could not agree more….
“A huge print in black and white, ‘More Poetry Is Needed’ sits on the wall of a shopping centre in Swansea, United Kingdom. The wall art greets the city centre goers, allowing them to appreciate the idea that ‘Everybody and everywhere could do with more poetry.'”
Source: Book Mania!
I find myself buying more books now that the library is closed. More expensive than merely borrowing—my addiction to reading has been encouraged by people who gave me gift cards to Chapters for Christmas. To those people, I am ever grateful. The recipient of about $100 in gift cards over the holiday season I was like a kid in a candy shop, and thus have several volumes lined up on the table next to my bed just waiting to be read.
My reading addiction is a true affliction, but one that I do not want healed or resolved or in any way fixed. I am content with this malady of sorts, but it is getting a little out of hand right now, and I have to settle down and try to read one book at a time. My curiosity gets the better of me, and I find myself fully ensconced in several books right now. So much so, that when I pick one up and start reading it where I left off, I sometimes have to reacclimate myself to the story. In order to do this, I find myself reading a couple of pages before I start to get the gist of the story again. It generally does not take long for me to be back in a particular author’s world again.
Since writing the first two paragraphs a couple of days ago, I have managed to finish one of my novels. I finally settled in and committed myself to solely reading “Faithful”, a novel by Alice Hoffman. The book is not one for the faint of heart—it takes the reader on a 10-year ride, taking the main character from a troubled teenager to a woman. Fraught with life challenges, the book proves that no one escapes this life unscathed, but if we are lucky, we get through—and sometimes we overcome our challenges, or at least learn to live with them. What I particularly liked about the novel is that even when it reached what one assumed was its denouement (a fancy word for ending) the book was not over until it was over. There was more, and the more was as satisfactory as the assumed ending. So many authors do not wrap up all the boxes they open in a novel and leave you wondering. Every box was wrapped up and tied with a bow by Hoffman. And yes, I would recommend this book as an exceedingly good read.
I have also started reading another book which challenges my brain cells—and sometimes I do not feel quite up to the challenge. But I am persevering. Called “A Solemn Pleasure”, it is a book of essays by Melissa Pritchard and its very thesis is called “The Art of the Essay”. I have often thought of this column as an essay of sorts, but compared to Pritchard, I am just dabbling. The Foreword should have warned me as to what I was getting into, but instead of being scared off, I took up the challenge to “lean in” and learn what the author was offering. The writer of the Foreword, Bret Anthony Johnston said that “We don’t write despite the suffering in the world. We write because of it.”
He advises the reader of “A Solemn Pleasure” to “notice how often you find yourself leaning toward the pages. I did it so often my neck hurt. In fact, this ache—like each of the powerful essays—is still with me. It’s a reminder. Each time it flares, I remember one of Pritchard’s trenchant (incisive, penetrating—yes, I had to look it up—I love a book that makes me look up words) sentences. No matter which sentence I recall, it translates to the author beckoning. Look here, she’s saying. Come closer. I’ve got something to show you. Something you need to see.”
“It translates to the author beckoning.” What a lovely sentence, but it is the true motivation of all authors worth their salt—they are trying to entertain, to show, to educate, to bring something to light that was in the shadows far too long. I have read five of the essays thus far, and I am proud of myself for sticking with it, for I do have to occasionally look up words, or think more deeply about what she is saying. But sometimes a light goes on, and I remember that life is made up of all sorts of things—it is not about just what we can see, touch, hear, taste and smell. It is also about things we believe. Faith. And that faith takes far more strength than just experiencing life superficially. Some authors make you delve uncomfortably below the surface. Pritchard is one of “those”.
many of the things that makes David happy, make me happy….
Zeke’s waggy tail.
Shiny black shoes.
Anything àla Mode.
Finishing a long run.
CBS Sunday Morning.
Netflix binge watching.
Milk Chocolate with nuts.
Rachel & Eric coming home.
Photo: via Hidden Sanctuary
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates
Credited as one of the founders of Western Philosophy, Socrates was considered an enigmatic figure, known chiefly through the accounts of some of his students—Plato being perhaps one of the most famous. I tell you this as a bit of a primer on Socrates, an introduction if you will from that lauded of all resources, Wik E. Pedia. (I know, I know: I should have more respect for the encyclopedic knowledge of Wikipedia—I apologize, for without it, many of my columns would be barren).
Back to Socrates. I have decided to up my game this week, having made the claim that sometimes I get philosophical in my columns at a New Year’s party after perhaps a sip or two more of wine than I am accustomed to (which means I had two glasses—not one). The gentleman I was talking to assumed I was speaking of the classical philosophers and their wisdom and not TV celebrities and self-taught gurus.
Thus, in order to untarnish my lackadaisical reputation, I am going to quote the learned fellow to prove that we can all benefit from the erudite words of intellects, even if we cannot count ourselves among them.
Socrates died in Athens, Greece in 400 B.C. Married to Xanithippe (whom I have on good authority he called Xani) he had three sons. A quote I ran across attributed to the philosopher tells me that he was not necessarily happily married. He is reputed to have said: “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Hmm. Methinks he was served cold soup and cold shoulder on the night this saying came to light.
He was also a feminist if I am reading the next quote attributed to him correctly. He said that “Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior.” Perhaps I am just seeing what I want to see, and he is being not quite as generous as I would like, but grasping at straws is what I do.
Some of the things he is quoted as saying are in my wheelhouse—or to put it another way—we are sympatico. So, without further ado, I present you with some of Socrates’ selected wise words (my comments will be in brackets):
- “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” (Gives us all an excuse).
- “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” (So, it is not just me?).
- “All men’s souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine. (Hope springs eternal—I assume he does not mean self-righteous.)
- “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou are in it, continue firm and constant.” (If he were not alive so long ago, I would swear he was talking about the perils of the online world.)
- “If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.” (No truer words than these at this moment in my life—what I have to complain about is nothing compared to others.)
- “Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued. (Who can argue with this?)
- “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” (And books.)
- “False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.” (Who cannot subscribe to this? Who has not been hurt by false words?)
- “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Just don’t look TOO closely.)
- “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have laboured hard for.” (In other words: read, or is that just my disposition showing?)
I do not pretend that this column will serve as a primer to one of the early philosophers, but I have at least fulfilled a mandate I set for myself to put forth the ideas of a thinker, an academic, a truth-seeker, and yes, a dreamer, who is not invested in how he/she looks, sounds, or acts on TV. Not of course that many of these people do not have worthwhile notions—just wanted to show that my depth outwits my (band)width.
My fervent wish is that we have a kinder, gentler, more heartwarming new year. In a small effort to make my dream come true I am going to share something with you that may make you pause for a moment and wish the same thing. It is in the little things that we do that sometimes tells the bigger story. I saw this on the blog of one of my favourite bloggers, David Kanigan, who has become a good friend I have met only in words. He posts on his blog everyday—and his words, and those he chooses to share of others good words are always inspirational. I hope you find the little tale I am about to share one that will lighten your heart in the dark days of winter. I am not sure of the source but at the end of the story newsflare.com is cited.
Without further ado, prepare to be heart-warmed:
“While feeding my horses on New Year’s morning I noticed a solitary sparrow perched upon the steel fence near the water tank. The tank is heated to keep it from freezing. It is not uncommon for birds to drink from the heated tank. Apparently, this unfortunate bird had gotten its feet wet and, while making its exit, had become frozen to the fence in the prevailing near zero Idaho temperatures. First, I attempted to warm the feet of the frightened bird by pressing my palm against both the fence and the bird’s feet, while also gently restraining the bird’s flapping wings. It then seemed that warming the bird’s feet with my warm breath would bring quicker success. Gentle sideways motion with my thumb brought freedom for the frightened bird and a smile of satisfaction to my face… a delightful way to start a new year.”
I have “gotten” my feet wet many a time, and I have people in my life who have warmed them and helped me become unstuck. And I hope I have returned the favour, or just helped without any thought of reward. That is what a kinder, gentler, heartwarming life is all about—doing the little things that help us face the bigger, unkind, harsh realities of life. And let there be no mistake—there are lots of horrors in the world; and while they cannot all be overcome, they can be overshadowed.
On Another Note: Keeper of the Word
Today on the CBS television show Sunday Morning, Faith Salie provided the viewing audience with her rift on the word “curate” and hypothesized that “nowadays everyone’s a curator of their favourite things”. She does not think that our favourite things deserve to be “curated” and that it is a much over-used word that she wants eradicated from our vocabularies.
She points out that Oprah “curates her favourite things” for the world at large–going through all the new and wonderful things that commercialism offers us, filtering them through her red-framed (somewhat rose-coloured) lenses and presenting them as things we “must have”. If you have followed her lists of favourite things over the years, you know that many of us may find her $100 boxes of candy and $300 Sherpa slippers a bit obscure.
Getting a little off-topic here, and showing you that I may not always have my feet planted firmly on terra firma, I often wonder why no one cares about my list of favourite things. What has Oprah got that I haven’t got? I understand that my platform is much smaller, my venue almost non-existent, and my readership perhaps in the hundreds and not millions but why is her opinion so much more valuable than mine?
Anyway, back to the topic at hand: curating. I did not realize this was a thing until today. Salie seemed quite hot under the collar about the subject. She describes the word’s historical roots and what she thinks of as the bastardization of its true meaning. It should be saved and only used when talking of art, or things of historical significance, or quite simply, things of consequence. Apparently, your collection of something does not warrant the use of the word “curate”. Even the Queen of Everything (Oprah) does not have the right to curate. According to Salie, only those true professionals in the loftier worlds of art and artifacts are true curators or “keepers of the guard.”
Personally, I like to think of myself as being a curator, the definition of which Merriam-Webster says is “one who has the care and superintendence of something especially”. I find it interesting that the dictionary cites other job terms for curator as being a scrivener (scribe), Webster (weaver) and wordsmith. I like to think of myself as somewhat of a wordsmith or “keeper of the word”, thus I guess I can refer to myself as a bona fide curator. Take that Ms. Salie.
First of all, let us get the business at hand out of the way: Happy New Year! Happy 150th Birthday Canada! Now that I have the important stuff out of the way, the usual drivel shall ensue. (Only I can say this, I would be eternally hurt and totally destroyed if anyone else said this.)
We all have our own ways of celebrating and welcoming in the new year. Some of us are defiant and refuse to make resolutions, in essence saying “Gosh darn it, I will not partake in this useless exercise for another year only to be disappointed in the outcome.” Usually this is parlayed in two succinct words which I will not share with you as this is a family friendly column. But I am sure many of you will get my drift.
Others subscribe to the Mark Twain school of resolution making. He is purported to have said: “New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make our regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” I would say that he was talking more intentions than resolutions, but hey, who am I to argue with Samuel Clemens?
There is also the more philosophically based way of looking at the new year. A good example of this can be found in the words of poet T.S. Eliot, who eloquently penned this: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language/And next year’s words await another voice./ And to make an end is to make a beginning.” I have no idea what this means, but it sounds deep and some of you may be enlightened by it. (Side note: Attended a New Year’s Day party and told someone that sometimes when I write my column I get philosophical. This was a mistake, as while I was being tongue in cheek, the person I was talking to took me quite literally and started talking Plato and Socrates. I just continued to munch on my shrimp and did not tell the obvious intellectual that I was talking Wayne Dyer and Dr. Phil.)
Just for good measure, I am going to add one more New Year’s quote that I do not understand, but in an effort to look smart I will share it with you. If anyone can explain this or the last one to me, please stop me in the grocery store or on the street and illuminate me. This one was said by none other than Ogden Nash, who once declared that “Candy is dandy/but liquor is quicker”. (I understood that one btw). This one is a little more opaque: “Every year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals?”
James Agate, a bit of a snob, but entertaining nonetheless, said once that his New Year’s resolution was “To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.” I would be very afraid to tell Agate that sometimes I get philosophical in my columns—as I would be very afraid to take up more of his time. Unless of course I had a glass and a half of white wine under my belt (which is all it takes now), then I would not much care. Agate is a long dead British writer known for his wit, but forgotten for his writings.
I think Oscar Wilde had it right when he claimed that resolutions “are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.” Simple, to the point, though a bit, shall we say, curmudgeonly?
My resolution this year is one that I am sure will succeed. I heard on television the other day (so it must be true) that if you make only one resolution you are 85% more likely to be successful in keeping it, as opposed to making two, where you are only 35% successful. So, what is my resolution? Read more. And I guarantee I will be 100% successful, unless I die. Which leads me to another question: do people read in heaven?
Suffice to say that the New Year will be much like the old year. Except we have renewed hope. And a fresh chance to begin again. So, open your new 2017 calendar and start inking in some time to spend with friends and family; some time to laugh; and some time to read, or cycle, or throw a pot (as in pottery making), or write opaque poetry only you, Eliot and Nash understand. And let us celebrate in little ways, and big, Canada’s 150th birthday!
Remember, if Jack Yellen could write these words in 1929, then we can sing them in 2017 (whether they be true or not):
“Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song and cheer again
Happy days are here again….”
*All New Year’s quotes taken from Writers Write blog by Amanda Patterson.
I asked if you wanted a blog New Year’s Party and many of you responded positively. But I slipped up. I got busy. And I did not extend an invitation. So I am going to correct that and have a New Year’s party review.
To take part just answer any one or all of my following questions, and let us make the first week of 2017 festive:
- Did you make a resolution or two or three? If you did—what is it—or are they? If you did not-Why?
- Did you go out New Year’s Eve or Day? Whether you did or did not—how did you celebrate?
- Did you see the ball drop? Did the ball drop? I did not see it.
- Watched the Queen’s address to Canada on the eve of our 150th She wore a maple leaf and spoke French for part of her message. I understood her French (which means she spoke it slowly and simply). Did you watch?
- Did you see our Governor-General give his message in the snow and sleet of Ottawa? I love that guy.
- What did you eat and drink? Were you merry?
- Any words of advice for 2017?
- Did you sing Auld Lang Syne? (or however you spell it)
- Read more. Can’t mess up this resolution.
- party on New Year’s Day.
- No did not see it drop
- Yes (obviously)
- Yes again
- Lots of shrimp and white wine. And yes, I was merry.
- Have hope.