By Kay Grismer
The Foundation of FirstHealth
PINEHURST – The first “mini-lecture” in the “Health, Healing and the Humanities” series sponsored by The Foundation of FirstHealth will feature “The Literary Chagall: The Healing Powers of Prose and Poetry” presented by Vivian Jacobson. The program will be held Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 3 p.m. at the Clara McLean House near FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.
The innovative series, created by Jacobson and Nancy Kaeser, chair of the Clara McLean House Advisory Council, introduces the arts and humanities as an “antidote” to the technological approaches to health care. Considerable research carried out over the past 20 years seeks to prove the healing capacity of the arts in general and literature in particular as a valid clinical intervention – like diet and exercise – that should be part of the “healing program” for the patient and “preventive medicine” for the healthy.
“The journey to health and healing can take many paths,” Kaeser says. “True healing is not waiting for time to heal. It is creating the opportunities where healing takes place, and the process of mending can make us stronger. As the community’s center for health advocacy, the Clara McLean House offers the perfect environment where participants in these ‘mini-lectures’ and other programs have an opportunity to explore a range of arts and humanities to help them discover their own unique ‘path’ to personal health and healing.”
In the first, highly successful, presentation in the series, “Flowers by Chagall: The Healing Powers of Flowers,” Bella Meyer, Marc Chagall’s granddaughter, discussed how flowers have the unique ability to inspire people to smile or to bring a moment’s peace.
In her follow-up to that lecture, Jacobson, who worked closely with the celebrated artist during the last 11 years of his life, will discuss his love of writing prose and poetry and his message of hope, peace, reconciliation and love.
“Few people know that Chagall had a pronounced literary ability equal to that of his art,” Jacobson says.
Chagall wrote “My Life,” which has been called “one of the most extraordinarily inventive and beautifully told of all autobiographies” in 1921, at the age of 35. In his book, he recalled how, as a boy, he wanted to be a singer, a violinist, a dancer.
“Night and day I wrote verses,” he said. “People spoke well of them. I thought: I’ll be a poet. As soon as I learned how to express myself in Russian, I began to write poetry. As naturally as breathing.”
He continued to write poetry and prose throughout his life.
A born storyteller, Chagall recounted the joys, political turmoil and human tragedies of his early life with humor and poignancy. On meeting Bella, the woman who would become his beloved wife and muse (and his granddaughter’s namesake), he wrote, “Her silence is mine. Her eyes mine. I feel she has known me always, my childhood, my present life, my future; as if she were watching over me, divining my innermost being, though this is the first time I have seen her.”
After his name was added to Hitler’s “most hated list,” but before he could be shipped from France to a concentration camp, Chagall and Bella escaped to the U.S. in 1941.
“My enemy forced me to take the road of exile,” he later wrote. “On that tragic road, I lost my wife, the companion of my life, the woman who was my inspiration. I lived here in America during the inhuman war in which humanity deserted itself.”
Despite being left in “the shadows” following Bella’s sudden death in 1944, Chagall never let go of the thread that kept the child he used to be in his heart. He succeeded in preserving his sense of amazement, joy and wonder inspired by nature and humanity, as well as the strong faith that led him to believe in the possibility of a better world.
According to Jacobson, Chagall “was a survivor of pogroms, anti-Semitism, the Russian Revolution, two World Wars and an escapee from the Nazis,” but he “still had hope for humanity and reconciliation. He never exhibited hate or anger for his oppressors. The way the world affected him personally deepened his determination to pour out his love for all people and to strive for understanding, hope and peace.”
“I know that the path of life is eternal and short,” Chagall wrote toward the end of his life. “And when I was still in my mother’s womb, I learned that this path is better traveled with love than with hatred.”
Space is limited for “The Literary Chagall: The Healing Powers of Prose and Poetry.” For reservations, call The Foundation of FirstHealth at 695-7510.