Truth

Have you ever held a three year old by the hand on the way home from preschool?…

You’re never more important than you are then.

— Fredrik Backman, “Anxious People: A Novel” (Atria Books, September 8, 2020)


Eric Kanigan @ 4 years old. He used to clutch on to his Momma’s hand, tears welling up, before he released her on his way into pre-school. 26 years old now. Still clutching on to his Momma. 🙂

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I was like an unfocused college student. I would read and watch all sorts of things, as long as they had already received high acclaim. I was studying great people and great works, but I wasn’t really making my own choices; I was just consuming information haphazardly. All that, I think, has started to change. Having minimized my material possessions, I’ve also started to minimize the information I take in. I no longer follow useless news, gossip, or random stand-up comedy. I don’t try to fill my conversations with things that other people have made or done. Instead of focusing on the voices of others, I focus on and believe in the voice that’s coming from me. What I often feel now is that I’m “returning” to myself. I used to feel that so many great things had already been produced in the world that there was nothing I could add. I was so worried about what other people would think that I developed an oversized fear of making mistakes. If I came up with a great idea, I’d reject it because it came from me. This is what I imagine. There used to be another “me” who lived inside me. He had the same size, shape, and form as my usual “self.” But the more concerned I became about the outside world, the smaller the inside me got. He was so battered that he could barely get back on his feet. But I now feel as though that little old me has finally gotten up. Minimalism has given me the focus to revive my inner me.

Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism


Portrait of Fumio Sasaki by Irwin Wong for The Sunday Times. “If you like it, chuck it: secrets of Japan’s most radical minimalist.”

Sunday Morning

The natural world is not, to me, a fabric of stuff that gleams with revelation of a singular creator god. Those moments in nature that provoke in me a sense of the divine are those in which my attention has unaccountably snagged on something small and transitory – the pattern of hailstones by my feet upon dark earth; a certain cast of light across a hillside through a break in the clouds; the face of a long-eared owl peering out at me from a hawthorn bush – things whose fugitive instances give me an overwhelming sense of how unlikely it is that in the days of my brief life I should be in the right place at the right time and possess sufficient quality of attention to see them at all. When they occur, and they do not occur often, these moments open up a giddying glimpse into the inhuman systems of the world that operate on scales too small and too large and too complex for us to apprehend.

—  Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020)


Photo: Mand. “We had hail one day and I noticed that one hail stone managed to get trapped on a single web strand.”

If I have me, what else do I need?

One thing people would be surprised to know about you?

That often times I just sit in silence. Sometimes I don’t like to talk. Sometimes I have nothing to say.

What’s the one thing you hope to see change in the world?

For people to stop seeing society as a zero-sum game. We’ve convinced ourselves that in order for one person to win, another has to lose.

What’s the one thing you would grab from your house (after family members and pets) if it caught fire?

I don’t have children. So it would be weird for me to be grabbing children in a fire. Where did they come from? My photos are in the cloud. I wonder if I’d grab anything. To be honest, I don’t think I would. I mean, if I have me, what else do I need?

—  Trevor Noah, from The One Joke That Always Works, According to Trevor Noah (WSJ Magazine, September, 19, 2020.

All My Friends

This book is dedicated to the voices in my head, the most remarkable of my friends.

And to my wife, who lives with us.

Fredrik Backman, the opening dedication to his new book titled “Anxious People: A Novel” (Atria Books, September 8, 2020)


Notes:

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

Evolution


Cover of The New Yorker Sept 21, 2020 issue by Artist Chris Ware: “I live in the quiet, relatively diverse, and leafy “village” of Oak Park, literally across the street from Chicago, and all summer long I’ve seen neighborhood almost-but-not-quite get-togethers, not unlike what I drew here…I think vastly more people still try to get along in America than not. Our cities aren’t exclusively anarchic blast zones, and the suburbs aren’t all xenophobic cloisters. Yet, now, the weather is cooling, and we’re all heading back inside to await the results of what will surely be the most contested election of our lifetimes. The real fear is what may result: not a democracy or a republic but something that somehow stifles both.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It was over, he said. It was too late, we had dithered too long. Our society had already become too fragmented and dysfunctional for us to fix, in time, the calamitous mistakes we had made. And, in any case, people’s attention remained elusive. Neither season after season of extreme weather events nor the risk of extinction for a million animal species around the world could push environmental destruction to the top of our country’s list of concerns. And how sad, he said, to see so many among the most creative and best-educated classes, those from whom we might have hoped for inventive solutions, instead embracing personal therapies and pseudo-religious practices that promoted detachment, a focus on the moment, acceptance of one’s surroundings as they were, equanimity in the face of worldly cares. (This world is but a shadow, it is a carcass, it is nothing, this world is not real, do not mistake this hallucination for the real world.) Self-care, relieving one’s own everyday anxieties, avoiding stress: these had become some of our society’s highest goals, he said—higher, apparently, than the salvation of society itself. The mindfulness rage was just another distraction, he said. Of course we should be stressed, he said. We should be utterly consumed with dread. Mindful meditation might help a person face drowning with equanimity, but it would do absolutely nothing to right the Titanic, he said. It wasn’t individual efforts to achieve inner peace, it wasn’t a compassionate attitude toward others that might have led to timely preventative action, but rather a collective, fanatical, over-the-top obsession with impending doom. It was useless, the man said, to deny that suffering of immense magnitude lay ahead, or that there’d be any escaping it. How, then, should we live?

Sigrid Nunez, What Are You Going Through: A Novel (Riverhead Books, September 8, 2020)


Notes:

Sunday Morning

I never cared much for swans until the day a swan told me I was wrong. It was a cloudy winter morning and I was suffering from a recently broken heart. I sat myself down on a concrete step by Jesus Lock and was staring at the river, feeling the world was just as cold and grey, when a female mute swan hoist herself out from the water and stumped towards me on leathery, in-turned webbed feet and sturdy black legs. I assumed she wanted food. Swans can break an arm with one blow of their wing, I remembered, one of those warnings from childhood that get annealed into adult fight-or-flight responses. Part of me wanted to get up and move further away, but most of me was just too tired. I watched her, her snaky neck, black eye, her blank hauteur. I expected her to stop, but she did not. She walked right up to where I sat on the step, her head towering over mine. Then she turned around to face the river, shifted left, and plonked herself down, her body parallel with my own, so close her wing-feathers were pressed against my thighs. Let no one ever speak of swans as being airy, insubstantial things. I was sitting with something the size of a large dog. And now I was too astonished to be nervous. I didn’t know what to do: I grasped, bewildered, for the correct interspecies social etiquette. She looked at me incuriously, then tucked her head sideways and backwards into her raised coverts, neck curved, and fell fast asleep. We sat there together for ten minutes, until a family came past and a toddler made a beeline for her. She slipped back into the water and ploughed upstream. As I watched her leave something shifted inside me and I began to weep with an emotion I recognised as gratitude. That day was when swans turned into real creatures for me, and it has spurred me since to seek out others.

—  Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020)


Photo: DK’s Swan. Sept 11, 2020. 6:15 am. The Cove, Stamford, CT

Breakfast

Breakfast. Bird catches Fish. Crab holding on to the fish tail. Double Jeopardy! September 12, 2020. 5:35 & 5:45 am. 60° F. Winds: Gusty. The Cove, Stamford, CT

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