May 6

Amber pages

A day for The Immaculate Failure:

Robert E. Peary, Arctic explorer, and Sigmund Freud, psychic explorer, born today in 1856

Orson Welles, cinematic explorer, born today in 1915

Eugene O'Neill, human-condition explorer (and the first playwright to win the Pulitzer Prize four times), born today in 1947

Rabindranath Tagore, Hindu poet and explorer of the mystic, born today in 1861 (that splendid sculpture-statue of him at the top of this page cane be found in Gordon Square, in central London, gift of the Prince of Wales) [1] [2]

and each of them took their time, and got as far as they could get in the years that were available to them, and ultimately left their work unfinished, the line uncrossed, the tape unbroken. Whereas:

Roger Bannister: four minute mile broken (Oxford, England), today in 1954

and then the mad, mad race to see who could go miliseconds quicker, and then quicker, and still quicker, though going absolutely nowhere different in the process (and the achievement anyway rendered meaningless, when measurement by miles was abandoned in favour of metres...)

and in 1895, the birthdate of the gloriously named Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaello Pietro Filiberto Guglieimi Di Valentina D'Antonguolla (a.k.a. Rudolph Valentino), actor - but I already have him where he belongs, on February 14 (click here)

[1] Tagore particularly interests me, and yes for himself - he was a remarkable polymath - but mostly because I am fascinated by the narrow-minded parochialism of all our histories, my own included; and it has become a continuing theme of this blog, and I am no nearer to an explanation of it today in 2018 as I write this paragraph, than I was back in the 1990s when I began investigating it. Tagore was indeed a remarkable polymath; but I didn't come to him for his poetry, neither the religious "Gitanjali" ("Song Offerings") which were the official reason for his Nobel Prize, nor for his secular poetry, nor for his plays, his musical compositions, his philosophical essays; and I have never been to Culcutta, or even Kolkata, where his family were such a force in Bengali culture. I came to Tagore because, in May 1981, I went to live in Israel, and for my first three weeks, while I was sorting out the bureaucracy of arrival, I was put up in a hostel beside Sol and Sissy Mack's public garden, on the western edge of the campus of Tel Aviv University in Ramat Aviv, on a Rechov (street) named in honour of one Rabindranath Tagore, and the chimera of a name stayed with me - but so pre-occupied was I with that bureaucracy, and then the katyushah rockets falling around us when I arrived at my kibbutz on the Lebanese border, that it would be seven years later, running a city farm in the East End of London, and the name Tagore came up repeatedly because Stepney to Mile End had been created by the British East India Company specifically to house those Bengalis who came to work for it in England, and 70% of the Tower Hamlets community was Bengali...

[2] Some almanacs will tell you May 7 for his birthdate. No one is certain as there appears to be no birth-certificate, and family memories conflict. Such too is history!

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