We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
~ Plato ~
“La lutta continua. The struggle continues.”
So spoke Salman Rushdie Thursday evening when he accepted the PEN Centenary Courage Award. His presence marked Rushdie’s first public appearance since being stabbed last August—and blinded in one eye—during a talk at a literary festival at the Chautauqua Institution.
Other memorable words were spoken during the event when a letter from the imprisoned Iranian journalist and activist, Narges Mohammadi, was read aloud. Mohammadi, who was given the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, wrote this:
“Dear writers, thinkers, and sympathizers, I implore you to help the Iranian people free themselves from the grip of the Islamic Republic, or morally speaking, please help end the suffering of the Iranian people. Let us prove the magic of global unity against authorities besotted with power and greed.”
Writers with expansive audiences have the ability to communicate to vast numbers of people. Those who put their skills to progressive, constructive political or humanitarian use are not only impactful, they are brave. Their potential influence on the course of global events cannot be dismissed or over-sold. If their words and thoughts cause just a few people think, and then act, their talents can change the world.
Always do what you are afraid to do.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~
Thunder. Lightning. Rain. Wind. Just another “weather event” common to central Arkansas and much of the rest of the southwest, south central, and southern United States. That was last night. And, to some extent, yesterday afternoon. Overnight, though, the weather seems to have become more tranquil. Here, at least. To the east of us, it is entirely possible that the heavens are assaulting everything on and above Earth’s surface. If I had looked at the current weather reports, I might know. But I haven’t. So I don’t.
We had painters paint two very small hallways yesterday. One of the two will return today, we hope, to try again to perform the second part of yesterday’s engagement: staining some bare wood trim in several places throughout the house. He applied a small sample yesterday, but mi novia and I both agreed it was unacceptably different in color from the color we had asked for (and far darker). So, the guy will come back with samples today. We hope. Assuming he does, we hope the color will be acceptable. I am not sure I have the patience to have him try a third time.
Finally, after many, many, many years, the unreliability of hearty recommendations is sinking in. The fact that someone is a friend of a contractor, or a business associate of a contractor, does not offer any assurance that the someone’s recommendations can be trusted. Oh, the person might think his friend is the real deal, but confidence in a friend’s abilities sometimes is based on wishes or assumptions, rather than observations. Let that be a lesson…
I have always liked the word, besotted. Its use tells me to user is at least moderately intelligent. A measure of acerbity, a bit of a caustic wit, and perhaps a tinge of arrogance accompany her intelligence. When she uses the word, I become curious about her. She is attractive. Until I discover she is deeply and irrationally conservative in every facet of her life and her thinking. Then, I label her a potential enemy.
What is an enemy, though? One of many online dictionaries offers as the definition of the word:
“Aa person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent.”
As I consider what the word means, it seems a bit harsh to label a person “enemy” simply because she leans far right. Yet I tend to do just that. I do not trust her. Her motives are, to my way of thinking, selfish and cold-blooded. She is hard and callous and unfeeling; at least she has no compassion for anyone but herself.
But, then, if I am in a rational mood, I catch myself. I privately express to myself how embarrassed I should be to cling to such narrow-minded and judgmental thoughts. We have enemies only to the extent to which we allow ourselves to have them. This sort of thinking reminds me that adoration of the Bible and its extraordinary popularity probably can be attributed to the lessons contained in its collection of parables. Jesus probably was exalted as much for his human wisdom as for belief that he was holy. Ah, there’s that word.
As I wrote the preceding sentence, my thoughts immediately pivoted to Peter Mayer’s song, Holy Now. And, as I think of the lyrics of the song, I consider the meaning of the word, holy. I have come to embrace a semi-secular definition: “having a spiritually pure quality; entitled to worship or veneration as, or as if, sacred, like a holy relic.” Somehow, I veered away from besotted. And enemy. I feel pretty damn confident I have a mild to mildly severe case of ADHD or something similar to it. “Look, a butterfly! See its wings? I wonder what it would like to fly? What does a butterfly see when it flies around? I wish I could see through the eyes of a butterfly. How long does a butterfly fly? Does it fly until it dies in mid-flight? I wonder whether a butterfly’s relatives mourn its death? Or do butterflies not have emotions? If they don’t, would they be said to be without empathy? Or is there a butterfly version of alexithymics (that’s the big word describing a “neuropsychological phenomenon expressing important difficulties in identifying and describing the experienced emotions by oneself or others“)? Language is so complex! Without language, we would be unable to think. But people who cannot speak can think; yes, they can think because they have a language of some kind…maybe not the same language I use, but a symbolic language of some kind that enables them to communicate in some fashion. Enough of that!
One of the pieces of advice often given to people who are nervous about public speaking is to imagine that the audience is nude. That, apparently, is intended to reduce one’s anxiety about speaking a the group. I think that might not work for me, because I am fairly certain my eyes would be drawn to specific people—or a specific person—sitting naked in front of me. My attention would be far too focused on her for me to think coherently about what I want to say to the group. Instead, I probably would stumble badly over my words and say something thoroughly inappropriate for the situation. Actually, it is not so much speaking to a large group that gets me nervous, it is speaking to certain individuals. I wonder whether I should imagine those people nude? My mind wanders with this idea; what if the person with whom I am nervous (and so, imagine her nude) is just as nervous in my presence? What if she imagines me naked? Ach! I should have been working out! I should have focused more of my energies on losing weight and toning my muscles! How could I have let myself get so fleshy and flabby?! See? ADHD.
Having just written the preceding paragraph, and assuming you read it, I know what you are thinking. You can deny it all you want, but I know. And, now, you know what’s on my mind when I seem reticent or reserved or otherwise unengaged during conversation with one person or a small group. 😉
It’s Saturday morning, people. Your part of the world is awakening. Rise and shine. Take a deep breath and launch yourself into the day.