Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: A Passion for Work



In books: truth, and daring, passion of all sorts. Clear and sweet and savory emotion did not run in a rippling stream in my personal world— more pity to it! But in stories and poems I found passion unfettered, and healthy. Not that such feelings were always or even commonly found in their clearest, most delectable states in all the books I read. Not at all! I saw what skill was needed, and persistence— how one must bend one’s spine, like a hoop, over the page— the long labor. I saw the difference between doing nothing, or doing a little, and the redemptive act of true effort. Reading, then writing, then desiring to write well, shaped in me that most joyful of circumstances— a passion for work.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Staying Alive” in Upstream, Selected Essays


Imagine an infant lying in its cradle, discovering its voice, purring and murmuring MMM to itself


Bernstein reminded me that the word “education” is related to the Latin educere—“ to bring forth what is within”— and then added: “Though I can’t prove it, deep in my heart I know that every person is born with the love of learning. Without exception. Every infant studies its toes and fingers, and a child’s discovery of his or her voice must be one of the most extraordinary of life’s moments. I’ve suggested that there must be proto-syllables existing at the beginnings of all languages— like ma (or some variant of it), which, in almost every tongue, means mother— mater, madre, mère, mutter, mat, Ima, shi-ma, mama. Imagine an infant lying in its cradle, discovering its voice, purring and murmuring MMM to itself… […]

Whether teaching children or adults, Bernstein understood that loving and learning are inextricably linked, that real knowledge is a concomitant of the desire to know, and that music itself— a meeting of living creator and creative listener— is one of the most efficacious vehicles for teaching. As a conductor, Bernstein experienced the relationship between himself and his orchestra as that of a lover and his beloved. As he remarked at the conclusion of his 1955 Omnibus television broadcast “The Art of Conducting”:

“The conductor must not only make his orchestra play; he must make them want to play…. It is not so much imposing his will on them like a dictator; it is more like projecting his feelings around him so that they reach the last man in the second violin section. And when this happens— when one hundred men share his feelings, exactly, simultaneously, responding as one to each rise and fall of the music, to each point of arrival and departure, to each little inner pulse— then there is a human identity of feeling that has no equal elsewhere. It is the closest thing I know to love itself.”

~ Jonathan Cott, Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein

Notes: Original Source – Brainpickings

We want to be called to our best selves. We long to figure out what that would look like.


I’ve traveled a long way since my early life in Oklahoma— far enough to know that I might be accused of taking this virtue of hope too far. So be it. My mind inclines now, more than ever, towards hope. I’m consciously shedding the assumption that a skeptical point of view is the most intellectually credible. Intellect does not function in opposition to mystery; tolerance is not more pragmatic than love; and cynicism is not more reasonable than hope. Unlike almost every worthwhile thing in life, cynicism is easy. It’s never proven wrong by the corruption or the catastrophe. It’s not generative. It judges things as they are, but does not lift a finger to try to shift them. I experience the soul of this moment— in people young and old— to be aspirational. This is something distinct from ambitious, though the two may overlap. I’d say it this way: we want to be called to our best selves. We long to figure out what that would look like. And we are figuring out that we need each other to do so. This listening for the calling, and the shining, fragile figuring out, are tucked inside the musings I hear from young people as much about how they want to be and who they want to be as about what they want to be.

~ Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

Permitting shame, error and guilt…


Brian Blanchfield, 43, was born in Winston-Salem, NC and now resides in Tucson, AZ where he teaches at the University of Arizona. He is an award winning poet and recently published his second book of essays.  The essays from his new book “Proxies: Essays Near Knowing were written from memory, no referring to the internet or other “authoritative” sources. To give you a taste of his talent and his authenticity, here’s an excerpt from his opening “Note”. I shake my head in awe…

At the end of this book there is a rolling endnote called “Correction.” It sets right much— almost certainly not all— of what between here and there I get wrong. It runs to twenty-one pages. It may still be running. Susceptibility to error is a hazard inherent to Proxies. From the beginning…I decided on a total suppression of recourse to other authoritative sources. I wrote these essays with the internet off. I determined not to review again the books and other works I consulted in memory, and I did not stop thinking through the subject at hand to verify assertions or ground speculation or firm up approximations. Que sais-je?, Montaigne asked his library shelves one day late in the sixteenth century, and increasingly that seems a good start. Having determined that this would be unresearched essaying, analytic but nonacademic, I was almost immediately drawn to a second constraint— or, better, invitation: to stay with the subject until it gives onto an area of personal uneasiness, a site of vulnerability, and keep unpacking from there. The formula I found for titling the individual essays was generated very early on, to operate this request of self. Clumsy as it may be, I claim as part of a personal sortilege a devotion to the words I had bannered across the top of each new developing piece, an invocation of sorts, a ritual.

Permitting shame, error and guilt…

~ Brian Blanchfield, excerpt from his opening “Note” from Proxies, Essays Near Knowing (June, 2016)

Note: Find “Proxies” Book Reviews here – Goodreads.  Portrait from Poetry Foundation.

The Blogging Team: You, me, us…


Blogging is not only a new technology of writing; it’s also a new way of reading. In Christian antiquity, reading was a social activity, not a wholly private one. The earliest recorded incident of silent reading is found in Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine relates with astonishment Ambrose’s habit of reading in silence, a practice he had never seen before: “When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still.”…

In the world of Web 2.0, the ideal of the solitary reader is waning fast. Blogging is a kind of reading-together. It is the formation of a new kind of community of reading. No longer is reading an activity reserved for the private study, that carefully crafted space where thought is cultivated under conditions of silence, leisure, economic privilege. To read a blog is to participate in a collective reading process: on any given day, we all read the same post, the same thread of comments and responses. Such reading is far removed from solitude: the reading is understood primarily as a stimulus to conversation, criticism, discussion. Here, reading is not so much an end in itself as the means to a particular form of community. The very act of reading thus becomes a collective project…

~ Ben Myers, Blogging as a Technology of the Self



Monday Morning Wake-Up Call


Too often, convinced of our own intelligence, we stay in a comfort zone that ensures that we never feel stupid (and are never challenged to learn or reconsider what we know). It obscures from view various weaknesses in our understanding, until eventually it’s too late to change course. This is where the silent toll is taken.

Each of us faces a threat as we pursue our craft. Like sirens on the rocks, ego sings a soothing, validating song— which can lead to a wreck. The second we let the ego tell us we have graduated, learning grinds to a halt. That’s why Frank Shamrock said, “Always stay a student.” As in, it never ends.

~ Ryan Holiday, excerpt from his new book “Ego is the Enemy” published June, 2016.




Blogger’s Creed


I’ve never met Patricia Salamone and not sure how she found me.  She left a comment on a post and it stuck.

“I married, raised 3 children, worked for many years and wrote in my spare time. Don’t ask me how I ever had spare time but it was mostly in the wee hours of the morning. I sent a few stories to magazines but they always got rejected. I continued to write but never sent anything in again. I wrote because I loved it. Then I retired, my children all finished University, got married and started families. I had plenty of time on my hands and a computer so I wrote, and I still write.

Although my writing is raw and I have not been schooled in writing, I did have a book published: The Italian Thing. It was not edited and it was my first try. It is a humorous memoir about a trip to Naro, Sicily and meeting our family members that live there, for the first time. We have many adventures and misadventures but in the end we had a marvelous and unforgettable trip.

…I write because I love it, and that’s good enough for me. I will probably will never make much money at it, but a few things were published and my words are out there forever even when I’m gone. I’m happy.  :o)”

Thank you Patricia. For the inspiration.

Patricia’s a WordPress blogger at this handle: The Writers Desk.

Saturday, June 18th. I want –


“…June 18th. I want –

Time, leisure to draw and study a few things closely by feeling, not thinking – to get at things.

I want laughter, its satisfaction and balance and wide security.

I want a chance to play, to do things I choose just for the joy of doing, for no purpose of advancement.

To understand patiently the laws of growing things. I feel there is no time for these because I am driven by the crowd, filling my days with earning money, and keeping up with friends – like a ping-pong ball.”

~ Marion Milner, A Life of One’s Own (Originally published in 1934)


like a spreading of invisible sentient feelers


Although I knew what to do I hardly ever remembered to do it, like the heroes in fairy tales who used to exasperate me by forgetting to use the charm they had been expressly given. But when I did remember to do it, I was reminded of that little one-celled animal which can spread part of its own essence to flow round and envelop within itself whatever it wants for food. This spreading of some vital essence of myself was a new gesture, more diffuse than the placing of awareness beyond myself which I had tried with music; it was more like a spreading of invisible sentient feelers, as a sea anemone spreads wide its feathery fingers. Also I saw now that my usual attitude to the world was a contracted one, like the sea anemone when disturbed by a rough touch, like an amoeba shut within protective walls of its own making. I was yet to learn that state of confidence in which my feelers would always be spread whenever I wanted to perceive.

~ Marion Milner, A Life of One’s Own (Routledge, May 2011. Originally published in 1934)


Sunday Morning


Feb. 23rd. One day I’ll make a list of points of conflict with the herd. One is – ‘They’ assume that what happens is what matters, where you go, what you do, things that happen, the good time that you have. But often I believe it’s none of these things, it’s the times between, the long days when nothing happens, the odd moments, perhaps when you open a letter, or sit alone in a restaurant, or exchange the time of day with a stranger…. Actually this was not the first time I had had an idea of this sort for on January 6th I had put: Possibly the thing that matters, that you are looking for, is like the roots of plants, hidden and happening in the gaps of your knowledge.

~ Marion Milner, A Life of One’s Own (Originally published in 1934)

Notes: Photograph by masLucena

%d bloggers like this: