The Unanswered Question Never AskedFriday, November 15, 2019
|Lauren, Brother Edwin & Rebeca|
The Unanswered Question is a musical work by American composer Charles Ives. Originally paired with Central Park in the Dark as Two Contemplations in 1908, The Unanswered Question was revived by Ives in 1930–1935. As with many of Ives' works, it was largely unknown until much later in his life, and was not performed until 1946.
Against a background of slow, quiet strings representing "The Silence of the Druids", a solo trumpet poses "The Perennial Question of Existence", to which a woodwind quartet of "Fighting Answerers" tries vainly to provide an answer, growing more frustrated and dissonant until they give up. The three groups of instruments perform in independent tempos and are placed separately on the stage—the strings offstage.
I experienced this most interesting work at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City around 1973. While I was and still am an amateur in relation to anything musical I did notice that this work had two conductors. One of them directed the strings while the other the woodwinds. The trumpet player was on his own.
Musing about the Unanswered Question has led me to today’s blog.
My whole life has been one of mystery, of not knowing the answers to doubts or facts about my existence. In most cases I might have received the important information that now eludes me. What is my excuse? I was too stupid to ask or be curious when the people around me were still alive to answer.
I never asked my mother how she met my father. I never asked how it was that if my father was divorced (not recognized in Argentina at that time) was she able to marry in Montevideo (not even sure of that) and why when we traveled my passport listed my surname as Waterhouse-Hayward and hers her paternal name de Irureta Goyena.
I never dared to ask my father as to why when offered the job to be editor of the Buenos Aires Herald he threw an inkwell at the publisher.
My mother, grandmother and I left Buenos Aires in 1954 abandoning my alcoholic father. My mother made no effort to communicate our leaving nor was there any contact afterwards.
In 1964 I returned to Buenos Aires to do my military service (telling my mother I felt patriotic) while my real intention was to find my father. I did and spent many weekends chatting with him. I remember nothing and I never asked him what it felt when he found out we were gone and never heard from us again.
Shortly before my mother died in 1972 she told me that she had lost her Roman Catholic faith in relation to no longer believing that God would intercede when she prayed. She now believed in an aloof God. I was quiet.
The rest of my life was full of such incidents in which I was not curious enough to ask. The last person who might have answered some of them, my first cousin and godmother Inesita O’Reilly Kuker (she died in 2017) faked (in my opinion) no knowledge to my persistent questions about my father.
But there is one question that I knew I could never ask. And I had ample opportunity to ask it.
My dear mentor, saxophone teacher, theology teacher who clued me to the wonders of photography, Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. died in April 2013. This gentle and kind man was always in my life and I would visit him in Austin, at St. Edward''s University whenever I could. Incredibly both my wife and two granddaughters were able to meet him a few times.
My granddaughter Rebecca when she was 11, was allowed (in fact she was the first woman) to have stayed in a room at the all-men brother’s residence, St. Joseph Hall. I was in another. I have fond memories of breakfast and of Rebecca sitting at a separate table surrounded by brothers with whom she chatted. I had visions of Christ as a young boy surrounded by scholars at the temple.
I never dared (nor wanted to) ask Brother Edwin, “Did you ever have any doubts about your beliefs?” There are some questions that should never be asked.
That one is for sure.