27 January 2008

I approve this message

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.
-- Elie Weisel

I can't pass up this delightful meme I'm lifting from Charlotte's and I'm adding a twist because it affords me the opportunity to share with you some wonderful quotations from some learned masters. I'm not running for office, but I approve this message.

Seven Things I Heartily Approve Of

1. Learning. Questioning. Seeking knowledge and wisdom.

John Dewey: Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.

Marie Curie: Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.

2. Laughing with friends.

Nietzsche: And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.

3. Spirit. Find the spirit within you and around you and celebrate it.

William Blake: For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.

Albert Einstein: True religion is real living; living with all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness.

4. Justice and truth. Seek what is right and true and speak out against that which is false, unjust or evil.

Martin Luther King: An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Thomas Jefferson: It is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read.

Pearl S. Buck: The truth is always exciting. Speak it, then. Life is dull without it.

5. Sunbeams and flowers. Especially on cold winter afternoons, I like to curl up like a cat in a sunbeam. Perfect for napping. In the Spring and Summer, what finer place to understand the world than to be in a garden?

Matthew Arnold:
Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy'd the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done...

Buddha: If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

6. Conservation of natural resources.. Water is vital to life, yet more than 1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water. 42,000 people will die this week from diseases related to inadequate water quality and lack of sanitation. Read the WHO/UNICEF report Water for Life. Cherish what you have; use it wisely; conserve. Do what you can to help those who don't have the basics necessities of life.

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, Environment News Service, 27 Nov 02: Water is fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. It is a pre-requisite to the realization of all other human rights.

7. Kindness, love, life in community with others.

Henri Frederick Amiel: Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.

23 January 2008

Words on Wednesday: Words Learned as a Child

I recently reread Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. I first read this book about 40 (!) years ago and although I didn't recall the plot precisely, there were many things about the experience of reading that book that I have retained over the years.

Meg is one of the most memorable protagonists from any book I read as a child. She was strong and willful and awkward and smart, unsure of how she fit in her world -- all characteristics that I identified with.

There were scenes from the book that I've remembered, such as when the children travel to Camazotz and first see the conformity of the townspeople: all of the houses look alike, all of the children bounce their balls at the same time, all of the mothers open their doors and step outside in unison. Driving through many suburban cookie-cutter neighborhoods reminds me of this scene and makes me giggle thinking that there might be some controlling blobby brain dictating their movements. (One could argue that conformity in our society is enforced through marketing and consumerism, rather than some monolithic dictatorial presence, but I think that is a different post.)

But, what I recalled as I read this book were all of the wonderful words that I encountered for the first time when I read this novel when I was 9. Sure there were the scientific words like tessaract that I wasn't even sure existed. A tesseract is, of course, a real word. Although it is theoretical, you'll find an entry in Wikipedia about tesseracts. But, I can't say that I've ever had the opportunity to use tesseract in my writing or daily speech. But, there were other words that I vividly remember looking up in the dictionary and desperately trying to figure out how to use them: wraithlike, antagonistic, raucous, sonorous, propitious, sadist, inexorable. As I came across each of these words I was reminded how I would get up from my favorite reading place and traipse into my grandfather's room to look up the new words in his dictionary. Each word was mysterious and powerful and I wanted each of them to be mine.

A Wrinkle in Time was the first book that I remember challenging me and it may have been the book that made me into a real reader.

What was the book from your childhood that made you love words and love reading?

20 January 2008

Drum Roll....

On a chilly day, this warmed my heart. I particularly liked 87. The video is about 3 minutes long. Don't miss it!

Title: People in Order
by Lenka Clayton and James Price
Production Sandra Lemming
Executive Producer Emily James

I think it is instructive that the elderly are as joyous as the toddlers. A lesson for many of us somewhere in between!

15 January 2008

Best dedications?

I was book browsing in the poetry section of the store last week and decided I'd buy a volume of Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry. I've only read a few poems by Rilke and I don't know much about him or his writing. I decided that it was time that I did.

Next to Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke were two other volumes: Letters on Cezanne and Stories of God. I was intrigued and bought all three volumes.

This evening I started Stories of God. The dedication to this book is stunning:

My friend, once I put this book in your hands, and you were fonder of it than anyone before you. So I have become accustomed to thinking of it as belonging to you. therefore, permit me, not only in your own book but in all the books of this new edition, to write your name, to write:

The Stories of God belong to Ellen Key.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Rome, April 1904.

How cool would it have been to be Ellen Key and to read that dedication?

Since I liked that dedication, I then had to see if there was a dedication to be discovered in Letters to Cezanne.

Somehow I too must find a way of making things; not plastic, written things, but realities that arise from the craft itself. Somehow I too must discover the smallest constituent element, the cell of my art, the tangible immaterial means of expressing everything...

To Louis Andreas-Salome, August 10, 1903

I think I will enjoy reading the two prose works. The poems I intend to savor over the next several weeks or months.

Just when I thought I wouldn't post anything this evening....

I could only think to write about not being able to write. I could write, I thought, about the book discussed at a book group I attended this evening, but I was too tired to be interested. Or I could write about a comment made there about how reading when you're going to discuss a book makes you read in a different way. I thought about how blogging does the same, but I wasn't going to say that in this group. Maybe I'll write about this some other time. I could have written about how blogging regularly was one of my resolutions, but I've failed miserably so far. Blogging once every 14 days was not what I had in mind. I could have just posted "I'll be back sometime. I promise." but that does seem rather dismal, doesn't it?

I was ready to shut off the laptop.

Then I thought about how last year, when my doctor gently told me I needed to lose weight, I asked him how much. This doctor is a 20-yr acquaintance; I knew he would be truthful, but kind. When I heard his whispered answer, I almost burst into tears. Not wanting to be embarrassed at crying over the shocking truth, I smiled and asked him whether I should accomplish this goal by amputating my left or my right leg. He is kind and a good doctor, but I'm not sure that he understands my sense of humor. Maybe I imagined it, but I think he actually rolled his eyes. I left the office and did nothing about my health. Then, following an accident, with my foot immobilized for 6 months, I was able to add significantly to that total.

I don't want to write about my battle with blubber, or how I'm failing all of my New Year's Resolutions. This isn't a New Year's Resolution, but a health resolution. Now that I can wear shoes that tie and walk more than 10 steps, I know that I need to take action about my health. I can't just try some gimmicky psych-out move, like thinking that every bite might kill me. Each unnecessary bite will shave more time of my life expectancy. I do plans for many things but you won't read this plan here, not even if Bloglily asks me to. I have (I can't believe I'm writing this) dubbed this effort the 100/50 plan. This year my doctor told me not to think about the total because I'd be too overwhelmed; rather, he said, set a goal each week of losing 1 lb. But, what do I do immediately? Calculate minimum number of weeks needed. The good doctor's motivational point was lost. But it is not needed. I am determined: 100 lbs by my 50th birthday. Without losing any valuable and necessary body parts and without surgery. 93 more to go. Don't expect me to write about this much here.

So what do I really want to write about? Perversely, this evening, I want to write about food. I saw this meme on Ted's blog. Why do I want to do this? Because it's 12:30am and for the first time in 2 weeks, I am hungry!

What did you eat/drink today?
Lean turkey breast, rye bread, milk, coffee, water, olives, almonds, lots of lettuce, more water, tomato, orange, blueberries, yogurt, a smidgen of cheese, more water, hummus, chicken, brocollini. Topped off with multivitamins and pharma-grade fish oil and more water.

What would you never eat/drink?
Eggplant. Do not tell me that I'd like it if only it were cooked a certain way. I will not. I also will never like peanut butter. Do not come within smelling range of me with an open jar. I will gag. Really rare meat. Cheap wine.

Favorite failsafe think to cook (if you cook) or defrost if you don't?
Pasta with marinara sauce. May be replaced with egg white omelets with fresh veggies and herbs.

Complete this sentence: In my refrigerator, you can always find.... Olives, mustard, pickles, leftovers that should have been thrown out last Tuesday, if the college kid is home, some sort of empty container.

What is your favorite kitchen item?
I love my large Le Creuset stock pot. I also am quite fond of my cooktop and the fancy-smancy coffee maker that froths milk. The acquisitions board tried to veto the purchase of both of these items, recommending less expensive substitutes. Admitting my fondness for these items in writing may cause me more grief than publicly stating I'm going to lose 100 pounds. Now that I think about it, I thought the stock pot was too extravagant too.

Where would you recommend eating out -- either on home turf or elsewhere?
In Indianapolis, R Bistro and Shanghai Lil's. Both are great independent restaurants with amazing food, friendly wait staff, and run by women chefs.

In Chicago, my favorite restaurant is Russian Tea Time. I love the beet caviar! Red Light is also great.

In New York, Haru for sushi. Roberto's Passion on 9th (around 48th?) for a relaxing, quiet Italian dinner at a reasonable price, Bistro 1018 at 110th & Amsterdam for a nice expense account meal. Walk down the street afterwards to Hungarian Pastry Cafe.

The best restaurant meal I've ever had was in Giverney, France at a little place away from the tourists. I think it was called Les Jardins. A lovely place for a leisurely lunch after touring Monet's gardens (skip the smaltzy house tour).

World ends tomorrow. What would you like for your last meal?
To hell with the diet -- ice cream, pasta, hard cheese, a New York Strip, Boeuf Bourguignonne, cheese cake, McDonald french fries, chili, oysters, chocolate, curry, my mom's tuna noodle casserole. Can I have two days notice, please? To drink: a few of my dad's whisky sours. Unless St. Peter greets me at the Pearly Gates saying: Your dad is right over there near the golf course. He has a whiskey sour waiting for you.