The recent Blogoquent Competition calling for a description of life in a single sentence was won by Katrina, whose concise and eloquent entry posted in Calliope Writing struck me as being much like a haiku. Hmmm. One can indeed get a decent haiku by simply adding obbligato line breaks to the winning sentence:
Haiku Draft #1
Life is a journey
in which nothing is permanent and
everything is precious.
The competition is over. We are free to use 2 sentences now. A better haiku emerges:
Haiku Draft #2
Life is a journey.
No things are permanent and
all things are precious.
Hmmm. Do I have an image to illustrate this post? I do, and it suggests another tweak:
Life flows and splashes.
No things are permanent and
all things are precious.
In Yogi Berra’s Washington Post obituary, the subtitle “American philosopher” is well-chosen. While some of the quotes attributed (or misattributed) to Yogi Berra may just be funny malapropisms, some strike me as quirky ways to say something important, akin to Zen koans. One of his gems is widely applicable and especially relevant to a world on the brink of ecological and/or political collapse. It deserves a special name. It is also so widely quoted that 2 versions are common, as indicated below:
Yogi Berra’s Law
The game ain’t over til it’s over.
It ain’t over til it’s over.
Yes, the original context was baseball. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9-th inning, the home team may be trailing. Yogi rightly admonishes both the home team (to resist despair) and the visitors (to resist complacency). A lot can still happen with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9-th inning. I prefer the shorter version of the law because it is more explicit about the law’s generality. “It” could be almost anyhthing.
My current context for heeding Yogi Berra’s Law is the imminent inauguration of Donald Trump as POTUS. At best, this event marks the start of 4 long and nasty years in the US. At worst, this event might combine with trends elsewhere (in China, Europe, and Russia) to start a new Dark Age. To consider the worst case is prudent, not alarmist.
Mindless repetition of platitudes like
is no substitute for the eternal vigilance that Jefferson said is the price of liberty. (There are other prices.) I resist the complacency of those platitudes; I also resist despair and continue (in my own small way) to be a citizen rather than just a complainer.
In a late inning in the biggest game of my lifetime, the Enlightenment is trailing. That sucks. But 2+3 is still 5 and Yogi Berra’s Law is still true.
The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
A somber interpretation of this quote comes naturally.
And so on.
Like many classics, the Faulkner quote can be reinterpreted later, w/o superceding the original intent. As a quick example of such reinterpretation, consider JS Bach’s Two-Part Invention #11. It is very quick indeed (about a minute long) and was originally written for solo harpsichord. Click here to hear it arranged for banjo and marimba, on one track from a Grammy-winning CD, where banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck and friends reinterpret 19 short classical pieces. We will return to music shortly.
The story of my upbeat reinterpretation starts a few years ago. Tired of having the air in my kitchen be warmer and wetter than elsewhere in the house, I bought a window fan: 2 small quiet fans in 1 housing, meant to be squeezed between sash and sill for blowing air in or out of a window. I mounted the fan in a doorless doorway, so as to blow air from the dining room into the kitchen. It does help. A tall person would need to stoop when passing thru; I do not.
To mount the fan, I drilled holes in the fan housing and drove screws thru the housing into wooden supports (cut from scrap lumber) that I attached to the upper corners of the doorway. I chuckled at the thought that relating horizontal and vertical lengths (along the doorway) to diagonal lengths (of cut lumber) was yet another small consulting gig for Pythagoras.
Hmmm. I did not think of Pythagoras as an ancient dead Greek. I thought of him as an eminent older colleague (long since retired) who is doing quite well for his age and still has consulting gigs. The past is not past.
Will our civilization endure until I am as old as Pythagoras is now? (Not w/o some major course corrections.) Suppose it does. I doubt that I will have many more consulting gigs. But Pythagoras will. Bach’s music will still be cherished and reinterpreted, along with that of other great composers, from Hildegard to Hovhaness and beyond. Sometimes it is good that the past is not past.
Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179
Mystic visions or
migraine headaches? Whatever.
Her music lives on!
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”
Being calm and compassionate is also important in Buddhism, so I have responded to
by expanding the Dalai Lama’s quote about being happy into a haiku about being all 3. Rhododendrons originated in Asian mountains, so a photo with 3 clusters of their blossoms seems appropriate for illustrating the rather abstract haiku to follow.
Riff on a Quote from
Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)
Be calm and happy.
Give loving help to those
who are frantic or sad.