Saturday, April 25, 2009

For David Darwin Stahl

My father, David Darwin Stahl, was born on January 31, 1918, and left us on April 25, 1989. Today marks the twentieth anniversary of his passing.

My father was many things, but above all, he was a poet. It was his father, Sam Stahl's idea to name him Darwin David Stahl, a name which my father quickly threw off like a pair of wet socks.

And, while he had the mind of a physicist, he had the heart of a poet. He understood, in the deepest possible sense, the need for solitude for it was his need for solitude. He understood the hunger for silence for it was his hunger for silence. His understanding of life, and human nature, surpassed that of anyone I have ever known, and no one I know loved to talk about current events more than he did.

A cross between Jesse James and Ludwig Wittgenstein, he was ever the nonconformist, free-thinker. It was hard for life not to disappoint. His was an ongoing struggle with myopia. As a visionary, it was impossible for him to take refuge in the senses.

Most of all, he taught me tolerance, and how to do the right thing no matter what the cost.

Life, for my father, was a grand poker game and, as he told me once, "if you can't afford to lose, you don't belong in the game." It was the rush he'd get from not knowing the outcome, and from pushing the limits he lived for--not comfort, or pleasure. For one who had more than a passing acquaintance with pain, he was skillful at rising above it.

It is in his memory that I dedicate this quote from "Duino Elegies," by Rainer Maria Rilke, with which I know he would agree:

"Murderers are easily seen through. But this: to accept death, even before life, so gently, the whole of death, and not to be angry, is past description."