God shows his irony by allowing me this beautiful place and all the time in the world.
I have outlived my compatriots and peers, my lovers and wives, my children, and even my enemies, but this itself is no reward. Indeed, there are mornings when the floor of my sleeping chamber is slick with frost and I feel the weight of decades as oppression, though I am cured of this when my mind freely darts among the pillared decades like a swallow flitting between the posts of a barn.
I witnessed my native country twice destroyed, first with oafish violence by the Nazis and then, more pervasively, by Stalin’s gunpoint socialism, a poison pill forced down our collective throats with the promise of happiness and health, delivering neither. We learned what thoughts were acceptable, discounting all the rest.
But I am free from all that now, adrift on this lovely lake, home at last.
This post was inspired by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz. In the 1950s, while working as a diplomatic attaché in Paris, he claimed political asylum and published The Captive Mind, a collection of essays about his experience with Communist doctrine. He lived and taught in the United States from 1960 until his death in 2004.
Milosz’s poems, novels, essays, and other works are written in his native Polish and translated by the author and others into English. Having lived under the two great totalitarian systems of modern history, national socialism and communism, Milosz wrote of the past in a tragic, ironic style that nonetheless affirmed the value of human life. He is one of my all-time favorite minds.