Live Virtual Group Session: 7pm EDT May 29th 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

With participants from, Canada. England, India, and in the U.S., New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, California and elsewhere, we discussed Walt Whitman’s “On the Beach at Night,” posted below.  Beginning with the image of father and child holding hands under the night sky, the poem seemed to participants to expand into a recognition of great loss, and then a sorrowful affirmation of “something there is,” a mystery that will sustain us, bring hope after the “ravening clouds” have “devour[ed] the stars,” or at least, provide comfort to a crying child.  The rich discussion pointed to the intimate relation of father and daughter –and to the face of human mortality confronting the infinite. 

The prompt, “Write about what will shine out again,” elicited a wide range of responses, some identifying small signs of comfort and hope, some bringing humor to the subject of inequity and acknowledging that in our world things have never shone for all of us.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please join us for our next session Sunday, May 31st at 1pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

On the Beach at Night
by Walt Whitman

On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.

Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.

Narrative Medicine Book Club: Magic Mountain, Week 2

Week 2: We are learning more about life at the sanatorium and getting a sense of the cast of characters. Castorp and his cousin eat lavish meals, take their “rest cures” in the terrifically comfortable balcony chairs, and we see Castorp beginning to be acclimatized to the life of being a “patient” without necessarily being aware of it (I’m guessing that very soon he will buy a thermometer). There are hints that this place works with different rules, perhaps, than elsewhere — Castorp’s cigar is disgusting to him as it never is, no matter how he tries to enjoy it. And the “Half-Lung Club”! Can someone who knows about how lungs work please explain to us how far-fetched (or not!) that whole thing is?? I appreciated what Castorp says about understanding; when his cousin says he will come to understand that “things are serious only down below in real life,” Castorp says, “I’m already taking a great deal of interest in all of you up here, and once one is interested, why then understanding follows as a matter of course, doesn’t it?” This seems so profound and true to me, and a very important message for out current moment — curiosity, interest, being the things that lead to understanding (and understanding, in so many situations, to peace). 

For Week 3: Read up to the section title “Politically Suspect” in Chapter 4.