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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Disbelief. By John von Daler

                      Warm, still summer nights in Denmark are beloved because they are rare but long. The sun only disappears behind the edge of the globe for a few hours and reappears as often as not just when things are getting fun.
                        In a garden in Copenhagen, we had been talking and drinking wine for hours at a table under a birch tree. The almost full moon, painted a sultry yellow/white by the temporarily indisposed sun, hung between the branches of that ghostly tree and lighted up the parts of the table that the weak candlelight had not reached.
                The old composer had been here for hours talking with me about everything and nothing, the kind of small talk that often turns out to be large.
                Just now we had been talking about operas and how their audiences for centuries had been brought to suspend their disbelief about people who broke into song when they had something to express. Anyone doing that on the street might draw stares or even reprimands, but just inside the doors of a concert hall it was accepted. I suggested that our discussion should perhaps take place in song, as I had a great desire to hum a bass part to the high flights and cadenzas he had been intoning.
                The old composer who worked in the avant-garde world of happenings and eccentricities and whose audience also had been carefully brought up through the years to expect and to get almost anything pointed out that the suspension of disbelief in itself was a boring and misused phenomenon. But he asked me not to hum anyway.
                He pulled out a comb as he spoke and I remember the moon lighting up the ivory on what in this light appeared to be a rather fine antique, probably the gift of a king or some great publisher.
                The aged man, who had a habit of constantly turning inward in conversation - like some maelstrom that intellectually speaking often threatens to pull its listeners into the swirl  - now suddenly looked in my direction.
                "No, no," he said, "suspension of disbelief costs no effort. It is just a costume party for bankers. No, no. Now if you want to see things happen," and here he looked over at me, his eyes taking a tour of my facial characteristics (and perhaps seeing me for the first time). He reached out his comb and twirled it in a glass of perfectly good Sancerre. Pulling the wet comb through his few strands of hair, he looked up at the moon and finished his sentence, "if you really want things to happen, you have to suspend your belief!"

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