Source: Living in Maine
It is a time of quiet joy,
the sunny morning.
When the glittery dew is on the mallow weeds,
each leaf holds a jewel which is beautiful
if not valuable.
This is no time for hurry or for bustle.
Thoughts are slow and deep and golden in the morning.”
~ John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat
- Photograph – Carolyn Cochrane Photography.
- Poem: Schonwieder
- Related Steinbeck Posts: A feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air… and We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us…
Sometimes you linger days
upon a word,
a single, uncontaminated drop
of sound; for days
it trembles, liquid to the mind,
dimming the undertow of language.
- John Burnside, from “Like me, you sometimes waken”
- Bio for John Burnside
- Find poem in book titled Common Knowledge
- Photograph: Hearts & Magic.
- Poem Source: Fables of Reconstruction
Maria Popova (Brain Pickings) in a Conversation with Alexandra Horowitz (Cognitive Scientist): The Art of Looking: How to Live With Presence, Break the Tyranny of Productivity, and Learn to See Our Everyday Wonderland
AH: I am not encouraging productivity — and I don’t mind that that’s the case. I value the moments in my life that are productive, certainly, but only the ones that are productive and also present. So it doesn’t have to be either-or. But [I have also] spent time in a job where you then wonder, a year later, what happened to that year. And if I had bothered to sit on the subway, commuting to my office, looking — looking — I think that those moments would have been memorialized, and I would know what happened to that year…I don’t mean to be testifying against productivity per se, but I do see that it’s certainly mindless, the way that we approach there being only one route to living one’s life. And it is within us, this capacity to alter that — at any moment, even within that framework — to change your state.
MP: What’s interesting about the productivity dogma is that we live in a culture where we worship work ethic — by a very narrow definition — as some sort of this grand virtue. And we define it as showing up, day after day after day. But I often think that that’s the surest way to lull ourselves into a kind of trance of passivity, where we show up but we’re absent from our own lives. And I think one of the most beautiful things you do is you show how we can be present in our own lives, through these eleven different people and their perspectives.
AH: Thank you. You know, you are thought of as being, probably, an excessively productive person — again, in that literal sense. You have such a fertile mind — would you say you are not productive? Or, how do you achieve your productivity?
MP: For me, I read, and I hunger to know… I record, around that, my experience of understanding the world and understanding what it means to live a good life, to live a full life. Anything that I write is a byproduct of that — but that’s not the objective. So, even if it may have the appearance of “producing” something on a regular basis, it’s really about taking in, and what I put out is just … the byproduct. It’s kind of like going down the rabbit hole but digging it in the process, too.
…The most impressive students I had over my 30 years of university teaching were those I encountered when I first began, in the early 1970s, who almost all turned out to have been put through Catholic schools, during a time when priests and nuns still taught and Catholic education hadn’t become indistinguishable from secular education. Many of these kids resented what they felt was the excessive constraint, with an element of fear added, of their education. Most failed to realize that it was this very constraint—and maybe a touch of the fear, too—that forced them to learn Latin, to acquire and understand grammar, to pick up the rudiments of arguing well, that had made them as smart as they were…
..So often in my literature classes students told me what they “felt” about a novel, or a particular character in a novel. I tried, ever so gently, to tell them that no one cared what they felt; the trick was to discover not one’s feelings but what the author had put into the book, its moral weight and its resultant power. In essay courses, many of these same students turned in papers upon which I wished to—but did not—write: “D-, Too much love in the home.” I knew where they came by their sense of their own deep significance and that this sense was utterly false to any conceivable reality. Despite what their parents had been telling them from the very outset of their lives, they were not significant. Significance has to be earned, and it is earned only through achievement. Besides, one of the first things that people who really are significant seem to know is that, in the grander scheme, they are themselves really quite insignificant.
~ Joseph Epstein, A Literary Education and Other Essays
Thank you Michael Wade for your recommendation of Epstein’s new book: A Literary Education and Other Essays. I’m half way through and loving it. Joseph Epstein, 77, was born in Chicago. He is an essayist, short story writer, and editor. In 2003, he was awarded a National Humanities Medal by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
And so I ask Helen my favorite question: “If you could have one sense back, which would it be?” Her fingers go round and round in circles, and I can feel the girl actually thinking in my palm.
“Which do you pick?” she asks.
Though I have been deprived of all senses save touch since the age of two, while she is only deaf and blind, for me the choice is simple. “Sight,” I tell her, all the glorious colors God has painted on lands and faces. Green is the color I remember with the most pleasure: green from the grass outside our house in New Hampshire. Blue still spills from that square of sky visible over the bed where I lay ill for almost a year, and Mama says my eyes were bright blue before they shrunk behind my lids. Red I have a strong and disagreeable sense of, from when they bled me with leeches. And black, black I know the longest and best because it is my constant companion. These are the only colors I can recall or imagine with any clarity.
~ Kimberly Elkins, What Is Visible, A Novel
This is an excerpt is from a novel about Laura Bridgman (1829-1889). Laura Bridgman’s family was struck with scarlet fever when Laura was two years old. The illness killed her two older sisters and left her deaf, blind, and without a sense of smell or taste. She is known as the first deaf-blind American to gain a significant education in the English language, fifty years before the more famous Helen Keller.
The lodgepole pines I had seen as red and dying were now part of the story they introduced as fire ecology, with pine bark beetles entering the cambium layer of the tree, killing it, and preparing it for fire. Ted spoke of the flames rising with the heat in the forest, splitting open the cones that drop their seeds in the seared soil for the lodgepole’s regeneration the following year. “Lodgepole pinecones may remain unopened for years and burst open only during a forest fire,” Ted said. “They are referred to as serotinous cones.” As a young Mormon woman, I heard “Resurrection.”
~ Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice
“Have you ever noticed the peculiar tendency you have to let praise pass through you, but to feel crushed by criticism? A thousand positive remarks can slip by unnoticed, but one “you suck” can linger in your head for days. One hypothesis as to why this and the backfire effect happen is that you spend much more time considering information you disagree with than you do information you accept. Information that lines up with what you already believe passes through the mind like a vapor, but when you come across something that threatens your beliefs, something that conflicts with your preconceived notions of how the world works, you seize up and take notice. Some psychologists speculate there is an evolutionary explanation. Your ancestors paid more attention and spent more time thinking about negative stimuli than positive because bad things required a response. Those who failed to address negative stimuli failed to keep breathing.”
- David McRaney
- Be sure to read full post and quote source @ Brainpickings - The Pscyhology of Why We Have a Hard Time Changing Our Minds.
- Find “You Are Now Less Dumb” by David McRaney at Amazon.
- Related Post: Above all, remember the more harm you cause, the more hate you feel…
I’ve reached the half-way mark of Updike, a biography on John Updike written by Adam Begley. I pause to reflect on how I arrived here. “Here” being how did I come to be reading John Updike’s biography. Yes, it was Amazon’s Best Book of the Month for April, 2014. That helped, but that wasn’t it. It was that man in the photograph that is responsible. John VandeZande.
It was an undergraduate elective class titled “Good Books.” It was highly recommended by my senior jock buddies: “Just show up, read a few books and you’re done.” I signed up for the class. I sat in the back of the room. And hoped never to get called on.
He would assign Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce, Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Updike, in his biography, would describe them as “textual titans.” At the time, I would describe them as literary unknowns – - DK, a lover of Hardy Boys who then graduated to the genres of Jeffrey Archer (Kane & Abel), James Clavell (Shogun & Tai Pan) and Stephen King – - was being heaved up into the major leagues. I slumped further down in my chair at the back of the room.
He would break the awkwardness of the early classes by reading long passages from the assigned readings. He would sit on the edge of his desk. The book in his right hand. And then immerse himself in the passage. There were no pencils tapping. There was no shifting in chairs. We were gently transported with him on the journey.
He struck the match. And stoked the fire. And I went on a tear. First Hemingway with The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom The Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea. Then Faulkner with The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!. Followed by John Steinbeck with The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row and East of Eden. And then John Updike with Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux and Rabbit Is Rich. And to this day, my serial runs on “Textual Titans” continues. (In Begley’s biography of Updike, Updike explained that: “A real reader,” he explained, “reading to escape his own life thoroughly, tends to have runs on authors.” That had my head spinning.)
“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy… and that’s on a good day.”
- Robert De Niro
Excerpts from the Joseph McCormack’s Book Brief: The Brevity Mandate
“Here are the daunting challenges we all face every day to be heard: Attention spans are in a tailspin. In 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds and now it’s only eight. Professionals are interrupted 6-7 times an hour, often unable to get back to the task at hand. More than 43% abandon complicated or lengthy emails in the first 30 seconds. And the majority of people admit ignoring half the e-mails they get every day.”
“The more you say, the less people hear”
“The business world today is full of information overload and there is not enough time to sift through it. If you cannot capture people’s attention and deliver your message with brevity, you’ll lose them.”
“The discipline to capture and manage elusive mindshare now shapes and defines professional success. Shorter emails, better organized updates, and tighter and more engaging presentations are immediate indicators that you’ve got what it takes to succeed in an attention economy.”
“Getting to the point is a non-negotiable standard.”
Find book on Amazon here.
“Pay attention to when the cart is getting before the horse. Notice when a painful initiation leads to irrational devotion, or when unsatisfying jobs start to seem worthwhile. Remind yourself pledges and promises have power, as do uniforms and parades. Remember in the absence of extrinsic rewards you will seek out or create intrinsic ones. Take into account [that] the higher the price you pay for your decisions the more you value them. See that ambivalence becomes certainty with time. Realize that lukewarm feelings become stronger once you commit to a group, club, or product. Be wary of the roles you play and the acts you put on, because you tend to fulfill the labels you accept. Above all, remember the more harm you cause, the more hate you feel. The more kindness you express, the more you come to love those you help.”
- David McRaney
Quote Source: Brainpickings - The Benjamin Franklin Effect: The Surprising Psychology of How to Handle Haters. Image from Amazon.
a many books < on my book shelf > and knowing…
I have led too serious a life; but that perhaps, after all, preserves one’s youth. At all events, I have travelled too far, I have worked too hard, I have lived in brutal climates and associated with tiresome people. When a man has reached his fifty-second year without being, materially, the worse for wear — when he has fair health, a fair fortune, a tidy conscience and a complete exemption from embarrassing relatives — I suppose he is bound, in delicacy, to write himself happy.
~ Henry James (1843-1916) from The Diary of a Man of Fifty
- Henry James: “The Diary of a Man of Fifty“ is FREE at Amazon for Kindles/iPads.
- Henry James was an American-born British writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr. and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James.
- Image and Quote Source: Brainpickings
“Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist, there are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges and absorbs the impact.”
—Nicole Krauss, from The History of Love
“That old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air… Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.”
— Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
By one my favorite authors from one of my favorite books, the Pulitzer Prize Winning Angle of Repose.
“Folks, can we hear it for sloth, indolence, and procrastination?!” That’s how I have started many of my seminars over the years. And it always gets thunderous applause and raucous cheers. I think it hits a nerve.
I’ve been working on both (self-forgiveness and sense of humor) for decades now, and still find it quite challenging at times. But you know, when I’m in a loving, whole, and healthy state of mind about myself and about life, everything’s cool. Where I am, doing what I’m doing, is exactly where I need to be and what I need to do. God’s on her throne, the mail is coming, my dog loves me, and tomorrow is just fine right where it is, not showing up until then.
And I don’t seem to get to that wonderful state of mind by working harder and faster. Sometimes it helps, but more often it just perpetuates the angst. [Read more...]
“In the window before me I can vaguely see the image of my face. Apart from my eyes, which are shining, and the part directly beneath, which dimly reflects light, the whole of the left side lies in shade. Two deep furrows run down the forehead, one deep furrow runs down each cheek, all filled as it were with darkness, and when the eyes are staring and serious, and the mouth turned down at the corners it is impossible not to think of this face as somber.
What is it that has etched itself into you?”
~ Karl Ove Knausgaard (My Struggle: Book 2: A Man In Love. P.553)
“Often when you take on the voice of a great writer, speak his or her words aloud, you are taking on the voice of inspiration, you are breathing their breath at the moment of their heightened feelings, that what all writers ultimately do is pass on their breath.”
I paused and reflected on the “great” writers that I have read. Marilynne Robinson immediately came to mind. She has the ability to transport me to another place and time – - writing with such grace, such beauty and such humanity. She’s won literary “hardware” for her three major novels.
- Housekeeping. Nominated for the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and winner of the Hemingway/PEN Award for first fiction novel.
- Gilead. Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and winner of the National Book Circle Critics Award for Fiction.
- Home. Winner of the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction award.
Soon after I read Goldberg’s thoughts on great writers, I came this excerpt from a Chicago Tribune article shared at Lit Verve where the writer asks Robinson about Rev. John Ames, a congregational minister in Gilead, Iowa and the main character in her novel Gilead: [Read more...]
“We say to the confused, Know thyself, as if knowing yourself was not the fifth and most difficult of human arithmetical operations, we say to the apathetic, Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as if the brute realities of the world did not amuse themselves each day by turning that phrase on its head, we say to the indecisive, Begin at the beginning, as if beginning were the clearly visible point of a loosely wound thread and all we had to do was to keep pulling until we reached the other end, and as if, between the former and the latter, we had held in our hands a smooth, continuous thread with no knots to untie, no snarls to untangle, a complete impossibility in the life of a skein, or indeed, if we may be permitted one more stock phrase, in the skein of life.”
“…The prose in the last few pages of Ulysses is breathtakingly beautiful. Throughout Bloom’s day, we’ve been forced to see all the banal unattractive parts of life: boredom, hunger, despair, the need to go to the bathroom, broken trust, small-mindedness, unrealizable dreams, apathy, our own insignificance. Joyce gives us a lot of very good reasons to think that life is a pretty tiny and horrible thing. Of course, we read this and we think that our life isn’t going to be like Bloom’s. I mean, he’s one pathetic guy, our life will be infinitely better than Bloom’s. But, truth be told, we have no way of knowing what our life is going to be. It’s quite possible that one day we’ll find ourselves in Bloom’s shoes, in a marriage based more in fondness than in romantic love, in a place where most of our dreams are stretched out behind us rather than laid out in front of us. And for all that, Joyce is telling us: Do not despair. He’s telling us to say yes to life, to swallow it whole, to find happiness wherever we can…”
“And now here’s the thing. It takes a time like this for you to find out how sore your heart has been, and, moreover, all the while you thought you were going around idle terribly hard work was taking place. Hard, hard work, excavation and digging, mining, moiling through tunnels, heaving, pushing, moving rock, working, working, working, working, panting, hauling, hoisting. And none of this work is seen from the outside. It’s internally done. It happens because you are powerless and unable to get anywhere, to obtain justice or have requital, and therefore in yourself you labor, you wage and combat, settle scores, remember insults, fight, reply, deny, blab, denounce, triumph, outwit, overcome, vindicate, cry, persist, absolve, die and rise again. All by yourself? Where is everybody? Inside your breast and skin, the entire cast.”
- Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow (1915 – 2005) was a Canadian-born American writer. He was born in Lachine, Quebec and died in Brookline, MA. For his literary contributions, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts. He is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest authors. Bellow grew up as an insolent slum kid, a “thick-necked” rowdy, and an immigrant from Quebec. As Christopher Hitchens describes it, Bellow’s fiction and principal characters reflect his own yearning for transcendence, a battle “to overcome not just ghetto conditions but also ghetto psychoses. The author’s works speak to the disorienting nature of modern civilization, and the countervailing ability of humans to overcome their frailty and achieve greatness (or at least awareness). Bellow saw many flaws in modern civilization, and its ability to foster madness, materialism and misleading knowledge. Principal characters in Bellow’s fiction have heroic potential, and many times they stand in contrast to the negative forces of society. (Source: Wiki)
And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you, to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say “No. This is what’s important.
~ Iain Thomas, I Wrote This For You
“As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning. Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it. Things that are too small to see with the naked eye, such as molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things that are too large, such as cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length we bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer. When it has been fixed we call it knowledge. Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we strive to attain the correct distance to objects and phenomena. We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put in place. That is when time begins to pick up speed. It no longer meets any obstacles, everything is set, time races through our lives, the days pass by in a flash and before we know what is happening we are forty, fifty, fifty…Meaning requires content, content requires time, time requires resistance. Knowledge is distance, knowledge is status and the enemy of meaning.”
~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book One (p.14-15)
I’m on the 6:22 am train to Grand Central.
One of few trips a month taking me back to Manhattan.
I drift away for a moment.
It has been six years.
Six years since I’ve changed Company. Changed routine. Changed my life.
Two hours a day of uninterrupted reading time.
To, near zero.
Churning through three books a week. 150 books a year.
To, near zero.
Lost. In a character. In a story. In another place. In another time. [Read more...]
I’m worried. I liked this. Don’t ask me how many times I hit go on this 8 second clip. Here’s how to pronounce “Synecdoche“. And, if the suspense is overwhelming and you want to know what “Synecdoche” means, the definition can be found here.
And if you are looking for a real word treat, check out this old post titled Words…. Loved this too.
Related Posts: Synecdoche (jettiepoetry.wordpress.com)
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
~ Dr. Seuss
Theodore Seuss Geisel was born today in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He attended Dartmouth College and Oxford. He was a perfectionist in his work and he would sometimes spend up to a year on a book. It was not uncommon for him to throw out 95% of his material until he settled on a theme for his book. Geisel’s first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 times before it was finally published by Vanguard Press in 1937. The Cat in the Hat was published in 1957. Green Eggs and Ham in 1960. (Could it have been that long ago?) Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day.
“There is nothing I dislike.”
“These are the extraordinary words of the great teacher Linji; they are a lifetime koan for anyone who dares to take it on. Lifetime koans like this one never give up on you, luckily. ‘There is nothing I dislike’ is daring and fragrant and alive, and it is like this because it’s like this. ‘There is nothing I dislike’ rearranges us profoundly, when we offer ourselves to its energy, its scrutiny, its disturbance in us. [Read more...]
He’s Joe Queenan, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal. He started reading when he was 7 years old. Fifty-five years later, he has read 6,128 books. He “hopes to get through another 2,137 books before he dies.”
He often “reads dozens of books simultaneously.” “(He) starts a book in 1978 and finishes it 34 years later.”
He states that “a case can be made that people who read a preposterous number of books are not playing with a full deck. I prefer to think of us as dissatisfied customers. If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it’s probably because at some level you find ‘reality’ a bit of a disappointment.”
When I read the title of this book, my head snapped back. I believe that “doing what you love” (or pursuing your passion) leads to you being effective and satisfied in your job and leading a satisfying life. Newport suggests that “following your passion is terrible advice” and that “skills trump passion in the quest for work you love.” I’ve bought the book and I’m starting to dig in.
Amazon’s book summary states that “Newport debunks the long-held belief that “follow your passion” is good advice. Not only is the cliché flawed-preexisting passions are rare and have little to do with how most people end up loving their work-but it can also be dangerous, leading to anxiety and chronic job hopping…Matching your job to a preexisting passion does not matter, he reveals. Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.”
There is a worthy start-of-the-week message in the excerpts from 800ceoread’s book review:
“For every hundred words I write, I spend about thirty to sixty minutes of editing and rewriting.” Jeff Goins
In Jeff Goins’ book titled You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One), Goins shares his secret sauce on becoming a writer. And this message never seems to get old (for me):
- Believe: You have to believe in yourself. Say you are a writer. And get started. Do it every day. Build the discipline and mental muscle.
- Follow your Passion: Don’t pander to your audience. Find your voice. The audience will follow. “The more I love what I do, the more others do, too.”
- Writing is hard work. “It’s harder than you think.” “You better love it. (Otherwise, quit now.)”
- Build Relationships: “It’s more about who you know than what you know.” Build a community of followers (via blogging). You have more channels to do so today than at any time in history. Network. Build relationships with publishers.
Jeff Goins is an author, blogger, and speaker. In 2011, his blog, goinswriter.com, was voted as one of the “Top 10 Blogs on Writing” and his writing has been featured on some of the most popular blogs including Copyblogger, Problogger and Zen Habits.
My book summary:
From HBR Blog Network: For Those Who Want to Lead, Read. (DK: I believe all of this to be true.)
“…This is terrible for leadership, where trends are even more pronounced. Business people seem to be reading less — particularly material unrelated to business. But deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.”
“…And history is littered not only with great leaders who were avid readers and writers (remember, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in Literature, not Peace), but with business leaders who believed that deep, broad reading cultivated in them the knowledge, habits, and talents to improve their organizations.”
“…Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight…reading makes you smarter through “a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge in addition to the abstract reasoning skills.” Reading…is one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information.” [Read more...]