Last Thursday I attended a showing of a documentary on the Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf. After the film, there was a concert where Ida Bach Jensen, who composed the score for the film, performed.
It was a magic 40 minutes, and it gave me time to digest some of the themes and thoughts of Ekelöfs poetry. The following is a sort of summary of my thoughts.
Seeking stable ground in life.
Everything is fluid. Everything deceives us. Everything lures us into traps. To misunderstandings. Misconceptions. The only thing that does not waver is death. To think of death. To see life through death is to provide a pedal point to the dizzying uncertain melody we live.
Elsewhere he writes something along the lines of:
She staggers to stay upright
I find that intensely poetic. A condensation of a greater truth: That to be in balance you are always moving towards a disequilibrium. Always compensating to stay upright. Staggering back and forth. Like a tree in the wind. Like a child learning to ride a bicycle. Whether it is staying put or moving forward, maintaining balance requires constant work. To remain flexible.
In the same way, a major theme in Ekelöf’s work is how the good and the evil, the ugly and the beautiful are intertwined. They depend on the juxtaposition, the contradiction. They can exist only through each other.
Nothing can exist by itself. Nothing is pure and clean. Everything is raw, mixed and implacably honest. Like punk.
We may try to ignore it. Filter out the ugly and inconvenient. But it will only make us less flexible. Less in balance.
Instead, we have to see the ways in which the ugly highlights the beauty.
At the concert, the clean, clear almost crystalline spirituality of the music was deflated by the laughter, conversation and clinking of plates and cutlery from the café outside.
At first it annoyed me. But then I realized that it was the very dissonance of the ambient sounds of the café that gave the music its depth. And the ethereal spirituality of the music was underlined by the mundane chatter from which it sought to escape.
The beautiful and ugly complemented each other. It resulted in a calm sense of wholeness. Of balance.
It is the unpredictable, the unfinished, which creates the magic of the moment. We are never ready. We are always caught by surprise. It forces us to recalibrate. To stagger or fall.
On Saturday, I went to see a play that revolved around stories of the sea. As the play ended, they projected big photo of the wide open blue sea onto the stage.
I looked out at the sea. Exploring my newfound sensibility of the imperfect, I sought out the unexpected. The ugly. That which is set apart and breaks the harmony. The crack in the mirror. The matter out of place. That which is not in balance.
At first I couldn’t see it.
The sea is quiet, mirroring the sky in a plethora of blue nuance.
So beautiful. So pure.
Then I realize that the thing that doesn’t belong is me. The man. The boat. The attempt at control.
A tiny speck of intent merely tolerated in this vast aimless flow.