Lightly child, lightly.

‘What did you mean by saying that you were psychic?’

‘What did you think I meant?’

‘Spiritualism?’ ‘Infantilism.’ ‘That’s what I think.’

‘Of course.’

I could just make out his face in the light from the doorway. He could see more of mine, because I had swung round during that last exchange. ‘You haven’t really answered my question.’

‘Your first reaction is the characteristic one of your contrasuggestible century: to disbelieve, to disprove. I see this very clearly underneath your politeness. You are like a porcupine. When that animal has its spines erect, it cannot eat. If you do not eat, you will starve. And your prickles will die with the rest of your body.’

~ John Fowles, The Magus


Notes:

  • Photo: A porcupine curls up in a garden outside of Moscow on Wednesday. (Yuri Kadobnov, Agence France, September 21, 2017)
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Series Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
  • Today, this post was inspired by LouAnn: What About Us?

(My) Ordinary Life is Good

…Mr. Landau dismantles common myths and offers strategies to help people find greater purpose in their own lives. Systematically, he refutes the usual arguments as to why life is pointless: Since the universe is so vast and we’re so tiny, nothing that we do matters … no one will remember us; everything we do and treasure will one day perish from the earth. None of these deters Mr. Landau from his rational, philosophical argument for why each individual’s life is meaningful…

Mr. Landau notes that all such concerns are animated by the same mistaken belief: that a valuable life must necessarily be a perfect one. “According to this presupposition,” he writes, “meaningful lives must include some perfection or excellence or some rare and difficult achievements.” Those who despair of life’s meaning can’t see the value in the ordinary; only lives of greatness such as Michelangelo’s or Lincoln’s can be worthwhile.

As Mr. Landau observes, such perfectionism sets a standard for meaningfulness that is nearly impossible to attain. He mentions a talented biologist he knows who considers her life wasted because she didn’t reach the very top of her field. Perfectionism’s other, more odious, problem is its elitism: It assumes that some lives have more worth than others. Though clearly wrong, a version of this idea is deeply embedded in our secular culture. A meaningful life, we’re constantly told, lies in worldly success: going to certain colleges, landing certain jobs and living in certain communities. Mr. Landau doesn’t spell it out, but he seems to understand where this flawed assumption leads. Does the life of a child with Down syndrome have less value than the life of a healthy child? Is a retail clerk leading a less meaningful life than, say, Elon Musk? A perfectionist would have to say yes and yes. But Mr. Landau wisely points out that it’s cruel and misguided to hold ourselves or others to this standard for meaning, because it neglects each life’s inherent worth. […]

In “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World,” Mr. Landau presents a much-needed lesson in humanity and compassion. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to achieve your lofty goals, he urges; instead, celebrate the value of an ordinary life well lived. In the same way you don’t have to become a monk or nun to be a good Christian, you don’t have to be a Shakespeare or Rockefeller to lead a good life. Holding your child’s hand, volunteering in your community, doing your job, appreciating the beauty around you—these are the wellsprings of meaning all of us can tap.

~ Emily Esfahani Smith, in her book review titled “Review: Redefining a Well-Lived Life” of “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World” by Iddo Landau (August 1, 2017)


Photo: Hard Rock Hotel in Pattaya, Thailand via Eclecticitylight. Thank you Doug.

 

Sunday Morning

 

Thank you, Creator, that you created pigs and elephants with long snouts, that you shredded leaves and hearts, that you gave beets their sweetness. Thank you for nightingales and bedbugs. That girls have breasts, that fish breathe air, that we have lightning and cherries. That you commanded us to multiply in most eccentric ways, that you gave thought to stones, seas, and people.

~ Anna Kamienska, from A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook


Photo: © Patrick Gonzalès )via Newthom)

Year 7.

2204 days.

Back to back to back, the chain unbroken.

WordPress sends its anniversary wishes.  Joined October, 2011.  Year 7…and counting.

And I’m…

Grateful for you.


Notes:

 

It’s been a long day

Or was Mill concerned that, in a perfect world, with nothing more to strive for, we might simply grow bored? As the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once upliftingly put it, “life swings back and forth like a pendulum between pain and boredom.” When we are not consumed by the desire to achieve something (food, shelter, companionship, wealth, career, status, social reform, etc.), we are tortured by boredom…

The answer, he discovered through reading Wordsworth, is to take refuge in a capacity to be moved by beauty — a capacity to take joy in the quiet contemplation of delicate thoughts, sights, sounds, and feelings, not just titanic struggles…

I hope, and suspect, that Mill is right about this: that we all have the ability to find some durable joy in quietude, normalcy and contemplation. In our personal lives, and in our political lives too, it would be nice if we could escape Schopenhauer’s pendulum:

to simply enjoy where we are, at times; to find some peace in the cessation of motion…

~ Adam Etinson, from Is a Life Without Struggle Worth Living? (NY Times, October 2, 2017)


Notes: Photo: via bea’titudeRelated Posts: It’s been a long day

 

That is the price of proximity: you don’t see it. Don’t know that it’s there. Then it is over.

The leaves of the chestnut tree have begun to fall onto the flagstone path in the garden, which is visible only here and there. The willow too has lost its leaves and needs pruning, it grows monstrously fast. The apple tree’s foliage has also thinned out, but from its boughs there are apples hanging, resembling little red lanterns amid all the naked branches. I ate one today, they are large, more red than green, and juicy, perhaps a little too sour, maybe they ought to be left for another week. I walked across the grass, long, soft and green, with the tart taste in my mouth, and thought about taste, the tastes of the various apple varieties, how old these tastes might be. When were they first crossbred? During the nineteenth century? The twentieth? Some tastes found in the world today are identical to tastes that existed two thousand years ago. The slightly unusual aroma, the out-of-the-ordinariness one can encounter in an apple from a private garden give me pleasure. I often think of my grandmother then, my father’s mother, the apples from their garden which we got every autumn, sometimes a whole crate, which lay in our cellar for weeks. Yes, and the smell in their cellar, of apples and plums. … It feels like I have started something new, something quite different, and that is this family. I think of it every day, that what matters is now, that the years we are living through now are when everything important happens. My previous life seems more and more distant. I am no longer preoccupied with my own childhood. Not interested in my student years, my twenties. All that seems far, far away. And I can imagine how it will be when what is happening now is over, when the children have moved out, the thought that these were the important years, this is when I was alive. Why didn’t I appreciate it while I had it? Because then, I sometimes think, I hadn’t had it yet. Only what slips through one’s fingers, only what is never expressed in words, has no thoughts, exists completely. That is the price of proximity: you don’t see it. Don’t know that it’s there. Then it is over, then you see it.

The yellow-red leaves lying wet and smooth on the flagstones between the houses. How the stone darkens when it rains, lightens as it dries.

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, from “Autumn Leaves” in “Autumn


Photo: Apple Black and White by The-Definition via DeviatArt (via Newthom)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

This day, then, ends in rain
but almost everyone will live through it.
Tomorrow’s thousands losing their loved ones
have not yet stepped into never being the same again.
Maybe the sun’s first light will hit me
in those moments, but I’d gladly wake to feel it:
the dramatic opening of a day,
clean blood pumping from the heart.

Michael Ryan, from Poem at Thirty in New and Selected Poems


Notes: Poem: Thank you Whiskey River.  Photo: Kelly Winton Photography for a book cover for “Pages For Her” by Sylvia Brownrigg (via mennyfox55)

of the things you have to do today…

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is that also needs accomplishing…

~ Tony Hoagland, from “The Word” in Sweet Ruin.


Poem Source: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: (via Newthom)

Let’s Go

…“Let’s go” is on the minds of many people in these last days of summer, especially the getting-out-of-here, going-away, going-home mood of Labor Day weekend. And it is much simpler by car…The long improvisational trip by car is quintessentially American, just as the road book is a peculiarly American form. […]

Yet it is perhaps truer today to say that the road trip has kept alive the romance of travel. Consider the misery of air travel, in what constitutes an average journey by plane. Much has been written about the stress, intimidation, limited space, germ-laden air and the intrusion of other people—the oaf in the seat in front of you who lowers his chair back into your lap, the child behind kicking your spine, the agony of the middle seat. Then there is the sludge that passes for in-flight meals, or the option to pay $7 for a “meal box” of chips, pretzels, cookies, candy, three crackers and a rectangle of industrial cheese that resembles a yellow piece of Lego but isn’t as tasty, and it’s five hours to LAX. After Sept. 11, 2001, casually showing up at the airport—often at the last minute, in my case—and easy boarding became distant memories, and since then air travel has degenerated further, so that the simplest flight is a secular version of hell. […]

This is why—for reasons of dignity and personal freedom—more and more Americans are rethinking the air journey and seeking the pleasures of the open road. […]

Not much on Earth can beat the American road trip in travel for a sense of freedom—no pat-down, no passport, no airport muddle, just revving an engine and leaving at will. Though the driverless cars that await us might have their uses in dense city traffic or on tedious L.A. freeways, they will certainly diminish the exuberance of a driver gripping the wheel, flooring it and rejoicing, “Eat my dust.”[…]

The American road trip rekindled my interest in travel and, most of all, reminded me how lucky we are in our country’s spaciousness and modernity. […]

So over the course of 2012-14, in four seasons, I drove tens of thousands of miles, meandering through the back roads of the deep South, listening to the blues on the radio, visiting churches and gun shows and family farms, and writing down people’s stories—of hardship and striving, raising families, struggling in adversity and remembering the past. […]

Nowhere else in the world (though Canada is a contender) is it possible to drive 3,000 miles—the distance from Boston to Los Angeles—and be certain that you will encounter no roadblocks or obstructions; that you will always find a place to stay and somewhere to eat. […]

Though I’ve been driving in the U.S. since I got my license 60 years ago, there is an immense amount of landscape I have yet to see. Driving through the deep South was a wish fulfilled, and so was my trip along the entire 1,900 miles of the Mexican border.

But I still have plans. My Road Trip Wish List includes: driving from Cape Cod to Seattle with many detours. Heading north from Cape Cod and keeping on, past the villages of my ancestors, until I run out of road around Lac Albanel in northern Quebec. Or heading south, as I mean to do soon, crossing La Frontera and taking an extended road trip in Mexico. […]

What made the experience a continuing pleasure was that, in my car, I never knew the finality of a flight, or the ordeal of being wrangled and ordered about at an airport, the stomach-turning gulp of liftoff or the jolt of a train, but only the hum of tires, of telephone poles or trees whipping past, the easy escape, the gradual release of the long road unrolling like a river through America. It is in many respects a Zen experience, scattered with road candy, unavailable to motorists in any other country on Earth.

~ Paul Theroux, excerpts from The Romance of the American Road Trip (WSJ, September 1, 2017). No other travel experience, especially today, can beat the sense of freedom it brings


Photo: Guy Le Querrec (via Mennyfox55)

Sunday Morning

L7matrix

It’s enough just to listen to music, to keep asking questions for which there are no answers, to remember paintings seen in a museum, to note the earth’s quiet at dusk, birds’ voices in May, to shiver at the thought that they’re alive, that the gleam of each new dawn is an endless promise.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay (April 4, 2017)


Notes:

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