How is Your Tolerance for Unspeakable Beauty?

Archive The Wonderful World VIDEO
Klara and Johanna Söderberg, First Aid Kit

By Karl Saliter

I was recently asked what my America is. I haven’t asked myself that for decades. I’ve been living in Mexico for the past two years.

As we approach the wire where we can at last breathe non-election-tainted air for a minute, our lungs are choked. What passes for diplomacy and tact now is refraining from wrestling your opponent to the ground and hitting him. There has been no hair pulling. So far. On camera.

A presidential candidate ran roughshod over the moderator on a nationally televised debate and somehow, that was ok. Class action lawsuits against megabillion multinationals are pre-sold before the bang of the first gavel, while Monsanto execs are appointed FDA positions. Cheney’s company landed a multibillion dollar no-bid contract while he was in office, for a war he and Bush started. Barely merited a WTF. (And for 40 billion shades grimmer, look what the Truth Barrier just found.)

We are not so much spinning out of control as we are goose stepping toward oblivion, bowing to the Gods of No. This is a state of emergency on steroids.

When did it happen? One autumn day, probably. Grace left out a side door, and my “Where is America?” turned into “How can I avoid getting found out in America?” This is not a healthy shift. I’m more concerned with covering my butt than with curiosity. And I’m not supposed to be dead yet!

There needs to be a cure, like now. And I found one. This thing that my love showed me.

We need, at a bare minimum, prizefighter cellists.

We need angelic voices honoring deep love and care for our country like the Republican Party needs a sense of humor. We need to be transported back to hope, quick,fast, and in a hurry. Even if only for a few minutes.


We need to start asking each other and hoarding answers. So hey: What’s your America? Ten words or less, leave it as a comment.

But back to this gift.

I’m given to understand that some yoga practitioners soar away on the mat, at the end of vigorous practice. The open door of endorphins allows them to expand way way beyond the rigamarole and weekly paycheck wrestling match to simply radiate love. Lucky enough to practice metta, or the discipline of deliberately exuding loving kindness, they pour out of themselves, heart first.

That’s what these ladies are doing. With full instrumentation, no less. You can feel it. Young as ducks yes but somewhere, somehow, they did their time. They get it. It’s a controlled blitzkrieg. They are teaching the dharma.

This moment of respite, this reverie. It will grant you that serenity you prayed for.


Just watch it, it’s way better than anything I’m going to write.

Do you remember your first time, looking for America? I was in young hippie school. Alone. Hitched from Key West to Berkeley, on fifteen bucks. It was so hard, so raw, so free, and there was of course that red sunset in Texas, of all places. I will remember it until I’m dead. I would do it again in a heartbeat, except, I won’t.

I mean, I might, but would it be alright to bring along, instead of a jar of peanut butter and jelly, a gypsy caravan truck? I’m more at the “Travels With Charlie” age now, my grown daughter can have “On The Road”. She’s smarter than me. (Don’t tell her, she doesn’t read this drivel, and I’ve certainly never admitted it.)

You hear these two singing that power ballad love song

tribal unity we shall overcome through love

anthem and guess what?

You can give in, for three minutes forty seconds, and believe that maybe these two will not be jingling for Heinz within six weeks. They are just pure and potent enough to allow you that freedom to believe. In one thing. For four minutes. You and everybody in that theater. And everything changes in you.

This is song as path.

Pick it up at 2:22, my favorite line. Ok now check the eyes at 2:30, and tell me wisdom has anything to do with age.

In over 46 years, I do not know a fraction of what those young eyes know, telling us what happened. All our ideas of growth are wrong.


And the moon rose over an open field.


How does any writer stand a chance, when this mix of Zen simplicity and the zeitgeist of love and hope has already hit the page?

If you can get from 2:53 to 3:05 without remembering that you love God and your mom and hell everybody, even the fucking toll booth operator, you are asleep at the wheel, my friend, and a crash is coming.

These two unassuming giants are fronting for untamed metta, and doing it with reserve and dignity unencumbered by showiness. Singing, they serve. With breathtaking sound, unapologetically giving, they are simply crushing it.

There is magic woven in this presentation, from the opening second. If you can’t see it, there is an inch of mud coated over your eyes. It’s ok, you didn’t put it there. NAFTA and deregulated banking and factory farming all heaped it, silently smearing it on you from incalculable distance. Just add water. Watch. Watch and weep.

Watch and remember when there was a chance.

Because there is always a chance. And this performance is way more than a reminder.

This piece is a three-legged dog, victim of man’s unprintable cruelty to animals, who forgives without contempt and doesn’t even know anything is missing, He can run faster than you.

It is your dad, finally bringing you a huge gift, saying “I’m sorry, it was my culture, I didn’t know it was ok to love you!”

It is a walk on the shore and rage and forgiveness and an improbably quiet cheeseless pizza to soothe.

It is Maude, waking Harold from the dead.

The whole thing is a prayer, really. A prayer of unspeakable beauty.

This piece is midnight mass next to your soul mate.

The ritual is made up of chords and beats, the sermon is ‘Return to the Dream’.

At 3:23, invisible angels float in and fill all the space in that theater.

Somehow they don’t hit each other. Which would suck because harps are so pointy.

Then get ready, because here it comes. 3:30 arrives. We see that the filmmaker is no dummy.

Cello up close, and an audience rapt to the point of stillness. We are eyes everywhere.

At 3:40, you are forgiven for everything.

None of it was your fault, go forth and be kind.

And 3:49. Drink like water. Breathe. Grateful.

Now look.

Where is America?



Karl Saliter is half Irish, half imaginary.

He lives in Mexico, New York, and part time in elsewhere, with Celia Ingrid Farber.

When he isn’t typing, he makes art with rocks ( and steel

2 thoughts on “How is Your Tolerance for Unspeakable Beauty?”

  1. America is in a black woman poet, working at the train station, greying,
    waiting to get ‘off the concrete’.
    That was way more than ten words.

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