Anthony Milosz - memories of meeting with his father and John Paul II
It's difficult now to fully remember, or imagine, that moment. We had become accustomed to despair and didn't quite believe that anything could change. The Evil Empire, as president Reagan named it, seemed, frankly speaking, eternal, like the Great Wall of China, or perhaps even the millennia of Egypt. A kind of Manichaeism accompanied us instinctively in our thinking. Those who did not know the Beast, and in the West there were many who didn't, were able to toy with relativism. My friend Bill, an American doctor with the best of intentions, managed to argue that Lenin's brilliant plan had been corrupted by his successors. Among Poles, one didn't find too many like Bill. But encountering the ever-present naive Left in Europe and America deepened our sense of isolation and our allegedly innate tendency to melancholy.
In the East, the Church became the carrier of a spark of, let us call it, anti-materialism, although the forces seemed uneven, and the prognosis pessimistic. And suddenly there appeared a pope from Poland, who understood all of this very well! It quickly became apparent that he also understood and felt compassion for the suffering of all people, everywhere. During his visit to his homeland in 1979 he called out 'May Your Spirit come down! And may it renew the face of the Earth. This Earth!' And a miracle took place, a miracle that to this day we neither fully understand, nor know how to fully take advantage of. Solidarity then wasn't so much a political movement as a suspension of disbelief. And the walls cracked, and gradually tumbled.
In 1980, when my father and I visited the Holy Father in Rome after the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm, everyone felt that something important was happening, that we were involved in something extraordinary: an attempt to defeat evil, and not the human beings who had succumbed to it. An indescribable atmosphere of joyful conspiracy was in the air. When we sat down to breakfast with Him, and discussed the events, it seemed as if he too viewed what was happening with a sense of wonder, but calmly, with no doubt as to the ultimate outcome. Regardless of how one might assess the chapters of history that followed, and although I don't fully comprehend it, I believe that this was a time in which Pope John Paul II did, in fact call down the Holy Spirit.
Anthony Milosz, born 1947, Washington DC. Attended public schools and Lycee in France. Studied Linguistics, Anthropology, Chemistry at University of California Berkeley, and Neurophysiology and Neuropharmacology at University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. Taught at University of California Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Silicon Valley hardware and software designer. Composer and member of the Polish Society for Electroacoustic Music. Recent releases include 'Rzeki', a CD of Czeslaw Milosz readings set to music, and 'On Angels' for viola da gamba quartet. Translator of Czeslaw Milosz's poetry, including the 'Last Poems' for Selected and Last Poems, Ecco Press, Winter 2011.
January 1, 2012
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