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Venice

Your health will never be complete

Inside the huge Romanesque church the tourists jostled in the half darkness.

Vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.

A few candle flames flickered.

An angel with no face embraced me

and whispered through my whole body:

"Don't be ashamed of being human, be proud!

Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.

You will never be complete, that's how it's meant to be."

Blind with tears

I was pushed out on the sun-seething piazza

together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr Tanaka, and Signora Sabatini,

and inside them all, vault opened behind vault endlessly.

valv som gapar bakom valv i en krypta

Often, and in all kinds of situations, we follow rigid lines of thought and formulate over-confident answers even before the question has taken proper shape in our minds.

Romanesque Arches is one of Tomas Tranströmer’s best loved poems. Like all true works of art, it opens up fundamental questions.

Often, and in all kinds of situations, we follow rigid lines of thought and formulate over-confident answers even before the question has taken proper shape in our minds. This very much applies to lifestyles. It is only too easy to persuade yourself that the life you lead is right for you, that you have already changed as much as you reasonably can – or else, that by now it is too late for changes. It is as easy to assume that you know yourself, that you are truly mature and fully developed.

At this point, Tranströmer’s poem subtly comes to mind:

 

Inside the huge Romanesque church the tourists jostled in the half darkness.
Vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.

 

The anonymous tourists are herded around inside St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. They don’t pay attention to each other. Their eyes move distractedly from detail to detail, without any overview. 

 

A few candle flames flickered.
An angel with no face embraced me
and whispered through my whole body:
"Don't be ashamed of being human, be proud!
Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.
You will never be complete, that's how it's meant to be."

 

Many of us feel ashamed about something: illness, weight problems, lifestyle issues. We will never be complete because to attain a perfect way of life or perfect health is impossible.

 

Blind with tears
I was pushed out on the sun-seething piazza
together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr Tanaka, and Signora Sabatini,
and inside them all, vault opened behind vault endlessly.

 

Now, the human beings emerge from behind the anonymous masks in the group of tourists: Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini.

 

 

en kvinna som öppnar sig för meningsfulla möten

What if we remain tourists in our own lives? What if we drift, staring at isolated features without taking in the great vaults above us? Inside your mind, there are sources of fragility as well as of unexpected strength.  

Tänk om vi förblir turister i våra egna liv, tänk om vi går omkring och betraktar lösryckta delar utan att se de stora valven? Inom dig öppnar sig både bräcklighet och oanade resurser.

Can you find new ways of coping with health and ill-health when you raise your eyes and challenge long-practised certainties?

References

1. Magnus Ringgren, tolkning av Romanska bågar http://www.signum.se/archive/read.php?id=198

2. KG Hammar, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKklSSMOMPY

3. Romanesque Arches by Tomas Tranströmer, from New Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011). Translated from the original Swedish by Robin Fulton.

More to come

We are about to launch the full English version of the Swedish medical university initiative, PriusHealth, providing daily thought-provoking questions to unlock how you relate to yourself, to others, the larger us, as the way to improve your health.

Available both as an open website and a full guided program, it will be launched summer 2017. If you would like us to keep you informed of its launch and thereby get free access to more content, then click here.

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