Nobel/noble death

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On my first visit to Iceland, an eternity ago, my dearest friend there and I sat trying very hard to remember who had won the Nobel Prize in Literature that year. We felt rather stupid when the winner was announced a couple of months later (why did we think it had already been announced?). I pay closer attention now when the winner is announced, even if the outcome does not matter much.

Today the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer was announced as the winner of the Nobel for 2011. I quite enjoy Tranströmer’s works, and even used one of my favorites among his poems as the poem I included in my Halloween cards last year:

Svarta Vykort

Mitt i livet händer det att döden kommer och tar mått på människan.
Det besöket glöms och livet fortsätter.
Men kostymen sys i det tysta.

Rough translation:
“In the middle of life it happens that death comes and takes your measurements.
This visit is forgotten and life goes on.
But the suit is sewn in silence.”

Somehow this poem, its simplicity and the basic truth of it, feels as fitting today as the suit metaphor in the poem. The online world is ablaze with tributes and endless words about the passing of visionary Steve Jobs. He has been quoted ad nauseam today in the wake of his death, most notably on the subject of death and how the awesome reality of its imminence is one of life’s best… kicks in the ass, for lack of a more subtle way of phrasing it:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

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