Monday, June 25, 2007
Burger King in Budapest
After speaking nine times in six days (with two sessions of four hours each and a plenary address to about three hundred souls), a wealth of heartening conversations with new friends from around Europe, a rather horrendous extra day in London after having missed my connection to Denver (my adaptive and administrative skills through all this--minimal as they are--were severely challenged), and an hour on the tarmac in Denver (so close yet so far), I have returned from The European Leadership Forum and am up at the silly hour of 5:30 because of time adjustments. Later, I hope to write a short essay reflecting on it all. For now, here are a few snippets:
1. Walking through Eger, Hungary, I saw the word "Kundalini" written on a two-story building. I prayed for those under its serpentine spell. I also retinized posters hawking American "artists" inflicting themselves on the Hungarian souls, such as the impossibly precious and pretentious Tori Amos.
2. A small group I was with in Budapest went to Burger King: Burger King in Budapest! There is a syllabic symmetry to that locution, but an oxymoronic burden to it as well. Since I could not bring myself to such a sacrilege, I went across the street to a huge, fascinating market with one of the volunteers. There we ate transcendentally splendid strudel and shopped for gifts for loved ones.
3. While in Eger, I saw two films, more than I typically see in a decade: "Amazing Grace" (about William Wilberforce) and a DVD about a Romanian Christian sculptor, who is an abstract artist with a huge heart, a burly beard, and portentious installations, one of which was at the conference, "Seeds."
4. I mused over how the British (well represented in Eger) speak. Their secret, it seems, is not the accent per se, but that many of them simply enjoy speaking. They relish their words and treat them with respect. I also discovered a new book by one Mr. Humphreys about the decline of language in the UK called Loss for Words. The audio book of this was available on the British Air flight on the way back and was delightful. I hope to read the book.
5. During the final night we were treated to an all-out, Hungarian dinner in Budapest, complete with gypsy music (played at a frantic, virtuoso pace) and dancers. Part of the act was for one of the spry, double-jointed, and charismatic dancers to pull a victim from the audience and dance with her or him. Inexplicably, the male dancer extracted an attractive young, blonde woman across the room from him. After this escapade, the female dancer solicited a man close to where she was standing (I think she was working with the proximity principle freed from aesthetic considerations) who turned her down. Then she plucked me out! After which, the highly improbable occurred: The Constructive Curmudgeon was seen gypsy dancing in Budapest in front of thirty stunned and laughing souls. There is something about that Hungarian wine... A few camera flashes went off, but am hoping all the photographs are lost in a freak digital dissolution.
Perhaps I should resist the temptation to be nocturnal and return to bed. My enterprise was blessed richly, both in giving and receiving. My world and soul were enlarged, even as my body was taxed. I was speaking so much--to groups and to individuals extemporaneously--that my tongue actually got tired. But, thank God, my voice held out very well, which was an answer to prayer.
The story--and philosophical reflections, don't worry--will be continued.