How very complex are the surfaces that confront us, walking through real life. And yet how much simpler they seem if considered as a succession of layers, each layer with its own time stamp and simple description.
Consider this Krakow wall’s layers as a series of event reports in some kind of blog. Translating its RSS feed into English, a few entries follow:
Description: Surface layer of city grime
Description:Graffiti incident, Antoni & Malgorzata
Description: Broken fragments of stucco re-expose brick wall
Description: Deterioration of paint starts to re-expose stucco
Description: Painted stucco layer on top of brick wall
I’m thinking back on my own life as a series of layers — heartfelt events whose legacy remains even when others succeed them. What would your life’s RSS feed say about you?
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!
Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life’s end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?
My little sister barely 20 years old and looking much younger, proud of her beautiful giant baby, seen here with her then-habitual cigarette.
She beat her smoking habit, brought up her baby, made it back to college and through law school, made a busy courageous life for herself, made the lives of so many others so much better, and in a twist on the old-style fairy story, found and loved and married her Prince Charming sometime in her late forties.
She died this morning after a long long battle with ovarian cancer. I haven’t felt like blogging about her, and I haven’t been feeling like blogging not about her. We are going to miss her so very much.
How times change! When I was little, NH houses all had an outdoor thermometer, much like the one in this Flickr photo by Églantine.
Neither the many hotels where we’ve stayed this month, nor the charming apartment in North Oxford that we are housesitting now has any such thing as an outdoor thermometer that you can check from inside before dressing to go outside. But that’s ok, because if I want to know the current outdoor temperature in Oxford, it’s on my Google homepage.
Our outdoor thermometer was a source of great joy when winter started ending. The very first morning that the mercury (remember mercury?) climbed above 32, my mother would let us four kids run outside in our woolly bathrobes and long flannel pjs! We had to wear boots but we did not have to wear our coats as we celebrated the family’s springtime ritual, jumping up and down on all the soon to be melted snow.
Talk about adventure! And Kon-Tiki was an adventure my father talked about, with enormous enthusiasm.
And, from all the books my father urged me to read in my pre-teen years, Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl wrote two of the ones I loved best.
So visiting Oslo’s Kon-Tiki Museum with Frank was both sweet and sad. It was sweet when I thought how my father would have loved to be there with us. It was sad when I added this to oh-so-many adventures I’d love to have shared with him, in all the years since he died.
Here’s what I still share with him–sailing the paths of the universe with every one of your friends, every one of the people who have shaped your life. Some of them, when you are lucky, will be by your side. All of them, always, will shape your future adventures.
Not even Kon-Tiki’s sun god could be more powerful.
October 14th, 2007 · Comments Off on The Mom Song sung to William Tell Overture, with lyrics
As Akma says, love the standing ovation at the end. But who could have resisted? Snip:
The bus is here
Come back here
Did you wash behind your ears?
Play outside, don’t play rough, will you just play fair?
Be polite, make a friend, don’t forget to share
Work it out, wait your turn, never take a dare
Get along! Don’t make me come down there
October 8th, 2007 · Comments Off on Sin #8? It also makes us stupid.
Lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy, pride–the old Seven Deadly Sins name things that make us stupid.
And maybe our best protection against their power is knowing their names, so that our simple brains can guess it’s time to fight back when we see one of them kicking down our mental doors.
Why is there no one-word name for the deadly sin that sucked all brain cells from the brains-big-as-Buicks of Robert McNamara and Arthur M. Schlesinger?
“You like me, you really like me!” may be an inaccurate quote of Sally Field’s 1985 Oscar speech, but it’s a dead-on reflection of Sin #8, a craving at least as deadly as anger or avarice, much stronger than pride. The craving (O, junior high school!) for Popular Kids to pull us into their clubhouse–and backing that up, the fear that if we displease them we’re pushed out forever.
Schlesinger knows he is too easily beguiled and seems never to have allowed moral or ideological differences to interfere with his social pleasures…
Over decades of friendship with Henry Kissinger, he only slowly fathoms the diplomat’s “overpowering ego” and Machiavellian ways. “I like Henry very much and respect him,” he writes in 1969, “though I cannot rid myself of the fear that he says one sort of thing to me and another sort of thing to, say, Bill Buckley.”… By the time of Watergate, Schlesinger deems Kissinger “one of the most disgusting figures” in the Nixon White House.
Yet when Gerald Ford takes over and Henry asks Arthur to lunch at the State Department, our diarist overcomes his distaste…. Kissinger .. tells Schlesinger that Nixon was sometimes evil and lazy (with the work habits of Hitler) and a liar and obsessed with destroying the reputations of the Kennedys, and that he had Howard Hunt forging documents proving that John Kennedy had ordered the assassination of Diem. “He was unquestionably a weird president, but he was not a weak president,” Kissinger says. “But everything was weird in that slightly homosexual, embattled atmosphere of the White House.” Schlesinger doesn’t press on the “slightly homosexual”; he deems Henry “a highly intelligent and charming man.”
Is there one word strong enough for the stupidifying power of Sin #8?
“Conformity” is far too bloodless. It doesn’t capture the craving, the intoxication, the horrible fear of ending up shut outside if you don’t “go along.” Sin #8 needs a new name and maybe “Junior High School Sin” is ugly enough to deserve it.
It may no coincidence that so many whistleblowers have been outsiders whose keeping quiet could never have won them acceptance into the exciting secrets of the Big Boys’ Clubhouse.