Truth


Source: m_d_n_f

To go back home, never more to roam, is my dearest wish of all.

Bob Simon: Is it possible to be socially acceptable to be a teetotaler on this island?

Ailsa Hayes: Yes.

Bob Simon: Are there any?

Ailsa Hayes: Yes. But– I’m not one of them.

Over the years, the island’s people have learned how to entertain themselves, often at gatherings called Ceilidhs which feature traditional dance and sad songs, mostly about leaving Islay and yearning to return.

[Man sings: “To sit with my love on the bridge above the rippling waterfall. To go back home, never more to roam, is my dearest wish of all.”]

If this looks and feels a lot like Ireland, that’s no coincidence. It’s only 25 miles away. They come from the same tribe, share the same Celtic culture and Gaelic language, not to mention a love of good whisky that gets them through stormy weather and the long winter nights.

There are no movie theaters on Islay, no dry cleaners, no supermarket, and no McDonald’s…at least in the fast food business. Jim McEwan says there is a long list of things that Islay doesn’t have…and doesn’t want.

Jim McEwan: We don’t have any crime, we don’t have mugging, carjacking, house breaking, rape, just dope, drugs, we don’t have that. You can keep that. You’re very welcome to it.

Bob Simon: How do you explain the fact that there’s no crime here? There’s crime everywhere else.

Jim McEwan: There is no crime. If you commit a crime in a small community, you’ll be ostracized and have to leave. Not only that, your family, your children and your children’s children will be remembered as the children of the man who committed the crime.

~ Bob Simon, excerpt of an interview on 60 Minutes in a segment titled Whisky Island. Simon visits Islay, a magical place in the Hebrides islands off the coast of Scotland, known for making some of the great single malt scotch whiskies in the world.  Find full report here.

Toast

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What do we need to know about a person in order to like them? Before she wrapped her leftover buttered toast inside a paper napkin, I didn’t know whether I liked her or not. Then, when she wrapped up her toast in the napkin, I suddenly loved her. Before she wrapped up her toast, she had been making an effort to show herself to be a sophisticated and an impressive young editor from a respected magazine. Then, when she did that, the performance dropped; not only was she underpaid, the gesture said, but she really liked toast. She liked toast even more than she liked being admired.

~ Sheila Heti, Motherhood: A Novel (Henry Holt and Co., May 1, 2018)


Portrait: Sheila Heti

A Few Honest Words (Please)

If you’re gonna lead my country
If your’e gonna say it’s free
I’m gonna need a little honesty

Just a few honest words
It shouldn’t be that hard
Just a few honest words is all I need

I don’t need no handshake
No firm look in the eye
Don’t tell me what you think I ought to hear…

~ Ben Sollee, from “A Few Honest Words.”

The tune was the opening track in his 2008 debut titled “Learning to Bend” which was an open letter to political leaders in the U.S. that perfectly captures what we’ve all been pleading for in a year of national turmoil: the truth. “I try to never be too specific,” Sollee says. “I’m trying to agitate the idea of what is happening. [“A Few Honest Words”] is not directed at one politician, but the culture of politics. (From Team JamBase: A Few Honest Words with Ben Sollee, November 5, 2008)

Ben Sollee, 34, is an American cellist, singer-songwriter, and composer known for his political activism. His music incorporates banjo, guitar, and mandolin along with percussion and unusual cello techniques. His songs exhibit a mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz, and R&B elements. Sollee has also composed longer instrumental pieces for dance ensembles and for film. And don’t miss the video:


Photo of the White House: by kenziemoney15

Driving I-95 N. With Raheim.

AA2263. DFW to LGA. Early Friday afternoon, start of a long weekend, Board flashes: “Delayed“.

It’s been a long week.

Sorry about the delay folks but we were late arriving in Dallas and we had a minor repair that we had to take care of. We’ll see if we can make up time.”

He’s makes up time.

The giant steel bird, a Boeing 737-800, does a slow gentle turn over Manhattan, the Empire State Building is adorned in red and green holiday ribbons, the stage lights of Time Square light up the hulking scrapers, the grid layout frames up the streets and neighborhoods.

The plane tilts its wings softly, leaning in towards the city. Here pal, get a closer look at the Big Apple. Whaddya think, cool right?  I’m a drop of water, a drop in something so vast, so incomprehensible…

The video monitor on the seat signals 10 minutes from destination. Altitude: 8,000 feet

A text messages flashes: “Sir, my name is Raheim. I’ll meet u at Upper Level. Text me.”  I text back: “Haven’t landed yet. Didn’t check luggage. Should be ~30 minutes.” Indicator flashes: “Read.”

Miracle. All of it.

[Read more…]

DK: Proust Questionnaire

  1. What is your current state of mind? Unsettled. Restless. (Permanent Status.)
  2. What is your favorite journey? To stay home.
  3. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Solitude. Followed closely by Donuts.
  4. What is your greatest fear? Mortality. 
  5. What is your most marked characteristic? Impatience. Volatility.
  6. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Introversion. Restlessness.
  7. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Cruelty. Arrogance.
  8. What is your greatest extravagance? Gadgets. (Latest edition. Don’t ask how many.)
  9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Optimism.
  10. On what occasion do you lie? It’s rare.
  11. Dislike most about your appearance? I’m at peace with it all (except morning weigh-ins)
  12. Which living person do you most despise? Despise, such a strong word. No one.
  13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Are you prepared to hear this?”
  14. What is your greatest regret? Memories of cruelty.
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? Family.
  16. When and where were you happiest? Right now.
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? Pianist like Beethoven. Writer like Steinbeck.
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Less introverted.
  19. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? Accept that the Patriarch is right.
  20. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Our two children.
  21. What is your most treasured possession? Gadgets. All of them.
  22. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? The poor, the cold and the hungry in winter. Cruelty to animals.
  23. Where would you like to live? Home. Wherever home is.
  24. What is your favorite occupation? The one I’m in. Love it or leave it.
  25. What is the quality you most like in a man? Humor and humility.
  26. What is the quality you most like in a woman? Grace and kindness.
  27. What do you most value in your friends? Truth.
  28. Who are your favorite writers? Haruki Murakami. Mary Oliver. Steinbeck. Ted Kooser.
  29. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Bugs Bunny.
  30. What is it that you most dislike? Meals without prodigious amounts of dessert.
  31. Who are your heroes in real life? No heros. I admire the gentle, the kind, the humble.
  32. How would you like to die? I wouldn’t.
  33. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? A Golden Retriever. Or Bruce Springsteen.
  34. What is your motto? Never look back.

The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.  (Source: Vanity Fair)

 

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I think much of decency. How to pass a plate. Not to shout from one room to another. Not to open a closed door without knocking. Let a lady pass. The aim of these endless simple rules is to make life better. I pay close attention to my manners. Etiquette matters. It’s a simple and comprehensible language of mutual respect.

~ Jack Nicholson


Notes:

 

 

Riding down TX-114 E. With Ron.

The alarm rings. For this self-rising yeast, it’s a rare morning when I need an alarm.

I roll over to glance at the clock: 3:10 am. I would have slept through it. Body resists all movement. I gotta get up.

3:58 am. I-95 S. Truckers, drunks (hope not), others heading to LGA and JFK, and me.

4:45 am. Security check-in line snakes down the corridor and around the corner. At least 100 deep. WTH? Does anyone know what time it is? I look down the hall and the TSA line is empty. The good joo joo train is rolling. I wait for TSA man to wave me through the x-ray frame. No pat down required. (No hands riding too close to the crotchal area.) No random bag check. The sun keeps shining.

5:33 am. Boarding.

6:00 am. Jet doors hiss and close. I’m seated in an aisle seat (preferred). There’s no one next to me. It’s an Exit row. How do you spell Nirvana?

6:45 am. 32,000 feet. Kitty corner right, one row up. Mother. Late 20’s. Holding infant, maybe 2 months old. A beautiful baby boy. His head is nestled in his Momma’s nape. He lifts his head, wobbly, and he stares at me with his big brown eyes. Miracle. All of it. My hands tire after holding my e-reader for 20 minutes.  She holds him for the entire 3 hour and 20 minute flight, with the exception of 2 bathroom breaks. Rocking him. Cradling him. Feeding him. Mothers, Wow. 

8:55 am CST. On time landing. My checked bag is at baggage claim spinning on the carousel. Should I buy a Lotto ticket, Now?

8:56 am. Smartphone buzzes. Text message. “Sir, it is Ron Smith, your driver. I’m waiting at Gate C21.” How did we survive before text messaging?

9:00 am. “Good morning Sir. Let me grab your bag.” Ron is in his late 60’s. Chauffeur hat. “Let me get the door for you Sir.” Hat. Door. Sir. Uneasiness drifts in.

[Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

At fifty-four, I’m now roughly the same age Dante was when he was putting the finishing touches on The Divine Comedy. I’m the same age as von Aschenbach in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. (I realized only recently that the character in this novella who was pining for a youth and his own lost youth was squarely in middle age; not having read the opening very carefully, I had always assumed that the “old” man who allowed the hotel barber to dye his hair jet black and garishly paint his face was in his seventies at the very least.) Fifty-plus is a good age for big questions. Unless I’m that rare soul who makes it past one hundred, I probably have less time ahead of me than I’ve already lived. Now that my brother, sister, and I are all over fifty, my brother, using a golf analogy, refers to our lives as being played on the back nine—the first nine holes are behind us. Whatever score we’ve accumulated, we carry with us. Suddenly, finishing honorably and staying out of the sand traps and water hazards matters more than seeing our names on the leaderboard. On the other hand, I think any age is a good age for big questions. I asked some of my biggest and best when I was in high school and college—fittingly, as that’s what school is for. I asked other big questions at painful times in my life—no age is immune from misfortune or feels it less keenly. And I hope and expect to be asking big questions right up to the end.

~ Will Schwalbe, Books for a Living


Notes:

meaning is found not in success and glamour but in the mundane

From “You’ll Never Be Famous — And That’s O.K.” by Emily Esfahani Smith:

There’s perhaps no better expression of that wisdom than George Eliot’s “Middlemarch”…At 700-some pages, it requires devotion and discipline, which is kind of the point. Much like a meaningful life, the completion of this book is hard won and requires effort. […]

As for Dorothea..she marries her true love…But her larger ambitions go unrealized. At first it seems that she, too, has wasted her potential. Tertius’s tragedy is that he never reconciles himself to his humdrum reality. Dorothea’s triumph is that she does.

By novel’s end, she settles into life as a wife and a mother, and becomes, Eliot writes, the “foundress of nothing.” It may be a letdown for the reader, but not for Dorothea. She pours herself into her roles as mother and wife with “beneficent activity which she had not the doubtful pains of discovering and marking out for herself.”

Looking out her window one day, she sees a family making its way down the road and realizes that she, too, is “a part of that involuntary, palpitating life, and could neither look out on it from her luxurious shelter as a mere spectator, nor hide her eyes in selfish complaining.” In other words, she begins to live in the moment. Rather than succumb to the despair of thwarted dreams, she embraces her life as it is and contributes to those around her as she can.

This is Eliot’s final word on Dorothea: “Her full nature, like that river which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

It’s one of the most beautiful passages in literature, and it encapsulates what a meaningful life is about: connecting and contributing to something beyond the self, in whatever humble form that may take.

Most young adults won’t achieve the idealistic goals they’ve set for themselves. They won’t become the next Mark Zuckerberg. They won’t have obituaries that run in newspapers like this one. But that doesn’t mean their lives will lack significance and worth. We all have a circle of people whose lives we can touch and improve — and we can find our meaning in that. [Read more…]

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