Like every romantic plan, the plan of seating at the beautiful Japanese garden beneath my apartment and writing an open diary soon encountered several practical obstacles. First of all, on a beautiful sunny day like this one today it is a little challenging to write on the laptop because of the reflection of the light from the screen. It seems that the more light there is, the screen becomes more like a mirror, and instead of seeing what I’m writing I seeing myself. Of course, I could write with a pencil on a paper, but then I would have to copy it to the computer. When I was working on One Time, I never wrote directly on the computer – always with a pencil on a paper, and only after editing I would copy to the computer. Writing on the computer seems to lack the immediate connection which writing with a pencil on a paper has, and I always get more inspired when hand-writing. But since it is more practical and my time these days seems somewhat limited, I resort to writing directly on the laptop now.
This brings to mind the wonderful poet Cavafy, who if I’m right, refused to use electricity in his house, and choose to write his poems to the light of candles. The poem below is a wonderful proof of the effect this choice had on his art. It is one of my favorite poems.
Days to come stand in front of us,
like a row of burning candles -
golden, warm, and vivid candles.
Days past fall behind us,
a gloomy line of burnt-out candles;
the nearest are still smoking,
cold, melted, and bent.
I don't want to look at them: their shape saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their original light.
I look ahead at my burning candles.
I don't want to turn, don't want to see, terrified,
how quickly that dark line gets longer,
how quickly one more dead candle joins another.
Constantine P. Cavafy
One thing leads to another, and this poem brings me back to Bobby (Barbara) Altman. Bobby studied with me at NEC for about 10 years, during which she was also coping with illness. She stopped taking piano lessons about three years ago as her health condition made it increasingly difficult for her to play. We did get a chance to record a project together, in which she played the piano and I helped her produce the recording. She was about seventy years old when her first CD was completed and she repeatedly expressed to me her great joy of making this CD. She simply titled it Bobby, which was so like her. A couple weeks ago she passed away. I went to the celebration of her life event and was so pleased to see that a copy of her CD was given to all of the guests. I listened to my copy in the car already on the way there and so pleasantly remembered how good it sounds.
Bobby’s passing away inspired me. I realized that even though the person is gone, the love to them remains and even grows. We always ponder about what is the afterlife, and it suddenly occurred to me that the afterlife is simply the memories and legacy we leave behind in the minds and hearts of the people who knew us. It’s a very optimistic view, because it means that we are already living now our afterlives. Every energy we inject into this world, whether it’s a smile, an act of kindness, or a musical recording or other piece of art, is our afterlife. I like this thought because it encourages me to be good to people and to distinguish between what’s materialistic and passing and what’s spiritual and lasting. Since Bobby passed away, I found myself more willing to make an extra step for someone else.