First Reflection: Sappho, “Tell everyone”

Tell everyone
Sappho (translation Mary Barnard)

Tell everyone

Now, today, I shall
sing beautifully for
my friends’ pleasure


My personal journal is filled to the brim with rants. Confused and contradictory, they swirl away from each other. Everyone else has failed me, or I have failed, or all of this was fated. Maybe a moral issue is at stake, maybe nothing of the sort exists, maybe I imagine problems where there are none. The matter of flux: no solutions, lots of blame.

So a few hours ago I saw a book of Sappho’s poems for $2. Most of what I glanced at reads like the fragment above. Read the introduction, flipped a few pages, thought what could I possibly do with this? Yeah… what could I do?

In this case, my want to “tell everyone,” to “sing beautifully,” is a want for a clean slate. This isn’t something done innocently. It’s done with the consciousness that there are outstanding problems, and yes, at some point they may need to be addressed directly and resolved. A purposeful denial operates here: “my friends’ pleasure” is the priority. Not my own pleasure, not what I deserve or what is good for me. With a bit of guilt emerging, I’m glad I told you guys to tell everyone. I can implicate all of us in this project.

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