Today was the first time I saw my New York apartment after the fire. Black walls, windows covered by wood, no electricity... not a typical sight for an Upper West Side high-rise. Everything that was in the apartment has been removed, all the furniture thrown away, some of the books and manuscripts went to the restoration company in the hope that what can be restored will be saved. The Steinway D Concert Grand, burned beyond repair, had to be carried by 12 men 10 floors down to its forever grave.
It is the second time in my life when I lost everything I have owned. The first time was voluntary, when I spontaneously decided not to go back to Russia, then USSR, at the age of 17, but to stay in New York instead, thus becoming one of the last artists and certainly one of the youngest to defect from the Soviet Union during a concert tour. The second time is now.
How ephemeral is all that we think of as solid! How life keeps on reminding to let go of material attachments. It also reinstates that one can’t lose one’s true possessions, mainly the memories. Photographs and diaries can be burned, but not memories. We are alive as long as we remember: our memories are what makes each one of us unique. Our memories are our only true heritage. In Greek mythology, if one drinks from Lethe, the river of oblivion, one loses one’s identity. Thus memories are what identify us as humans.
Listen: Wind of Oblivion [by Lera Auerbach]
The poison of memory is as sweet as the irrecoverableness of loss. Poison is the best medicine. Medicine for insanity. For unthinking. For the insanity of the unthinking that encircles us. Encirclement (in the military sense). Encirclement – the jaws of a trap.
Medicine is a cloying syrup. Not flight from, but finding yourself in the labyrinths of memory. The work of an archeologist is to see palaces in the rubble and to reconstruct the past on the basis of paltry fragments, to make it the property of the present. To be such a person at the very least must be exacting and complicated. It couldn’t be otherwise. That is, of course, one could let the past be forgotten and let the moss of non-existence grow. But that would spell poverty and barbarism.
The poet’s path is to hear the strings of the primordial melody amidst the ruins.
Listen: Requiem Aeternam [by Alfred Schnittke]In the beginning was the word. Music is speech. Speech that hasn’t yet named itself, unrealized and therefore not yet lost.
In the beginning was music. The world was created with it. On the sacrament of loss, a sacrament, for while we loose we do not deplete; by losing we make whole and acquire. The world was born on the sacrament of the primordial melody of losses. And there was loss before birth. For birth is a loss. And the infinite tenderness of this loss, this loss that gives, this giving loss, this abundant loss; it is tenderness, the tenderness of a return is precisely the harmony of power which holds the world together.
Our losses are the only thing we possess completely. Memory is the river of losses, lost moments, days, years, that have forever sunk into the all-embracing Past.