Twenty years older than Isaiah Berlin, Anna Akhmatova had been a great pre-revolutionary poet. Since 1925, the Soviets allowed her to publish nothing. Her first husband had been executed on false charges in 1921. In 1938, her son was taken prisoner. For 17 months, Akhmatova had stood outside his prison, vainly seeking news of her son.
Berlin met Akhmatova in 1945, almost by chance. The brief time spent together one long November evening was a transforming experience for both. For Akhmatova, Berlin was a “guest from the future.” This “most memorable” meeting spawned an internal love with tragic consequences: the Soviet authorities thought Berlin was a British spy. Thus, Akhmatova became concerned she’d be considered a suspected enemy.
And with that, Brooks noted, “Berlin’s life “came as close as it ever did to the still perfection of art.” He finally pulled himself away and returned to his hotel. It was 11 a.m. He flung himself on the bed and exclaimed, “I am in love; I am in love.”
I ponder upon Isaiah’s and Anna’s love, reminiscente of my own “once-in-a-lifetime” moment, when I too exclaimed, “I am in love; I am in love.” I remember the beauty of her smile, the love that bore between us and the moments lived in each other’s presence. Locked within my own time-capsule, she remains beautiful today as yesterday. Four years have passed between us, she love continues to reach beyond time and touch me, molding my heart, making a more thorough, more complete the man ever imagined.
Still, many of us experience that once-in-a-lifetime love and let it go. Why? Is it because life gets in our way? Or do we implode upon our own sense of the cosmos, the love of nature or the love of God? Do we causally fling ultimate love for the here and now, only to sit upon the bench of life’s autumn morn’ and look past our wrinkles, faded hair and life regrets hoping to once more dance a ballet long past due?
Oh ye young lovers, poets and romanticists at heart, love challenges. Wanting love is not enough. You must hunger for it. To overcome it, your motivation must be absolutely compelling. You must fight time … the illusion we live forever and remember life’s limitations. Had we, many would be in love with those whom God intended.
It’s important to note that Berlin tried to visit Anna again, but was refused, as Anna worried that her son might be re-arrested for associating with an ideologically western philosopher.
So, to those suffering from loss, I can say there are little Bodhi tree revelations. What I learned of moving is rather anti-climatic. Simply put, life goes on … with or without us. I chose not to let go of my moments with her simply because many of them were so blessedly beautiful. And what she loved in me can be given unto others every day.
Listen to Anna:
And there is warmth in his hand –
My Guest from the Future – a light
Turning left from the bridge, tonight?
So if one ever comes close to the “perfection of art,” that Promised Land of love, open it, accept it and never let it go. For the remainder, the Promised Land of love resides on the other side of your own wilderness. Are you willing to cross it to get there?