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The great river

A few weeks ago, I watched the tele­vi­sion series Emi­ly Dick­in­son on Apple+, an amus­ing and touch­ing retelling of the poet’s ear­ly lit­er­ary years. I only knew her by name. The series does not seem to devi­ate from the truth, even though it had to freely inter­pret what was nev­er known about the writer’s life. The char­ac­ter as shown in the TV series is both right and wrong. We don’t real­ly care.

The cen­tral theme of the series could be summed up as fol­lows : vol­un­tary reclu­sion after a brief strug­gle to achieve fame, a closed uni­verse, a secret gar­den capa­ble of giv­ing rise to a wealth of ideas.

The silent poets, the lit­tle word artists, but also most actors, dancers, singers, painters, sculp­tors, and, who knows, those who will prob­a­bly not leave a trace, all know some­thing of this.

For Dick­in­son, fame, if any, was posthu­mous. We could say the same of the first Bach, Johann Sebas­t­ian, redis­cov­ered in the 20th cen­tu­ry. Art does not need the beau­ti­ful clothes dis­played in stereo­typ­i­cal thinking.

The Amer­i­can poet was obsessed with death, not in a mor­bid way, but more, I think, if the TV series and my brief read­ings are to be believed, through an acquain­tance­ship with the Grim Reaper. It was prob­a­bly also in the air of the time, a loose roman­ti­cism com­bined with ear­ly exis­ten­tial­ism. The Final­i­ty is our great empress and muse.

With­out want­i­ng or dar­ing to com­pare me to her, I felt chal­lenged by her sto­ry. The con­tent­ment she seemed to feel in writ­ing only for writing’s sake, in rec­og­niz­ing that fame is a nasty shad­ow on the inner flame of an artist, I also came to accept.

Of course, we will nev­er real­ly know if the poet had giv­en up being known in her life­time. I was told a few days ago that what mat­ters most is that I am hap­py to write, regard­less of what hap­pens next.

The les­son applies to every­one. We are alive, what­ev­er hap­pens to the length of our pas­sage, to the per­sis­tence of the trace we make. Legions of men and women have walked this earth. They are part of the water that moves the mill of the universe.

I won­der if there is not a great riv­er that wel­comes the trib­u­taries of pass­ing souls. What is the direc­tion of our end ? What do we vibrate to ?

Is there not a melody with­in us that we must, in our own way, share ? The brick­lay­er, the nov­el­ist, the politi­cian, the inven­tor, the researcher, the sports­woman, every­thing that comes alive, and every­thing that dies out can only com­pose one mys­te­ri­ous score.

Let’s wake up our ears, let’s smell the air of time and our momen­tum so as not to miss the con­cert and its grand finale. And to think I can’t even swim…

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