I spent this last Sunday of the year as I spend many of my Sundays: reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and New York Times over a quiet breakfast and strong, fragrant coffee. Each of these newspapers featured lists and photographs from the events of 2012. As I read these summaries, I marveled at all that had occurred this year—throughout the world, and in my own city. In our own household, the year brought great joy to our family with the birth of my great-nephew, Nathan. We also shared the grief of our nation when we learned of the tragedy at Newtown.
What to make of such disparate events?
I assume so much—because I cannot bear to think otherwise: that my family will be intact next Christmas. That I will again shop for those I love. That we’ll decorate our home and see friends and love one another. That we’ll be safe. That all will be well.
In the wake of this year’s events, such an expectation seems—at best—naive.
I wondered how I might let go of the closing year–and embrace 2013. How I might respect what has gone before, and open myself—with hope—to what comes next.
The answer came to me as I read this gorgeous essay (see link below) by Andrew D. Scrimgeour in today’s New York Times Book Review. Mr. Scrimgeour is dean of libraries at Drew University. In “Handled With Care” he writes about removing books from a personal library once the owner of those books has died. His approach is reverent, quiet, deliberate. It honors both the books and their late collector….without succumbing to a past that is no more. Handled with care. It seems a fitting way to let go of the past and approach another year.
Read the essay in full at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/30/books/review/handled-with-care.html?pagewanted=all
It’s not often I scoop the New York Times. And even though I wrote about Brain Pickings before they did, their article about this engaging site offers a rich background and (in true Times fashion) wonderful insights. Maria Popova deserves a toast!
Read more at:
In a “J’accuse” moment, the poet David Clewell once observed that many people write poetry…yet few seem to actually buy it. The same could be said of the nosey, noisy Internet. So many of us are blogging, posting, “liking” and commenting that I wonder who is actually reading any of it.
In the last few months, I’ve taken a stand. I’ve unsubscribed from the dozens of vendors and social media sites whose ubiquitous emails both distracted and overwhelmed. As a result, I actually read the email messages I’ve chosen to keep.
Although I rarely add to these subscriptions, I’ve discovered a site that’s—dare I say it?—inspirational. It’s called Brain Pickings. It you subscribe they’ll send a weekly e-newsletter that contains fascinating information about artists, writers, and thinkers—whether from a previous century, or recent headlines. They also recommend books on topics ranging from creativity to science, history to psychology. The emails are free, but the site welcomes donations. I’ve included a link to a recent newsletter here:
Also, check out the site for yourself: http://www.brainpickings.org
This past weekend, my friend John sent me a link to the essay I want to share with you now. It’s by Joe Queenan and it’s about reading…about physical books…about that secret and mysterious relationship between reader and text. It’s from the Wall Street Journal….and I promise: it’s worth your time.
Joe Queenan: My 6,128 Favorite Books – WSJ.com
I’m dreading election season. It’s only August, but I’ve already had more than enough of the negative political ads, even as I know that there are more—many, many more—to come. The lack of decency and respect…the easy disregard for facts, both overwhelm and dishearten me. But then there are days, like today, when I find I can still be shocked—even frightened by a candidate. I’m talking about Republican U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin. During an interview on KTVI, the St. Louis Fox affiliate yesterday; Mr. Aiken was asked about his opposition to abortion rights, even in the case of rape. His response, as reported in today’s St. Louis Post Dispatch:
“”First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy) is really rare” in rape cases, Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” He added: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Where to begin? With his poor grasp of anatomy and physiology? His disregard for the brutality and psychological trauma a woman endures during a rape…and the effects that continue—sometimes for years—afterward? Or his covert suggestion that women participate in these violations through his designation of “legitimate rape” as opposed to…. what? Added to the horror of the rape itself, Mr. Aiken would have a victim—assuming her body doesn’t “shut the whole thing down”— forced to carry the product of a rape to term. Chilling stuff. Even more so when I learned that Mr. Ryan (Mitt Romney’s running mate) was among some 200 Conservatives who also supported “legitimate rape” language in their anti-abortion efforts. Sounds a lot like 1950—or 1850 for that matter. Or is it more ominous still, with our species slowly marching back into the sea?
You can read an online version of the Post-Dispatch article below.
“Akin says ‘legitimate’ rape won’t cause pregnancy – Stltoday”
So many millions of words have been spoken about the need for gun control, for the end to violent movies and games, or for censoring songs that degrade the other, or call for mayhem. The debate will likely surge in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado shootings. The opposition will claim inalienable first and second amendment rights guaranteed by our Constitution. But like selective readers of the Bible who cite passages to promote their own agendas, these people conveniently forget that LIFE is the first guarantee of our Declaration of Independence.
Our nation spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to watch adrenalin-pumped car chases, shoot-outs against dramatic lighting or slo-mo special effects, choreographed to surging music. We celebrate cryptic, testosterone-laden exchanges. We glorify the torture and the guns and our ability to shock and awe, insisting: ‘This is strength. This is prowess. This is what victory looks like.’
Well, America…. Here is the other side of what we glorify: A desperate father searching for his son in the aftermath of the Aurora shooting. Hours later, Mr. Sullivan would learn that his 27-year-old son, Alex, was among the dead.
This is what anguish looks like.
Is there any connection between the creative imagination and depression? Suicide? What prompts an artist to decide that death is the answer? July 2, 2012 marks 51 years since the Nobel Laureate Ernest Hemingway shot himself to death. In 1984, Richard Brautigan also ended his life with a gunshot. Iris Chang died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2004. Hunter S. Thompson put a bullet through his brain in 2005. In 1941, Virginia Woolf drowned herself in a nearby river. In 1972, the poet John Berryman killed himself by jumping from a bridge. Spalding Gray and Hart Crane also chose watery ends. Many opt for medication: Swedish poet and novelist Karin Boye, Jack London, and Carolyn Heilbrun. Charlotte Perkins Gilman took an overdose of chloroform. David Foster Wallace hung himself. John Kennedy Toole died of carbon monoxide poisoning… as did Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. In 1991, Jerzy Kosinski killed himself by placing a plastic bag over his head. Michael Dorris also died of self-inflicted asphyxiation. Primo Levi threw himself down a stairway. Yukio Mishima ended his life in 1970 by committing seppuku. The list of writer suicides is long. The reasons for these exits are as varied as the means the writers chose. Some left suicide notes. Others may have left clues in their writing, or in conversations with family and friends.
Whatever these writers believed they were leaving— or heading toward— may never be known. But for some insight on depression, I recommend an article by the psychiatrist Michael Brog. You can download the pdf at this link: http://www.stlpi.org/news/perspectives/