In a wonderful article from Harper’s Magazine, No Time But the Present , Alan Jacobs argues that reading old books makes our lives better:
To read old books is not simply to escape our current condition of frenetic standstill, the torrent of data and demand managed moment by moment (though, to my mind, occasional escape is not a bad thing). Rather, it’s a kind of judicious stepping back, the taking of a few deep breaths before plunging back in. An opportunity for reflection, a reminder that there are, to borrow a phrase from Truman Capote, “other voices, other rooms”: people with concerns and hopes and fears quite different from ours, but nevertheless recognizable, just as human as ours are. In encountering the past, we decenter ourselves, if only, inevitably, to resume center stage again. But now perhaps with a better understanding.
I am aware that arguing for the books of the past is a hard sell. But I want to suggest that you can’t understand the place and time you’re in through immersion; the opposite is true. You have to step out and away and back and forward, and you have to do it regularly. Then you come back to the here and now, and say: Ah. That’s how it is.
You can read the whole article HERE.
“He walked slowly down the center aisle, and not wanting to open the door until the very last minute for fear of losing the precious heat, he walked to the window at the left of the door and stepped without expectation into one of those moments that is suspended between time and space and lingers in the mind.” ~from I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven, © 1973
And that, of course, reminded me of this:
Full lyrics HERE.
My worst experience with Christian extremism was at a little engineering company in East Texas. They’re out of business now.
In East Texas, politics and religion have merged into one unholy totem. They would listen to the Rush Limbaugh show on the radio, and turn the volume up loud enough that I couldn’t drown him out with my headphones.
I was a particular target, because I was neither Republican nor Baptist, and because my hair was long. There was one bully in particular that would say, loud enough for the whole room to hear, “You know, the bible says that long hair on men is an abomination before God!” Then he’d peer up over the side of his cubicle and give me the side-eye. He wanted to make sure I heard.
My boss was sitting right next to me. He didn’t care. He was one of them.
While I was there, they fired a girl for moving in with her boyfriend. She was excited to be taking a step forward with the man she loved, and made the mistake of telling her coworkers.
She was fired for adultery. Seriously. That’s legal here.
And I was out the door not too far behind her.
After Christian extremists successfully stop other people from getting abortions– and that appears to be a foregone conclusion at this point– they’re not going to stop there.
They still have a lot of anger inside them, and there are other people doing other things of which they disapprove. The next groups to find targets on their backs will probably be gays, potheads, and hippies.
They will always find something to rage against.
It was never about abortion.
“I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost. The rest of my life might have turned out differently if I had. But I didn’t.” ~Khaled Hosseini
So many times it’s the immediate decision that has the longest lasting consequences. Life seldom gives you enough time for contemplation.
When I worked at MCI in the late 90s, they had what they called their “Hundred Years Plan.” Any time they built or rented a building to house their telecommunication equipment, they insisted on having enough room to handle a projected hundred years worth of expansion.
MCI is out of business now. They went all-in on the Mexican market, and it bankrupted them. I suppose somebody is using that space for something completely different.
But while they existed, they were a very progressive company. They offered benefits to same-sex couples long before same-sex marriage became a reality. As a result they had a higher than average number of gay employees.
That doesn’t mean that the offices were without prejudice.
There’s one incident in particular that has stuck with me. I was in the break room having coffee with a gay coworker. He was dressed very fashionably, including a gorgeous pair of purple suede shoes.
An engineer walked by and said, just loud enough to be heard, “Phht, nice shoes.” You get that a lot in Texas, unprovoked passing aggression. I’m sure if we would have confronted him he would have responded with the usual “just joking” defense. He lobbed his insult and kept moving.
The coworker looked up at me from his coffee and said, “When I ‘came out,’ my parents disowned me. I had to make new friends, because my old friends abandoned me.” He smiled. “Do you think I care what anyone thinks about my shoes?“
“Living is not merely going to the office, or passing examinations, or having children, or the everlasting struggle for bread and butter; that is only part of it. Living also implies seeing the trees, the sunlight on the river, a bird on the wing, the moon through the clouds; it is to be aware of smiles and tears, of turmoils and anxieties; it is to know love, to be gentle, compassionate, and to perceive the extraordinary depth and width of existence.” ~Jiddu Krishnamurti
There aren’t a lot of Orthodox Jewish reggae singers. Matisyahu may well be the only one.
I really like the lyrics to this song, which you can read online HERE.
One of the advantages, I guess, of growing older, is that we’ve lived through The Worst That Can Happen and carried on. It makes us a bit bulletproof.
(Like so many images, the artist’s name has been lost in a sea of reposts. I believe it was originally in Spanish, and recaptioned somewhere along the way. If anyone knows the name of the artist, please let me know so I can give credit.)
I don’t drink, but I do love my coffee in the morning.