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Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Marquez also wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude along with other works. This book, Love in the Time of Cholera, was a national best seller. Marquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Penguin Books had this edition translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman. This book was published in 1988. Even though the cover of my copy appears intriguing, I hate the title; it actively makes me not want to read it. I committed to it because I’d heard such good things about the author. A movie was made based on this story. A personal note on the very first page reads “This book is incredible!” On the second page I wrote “With very little dialogue, this book reminds me of another one of my favorite authors, Dostoyevsky. We go deep into people’s hearts, souls and minds. What a splendored world is love. How long would you wait? How far would you go? Love has no age; no sell-by date. We do not stop loving when we age.” On the next page I wrote “This is another one of those books whose title does not reveal the humor and the love inside!”

As far as transcription, I usually just type the “best bits” that rise to the surface as outstanding writing. For this one I also included plot points (which I mark differently in the book). That was too much! I’m hoping that if you like the “best bits” you’ll feel inspired to read the entire story.

 

3  margin note: Saint Amour poisons himself

5  margin note: Dr. Juvenal Urbino is very old but still working. Memory and hearing slipping a bit.

9  “…the uproar of oil and motors from the bay whose exhaust fumes fluttered through the house on hot afternoons like an angel condemned to putrefaction.”

10  “‘The scalpel is the greatest proof of the failure of medicine.’ He thought that, in a strict sense, all medication was poison and that seventy percent of common foods hastened death.”

17  Branding (one of my literary interests discussed in my thesis) is mentioned

20  “He was a deplumed, maniacal parrot who did not speak when asked to but only when it was least expected, but when he did so with a clarity and rationality that were uncommon among human beings.”

31  “He was very glad that the instrument used by Divine Providence for that overwhelming revelation had been Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, whom he had always considered a saint unaware of his own state of grace. But when the letter revealed his true identity, his sinister past, his inconceivable powers of deception, he felt that something definitive and irrevocable had occurred in his life.”

32  “‘You don’t understand anything,’ he said. ‘What infuriates me is not what he was or what he did, but the deception he practiced on all of us for so many years.’”

37  “He remembered Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, on view at that hour in his coffin, in his bogus military uniform with his fake decoration, under the accusing eyes of the children in the portraits.”

49  Dr. Urbino is buried the day after Saint-Amour.

50  “‘Fermina,’ he said, ‘I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.’

“Fermina Daza would have thought she was facing a madman if she had not had reason to believe that at that moment Florentino Ariza was inspired by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Her first impulse was to curse him for profaning the house when the body of her husband was still warm in the grave. But the dignity of her fury held her back. ‘Get out of here,’ she said. ‘And don’t show your face again for the years of life that are left to you.’ She opened the street door, which she had begun to close, and concluded:

“‘And I hope there are very few of them.’”

51  “Only then did she realize that she had slept a long time without dying, sobbing in her sleep, and that while she slept, sobbing, she had thought more about Florentino Ariza than about her dead husband.”

Chapter endnotes:

Learn about Saint-Amour and what is revealed in his suicide note. Learn of Dr. Urbino (who dies next) and his wife, Fermina. She is visited by a man she met as a teen who says he has loved her all this time. This news did not come as a shock but she kicks him out. Even so…she thinks about him more than her dead husband all through the night.

 

53  “Florentino Ariza, on the other hand, had not stopped thinking of her for a single moment since Fermina Daza had rejected him out of hand after a long and troubled love affair fifty-one years, nine months, and four days ago.”

54  “…Florentino Ariza could play by ear like a professional. When he met Fermina Daza he was the most sought-after young man in his social circle…”

55  “The lesson was not interrupted, but the girl raised her eyes to see who was passing by the window, and that casual glance was the beginning of a cataclysm of love that still had not ended half a century later.”

57  “‘But above all,’ she said, ‘The first person you have to win over is not the girl but her aunt.’”

58  “…her aunt was convinced that all these meetings could not be casual. She said: ‘He is not going to all this trouble for me.’ For despite her austere conduct and penitential habit, Aunt Escolastica had an instinct for life and a vocation for complicity, which was her greatest virtues, and the mere idea that a man was interested in her niece awakened an irresistible emotion in her. Fermina Daza, however, was still safe from even simple curiosity about love, and the only feeling that Florentino Ariza inspired in her was a certain pity, because it seemed to her that he was sick. But her aunt told her that one had to live a long time to know a  man’s true nature, and she was convinced that the one who sat in the park to watch them walk by could only be sick with love.

“Four times a day, when they walked through the little Park of the Evangels, both hurried to look with a rapid glance at the thin, timid, unimpressive sentinel who was almost always dressed in black despite the heat and who pretended to read under the trees.”

59  “But her prayers were not answered. On the contrary. This occurred at the time that Florentino Ariza made his confession to his mother, who dissuaded him from handing Fermina Daza his seventy pages of compliments, so that she continued to wait for the rest of the year.”

62  But his examination revealed that he had no fever, no pain anywhere, and that his only concrete feeling was an urgent desire to die. All that was needed was shrewd questioning, first of the patient and then of his mother, to conclude once again that the symptoms of love were the same as those of cholera.”

68  “It was the year they fell into devastating love. Neither one could do anything except think about the other, dream about the other, and wait for letters with the same impatience they felt when they answered them. Never in that delirious spring, or in the following year, did they have the opportunity to speak to each other. Moreover, from the moment they saw each other for the first time until he reiterated his determination a half century later, they never had the opportunity to be alone or to talk of their love. But during the first three months not one day went by that they did not write to each other, and for a time they wrote twice a day, until Aunt Escolastica became frightened by the intensity of the blaze that she herself had helped to ignite.”

69  “Sometimes he went to the office without having slept, his hair in an uproar of love after leaving the letter in the prearranged hiding place so that Fermina Daza would find it on her way to school.”

71  “Their frenetic correspondence was almost two years old when Florentino Ariza, in a letter of only one paragraph, made a formal proposal of marriage to Fermina Daza. On several occasions during the preceding six months he had sent her a white camellia…”

“…torn from the margin of a school notebook, on which a one-line answer was written in pencil: Very well, I will marry you if you promise not to make me eat eggplant.”

73  “In any case, the details of the engagement were settled in their letters during the weeks that followed. Fermina Daza, on the advice of her Aunt Escolastica, accepted both the two-year extension and the condition of absolute secrecy, and suggested that Florentino Ariza ask for her hand when she finished secondary school, during the Christmas vacation. When the time came they would decide on how the engagement was to be formalized, depending on the degree of approval she obtained from her father. In the meantime, they continued to write to each other with the same ardor and frequency, but free of the turmoil they had felt before, and their letters tended toward a domestic tone that seemed appropriate to husband and wife. Nothing disturbed their dreams.”

77  “She had two children, each by a different father, not because they were casual adventures but because she could never love any man who came back after the third visit.”

78  “The fact was that on the previous Saturday, Sister Franca de la Luz, Superior of the Academy of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, had come into the class on Ideas of Cosmogony with the stealth of a serpent, and spying on the students over their shoulders, she discovered that Fermina Daza was pretending to take notes in her notebook when in reality she was writing a love letter. According to the rules of the Academy, that error was reason for expulsion.”

79  “Certain that such an intricate relationship was understandable only with the complicity of his sister, he did not grant her the grace of an excuse or the right of appeal, but shipped her on the schooner to San Juan de la Cienaga. Fermina Daza never found relief from her last memory of her aunt on the afternoon when she said goodbye in the doorway…”

“Lorenzo Daza did not foresee the ferocity with which his daughter would react to the unjust punishment of her Aunt Escolastica, whom she had always identified with the mother she could barely remember. She locked herself in her room, refused to eat or drink, and when at last he persuaded her to open the door, first with threats and then with poorly dissimulated pleading, he found a wounded panther who would never be fifteen years old again.”

“But it was like talking to a corpse. Defeated, he at last lost his temper at lunch on Monday, and while he choked back insults and blasphemies and was about to explode, she put the meat knife to her throat, without dramatics but with a steady hand and eyes so aghast that he did not dare to challenge her. That was when he took the risk of talking for five minutes, man to man, with the accursed upstart whom he did not remember ever having seen, and who had come into his life to his great sorrow. By force of habit he picked up his revolver before he went out, but he was careful to hide it under his shirt.”

81  “Get out of our way.”

82  “‘Don’t force me to shoot you,’ he said.

“‘Shoot me,’ he said, with his hand on his chest. ‘There is no greater glory than to die for love.’”

Margin note: Father is taking her away. She leaves a letter in her hair braid.

86  “So the Forentino Ariza not only learned the complete itinerary but also established an extensive brotherhood of telegraph operators who would follow the trail of Fermina Daza to the last settlement in Cabo de la Vela. This allowed him to maintain intensive communications with her from the time of her arrival in Valledupar, where she stayed three months, until the end of her journey in Riohacha, a year and a half later, when Lorenzo Daza took it for granted that his daughter had at last forgotten and he decided to return home.”

88  “That was how the telegraphic correspondence with Florentino Ariza stopped being a concerto of intentions and illusory promises and became methodical and practical and more intense than ever. They set dates, established means, pledged their lives to their mutual determination to marry without consulting anyone, wherever and however they could, as soon as they were together again.”

Lorenzo Daza “never spoke to her about his plans for the arranged marriage.”

“It was at this time that Florentino Ariza decided to tell her in his letters of his determination to salvage the treasure of the sunken galleon for her.”

102 margin note: OH. NO.

103  “…opportunity to see or talk to Fermina Daza alone in the many chance encounters of their very long lives until fifty-one years and nine months and four days later, when he repeated his vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love on her first night as a widow.”

Endnotes: Florentino and Fermina were in love all their teen/young years, but her father moved them away to break up the romance. They stayed in touch through letters. Three years later when Fermina returned to secretly marry Florentino, he caught her by surprise in the market. At just that moment, the X factor was extinguished. She saw Florentino in an entirely new light and abruptly broke off the engagement.

 

109  “To prevent anyone from drinking from the aluminum cup used to dip out the water, its edges were as jagged as the crown of a mock king.”

122 Dr. Urbino is now attempting to get close to Fermina.

“It was a brief and bitter visit. Sister Franca de la Luz, wasting no time on formalities, offered honorable reinstatement to Fermina Daza. The reason for her expulsion would be erased not only from the records but also from the memory of the Community, and this would allow her to finish her studies and receive her baccalaureate degree. Fermina Daza was perplexed and wanted to know why.

“‘It is the request of someone who deserves everything he desires and whose only sin is to make you happy,’ said the nun. ‘Do you know who that is?’

“Then she understood. She asked herself with what authority a woman who had made her life miserable because of an innocent letter served as the emissary of love, but she did not dare to speak of it. Instead she said yes, she knew that man, and by the same token she also knew that he had no right to interfere in her life.”

132  margin notes: Fermina is a homebody with no friends

“She herself had not realized that every step she took from her house to school, every spot in the city, every moment of her recent past, did not seem to exist except by the grace of Florentino Ariza. Hildebranda pointed this out to her, but she did not admit it because she never would have admitted that Florentino Ariza, for better or for worse, was the only thing that had ever happened to her in her life.”

136  margin note: Interesting how all these men are after Fermina when she herself does not seem interesting at all.

“…Doctor with a perfunctory handshake. Fermina did the same, but when she tried to withdraw her hand in its satin glove, Dr. Urbino squeezed her ring finger.

“‘I am waiting for your answer,’ he said.”

“Then Fermina pulled harder and her empty glove was left dangling in the Doctor’s hand, but she did not wait to retrieve it.”

137  “It was one of her typical letters, not a syllable too many or too few, in which she told the Doctor yes, he could speak to her father.”

138 margin note: Florentino plays one last waltz for Fermina before moving away.

142 margin note: Florintino loses his virginity to a stranger.

143  “…he could not believe, that he even refused to admit, which was that his illusory love for Fermina Daza could be replaced by an earthly passion.”

147  “…in the marasmus of the sedatives he had resolved once and for all that he did not give a damn about the brilliant future of the telegraph and that he would take this very same boat back to his old Street of Windows.

“Never again, because never again would he abandon the city of Fermina Daza.

149  “Florentino Ariza tried to help her unfasten her stays, but she anticipated him with a deft maneuver, for in five years of matrimonial devotion she learned to depend on herself in all phases of love, even the preliminary stages, with no help from anyone.”

Margin notes 152: Florentino begins keeping journals of his lovers

Margin notes 153: Florentina sees Fermina after her honeymoon. She is at church with her husband and pregnant.

“…which couples in the family still made love and which ones had stopped, and when, and why, even though they continued to live together.”

159  “He was aware that he did not love her. He had married her because he liked her haughtiness, her seriousness, her strength, and also because of some vanity on his part, but as she kissed him for the first time he was sure there would be no obstacle to their inventing true love. They did not speak of it that first night, when they spoke of everything until dawn, nor would they ever speak of it. But in the long run, neither of them had made a mistake.’

Margin notes 160  Fermina and Urbino have their first child

161  “But amid these and so many other memories, Dr. Juvenal Urbino had one that he always regretted not sharing with his wife, for it came from his days as a bachelor student in Paris. It was the memory of Victor Hugo, who enjoyed an impassioned fame here that had nothing to do with his books, because someone said that he had said, although no one actually heard him say it, that our Constitution was meant for a nation not of men but of angels. From that time on, special homage was paid to him, and most of our many compatriots who traveled to France went out of their way to see him. A half-dozen students, among them Juvenal Urbino, stood guard for a time outside his residence on Avenue Eylau, and at the cafes where it was said he came without fail and never came, and at last they sent a written request for a private audience in the name of the angels of the Constitution of Rionegro. They never received a re3ply. One day, when Juvenal Urbino happened to be passing the Luxembourg Gardens, he saw him come out of the Senate with a young woman on his arm. He seemed very old, he walked with difficulty, his beard and hair were less brilliant than in his pictures, and he wore an overcoat that seemed to belong to a larger man. He did not want to ruin the memory with an impertinent greeting: he was satisfied with the almost unreal vision that he would keep for the rest of his life. When he returned to Paris as a married man, in a position to see him under more formal circumstances, Victor Hugo had already died.”

End note: We learn what happens during Fermina and Florentino’s lives when Dr. Urbino comes on the scene.

 

A plan: “The day that Florentino Ariza saw Fermina Daza in the atrium of the Cathedral, in the sixth month of her pregnancy and in full command of her new condition as a woman of the world, he made a fierce decision to win fame and fortune in order to deserve her. He did not even stop to think about the obstacle of her being married, because at the same time he decided, as if it depended on himself alone, that Dr. Juvenal Urbino had to die. He did not know when or how, but he considered it an ineluctable event that he was resolved to wait for without impatience or violence, even till the end of time.

“…he allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves” (166).

“Inside the shell of a soulless merchant was hidden a genial lunatic…” (165-6).

169  “In the other photograph, his father was with a group of soldiers in God knows which of so many wars, and he held the longest rifle, and his mustache had a gunpowder smell that wafted out of the picture.”

176-7  “As he spoke he sipped aguardiente without pause. He seemed to be made of reinforced concrete: he was enormous, with hair all over his body except on his head, a mustache like a housepainter’s brush, a voice like a capstan, which would have been his alone, and an exquisite courtesy. But not even his body could resist the way he drank. Before they sat down to the table he had finished half of the demijohn, and he fell forward onto the tray of glasses and bottles with a slow sound of demolition.”  OMG…that is SO GOOD!

178  here I wrote “Ausencia” : “…the first thing she did when he arrived was to take off his glasses instead of undressing him, so that she could kiss him with greater ease, and this was how Florentino Ariza learned that she had begun to love him.”

188  “‘No,’ she said to him. ‘I would feel as if I were going to bed with the son I never had.’

“Florentino Ariza was left with the nagging suspicion that this was not her last word. He believed that when a woman says no, she is waiting to be urged before making her final decision, but with her he could not risk making the same mistake twice. He withdrew without protest, and even with a certain grae, which was not easy for him. From that night on, any cloud there might have been between them was dissipated without bitterness, and Florentino Ariza understood at last that it is possible to be a woman’s friend and not go to bed with her.”

191  Florentino and Dr. Juvenal meet: “…it revealed to him that he and this man, whom he had always considered his personal enemy, were victims of the same fate and shared the hazards of a common passion; they were two animals yoked together.”

200 “‘By virtue of marrying a man she does not love for money,’ interrupted Sara Noriega. ‘That’s the lowest kind of whore.’”

203 “…loving without lies, sleeping without having to feign sleep in order to escape the indecency of official love, possessed at last of the right to an entire bed to themselves, where no one fought them for half of the sheet, half of the air they breathed, half of their night, until their bodies were satisfied with dreaming their own dreams, and they woke alone.

“He saw no reason why Fermina Daza should not be a widow like them, prepared by life to accept him just as he was, without fantasier of guilt because of her dead husband, resolved to discover with him the other happiness of being happy twice, with one love for everyday use which would become, more and more, a miracle of being alive, and the other love that belonged to her alone, the love immunized by death against all contagion.”

204  “…but no one could remember what he was like. It was then that Fermina Daza experienced the revelation of the unconscious motives that had kept her from loving him. She said: ‘It is as if he were not a person but only a shadow.’ That is what he was: the shadow of someone whom no one had ever known.”

205  “The truth is that Juvenal Urbino’s suit had never been undertaken in the name of love, and it was curious, to say the least, that a militant Catholic like him would offer her only worldly goods: security, order, happiness, contiguous numbers that, once they were added together, might resemble love, almost be love. But they were not love, and these doubts increased her confusion, because she was also not convinced that love was really what she most needed to live.”

206  “…Fermina Daza’s happy marriage lasted as long as the honeymoon…”

“…the man she had married was a hopeless weakling: a poor devil made bold by the social weight of his family names.”

211  “…he had won the power to turn his daughter into an exquisite lady. He left old and sick, but still he lived much longer than any of his victims might have desired. Fermina Daza could not repress a sigh of relief when she received the news of his death, and in order to avoid questions she did not wear mourning, but for several months she wept with mute fury without knowing why when she locked herself in the bathroom to smoke, and it was because she was crying for him.

“The most absurd element in their situation was that they never seemed so happy in public as during those years of misery. For this was the time of their greatest victories over the subterranean hostility of a milieu that resisted accepting them as they were: different and modern, and for that reason transgressors against the traditional order. That, however, had been the easy part for Fermina Daza. Life in the world, which had caused her so much uncertainty before she was familiar with it, was nothing more than a system of atavistic contracts, banal ceremonies, preordained words, with which people entertained each other in society in order not to commit murder. The dominant sign in that paradise of provincial frivolity was fear of the unknown. She had defined it in a simpler way: ‘The problem in public life is learning to overcome terror; the problem in married life is learning to overcome boredom.’ She had made this sudden discovery with the clarity of a revelation when, trailing her endless bridal train behind her, she had entered the vast  salon of the Social Club, where the air was thin with the mingled scent of so many flowers, the brilliance of the waltzes, the tumult of perspiring men and tremulous women who looked at her not knowing how they were going to exorcise the dazzling menace that had come to them from the outside world. She had just turned twenty-one and had done little more than leave her house to go to school, but with one look around her she understood that her adversaries were not convulsed with hatred but paralyzed by fear. Instead of frightening them even more, as she was already doing, she had the compassion to help them learn to know her. They were no different from what she wanted them to be…”

223  “Over the years they both reached the same wise conclusion by different paths: it was not possible to live together in any other way, or love in any other way, and nothing in this world was more difficult than love.”

End note: We learn about the individual lives and loves of Fermina and Florentino as they are apart and move forward through their lives. Florentino never married but knew many woman. Fermina was in a loveless but workable marriage and had 3 children.

The reader will enjoy a romantic interlude between pages 227-229

230  “The military man, prepared to introduce them, asked her if they did not know each other. She did not say yes and she did not say no, but she held out her hand to Florentino Ariza with a salon smile. The same thing had occurred twice in the past, and would occur again, and Florentino Ariza always accepted these occasions with a strength of character worthy of Fermina Daza. But that afternoon he asked himself, with his infinite capacity for illusion, if such pitiless indifference might not be a subterfuge for hiding the torments of love.

Margin note 233  He hears gossip that Fermina is sick

235  “At last she decided to leave, not even knowing why or to what purpose, out of sheer fury, and he, inhibited by his sense of guilt, had not been able to dissuade her.

“When she made her rash decision, she told her children that she was going to have a change of scene for three months or so with Aunt Hildebranda, but her determination was not to return. Dr. Juvenal Urbino knew the strength of her character very well, and he was so troubled that he accepted her decision with humility as God’s punishment for the gravity of his sins. But the lights on the boat had not yet been lost to view when they both repented of their weakness.”

Two years pass

237  “Beyond any shadow of a doubt there was an odor in each of the articles that had not been there in all their years of life together, an odor impossible to define because it was not the sent of flowers or of artificial essences but of something peculiar to human nature. She said nothing, and she did not notice the odor every day, but she now sniffed at her husband’s clothing not to decide if it was ready to launder but with an unbearable anxiety that gnawed at her innermost being.”

240  “In this way she realized not only that her husband was in a state of mortal sin but that he had resolved to persist in it, since he did not go to his confessor for help. She had never imagined that she could suffer so much for something that seemed to be the absolute opposite of love, but she was suffering, and she resolved that the only way she could keep from dying was to burn out the nest of vipers that was poisoning her soul.”

“…a great relief that what was bound to happen sooner or later had happened sooner rather than later: the ghost of Miss Barbara Lynch had entered his house at last.”

241  “Miss Barbara Lynch, Doctor of Theology, was the only child of the Reverend Jonathan B. Lynch…”

248  “the last thing Miss Lynch received from him was an emerald tiara in a little box wrapped in paper from the pharmacy, so that the coachman himself thought it was an emergency prescription and handed it to her with no comment, no message, nothing in writing. Dr. Urbino never saw her again, not even by accident, and God alone knows how much grief his heroic resolve cost him or how many bitter tears he had to shed behind the locked lavatory door in order to survive this private catastrophe. At five o’clock, instead of going to see her, he made a profound act of contrition before his confessor, and on the following Sunday he took Communion, his heart broken but his soul at peace.”

249  “…he ended the recital of his misery with a sigh as mournful as it was sincere: ‘I think I am going to die.’ She did not even blink when she replied.

‘That would be best,’ she said. ‘Then we could both have some peace.’”

“Something definitive had happened to her while he slept: the sediment that had accumulated at the bottom of her life over the course of so many years had been stirred up by the torment of her jealousy and had floated to the surface, and it had aged her all at once.”

250  “For her it was the end of everything. She was sure that her honor was the subject of gossip even before her husband had finished his penance, and the feeling of humiliation that this produced in her was much less tolerable than the shame and anger and injustice caused by his infidelity. And worst of all, damn it: with a black woman. He corrected her: ‘With a mulatta.’ But by then if was too late for accuracy: she had finished.

‘Just as bad,’ she said, ‘and only now I understand: it was the smell of a black woman.’

“This happened on a Monday. On Friday at seven o’clock in the evening, Fermina Daza sailed away on the regular boat to San Juan de la Cienaga with only one trunk, in the company of her goddaughter, her face covered by a mantilla to avoid questions for herself and her husband. Dr. Juvenal Urbino was not at the dock, by mutual agreement, following an exhausting three-day discussion in which they decided that she should to Cousin Hildebranda Sanchez’s ranch in Flores de Maria for as long a time as she needed to think before coming to a final decision. Without knowing her reasons, the children understood it as  a trip she had often put off and that they themselves had wanted her to make for a long time. Dr. Urbino arranged matters so that no one in his perfidious circle could engage in malicious speculation, and he did it so well that if Florentino Ariza could find no clue to Fermina Daza’s disappearance it was because in fact there was none, not because he lacked the means to investigate. Her husband had no doubts that she would come home as soon as she got over her rage. But she lft certain that her rage would never end.”

254  “Dr. Juvenal Urbino made the decision to come for her after receiving a report from the Bishop…”

Fermina was so happy to see Juvenal

256 margin note: Florentino sees Fermina as she grows old

258  “As they talked, Florentino Ariza put his hand on her thigh, he began to caress her with the gentle touch of an experienced seducer, and she did not stop him, but she did not respond either, not even with a shudder for courtesy’s sake.”

“From that time on, she would say to anyone who would listen to her: ‘If you ever hear of a big, strong fellow who raped a poor black girl from the street on Drowned Men’s Jetty, one October fifteenth at about half-past eleven at night, tell him where he can find me.’ She said it out of habit, and she had said it to so many people that she no longer had any hope. Florentino Ariza had heard the story as many times as he had heard a boat sailing away in the night. By two o’clock in the morning they had each drunk three brandies and he knew, in truth, that he was not the man she was waiting for, and he was glad to know it.”

259  “It was the most fearful kind of presentiment, because it was based on reality. The years of immobilized waiting, of hoping for good luck, were behind him, but on the horizon he could see nothing more than the unfathomable sea of imaginary illnesses, the drop-by-drop urinations of sleepless nights, the daily death at twilight. He thought that all the moments in the day, which had once been his allies and sworn accomplices, were beginning to conspire against him. A few years before he had gone to a dangerous assignation, his heart heavy with terror of what might happen, and he had found the door unlocked and the hinges recently oiled so that he could come in without a sound, but he repented at the last moment for fear of causing a decent married woman irreparable harm by dying in her bed. So that it was reasonable to think that the woman he loved most on earth, the one he had waited for from one century to the next without a sigh of disenchantment, might not have the opportunity to lead him by the arm across a street full of lunar grave mounds and beds of windblown poppies in order to help him reach the other side of death in safety.

“It was a bad time for being young: there was a style of dress for each age, but the style of old age began soon after adolescence, and lasted until the grave.”

268  “Six months later, by unanimous agreement, Florentino Ariza was named President of the Board of Directors and General manager of the company.”

272 margin note: Pretty creepy, Florentino!

276  “…although it seemed absurd: the oldest and best-qualified doctor in the city, and one oof its illustrious men for many other meritorious reasons, had died of a broken spine, at the age of eighty-one, when he fell from the branch of a mango tree as he tried to catch a parrot.”

278  “…and on the wet envelope he recognized at once the imperious handwriting that so many changes in life had not changed, and he even thought he could detect the nocturnal perfume of withered gardenias, because after the initial shock, his heart told him everything: it was the letter he had been waiting for, without a moment’s respite, for over half a century.”

End note: Florentino’s later years and learning of Dr. Urbino’s death. He goes to tell Fermina he’ll be waiting. Three weeks later he finds a letter at his door.

 

279  “Fermina Daza could not have imagined that her letter, inspired by blind rage, would have been interpreted by Florentino Atiza as a love letter. She had put into it all the fury of which she was capable, her cruelest words, the most wounding, most unjust vilifications…

281  “At the end of the third week, in fact, she began to see the first light. But as it grew larger and brighter, she became aware that there was an evil phantom in her life who did not give her a moment’s peace. He was not the pitiable phantom who had haunted her in the Park of the Evangels and whom she had evoked with a certain tenderness after she had grown old, but the hateful phantom with his executioner’s frock coat and his hat held against his chest, whose thoughtless impertinence had disturbed her so much that she found it impossible not to think about him. Ever since her rejection of him at the age of eighteen, she had been convinced that she had left behind a seed of hatred in him that could only grow larger with time. She had always counted on that hatred, she had felt it in the air when the phantom was near, and the mere sight of him had upset and frightened her so that she never found a natural way to behave with him. On the night when he reiterated his love for her, while the flowers for her dead husband were still perfuming the house, she could not believe that his insolence wad not the first step in God knows what sinister plan for revenge.

“It was not easy for her to imagine Florentino Ariza as he had been then, much less to believe that the taciturn boy, so vulnerable in the rain, was the moth-eaten old wreck who had stood in front of her with no consideration for her situation, or the slightest respect for her grief, and had seared her soul with a flaming insult that still made it difficult for her to breathe.”

285  “Prudencia Pitre had not forgotten his scratching signal at the door, the one ha had used to identify himself when they thought they were still young although they no longer were, and she opened the door without any questions. The street was dark, he was barely visible in his black suit, his stiff hat, and his bat’s umbrella hanging over his arm, and her eyes were too weak to see him except in full light, but she recognized him by the gleam of the streetlamp on the metal frame of his eyeglasses. He looked like a merderer with blood still on his hands.

‘Sanctuary for a poor orphan,’ he said.”

302  “It seemed incredible, but as the first anniversary of her husband’s death approached, Fermina Daza felt herself entering a place that was shady, cool, quiet: the grove of the irremediable. She was not yet aware, and would not be for several months, of how much the written meditations of Florentino Ariza had helped her to recover her peace of mind. Applied to her own experiences, they were what allowed her to understand her own life and to await the designs of old age with serenity. Their meeting at the memorial Mass was a providential opportunity for her to let Florentino Ariza know that she, too, thanks to his letters of encouragement, was prepared to erase the past.”

305 margin note: they finally sit down to talk

“…enough time to look at each other with some serenity, and they had seen each other for what they were: two old people, ambushed by death, who had nothing in common except the memory of an ephemeral past that was no longer theirs but belonged to two young people who had vanished and who could have been their grandchildren. She thought that he would at last be convinced of the unreality of his dream, and that this would redeem his insolence.”

308  “She ignored his hidden intentions and returned the letter to him, saying: ‘It is a shame that I cannot read it, because the others have helped me a great deal.’”

“‘Come back whenever you like,’ she said. ‘I am almost always alone.’”

317  “Fermina Daza needed no more than three Tuesdays to realize how much she missed Florentino Ariza’s visits.”

“But for Fermina Daza no one could take the place of her calming afternoons with Florentino Ariza.”

323  “‘A century ago, life screwed that poor man and me because we were too young, and now they want to do the same thing because we are too old.’”

329  “Then he reached out with two icy fingers in the darkness, felt for the other hand in the darkness, and found it waiting for him. Both were lucid enough to realize, at the same fleeting instant, that the hands made of old bones were not the hands they had imagined before touching. In the next moment, however, they were. She began to speak of her dead husband in the present tense, as if he were alive, and Florentino Ariza knew then that for her, too, the time had come to ask herself with dignity, with majesty, with an irrepressible desire to live, what she should do with the love that had been left behind without a master.”

“‘…there is no God worth worrying about.’”

Margin note page 331 says there is a mention of environmental damage

331  “Seeing him like this, dressed just for her in so patent a manner, she could not hold back the fiery blush that rose to her face. She was embarrassed when she greeted him, and he was more embarrassed by her embarrassment. The knowledge that they were behaving as if they were sweethearts was even more embarrassing, and the knowledge that they were both embarrassed embarrassed them so much that Captain Samaritano noticed it with a tremor of compassion.”

A ghost is mentioned on page 332

338  “‘If we’re going to do it, let’s do it,’ she said, ‘but let’s do it like grownups.’”

343  “At dusk in Puerto Nare they picked up a woman who was even taller and stouter than the Captain, asn uncommon beauty who needed only a beard to be hired by a circus.”

348  “Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.”

Last end note: The wait is kind of reminiscent of The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone

The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone

By

Scott Samuelson

The University of Chicago Press

2014

 

Prelude on Light Pollution and the Stars

Part 1: What is Philosophy?

“…wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder. Samuel Taylor Coleridge adds a touch of poetry to the point, ‘In Wonder all philosophy began: in Wonder it ends: and Admiration fills up the interspace’” (1).

 

1: Portrait of You as Odysseus

“A Dialogue between two Infants in the womb concerning the state of this world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof methinks we yet discourse in Platoes denne, and are but Embryon Philosophers”–Sir Thomas Browne

“We’re capable of revising our very being, or reordering our values, of turning our calculating abilities back on ourselves” (7).

“…the whole of it, which involves the fullest exercise of our rationality: the seeking out of a meaningful life” (9).

Pierre Hadot: philosophy is “a set of spiritual exercises intended to get people back to their true selves.” Improvement. “They were after the good life, and philosophy was the discipline of hunting it down.”

“But when everyday life is less than fully satisfying, there will always be people who set out on a quest for meaning” (10).

“…if one animal can’t understand another, how can one human understand another” (12)?

 

2: Portrait of Philosophy as Socrates

“Born around 470 BC to Sophroniscus, a stonemason, and Phaenarete, a midwife, Socrates referred to his own philosophical practice as a kind of midwifery, whereby he helped other people give birth to their ideas, though he had no ‘children’–that is, theories–of his own.”

“…in 399 BC, he had three young children. His wife Xanthippe…” (16).

“Socrates left behind as many writings as Jesus–none. We know about him solely through the work of his contemporaries, mainly his student Plator, almost all of whose writings are dialogues starring Socrates” (17-18).

You Gotta Serve Somebody

In the last full paragraph on page 20 I’ve underlined the word “divine” and in the margin have written: Why must the choices be polytheism and the divine? All of the beauty and violence could equally be conceived as being born of chaos with no overruling forces.

Oracles and Demons

“Socrates really was the wisest of all. He did have a little bit of positive wisdom: the priceless knowledge that he know nothing” (24).

“(After Socrates discovers that the poets can’t explain their poems, he concludes, ‘I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled them to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration’” (26).

“In the Phaedo, just an hour before his death, Socrates says, ‘Philosophy is nothing but the preparation for death and dying’” (27).

For the following quote on page 31 my margin notes say “We win either way”:

“Death is one of two things. Either it is an annihilation, and the dead have no consciousness of anything; or, as we are told, it really is a change: a migration of the soul from this place to another. Now if there is no consciousness but only a dreamless sleep, death must be a marvelous gain…because the whole of time, if you look at it in this way, can be regarded as no more than one single night. If on the other hand death is a removal from here to some other place, and if what we are told is true, that all the dead are there, what greater blessing could there be than this, gentlemen?…Put it in this way: how much would one of you gie to meet Orpheus and Museus, Hesiod and Homer?…Above all I should like to spend my time there, as here, in examining and searching people’s minds, to find out who is really wise among them, and who only thinks that he is” (31 Socrates’s response to being given the death penalty).

Philosophical Patriotism

“Socrates then imagines a more profound dialogue than the one he finds himself in, between him and what he calls the Laws. What emerges is that citizens have an implicit contract with the Laws. The Laws provide Socrates (and us, too, for the form of the contract that Socrates describes would be the same, if he’s right, for Americans as for Athenians) with all the benefits of living in a political system: the marriage codes that provide for our birth and upbringing, armed forces to protect us, education, health codes, roads, and so  on. It’s hard to think of a single aspect of our lives untouched by the Laws. In return, we must do no more than follow the law: ay our taxes and not break the rules. If we don’t like the deal, there are two important provisions to the contract: (1) we’re allowed to leave, or (2) we may try to change the system through legal means. Our very presence in the state, at least after legal age of adulthood, provides what the philosopher John Locke calles ‘tacit consent’ to such a contract. If Socrates didn’t like living in a democracy where one can be charged for unholiness, then he shouldn’t have stuck around for seventy years” (32).

Risking Eternity

 

Interlude on Laughter and Tears

Regarding a student, she writes “‘When you’re right in the middle of suffering, it doesn’t always feel comic,’ she admitted, ‘but comedy is necessary and usually available to us.’”

“I should have assigned Kierkegaard’s Stages on Life’s Way: ‘The more one suffers, the more, I believe, has one a sense of the comic. It is only by the deepest suffering that one acquires true authority in the use of the comic, an authority which by one word transforms as by magic the reasonable creature one calls man into a caricature’” (41).

 

Part 2: What Is Happiness?

“According to Socrates, most of us conceive of a happiness of the part but have never imagined a happiness of the whole. We need some answer to the question of how to spend our time that isn’t about satisfying a gut or a heart or a brain–or any other organ of the body for that matter. Real happiness pertains to the complete human being, the whole soul” (48).

 

3: The Exquisite Materialism of Epicurus

  1. T. Pettee wrote: “Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food,

For wisdom and guidance, for all these are good,

But don’t forget the potatoes.”

Epicurus’s idea is the “the pleasurable life involves the clear-headed calculation of what will actually produce a stable, authentic pleasure.”

“But we misunderstand Epicurus if we take him to be saying, ‘It would be wonderful if we could eat like Mirande without suffering any ill effects, but geven our physiology that’s impossible; so we have to practice moderation.’ His real point is that the deepest pleasure comes from the satisfaction of our desires with the most basic nourishment” (52).

“Epicurus’s preferred diet was barley bread, spring water, and fresh vegetables. A diet that leans on the staffs of life is easy to obtain and promotes our health” (52-3).

“…but luxuries should remain luxuries, the occasional adornment to a healthy diet. Epicurus’s occasional feast, it is said, was a slice of Cythnian cheese and a half pint of wine.

“The foundational principle of Epicureanism–perhaps the sanest in all philosophy–is: pleasure good; ain bad. In a sense, all his philosophy amounts to is the rigorous, reasonable application of this elementary truth, which even newborns seem to have deduced. Epicurus sees no other way to give meaning to the concept of goodness, ‘Nor yet for my part can I find anything that I can understand as good if I take away from it the pleasures afforded by taste, those that come from listening to music, those that come from the eyes by the sight of figures in motion, or other pleasures produced by any of the senses in the complet person’” ( 53).

“But the pleasure-good-pain-bad principle is immensely complicated by the structure of our desires. Epicurus identifies three types of desire: (1) natural and necessary desires, which sustain our health and provide for our mental tranquility (like our hunger for food or our desire for companionship); (2) natural and unnecessary desires, which are extensions of our natural desires (like our wish to have artichokes on a pedestal of foie gras, or a Coke); and (3) unnatural and unnecessary desires (like our cravings for money, fame, or power). The big problem is that our desires tend to slip from the first category into the other two. Our natural desire for mother’s milk becomes a mighty yen for ice cream. The discipline of Epicureanism is to contain and then weed out all our overgrown desires, to return to the basic, nourishing desires that do indeed provide for our happiness. As Thoreau once said, ‘Simplify, simplify,’ though based on that logic he should have just said, ‘Simplify’” (53).

“But there’s an irony to the Epicurean critique of our society. We are, in fact, bad consumerists. We aren’t materialist enough. Only idiotic consumers stuff themselves with things that make them sick, fat, and unhappy. Only idiotic materialists fill their lives with disposable crap. A wise consumer enjoys exactly what the brain and the gut can agree is most enjoyable throughout a lifetime. A true materialist values things and seeks out the best. The authentic materialist-consumerist finds a reasonable way of relating to the desires of the body and shuns the desire that extends far beyond what anything in the physical universe can provide” (54).

“We don’t even value money properly. We ought to regard it as no more than a medium of exchange, necessary only to the extent that it helps procure the things we need” (54-5).

“But the fact that life is limited is exactly what makes it good.”

“As a materialist, Epicurus argues that death is nothing to us–literally, nothing–and so shouldn’t be upsetting. Remember what it was like before you were born: was that at all a hard time for you” (55).

“As materialists, not just in the moral but also the metaphysical sense of the word, Epicureans are committed to the idea that the world is no more than atoms, the void, and the creative principles of movement, which they marvelously name ‘the swerve.’ Everything, in short, is the product of chance, which is a view often criticized in our society by certain religious believers who claim that the world–or at least certain irreducibly complex features of it, like the flagellum or the eyeball–are so wondrously formed that they must be designed by a capacious intelligence, namely, God. Such believers have the sense that if the world were just the product of chance, it would be drained of meaning and value, that an atheistic materialism dries up our wellsprings of gratitude for the intricate beauties of existence.

“I wonder, though, if atheistic materialism and traditional theology don’t converge on the same basic point. According to the Christian theologians, God creates ex nihilo; in other words, His act of creation is an act of grace. He creates rhinoceroses much like a child draws unicorns: the horned creatures of the world are the result of their overflowing creativity. We should feel thankful, the religious believers argue, because every moment is pur gravy, a gift of God. But the Epicurean also greets the world as the result of unthinkably marvelous luck. Imagine, a bunch of atoms randomly swerving around the universe somehow produced out my window–at the moment of my writing–a thrush singing notes that somehow strike against the contraption of my ear in such a way as somehow to remind me of the universe miraculously pumped out me and you, purposeful beings, not to mention all the rhinoceros-bizarre menagerie of being. ‘The secret of Epicurean joy and serenity,’ as Pierre Hadot says, ‘is to live each instant as if it were the last, but also as if it were the first.’

“Another common fear that religious believers harbor about materialism is that it undermines morality. Epicurus argues the exact opposite: the rigorous pursuit of pleasure leads straight to the life of a moralist. Why shouldn’t we tell a lie? Simple: lying makes us unhappy. Telling the truth, like exercise, may sometimes hurt at first, but one always feels better overall. Immorality is one more form of childish reasoning: we do wrong to extricate ourselves from some difficult situation, but wrongdoing simply our difficult situations. In fact, justice and pleasure reinforce each other: the more pleasant our life, the less likely we are to do others wrong; and when we do others right, the more pleasant our life. Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, a modern-day Epicurean movement, slowly discovered the same idea. ‘I came to understand that those who suffer for others do more damage to humanity than those who enjoy themselves. Pleasure is a way of being at one with yourself and others.’ The idea is nobly expressed by Wendell Berry, that champion of small farms and human pleasures. ‘Moral, practical, spiritual, esthetic, economic, and ecological values are all concerned ultimately with the same question of life and health. To the virtuous man, for example, practical and spiritual questions are identical; it is only corruption that can see a difference.’

“What we need in life, according to Epicurus, is relatively simple. We need human companionship…the steady joys of friendship…Epicurus declares, ‘by far the most important is the acquisition of friends.’ We need good work in order to find meaning and provide for our essentials” (56-7).

Epicurus “advised unplugging oneself from the bustle of ‘the political life’–what we’re more apt to call ‘the dominant culture’” (58).

 

4: The Mysterious Freedom of the Stoic

Thomas More wrote:

Grant me a soul to which dullness is naught,

Knowing no complaint, grumble or sigh,

And do not permit me to give too much thought

To that domineering creature called the “I.”

My Lord, endow me with a sense of humor,

Give me the grace of understanding jest,

That I might know the joy that life harbors

And were able to grant it to the rest.

 

The Stoics. “Epictetus sums up the essence of Stoicism in one command, ‘Do not ask things to happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go smoothly’” (61).

Stoicism–Porchism. “It quickly became the most popular philosophy among the educated in the Hellenistic world, and by the time of the Roman Empire had spread to all walks of society.”

“But the Stoics hold that your emotions in that situation, and even much worse situations, are indeed completely in your control…’There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,’ or, as Epictetus says, ‘It is not the things themselves that disturb people but the judgments about those things.’

“Our emotions, the Stoics claim, depend on our beliefs.

“Thus by eliminating the ideas that generate negative emotions, we’re capable of being permanently happy, if we so choose. To use an image from Plato, our emotions are strong horses, and our reason is the charioteer…it’s possible to channel their energies properly and get them to go exactly where we demand” (63).

“The great Stoic metaphor, going back to the Greek philosopher Chrysippus, is that we’re like dogs leashed to a powerful chariot. When the chariot begins to move, we have two choices: trot or be dragged. Either way, we go the same place. The exact same place.

“Isn’t it absurd to get angry when you’re tackled, it you signed up to play football” (64)?

“Getting tackled–and even injured–is very much part of his game.

“You might protest that unlike the football player you didn’t sign up for the game. True, but as Epictetus observes, ‘Remember that the door is open. Do not be more cowardly than children, but just as they say, when the game no longer pleases them, ‘I will play no more,’ you too, when things seem that way to you, should merely say, ‘I will play no more,’ and so depart; but if you stay, stop moaning.’ Nobody compels you to play football, drive on freeways, or collect breakable items. If you’re unwilling to play such a harsh gaem as life, where even children die of cancer, then you should be grateful that you have options. Your parents may have signed you up, but you are free to quit” (65).

Study

“Make friends with real philosophers…conversing. Read philosophers…starting with Epictetus, who is the clearest and in some ways the firmest: ‘If you want your children and your wife and your friends to live forever, you are stupid.’

Seneca

Meditate in the Morning

“In imagining what we fear, we’re training ourselves to see reality clearly.

“…the confrontation with our fears is most likely to make us grateful for all we’re given” (67).

“As the Stoics point out, that’s precisely the situation we’re in with everyone and everything we love: they’ve all been loaned to us for an uncertain period of time.”

Start Small

For this next marking I wrote: practice with the every day.

“When the mug breaks, say, ‘It’s just a mug. I knew it wouldn’t last forever.’ Tell yourself before your visit to the in-laws that you refuse to allow them to control your emotions: prepare yourself to transcend all pettiness. When you go to the pool, think, ‘I might be splashed inadvertently, my towel might be dropped in a puddle, and it it’s not a private pool, it’s a public restroom.”

Pay Attention

Here I wrote: mindfulness

“Turn off autopilot and pay attention to what you’re doing and why. We need always to remember that we’re signing up for the life we’re leading. Where you can, sign up for what is truly meaningful. But look to uncover the significance of any activity you participate in” (68).

Have a Sense of Humor

“…chuckle at the discrepancy between our human ideas and how reality plays out. For that matter, you should also chuckle when things do…go your way.

“…look out on life as a nonstop carnival, where colleagues and even complete strangers perform as freaks and clowns, free of charge. As Seneca says,

We should make light of all things and endure them with tolerance it is more civilized to make fun of life than to bewail it. Bear in mind too that he deserves better of the human race as well who laughs at it that he who grieves over it; since the one allows it a fair prospect of hope, while the other stupidly laments over things he cannot hope will be put right. And, all things considered, it is the mark of a grater mind not to restrain laughter than not to restrain tears, since laughter expresses the gentlest of our feelings, and reckons that nothing is great or serious or even wretched in all the trappings of our existence.

Review in the Evening

“If you’ve failed in some way, you’re hurting yourself” (70).

“As the emperor says, ‘The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.’”

This part made me laugh:

“Or as Epictetus phrases it, ‘It is difficulties that show what men are. Consequently, when a difficulty befalls, remember that God, like a physical trainer, has matched you with a rugged young man…’

“Anything truly worth doing is worth failing at.

“Would it be worth doing even if our utmost efforts will amount to worldly failure? If it is, then that’s what you’re meant to do in this life” (71).

“Rather than wrestle for a gold medal, the Stoics recommend we wrestle to be our best” (72).

 

Interlude on Wine and Bicycles

“One doesn’t need to go that far to wonder if any theory of happiness is complete. Some roman thinkers–most famously Cicero–adopt the position of eclecticism, taking a little of the best from all the philosophical schools. From skepticism they take the idea that no theory is final; from Epicureanism, the idea that under favorable conditions one should pursue a reasonable amount of pleasure; from Stoicism, the idea that favorable conditions doesn’t last forever, and we should prepare ourselves to maintain our dignity. Essentially, Epicureanism when you can, Stoicism when you must, and a little skepticism always” (76).

 

Part 3: Is Knowledge of God Possible?

“Simony…the sin of paying money for spiritual things…” (79).

 

5: The Ecstasy without a Name

“…epistemological crisis: a crisis in the order of knowledge…They occur whenever we realize that what we take to be natural is not what someone else takes to be natural.

“First, our beliefs aren’t really ours;…we’re bound by a ‘servile conformism,’ whereby our beliefs are dependent on which side of the street we’re born on. Second, somebody must be wrong, and it could us.

“…’daring in mounting from the lowland of servile conformism to the highland of independent investigation’” (82-3).

“He shall try to doubt the sources of his beliefs, and if even a little doubt sticks to them, then he shall set them aside until he’s able to discover their certain foundation. Guilty until proven innocent.” Examples: my book is on the desk, sense data, math, logic, self-evident truths” (84).

Samuelson then gives examples of our senses deceiving us.

“So how can we grasp anything if it changes as we perceive it? Everything is a moving shadow–of a tree we never fully observe! Second, our senses are calibrated to our human scale.

“…we likely lack some crucial organ of perception” (85).

“‘How can you believe in God if you never see Him?’ But, if al-Ghazali is right, our senses can’t be trusted to reveal the whole of the universe…It’s at least possible there’s more to the story than meets the eye or the mind.

“Religion is built on authority, which could be wrong. Science is built on the senses, which could be wrong. Mathematics and logic are built on reason, which could be wrong.

“…those who claim to possess wisdom are self-deceived” (86).

“But why accept one starting point rather than another?…’One should be most diligent in seeking the truth until he finally comes to seeking the unseekable.’ The problem is that people who seek the truth take the easy way out and invest in some unquestioned source of truth, whereas they ought to go to the very limits of their search.

“…the Sufis tell him that, while they do have a dogma they could expound, their guiding principle is that searchers must experience the truth for themselves…He must enter into a state of certainty.

“He must experience–for lack of a better word–God” (87).

“Sufism is an Islamic variety of what religious scholars call mysticism.”

Below that I wrote: mysticism cuts out the middleman.

“Mystical forms of religion…claim that it is possible for you and me to transcend this long-distance relationship and meet God face to face.”

“…in the mystical experience of God he finds a certainty to which no doubt clings, an existential rather than an intellectual certainty” (88).

To the above I wrote: but isn’t this just a belief? A sense? A feeling?

“‘There was what was of what I do not mention:/So think well of it, and ask for ano account’” (89).

Samuelson then runs through his interpretation of how al-Ghazali interprets God.

“…all profane authors seem of the seed of the serpent that creeps, thou art the Dove that flies.

“One of the most profoundly alienating passions is the need for a belief, the need to cling to some claim on the truth” (90).

Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmansthal:

The other night I found under a walnut tree a half-full watering can that a young gardener had forgotten there, and this watering can, with the water in it, hidden by the tree’s shadow, with a water bug paddling from one shore to the other of that dark water: this combination of trivialities exposes me to such a presence of the infinite, traversing me from the roots of my hair to the base of my heels, that I feel like bursting out in words which I know, I had found them, would have floored those cherubim in whom I do not believe” (97).

“What is philosophy or religion–or human life for that matter–but the attempt to relate to the meaningful hugeness revealed in such experiences without sounding or acting like a total fool, at our best with a touch of style” (98)?

 

6: In Nightmares Begins Rationality

Descartes: “I was completely free to converse with myself about my own thoughts.’ After one such day of reflection, he nodded off and had three successive dreams–the nightmares, really–that changed world history more significantly than any king’s coronation.

What follows is an example of original thought:

“The method Descartes formulates to find this firm foundation is practically identical to al-Ghazali’s. (The whole of the first meditation follows the Sufi’s logic so closely as to make scholars wonder about plagiarism. My own view is that not only do great minds think think alike, all minds think alike, though mysteriously they often come to different conclusions)” (103).

“Or, to use his formulation in the Discourse on Method: ‘Cognito; ergo sum’–I think; therefore I am. Even if an evil genius with infinite power is spending his entire time deceiving Descartes, it still must be the care that an object of deception exists. Philosophers refer to this famous metaphysical lightning bolt simply as the ‘cogito’” (106).

“In both the experience of God and the experience of our own ‘I am,’ thought and the source of thought are unified. In one sense, they are the same ecstatic experience. But whereas al-Ghazali focuses on the divine ‘I am,’ Descartes begins with the human ‘I am’–a difference perhaps metaphysically small but one that signals the world-historical shift from the medieval to the modern age” (107).

“How does the primordial human mind stumble on the idea of the divine?”

When the author writes “God–for instance, it’s possible that any or all ideas are simply implantations of the evil genius, stimulating our minds in his macabre laboratory” (109). To this quote I feel this is quite a leap. And why this particular leap? The human brain can conceptualize a god as the source which still does not make it true.

On the next page it is written “In more straightforward terms, only God could imagine God. Since we have the idea of God, it must be the case that God exists. Only God could have put the idea of God in our minds, signing His creation like an artist.”

My margin note just says “no.”

Page 111: “According to Descartes, the very implausibility of having an idea of something none of our intellectual faculties can frame is itself the proof of God.”

I respond: This dismisses the imaginative power of the human brain striving for reason.

Below the author writes “A supreme being by definition cannot have any limitations or imperfections. Since evil is an imperfections, God cannot be evil.

To the idea that evil is an imperfection, I wrote that idea is one interpretation. Further, what says you cannot be all powerful and include evil all at once? Doesn’t ALL include both yin and yang?

Later: “God just wouldn’t allow such ideas to form in the mind if they weren’t really so.”

I ask, why attribute this to god?

“…we can indeed have wrong beliefs floating around our minds” (111).

“If the perfect God created our minds, how can they be so imperfect” (112)?

Major Descartes beliefs:

Real knowledge should be expressed in  numbers

We should utilize a self-correcting method of knowledge about the physical world

This method should involve a uniform, repeatable procedure

The truth is accessible to anyone who is willing to think clearly

Values are subjective and private

We should use reason to determine the existence and nature of God

The body is a machine and hence can be understood and fixed like a machine

The universe is a machine too

We should utilize scientific understanding to build technologies so we can become masters of our fate

And the ‘preservation of health’ is the ‘chief of all goods’” (115-6)

Samuelson concludes this paragraph by saying something I wholeheartedly believe:

“The lesson I draw is: don’t get up too early because you will die” (118).

 

7: The Terrifying Distance of the Stars

The following is what has led us to invent God and all religions (according to me):

“Pascal sums up our condition in three words: ‘Inconstancy, boredom, anxiety’–a striking outline of the problem of being human. In short, our very being fills us with anxiety; we flee the anxiety by means of some kind of diversion (another of Pascal’s pet terms). As long as our diversionary tactic lasts, we have a measure of happiness, but eventually the charm wears off, the diversion becomes boring, and we seek out the newest thing to do–thus our inconstancy.”

Carl Honore: In Praise of Slowness  (find and read)

Pascal says it perfectly for me here:

“The fact is that the present usually hurts. We thrust it out of sight because it distresses us, and if we find it enjoyable, we are sorry to see it slip away…Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so” (122).

Pascal: “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that the does not know how to stay quietly in his own room.”

At the bottom of the page Samuelson asks: is it possible for humans to be truly happy in this life? My answer is: only for moments in time.

“Instead of facing our misery, we divert ourselves.” Ball games, hunting, gossip, drama, cards, affairs, pets, politics, war, etc. This is what I mean by life just being a space which we fill with things to do. There is birth and there is death. When you look at the picture (the world) as a whole, we simply create things to do in between. We have constructed everything in order to fill the time: work, school, kids. Sometimes when driving to a play or some such you think, “Well, I had nothing else to do. I have to fill my time with something.”

I had a friendship that ended. This section of the book described it:

“What’s eating you all of a sudden? Where are your inner resources? The odd thing is that when I’m in such a mood, I prefer my boredom to what strikes me as their foolishness. If Pascal is right, it’s because such moods bring us closer to reality, and ultimately we prefer a genuine misery to a phony happiness (though it sometimes takes a little while to realize that)” (125).

“Oh, well. Smile. Tell him how happy you are for him. As Pascal says, ‘Respect means: put yourself out’” (127).

“…the human mind seems to have a weird doubleness, to be haunted by conceptions it can never measure up to, to cast a shadow by its own light” (128).

What follows seems to indicate that Pascal was uncomfortable with the unknown:

“The next point Pascal makes is that we can’t be agnostic. We must call it. We’re not simply intellectual spectators at the coin toss of God’s existence. Our very lives hang on if it comes down heads or tails. We’re ‘embarked,’ to use Pascal’s term. Agnosticism, for Pascal, is simply a refusal to admit what you’ve staked your life on. As he sees it, either you live a life committed to God or you don’t. There’s no option of waiting until the coin spinning in eternity lands” (129).

I disagree with Pascal here. I think agnostics are saying I don’t know enough to know or There are some things I will never know. I think that point of view is a very smart and valid one. There are not many things in this world that are wholly one thing or another. There are cats that act like dogs. There are women who look like men. There are bisexuals. There is a time between day and night when it is neither. Everything works upon a scale and is rarely either/or. I think agnosticism occupies a valid space in the world of religious philosophy.

The following, I believe, is why so many choose religion:

“…the heart is vain and greedy; so we begin immediately to think about what we stand to gain or lose from our choice.”

“If God exists, and we devote our lives to God, then we stand to gain the happiness that nothing else in the world provides. In a word, we stand to gain heaven. Moreover, we lose nothing by devoting our lives to God, even if we’re wrong. If, instead, we’re atheists, and indeed God doesn’t exist, what have we gained? Nothing, according to Pascal. But if wrong, what do we stand to lose” (130)?

I respond by saying not only does this assume a God, following involves devotion on a bet against punishment. It’s going with the rich guy in hopes of being in the will. Humans have only conceptualized three choices: believe, choose to not choose, or not believe.

Again the either/or concept is displayed:

“As in roulette where gamblers must place a bet on either red or black, we must either believe or disbelieve in God; but also, just as roulette gamblers can place a bet on one of thirty-eight or so religions (in fact, quite a bit more, if we start factoring in denominations)” (132).

 

Interlude on Campfires and the Sun

“Perhaps someday, after an adult’s quest, that imaginative fire can be rekindled and fanned into something more useful than naivete or skepticism. To discover the truth is to have our souls disoriented and then reoriented into a higher way of being” (138).

Even if it doesn’t reveal God?

“Socrates…is executed for ‘corrupting’ Athenians by making them confront the fact that their foundational concepts are at best partial truths, flickering images of a more complex reality. What is Socratic method if not the attempt to lead people through the darkness in order to see the truth for themselves?

“…sunlight of knowledge…aporia, where they feel totally confused.”

“…al-Ghazali, Descartes, and Pascal. In each case, the philosopher begins by recognizing that the truths around him are projections of a particular culture” (140).

“It’s a phony education that doesn’t completely confuse you at some point…” (141).

“Moreover, as al-Ghazali realizes, we can’t live, at least in our present condition, full time in the sunlit world; we need our little fires in order to remember the great fire” (141). Me: And sometimes we just need to rest.

 

Part 4: What Is the Nature of Good and Evil?

8: The Moral Worth of a Teardrop

“In the tradition of Western philosophy, no appraiser has been more incisive than Immanuel Kant, who was born in 1724…Prussian…he never left and that furnished him with enough experience to construct one of the deathless philosophical systems.

“In his late fifties that his great philosophical work began to appear…the three critiques: The Critique of Pure Reason, The Critique of Practical Reason, and The Critique of Judgment.

“…Kant’s moral philosophy, particularly his idea that the consequences of an action play no role in evaluating it, that an action has moral worth based solely on its motive” (148).

“The idea that the worth of an action lies in the consequences it brings about–in short, that the ends justify the means–is called consequentialism.

“Kant vehemently rejects the logic of consequentialism…it’s absurd to locate our worth in something we have basically no control over. Not being gods, we can’t control or predict what the consequences of our actions are going to be.

“Evil is impermissible, regardless of what good we think will come of it” (150).

“…ethics of intention, which is basically Kantian ethics…

Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals “…’good will’ Kant means doing the right thing for the right reason…All that matters…is the inner quality of the agent, the good will.

“Kant’s doctrine of moral worth is that a common religious conception of ethics–using heaven and hell as motivators–actually destroys our moral worth…Kant regards Abraham’s decision to sacrifice his son to please God as the essence of immorality” (151).

“…if you’re willing to do right even under the threat of divine retribution, then your action clearly does have moral worth.

“If our shopkeeper is being fair because it’s right, his action has moral worth; if he’s being fair because it’s good business, his action is without moral worth” (152).

“Kant tries to give a theoretically clean version of the spirit of these injunctions in what he calls the categorical imperative. When rational being like ourselves have to decide how the world ought to be…Act on a principle that you could, without contradicting yourself, will everyone to act on. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, your mom, your best friend, your neighbor, and your enemy.

“‘Every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends’

William James: “…to vote and to act as to bring about the very largest total universe of good which we can see.’

“Morality…it’s about respecting a common dignity” (153).

“…err on the side of the good…if you worry about your virtue and others’ happiness, you improve both; whereas if you worry about others’ virtue and your own happiness, you decrease both.

“We are good when we do good out of pure respect for goodness…for Kant there’s a common human duty to treat each other fairly and with dignity, a duty that flows right from our rational nature” (155).

I placed a star by this passage:

“Kant is the philosopher of limits. In most of his philosophical work, he labors to circumscribe just what we can and cannot know and do. It turns out that we can’t know or do very much. We can’t control the outcomes of our actions. We can’t know if God does or does not exist. We can’t know if our souls are immortal. We can’t know wat the world is really life. We can’t even be sure that we’re really free. Since freedom is necessary for morality to be meaningful, we’re compelled to practice to believe that we’re free, though needing something to be true isn’t much of a reason that it is. When it comes to knowledge and power, Kant’s bottom line is that we’re not gods. [end star]

“…act as if the rule you were living by could become a law of nature…In essence, morality is about playing God, playing a good rational God…divine power…

“Kant’s…commitment to the idea of moral progress…it’s possible for humankind to become better…” (155).

“Every time you act selfishly, according to Kant, you’re perpetuating a selfish civilization. Every time you act according to the moral law, you’re unleashing our native nobility.

“Kant has the marvelous notion of ‘the kingdom of ends,’ the world where everybody treats everybody with full moral dignity, where the Golden Rule is the only rule followed.

“Kant…view of human nature is so dark that he even wonders if there has ever been a pure moral action in human history” (156).

I’ve gotta read more Kant…I’m loving this guy.

“William Carlos Williams says, ‘men die miserably every day / for lack of what is found there.’

“Adulthood involves understanding our limits but not being oppressed by them” (158).

 

9: The Beast That Is and Is Not

Northrop Frye wrote: In contrast to many other mythological systems, in the Bible the dragon seems to be a consistently sinister image. This is not only because of its antisocial habits of breathing fire and eating virgins, but because, of all sinister animals, it has the unique advantage of not existing.

[Damn, you gotta love that.]

“To state the skeptic’s position in the form of two linked arguments:

If God is all-good, then He should not want any unfair suffering.

If God is all-powerful, then He has the power to eliminate any unfair suffering.

So, if an all-good, all-powerful God exists, then there should be no unfair suffering.

But there is plenty of unfair suffering in the world.

So, an all-good, all-powerful God does not exist” (163).

“Martin Heidegger, whom many consider the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century…” (171).

 

Interlude on Zombies and Superheroes

“What is a zombie? According to a common etymology, the word is traceable back to the Kikongo word nzambi, which means god. Zombies are, in the popular imagination, the living dead, corpses animated by an outside magic. They usually have an insatiable leveling desire: zombies are always looking to make more zombies. According to Martin, zombies are a projection of human life numbed by distractions, hollowed out and remote-controlled by the magic we call consumerism. As Simon Zealot charmingly writes, ‘Do you find that most of life’s problems can be solved with a little creative shopping? Is television your primary form of entertainment? Do you find that there’s just not enough time in the day, especially for things like exercise? Are you tired right now? Despite this constant lack of energy, do you believe that everything will work out in the end?…If you answered ‘yes’ to most or all of these questions then you might be suffering from an illness called phobosophitis, or, as it’s known by its more common name, the zombie disease’” (181-2).

“And, in fine Nietzschean satirical style,

‘The basic ability to speak remains unaffected, and they appear to experience minor degrees of limited cognitive activity in response to many different kinds of external stimuli, but, in general, thoughts come with less and less frequency, and those that do come are of increasingly smaller orders of magnitude. Dreams are forgotten, all but the most animalistic passions fade, and the creative impulse, if it was ever present, dies. Things of an abstract nature, such as art, beauty, freedom, dignity, justice, or any sort of philosophical or spiritual speculations, will all gradually become more and more meaningless as the disease progresses, and such things will therefore elicit no authentic cognitive response, except perhaps for dismissal or hostility, from the infected.

“The illness of phobosophitis, according to Martin, is related to a deadening materialism, nihilism really, the legacy of the non-Gnostic version of Christianity. Official religion numbed our spiritual longings with false visions of a comfortable heaven. Now that the plausibility of such visions has run its course, we’re apt to become soulless bodies vegetating in front of bleeping screens. Some still cling to their outdated religions. Others reject religion altogether and philosophically embrace our deadening materialism, arguing that we’re nothing more than animals with so many itches to be scratched. Either corse, Martin believes, amounts to the same thing: ‘Culture is replaced by consumerism, education by certification, creation by industry.’

“He considers phobosophitis an epidemic. His spiritual intellect’s great work is to develop a cure for the disease. Here is some of the doctor’s advice: ‘Inoculate yourselves and those around you with your own art and self-awareness. Create wonders. Dance. Make love. Move at more than a shambling pace. Kiss in public. Climb something. Play. Disrupt misery and the viciousness of the miserable. Be alive. Welcome to the Zombie Resistance’” (182-3).

“Martin embodies our Gnostic paradox with considerably more panache than your standard jogger, spending countless hours perfecting his body’s performance through gymnastics and martial arts in order to liberate his spiritual powers. His ongoing project is to construct an ideal educational system, one that disciplines the body and mind so that its dedicated practitioners emerge as knights or angelic chivalry, ‘fearless agents of compassionate and effective change,’ superheroes” (184).

 

Conclusion: The Most Beautiful Thing in the World

Xenophon said that Socrates said:

‘And if I have something good, I teach it to them and I introduce them to others who will be useful to them with respect to virtue. And together with my friends I go through the treasures of the wise men of old which they left behind written in books, and we peruse them. If we see something good, we pick it out and hold it to be a great profit, if we are able to prove useful to one another.’ When I heard this, I held Socrates to be really happy” (187).

“The thing missing isn’t what weakens the teacher; mysteriously, it’s the source of the teacher’s strength. The supreme example is Socrates, whose recognition of his ignorance empowers not just the dialogues but the entire history of Western thought as well” (189).

“As Kierkegaard puts it, ‘The disciple is the opportunity for the master to understand himself, as the master is the opportunity for the disciple to understand himself’” (190).

 

Scott Samuelson lives in Iowa City where he teaches philosophy at Kirkwood Community College. He also reviews movies, hosts on television and is a sous chef at a French restaurant on a gravel road.

 

The Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prizes: A History of the Awards in Books, Drama, Music, and Journalism, Based on the Private Files over Six Decades
By
John Hohenberg

1974
Columbia University Press
New York

1: The Grand Scheme 1902-1916
1: The Germ of an Idea
2: “To The Prizes I Am Much Attached”
3: The Will
4: The Board Takes Over
5: The Administration

2: Prizes for a Brave New World 1917-1923
1: The Beginning
2: Warriors and Peacemakers
“There’s lots to talk about and still a bit of sugar in the bottom of the glass.” –Henry Watterson of the Louisville Courier-Journal
“…the New York World set the example with a resolute attack on wrongdoing and that the mainspring of its campaigns was an aggressive and domineering journalist who already had won one Pulitzer Prize, Herbert Bayard Swope” (39).
“All this was preparation for the World’s major crusades after Swope became executive editor in 1920…During the next year, by following the World’s lead, the Memphis Commercial Appeal also won the public service gold medal for an expose of the Klan. What these two prizes did was to recognize and stimulate the investigative function of the press in reporting on the threat to civil liberties that the Klan represented” (40).
Walter Lippmann was editor of the World’s editorial page. Swope saw that with him, it was the story that counted. “He caused the World to cover so many lynchings that the paper acquired a reputation for being pro-Negro at a time when such an attitude was unpopular with advertisers.
“White’s defiance became national news. If labor was enthusiastic, many of the middle-class readers of the Gazette were not. He received numerous protests and, in response to one of them, wrote his classic editorial, ‘To An Anxious Friend,’ which he published on Page 1 on July 27, 1922. He opened with the theme: ‘You say that freedom of utterance is not for time of stress and I reply with the sad truth that only in time of stress is freedom of utterance in danger.’ And he closed with this assurance:
‘So, dear friend, put fear out of your heart. This nation will survive, this state will prosper, the orderly business of life will go forward if only men can speak in whatever way given them to utter what their hearts hold–by voice, by posted card, by letter, of by press. Reason has never failed men. Only force and repression have made wrecks in this world.’
“The governor’s suit against White was dismissed. The strike was settled. And, by recommendation of a jury and the Advisory Board, William Allen White was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1923” (42).
3: The Emergence of Eugene O’Neill
“He signed with a flourish, including his middle initial, G. For Gladstone, which he soon dropped. It was the beginning of a long and profitable relationship between O’Neill and the university, for he was to win two more Pulitzer Prizes in his lifetime and one posthumously for his bitter and tragic evocation of his family’s life, Long Day’s Journey into Night. The Nobel Prize came to him in 1936, eight years after his third Pulitzer Prize, making him the first American dramatist to be honored with such international recognition” (49).
On page 50 there is a key to good writing:
“…the merit of a tense, driving, emotional sincerity, imparting to the spectator–when he withdraws a little from the spell of the tragedy–the sense that the dramatist has been imaginatively at the mercy of his people; not manipulating them so much as being manipulated by them.”
O’Neill “had even acquired his own bootlegger, an sign of prestige in the swinging New York of his middle years” (52).
4: The Novel: Whole or Wholesome?
“The issue posed by Sherman finally broke into the open with the publication of Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street, the most controversial book of 1920, which attacked the mores of Middle America and tore apart the hitherto sacred values of the people of its small towns” (58).
“In retrospect, The Age of Innocence has outlasted the vogue of Main Street. Mrs. Wharton’s book is still recognized as a classic…” (60).
5: History: The Aristocrats
“The swift growth of the American university system may have stimulated the development of the professional, but it was years before he was able to overcome criticism of his tendency toward empty pedantry and dreary prose” (62).
6: Two Poets from Maine
Joseph Pulitzer “had omitted any mention of poetry from his will” (69).
Page 70 discusses the interesting personality differences between the first two poetry winners.
It sounds like I may want to explore the poetry of Millay.

3: Changing Times, Changing Awards 1924-1933
1: Journalism: The Public Interest
2: The Embattled Novelists
3: Drama: Winners and Losers
4: History’s Progressives
5: Poetry: From Frost to MacLeish

4: The Laureates Face the Storm 1934-1942
1: The Press During the New Deal
1941…”Basically, the Supreme Court held that there can be no restriction upon freedom of speech or the press unless there is substantial proof of a ‘clear and present danger’ to the conduct of government” (128).
2: Fiction: The Mid-Victoria Cross
3: Drama: The Battle of Broadway
“W. Somerset Maugham, the British novelist and playwright, joined Mrs. Colum and Professor Phelps on the Pulitzer Drama Jury for the war year of 1942, but they found nothing that pleased them…Maugham added his own estimate: ‘It is with great regret that I have to state my opinion that no play has been produced during the last year that deserves the honour that it is in the power of Columbia University to confer. If, as I understand, the purpose of the Pulitzer Prize is to reward definite achievement, I cannot but think that to confer the prize on a poor play because it is the least poor of a poor lot would be to lessen its value. It would be no encouragement to the art of the drama’” (155-6).
4: History: The Professionals Take Over
5: Poets Pleasant and Unpleasant
“Poetry magazine called [Van Doren] ‘solidly entrenched in the tradition of definite purpose framed in strict patterns….he has never been a slave to a vogue and never having been in fashion will never be out of it’” (167).
6: The Prizes After Twenty-five Years

5: The Prizes in War and Peace 1943-1954
1: The Era of the Reporter
“Of the winners, by all odds the greatest was Ernie Pyle. Ernest Taylor Pyle was just an old-fashioned reporter in the pre-television age. Sometimes, he couldn’t read his own notes and he never did look like much. His baggy, and usually dirty, correspondent’s uniform hung on him like a used potato sack because his was scarcely an Olympian figure; he was small, scrawny, and unashamedly bald. His enunciation was poor, his language worse, for he loved the ‘Goddamned infantry’ and he expressed himself in vigorous and earthy terms that would send a sensitive television vice president into screaming tantrums.
“When Pyle began his wartime service in Europe in 1942 at the age of 42, he was among the oldest of all the correspondents and he was deplorably subject to colds. Never for a moment did he glory in the false and brassy romance of war. He hated war with a convulsive, impassioned hatred. And yet, in World War II, he became the best-loved and most influential of all American war correspondents and he brought the war into the American home with mere words on paper as no one had been able to do it before” (178-9).
“Columbia journalism faculty members of the Correspondence Jury, proposed him for the Pulitzer Prize in Correspondence. When it was announced on May 1, it was greeted with popular acclaim everywhere. For of the five hundred correspondents who were preparing at the time to cover D-Day, Ernie Pyle was No. 1.
“Soon after the first troops landed in Normandy on June 6, he was on the beach with them. On July 25, 1944, when he reported the breakthrough that sent American arms racing into the heart of France, he was under fire and narrowly escaped death. And on August 25, 1944, when he rode into Paris in a jeep with the victorious French and
Americans, he wrote: ‘I had thought that for me there could never again be any elation in war. But I had reckoned without the liberation of Paris…’ After that, he had enough and came home for a rest, but not for long. On April 12, 1945, when he was with the American 77th Division in the Pacific, he learned of President Roosevelt’s death that day. And on tiny Ie Shima six days later, when he hit the bach with the GIs of the 77th, a Japanese sniper got him in the right temple.
“Everywhere on the war fronts, the correspondents mourned him. And in the United States, the outpouring of national grief came from the White House and the humblest homes alike. For the Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ernie Pyle had shared the trust and the love of a war-beleaguered people and he would not soon be forgotten” (180).
2: The Troublesome Novel
“The emotional, crusading fervor against the enemies of America that bulked so large in the nation’s consciousness during World War II had a predictable impact on the American novel. Not since the Civil War had so many writers of consequence felt it to be their destiny to write about war in fictional form for the benefit of their countrymen, if not entirely for themselves. Perhaps the patriotic spirit was greater in World War I, but it didn’t last as long. In World War II, the ideological commitment of the intellectuals was made years before the Nazis struck at Poland in 1939. Thus, the novelists had a long time to mull over their feelings and the books they produced about the conflict continued to reach the public years after World War II ended” (197).
The 1947 winner was All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Warren’s “teaching career began at Southwestern College in Memphis in 1931” (199).
Tales of the South Pacific, 1947, Michener. (Sounds like a fun read.)
3: The Theater Looks Up
4: History–The Broader View
The John Muir story, Son of the Wilderness, by Linnie Marsh Wolfe, in 1946.
5: Poets–Modern and Not So Modern
1950 “recognize Gwendolyn Brooks, the first black person to win a Pulitzer Prize. She received the award for her poetic work, Annie Allen. The report said:
‘Some years ago, Gwendolyn Brooks, a Negro writer of unusual ability, published A Street in Bronzeville, which made a great impression on all its readers and had what is unusual for poetry today–a wide sale. In 1949 she published Annie Allen, a much better book, and indeed, in our opinion, the outstanding volume of the year if you exclude Robert Frost. No other Negro poet has written such poetry of her own race, of her own experiences, subjective and objective, and with no grievance or racial criticism as the purpose of her poetry. It is highly skillful and strong poetry, come out of the heart, but rich with racial experience.’
“Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka in 1917 but grew up in Chicago, attended school there and was graduated from Wilson Jr. College. Her Annie Allen was born out of her own experiences on Chicago’s South Side, from childhood to womanhood, and included characters she knew there. The varied lyrics and ballads in the book, modestly called notes, were developed into a single short narrative called ‘The Anniad.’ Alfred Kreymborg called it ‘not only brilliant but profound in its tragic and tragi-comic implications.’
“Miss Brooks’s ability as a poet had been recognized before she won her Pulitzer, for she was the recipient in her earlier years of two Guggenheim Fellowships and a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Thereafter, in 1969, she became the Poet Laureate of Illinois and a poet of the first rank in America. But she did not stand aside from the struggle of her people when it reached a violent pitch in the 1960s; like the younger black artists, writers, and poets, she became a part of the black revolution. It did not bother her that some of the black activists regarded her new activities with puzzlement in view of her status as a Pulitzer Prize winner.
“‘For me,’ she wrote in 1972, ‘the award had the effect of a doctorate, enabling me to teach in universities and colleges. It has been a ‘open sesame’ to much in this country. It has also–formerly–abashed and puzzled certain young people, who considered it ‘establishmentarian’!”
“In her autobiography, Report from Part One, she thought deeply of her old life style and the changes that time and circumstance had made in it. These were her reflections:
“‘I–who have ‘gone the gamut’ from an almost angry rejection of my dark skin by some of my brainwashed brothers and sisters to a surprised queenhood in the new black sun–am qualified to enter at least the kindergarten of new consciousness now. New consciousness and trudge-toward-progress. I have hopes for myself’” (221-2).
Seek out the works of Marianne Moore.
6: The First Music Prizes
7: The Old Order Passes

6: A Change in Direction for the Prizes 1955-1965
1: The New Board
2: The Press as Leader
“‘One of these days it will be Monday,’ Ralph McGill wrote in the Atlanta Constitution during 1953. And on May 17, 1954, Monday finally came–the Monday that a segregated South had dreaded for so many years, the Monday on which the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision desegregating the schools. McGill was ready for it, but not many others were; certainly, not the schools in the South nor their administrators, not even the bench and bar and the governors of the states that were directly affected.
“The great Georgian sometimes despaired even of his own profession because so few were willing to provide the leadership that this time of peril and change in American society so desperately required. And yet, between 1955 and 1965, no fewer than ten Pulitzer Prizes were granted for distinguished journalism dealing with the nation’s massive racial crisis–one for public service, two for reporting, six for editorial writing, and there was a special citation as well. This was more than all the prizes that had been given between 1917 and 1954 for crusades against the Ku Klux Klan and ruthless lynch law.
“One of the first to stand up against the social pressure to nullify desegregation in the South was Buford Boone, editor of the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News. When student rioters on February 6, 1956, forced the withdrawal of the first black student at the University of Alabama, Boone rebuked the community in these harsh terms:
‘We have had a breakdown of law and order, and abject surrender to what is expedient rather than a courageous stand for what is right. Yes, there’s peace on the university campus this morning. But what a price has been paid for it!’
“That editorial, ‘What a Price for Peace,’ brought Boone the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1957. What happened in Tuscaloosa, however, was only the beginning of a shameful campaign in some of the finest and loveliest cities of the South. What it finally came down to, in the fall of 1957, was the use of Federal troops by President Eisenhower to restore order in Little Rock, Ark.
“Governor Orval Eugene Faubus of Arkansas had forced the issue by leading the opposition to the enrollment of nine Negro children at Central High School in Little Rock. Early in September, he even called out the National Guard to surround the then empty school on the pretext that violence was threatened. The White Citizens Councils, the lineal descendants of the Ku Klux Klan, were jubilant. But the 85-year-old publisher of the Arkansas Gazette, John Netherland Heiskell, was not. He chose to stand with his editor, Harry S. Ashmore, in a campaign for decency in Little Rock. The issue, as Ashmore saw it in an editorial on September 9, 1957, was basic:
‘Somehow, some time, every Arkansan is going to have to be counted. We are going to have to decide what kind of people we are–whether we obey the law only when we approve of it, or whether we obey it no matter how distasteful we may find it. An this, finally, is the only issue before the people of Arkansas.’
“On a turbulent morning two weeks later, Relman (Pat) Morin of the Associated Press was outside Central High School in a glass-enclosed telephone booth when a shrieking mob forced its first black students to leave their classes. What Morin did in that epic report of September 23 won him the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, his second Pulitzer award. But even more important, his first-hand description of the riot almost certainly played a part in President Eisenhower’s decision to move Federal troops into Little Rock that day.
“Order was finally restored in the city. But the segregationists turned venomously on the Arkansas Gazette, their main enemy, and cut its revenue by $2 million through advertising and circulation boycotts. Eventually, Ashmore left his post in order to relieve the newspaper of some of the pressure. But before he did so, he and the Gazette shared a rare honor–a double Pulitzer Prize; in 1958, he won the editorial writing award and the paper was given the public service gold medal.
“Throughout the years of turmoil in Dixie, Ralph McGill had been thundering defiance in the columns of the Atlanta Constitution against the violent segregationists. In return, he was threatened. His wife, chronically ill, was abused. Their home was the target for all manner of senseless outrages. But McGill resolutely maintained his position. It wasn’t in him to quit.
“Despite his crusading fervor, Ralph McGill neither looked nor acted like a champion of social reform. He was a generous and kindly man, a lively companion, and an incomparable storyteller. But he was also, for all his days, an inveterate defender of the weak and the helpless. He had been born in Tennessee in 1898, attended Vanderbilt, served in World War I, and begun newspaper work as a sports writer for the Nashville Banner in 1922. It was only when he came to the Atlanta Constitution in 1931 that he lifted his sights beyond the starry-eyed world of sports to the realities of life and experienced the first Ku Klux Klan demonstration against him. Nevertheless, in 1942, he became the Constitution’s editor and its featured columnist.
“Once the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of the schools, McGill followed the course of events in Dixie with mounting anger–from Tuscaloosa to Little Rock and beyond, from bombings and burnings in Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina to his native Tennessee where a fine new high school at Clinton was destroyed. In mid-October 1958 when he came home, his wife told him that The Temple, home of Atlanta’s largest Jewish congregation, had been ripped apart by a bomb. McGill was appalled and outraged. He went to his typewriter and in twenty minutes produced an editorial, ‘One Church…One School,’ that ran in the Constitution on October 15, 1958. He wrote:
“‘This is a harvest. It is a crop of things sown. It is the harvest of defiance of courts and the encouragement of citizens to defy the law on the part of many Southern politicians.
“‘It is not possible to preach lawlessness and restrict it. When leadership in high places fails to support constituted authority, it opens the gates to all those who wish to take law into their hands. The extremists of the citizens’ councils, the political leaders who in terms violent and inflammatory have repudiated their oaths and stood against due process of law, have helped unloose this flood of hate.’
“The editorial brough Ralph McGill the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1959. Although he was the recognized leader of liberal opinion in the South, it was characteristic of him to say, when he heard the news, ‘I never thought I’d make it.’ Two years later, he was invited to join the Advisory Board on the Pulitzer Prizes.
“The conflict over segregation in Virginia brought Pulitzer Prizes to Mary Lou Werner of the Washington Evening Star for her year-long reporting of the conflict and to Lenoir Chambers, editor of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, for his editorial writing. Miss Werner won in 1959, Chambers in 1960.
“When the focus of the struggle shifted to Mississippi in 1962, with rioters demonstrating against the admission to the University of Mississippi of its first black student, James Meredith, a small-town editor defied both the mob and the State government. The editor, Ira B. Harkey Jr., won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing, but with it came a bullet through the front door, the violent opposition of the segregationists, and such pitiless financial pressure that he had to sell his paper, the Pascagoula Chronicle, and leave the South.
“Another small-town publisher in Mississippi, Hazel Brannon Smith, was no less vigorous in her opposition to the White Citizens’ Councils but she managed to ride out the storm that almost destroyed her best property, the Lexington (Miss.) Advertiser. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1964 and the plaudits of her neighbor, Hodding Carter of Greenville, who called her ‘The Fighting Lady.’
“It remained for the Gannett Newspapers to round out the decade following the Supreme Court’s historic decision by combining their efforts to produce a series, ‘The Road to Integration,’ which cited the positive accomplishments that had been achieved even though it did not gloss over the failures. The special citations, awarded to Gannett by recommendation of the Advisory Board in 1964, was the first ever given to any newspaper group.
“If the first decade of the massive American racial crisis did nothing else, it placed a heavy–perhaps too heavy–burden of leadership on the press, a responsibility that even the best and the bravest newspapers were not designed to discharge. But even more difficult times lay ahead, when the flames of burning cities in the latter 1960s threatened to spread all over the land in an outbreak of fierce and intractable civil strife” (240-243).
3: New Novelists, New Arguments
The Reivers, Faulkner “As it happened, 1962 was also the year which saw the publication of William Faulkner’s The Reivers, his last novel and also one of his most appealing. A genial comedy of three Mississippi innocents on a visit to Memphis, it contains a minimum of the rhetoric and moralising which characterized Faulkner’s later writing. The Reivers, is, in fact, a sunny interlude (the last, alas) in the shaping of the vast Yoknapatawpha saga, in which Faulkner for once sounds relaxed, as though he were yarning to a circle of friends in that soft, elliptical drawl of his. The Reivers has been described as ‘a perfect book for that last goodnight,’ and we agree” (259-60).
4: The Drama’s Time of Troubles
“Tennessee Williams’ outspoken play about a Southern plantation family, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, involved the reconstituted Advisory Board in a lively argument in 1955 at the outset of the chairmanship of Joseph Pulitzer Jr. At issue were all the old prejudices against gamey language and displays of immorality on the stage which had animated President Butler and the Board members of his day. To be sure, they had considered themselves more as guardians of the purity of the American novel, and had been relatively liberal within their lights in accepting the more venturesome reports of their drama juries. But they hadn’t come up against anything quite like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof which, even to jaded Broadway critics, was something special in free-wheeling dramaturgy. To quote Jack Gaver of United Press International: ‘There is more and rougher dialogue of a sexual nature–a lot more and a lot rougher–than in any other American play ever produced on Broadway. Much of it is completely unnecessary.’
“That was not the only objection in terms of an older Pulitzer view of the stage as a place of inspiration and uplift. The play itself was the main issue. The self-described ‘cat on a hot tin roof,’ Maggie, a childless wife with an alcoholic husband, is sexually frustrated and worried about a former homosexual incident in her husband’s life. She also is concerned because her father-in-law, ‘Big Daddy,’ a cancer victim although he doesn’t know it, is likely to leave his estate to an older son rather than her husband. In the struggle that ensures, the characters taunt, insult, and lie to each other with Maggie still hoping at the end for pregnancy and fulfillment” (260).
“Pulitzer, the new chairman, had seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and thought it worthy of the drama prize. He had little patience with the arguments against its extravagant language and unpleasant sexual themes, but based himself entirely on its effectiveness as a piece of realistic theater. The reconstituted Board, after considerable discussion, went along with him and voted for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This time, there was no Nicholas Murray Butler to threaten to invoke the veto power of the university Trustees, so Williams won his second drama award. It was the first and last time that the third Pulitzer took the lead in any discussion of the drama prize, although he often expressed his views with vigor and conviction as a member of the Board’s consultative committee on the drama” (261).
“The Advisory Board consists of a very distinguished group of representative Americans whose judgment as non-professional theatergoers has an interest and value of its own. If they are understandably tired of disagreeable plays and want something light, pleasant, and wholesome instead, they are certainly within their rights to choose the latter. But critics have to judge by different standards than their own pleasure–I mean in the ordinary sense of being entertained or cheered. Though, God willing, they don’t take themselves seriously, critics have to take the theater seriously and believe in its importance. Hence, they cannot pass over the painful merely because it is painful, and must think as professional observers in terms of careers, craftsmanship, language, ideas, etc. This is where the conflict is bound, at times, to arise between the Board and the Jurors” (265).
5: The Importance of Biography
6: Poetry and Music: Rewards of Fame

7: The Prizes: Present and Future 1966-1974
1: After Fifty Years
Editors Vermont Connecticut Royster and Virginius Dabney (what names!)
2: Press versus Government
“The publication of the Pentagon Papers was the issue that led to the first direct test of strength between paress and government in modern times–a conflict that had the strongest repercussions in the judging of the Pulitzer Prizes for 1972. Most of the documents, which consisted of forty-seven book-length volumes totaling more than 2.5 million words, had been obtained by the New York Times through the efforts of Neil Sheehan, who had become its Pentagon correspondent after leaving UPI. The top secret project, commissioned in mid-1967 by the then Secretary of Defense, Robert Strange McNamara, was a detailed record of American involvement in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from the end of World War II until May, 1968” (307).
“In the government’s view, further publication would have done immediate and irreparable harm’ to national security.
“It was not until June 30, when the United States Supreme Court rejected the government’s position, that publication was resumed. The high court, in an unsigned ruling, voted 6-3 in favor of the New York Times and the Washington Post, which had begun its own publication of the documents on June 19. It held that ‘any system of prior restraints of expression comes to this court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutionality,’ that the government had to show justification for such suppression, and that it had failed to do so.
“The Times, alone among the newspapers that had published the Pentagon Papers in whole or in part, entered two exhibits in the judging of the Pulitzer Prizes for 1972. One consisted of more than fifty full-size pages, the text of its nine articles plus supporting materials, which was nominated in the public service category. Another was the basis for the nomination of Neil Sheehan in both the National and International Reporting categories.
“When the Pulitzer Prize Journalism Juries met at Columbia University on March 7-8-9, 1972, the chairmen held a preliminary session, as was customary, to pass on matters of classification. Without the participation of Miss Charlotte Curtis of the New York Times, who headed the Cartooning Jury, the chairmen consolidated the Time’s Pentagon exhibits in the Public Service category. After examining eighty exhibits for two days, the Public Service Jury, under the chairmanship of Stuart Awbrey, editor and publisher of the Hutchinson (Kansas) News, unanimously reached the following verdict on March 9:
“‘A gold medal is recommended for the New York Times and for Neil Sheehan for the remarkable journalistic feat which has come to be known as the Pentagon Papers….It is fortuitous that the Pulitzer Prizes can recognize the accomplishments of both the newspaper an of a persistent, courageous reporter, and thus can reaffirm to the American people that the press continues its devotion to their right to know, a basic bulwark in our democratic society’” (308).
3: Modern Fiction and Its Problems
4: The Tough Theater
5: Historians, Biographers, and Journalists
“In a lighthearted reflection on the downbeat trends of the modern age, James Reston once observed that things were getting a little mixed up in the writing business. ‘The journalists,’ he said, ‘have been winning Pulitzer Prizes for history, and the historians have been winning prizes for journalism, and it has even been suggested occasionally that we [the journalists] have been winning prizes for what was really fiction’ He could have added, as well, that novelists of the first rank were masquerading as reporters by presenting books of non-fiction in fictional guise.
“This blurring of the lines was almost a regular feature of the Pulitzer Prizes in History, Biography, and General Non-Fiction from 1966 on. With a few major exceptions, scholars and statesmen joined the journalists in the development of subjects that were deemed relevant, an academic code word of the period, to the topsy-turvy nature of the times. And the journalists, without so much as a by-your-leave, draped themselves in the trappings of scholarship on occasion and presented consequential biographies and current histories. The Advisory Board became so accustomed to this continual switching of literary chairs that relatively few jury verdicts were overturned, and then only for what seemed to be compelling reasons” (331).
“Perhaps the most excitement of all came to Professor Williams, who had given up hope that his Huey Long would win the prize on the day of the announcement in 1970 and had gone to his doctor’s office to have his ears washed out. When he returned to his office at Louisiana State University, people were shouting and a colleague breathlessly informed him, ‘Your book won the Pulitzer Prize. The News services have been trying to get you.’ There was a deluge of messages and phone calls, but Professor Williams managed somehow to inform his wife, taught part of a night class, then celebrated” (334).
7: Facing the Future
“The Pulitzer Prizes have survived two World Wars, a great Depression, the bitterness of racial conflict, a tragic national schism over the Vietnam War, and the natural tensions between press and government. Many an award has created rejoicing but others have caused both controversy and criticism–all perfectly understandable reactions that are bound to continue. Barring some monstrous catastrophe, therefore, the thousandth winner of a Pulitzer Prize is likely to be selected shortly before the end of this century if the current rate of award-giving continues.
“It is tempting to speculate on the manner in which that symbolic winner will be chosen, and the nature and character of the work that will be rewarded. But, as experience has demonstrated, it is difficult enough to deal with the awards of a current year without trying to peer into the murky dawn of a new century. Juries are unpredictable. And when the Advisory Board meets, none can say what will happen. The one basic certainty is that the strong-minded people who take part in the prize-giving process will maintain their independence, come what may.
“As long as there is genius in America, with workable guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, there will be prizes to encourage and reward it. Given continued strong direction and support, the Pulitzer Prizes assuredly will remain among them” (354).

Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

By Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker

University of California Press  2013

 

The authors write their own introduction and here it states:

“The problem with these technologies is that though they generally help get you where you’re going, that’s all they do. With a paper map, you take charge; with these other means, you take orders and don’t learn your way around, any more than you learn math by using a calculator. A map shows countless possible routes; a computer-generated itinerary shows one. Using the new navigational aids, you remain dependent, and your trajectory requires obedience to the technology–some GPS devices literally dictate voice commands you are meant to obey. When you navigate with a paper map, tracing your own route rather than having it issued as a line, a list, or a set of commands, you incrementally learn the lay of the land.

“The map becomes obsolete as you become oriented. The map is then no longer on paper in front of you but inside you; many maps are, as you contain knowledge of many kinds of history and community in one place. You no longer need help navigating but can offer it. You become a map, an atlas, a guide, a person who has absorbed maps, or who needs no map intermediaries because you know the place and the many ways to get here from there. You know where you are, which may become an increasingly rare thing in an era of digital intervention.

“As Unfathomable City’s editor-at-large, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, put it in his Harper’s essay on cartography in the contemporary world, these new technologies of navigation don’t do ‘what maps are best at: providing context. Beyond simply getting us from one appointment to another, old-fashioned maps express what the geographer…Yi-Fu Tuan calls topophilia, our innate love of place, often shaped by sense and by memories.’ Jelly-Schapiro quotes the German scholar Julia Frankenstein, who concludes that ‘the more we rely on technology to find our way, the less we build up our cognitive maps.’ In other words, when you use the old-fashioned technology of paper maps, you build up the even more ancient resources of memory, mind, and spatial imagination–and you do it without monthly payments to a large corporation to gain access, or electricity, or a screen on which to read directions.

“Another aspect of the old maps to consider is beauty: many online maps have a cheerfully ugly aesthetic, one unlikely to provoke the wonder or craving of the handsome maps of yore; and what appears on screens may not inspire contemplation the way an atlas can. People do study the aerial photographs that function as online maps, and digital mapping has valuable roles to play in environmental defense, community mapping, and countermapping–the making of maps as acts of resistance to the powers that be. They have also extended some kinds of access to geographical information. But paper maps offer other strengths and glories–and beauties.

“Curiously, too, though the ephemerality of paper is often noted, there are hosts of maps and atlases half a millennium old; most digital maps are intended to be ephemeral, called up for a particular purpose, their pixels consigned to the past as soon as the use is over. So paper maps can offer beauty; they can also provide an edge on immortality; they never go blank; and the well-made ones are reliable in ways that aren’t always true of digital maps. One stormy summer evening when Jelly-Schapiro and this atlas’s two principal editors wer on a paddleboat on the Mississippi, one of us glanced at our location via smartphone. The device was not programmed to admit the possibility that we were boating rather than driving, so the dot showing where we were remained adamantly onshore. But we knew where we were, and we could’ve found it on a paper map.

“Modern road maps, like online maps, show highways, roads, and streets and generally don’t show cemeteries, bird migrations, histories, economies, ethnic groups, parade routes, and the thousand other things that can be mapped and have been mapped in old atlases and are, to some extent, in Unfathomable City. President Obama’s old map, issued by a gas station or an auto association, likely as not, was made to get you around but not to tell you where you are and who lives there. There are things that cannot be mapped, but much of what moves through and stays put in this world can be. And should be. A great map should stir up wonder and curiosity, prompt revelation, and deepen orientation. It should make the strange familiar and the familiar strange” (5-6).

 

I think this somehow captures the mystery of why I am drawn to maps. My husband and I had been to New Orleans more than once and it was capturing our hearts as one of our favorite cities. On a stormy afternoon we were flitting from store to store and in a bookstore I almost immediately found Unfathomable City and held it tightly to my breast in a statement of ownership. It is a collection of two things I love: maps and essays. I hear Solnit has done the same with San Francisco. I love the thought of seeing one city in dozens of ways and hearing people who actually live there discuss the meaning of the map. Brilliant concept.

From further in the introduction subtitled Lakeside, Riverside, Upriver, downriver, they write,

“(Before Katrina, we had the highest rate of nativity–the percentage of residents living in the same town where they were born–in the United States.)”

“Solnit came back and back again, which we locals call ‘the rubber-band effect’” (9).

Chapter 1: A City in Time

Map: A City in Time: La Nouvelle-Orleans Over 300 Years by Richard Campanella and Shizue Seigel

Essay How New Orleans Happened by Richard Campanella

The authors call Campanella “New Orleans’s preeminent geographer/cartographer. This map was created by Campanella and Shizue Seigel and shows the urbanization of the city from 1722 to 2000 buy using a color code.

“The city was conceived in 1717 by John Law’s Company of the West (later the Company of the Indies), a speculative venture granted a monopoly by the Crown to develop the problematic Louisiana claim with tobacco plantations and other risky projects.

“…designated La Nouvelle-Orleans to flatter Law’s royal patron, the Duc d’Orleans.

“France ceded the colony to Sapin in the 1760s.”

 

Here is a comment on how urban development can separate the haves from the have nots:

“One final criterion sorted spaces for urbanization. Areas closer to risky, noisy, smelly, unsightly, or otherwise offensive nuisances and hazards–flood zones, railroads, canals, dumps, wharves, industry–tended to be developed for lower-income residences and commercial or industrial land uses, while areas farther from such sites attracted higher-end development for a more moneyed crowd. Housing for the city’s poorest residents, usually African American, was such a low priority for developers that other urbanization ‘rules,’ particularly for drainage and accessibility, carried little weight. This left the poor and the disenfranchised to settle in social and geographical isolation in the low-amenity, high-risk back-of-town or along the high-nuisance wharves along the immediate riverfront” (18).

 

Chapter 2: Ebb and Flow

Map called Ebb and Flow: Migrations of the Houma, Erosions of the Coast by Shizue Seigel

Essay called Southward Into the Vanishing Lands by Monique Verdin

“Upriver, the Algonquian speakers identified it as ‘Missi sippi’ (large flowing water).

 

Chapter 3: People Who

Map by Molly Roy which, in a fun way, shows where different types of people live

Essay Here They Come, There They Go by Lolis Eric Elie

“Do not think of a South of railroad tracks and barbecue shacks and others who live at a predictably prescribed remove from us. Do not think of an America of ethnic enclaves and inviolable spaces, of hard immigrated boundaries. Even after you have formed your vision of our borders, do not cling to it, for every division awarits revision, which new history will reverse” (25).

 

Chapter 4: Moves, Remains

A map of Hiding and Seeking the Dead by Molly Roy

Essay called Bodies by Nathaniel Rich

“As a body decomposes, it fills with gases–cadaverine and putrescine–that cause it to bloat.

“…burying their dead in aboveground mausoleums. These are known colloquially as ‘ovens’ because the white stone chambers, heated by the merciless Louisiana sun, bake the corpses” (35).

 

Chapter 5: Stationary Revelations

Intro states:

“If you walk a city, if you love a city, if you put in your miles and years with open heart and mind, the city will reveal itself to you. Maybe it won’t become yours, but you will become its–its chronicler, its pilgrim, its ardent lover, its nonnative son or native daughter or defender. Billy Sothern trod these streets over the years, both defending the most desperate of this city, the people on Death Row, and pushing a baby carriage (and then, later, walking with his daughter) up and down the avenues, to Carnival parades and secret spots. This list of his own treasures is a testament to his conscience and his wanderings and an invitation to everyone, of this city or any city, to count up the stations of their own journeys home, the dusty miracles of the backstreets, and the stories to be told. Where are your treasures and your milestones, what mud is on your shoes, toward what shrines are you traveling on your pilgrimage?

Map by Shizue Seigel called Stationary Revelations: Sites of Contemplation and Delight

Essay On A Strange Island by Billy Sothern

“Who cares that the city is slowly falling into the Gulf of Mexico, that you know that the gunshots you hear at night are not fireworks because they are followed by sirens, that you no longer bother calling the city about the sinkhole that is consuming your street because it is clear that no one will fix it? Such concerns fade when you can sit on your porch and watch the world’s most amazing eheater of people talking, yelling, dancing, and eating, set against our amazing vernacular buildings and among our magnolias, crepe myrtles, swamp lilies, and Louisiana irises. You are part of that theater, and you talk to people as they pass, smell the jasmine and sweet olive in the air, and hear trains and boats from the river. You do not need to leave your porch to find treasures here” (37).

 

Chapter 6: Oil and Water

Map called Oil and Water: Extracting Petroleum, Exterminating Nature by Jakob Rosenzweig

Essay called When They Set the Sea of Fire by Antonia Juhasz

 

Chapter 7: Of Levees and Prisons

Intro

“Most incarcerated city…Louisiana…founded as a place to dump convicts…single largest prison in the United States, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola, is situated on the lush land of a plantation of that same name founded by a slave trader.

Map called Of Levees and Prisons: Failures of Containment, Surges of Freedom by Shizue Seigel

Essay Lockdown Louisiana by Lydia Pelot-Hobbs

 

Chapter 8: Civil Rights and Lemon Ice

Map called Civil Rights and Lemon Ice: Three Lives in the Old City by Shizue Seigel

Essay The Presence of the Past by Dana Logsdon and Dawn Logsdon

Mentions an “anarchist geographer” by the name of Elisee Reclus.

 

I didn’t know there was such a thing, but now I want to know more.

 

Chapter 9: Sugar Heaven and Sugar Hell

Map called Sugar Heaven and Sugar Hell: Pleasures and Brutalities of a Commodity by Shizue Seigel

Essay No Sweetness is Light by Shirley Thompson

 

Chapter 10: Bananas!

Map of the same name by Shizue Seigel

Essay Fruits’ Fortunes at the Gate of the Tropics by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

 

Chapter 11: Hot and Steamy

Map called Hot and Steamy: Selling Seafood, Selling Sex by Molly Roy

Essay Salacious and Crustaceous by Evan Casper-Futterman

“From Southern Decadence to Sissy Bounce, the Fruit Loop to Club Vibe, to Burlesque and Moulin Vieux, New Orleans proudly pushes the boundaries of ‘proper’ sexaul conduct and provides sanctuary (also the name of a lesbian bar) from a nightmarish value system of decency, chastity, and temperance” (84).

 

Chapter 12: The Mississippi is (Not) the Nile

Map called The Mississippi Is (Not) the Nile: Arab New Orleans, Real and Imagined by Shizue Seigel

Essay The Ibis-Headed God of New Orleans by Khaled Hegazzi and Andy Young

 

Chapter 13: The Line-Up

Map: The Line-Up: Live Oak Corridors and Carnival Parade Routes by Shizue Seigel

Essay Sentinels and Celebrants by Eve Abrams

“…the oldest, McDonogh Oak, resides in City Park. McDonogh Oak is more than eight hundred years old, and its girth exceeds 24 feet. The president of the Live Oak Society, Seven Sisters Oak, lives two blocks from Lake Pontchartrain’s North Shore. It’s approximately twelve hundred years old and has a waistline of more than 38 feet” (96).

 

Chapter 14: Repercussions

Map called Repercussions: Rhythm and Resistance Across the Atlantic by Shizue Seigel

Essay It Enriches My Spirit to be Linked to Such a Deep and Far-Reaching Piece of What This Universe Is: A Conversation with Herreast Harrison and Donald Harrison Jr.

Under the subtitle “They walked with this elegant air” Herreast Harrison says

“…some of them were not acutely aware of their own suffering, because they had accepted what was supposed to be the ‘norm.’ You grow up with all this inferiority implanted in you; you never feel like you’re worthy. But I always knew one thing–I can talk! [laughs] That hasn’t been taken away from me. So I can say what I want. And I had to get to the place where I was gonna say it, whether anyone appreciated it or not. So now, at seventy-five, I try to be congnizant of people’s feelings and all of that, but if it’s something I need to say–wow!–you better harness yourself because I’ll put it on trial” (102).

 

Chapter 15: Thirty-Nine Sundays

Map called Thirty-Nine Sundays: Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs Take It to the Streets by Benjamin Pease

Essay (my favorite of the bunch) called Rollin’ Wid It by Joel Dinerstein

Here is the essay in its entirety which I easily found on Joel Dinerstein’s website:

http://www.joeldinerstein.com/archive/2014/12/10/39sundays

The day starts at 10 am at Spring Hill Missionary, a white stucco four-square Uptown Baptist church crowned with an all-watching steeple. Inside, we spread our tropical peach sleeves across the double rows of wooden pews, dark olive alligator shoes sticking out in the aisle. The pastor wears a pink power suit and reads from Corinthians about how Jesus might be anywhere, might even be on today’s second line (so I guess we should watch for him). We’re all mostly bored until one of our own, 72-year-old Sidney “Lil Bruh” Morris, stands up to act as a deacon and brings the message home with quiet dignity, asking the Lord for a good parade and a peaceful day of celebration and we all say Amen.

 

In New Orleans, the second Sunday of each October belongs to the Prince of Wales Social Aid and Pleasure Club and has for a very long time. Founded in 1928 by dockworkers and railroad men, there is some disagreement about the origin of the club name. Most members believed it was named for the love of the club ancestors for J&B scotch (it says “dedicated to the Prince of Wales” on the label) while a few believe it was named for the actual Prince of Wales, a renowned jazz hound who made his first visit that year to the source of the cultural river. Mostly in our 40s and 50s, many Walers are second- and third-generation paraders who recall watching second-lines as kids or remember when clubs sewed their own colorful suits every year. On our day, by police permit and with police escort, all traffic is stopped and cleared out a quarter-mile section at a time as the Prince of Wales and Lady Walers — and more than a thousand second-liners from all around — funk up four miles of bad New Orleans road.

 

After church, we drive over to take the annual club photo on the neutral ground across from Tipitina’s, the famous club and shrine to Professor Longhair on Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas. We line up all in the unity of our finery half-facing the photographer. Standing proud in the year’s colors — peach suits, dark olive accessories — we hold aloft two oval so-called “fans” upon which the club’s lion symbol roars from a field of velvet. Then we move on up the street a quarter-mile to our home base where there’s an hour until we launch ourselves onto the streets.

 

The Rockbottom Lounge is the staging ground for coming out the door, the parade’s kick-off at 1 pm. The core of the current club met here in the 1990s, many of them friends or relatives of Alonzo Landry, the President for most of that decade, while “White Boy Joe” Stern, our most veteran member, was adopted into Landry’s extended family. Here we start getting the spirit, talk to former members, watch mothers dress their kids, take pride in being told by past generations that this year’s peach three-piece with matching dark-olive hat and alligator shoes, has again made the grade: “Y’all look clean, ya look pretty,” the men tell us. We each pin up a long streamer that flows across our torsos and down to our knees, full of bows and ribbons with a nickname on the shoulder-strap. All the while we’re spiking our Sunday-go-to-second-line spirit with Heineken, Seagram’s 7, weed, Grey Goose — don’t forget the wine coolers for Phyllis — except for Miss Betty, a church-going woman soberly surviving with style at 65. Coming out in single file, we each by each hit the threshold, strike a pose and present this year’s model of our selves. It is a serious celebratory matter. As Betty says, “All I know is when I come out I want to look like the baddest motherfucker there is.”

 

We come out rocking Soul-Train style between the ropes held by our prop men and descend onto Tchoupitoulas Street powered by The Stooges brass band: kids first, girls skipping and mugging with their green hats, boys next, a twelve-year-old already with a quick hip-dip and touch of the hat, then the Lady Walers saunter out, cool and low-flowin’, Terina’s star-time smile followed by Phyllis’ slow boogie and Desiree crossdressed in a Prince’s suit working the glory of a threshold till its hers. Then the gents: Noland comes out lean and mean, a cool hustler as if with money to burn, White Boy Joe faces West and side-steps, sporting a matching dark olive bandanna under his olive Stetson, Bruce waves his booty round and round and covers the most ground, switching back through the ropes and up Peniston, Alvin does his gangster strut and runs his hand along his hat brim. Then Lil Bruh comes out holding his fans high and kicks his knees up higher than you’d imagine a 72-year-old man can, the very incarnation of the original “Grand Marshal,” the strutting dancer who led the second-lines back when Black New Orleanians first “made up the parades just for the pleasure of it,” as recalled by jazz legend Sidney Bechet from his childhood.

 

After only two blocks we slow the parade roll to honor the dead. The band downshifts into a dirge in front of the late Jimmy Parker’s house on Annunciation and The Walers fall into a halting step with a syncopated slip: we strut in two lines with a slight diagonal step, shaping the air into chords of ancestor worship. Maybe we pick up his spirit, maybe he’s satisfied we’re all still dancing for him. Once past, the tuba and snare drum pick up the groove and down the block we pick up the Queen and her Court. Elected from outside the club, she rides with her maids and throws a few beads, honorary royal figureheads in the ritual. While waiting, Paul and I buckjump together, his thrashing kicks set off my deep-knee corkscrewing, and the Walers gather around, throw their fans down and get busy with The Stooges. The tuba-man slows his beat and a pride of princesses and their children dance down the steps and ascend a half-sawn off Mardi Gras float with their children. Then the Queen comes down the steps in white taffeta approaching a vehicle that has to be seen to be believed: an open-air bare-bones stagecoach woven of wire and drawn by two stallion-sized white mules. The Queen steps in as if she’s a relief pitcher from Heaven. The driver flicks his switch and she is driven half a block to the awaiting float for a day of regal waves and champagne riding.

 

We set in to serious second-lining through the 12th Ward, a seamless sunny brassy carpet-ride of strolling, drinking, talking, and strutting, tuba-&-drum call and community response, until the parade turns onto Magazine Street and the Walers hit this commercial strip like a holiday: Alvin throws down his fans and we make a circle around him as he zigs back and forth with zip starts and stops, Desiree turns her palms up and damn near limbos, and everyone digs making the rich white folks wait and wonder as they stare from their cars with culture shock-and-awe. Second-lines run four hours over five-mile routes almost entirely through African-American neighborhoods — Treme, Central City, Carrollton — so many locals have never seen one due to residential segregation. Until recently, New Orleans culture was racially coded for locals: white and black Mardi Gras, white Krewes and Black Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, white touristy second-lines and these black-cultural rolling block parties.

 

The Prince of Wales is a rare Uptown second-line and this ain’t no First Friday: it’s a community getting its collective freak on, working off the weekly tension so at some point everybody is a star (to riff on Sly Stone). The parade belongs as much to the second liners as to the first line: that’s why it’s named for them. As Louis Armstrong testified about his childhood: “The Second Line is a bunch of Guys who follows the parade. They’re not the members of the … Club. Anybody can be a Second Liner, whether they are Raggedy or dressed up. They seemed to have more fun than anybody.” This weekly ritual is named for the celebrants and not the sponsors, and at this point we all swing together onto the broad expanse of Louisiana Avenue and head up to The Sandpiper, a bar whose ’50s neon martini sign is a beacon in the late unholy NOLA night. This is the first scheduled ten-minute stop of the parade: we rest for a drink and momentarily de-compress.

 

Once we re-emerge we’re in the thick of it, between the dancers and the deep heat and the strolling crowd. Sometimes you look up from getting down and don’t even know where you’re at even in your own neighborhood. The music shapes the air, the band torques up our internal gyroscopes, the tuba syncs our bodies together. We’re getting the street into our system and putting our energy into the street. Like any good ritual, second-lines suspend everyday industrial time. And then it’s out LaSalle to Washington and on around to the stop at Charley Wright’s place, and we’re lettin’ the good times roll on, Walers out front.

 

On your club’s parade day, the suit is your club uniform and the band is your motorcade. “Shut that street down… I’m coming through here. That’s what it feel like,” Noland once said, having driven a cab and a truck and run assorted hustles as well as a home-repair business in his fifty-odd years. “You feel like, [there’s] nothing they can do [to stop you]… Eleven months they [we] slave, for one day out of the year.” Miss Betty distills this feeling: “That’s my day. I feel like a star. Everything’s got to stop for me.” On this day, the second-liners bask in refracted glory off our colorful shoulders and bad-ass shoes: our tropical blaze of body and soul lights up the community. “It’s your day, you the one shining,” Betty says.

 

If a city is a circulatory system of its residents’ energy — with streets like arteries and airwaves — then New Orleans is the city as dancing body, a place whose spirit is stomped into existence every Sunday. Every day musicians inhale the city and on Sundays, they exhale it through valves and pistons and put the music on the wind for dancers to make the city’s rhythms visible. There’s a third line, too — the platoon of photographers and tourists who think the main action is the first line when it’s more along the sidewalks, where two people lock eyes and drop into a dance-off full of fluid shimmies, spins, and pelvic pops, where an impromptu drum unit rings time on cowbells and pint bottles, where every surface becomes a platform of celebration — church steps, flatbeds, low rooftops, billboards — and I watch seven young men from the community pace the Prince of Wales single-file each with his own move (leap, hurdle, split, cartwheel) while a few women lean forward on a parked car and booty-pop their pleasure since it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.

 

“There’s no place like this place,” Stan smiles at me as we swing onto St. Charles and hold up a streetcar, tourists’ eyes popping wide as their camera lenses. The Stooges shift into “Billie Jean” and pump up the volume, honoring the recently deceased Michael Jackson and blowing up the prized quiet real estate with brassy antagonism. “The tourists … be trying to see what’s going on, they taking pictures,” Phyllis says with pride, “but we own the streets that day.” Stan is originally from San Antonio and joined the club post-Katrina for one reason: “It became imperative [for me] to step up because they were trying to take the culture away.” In the immediate aftermath of “the Storm” (as it’s called here), the city doubled the cost of a police permit and spread the lie that violence was endemic to second-lines. The clubs sued to rescind the increase and the Walers’ own Joe Stern testified to the lack of parade violence over a generation. “They don’t help us at all,” Phyllis once said about the city, “if it was up to them, we wouldn’t even be second lining… That’s why we have the [Second-Line] Task Force…because we’re trying to fight for our culture… Any kind of commercial dealing with New Orleans, the first thing you see is a second line. But they don’t support us.”

 

We have looped back around into the Garden District and arrive at our last stop, Commander’s Palace, the city’s #1 restaurant as rated by Zagat’s: this was a prestigious coup engineered by Bruce and Noland and represents very recent attempts by local businesses to embrace local Black culture for its spectacle value. Five feet from the door, Adrian, the youngest Waler, throws her hat to the ground and she dip-bam-double-skips and spins into a quick routine that The Stooges support with sustained, escalating riffs, and Adrian does a stutter-kick, a half-split and then a slight backbend from which she rolls her head back in to place, gives the band an appreciative side-eye, then bends gracefully to pick up her hat and sashays on in. It is her way of claiming this new terrain and honoring its prestige. We swirl into the restaurant, human birds of paradise swooping low past shocked faces in the midst of quiet mid-afternoon lunches. I toss back a gimlet with Alvin and Terina’s goldened smile spurs us back on out to Tchoupitoulas and the wide-open homestretch along the river that takes us home to the Rockbottom.

 

A second-line parade is an annual house party that moves lightly like the feathers on our fans yet inexorably like a tank through the streets. Gotta roll wid it or get the hell on outta the way.

 

Chapter 16: Bass Lines

Intro:

“…whose name–funk–is perhaps derived from its Kongo slaves’ word for ‘strong body odor,’ lufuki…” (116).

Map called Bass Lines: Deep Sounds and Soils by Jakob Rosenzweig

Essay The Floating Cushion by George Porter Jr. on the City’s Low End

Chapter 17: Where Dey At

Map: Where Dey At: Bounce Calls Up A Vanished City by Molly Roy

Essay A Home In Song by Garnette Cadogan

 

Chapter 18: Snakes and Ladders

Map: Snakes and Ladders: What Rose Up, What Fell Down During Hurricane Katrina by Shizue Seigel

Essay Nothing was Foreordained by Rebecca Solnit

 

Chapter 19: St. Claude Avenue

Map: St. Claude Avenue: Loss and Recovery on an Inner-City Artery by Shizue Seigel

Essay The Beginning of This Road by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

 

Chapter 20: Juju and Cuckoo

Map Juju and Cuckoo: Taking Care of Crazy by Shizue Seigel

Essay Holding It Together, Falling Apart by Rebecca Snedeker

Mentions the “King and Queen Emporium International on Bayou Road” as well as “the F&F Botanica and Candle Shop on North Broad” (144).

 

Chapter 21: Lead and Lies

Map Lead and Lies: Mouths Full of Poison by Molly Roy

Essay Charting the Territories of Untruth by Rebecca Solnit

 

Chapter 22: Waterland

Map by the same name by Jakob Rosenzweig

Essay The Cement Lily Pad by Rebecca Snedeker

 

 

Vegan Notes

 

“What enables you to solve novel problems is a faculty called fluid intelligence…Fluid intelligence can be optimally preserved by consumption of specific omega-3 fats. These are not the well-known omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, EPA and DHA; all are derived from land-based food” (31).

Fats for Fluid Intelligence: 1) Blood levels of three omega-3 fatty acids correlate with fluid intelligence and the size of the left frontoparietal cortex; 2) Alpha-linolenic acid is found in many seeds and walnuts; 3) Stearidonic acid is found in walnuts and pumpkin seeds; 4) Eicosatrienoic acid is found in flaxseed oil.

“Nut seeds, and oils are the primary sources of the three omega fatty acids…nuts…seeds and their oils…flaxseed oil…in yellow mustard. Intake of these nutrients, studies show, may prevent or slow cognitive decline.”

“The nutrients directly enhance memory processes and indirectly affect them by maintaining the microstructure of the fornix. …the fornix is responsive to nutritional interventions.”

Feeding the Fornix: “Refinements in brain-imaging technology have enabled neuroscientists to discover that the microstructure of the fornix is a highly sensitive indicator of memory health.”

Fatty Acid Facts: Many omega-3s are found in plants. Most omega-6 fats in the diet come from vegetable oils. (32)

Excerpts from:

Marano, Hara Estroff.  “Not by Fish Alone.” Psychology Today June 2018: 31-32.

From the beginning of human civilization there has been beer. “Beer always begins from the same base–grain. Wheat, barley, rye. …add hops–the flowers of a climbing plant that impart a distinctive flavor to beer–along with spices, or anything their hearts desire” (35). “The addition of hops, dating to at least the ninth century, changed beer forever. As the female buds of the Humulus lupulus vine, hops resemble small green pine cones and add the bitter flavor and aroma we associate with beer, courtesy of constituent phytochemicals called humulones. Scientists find that humulones offer a buffet of health benefits. For starters, they are antimicrobial. Cherokee tribes long used hops to treat inflammation.

“Ongoing studies demonstrate that humulones prevent cognitive degeneration, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Most recently, researchers reported that they improve cognitive function in people with metabolic syndrome. They also have sedative and anxiolytic effects. In Germany, extracts of hops are prescribed medicinally to combat stress and anxiety.”

 

“…beer contains an array of B vitamins, particularly B6 and B12, known to support brain health. Beer also harbors the minerals selenium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium, and the malted grain yields silicon, thought essential for maintaining bone density” (36).

Excerpts from:

Blum, Alexander.  “Beer: Stirring Civilization.” Psychology Today June 2018: 35-36.

 

The Anti-Cancer Diet

Shift to a healthier diet to reverse GERD and reduced esophageal cancer risk. Focus your eating on:

High-fiber foods: A fiber-rich diet can reduce the risk of Barrett’s esophagus by up to 66 percent and esophageal adenocarcinoma by as much as 34 percent.

Fruits and vegetables: When people eat more fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors as part of their regular diet, their risk of Barrett’s is cut by as much as 73 percent, and their risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma is reduced by approximately 32 percent.

Leafy greens and legumes: Folate intake from dietary sources such as leafy greens and legumes has been shown to reduce the risk of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer by up to 60 percent.

 

“Is Lab-Grown Meat Ready for Dinner?” by John Birdsall in The Future of Everything: A Look Ahead From the Wall Street Journal Nov/Dec. 2018 [excerpts]

“The process of growing meat in a bioreactor is known as cellular agriculture, and the results were once called ‘clean meat.’ But at a recent conference in Berkeley, Calif., a collective of cellular-agriculture startups decided to call the product category ‘cell-based meat’ instead.”

“Proponents of cellular agriculture see the technology as a sustainable way to satisfy humanity’s insatiable hunger for meat. The environmental toll of raising 70 billion animals a year for slaughter is severe, and consumption is steadily growing throughout the world. A sustainable facsimile of animal protein could be the answer. The start-up Impossible Foods has earned rave reviews for its vegan, plant-based burger that bleeds and tastes like meat. It seems like only a matter of time before bio-reactors produce something that looks and tastes pasture raised.

 

From “I Can’t Believe It’s Lab-Made Whiskey” by Hannah Goldfield

“There are obvious comparisons to be made between Endless West and startups like Impossible Foods, which uses a molecule derived from legumes to give its plant-based burger the look and taste of ground beef. ‘The core thesis of what we’re doing is very similar,’ Lee says. But Patrick Brown, the founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, set out to replicate ground beef because of the damage cattle farming inflicts on the environment. ‘The whole mission of this company is to make eating animals unnecessary,’ he told the Jornal in 2014. ‘I think very few people ask Impossible Foods, ‘Why are you doing this?’”

 

From “She’s Gonna Make it After All” by Sarah Cristobal on the topic of Taraji P. Henson: “Their life is a healthy one. Hayden runs his own gym, and she’s always cooking new vegan treats for her tribe. She made the jump to veganism after suffering massive stomach pains while filming The Best of Enemies this past summer. ‘It took a doctor in Macon, Ga., to say, If you don’t change what you’re doing, you’re going to get stomach cancer. I said, Say no more. So I switched everything up out of necessity. I want to live. Thank God, because I feel so much better.’”  –In Style Jan. 2019

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201811/how-eat-your-hat#_=_

Links to “How to Eat Your Hat” by Kirsi Goldynia for Supplemental Science section of Psychology Today Dec. 2018

As a vegan, you never have to be afraid to walk into a pizza joint. Take the meat and cheese off a pizza, top with your favorite vegetables and there you go…a goddamn pizza. If you REALLY get lucky the joint will have vegan cheese; then you’re in heaven. Just remember to always say to the waiter/waitress that you are vegan. You never know when the sauce might contain parmesan or the crust is baked with cheese.

 

The Best Bits of: Leonardo Da Vinci  by Walter Isaacson  Simon & Schuster 2017

Vision without execution is hallucination (4).

[Disciple of Experience] Leonardo was mainly self-taught. He often seemed defensive about being an “unlettered man,” as he dubbed himself with some irony. But he also took pride that his lack of formal schooling led him to be a disciple of experience and experiment… His lack of reverence for authority and his willingness to challenge received wisdom would lead him to craft an empirical approach for understanding nature that foreshadowed the scientific method developed more than a cent later by Bacon and Galileo. His method was rooted in experiment, curiosity, and the ability to marvel at (17) phenomena that the rest of us rarely pause to ponder after we’ve outgrown our wonder years. 

To that was added an intense desire and ability to observe the wonders of nature. He pushed himself to perceive shapes and shadows with wondrous precision. He was particularly good at apprehending movement, from the motions of a flapping wing to the emotions flickering across a face. On this foundation he built experiments, some conducted in his mind, others with drawings, and a few with physical objects. “First I shall do some experiments before I proceed further,” he announced, “because my intention is to consult experience first and then with reasoning show why such experience is bound to operate in such a way (18).

[Childhood Memories]  And it does not take a Freud to understand that sexual drives can be sublimated into ambition and other passions. Leonardo said so himself. “Intellectual passion drives out sensuality,” he wrote in one of his notebooks (20). 

[Education]  One skill that was emphasized was how to draw analogies between cases, a method that Leonardo would use repeatedly in his later science. Analogies and spotting patterns became for him a rudimentary method of theorizing (31).

Being left-handed also affected Leonardo’s method of drawing. As with his writing, he drew from right to left so as not to smudge the lines with his hand. Most artists draw hatching strokes that slope upward to the right, like this: ////. But Leonardo’s hatching was distinctive because his lines started on the lower right and moved upward to the left, like this: \\. Today this style has an added advantage: the left-handed hatching in a drawing is evidence that it was made by Leonardo (32).

[Verrocchio]  Piero gave the task to Leonardo, who decided to create a terrifying image of a dragon-like monster breathing fire and belching poison. To make it naturalistic, he assembled parts from real lizards, crickets, snakes, butterflies, grasshoppers, and bats. “He labored over it so long that the stench of the dead animals was past bearing, but Leonardo did not notice it, so great was the love that he bore towards art,” Vasari wrote. When Piero finally came to get it, he recoiled in shock from what in the dim light appeared at first to be a real monster. Piero decided to keep his son’s creation and buy another shield for the peasant. “Later, Ser Piero sold the buckler of Leonardo secretly to some merchants in Florence, for a hundred ducats; and in a short time it came into the hands of the Duke of Milan, having been sold to him by the merchants for three hundred ducats.”

The shield, perhaps Leonardo’s first recorded piece of art, displayed his lifelong talent for combining fantasy with observation. In the notes for his proposed treatise on painting, he would later write, “If you wish to make an imaginary animal invented by you appear natural, let us say a dragon, take for the head that of a mastiff or hound, for the eyes a cat, and for the ears a porcupine, and for the nose a greyhound, and the brows of a lion, the temple of an old cock, the neck of a terrapin” (39).

[Draperies, Chiaroscuro, and Sfumato]  “The first intention of the painter,” Leonardo later wrote, “is to make a flat surface display a body as if modeled and separated from this plane, and he who surpass others in this skill deserves most praise. This accomplishment, with which the science of painting is crowned, arises from light and shade, or we may say chiaroscuro.” That statement could stand as his artistic manifesto, or at least a key element of it (40-1). 

When mastering drapery drawings in Vercocchio’s studio, Leonardo also pioneered sfumato, the technique of blurring contours and edges. It is a way for artists to render objects as they appear to our eye rather than with sharp contours. This advance caused Vasari to proclaim Leonardo the inventor of the “modern manner” in painting, and the art historian Ernst Gombrich called sfumato “Leonardo’s famous invention, the blurred outline and mellowed colors that allow one form to merge with another and always leave something to our imagination.

The term sfumato derives from the Italian word for “smoke,” or more precisely the dissipation and gradual vanishing of smoke into the air. “Your shadows and lights should be blended without lines or borders in the manner of smoke losing itself in the air,” he wrote in a series of maxims for young painters. From the eyes of his angel in the Baptism of Christ to the smile of the Mona Lisa, the blurred and smoke-veiled edges allow a role for our own imagination. With no sharp lines, enigmatic glances and smiles can flicker mysteriously (41).

[The Arno Landscape]  The glory of being an artist, he realized, was that reality should inform but not constrain (47). 

…doing something different: depicting nature for its own sake. That makes his Arno Valley drawing a contender for the first such landscape in European art. The geological realism is striking: the craggy rock outcroppings eroded by the river reveal accurately rendered layers of stratified rock, a subject that was to fascinate Leonardo for the rest of his life. So, too, is the near-precision of linear perspective and the way the atmosphere blurs the distant horizon, an optical phenomenon that he would later call “aerial perspective.”

Even more arresting is the young artist’s ability to convey motion. The leaves of the trees and even their shadows are drawn with quick curved lines that make them seem to tremble in the breeze. The water falling into a pool is made vibrant with flutters of luck stokes. The result is a delightful display of the wart of observing movement (48).

[Baptism of Christ]  An X-ray analysis of the painting confirms that the angel on the left and much of the background landscape and the body of Jesus were painted with multiple thin layers of oil paint, the pigments highly diluted, stroked on with great delicacy and sometimes dabbed and smoothed by fingertips, a style that Leonardo was developing in the 1470s. Oil painting had come to Italy from the Netherlands…(54).

This use of sfumato, the smokiness that blurs sharp contours, was by now a hallmark of Leonardo’s art. Alberti in his treatise on painting had advised that lines should be drawn to delineate edges, and Vercocchio did just that. Leonardo took care to observe the real world, and he noticed the opposite: when we look at three-dimensional objects, we don’t see sharp lines. “Paint so that a smoky finish can be seen, rather than contours and profiles that are distinct and crude,” he wrote. “When you paint shadows and their edges, which cannot be perceived except indistinctly, do not make them sharp or clearly defined, otherwise your work will have a wooden appearance.” Vercocchio’s angel has this wooden appearance. Leonardo’s does not (55).

In these acutely observed vortexes and scientifically accurate ripples, Leonardo delights in what will become his favorite pattern: nature’s spirals. The curls flowing down his angel’s neck look like cascades of water, as if the river had flowed over his head and transformed into hair (56).

[Motions of the Mind]  Alberti, in On Painting…”Movements of the soul are made known by movements of the body” (87).

[Despair]  From Dante’s Inferno: “Put off this sloth,” the master said, “for shame! Sitting on feather-pillows, lying reclined Beneath the blanket is no way to fame—Fame, without which man’s life wastes out of mind, Leaving on earth no more memorial Than foam in water or smoke upon the wind” (89).

[Plays and Pageants]  The steed was followed by the horde of cavemen and savages. It was typical of Leonardo’s desire to indulge in the scary and exotic; he had an affinity for bizarre demons and dragons (115). 

[Literary Amusements]  Many of the prophecy-riddles select Leonardo’s love for animals. “Countless numbers will have their little children taken away and their throats shall be cut,” is one prophecy, as if describing a brutal act of war and genocide. But then Leonardo, who had become a vegetarian, reveals that this prophecy refers to the sheep and cows that humans eat. “Winged creatures will support people with their feathers,” he wrote in another example, and then revealed that he was not referring to flying machines but “the feathers used to stuff mattresses.” As they say in show business, you had to be there” (126). 

[Outstanding Beauty and Infinite Grace]  The horses brought him “much delight,” Vasari wrote, as did all animals. “Often when passing the places where birds were sold, he would take them with his own hand out of their cages, and having paid to those who sold them the price that was asked, he let them fly away into the air, restoring to them their lost liberty.”

Because of his love for animals, Leonardo was a vegetarian fo much of his life, although his shopping lists show that he often bought meat for others in his household. “He would not kill a flea for any reason whatsoever,” a friend wrote. “He preferred to dress in linen, so as not to war something dead.” A Florentine traveler to India recorded that the people there “do not feed on anything that has blood, nor will they allow anyone to hurt any living thing, like our Leonardo da Vinci.

In addition to his prophecy tales that include dire descriptions of the practice of slaying animals for food, Leonardo’s notebooks contain other literary passages assailing meant eating. “If you are, as you have described yourself, the king of the animals,” he wrote of humans, “why do you help other animals only so that they may be able to give you their young in order to gratify your palate?” He referred to a vegetable diet as “simple” food and urged its adoption. “Does not nature bring forth enough simple food things to satisfy your hunger? Or if you cannot content yourself with simple things can you not do so by blending these simple foods together to make an infinite number of compounds?”

His rationale for avoiding meat derived from a morality based on science. Unlike plants, animals could feel pain, Leonardo realized. Hi studies led him to believe that this was because animals had the ability to move their bodies. “Nature has given sensibility to pain to living organisms that have the power of movement, in order to preserve those parts which might be destroyed by movement,” he surmised. “Pain is not necessary in plants (130-1). 

[Collaboration and Vitruvian Man]  Ideas are often generated in physical gathering, places where people with diverse interests encounter one another serendipitously. That is why Steve Jobs liked his buildings to have a central atrium and why the young Benjamin Franklin founded a club where the most interesting people of Philadelphia would gather every Friday. At the court of Ludovico Sforza, Leonardo found friends who could spark new ideas by rubbing together their diverse passions (159).

[Love this chapter: Chapter 10; Scientist; Teaching Himself]  Leonardo da Vinci liked to boast that, because he was not formally educated, he had to learn from his own experiences instead. It was around 1490 when he wrote his screed about being “a man without letters” and a “disciple of experience,” with its swipe against those who would cite ancient wisdom rather than make observations on their own. “Though I have no power to quote from authors as they have,” he proclaimed almost proudly, “I shall rely on a far more worthy thing—on experience.” Throughout his life, he would repeat this claim to prefer experience over received scholarship. “He who has access to the fountain does not go to the water-jar,” he wrote. This made him different from the archetypal Renaissance Man, who embraced the rebirth of wisdom that came from rediscovered works of classical antiquity (170).

A goldsmith from Gutenberg’s hometown of Mainz named Johannes de Spira (or Speyer) moved to Venice and started Italy’s first major commercial publishing house in 1469; it printed many of the classics, starting with Cicero’s letters and Pliny’s encyclopedic Natural History, which Leonardo bought. By 1471 there were printing shops also in Milan, Florence, Naples, Bologna, Ferrara, Padua, and Genoa. Venice became the center of Europe’s publishing industry, and by the time Leonardo visited in 1500, there were close to a hundred printing houses there, and two million volumes had come off their presses. Leonardo thus was able to become the first major European thinker to acquire a serious knowledge of science without being formally schooled in Latin or Greek” (172).

Thus Leonardo became a disciple of both experience and received wisdom. More important, he came to see that the progress of science came from a dialogue between the two. That in turn helped him realize that knowledge also came from a related dialogue: that between experiment and theory (173).

[Connecting Experiment to Theory]    As with so many things, this empirical approach put him ahead of his time. Scholastic theologians of the Middle Ages had fused Aristotle’s science with Christianity to create an authorized creed that left little room for skeptical inquiry or experimentation. Even the humanists of the early Renaissance preferred to repeat the wisdom of classical texts rather than test it.

Leonardo broke with this tradition by basing his science primarily on observations, then discerning patterns, and then testing their validity through more observations and experiments. Dozens of times in his notebook he wrote some variation of the phrase “this can be proved by experiment” and then proceeded to describe a real-world demonstration of his thinking. Foreshadowing what would become the scientific method, he even prescribed how experiments must be repeated and varied to assure their validity: “Before you make a general rule of this case, test it two or three times and observe whether the tests produce the same effects” (174). 

As a result, Leonardo became one of the major Western thinkers, more than a century before Galileo, to pursue in a persistent hands-on fashion the dialogue between experiment and theory that would lead to the modern Scientific Revolution. Aristotle had laid the foundations, in ancient Greece, for the method of partnering inductions and deductions: using observations to formulate general principles, then using these principles to predict outcomes. While Europe was mired in its dark years of medieval superstition, the work of combining theory and experiment was advanced primarily in the Islamic world. Muslim scientists often also worked as scientific instrument makers, which made them experts at measurements and applying theories (175). 

Meanwhile, Aristotle’s science was being revived in Europe during the thirteenth century by scholars such as Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon. The empirical method used by Bacon emphasized a cycle: observations should lead to a hypothesis, which should then be tested by precise experiments, which would then be used to refine the original hypothesis. Bacon also recorded and reported his experiments in precise detail so that others could independently replicate and verify them.

[Patterns and Analogies]  …he was able to see patterns in nature, and he theorized by making analogies…discerned recurring themes…based on similarities and analogies (176-7).

[Curiosity and Observation]  Kenneth Clark referred to Leonardo’s “inhumanly sharp eye.” It’s a nice phrase, but misleading. Leonardo was human. The acuteness of his observational skill was not some superpower he possessed. Instead, it was a product of his own effort. That’s important, because it means that we can, if we wish, not just marvel at him but try to learn from him by pushing ourselves to look at things more curiously and intensely (179). 

[Bird-Watching]  He not only got the basic principles of fluid dynamics correct, but he was able to turn his insights into rudimentary theories that foreshadowed those of Newton, Galileo, and Bernoulli (184). 

[The Skull Drawings]  “The originality of the skull drawings of 1489 is so fundamentally different and superior to all other extant illustrations of the time that they are completely out of character with the age,” according to Francis Wells, a surgeon and an expert on the anatomical drawings. …as far as is now known, he became the first person in history to describe fully the human dental elements, including a depiction of the roots that is almost perfect (216). …it was not until 1739 that this pithing experiment would again be illustrated and described correctly (218).

[Head of a Young Woman]  The angel, like the one he painted for Vercocchio’s Baptism of Christ, is an example of Leonardo’s proclivity for gender fluidity. Some nineteenth-century critics saw it as a mark of his homosexuality, especially since the positioning and outward gaze of the disturbingly alluring angel make him seem a proxy for the artist (233).

[Fantasia and Reality]  Take, for example, his advice about looking at a wall that is “spotted with stains or has a mix of stones.” Leonardo could stare at such a wall and observe with precision the striations of each stone and other factual details. But he also knew how to use the wall as a springboard for his imagination and as a “way to stimulate and arouse the mind to various inventions.” He wrote in his advice for young artists: “You may discover in the patterns on the wall a resemblance to various landscapes, adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys and hills in varied arrangement; or again you may see battles and figures in action; or strange faces and costumes, and an endless variety of objects, which you could turn int complete and well-drawn forms. The effect produced by these mottled walls is like that of the sound of bells, in which you may recognize any name or word you choose to imagine…It should not be hard for you to look at stains on walls, or the ashes of a fire, or the clouds, or mud, and if you consider them well you will find marvelous new ideas, because the mind is stimulated to new inventions by obscure things” (263-4).

[Shapes Without Lines]  Nothing in nature, he realized, has precise mathematical lines or boundaries or borders. “Lines are not part of any quantity of an object’s surface, not are they part of the air which surrounds this surface,” he wrote. He realized that points and lines are mathematical constructs. They do not have a physical presence. They are infinitely small. “The line has in itself neither matter nor substance and may rather be called an imaginary idea than a real object; and this being its nature it occupies no space” (269). Leonardo’s insistence that all boundaries, both in nature and in art, are blurred led him to become the pioneer of sfumato, the technique of using hazy and smoky outlines such as those so notable in the Mona Lisa. Sfumato is not merely a technique for modeling reality more accurately in a painting. It is an analogy for the blurry distinction between the known and the mysterious, one of the core themes of Leonardo’s life. Just as he blurred the boundaries between art and science, he did so to the boundaries between reality and fantasy, between experience and mystery, between objects and their surroundings (269-70).

[The Return]  When Leonardo reached Florence in late March 1500, he found a city that had just lived through a reactionary spasm that threatened to destroy its role in the vanguard of Renaissance culture. In 1494 a radical friar named Girolamo Savonarola had led a religious rebellion against the ruling Medici and instituted a fundamentalist regime that imposed strict new laws against homosexuality, sodomy, and adultery. Some transgressions were punished by stoning and burning. A militia of young boys was organized to patrol the streets and enforce morals. On Mardi Gras of 1497 Savonarola led what became known as the “Bonfire of the Vanities,” in which books, art, clothing, and cosmetics were set aflame. The following year, popular opinion turned on him, and he was hanged and burned in the central square of Florence. By Leonardo’s return, the city had again become a republic that celebrated the classics and art, but its confidence was shaken, its exuberance dampened, and the finances of its government and guilds drained (300).

[Diverting the Arno]  Milan’s waterworks had existed for centuries, even before the Romans built their famed aqueducts in the Po Valley around 200 BC (347). Just before Pisa broke away, a major world event made Florence even more eager to control a sea outlet. In March 1493 Christopher Columbus returned safely from his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, and the report of his discoveries quickly spread throughout Europe. This was soon followed by a flurry of other accounts of amazing explorations. America Vespucci, whose cousin Agostina worked with Machiavelli in the Florentine chancery, helped puppy Columbus’s third voyage in 1498, and the following year he made his own voyage across the Atlantic, landing in what is now Brazil. Unlike Columbus, who thought he was finding a route to India, Vespucci correctly reported to his Florentine patrons that he had “arrived at a new land which for many reasons…we observed to be a continent.” His correct surmise led to its being named America, after him. The excitement over what portended to be a new age of exploration made Florence’s desire to regain Pisa more urgent. [verruca means “wart”] (348). This would require moving a million tons of earth, and Leonardo calculated the man-hours necessary by doing a detailed time-and-motion study, one of the first in history. He figured out everything from the weight of one shovel-load of dirt (twenty-five pounds) to how many shovel-loads would fill a wheelbarrow (twenty). His answer: it would take approximately 1.3 million man-hours, or 540 men working 100 days, to dig the Arno diversion ditch (349).

[Draining the Piombino Marshes]  This inability to ground his fantasies in reality has generally been regarded as one of Leonardo’s major failings. Yet in order to be a true visionary, one has to be willing to overreach and to fail some of the time. Innovation requires a reality distortion field. The things he envisioned for the future often came to pass, even if it took a few centuries. Scuba gear, flying machines, and helicopters now exist. Suction pumps now drain swamps. Along the route of the canal that Leonardo drew there is now a major highway. Sometimes fantasies are paths to reality (353-4).

[Analogies]  “Though human ingenuity may make various inventions,” he wrote, “it will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple, more direct than does Nature; because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous” (403). 

[Floods and Fossils]  Leonardo thus became a pioneer of ichnology, the study of fossil traces, a field that did not come into full existence for another three hundred years (440).

[The End]  [The final words written by Leonardo de Vinci:] “perche la minestra si fredda,” he writes. Because the soup is getting cold.