Non nobis


Non nobis, Domine, non nobis,
sed nomini tuo da gloriam.



Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
but to thy name give the glory.

The More Loving One

W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Simone Weil

The joy of meeting and the sorrow of separation … we should welcome these gifts … with our whole soul, and experience to the full, and with the same gratitude, all the sweetness or bitterness as the case may be. Meeting and separation are two forms of friendship that contain the same good, in the one case through pleasure and in the other through sorrow… Soon there will be distance between us. Let us love this distance which is wholly woven of friendship, for those who do not love each other are not separated.

I don’t want to agree, but I try to embrace it.

Rilke letters to another young poet

Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism : they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.


I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.


Great sadnesses … they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent.


I believe that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension that we find paralyzing because we no longer hear our surprised feelings living. Because we are alone with the alien thing that has entered into our self; because everything intimate and accustomed is for an instant taken away; because we stand in the middle of a transition where we cannot remain standing. For this reason the sadness too passes: the new thing in us, the added thing, has entered into our heart, has gone into its inmost chamber and is not even there any more, — is already in our blood. And we do not learn what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing has happened, and yet we have changed, as a house changes into which a guest has entered.

From Letters to a young poet, Rilke. 1902-1908

I do care

Eric Korn and I met in our prams, so we were told, and we have remained the closest of friends for almost eighty years. We often traveled together, and in 1979 we took a boat to Holland and rented bicycles to cycle around the country, circling back to our favorite city, Amsterdam. I had not been to Holland for some years—though Eric, living in England, had gone frequently—so I was very surprised when, completely openly, we were offered cannabis in a café. We were sitting at a table when a young man came to us and with a practiced gesture flicked open a sort of folding wallet containing a dozen or more sorts of marijuana and hash; its possession and use in modest quantities were perfectly legal in Holland by the 1970s.

Eric and I bought a packet but then forgot to smoke it. Indeed, we forgot we had it, until we got to The Hague for our ship back to England and presented ourselves at customs. We were asked the usual questions.
Had we bought anything in Holland? they asked. Liquor, perhaps?
“Yes, Genever,” we replied.
Cigarettes? No, we didn’t smoke.
Marijuana? Oh, yes, we had forgotten all about it. “Well, throw it away before you reach England,” said the customs officer. “It’s not legal there.” We took it with us, thinking we might enjoy a little smoke on board.

We did have a little smoke and then threw the rest of the packet overboard. Perhaps it was more than a little smoke; neither of us had smoked for years, and the marijuana was much stronger than we expected.

I wandered off after a few minutes and found myself near the captain’s wheelhouse. Illuminated in the gathering dusk, it looked enchanting, like something out of a fairy tale. The captain was navigating, his hands on the wheel, and a little boy of about ten was standing at his side, fascinated by the captain’s uniform, the brass and glass dials, and the sea parting before the ship’s prow. Finding the door unlocked, I entered the cabin too. Neither the captain nor the little boy by his side was disturbed by my entry, and I stationed myself quietly on the captain’s other side. The captain showed us how he steered the ship, showed us all the dials; the little boy and I asked him lots of questions. We were so absorbed that we had no sense of time and were startled when the captain said that Harwich, on the English coast, was approaching. The two of us left, the little boy to find his parents, and I to find Eric.
When I found Eric, he looked haggard with anxiety, and he almost sobbed with relief as soon as he saw me. “Where were you?” he said. “I looked everywhere for you; I thought you’d jumped overboard. Thank God you’re alive!” I told Eric that I had been in the captain’s forecastle and enjoying myself. Then, taken aback by the intensity of his words and his expression, I said, “You care, you really care for me!
“Of course,” Eric said. “How could you doubt it?”
But it was not easy to believe that anyone cared for me; I sometimes failed to realize, I think, how much my parents cared for me. It is only now, reading the letters they wrote to me when I came to America fifty years ago, that I see how deeply they did care.
And perhaps how deeply many others have cared for me—was the imagined lack of caring by others a projection of something deficient or inhibited in myself? I once heard a radio program devoted to the memories and thoughts of those who, like me, had been evacuated during the Second World War, separated from their families during their earliest years. The interviewer commented on how well these people had adjusted to the painful, traumatic years of their childhood. “Yes,” said one man. “But I still have trouble with the three Bs: bonding, belonging, and believing.” I think this is also true, to some extent, for me.


Extracted from On The Move, A Life, O. Sacks. Emphasis added

Saudades, Florbela Espanca

Saudades! Sim.. talvez.. e por que não?…
Se o sonho foi tão alto e forte
Que pensara vê-lo até à morte
Deslumbrar-me de luz o coração!

Esquecer! Para quê?… Ah, como é vão!
Que tudo isso, Amor, nos não importe.
Se ele deixou beleza que conforte
Deve-nos ser sagrado como o pão.

Quantas vezes, Amor, já te esqueci,
Para mais doidamente me lembrar
Mais decididamente me lembrar de ti!

E quem dera que fosse sempre assim:
Quanto menos quisesse recordar
Mais saudade andasse presa a mim!

Frieza, Florbela Espanca

Os teus olhos são frios como as espadas,
E claros como os trágicos punhais,
Têm brilhos cortantes de metais
E fulgores de lâminas geladas.

Vejo neles imagens retratadas
De abandonos cruéis e desleais,
Fantásticos desejos irreais,
E todo o oiro e o sol das madrugadas!

Mas não te invejo, Amor, essa indif’rença,
Que viver neste mundo sem amar
É pior que ser cego de nascença!

Tu invejas a dor que vive em mim!
E quanta vez dirás a soluçar:
“Ah, quem me dera, Irmã, amar assim!…”