Dog's Dinner

"You're not loved because you're lovable, you're lovable 'cause you're loved."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

No Boundary

That was the title of a tao-of-physics type book by Ken Wilber (or did he write the Tao of Physics?) that I believe I once saw the shaman warrior prince Joern Kiewning reading in my parents' house in the spring or summer of 1989. (For those who know him, my mother just got in touch with Joern: he's doing great, living in Germany's oldest city, Trier, with a beautiful wife and child, doing a job that he likes.) The gist being that we're all one I guess. I try to believe that sometimes, but other times ruptures seem inevitable and even good.

For example the other night sitting in a park here in Gliwice with two friends, another German, a mathematician, bicyclist and quasi-vegetarian named Philip, and a fellow American and non-vegetarian, an English teacher called Richard Lee Jackson, both of whom play guitar. We had agreed to meet and have a "jam session," the two of them teaching each other some blues licks and Dylan songs on the guitar, me singing occasionally. We had met before in the same park (Mickiewicz Park, which almost sounds like "Macarthur Park" dunnit) to the tune of cataclysmic artistic and popular success (two Greek girls sitting on a bench said we sounded good), without the faintest hint of the horror to come.

So the second time around, before our even having fully settled ourselves on the green, a sallow thirtysomething chappie mildly in his cups saunters over, indicates his blonde wife (on the same bench where late the Greek girls sat) and child in pram and asks if we could "play something." Yes, I tell him, we came here to play. (Philip and Richard, despite valiant efforts, are still a little dodgy in the realm of Polish language.) We tool around with a couple songs-- Philip does a bluesy reworking of the Beatles' "Ballad of John & Yoko." Another intrusion by the sallow one, this time to ask if we know any Polish songs. Sorry, we don't. A third time, still politish, to ask if we (actually they, the guitarists) can find the chords to some crappy pop song that his wife will sing. We agree, with some tremors of hesitation. Philip and Richard try (a bit half-heartedly, the realization dawning belatedly on Philip and me that this may not be a good idea, Richard's inborn cynicism having guided him from the start) to find some chords for the Polish pop song she sings in a squeaky but not terrible voice. She proposes an Abba song, nobody knows it. "My Heart Will Go On"? Sorry, not in our repertoire. Finally a compromise is met-- Richard works out the chords for "Sto Lat," the Polish birthday song, to which one and a half of us (the half being me, the one being Richard) know the words.

So from there everything just deteriorates and we sit there trying to fend them off as they try to invite us to their home for coffee, then when that doesn't work she wants us to figure out some songs by a group called "Kelly Family" (it's a Swedish group, and of course Sweden is in near Germany, and they speak a Germanic language, which English is too, right? so we must know their music-- actually she didn't say that, but perhaps that was her reasoning) or play "My heart will go on." And by the way, her father was a singer, so she can help us if we want to make it big on the music scene. Gradually, as the husband's language gets fouler and he periodically "threatens" to leave and make his wife leave, the wife begs for our attention with the dead-eyed hysteria of the junkie or the religious fanatic. "We have no-one to hang out with! Not even a drunken bum who hasn't a sou will hang out with us." Finally, we leave, and find a better park across the way.

The ugly other face of the famous Slavic warmth and hospitality. No boundary. It's been said, and I agree, that in the West we have too much boundary. But then, some kind or degree of boundary is needed.


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