Food for Thought-A Median Letter of Contradistinctive Explanation (A Letter found with the Letters)

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Dear Reader,

I am not the author of these letters. I am the merely the editor. According to information I received in late 2014, a box containing mid-century correspondence between two anonymous Yugoslavians in search of bird common to Eastern Europe was inadvertently discovered in the overhead compartment of an abandoned piece of luggage on the “Red Arrow” train between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Baggage handlers working in the seedy Moscow railway and literary underground soon sought my assistance in dating and translating the archaic Serbo-Croatian typescript into Russian and English. While each letter was clearly dated and both languages share common linguistic similarities, their duties moving luggage and preparing for underground poetry readings made the effort more than they could handle. As such, I became the custodian of this story. Each word was carefully passed to me in individual Aeroflot airmail envelopes and then reassembled on alternating pages of Estonian born psychologist’s Wolfgang Kohler’s dissertation on gestalt methods. Thanks to being forced to read Kohler’s early and innovative work, I have learned much about myself as well as those wrote these letters. While much knowledge about the authors is still unknown, I may reveal this. Both lack at least one finger on two hands. Birds, like people, can be vicious, when you approach too quickly.

The Editor

Food for Thought-Franz Liszt and the Dostoevskian Moment

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I am trying to dip my pen,
in the depths of,
Dostoevsky’s existential well,
to turn the well-read pages,
of the Encyclopedia of Phorgotten Phrases,
underlined

    and indented

with words I can no longer remember,
seized by the Neva’s blackness,
the rippling heart of a flowing grave,
surrounded by wandering minstrels,
whose finite ability in tune to play,

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Six sharps that stop and go,
Chased in two four time,
Across the winter snow.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Have You Seen My Croatian Watermelon? (The Eleventh Letter)

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4th May 1957
Belgrade, The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Lunchtime-after a walk by the river to see the ships sail south

Dear Esteemed Friend,

You know there are two things I enjoy more than anything in the world. The smell of well-worn liturgical texts and spring. As I’ve only recently finished an examination of 7th century Bulgarian* antiphons*, I am grateful to be under assault by the hegemonic sights and smells of spring. With only a single step beyond my door, I am paralyzed by the overwhelming sensation to observe this moment and that moment alone. A simple journey to the market, a mere trip of minutes around the corner, has been known to take up to five hours in such disastrously beautiful weather. A single step may leave me speechless and in motionless solitude for hours at a time. This is my curse. Can you imagine the mellifluous odors of the Malaysian hibiscus* which was planted after last year’s journey abroad? Are you able to conjure the sweet aromas of the evergreens adjacent to the French embassy*? Why do I pose such questions to you? I know can conquer such queries, and more, in your sleep.

It was after breakfast when new thoughts begin to form in my mind. Undernourished ideas that one day might create a template for our overall quest. Melons are now in season. The succulent ripeness offers a wonderful alternative tremendous helpings of sugar we normally receive from the Turkish cafe. No one seems to know what to call this blessed melon. In each of the four languages of our republic, it is known by a different name. In Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian, there are, I believe, four different words for watermelon. (Why there are no fire, earth, or air melons, I do not know. Perhaps this is a Cartesian question for another time.) Lubenica*, Karpuza*, Bostan*, and Stambol*. Clearly the latter has more of a Turkish influence. My question is this: if the beauty of the melon can create such linguistic diversity and confusion, could not the Picus Virdius*? Do we know if, when we travelled, we were asking of one bird and receiving information of another?

Think upon these things.

Your friend,

V

*Hibiscus is a sweet smelling flower, the national flower of Malaysia
*French Embassy the evergreen trees and lawn in the French embassy is particularly lovely
*Old Bulgarian ancient language, along with Old Church Slavonic of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
* Antiphonal music is music that is performed by two semi-independent choirs in interaction, often singing alternate musical phrases. Antiphonal psalmody is the singing or musical playing of psalms by alternating groups of performers.
*Lubenica, Karpuza, Bostan, and Stambol Respective Words in Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian for Watermelon
*Picus Viridius is the common European Woodpecker

Food for Thought-A Breakfast Walk With Lewis Carroll

Photograph by Richard Bryant

Breakfast with Lewis Carroll-Richard Bryant

On my morning walk,
I met Lewis Carroll,
for a lovely talk,
About cats and birds,
Paths taken,
Tea left to drink,
Memories thoroughly shaken,
Journeys through,
Seen lands,
Where scones are served,
Without delicious jam,
Yesterday, tomorrow,
But not today,
Such tolerable nonsense,
where does it lay,
In the enforced realities,
I’m required to play.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Breakfast with Hegel in Belgrade (The Tenth Letter)

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3rd May 1957
Belgrade, The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Nearing The Quietest Time of the Late Afternoon

Dear Friend and Mentor,

Today, it was a wonderful morning to walk, to see, and breathe. I was enthralled by the juxtaposition of the green trees along the street, gently waving their tiny leaves against the vast blue sky. For what seemed like hours, I stood at the corner of Pariska* and Gracanicka*, gazing upwards. It was only when a visitor from Zagreb* asked for directions to the philosophy faculty* was my arboreal communion broken. How long was I there? I don’t know. As you know, my watch has been broken since 1953. Tomorrow, my focus will be something else. I am hoping it will be Bonaparte’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. We shall see.

However, it is your question, about the bird’s constant search for a new and better tree, at random, which leaves me both perplexed and uneasy. This journey, this story, is not our own. We recount these steps and questions posed not for our benefit. When we speak of this bird, do we not speak of truth itself? Is this not the same dilemma Hegel outlined: Nicht die Neugierde, nicht die Eitelkeit, nicht die Betrachtung der Nützlichkeit, nicht die Pflicht und Gewissenhaftigkeit, sondern ein unauslöschlicher, unglücklicher Durst, der sich auf keinen Vergleich einläßt, führt uns zur Wahrheit.*

I think so.

Think on these things my friend.

Yours truly,

M

*Pariska a street in Old Belgrade near the western edge of the Kalemegdan
*Gracanicka a street in Old Belgrade adjacted to Pariska
*Zagreb the capital of Croatia
*Philosophy Faculty Offices and Classes of the Philosophy Department of Belgrade University
* Nicht die Neugierde, nicht die Eitelkeit, nicht die Betrachtung der Nützlichkeit, nicht die Pflicht und Gewissenhaftigkeit, sondern ein unauslöschlicher, unglücklicher Durst, der sich auf keinen Vergleich einläßt, führt uns zur Wahrheit. German George Wilhelm Hegel circa 1809 Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth.

Food for Thought-Things I Am Considering Today

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1.  The Impact of the Congress of Vienna

2.  Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp Minor

3.  This Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can Italian-style tomato paste
3 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
Hot cooked linguine

4.  Why is the man, pictured above, emerging from a hole, to greet Czar Alexander I?

5. Am I fooling myself by believing that breathe right nasal strips work?

Food for Thought-The Priest in Priština (The Ninth Letter)

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2 May 1957
Belgrade, The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Between the arrival of the post and watering of the three dying plants

Dear Friend and Colleague,

Though only chronological hours have elapsed, I feel there has been a long silence between us. If I cannot read, I cannot know. It will be a great delight to me to receive your next letter. I do wonder what transpires of your life and affairs beyond breakfast. Does the toast linger with you through lunch? Are the consumption snacks and chocolates part of your afternoon as well? These are facts I can no longer remember or recall.

The unaccustomed joy to which I was moved in recalling the legend of the Grand Vizier* brought fragments of the tale of the Picus Viridius* closer to forefront of my own mind. In the south, closer to Pristina*, the bird was said to fly from tree to tree. To the amazement of one village priest, the startled creature would simply stop pecking upon one tree in one location and move to another, without any warning at all. This pattern would continue hours at a time. It is my belief that the day, in the place, by the road, adjacent to the restaurant, where we saw the brown horse turning left, may have been in the path of one such quest to find a new and better tree. Како то може бити?*

Until tomorrow, when more questions await.

Yours truly,

V

*Grand Vizier a title of Ottoman Turkish authority
*Picus Virdius the common European Woodpecker
*Pristina the capital of Kosovo
* Како то може бити?* Serbian expression, left in the original, “How can this be?”