THE BUILDERS, a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.
Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.
For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.
Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.
In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.
Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.
Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.
Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.
Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.
shared by olga guanbara
Why Men Like Jane Austen
In Culture on February 20, 2011 at 1:07 am
The stories have female protagonists, are full of dresses and dancing, have no battle scenes whatsoever, and are wildly popular with women. And yet when our girlfriends want to watch a date movie, we men will usually agree to watch Pride and Prejudice before we’ll submit to Ever After.
Many people have tried to explain why. Without diminishing any of their explanations, I think there is an important reason today’s guys will watch Jane Austen movies, and even read the books, which may sound counterintuitive. I think we like Jane Austen because we like stories with men in them.
Do not misunderstand me. We don’t watch a Jane Austen movie because Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne aren’t men. But we face—and have been facing for some time now—an identity crisis with which those heroes are no help. Kay Hymowitz, in a superb article over the weekend, called it the man’s search for an “acceptable adult identity.” We live in a woman’s world—the home has been traditionally the domain of the woman, and nowadays the workplace is no longer the domain of the man. Growing up, I didn’t get to see my father do many explicitly “manly” things. Today, my wife has to live with a husband who spends part of his time at work in a woman-dominated workplace, and the other part at home.
Entertainment is some small outlet for our manly instincts. Most of our wives let us have Sunday afternoons to watch football (ignoring the irony that the one time we know how to be “men” is when we are entertaining ourselves). However, in entertainment, we have only two choices in terms of role models. One is escapist; to enjoy heroes whose situations do not remotely resemble our own (such as those in action movies or football games, where manliness is a matter of sudden, dramatic action and there are no women allowed). The other is an acceptance of low expectations; to enjoy “heroes” who are in normal situations we can identify with, but who are “guys,” not men (Joey and Ross, Jerry and George)—emerging adults, if you will. In real life, we have none of these luxuries—we have to be men, and we have to do it in a swordless world that seems to be full of women. We are in desperate need of heroes who know how to be men in situations like ours—in normal life.
This is quite a predicament for us. And for you women who want to date a real man…well, you see your problem.
Enter Jane Austen.
I contend that a key reason we like Austen’s stories is that there are real men in them who know how to be men, day after day, moment after difficult moment—in awkward situations, in thankless tasks, in rooms full of women, when their actions and even their mannerisms are constantly scrutinized and judged. “Principles,” wrote C.S. Lewis, “are essential to Jane Austen’s art. [They] might be described as the grammar of conduct. Now grammar is something that anyone can learn; it is also something that everyone must learn.” Jane Austen’s heroes have learned it—so they are role models for the rest of us in a way that few heroes can be.
Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility is my favorite example of this. He has to be a hero in excruciating social situations that would have me dying to slip away and go throw a football somewhere. (I should preface this by saying that if your only experience with the gentleman has come in the form of Alan Rickman’s awkward interpretation, you haven’t seen what I am describing. Read the book, or watch the BBC’s 2008 adaptation starring David Morrissey.)
Sir Walter Scott, a literary man’s man, appreciated this. “[Austen],” he wrote, “had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which has to be the most wonderful I ever met with. The big ‘Bow-Wow’ strain I can do myself, like any now going; but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary common-place things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me.”
This ability to dramatize the ordinary for a man is precisely what makes Austen so indispensable to someone like me. David Morrissey’s Colonel Brandon captures the book’s character well. He is unspectacular at first glance; clearly lacking a desire to entertain others or draw attention to himself. Yet his sober demeanor and penetrating gaze quickly make it clear he is a man who is unlikely to judge a situation wrongly. On top of this, he is keenly aware of the feelings of others—yet this does not reduce him to indecisiveness, but instead produces a polished manner that seeks to make others feel safe and comfortable. He is an island of strong sanity in an often emotional, confusing, and tumultuous environment. As I follow Brandon’s character, I see subtleties in his small actions that betray manliness at every step—yet I rarely see him in what we might consider manly situations.
This is the Austen hero. Chesterton observed, “When Darcy, in finally confessing his faults, says ‘I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice though not in theory,’ he gets nearer to a complete confession of the intelligent male than ever was even hinted by the Byronic lapses of the Brontes’ heroes or the elaborate exculpations of George Eliot’s.” This kind of self-aware yet self-confident manhood does not impress in the way that a quick wit or a quick sword does. Rather, it inspires respect—something we too often do not know how to gain, because for the Austen hero, “manly” is not something he does, like rescuing a damsel in distress; it is something he is. There is an integrity to him that transcends situation.
Contrast this with the men Austen does not wish us to respect. Her villains are always double-dealers; presenting a façade to the world that is often more immediately impressive than the heroes’ character. Comic characters like Mr. Collins lack the sobriety and sensible temperament that mark the Austenian true man. However, perhaps the most sympathetic character to the modern “guy” is Mr. Bennet. Bennet is the only man in the household, and is ill at-ease in his role. Rather than be a man in a woman’s world, he constantly retreats to his library to read. This is his 19th-century version of playing video games—it’s an activity in which he knows who he is and doesn’t need to adapt.
The older we grow, the less likely most males are to have such a luxury. To have a good career, to win a woman, to achieve any goal we might want, we can’t be a Mr. Bennet. So after we’ve put up what we consider to be the expected amount of resistance and agreed to watch Pride and Prejudice on our date, just sit back and relax. Enjoy the romance of Mr. Darcy, and ignore us. We’re taking notes.
via humane pursuits
thanks for sharing Ash!
Recently, I’ve been perusing Lapham’s Quarterly The City and wondering about the stories of peoples lives in different cities and places and times. My friend Keiko has been working abroad in Japan for the past few weeks. Here are her observations and some more thoughts to ponder:
|Culture of “gaman” is the opposite of woe is me
An American who lived in Japan for 20+ years engaging in conversations with over 12,000 Japanese people describes the concept of Gaman.
“One of the character qualities that Japanese culture encourages and builds into it citizens is something called “gaman”. It can mean slightly different things, but it essentially means to practice tolerance in the face of hardship rather than to complain, act out, or be confrontational. The manner in which this manifests in life here is that (the vast majority of) people tend to be patient with small problems rather than make an issue of them, and they will put up with considerable difficulties rather than walk away or quit. It’s one of those things that many foreign folks don’t notice right away, but often they benefit from it. You may do a myriad of things that annoy your neighbors, but many of them may choose to simply “endure” the difficulty rather than complain. Many foreigners also fail to practice “gaman” themselves and alienate Japanese people who feel that no reasonable person would complain about the trivialities that foreign folks do. I will miss the culture of “gaman” and the way in which it encourages patience and cooperation rather than petty complaining and confrontation.”
– Endure, rather than complain.
This is something I can really relate to and now understand. Having grown up in the US, I believed that all people in this world complain a lot, and about every little thing. But being in Japan, I can see the stark difference of people just being patient and dealing with things, instead of yelling and complaining, singing from the rooftops, “woe is me.” You might say, well Japanese people are just more passive or submissive, assuming these people just do as their told, but then you’d be missing the point entirely. There is a great deal of “gaman” that is being practiced.
From commuting every day on an overcrowded subway, to the late, late nights at work, you’d have to approach life with a great dose of “gaman” to survive here. It’s clearly a survival tactic. And even though I didn’t grow up in Japan, having Japanese parents who constantly used the words, “gaman” and embodied the culture of “gaman” I’m not surprised to know there is a great deal of “gaman” in my actions and the way I approach life. And it’s something I’ve also seen in many of my Japanese and Japanese American friends.
Insights from Keiko. Domo arigato!
another look at gaman
Line by Line is a NYTimes 12-week essay series on learning the basics of drawing, presented by James McMullan. I just started reading it today. As someone who has gotten used to creating things straight on the computer, this is a refreshing read. Lately, I’ve been too caught up by technology, thinking about picking up a pencil to draw, but bypassing it – this is a sign that I need to get out of my rut and get to work on some eye hand coordination!
her writing is exquisite and when i don’t know where else to turn, her words manage to speak to a part of my soul grasping for air
The Scent of Life
Monday December 13, 2010
Two autumns ago, the autumn I would have given birth, I went to London and spent days wandering, working my sadness to sweat in the chilly gray rain. On my first aimless morning I walked from Notting Hill to Hyde Park and on to Brompton Oratory, in whose dark turrets candle smoke hung like clouds and at whose Sacred Heart altar I found a novena leaflet that read like a chain letter.
I considered the leaflet’s bald promise that in fourteen days of novenas and leaflet-ing, my dreams would come true. I pocketed it, knelt at the dim Mary Magdalene altar, and wrote my child’s name in the register of prayers.
Then I continued down the cobblestones and sidewalk to Harrod’s, where I walked straight to the parfumerie. I had just turned thirty. I was a woman. I needed a scent to follow me.
The Chanel counter struck me as a good place to start, but that first day I leaned awkwardly into its gold and glass buffet. I had never purchased a perfume before.
No. 19 was the scent I wanted first—grassy, rainy, like the damp greens I had crossed.
No. 5 fascinated me: it was very bodily, and years later, walking the streets of Vienna, I would pass the sweaty, doe-eyed horses of a hansom cab and recognize in the musk of their bodies and the tannins of their bridles some memory of that rich perfume.
But both scents were so foreign to the floral and vanilla fragrances that had always stood, in my mind, as feminine perfumes. A patient saleswoman noticed my worry and suggested that I spritz No. 19 on my neck, walk the city for a day, and see how it wore on my skin. If I liked it, I could come back and buy a bottle—and if I didn’t, I could try Coco or No. 5.
I took her up on the offer and returned every morning that week, wending my way back through Hyde Park and the dim Oratory to the bright Chanel counter. Each time, I decanted and mulled over all the perfumes and their beautiful bottles, and then I chose the one I would wear that day. Some perfumes pooled at my skin, sweet and rare but glassy, inert. Others clung awkwardly, catching and tugging at my own scent like the stitches of an unraveling scarf.
I couldn’t tell you which notes spoiled on my skin—neroli, mayrose, muguet. I knew and still know almost nothing about the essences and elixirs that compose modern perfumes. But I knew that while walking the fog and chill of that city, the grapefruit-tinged citron of Chance Eau Fraiche caramelized on my skin and made my body smell as if it had bloomed of its own accord.
That was what I longed for: to bloom, magically, despite death and fear and the shame of being a grave. Perhaps it was unwise of me to spend so much money on a small bottle of the leaf-green perfume, but I did it. And I did not regret it.
I still don’t regret it, especially in this new season of grief. A good friend recently asked me how I was making it through, and without a moment’s thought I said: “Chanel, lingerie, and anti-depressants.” “A formidable trifecta,” he said, and we both laughed, but not because it wasn’t true. Every day I have to do the frivolous work of reminding myself I am a body. If I don’t, I won’t make it through alive.
In the mornings I spray a cloud of the leaf-green perfume in the sunlight of my room and I walk through it slowly. The scent falls on my skin and hair, lingers for a bit, and then rises again, changed with my heat, and I know I still living, still breathing, still hazy and pink and alive with the maze of my own warm blood.
This article read my mind
Historically, luxury goods have been created through meticulous detail, respect for our shared environment, commitment and recognition of human dignity. But this dedicated breed of craftspeople in Italy and across the world are now being replaced by large production facilities in cheap labor regions. Of this decline, Professor Sennett has noted: “Belief in sharing and developing skills, in craftsmanship intended not only as manual ‘know-how,’ but above all as a mental process in which passion for one’s work, the desire to keep progressing, an obsession with quality and continual research into materials and technology…are tangible expressions of a zeal and dynamism that belong anywhere but in the past, that now more than ever represent elements of distinction and important levers for facing the future.” … And yet, in today’s economic climate, is it still possible to create such a company with today’s business pressures and market realities?
full article here from JCReport
“Our lives are built on our stories about ourselves—our stories of failure, triumph, belovedness, shame—and we have to be careful how we tell them. If we examine our lives with humility and all the fruits of the Spirit, hopefully our stories about ourselves will harmonize with the stories that our most trusted friends tell about us. … Addictive behaviors are hard to see because we are ashamed of them and because we grow accustomed to their dull, tinny taste and to the frantic hunger they stoke, so that we can’t even imagine the richness of the Psalmist’s fat and marrow. … In our age of irony, a peculiar emotional detachment demarcates class and strength, and wealth’s independence segregates the young from the old. We are learning to merge a kind of meticulous vanity with the unsleeping feed of electronic communication. It is hard to be still. There are so many things to touch and see.”
excerpted from “Risking the Heart” by Laura Bramon Good
thank you for sharing Julie
The Returns of Love
There is such generosity in love it will not fit
Within a modest box with corners and a key.
But what if I offer more than I receive? If
My love’s largesse, though open, unencumbered, free,
And furnished without stint to all my friends and foes,
Vanishes in the void, is spent, and lost to me?
Then I remember–love, not cramped in where it goes,
May be reversed, enlarged by love’s complicity,
Its give and take. The sumptuous fragrance of a rose
Accepts no close confinement or captivity.
The tide that outward ebbs, turns then and inward flows,
And what I offer you, you’ll multiply to me.
by Luci Shaw
When my fingers
know better than I
as they hover over
the keyboard, then type
a word that is not
the word I wanted but
a better word—what is that
but an answer, you
caring for details, filling
cracks, your poetry
arc-ing its swift current
through my bones.
I love her poetry. happy friday guys
Today is the 2nd official day of summer. These images from javiy’s flickr are triggering a nostalgic mood of childhood summertime days for me (even though I’m a terrible swimmer!)
Another thought: didn’t know about the Dear Diary column in nytimes until this morning. Heres one entry I particularly enjoyed:
Not long ago I was sitting in my car on Mercer just south of Eighth Street, waiting for the 6 p.m. parking to open up. Straight ahead of me was a gang of five hefty young men. On the trunk lid of their car, they had two large pizza boxes and five Snapple bottles.
They were having a great time, but after a while they began getting out of control. The extra pizza slices and the Snapple bottles were splattering and smashing and making a mess. I was getting angry, but they were five large young men, so I didn’t say anything.
As I sat there stewing, up the sidewalk came a clown. I mean a real clown, who looked as if he had just stepped out of a Ringling Brothers tent. He must have been on the way to a child’s birthday party.
He stopped and surveyed the scene. Then, without saying a word, he walked to the trunk, picked up one of the pizza boxes and proceeded to collect the broken glass and pizza slices off the ground. When he was done, he walked to the corner and deposited it in a trash container.
The young men were dumbfounded! The clown then walked back to them and passed his hat.
They dug into their pockets and gave him their change. He then bowed and walked away.
This is an interesting article from Poynter’s Chip on Your Shoulder column that draws a parallel between athletes and writers. I found it helpful to think about how I approach my tendency to fall into a lack of focus and discipline as a freelance designer by looking at the way athletes physically and mentally prepare for their big games.
Sally Jenkins is an award-winning sports columnist for The Washington Post whose years of reporting and writing about athletic performance have led her to see a provocative connection between those of us who test our limits on a keyboard instead of a football field. In an e-mail interview, Jenkins describes what athletes can teach writers about improving performance. The author of five books, including “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life” with cyclist Lance Armstrong, Jenkins has also worked at Sports Illustrated.
Chip Scanlan: How and when did you make the connection between writing and performance issues?
Sally Jenkins: Well, I first thought about it with regard to deadlines. For some reason they decided to light stadiums, so now a lot of sports happen at night and writing game stories under crash deadlines can be rough, especially at an Olympics or a Super Bowl. Sometimes you have to write a thousand words in about 45 minutes — in a cold sweat after you’ve run the stadium stairs to the locker room. And you can’t hide; you know it’s going on the front of the section and about a million people are going to read your lousy first paragraph and quit on you the next day. So I used to try to get “up” for that kind of deadline, go in amped and ready to type faster than a semi-automatic weapon. more…