Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Weight of Thought


I owe my livelihood to a German (thank you, Carl Orff, and Happy Birthday tomorrow!). My first love on the organ was German (Bach), on the piano and my parent’s scratchy 78 rpm records was another German (Beethoven). Then followed the remarkable pantheon of German-Austrian composers (Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and so on and so on). Later came the thinkers— Goethe, Nietzche, Schopenhauer, Freud, Swiss-German Carl Jung and beyond. Yet despite my gratitude for their contributions and the many good friends I have in Germany and Austria, I still wanted Brazil to beat Germany in last night’s World Cup match!

Well, so much for that! I gathered with the other tourists in the plaza in front of the big-screen TV and was astounded as the rest to see three goals within a few minutes of each other and an entire half with Brazil not even getting a single attempt at a goal! What was that all about?!

Today we took a train today from Riomaggiore that rivaled the most intense Tokyo subway rush hour, the irony of hundreds of tourists packed like sardines having come here to this little hideaway to “get away from it all.” Got off five minutes later at Corniglia, the middle sibling of the five towns, and after a bruschetta and panini lunch sitting on a bench by the church, we headed for the hills. A lovely trail up and down along the coast peopled with other enthusiastic hikers, but not so many to ruin the effect. Blue sky overhead, blue sea spread out below, vineyards on either side.

And so the third day in a row of legs pumping and heart thumping and spirit soaring at each vista around the bend, walking on this good earth with a rhythmic stride that started to pull down the obsessive thoughts that live in my head and free up space to simply enjoy and stop reflecting so much on the enjoyment. Don’t know about others, but my mind and body are in a perpetual dance and when the head dominates too much, it starts stepping on the toes of the spirit and the dance falters.

By the time we descended into Vernasso, I felt a welcome lightness, even if my foot had started to ache. The baggage of thought began dropping like the traveler leaving behind no longer necessary books or clothes in the hotel room. Sat on a bench enjoying a hazelnut ice cream cone while watching the throngs of people passing without a single cell phone in the picture. Contemplated going on another two hours of steep up and down to the last town of Monterossa, but my foot suggested prudence and we took the train. This the only town with a sandy beach (though still a mix of small rocks and rough-grained sand) and off we dove into the Ligurean Sea. Refreshing water and another way to wash away excess thought and let the mere sensual fact of existence rise to the top.  Vacation, aided by rigorous hiking, sea air, uplifting architecture, good food and more, seems to be kicking in for this work-obsessed traveler and refreshingly so.

So back to the Germans. I will always appreciate German thought and intellect, but it can be a bit ponderous and heavy at times and it’s nice to settle into a Brazilian sensuality. Too bad their dance last night didn’t make for a better game, but life—and soccer—is fickle and unpredictable. Let’s hope that Argentina makes a better show for the South American spirit tonight!

PS Well, I wrote this on the 9th, but couldn't post until the 10th. So to clarify:
• Today, July 10th, is Carl Orff's birthday.
• I stayed for the entire two and a half hour World Cup game last night! Both teams were excellent, but kind of cancelled each other out to make for a boring game. But now it's South America/Europe and hope to watch it on Sunday.

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