What a strange machine man is! You fill him with bread, wine, fish, and radishes, and out come sighs, laughter, and dreams. -Nikos Kazantzakis, poet and novelist (18 Feb 1883-1957)
It is my father’s birthday today, so of course, I was happy to see the quote from the writer, Nikos Kazantzakis pop up on my Facebook feed. This writer was very near and dear to Georg’s heart. He saw in Kazantzakis a spiritual brother. They are both Greek, born on the same day. Dad especially liked The Last Temptation of Christ (which he advised me to read when I was still a teenager, if I remember correctly) and also St. Francis. I have two copies of that book on my book self. One he gave me, one I inherited after he passed. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever read it, despite the duplicate copies. It is yet another book in the overwhelmingly long list of “books I plan to read.”
I opened it up this morning in honor of Georg. It is a treat to read books that belonged to him because he was such an avid underliner. He usually used a red pen and would sometimes encase an entire line in a rectangle or put stars or squiggles next to a noteworthy sentence. For really important lines, he would use not only a red pen to underline, but also a pink highlighter to make a whole paragraph glow.
In Georg’s copy of St. Francis, in the early chapters, he was using just a black, fine point Sharpie. The first thing that jumps out at me is “There are many roads. Which is my road?” Then, much deeper into the story, he got his other underlining tools in gear. Here, there is a long passage about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. This section got a lot of red lines and pink highlighting and stars and rectangles. “Suffer some more, struggle some more, transform yourself into a butterfly.” In the margin, Georg wrote in capital letters TRANSFORMATION.
I really appreciate seeing what things jumped out at my dad and must have informed the things he was struggling with in his art and in his life. The things he pointed to for himself also have meaning for me. I continue to find my way and look for ways to make this world a better place. I believe that somehow, my dad, gone now for nearly 8 years, is inextricably intwined in everything I do.
Recently, there is some movement afoot in the realm of Georg’s art. Potential buyers are stepping up. It is exciting and a bit nerve-wracking at the same time. On one hand, I know Georg’s art speaks for itself. On the other hand, I hope to be a good agent, a good advocate for his name. In the end, everything will happen just the way it needs to. The message I am getting from Georg and Nikos today is that there will always be an abundance of radishes and I will know my right road when I see it. And in the end, we all become butterflies.
Happy Birthday, Georg!
I miss you, still.