Archive for February, 2019

Don Quixote and Sancho in their quest

Don Quixote and Sancho in their quest

I recently read two articles published one day apart that made me want to write about them.

The first one is a book review in ABC Cultural by Manuel Lucena Giraldo of Padre Ladrón de Guevara, a Jesuit who critiqued over 2.115 writers! Apparently they were all horrible, regardless of nationality: Pio Baroja, Rubén Darío, Victor Hugo, Flaubert… all “lead to the desolation and disconsolation of the soul”…

The second is a brief interview of Spanish author Luisgé Martín, this time from El Cultural de El Mundo who believes the world is going to hell in a handbasket, which of course is not a new concept. The idea goes back to the lacrimarum valle (valley of tears) of the early Christians.

What struck me about these two articles was the pessimism, the negativity. Now, I might not always be a ray of sunshine, but there must be some hope and/or reason for us to be here.

Aren’t you amazed at the energy in us? around us? everywhere? Coincidence? maybe, but it sure feels good to believe in something bigger, otherwise what is the point of the beauty around us? This takes me to the Ladrón de Guevara article: novelists, poets, artists all help us to see that energy, that beauty. While I confess that I have not read either author, and I do think that a contrarian view helps to add contrast to the picture, I do believe we cannot only think in black and white.

What I am driving at here is what Richard Rohr calls the “oneness”, that is you cannot have light without dark, life without death (something the Americans insist they can have!) dry without wet, ying without yang, and so on.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

Carl Sagan

 

One of the massive pluses of living in a major world capital is the amazing cultural offering one has access to. I really needed this cultural stimulation. The problem with the word culture is that it has been made to sound elitist, refined, distant from the people, the stuff Frazier and Niles Crane did, but in truth it is just beauty, beauty created by man – and woman of course! The least important bit is if we call it culture, art, or whatever.

I have been lucky to live in major cities where I became a cultural junkie: London (where it all started for me), Paris, Boston, New York, even Chapel Hill – a college town, but obviously with a thriving cultural scene. Unfortunately Naples only had a couple of cultural outlets (which I squeezed every last drop from), and in NJ I didn’t get a chance to explore although of course the heavy stuff was in NYC…

In the less than three months back in Madrid I have been lucky to experience:

  • A brilliant piano recital by local piano star Luis Fernández Pérez playing Händel, Scarlatti, Rameau, and Bach. For free at the Fundación Juan March.
  • A play/recital of Federico García Lorca’s poetry by stage icon Nuria Espert.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre’s eerily prescient play Nekrassov (1955) about the “fake news”.
  • A gorgeous version of The Nutcracker by the prestigious Compañía Nacional de Danza and the Teatro Real house orchestra!
  • Visits to the Sorolla museum, the Museo del Romanticismo, and a score of art exhibits including “Rediscovering the Mediterranean” at the Fundación Mapfre with paintings and sculptures from the XIX and early XX Centuries.
  • After fourteen years I again became a member of the Amigos del Prado, which allows me free entry to the Prado, avoiding the queues. I have, of course, already gone twice!
  • Seeing a couple of concerts in bars around town by chance.
  • Never mind being surrounded by amazing architecture.

Et cetera, et cetera, down to awesome street musicians and performers! And this is with limited time and money. The cultural menu is, in fact, overwhelming, but I am happy to nibble and enjoy!

Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.

Jawaharlal Nehru