Outward Bound Ideas

Ideas from Bookgleaner@gmail.com - Also: http://Inwardboundpoetry.blogspot.com - http://Onwardboundhumor.blogspot.com - http://Homewardboundphotos.blogspot.com - And http://davidthemaker.blogspot.com/

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Monday, November 28, 2005

30. Paths - One

Nothing More Can Be Attempted - Georg Simmel
-----nothing more can be attempted than to establish the beginning and the direction of an infinitely long road. The pretension of any systematic and definitive completeness would be, at least, a self-illusion. Perfection can here be obtained by the individual student only in the subjective sense that he communicates everything he has been able to see.

don Juan, a Yaqui Indian
For me there is only traveling on the paths that have a heart, on any path that may have a heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length. And there I travel - looking, looking, breathlessly

Robert Lewis Stevenson
To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.

D. H. Lawrence
One realm we have never conquered: the pure present. One great mystery of time is terra incognita to us: the instant. The most superb mystery we have hardly recognized: the immediate, instant self. The quick of all the universe, of all creation, is the incarnate, carnal self.

The processes of art, to keep alive, must always challenge the unknown and go where the most uncertainty lies. So that beauty when it is found, as it rarely is, should have a touch of the marvelous about it, the unknown.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

29. BI#5 - Building The Thousand-year House

Brilliant Idea Number Five
Attention: Architects, This Old House Personnel, Millionaires

For many years I have been thinking about building a house that would last a thousand years. My plan was that as soon as I had a couple of extra million dollars I would start. Well, I'm sorry to say it looks like the extra millions are not going to happen so I would like to give my ideas to the world in the hopes someone out there will find it a worthy project. Here are some scattered thoughts:

A. The house would not be large, living room, kitchen, two-three bedrooms, and two-car garage. Think of it as a country place.

B. Sponsor several graduate classes in the top architectural schools to write white papers on the materials and construction.

C. One thousand years, floors, walls, ceilings. What materials would last?

D. Requirements: build a house that, after it was completed, you could walk away from for one thousand years and when you came back the basic house would still be there.

E, Proofs: water proof, fire proof, falling tree proof, earth movement proof, ant proof, lightning proof, tree root proof, dry rot proof, etc.

F. Three levels of functional living:
1. All modern state-of-the-art appliances and wiring. Natural gas cooking and heating. Electrical lighting.
2. Victorian living, no electricity, no running water (use well pump). Cook and heat using firewood.
3. Barbarian, caveman living. Shelter plus fireplace cooking and heating.

G. At the very beginning keep a diary with the purpose of turning it into what could be a very interesting book about your experiences.

H. I’ve drawn a rough idea of what I’m thinking of and would be glad to show it to anyone interested.

If you’re interested write me at; bookgleaner at aol.com

Friday, November 25, 2005

28. Speech Of A Guide - W. S. Merwin

The things that you lost by the way were guiding you. And you tried to replace them. Which do you think you will see again, them or their replacements? Unless you lost the replacements as well, which sometimes happens. And sometimes you had grown to like the replacements better.
But sometimes they were hung around your neck in a bag, and taught you and taught you, and taught you, like your own soul, and you grew as deaf to the one as to the other. Then sometimes what you thought you had lost turned up again. Even in the bag around your neck. And it was still guiding you, still crying Repent from a wild place. But you did not know how to follow it any better than before. You did not attend to the fact that it knew its way in and out of your life better than you did, even knowing where to wait for you, which you would not have known. You did not consider its having a destiny of its own, woven through yours. Eventually disaster again separated you for an unknown period which neither of you might survive without changing lives at least once. And if you lost it and never find it again, as is most likely, it was something that was never yours to give away, it was a foretaste of total disaster, an absolutes nakedness that you could never have conceived of and arrived at without so many guides. But some need only one. Some lead the guides.
So you went on losing and losing, as the rain loses, the mountain loses, the sun loses, as everything under heaven loses. You came along together and here you are.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

27. Until One Is Committed - Goethe

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw
back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative
(and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of
which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment
one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise
have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and
meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed
would have come his way.

Whatever you can do,
or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius,
power and magic in it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

26. The Vile Becoming! - Evelyn Waugh

From Decline and Fall

Why can’t the creatures stay in one place? Up and down, in and out,
round and round! Why can’t they sit still and work? Do dynamos require staircases? Do monkeys require houses?
What an immature, self-destructive, antiquated mischief is man! How
obscure and gross his prancing and chattering on his little stage of evolution! How loathsome and beyond words boring all the thoughts and self-approval of this biological by-product!
This half formed, ill conditioned body! This erratic maladjusted mechanism of his soul; on one side the harmonious instincts and balanced responses of the animal, on the other the inflexible purpose of the engine, and between them man, equally alien from the being of Nature and the doing of the machine, the vile becoming!!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

25. The Two Wolves

An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me... it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too."
They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied... "The one you feed."

Friday, November 18, 2005

24. The Laws Of Human Ecology by Don G. Miles

1. There is no such thing as an independent individual.
2. There is no such invention as an isolated technology.
3. There is no such thing as a single resource.
4. There is no such thing as an independent nation-state.
5. Humankind is an organized ecosystem of flows and stocks
of transformed and reconstructed materials, money, energy
and information.
6. One generation's, community's, or culture's answers, solutions,
or opportunities become other people's and future generation's problems.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

23. Annie Dillard from The Writing Life

When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.
You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads. At the end of the path, you find a box canyon. You hammer out reports, dispatch bulletins.
The writing has changed, in your hands, and in a twinkling, from an expression of your notions to an epistemological tool. The new place interests you because it is not clear. You attend. In your humility, you lay down the words carefully, watching all the angles. Now the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

22. John O'Hara, Sermons and Soda Water

"I know this man so well, and with his permission, but I had never heard
him make such an outright declaration of love for his wife, and on my way
home I realized that until then I had not known him at all. It was not a
discovery to cause me dismay. What did he know about me? What, really,
can any of us know about any of us, and why must we make such a thing
out of loneliness when it is the final condition of us all?
And where would love be without it?"

Monday, November 14, 2005

21. Lee And Grant, The End - William E. Brooks

“Is Lee over there?” pointing up the road.
“Yes, he is in that brick house, waiting to surrender to you.”
...Lee had been waiting there, in a high-backed armchair by the window, for a half-hour before Grant came. He arose as Grant entered with extended hand, saying “General Lee.” They shook hands and began talking of the days when they had met before, in Mexico. The Memoirs go on with the story: “Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting. After conversation had run on in this style for some time General Lee called my attention to the object of our meeting.”
Grant had stated his terms, that Lee’s army “should lay down their arms, not to take them up again”. Again the talk wandered off into other fields and again Lee had to interrupt with the suggestion that Grant write out the terms he proposed. Paroles were to be given that officers and men were not to take up arms against the United States until properly exchanged; all arms and public property were to be surrendered. “This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside”. As Grant finished writing Lee took from his pocket a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles, pushed some books aside on the table beside him, and carefully read what had been written. When he came to the last sentence he showed his appreciation and, with some degree of warmth in his manner, said: “This will have a very happy effect on my army.”
When Grant asked him for suggestions he pointed out that the horses of the calvary and artillery belonged to the men who used them, and he was immediately told that the parole officers would be instructed “to let all the men who claim to own a horse or mule take the animals home with them to work their little farms.”
Then Grant asked about his need of rations, remembering that Sheridan had the cars that should have reached Amelia, and when Lee told him of this situation he gave orders that sufficient should be turned over to answer all their need.
The letters containing the terms and their acceptance were signed, the last formalities were over, and Lee left the room. He signaled to his orderly to bridle his horse, and standing on the steps of the porch he looked out over the valley where his army lay, smiting the glove he carried in his right hand on his left, in an absent sort of way, and seeming to see nothing till his horse was led in front of him; then mounted and rode away. As he was going Grant came to the door and saluted him in silence.
.....And when the firing of salutes began to sound from his own lines he stopped them with words, “The war is over; the rebels are our countrymen again; and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations in the field.”

Saturday, November 12, 2005

20. Of Wine and Women by Israel Shenker, 1970

Roanne, France
It is the hour of the aperitif, and the cafes here fill with their regular clients. Occasionally, the conversation slows as the habitues scan the arrival of a newcomer.
At one table in the Michelin three-star hotel-restaurant Troisgros, Jean-Baptiste Troisgros, a vigorous man of 71 who is the “patron,” twirls a glass of red wine and looks warily at its color as he sniffs its aroma.
“I turn the glass,” he says. “A dancer turns and sends gestures to her audience, and so I turn the glass to let the wine send its smell to me. I look at it. I taste it.”

The others wait for his judgment, but he is in no hurry.
“There's only wine,” he finally observes. “Red wine. The white wines, with the exception of perhaps of chateau d’ yquem and champagne, haven't come to term. They are microbian people kept alive with penicillin. As for rose, its aborted, a snare for the gullible, made for idiots who understand nothing.”
He calls the waiter and sends back the red wine to be chilled.
“People serve the white and rose cold and the red warm,” he said. “Why? because 1000 years someone said it should be done that way --- and he was the strongest and imposed his view. When you serve red wine at 27˚C what do people do? They gasp for water, for ice. They're burning up. The temperature for Beaujolais is 14˚C.”

Troisgros puts his second glass down. “This is a `64” he says. “You play blindmans bluff with the wines of `64. They're welfare children. You don't know where they come from. It takes to time to know what you're drinking.
The `66 you recognize at once. It has backbone, vitality and courage. The `67 is astringent, and the `68 worthless, but the `63? It's dead. Forget it. If your child dies, you mourn, but you bury it.
“The `61 is a learned teacher and ever so understanding. The `62 is a wise pupil who walks hand in hand with `61 and almost equals his master, but he does not quite have the stature of the `61.

“The `69 is the wine of the bourgeois era ----- a splendor, a peace, a calm. In France the bourgeois are numerous: the Communists are bourgeois, as are those who lead the people and go to church only on Sunday.”
“My two sons learned to know wine from me, and I from my father, and he from his father,” Troisgros continues. “And so it goes in France --- the acceptance of received ideas, the lack of innovation. That is why we are so far behind the world, and the borders of his curiosity are those of his country. Like some of his wines, he travels poorly.”
The patron moves to the dining room, but instead of ordering dinner, he sits before a confusion of gleaming crystal. In each glass there is a little red wine. He is smiling as though each wine has whispered to him its most private confidence.

Having listened and tasted he is ready for the next course ----women.
Troisgros sighs with evident pleasure and concern. “The Frenchwoman doesn't see what you do for her,” he complains. “The gifts, the courtesies, the dinners, the dresses, the jewels. You're a scoundrel, you're not nice, you're not agreeable, you don't take her out. That's the Frenchwoman's conversation.
What is the best age for a woman? asks one of his table companions.
“I see women of 50 or 60 who are nuggets of gold, still coquette, not faded, free, ready to be of service.”
“From 35 to 45 women are old, and after 45 the devil takes over and they're beautiful, splendid, maternal, proud. The acidities are gone, and in their place reigns calm. They are worth going out to find, and because of them, some men never grow old. When I see them, my mouth waters.”
He quickly adds: “That does not mean I'm interested in marriage. In France nobody's interested in marriage anymore --- except a few priests.”

Friday, November 11, 2005

19. On Writing Your Autobiography, John Steinbeck

This is what John Steinbeck told Fred Allen. "Don't start by trying to make the book chronological. Just take a period. Then try to remember so clearly that you can see things: What colors and how warm or cold and how you got there. Then try to remember people. And then just tell what happened. It is important to tell what people looked like, how they walked, what they wore, what they ate."
"Put it all in. Don't try to organize it. And put in all the details you can remember. You will find that in a very short time things will begin coming back to you, you thought you had forgotten. Do it for very short periods at first but kind of think of it when you aren't doing it."
" Don't think back over what you have done. Don't think of literary form. Let it get out as it wants to. Overtell it in the matter of detail - cutting comes later. Don't make the telling follow a form"

Thursday, November 10, 2005

18. BI#5, Environmental Science Fiction Novel

Brilliant Idea Number 5

First Chapter: Space ship [Deus ex Machina) appears over earth, the buildup of its appearance can be a chapter or a page.

Second Chapter: The space ship announces that in six months (timing is up to author) the borders of all the countries in the world will be sealed off. The inhabitants must then live with the resources that that country has, nothing else. A slightly opaque wall will rise up from the ground twenty-fifty miles in the sky. No humans or their creations can get through except electromagnetic signals. If the country borders water the wall will begin one mile from the shore. If, during the six months, countries join completely, allowing free travel, commerce, etc. their walls will be combined. As an example the space ship puts wall around one country. Everyone tries to break thru but to no avail.

Third Chapter: Countries attack space ship but are unable to destroy it. Meanwhile people move to what they think will be the most sustainable country.

Fourth Chapter: First person experiences from there on. Descriptions of what happens to the 200 countries, would any modern civilization survive or would they all revert to primitive societies?

Great story with important topic and, hopefully, a good lesson on where we are not today.
Write it!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

17. The Creed Of Leo Rosten

We must forever oppose hysteria, even when it is wrapped in the vestments
of patriotism.

We must learn that those we like are not always right, and those we do not
like are not always wrong: for the validity of an idea has little to do with
who is for it or who is against it.

We must learn to seek change without violence, always change and never
violence, not even in words, much less in deeds.

We must try to understand each other by reconciling ourselves to the fact
that most of us never really mature, we simply grow older and taller.

We must meet fanaticism with courage, and idealism with a dose of caution.

We must be skeptical of that which is promised, but not proved.

We must be strong enough to be gentle.

We must know that life will always contain unbearable stretches of
loneliness, of conflict and darkness and pain, and that we can never be
truly understood even by those who love us. We cannot completely
understand someone else, no matter how much we want to or try.

We must have the great good courage to live without absolutes, without

We must have the will to seek imaginative excapes from conformity,
knowing - with Emerson - “Whosoever would be a man must be a nonconformist.”

We must learn to meet life in a series of tentative and impermanent
approximations, knowing that the final goals may never be reached, that
the last truths may be forever unknowable, that life holds nothing more
precious than the process by which, to the fullest reaches of which we
are capable, we stretch the mind and the heart.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

16. A Few Epigrams From Oscar Wilde

Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying.

Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever do they forgive them.

To lose one parent ... may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly natural being.

On His Visit To America:

Marriage is hardly a thing that one can do now and then - except in America.

Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered. I myself would say that it had merely been detected.

Among the more elderly inhabitants of the South I found a melancholy tendency to date every event of importance of the late war-between-the-states. "How beautiful the moon is tonight," I once remarked to a gentleman standing near me. "Yes," was his reply, "but you should have seen it before the War."

There are no trappings, no pageantry, and no gorgeous ceremonies. I saw only two processions: one was the Fire Brigade preceded by the Police, the other was the Police preceded by the Fire Brigade.

Lady Caroline: "There are great many things you haven't got in America, I am told. They say you have no ruins, and no curiosities."
Mrs. Allonby: ... "What Nonsense! They have their mothers and their manners."

Monday, November 07, 2005

15. A Few Good Quotes

The fundamental difference between the thinker and the artist is that the
thinker looks for a universal truth that will help explain unique events
while the artist endows the unique with an intimation of the universal.
What they have in common is that to both the visible is mysterious.
Eric Hoffer

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the
fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true
Albert E. Einstein

To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.
Robert Louis Stevenson

The processes of art, to keep alive, must always challenge the unknown and go where the most uncertainty lies. So that beauty when it is found, as it
rarely is, shall have a touch of the marvelous about it, the unknown.
A. Matisse (Contact 11, 1921)

Flaubert about Madame Bovary: “I was trying, first of all, to express the
particular shade of yellow you find in the crack of a wall where the
cockroaches hatch.”

There are an infinite number of ways to meet a situation, but the best one
is to run away.

My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose,
but queerer than we can suppose.
J. B. S. Haldane

I know the truth that's why I'm looking for something better.
William Saroyan

Humans can never experience the true texture of quantum reality because everything we touch turns into matter.
Physicist Nick Herbert

If we knew we were on the right road, having to leave it would mean endless
despair. But we are on a road that only leads to a second one and then to a
third one and so forth. And the real highway will not be sighted for a long,
long time, perhaps never. So we drift in doubt. But also in an unbelievable
beautiful diversity. Thus the accomplishment of hopes remains an always
unexpected miracle. But in compensation, the miracle remains forever possible.
Franz Kafka

You can count how many seeds are in the apple but not how many apples are in the seed.
Ken Kesey

The U.S. is a great power because it was left with no other choice, which is a form of decadence.
Jorge Luis Borges

According to D. H. Lawrence: "One realm we have never conquered: the pure present. One great mystery of time is terra incognita to us: the instant.
The most superb mystery we have hardly recognized: the immediate, instant self. The quick of all the universe, of all creation, is the incarnate, carnal self."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

14. BI#4, Golf On Television

When, on a Saturday or Sunday, at certain times of the year, I am home having lunch I turn on the TV and watch a golf tournament. I have never played golf but I find that watching adults trying to hit a little ball in a little hole very soothing. I think it’s especially the pleasure of looking at a perfect green world.
When our becoming-human ancestors walked across the dry savannas of the world little did they know that their future children would be able to create the perfect walking environment. Just think how the grass would feel to those half-inch thick calloused feet. The cool spongy softness of smooth soft green grass and knowing that there were trees to escape predators all alongside you. I don’t know what they would have thought of sand traps, maybe a good place to dig a hole for shelter.
But, I have a problem. I am unable to clearly see the little ball and little hole. Also, everything looks flat when I know by the announcers comments there are many hills and slopes. Why can’t the TV people paint the ball and hole with something that while invisible to the players would show up on the TV? I don’t know how the problem with showing contours can be solved but maybe someone can figure something out.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

13. Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen by Mary Schmich

Wear sunscreen.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine. Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind-side you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're
behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them. Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Friday, November 04, 2005

12. Michael Kernan Writing About George Washington

There is a celebrated, though perhaps apocryphal, story about his aloofness. Alexander Hamilton once commented on Washington’s extreme reserve - even with his intimate friends - to the vivacious and brilliant statesman Governor Morris. Morris, who counted himself a close friend of Washington’s, objected, and so Hamilton challenged him to walk up to Washington at a soiree, pat him on the shoulder and say, “My dear General, how happy I am to see you look so well.” If you’ll do this, Hamilton reportedly said, I’ll throw a dinner party for you and 12 of your friends.
Came the soiree and Morris strode up to the great man while Hamilton looked on, and laid a hand on the massive shoulder and gave his hail-fellow greeting.
Whereupon, as historian James Parton put it in his life of Thomas Jefferson, Washington “fixed his eye on Morris for several minutes with an angry frown, until the latter retreated abashed, and sought refuge in the crowd. The company looked on in silence.
At the supper that was provided by Hamilton, Morris said ‘I have won the bet but dearly paid for it, and nothing could induce me to repeat it.’

Thursday, November 03, 2005

11. A Great Improvisation Chapter Headings

The chapter headings of 'A Great Improvisation, Franklin, France, and the Birth of America' by Stacy Schiff

I. The First Mistake in Public Business Is the Going into It

II. Half the Truth Is Often a Great Lie

III. Three Can Keep a Secret, If Two of Them Are Dead

IV. The Cat in Gloves Catches No Mice

V. There Is No Such Thing as a Little Enemy

VI. Admiration Is the Daughter Of Ignorance

VII. Success Has Ruined Many a Man

VIII. Everyone Has Wisdom Enough to Manage the Affairs of His Neighbors

IX. The Sting of a Reproach Is the Truth of It

X. Those Who in Quarrels Interpose May Get Bloody Nose

XI. The Absent Are Never Without Fault

XII. Creditors Have Better Memories Than Debtors

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

10. On Hitting Forty - Charles McCabe

As he was reaching the dread age of 40, the English man-of-letters Cyril Connolly produced a remarkable little book called "The Unquiet Grave" under the signature Palinurus. In it there are many reflections about approaching 40, which for some people is a horrific age, in which the hoofbeats of the Lord are clearly heard for the first time.

In the book Connolly-Palinurus lets fall his personal resolution for the troubling oncoming day. "…Never again make any concession to the 99 percent of you which is like everybody else at the expense of the one percent which is unique."

I have passed on this gallant resolve to many of my friends as they approach 40; and should like at this time to pass it on to anyone who is nearing the age of ten or the age of 86. The rule is a permanent useful counsel for conduct.

Whether it be one percent or more or less, there is none of us so bleak of heart as not to recognize that little part of us which is what really enables us to write our signature or look at ourselves in the mirror of a morning. The thing is not your whole self; but it is your real self. It is what makes you John Hearvey Rosekrans, or whatever. It is the thing which prevents anyone else from assuming your identity, if it is strongly and honestly held.

The thing that is yours is nearly always a spikey thing. It makes living among your fellows just that bit more uncomfortable. That, in fact, is the best way to recognize the thing if you should be having trouble in doing so. There is a tendency to be a little too honest, a little too angry, a little too earnest, a little too good for comfort when your thing begins to show itself. One result is certain; your peers are going to look at you twice, and with a small mounting doubt. Yet you know, too much is good.

The well-oiled mechanism is a necessary and often beautiful thing. The will-oiled human being is on the way to becoming a mechanism and to forfeiting his humanity. Tunnel workers as well as diplomats need to cultivate the lubricating arts, without which social living would be impossible or too difficult to try. But there have to be some little mean chinks in the mechanism if you are to remain a 14-carat human, whether as tunneler or diplomat.

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind," said Emerson. "Absolve you of yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world."

Bright brave works indeed from the Sage of Concord, and true damned words as well. The idea of absolving yourself from yourself, of pronouncing yourself free from guilt or shame, is really a pretty Jovian concept. But it is the only way to go. It may take a lifetime to achieve, or it may never be achieved. Even the failure to achieve personal absolution, when once the task is clearly undertaken, is still the closest thing to The Way that anyone of us is likely to find.

If this is just another boring method of saying Be Yourself, so be it. To paraphrase a pulpit platitude, the only self you've got to same is your own.

One of the socially useful results of saving your own self, or soul, or whatever, is that you are not likely to embark on the rather insolent task of saving the souls of others.

The chronic salvationist, as I've tried every so often to suggest, is the man who at base is not able to accept much less save himself, and projects his guilty uneasiness on the world in the shape of a Cause, of which he tends to be Prophet. That prophets are often without honor in their own country is not necessarily the fault of the country. Watch closely the man who does not save souls. He may have saved his own.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

9. Berry Gordy On Success

Berry Gordy Interview

One of the more important problems in being an entrepreneur is the
problem of happiness after success. Many people might say, "hey, babe, give me the success, and I'll worry about the happiness afterward." Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.
Unless you consider happiness before you consider success then the manner in which you achieve your success will be something that will destroy you at some later date. Many people in their rise to success, are so busy running to the top, stepping on their competitors, stepping on their enemies and, saddest of all, stepping on their friends and loved ones in the process, that when they get to the top, they look around and discover that they are extremely lonely and unhappy. They'll ask me "Where did I go wrong?" My answer has always been, "probably at the beginning"
Berry Gordy, president of Motown Records