Outward Bound Ideas

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

54. Withdrawing From World Leadership

A few selections edited from an article by P. J. O'Rouke in a popular American rightist newspaper.

If America withdraws from world leadership what will happen?

"The benefits will immediate. We can cut $300 billion from our defense budget. This will be almost enough to pay for the aging baby boomers' prescription drug benefits, which can now include Levitra, Botox and medicinal cannabis."
"America will enjoy cleaner air and less traffic congestion as oil goes to $200 a barrel due to the chaos in the Middle East. A U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East will cause chaos, of course. Then again, a U.S. intervention in the Middle East has caused chaos already. And during those periods of history when the U.S. was neither intervening in nor withdrawing from the Middle East, there was....... chaos. The situation is akin to the famous complaint women have against men: failure to acknowledge that not every problem can be fixed. Sometimes the best thing is just a little sympathy."
"Of course various unpopular rulers who have held onto power with American support will be force to submit to the will of their people. Tony Blair comes to mind."
"A NATO alliance that does not include the U.S. will acquire a new sense of mission and purpose, especially in Gdansk, Istanbul and Hamburg, when Russia resumes its historic quest for warm-water ports."
"The threat of nuclear proliferation will abate as dangerous stockpiles of atomic weapons are quickly used up. The loss of life will be regrettable. But this will be counterbalanced by the welcome disappearance of long-standing international flashpoints when the India-Pakistan border is vaporized, Tehan disappears in a mushroom cloud and whatever is left of the Korean Peninsula becomes reunited."
"American protestors against globalization will be able to relax. An inward-looking america is bound to link military and diplomatic disengagement with high trade barriers. There will be domestic political pressure to create jobs for the hundreds of thousands of returning military personnel, State Department employees, Peace Corps volunteers, network foreign-correspondents, etc. Unfortunately, the jobs will be mostly mowing lawns and taking care of the children of husband/wife lawyer couples, since a decreasing involvement with foreign affairs will lead to an increasing resentment of foreign immigrants."
"And the best thing about Americans leaving the world stage is that we will be loved again."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

53. Berthe Morisot by Anne Higonnet

Berthe Morisot by Anne Higonnet
Article by Anne Truitt

Toward the end of her life, the French impressionist painter Berthe Morisot wrote, "There is a kind of elevation that does not depend on fortune; it's an indefinable air that distinguishes us and seems to destine us for great things; it's the value that we give ourselves imperceptibly, especially to our spirit."
This sense of knowing one's own destiny is the spring of originality.......
In Morisot's paintings women are like Tiburce Morisot's description of his famous sister: "meditative, mysterious, like all those in whom silence is due not to deficiency of thought but to a disdain for its expression." Even side by side with their children, her subjects contemplate themselves apart, in an atmosphere of self-imposed solitude that lifts them above their circumstances.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

52. Emulating Nature

You Can Go Too Far In Emulating Nature
From the Wall St. Journal

The 18th century English gardeners Ian McHarg admires abandoned the formal garden for informal plantings that emulated nature. They tried to induce in the viewer an agreeable sense of melancholy, melancholy being in vogue just then.
Thus William Kent (1685-1748) "followed nature even in her faults" a contemporary wrote. He planted dead trees among the live ones.
A more spectacular contrivance was his Hermit's Cave. Surrounded by a dark and gloomy thicket, fashioned of rough loges and roots, the hut waited at the end of a narrow path. Inside sat the hermit, a local wretch hired for the purpose.
"Unfortunately, the privations were too great." a historian records, "and the hermit, who would have provided an interesting object for a morning's walk, returned to the world at the end of three weeks."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

51. Customs of the Assyrians and Babylonians

From Readings In The Classical Historians
by Michael Grant

The Customs of the Assyrians and Babylonians (Herodotus 480BC-425BC)

Among their established customs there is one that in my opinion is the very wisest....... In every village, once a year, the people did the following: as the girls in the village became ripe for marriage, they gathered and brought together all such to one place. There was a great throng of men surrounding it, and the auctioneer put the girls up, one by one, for sale. He would begin with the best looking, and, after she had been sold and brought a great price, he would auction off her whose looks were next best. They were all sold to live with their men. All the rich men of Babylon who were disposed to marriage outbid one another in buying the beauties. But those of the lower classes who wanted to marry were not set on fairness of form but took the uglier girls, with money to boot. For when the auctioneer had gone through all the best looking girls, he would put up the ugliest and would sell her off: "Who will take least money to live with this one?" The money came from the sale of the good looking girls so those who were handsome portioned off the ill-favored.

Here is another custom that is second in wisdom. They bring their sick into the marketplace, for they do not use doctors at all. In the marketplace the passers-by approach the sick and give them advice about their sickness, whenever someone has suffered the same sickness as the the patient or has seen another with it. They approach and advise and comfort, telling by what means they themselves have recovered from the sickness or have seen another do so. One may not pass be a sick person in silence without asking him what ails him.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

50. Joyce Cary - Trudy's Dying

From: Joyce Cary, A Biography by Malcolm Foster

In one of the vest-pocket notebooks Joyce always carried with him, usually reserved for entries about his novels and short stories and in which the germs for many of them had first been jotted down, Joyce had written that spring before Trudy’s death,

What is strange is that I got no pleasure in walking through the parks and looking at the new leaves on the trees, at the buttercups which are just opening in crowds among the brick green grass. I used to think that looking at nature would always give me consolation in misery, but it did not do so today. The only thing that gave me comfort was simply a feeling for other people in misfortune and their need of love. I was made to feel, I suppose, for the first time, the absolute need of love to make life possible, and the continuous everlasting presence of love in the world. And so the fearful bitterness of this danger to T. and all our memories together, was mixed with the sense of something that can survive any loss, the power of love.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

49. William Carlos Williams - A Matisse

From: Contact II, 1921

On the French grass, in that room on Fifth Ave., lay that woman who had never seen my own poor land. The dust and noise of Paris had fallen from her with the dress and underwear and shoes and stockings which she had just put aside to lie bathing in the sun. So too she lay in the sunlight of the man’s easy attention. His eye and the sun had made day over her. She gave herself to them both for there was nothing to be told. Nothing is to be told to the sun at noonday. A violet clump before her belly mentioned that it was spring. A locomotive could be heard whistling beyond the hill. There was nothing to be told. Her body was neither classic nor whatever it might be supposed. There she lay and her curving torso and thighs were close upon the grass and violets.
So he painted her. The sun had entered his head in the color of sprays of flaming palm leaves. They had been walking for an hour or so after leaving the train. They were hot. She had chosen the place to rest and he had painted her resting, with interest in the place she had chosen.
It had been a lovely day in the air. ---What pleasant women are these girls of ours! When they have worn clothes and take them off it is with an effect of having performed a small duty. They return to the sun with a gesture of accomplishment. ---Here she lay in this spot today not like Diana or Aphrodite but with better proof than they of regard for the place she was in. She rested and he painted her.
It was the first of summer. Bare as was his mind of interest in anything save the fullness of his knowledge, into which her simple body entered as into the eye of the sun himself, so he painted her. So she came to America.
No man in my country has seen a woman naked and painted her as if he knew anything except that she was naked. No woman in my country is naked except at night.
In the french sun, on the french grass in a room on Fifth Ave., a french girl lies and smiles at the sun without seeing us.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

48. Paths Two

Other Inquisitions – Borges
Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces molded by time, certain twilights and certain places – all these are trying to tell us something, or have told us something we should not have missed, or are about to tell us something; that imminence of a revelation that is not yet produced is perhaps, the aesthetic reality.

Albert E. Einstein
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 science.

To paraphrase Gandhi
Almost anything you do will be insignificant but it is very important you do it well.

Monday, March 06, 2006

47. From: The View From The Center of the Universe

Contemplating the Cosmic Uroboros
From; The View From the Center of the Universe
by Primack and Abrams

The Cosmic Uroboros has no beginning, because it is all here all the time. But to speak about it with words we must start somewhere. So let's begin with that spot at the bottom that represents our own world, the world of things that are measured in meters or miles, the realm of Midgard.
In Midgard you––personally–– are midway between the size of a living cell and the size of earth. Think of a single cell on tip of your finger. That cell is as tiny compared to you as you are compared to the planet earth. A single atom in that cell is as tiny compared to you as you are compared to the sun.
Now imagine that you curl yourself up into a ball and you become an atom in the cell on your finger. What does the world look like? Your electron cloud touches the electron clouds of the atoms all around you. It is a cozy world.
But now imagine that you are the nucleus of that same atom. You look outward but it is six miles the to next nucleus of your kind, and there is little comfort in knowing that three miles away its electron cloud is touching yours.
Imagine now that you are a star. It's an even lonelier world. You are sitting in California and your closest neighbor is in Australia. You are the only two people on earth. Even if you are a star in a globular cluster, that tightest of all star clusters, your closest neighbor is still a thousand miles away.
Imagine now that you are a galaxy. Things become almost cozy again. Other galaxies are not far away. In this room, your nearest neighboring galaxy is sitting only 20 feet from you. If you are a rich cluster of galaxies, you nearest neighbor is only a few feet away.
Now imagine that you are a supercluster of galaxies. You are touching the next supercluster, and it touches the next. Like people holding hands and encircling large voids. But your consciousness is wavering and flickering because unlike a galaxy, you the supercluster, are not bound together by gravity. Your parts are expanding away from each other. In time you will drift apart like clouds in a blue sky. And yet whatever you are will last many billions of years.
The universe looks different and works differently on different size scales, but you can't tell that from looking around, because any size scale you focus on appears to reality itself.

"I do not see a delegation
For the four-footed.
I see no seat for the eagles.
We forget and we consider
Ourselves superior.
But we are after all
A mere part of the Creation.
And we stand somewhere between
The mountain and the ant.
Somewhere and only there
As part and parcel
Of the creation."

Chief Oren Lyons, Onondaga Nation, Iroquois Confederacy, 1977

Friday, March 03, 2006

46. Anna Quindlen's Commencement Address

Anna Quindlen's Villanova University Commencement Address:

It's a great honor for me to be the third member of my family to receive an honorary doctorate from this great university. It's a honor to follow my great-Uncle Jim, who was a gifted physician, and my Uncle Jack, who is a remarkable businessman. Both of them could have told you something important about their professions, about medicine or commerce. I have no specialized field of interest or expertise, which puts me at a disadvantage, talking to you today. I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first. Don't ever forget what a friend once wrote Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator decided not to run for reelection because he'd been diagnosed with cancer: "No man ever said on his death bed I wish I had spent more time in the office." Don't ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: "If you win the rat race, you're still a rat." Or what John Lennon wrote before he was gunned down in the driveway of the Dakota: "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul. People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've gotten back the test results and they're not so good. Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the center of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I show up. I listen.I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a card board cut out. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I would be rotten, or at best mediocre at my job, if those other things were not true. You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are.
So here's what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life! A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pickup the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas in the suburban neighborhood where you grew up; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around.
Take money you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough. It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of the azaleas, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. I learned to live many years ago. Something really, really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had my druthers, it would never have been changed at all. And what I learned from it is what, today, seems to be the hardest lesson of all. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and to try to give some of it back because I believed in it completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this: "Consider the lilies of the field." Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness; because if you do; you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived. Well, you can learn all those things, out there, if you get a real life, a full life, a professional life, yes, but another life, too, a life of love and laughs and a connection to other human beings. Just keep you eyes and ears open.
Here, you could learn in the classroom. There, the classroom is everywhere. The exam comes at the very end. No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office. I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island maybe 15 years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless survive in the winter months. He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule, panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt a Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them. And I asked him why. Why didn't he go to one of the shelters? Why didn't he check himself into the hospital for detox? And he just stared out at the ocean and said, "Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view." And every day, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view. And that's the last thing I have to tell you today, words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be.
Look at the view.