Tag Archives: 30 Days of Wisdom

30 Days of Wisdom — Days 10-12: What?!! Tolkien’s Dragons, Lennon’s Tears and Swift’s One-liner

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So, yeah. I’m just going to lump all these together and not post again until the 13th because these three don’t need more than 300 words each and I don’t feel like cataloging them separately.

My blog. My rules.

Here they are, in their utter whateverness:

Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”
― John Lennon
tags: happiness, timelessness, wisdom 7102 likes

Lennon: Sure. He makes sense. It’s all about quality not quantity. This is an old concept and I think God came up with it first when He said, Carpe Diem. Or whoever said that. The second part of this quote, I’m not terribly keen on. I think if Lennon were here, he’d maybe not feel the same about it now, providing that he weren’t stoned. This line is from “Imagine” which is a noble song made of unicorn pharts and pony smiles. What’s more, a little (30 seconds) research has indicated that the line itself was lifted from a poem … written by someone else who goes by the name, Anonymous. This Anonymous is a very famous person, and has been around for a very long time.

Back to Lennon. Not everything meaningful is measured in smiles. If I counted only on the smiles as reasons to look back on my life with any appreciation for my growth or evolution, I’d never learn anything. Smiles connote victory, validation. It’s not that I only want to count on the tears and the less-than smile-istic moments of my life as solely appreciable moments either, but I do think they really count. It’s through failing that we learn things and to try again. Lennon was being glib here, I am convinced; he just needed the lines to rhyme. It happens. The same dude who wrote “Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the band to come … I am the walrus” is also the same guy who wrote the quote above. Everything in due time. That his quote makes more sense or has more appeal than Swift’s, is completely a matter or popular culture. More people know who John Lennon is than might know who Jonathan Swift is. I can’t talk about John Lennon any more.

Now on to Swift.

“May you live every day of your life.
― Jonathan Swift
tags: inspirational, life, philosophy, wisdom 5962 likes

I can just imagine it. A cozy and comfortable townhouse in Dublin. It’s a gathering of loved ones and friends after the massive success of Gulliver’s Travels in 1726. Everyone is dressed in costumes of the story. Tiny catapults, mini tents, a massive shoe, and nautical effects dot the room. Powdered wigs, Japanese coutoure, bustiers, lace petticoats, papier mâche horseheads and velvet mourning coats with tails adorn some creatures in attendance. It’s like the P.Diddy White Party of the 18th Century.

Swift, the sagacious scribe and man of the cloth enters and stops before a large and long weathered table; something one might encounter on a tall ship, perhaps. A goblet of nog or mulled wine raised in one hand, the other resting on the seasoned wood planks before him. A hearty roast rests in the center, flanked by candlesticks and bowls of fruit and scary gelled concoctions of the day. The room, paneled in gorgeous oak and mahogany mouldings, is silent. Everyone has stopped chattering and all eyes are on Swift. Surely the clergyman has something profound to say. Logs in the fireplace crackle and hiss, a pop here and there, but that is all other than the sounds of inhales and exhales from everyone gathered. Footmen and maids line the walls, their eyes cast downward. It has been a whirlwind experience. Swift’s book was an instant success the moment he published it. He is composed, his eyes glance about the room with a sincere appreciation for everyone who has come to celebrate.

He takes a deep breath and raises his goblet several inches higher toward the heavens. His dewy eyes cast upward, a deep smile of gratitude is gently painted across his face. His face centers and he looks around the room once more and says,

“May you live every day of your life.”

Women swoon and men say, “Here here!”

But small child, about seven years old, stands up in his Gulliver garb and says,

“THAT’S IT?! THAT’S ALL YOU’VE GOT FOR ME?!”

Yes. That is all.

“PIffle.” I can hear Mom, snort and then imagine her smirking.

Yes, sometimes super-thinking writers say stupid stuff like that. I get the point: live. LIVE. LIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!!!!!! DAMN YOU!!!

It’s the least-emotional, least enthusiastic way of reminding us all to stop watching life go by. To look up from y’damned smartphones to see the beauty in a falling leaf. To catch the 2″ snowflakes while you can. To burn your tongue on a slice of pizza every once in a while and not sweat the calories. To laugh like you’re never going to stop and to cry as though you fear what’s tearing you up might not end. Feel the feelings. Take the chances. Live. Each day. One day at a time, the best you can muster. That’s what Swift should have said. What he did say was something entirely less emphatic.

Can’t win ’em all.

And then, speaking of not winning them all, there’s this one from Tolkien:

Never laugh at live dragons.
― J.R.R. Tolkien
tags: dragons, wisdom 5957 likes

I got nothin’.

Of course, Tolkien was being … super geeky and totally weird. If he were being anecdotal, let’s just take a stab at that, he might be meaning to keep yourself together and your wits about you when dealing with completely irrational people.

Everyone has the capacity to become a fire-breathing asshat. Likewise, we all have the capacity to completely lose it in front of the asshat and start laughing at it. That’s not too smart, because most irrational people are also reactive, probably paranoid and definitely angry. The best course of action when dealing with a live dragon? Tread lightly and then skedaddle.

That’s all I got. How this quote even ended up with “wisdom” … if you could see me shaking my head right now, you’d get it. But I’m committed to this, I’m in. 30 Days of Wisdom. I will throw you perhaps two more days of these to make up for it, but then again, maybe I won’t.

The next quote, Day 13, is good. Come back for it. It’s by Dumas. He wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. The quote is chunky and really good. Trust me. I think it’s better than any of the quotes so far.

Thank you.

30 Days of Wisdom — Day 9: So, We Meet A’Twain …

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We are just humming along. It has been colder than cold here the last few days, but we don’t stop on the 30 Days of Wisdom Express. (That was super cheesy.)

Here’s today’s quote:

In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain
tags: bookroom, books, libraries, wisdom 7207 likes

Yes. My mom had tons of books; they are still there. Lots of books on art, literature, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Moliére, Hemingway, Chekov, Tolstoy, etc., it goes on and on. She had lots of books in gorgeous wooden book cases. Tiny books, big books, books with leather covers, books with paper covers. She loved books. I remember, as much as Twain’s quote is true, just feeling smarter by being near them. Of course, I would never touch them. That would belie my coolness; and it was practically verboten.

As a child, I remember the books were super important to Mom.

I remember her sitting on the phone for several calls’ worth of inquiries to different small and antique booksellers to find certain books. To Mom, books were more than books; they were statements.

Her private collection of books were much less fancy, but equally important. They were in my parents’ bedroom: they were paperbacks or huge volumes of literature anthologies, even trashy novels. The ones which were in book cases that lined the long hallway of our Buffalo house when I was growing up were in-between books: personal, but public and popular for the most part but they were still impressive; they were meant to be seen. You didn’t just “take a book to look through” from the living room. Adults did that or you would look at the books with her beside you.

Super-thin paper, she would handle them delicately, but anxiously. I didn’t understand it other than to know they were important.

Twain is right though — I did feel smarter just from being around them. I knew my mother’s collection of books was impressive and in some small way, because she was so taken by them, I was proud of them. Or was it envy?

This is heading in a direction that has nothing to do with the quote.

Back to the quote. Yes! A good book room will infuse you with wisdom. But I don’t get that same feeling from a large bookstore, do you? I feel like at a bookstore, it’s all about sales, not wisdom. It’s about getting you in to buy the book so you will walk away with the bag emblazoned with the logo on it. In a public library, I feel much the same way. The point of a library is that you are there to learn what you don’t already know. In a personal library, it feels somehow different. It feels like to me, that you can absorb the gift of the volumes simply by knowing they exist.

Books say a lot about the people who own them.

In my bookcases (yes, we have several) rhyme and reason have been abandoned. My books run the gamut from Nicholas Sparks to Malcolm Gladwell; from Homer to Dickens; from Anita Shreve to Roz Chast; from Twain to Schulz. Mom always gave books as gifts. I admired that for the most part, as I aged. When I was younger I really didn’t want them, but she knew how important they were. She bought me a set of very early editions of Babar the Elephant from a dusty old bookstore in Hamilton, Ontario. She also gave me her copy of Gone With The Wind and a host of others. She inscribed them all. As she grew older, the books she gave me became more playful. Now that I look back on that, I think it’s interesting. Just as I was ready to talk to her about my favorite writers, she started giving me Mary Higgins Clark mysteries, which I enjoyed. I also have books on yoga, spirituality, camp fire songs and card games. My books are for reading, escaping and enjoyment.

As for Twain, the same can be said of a fantastic art collection or a home filled with a truly loving family. When in a gallery, I feel smarter just by being sucked in by the art. When I visited the Ai Wei Wei exhibit last year at the Corcoran, I was immediately enlightened. When I’m in the company of authentic, loving people, I feel authentic and loving.

Any time you get a chance to hang out with books is a good time.

I haven’t spent much time with Mom’s books; it’s hard for me still. They all remind me so much of her. I’m sorry, I’m a little caught up. I’m writing this early — for me it’s Sunday and it was my dad’s birthday. He brought over a cake and I made lasagna. Mom wasn’t here, so it was our first one since she died and I’m feeling a lot of everything. I think that’s why I keep going back to Mom in this post. There’s simply no way for me to talk about books without talking about Mom. Gah. I’m gonna stop here.

Books are awesome. Never stop reading.

Thank you.