Sunday Morning

Let’s ease in softly on a pretty day. Spring came to New York this week after a month of gloomy cold and drizzle. The sun was out. Monday afternoon just before dusk there was a bird outside my window, all by itself and singing so loudly—byeet-byeet-chur-chur-chur. Over and over as if it had just discovered its voice. I was emailing with a friend, your basic hard-bitten journalist, and told him what I was hearing—it sounded like the beginning of the world. He wrote back not with irony but with the information that a band of baby rabbits had just taken over his garden and were out there hopping and bopping: “They are so excited to be on earth.” This struck me as the most important news of the day.

~ Peggy Noonan, What Does This Moment Demand of Us? (wsj.com, April 26, 2018)


Photo: Vivienne Gucwa with New York City in Spring

Are you religious?

Easter, Passover, spring break, holiday weekend. Let us unfurrow the brow and look at something elevated. It’s a small thing, a half-hour television interview from 60 years ago, but it struck me this week as a kind of master class in how to be a public figure and how to talk about what matters…

Is he religious? Here Hammerstein told a story. A year ago he was rushing to work and jaywalked. A policeman called out; Hammerstein braced for a dressing down. But the officer recognized him and poured out his appreciation for his work. Hammerstein thanked him and moved to leave, but the policeman had a question. “He said, ‘Are you religious?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t belong to any church,’ and then he patted me on the back and he said, ‘Ah, you’re religious all right.’ And I went on feeling as if I’d been caught, and feeling that I was religious. He had discovered from the words of my songs that I had faith—faith in mankind, faith that there was something more powerful than mankind behind it all, and faith that in the long run good triumphs over evil. If that’s religion, I’m religious, and it is my definition of religion.”

~ Peggy Noonan, excerpts from The Wisdom of Oscar Hammerstein II (wsj.com, March 29, 2018)

It was so beautiful

Excerpts from For a Day, Our Political Troubles Were Eclipsed by Peggy Noonan:

“It was beautiful: Up and down Madison Avenue, people stood together and looked upward.

…It was so beautiful.

Up and down the street, all through the eclipse, people spontaneously came together—shop workers and neighborhood mothers, kids and bank employees, shoppers and tourists. They’d gather in groups and look up together. Usually one or two people would have the special glasses, and they’d be passed around. Everyone would put them on and look up and say “Wow!” or “Incredible!” then laugh and hand the glasses on…

There was a tattooed man in a heavy metal band T-shirt, with his teenage son. “You want?” the man said. He was lending his glasses to everyone who came by. “Are you doing this just to be nice?” I asked. “Yeah,” he said. “We got them free.” Something nice had happened to him so he was spreading it around. […]

So that’s what I saw, uptown to midtown—sharing and wonder and friendliness, along with a continual refrain: Here, take my glasses. Do you see?

There was something about it that left me by the end quite moved. Witnessing spontaneous human graciousness and joy is stirring. And we were seeing something majestic, an assertion of nature and nature’s God, together. It was tenderly communal. [Read more…]

This is not a failure of policy but a failure of love.

Peggy Noonan, excerpts from wsj.com: What’s Become of the American Dream? Part of the problem is definitional. It isn’t just about houses, cars and material prosperity:

I want to think aloud about the American dream. People have been saying for a while that it’s dead. It’s not, but it needs strengthening.[…]

The American dream was about aspiration and the possibility that, with dedication and focus, it could be fulfilled. But the American dream was not about material things—houses, cars, a guarantee of future increase. That’s the construction we put on it now. It’s wrong. A big house could be the product of the dream, if that’s what you wanted, but the house itself was not the dream. You could, acting on your vision of the dream, read, learn, hold a modest job and rent a home, but at town council meetings you could stand, lead with wisdom and knowledge, and become a figure of local respect. Maybe the respect was your dream…

How did we get the definition mixed up?

I think part of the answer is: Grandpa. He’d sit on the front stoop in Levittown in the 1950s. A sunny day, the kids are tripping by, there’s a tree in the yard and bikes on the street and a car in the front. He was born in Sicily or Donegal or Dubrovnik, he came here with one change of clothes tied in a cloth and slung on his back, he didn’t even speak English, and now look—his grandkids with the bikes. “This is the American dream,” he says. And the kids, listening, looked around, saw the houses and the car, and thought: He means the American dream is things…But that of course is not what Grandpa meant. He meant: I started with nothing and this place let me and mine rise. The American dream was not only about materialism, but material things could be, and often were, its fruits.[…] [Read more…]

In Celebration of Modest Christmases Past

christmas-holiday-lights

A long time ago in a country far, far away, America had less of everything and holidays were easier and more modest.

Only 50 and 60 years ago, well within human memory, Christmas was a plainer, simpler affair. Everyone—even the rich, but certainly the poor and in-between—had less. Because America had less. You’d get a sweater and socks instead of five toys, or five toys instead of 10. Technology was something that existed at places like NASA. No one’s wish list had a hoverboard, an iPad, or a brightly wrapped drone. There were more big families, whose children understood that even Santa couldn’t cover them all.

You could make gifts. Or you could buy one after saving up, and the recipient could guess the sacrifice involved. And because there were fewer gifts, the one you got made a big impression.

And so a nod to the more modest Christmases of years past. These memories came with a declared or implied, “We didn’t have much, but . . .” And this was said not with resentment or self pity but a kind of pride and wistfulness. […] [Read more…]

Did you feel this too?

paris-terrorist-flag-blood

After great pain, a formal feeling comes—

The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs—

In the days after Paris, Emily Dickinson’s poem kept ringing through my mind as I tried to figure out what I felt—and, surprisingly, didn’t feel. I did not, as the facts emerged and the story took its full size, feel surprised. Nor did I feel swept by emotion, as I had in the past. The sentimental tweeting of that great moment in “Casablanca” when they stand to sing “La Marseillaise” left me unmoved. I didn’t feel anger, really. I felt grave, as if something huge and terrible had shifted and come closer. Did you feel this too?

[…]

I feel certain that in the days after the attack people were thinking: This isn’t going to stop.

~ Peggy Noonan, Uncertain Leadership in Perilous Times


Image: The Economist

He was in love with the world

Mike-Nichols

His closest friends this week marveled at the depth of the impression he made on all whose lives he touched. “He’d make you feel you were better than you believed—smarter, funnier, more alive…” A friend noted something else: his unbounded excitement about life, his ability to retain a freshness, an innocence. “It was always possible that this was going to be the best dumpling, the best conversation, this play was going to have a moment in it we’d never forget. . . . He was in love with the world. He was in love with Egg McMuffins ! He took such joy in what was. Maybe the Buddhists have it wrong, maybe the great livers are the ones who love things, too—that book, that painting, the McDonald’s breakfast.

A thing that distinguished Mike professionally is that he thought he had to know things. He came up in a generation that thought to know the theater you have to know the theater. They read. He read, all his life. He knew the canon—his Chekhov, Ibsen and Molière, his Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams and Tom Stoppard…

…To make great art you have to know great art. And so his learned, highly cultivated mind. He dropped out of the University of Chicago and sought to teach himself through great books and smart people. Great writers and directors have to start as great readers or it won’t work, nothing needed from the past will be brought into the future, and art will become thinner, less deep, less meaningful and so, amazingly, less fun, less moving and true.

~ Peggy Noonan, on Mike Nichols

Read entire opinion article here: The Pleasure of His Company


Mike Nichols, 83, died on November 19, 2014. He was a German-born American film and theatre director, producer, actor and comedian. He won the Academy Award for Best Director for the film The Graduate. His other films include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Catch-22Carnal KnowledgeSilkwoodWorking GirlThe BirdcageCloserCharlie Wilson’s War (his final picture), and the TV mini-series Angels in America. He also staged the original theatrical productions of The Apple TreeBarefoot in the ParkLuvThe Odd Couple and Spamalot. As well as winning an Academy Award, Nichols won a Grammy Award, four Emmy Awards and nine Tony Awards. He was one of a small group of people who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award.

Image Credit: jewishcurrents.org

4:14 am. And Inspired.

Tulips


Good Wednesday morning. Here are my selections of the inspiring posts of the week:

Anneli @ Words From Anneli kicks us off with her post La Conner Tulip Festival.  That’s her shot above.   Check out more great shots at this link.

Luggage Lady with her post titled We Can Never Go Back: “Every summer growing up, my family journeyed from Chicago suburbia to my grandparent’s farm in southern Illinois. They called us “city kids,” and we couldn’t wait to indulge in the expansive freedoms of country life…Woven into the daily demands were simple pleasures, like piling onto the front porch swing at the end of the long day. Grandparents first, followed by a layer of grandchildren, and topped off with the latest litter of purring kittens. The swing’s chains creaked in time with chirping male crickets claiming their conquests. An occasional freight train rumbled down nearby tracks as we kids marveled at stars not visible back home. Sometimes, a puff of cool air bored through the wall of humidity, teasing us with anticipation of a brewing storm…

Kurt @ Cultural Offering. with his post titled Friendly Advice where he shares excerpts from a Peggy Noonan interview with the “founder” of Singapore:  U.S. is still ‘a frontier society.’ ‘The American culture . . . is that we start from scratch and beat you.’ They would settle an empty area, call it a town, and say, ‘You be the sheriff, I am the judge, you are the policeman, and you are the banker, let us start.”  And then Kurt shares a wonderful story about Margaret Thatcher leading from the front among a group of men.  This post is titled: Margaret Thatcher R.I.P.

[Read more…]

Synchrodestiny. I am the way.

Carl Jung, Faith, believe, belief, God, religion, spirituality

I’ve read hundreds of books.  And I remember what?  Snippets.  Particles.  Fragments. Crumbs. Smidgens. Specks. Morsels. Bits.  Traces.  A messy mosaic of something. Adding up to a little more than nothing. A cacophony of deafening alarm bells ringing out to me. Wake up!  Slow down!  Listen!  All banging around.  But coincidences.  And synchrodestiny.  Are crumbs that resurface with frequency. The culprit?  A Deepak Chopra book picked up while browsing at a Barnes & Nobles bookstore on a bitterly cold day over ten years ago. [Read more…]

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