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Someone and I recently had experiences of mono no aware viz. the passing of Time and the ephemeral element of such. Last weekend he had dinner with a friend of ours whom we haven’t seen or heard from in many years perhaps decades. Someone reported it was a nice but sort of sad for our friend had clearly aged; he was not as ‘sharp’ as was.  They talked of times together (circa late 90s/early 00s) at places no longer open with friends no longer in touch.

While traveling to Michigan last weekend I wanted to eat at Olga’s, a Greek restaurant I regularly visited in my college days back in the early 80s. Olga was a vivacious young woman then who was just opening her first store. Last Saturdays’ food was the same but the place didn’t have the ambience of my college days. There was a sense of fading to the place; it lacked ‘vitality’. When I went to wash my hands I noticed on the cork bulletin board was a memorial: Olga had died only a few months ago. She was in her 90s.

We would all like to push the pause button in order to stop Time. People and places for which we have warm memories – we want them to stay just as they are. Of course this does not happen. In time people age and disappear and places change or close – they certainly don’t stay the same as when we were there.

One of my favorite poems “The Lost Hotels of Paris” by Jack Gilbert starts with the lines:

The Lord gives everything and charges
by taking it back. What a bargain.
Like being young for a while.

I wrote this entry while witnessing the terrible news of the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral. What a loss; what a sorrow. It raised in me the question not why it burned down but why this hasn’t happened sooner given centuries of candles and tribulations it has endured.

Later in the poem are these lines:

It is right to mourn the small hotels of Paris that used to be when we used to be. My mansard looking down on Notre Dame every morning is gone,
and me listening to the bell at night.  Venice is no more. The best Greek Islands
have drowned in acceleration.

The irony of these lines is Notre Dame has gone the way of the small hotels: another victim of Time.

It’s sad to see things go. This phenomenon will worsen as I age. A younger man does not think this way. He is making memories rather. He is visiting the small hotels of Paris or their equivalent.

But it’s the having not the keeping that is the treasure.

This is my favorite line of the poem. We may not be able to halt Time or keep things but we have the experiences.

My intuition tells me it is only a matter of time until Olga’s place closes and this too becomes a memory. I take solace these are good memories. I merely have to close my eyes and I am back in college with the future before me, eating gyros and laughing with Olga.

The Lord gives everything and charges by taking it back is indeed a bargain. I am glad to have had many equivalents of the small hotels of Paris.

 

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