Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Quotes That Made My day(s)

I like to read quotes that make me pause to consider their message, and recognize that they've changed me is some way, that I'll never be quite the same again.  Recently two quotes, from vastly different sources have had that effect.

The first was used several days ago by Felix Grant on his blog "The Growlery".  I'm stealing his quote, including citations.
A healthy artistic climate does not depend solely on the work of a handful of supremely gifted individuals. It demands the cultivation of talent and ability at all levels. It demands that everyday work, run-of-the-mill work, esoteric and unpopular work should be given a chance; not so much in the hope that genius may one day spring from it, but because, for those who make the arts their life and work, even modest accomplishment is an end in itself and a value worth encouraging.
  • Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister of Australia 1973-4 (requoted from Germain Greer's The Obstacle Race. 1979, London: Secker & Warburg. 043618799X.) And requoted here from "The Growlery".
This quote immediately brought to mind my wife, Marrianna, an artist.  She is neither genius, supremely gifted, or a run-of-the-mill artist.  Her modest accomplishment is that she has recently sold three of her paintings, and not only does that "make her day", but mine as well.  It's always nice to think of something she has done gracing someone else's home.  Her accomplishment is not modest in the amount of pride we feel, but is definitely a result of a value worth having and encouraging.

Marrianna is how I learned the second quote.  She works the newspaper's Cryptoquote, Soduku, and crossword puzzles every morning.  This morning she called out the solved Cryptoquote.
"There is no distance on this earth as far away as yesterday."  Robert Nathan
That struck me as particularly interesting, and I went on a Google trip to Wikipedia to learn more about Robert Nathan.  The quote is referenced in the Wikipedia article, so I followed the link where I learned more about him.  Nathan was an prolific author and poet from early in the 20th century.  Several films were made from his novels. Interestingly, one film, "The Bishop's Wife", starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven was remade more recently as The Preacher’s Wife, starring Denzel Washington.  I'd be interested in watching both versions to see how different people portray the story.

The quote reminds us that the past is as far from us as the future.  But is it true?  I immediately thought it was, but as I've pondered it through today, I wonder.  If we allow yesterday to be so distant, we lose a certain amount of self understanding.  On thinking about it, I don't like the idea that our yesterdays are so far away.  While I don't live in the past, and would not if I could, I surely recognize that without yesterday, I'd be less today.  I need yesterday to be all that I can be today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's Not A Blog If You Never Post

The name of this blog is a reminder that I was a blogger before, in Thinking Through My Fingers, and was going to try again to be a regular blogger.  It's easy to see where that has taken me, nowhere except months of no posting.  Yesterday I wanted to post about a book I read, and couldn't even remember how to get to the page for composing a post.  Today, I'm one step further, I've found the page, so there is hope.

I did write about the book in an email to friends.  With changes to take out references to the friends and a few editorial changes, here is what I wrote.

Several weeks ago I included in a post an excerpt of the book “The Beautiful Struggle” [Ta-Nehesi Coates, 2008, Speigel & Grau publisher].  I hadn’t at that time read the entire book, but knew it was beautifully written.  After a friend wrote that she was reading it, I went out and got a copy.  I finished it this morning.
Years ago, decades - when I was in my 20’s - I wanted to write a novel of very short excerpts of hundreds of people’s lives around the world at one moment and try to show how they affected one another, knowingly or not.  I never had the skill to try then, and today I’m glad that I didn’t try.  Some photographer, years later, had a similar thought and had thousands of people around the world take photos at the same time, or as much the same as possible.  I thought it was an amazing effort, but I thought the book he produced failed.
Ta-Nehesi Coates’ book points out to me how poor my effort would have been then, and would be, I believe, for any writer, no matter the power of his skill.  Coates opens an entirely different world than any I could have imagined.  My book would have been an unreal vision of people very much like myself.  Coates reveals people very different, people whose lives I could never have been able to understand, much less write about.  And if such a different world existed in my own country, how would I ever have been able to portray a culture different from what my small mind could conceive anywhere?
It is the power of Coates skills that brings the people of The Beautiful Struggle to life in words.  It is also immensely satisfying to read of the feelings of a young boy and be able to recognize very similar feelings in myself as I grew up.  In another world altogether, a small town in northern Ohio, I was an outsider, floating somehow through a world I didn’t understand or feel a part of.  But there our similarities end.
Today Coates writes for The Atlantic magazine and a blog on their web site.  I’ve seen him on discussion panels on TV.  I’d like very much to read a connecting book about the time between the end of The Beautiful Struggle and today.  For me it would be equally interesting.  But, I’m thankful for this book, and thankful even more for the opening of the possibilities of very different worlds, cultures, and life that I hadn’t been aware of.  It is that new awareness, even if I don’t understand, that I am most thankful for in this book.

Years ago, when stationed at Charleston AFB, SC, I had a barracks roommate who was black.  This was in 1958, and many of the struggles of blacks to gain their freedom was yet to come.  He was from New Orleans as I remember, and had a very aggressive, angry attitude.  I could never reach beyond or understand his anger, and as a result we were continually in each others face.  After reading Coates I begin to see portions.  Why that experience comes back now is interesting in itself.

I want to consider that for a while.  I've a small story I wrote about an experience in Charleston that may illustrate more about my feeble trying to be at least aware of black people's problems then, and I may pull it out and post it here.

For now, however, I'm grateful that I've begun posting.  Now perhaps I can become a blogger again.