to give up protecting  my domain, it is then that I find relief, giving me strength to meet the other with happiness.  Having our eyes opened to getting rid of the 'I' and daily making the other into a 'you' as we see the hurt and pain of the other is the writer's wish for the new year.

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