November 11, 2007 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
No, no, I’m not quitting the blog. That’s the bit the bugles play before the minute of silence. They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old: / Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. / At the going down of the sun and in the morning, / We will remember them. Is it sad that I remember this primarily from the Doctor Who episode ‘The Family of Blood’? Right, moving on.
In one of my dad’s books on Judaism, which may well now be one of my books on Judaism as he’s shipped me so many of his books in the past year, I remember reading something about how you’re supposed to keep two pieces of paper in your pockets. One says something like, ‘you’re made from dust and you’ll be dust when you die’. The other says something like, ‘the world was created for you and you’re super special’ (I’m sure I’m paraphrasing, given that Talmudic scholars tend not to use phrases like ‘super special’, but that’s the gist of it). If you get too proud of yourself, you read one, and if you’re wondering what the hell the point of being alive is, you read the other, and thus maintain equilibrium.
The reason for this meandering is that W.H. Auden apparently said something to the effect of, ‘poetry didn’t save a single Jew from the gas chambers.’ I am trying to figure out what goes in the other pocket.
(If anyone can pin down the Auden quotation, please let me know. I can only find lots of paraphrases; perhaps there’s no official version.)