February 1, 2020

February 1913 - Chronicles Of The Year Before The Great War

Woolworth building
Grand Central terminal
According to Florian Illies's 1913 - The Year Before The Storm, just a day
before Valentine's day 1913, Professor Rudolf Steiner gives a lecture, in which he talks of the impending doom he senses, but attenuated by a feeling of hope for new things to spring after:

For in those dying forces we finally sense, even see, the forces preparing themselves for the future, and in the sunset, the promise and hope of a new dawn moves closer to us. Our souls must always respond to human evolution in such a way that we tell ourselves: All progress is so. When what we have created turns to ruin, we know that out of those ruins, new life will blossom forth.

But was Steiner aware of the heavy sacrifices humanity would have to bear for this new era to come forth? 

In other news, in February 1913 Stalin returns (illegally) to Russia, undercover as a woman, only to be captured in St. Petersburg and subsequently exiled to Siberia; the Woolworth building in NYC is completed, the first building to beat the Eiffel tower in height; the Central Station in NYC is also finished; artists are turning more and more towards the abstract; Arnold Schönberg has his Gurrelieder performed, which includes 5 vocalists, 3 4-part male choirs, and a 150-piece orchestra; Charles Fabry is about to discover the ozone layer; and in Vienna, a real Beauty and the Beast scenario unfolds with the intense (though short-lived) romance between reputedly beautiful Alma Mahler and the supposed ugliest of painters Oskar Kokoschka.
Alma Mahler and Kokoschka
as painted by the artist

January 1, 2020

January 1913 - Chronicles of the Year Before The Great War

Louis Armstrong, who gave us, amongst
many other wonderful pieces
"What a Wonderful World"

Will it be a magical year, where people finally unite to repair wrongs and build a better and brighter future...or will it instead toll the dramatic and painful end to another era (unless we are already in its throes)? 'Another,' for as history demonstrates, though we keep expanding our knowledge, we are still prone to repeating history in never-ending cycles.

It is with this in mind (as well as research for a future book series), that I've been reading about the beginning of the 20th century.

The years leading to 1914, the end of the Belle Epoque, were full of sudden bursts of creativity and scientific/technological advancements, sometimes so quick people couldn't cope with them.

Velocity can be frightening as well as deeply exhilarating, and it is this fear and rejection of change that also echoes across the century. In 1900 the most profound change of all was that in the relationship between men and women, and many indications point towards a deep anxiety on the part of men whose position seemed no longer secure. For the first time in European history women were being educated en masse, earning their own money, demanding the vote and, crucially, suggesting that in an industrial age physical strength and martial virtues were becoming useless. Men reacted with an aggressive restatement of the old values; never before had so many uniforms been seen on the street or so many duels fought, never before had there been so many classified advertisements for treatments allegedly curing 'male maladies' and 'weak nerves'; and never before had so many men complained of exhaustion and nervousness, and found themselves admitted to sanatoriums and even mental hospitals. (The Vertigo Years Introduction by Philipp Blom)

Could anyone have predicted that this deep malaise felt across the Western World would have led to something as horrendous and catastrophic as the first World War, even for those who'd relished the idea of going to war in the first place?
Art by Esra Gülmen

Thus we start the year 1913 (or 1912+1), as Florian Illies describes quite charmingly in his book 1913 - The Year Before The Storm, with a gunshot in New Orleans. The shooter? Twelve year old Louis Armstrong. But when he's sent to the Colored Waifs' Home for Boys, where its director hands him a trumpet, and thus the world was gifted with wonderful music for years to come.

January 1913 is also when Stalin arrives in Vienna, engrossed in the writing of his Marxism and the National Question; Sigmund Freud adopts a stray cat who'll witness the end of his relationship with former student Carl G. Jung; Vanity Fair is launched; the bust of Nefertiti is discovered in Egypt to be whisked away to Germany; Austrian figure-skater Alois Lutz comes up with a spinning jump that still bears his name; ecstasy is born; all while the sinking of the Titanic is still a tragedy much talked of.

The world is still spinning on, and yet...

December 30, 2019

Joy To The World...

Image by Peggy Choucair from Pixabay

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.

Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."
~George Bernard Shaw