Disentangling Ukraine from Our "Narrative Lines":
a Zen Moment for Our Droned Psyches!
By GARY CORSERI
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
(from "The Sermon on the Mount")
"Footfalls echo in the memory/ Down the passage which we did not take/
Towards the door we never opened/ Into the rose-garden."
(T. S. Eliot; from, "Four Quartets")
"" all that is seething below is an ever-present potentiality of consciousness."
About 20 months ago, I accompanied my Japanese wife on a business trip she made to Kiev. My interests were touristic and a bit genealogical. My mother's parents were Ukrainian Jews who had emigrated from Kiev to Brooklyn, New York around 1919. (Her mother had died before I was born and my grandfather, one of the quietest and gentlest people I've ever known, passed when I was 14, with never a meaningful verbal conversation between us, not counting spirit-talks.... I was glad to be raised in a secular home, respectful of different religious traditions, without any impositions from my mother or my Sicilian-Catholic father; free to find my own way.)
It was my first trip to Kiev, and somehow I felt "at home." It is (or was then) a splendid city of many parks and golden-domed, Eastern Orthodox churches. I fell in love with three different women--and that was in the first 10 minutes, while checking in at our hotel (praise beauty and nobility of spirit wherever it is found!). Applying my usual dictum--learn the essentials of a language and use them as soon as possible--I would say "thank you" in Russian (spasibo--easy!) or Ukrainian (dyakuyu--not so easy!). Invariably, Ukrainians were happy to hear me sputter either one.
I only knew a little about the history of Ukraine, so I happily joined a walking tour of the city, and learned a bit more. Then I joined a second tour, and learned a bit more again; on the second tour, the young guide was eager to sign us up for a "pub crawl" later that evening. It would cost a lot more, and I wasn't interested. She also pointed out, in passing, a fine house where Russia's greatest poet, Pushkin, had lived for a while. I wanted to know a lot more about that, but she wasn't interested.