Quality Time

Who would have thought that the term, “quality time” came from deep in the notebooks of Albert Camus. At least, he gets the credit today.

“Find meaning. Distinguish melancholy from sadness. Go out for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a romantic walk in the park, spring at its most spectacular moment, flowers and smells and outstanding poetical imagery smoothly transferring you into another world. It doesn’t have to be a walk during which you’ll have multiple life epiphanies and discover meanings no other brain ever managed to encounter. Do not be afraid of spending quality time by yourself. Find meaning or don’t find meaning but ‘steal’ some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self. Opt for privacy and solitude. That doesn’t make you antisocial or cause you to reject the rest of the world. But you need to breathe. And you need to be.”

― Albert CamusNotebooks 1951-1959

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All That Flutters

Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it.
Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain.
Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead
pencil markings endure longer than memory.

– Jack London, March 1903

Here’s a stray thought from my notebook:

Whatever has the power to save us will also break our hearts. 

Distances

All of these passages appeared by serendipity in my morning music, reading, and writing. Should I be seeing a theme?

Distance
and a certain light
makes anything artistic—
it doesn’t matter what.

May Swenson

They will see us waving from such great
Heights, ‘come down now,’ they’ll say
But everything looks perfect from far away,
‘come down now,’ but we’ll stay…

– The Postal Service, “Such Great Heights”

Inspiration, move me brightly. light the song with sense and color;
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.
Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.
Some rise, some fall, some climb, to get to Terrapin.

– The Grateful Dead, Terrapin Station

I would rather have had them see me waving down from on high, bearing an enigmatic smile born in the lessons taught outside of time and space, of how perfect life is and how much better than life is death. So people die, but they keep watch on what we do and how we spend our fading days, but most don’t choose to stay too close. Everything looks purer in its blues and greens—even the dull brown between the trees and the ruddy drying tack of our blood on the land—from an infinite distance like heaven.

– Kyle Kimberlin

A Call to Celebrate Sanity

Robert Bly is one of my favorite poets. He has shared the top of my list since probably 1985. I love his poems. I love his delivery. I cherish his sanity. It is so with all of those who inform our lives.

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence?

Watch and listen to this.

 

What is it about the ones whose lives are meaningful to us? What do they have that we need, and need to emulate? I propose that we are seeking clarity, a sense of our place and time, perhaps a tesseract to who we’ll be and to those who’ve raised us up.

I’ve always loved the first sentence in the anonymous book, The Way of a Pilgrim. “I am by the grace of God a Christian man, by my acts a great sinner.” That’s clarity.

My grandfather used to tell me, “stay in the boat,” and that was clarity.

John F. Kennedy said,

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

The passage of a half century has turned that inside out. It’s not that the government is afraid to let us see the truth. It’s that the people are afraid to face it. We are a nation afraid of each other, not to even mention everybody else. We are afraid of the religions of our neighbors. And fear is not the opposite of courage. Indifference is the opposite of courage. Fear is the opposite of clarity, of truth, of sanity.

I am a Christian, not afraid of Muslims, or Jews, Buddhists, or Hindi. I love them and wish them peace. I’m not even afraid of the Westboro Baptist Church, though it makes me sick and I promise you it is no real church at all. I know this by a simple shibboleth: there is nothing in what they do or say that points toward Christ.

This week we have, many of us, been fixated on the personal implosion of a man who has lost his mind. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of this group of audacious lunatics, whose greatest and most ardently held tenet of faith is that they’ve figured out who and what God hates. Those people are insane. They have forgotten the face of love.

There are two things I know about God. First, that there is a God and I’m not Him. Second, that God is love.

With that I invite you, gentle reader, to join me in a search for simple clarity, whatever it looks like to you. Let’s choose one word, then another, and put them in their order. Let’s remember the faces of our loved ones, thankful that someone held our hand when we cried, hopeful for someone to do it again when we die. Because another favorite poet, William Stafford, had this moment of clarity:

Your good dogs, some things that they hear
they don’t really want you to know —
it’s too grim or ethereal.

And sometimes when they look in the fire
they see time going on and someone alone,
but they don’t say anything.

out from under

She turned me into a newt.
… I got better.

The deep blue funk was lifted by a nice long walk on the bluffs in the sun, and some good tunes on the iPod my folks gave me for Christmas. That little thing is a wonderment. I love it. My bro loaded it with almost 700 songs and I’m adding even more. So I’m good to go.

It turned out to be a good day after all. Who woulda thunk?

deep blue

I’ve got the blues. Woke up this way today. I’ve got the post-holiday, lonesome, emotionally disoriented, what the hell happened, Christmas can’t really be over and I miss my family so somebody just shoot me blues. I guess I get ’em every year. Do you? Does it seem like there ought to be a big black raven perched on the dull and desiccated, tattered stalk of your Christmas tree? Nevermore.

I make a big emotional investment in Christmas. I look forward to it all year long. It’s absolutely the high point of the year for me. And if you’re going to have a high point, I guess you’re doomed to have a low one. But OK, frak it. I’m going to shake it off now.

Somebody please stop by with a big box of endorphins. Or at least a very tight, protracted hug. I’ll be out on the bluffs in the winter sun.