Today I will see the first sunrise of my life, Shanyang said to himself as he limped past a sewer grate belching hot fumes.
To acquire even a degree of self-control, he had had to ponder the question of life and death for many years, discipline himself at every turn of the road, force himself to undergro the rigors of a samurai’s training. With no training or conscious self-discipline, this woman was able to say without the slightest hesitation that she, too, was prepared to die if he did. Her face expressed perfect serenity, her eyes telling him she was neither lying nor speaking impulsively. She seemed almost happy over the prospect of following him in death. He wondered, with a tinge of shame, how women could be so strong.
I love this book.
I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
In 1986, Ted Hughes wrote this letter to his son, who suffered from depression.
It is a small miracle of words.
I hope things are clearing. It did cross my mind, last summer, that you were under strains of an odd sort. I expect, like many another, you’ll spend your life oscillating between fierce relationships that become tunnel traps, and sudden escapes into wide freedom when the whole world seems to be just there for the taking.
Nobody’s solved it. You solve it as you get older, when you reach the point where you’ve tasted so much that you can somehow sacrifice certain things more easily, and you have a more tolerant view of things like possessiveness (your own) and a broader acceptance of the pains and the losses.
I came to America, when I was 27, and lived there three years as if I were living inside a damart sock — I lived in there with your mother. We made hardly any friends, no close ones, and neither of us ever did anything the other didn’t want wholeheartedly to do.
(It meant, Nicholas, that meeting any female between 17 and 39 was out. Your mother banished all her old friends, girlfriends, in case one of them set eyes on me — presumably. And if she saw me talking with a girl student, I was in court. Foolish of her, and foolish of me to encourage her to think her laws were reasonable. But most people are the same. I was quite happy to live like that, for some years.)
Since the only thing we both wanted to do was write, our lives disappeared into the blank page. My three years in America disappeared like a Rip Van Winkle snooze. Why didn’t I explore America then? I wanted to. I knew it was there. Ten years later we could have done it, because by then we would have learned, maybe, that one person cannot live within another’s magic circle, as an enchanted prisoner.
So take this new opportunity to look about and fill your lungs with that fantastic land, while it and you are still there. That was a most curious and interesting remark you made about feeling, occasionally, very childish, in certain situations.
Nicholas, don’t you know about people this first and most crucial fact: every single one is, and is painfully every moment aware of it, still a child. To get beyond the age of about eight is not permitted to this primate — except in a very special way, which I’ll try to explain.
When I came to Lake Victoria, it was quite obvious to me that in some of the most important ways you are much more mature than I am. And your self-reliance, your independence, your general boldness in exposing yourself to new and to-most-people-very-alarming situations, and your phenomenal ability to carry through your plans to the last practical detail (I know it probably doesn’t feel like that to you, but that’s how it looks to the rest of us, who simply look on in envy), is the sort of real maturity that not one in a thousand ever come near. As you know.
But in many other ways obviously you are still childish — how could you not be, you alone among mankind? It’s something people don’t discuss, because it’s something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle.
But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it.
So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet. And if this is the only part of them we meet we’re likely to get a rough time, and to end up making ‘no contact’.
But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child, you find that everybody becomes, in a way, like your own child. It’s an intangible thing. But when they too, sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child.
Usually, that child is a wretchedly isolated undeveloped little being. It’s been protected by the efficient armour, it’s never participated in life, it’s never been exposed to living and to managing the person’s affairs, it’s never been given responsibility for taking the brunt. And it’s never properly lived. That’s how it is in almost everybody. And that little creature is sitting there, behind the armour, peering through the slits. And in its own self, it is still unprotected, incapable, inexperienced.
Every single person is vulnerable to unexpected defeat in this inmost emotional self. At every moment, behind the most efficient seeming adult exterior, the whole world of the person’s childhood is being carefully held like a glass of water bulging above the brim.
And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It’s their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can’t understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That’s the carrier of all the living qualities. It’s the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn’t come out of that creature isn’t worth having, or it’s worth having only as a tool — for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful.
So there it is. And the sense of itself, in that little being, at its core, is what it always was. But since that artificial secondary self took over the control of life around the age of eight, and relegated the real, vulnerable, supersensitive, suffering self back into its nursery, it has lacked training, this inner prisoner.
And so, wherever life takes it by surprise, and suddenly the artificial self of adaptations proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, that inner self is thrown into the front line — unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears.
And yet that’s the moment it wants. That’s where it comes alive — even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that’s where it calls up its own resources—not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope, and to turn to account, and to enjoy.
That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember.
But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells — he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.
The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.
It was a saying about noble figures in old Irish poems — he would give his hawk to any man that asked for it, yet he loved his hawk better than men nowadays love their bride of tomorrow. He would mourn a dog with more grief than men nowadays mourn their fathers.
And that’s how we measure out our real respect for people — by the degree of feeling they can register, the voltage of life they can carry and tolerate — and enjoy.
End of sermon. As Buddha says: live like a mighty river. And as the old Greeks said: live as though all your ancestors were living again through you.
Fitting words together makes time go through narrower pipes but faster.
…David Mitchell, Black Swan Green
Nena Daconte was almost a child, with the eyes of a happy bird, and molasses skin still radiant with the bright Caribbean sun in the mournful January gloom, and she was wrapped up to her chin in a mink coat that could not have been bought with the year’s wages of the entire frontier garrison. Her husband, Billy Sánchez De Ávila, who drove the car, was a year younger and almost as beautiful, and he wore a plaid jacket and a baseball hat. Unlike his wife, he was tall and athletic and had the iron jaw of a timid thug. But what best revealed the status of them both was the silver automobile whose interior exhaled a breath of living animal; nothing like it had ever been seen along that impoverished border. The rear seat overflowed with suitcases that were too new and many gift boxes that were still unopened. It also held the tenor saxophone that had been the overriding passion of Nena Daconte’s life before she succumbed to the disquieting love of her tender beach hoodlum.
The main thing was I learned how to inhabit my song.
Which means what?
Well. Singers can have a wide range of…it can be John Lydon and the Sex Pistols or you can have Dylan’s voice or Neil Young’s voice, all very very unconventional voices. But they were people who simply inhabited their songs, deeply, deeply, and very very well…so that when your audience heard you, you were convincing. What you were singing about was believable and convincing. That’s the key to a great singer. A great singer has to learn how to inhabit a song. You may not be able to hit all the notes, that’s okay. You may not have the clearest tone, may not have the greatest range, but if you can inhabit your song…you can communicate. There’s plenty of people who do the other things well and will never be great singers. In rock music, you have to be able to personify what you’re singing about.
Kylo says “We can end this, you and I. We can bring balance to the galaxy.”
Ray hesitates, then takes Kylo’s hand, finding her “place in all of this.”
Finn witnesses from off in the distance, and cries, and kills Phasma in rage.
Holdo pulls off her smash job.
Debris falls and injures Rey.
Lovestruck Kylo is incensed and unhinged when the [Empire] attacks the [Rebels] on Crait.
Luke, “the last Jedi,” sacrifices himself.
The [Rebels] escape, amid many tears.
Supreme Leader Kylo kneels at the bedside of unconscious Supreme Queen Rey.
Have the good guys lost?
Rey still has the books. Her bedclothes are gray.
She actually has a teacher to train her.
The tension between light and dark is preserved.
You leave the cinema bewildered, hopeful, having finally watched a worthy successor to The Empire Strikes Back, instead of a Disney movie.
296 words. Pay attention.
For many years, I’ve taught young writers that there are only two things that matter, two things they need to learn, and that the entire universe of literature is contained within those elements: images, and (honest) emotions. Now, it seems, I’ve been proven correct:
Notably, readers did not at all agree on what poems they found appealing, an outcome that supports the notion that people have different tastes; nonetheless, there is common ground—vividness of imagery and emotional valence—in what explains these tastes, even if they vary.
It’s always fun to see the academy catching up to that which artists and musicians have known for, oh, fifteen thousand years?
In the present day – when places called cafés are springing up everywhere, drawing in thousands of idle people with money to squander, when male and female students behave so shockingly in streetcars that it has become necessary to segregate them – men have lost all trace of that fervor that drove their ancestors to accept the most frightening challenges. Now they are good for nothing but to flutter their effeminate hands like dry, fragile leaves shaken by the merest puff of air.
…from Spring Snow, by Yukio Mishima, who in his 45 years wrote 34 novels, 50 plays, 25 short story collections, 35 books of essays, one libretto, and a single film, and who, upon completing his masterpiece Sea of Fertility tetralogy in 1970, led his own private militia to invade the Eastern Command of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, gave a speech intended to inspire a coup (for which he was brazenly mocked), then calmly walked into the commandant’s office, drew his sword, and committed ritual suicide.
Clearly, Mishima had issues.
Yet even so, it’s hard to deny the vision of a writer who could render the turmoil of a broken era so clearly in the flaming scarlet maples reflected on a calm pool of water.
There’s a dream I keep having, where my momma comes to me
And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me
Got my own way of praying, but every one’s begun
With a southern accent, where I come from
…Thanks, Mr. Petty.
It’s that bluegrass sound, but with a little bit more edge to it. It’s something I’d want to listen to, sound-wise, growing up in this area. The Appalachian culture and the way the people in this region talk, the sayings they have, it all lends itself to good songs. Everything they say is a song line.
…Kentucky singer-songwriter, Tyler Childers, in this Rolling Stone article, whose new album Purgatory was produced by the mush-mouthed sage Sturgill Simpson, as well as David Ferguson, sound engineer for Johnny Cash‘s iconic American Recordings, and which at times sounds as raw and haunting as Ray LaMontagne singing at a country funeral.
High heel lady spitting at the Nickajacks
Business man with a needle and a spoon
Coyote chewing on a cigarette
Pack o’ young boys going howling at the moon
…text can’t convey how good these lyrics are. “Sleeping On The Blacktop,” by Colter Wall, who even though Canadian possessed the good sense to name his EP “Imaginary Appalachia,” and who looks about ready to hike outta Bold Camp and go pick fights at a Wise County football game.