This week’s “Economist” magazine includes a review of a new biography on one of America’s greatest poets ever: Elizabeth Bishop.
Highlighted above is one of my favorite Bishop quotes, from her poem “One Art”:
“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things feel filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster”
Remarkable thoughts from Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
Pains of the soul versus pains of the tooth. From Hans Christian Andersen’s story “Auntie Toothache,” found in the Penguin Classic compilation of his “Fairy Tales.”
For a few weeks this book has been on my mind. Didion, Didion, Didion. And her “Year of Magical Thinking,” written during the first year she mourned her husband’s sudden death.
This for me has proven to be a year of magical thinking, a year of metamorphosing concrete barricades into trampolines via transformative thought.
Magical thinking works. Didion said it first. I look forward to going through her words.
So I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Relato de un Náufrago” (“The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor”) in one sitting. I had my doubts when buying it beacuse I tend to find that all shipwreck stories are the same. Sun, thirst, hunger, dead fish.
Indeed, my favorite part of the tale was Marquez’s introduction, which included the stupendous description above of the Colombian historical context at the time the story was published (apologies to non-Spanish readers).
And, while no one can say that Marquez’s shipwreck tale is bad, it’s a story of sun, thirst, hunger, dead fish. It does interweave an interesting message, however, of the difference between the fear of dying and the fear of death.
Death, actually being dead, does not scare the narrator. Death is a form of salvation, the end of water hell. But the act of dying is immediate, terrifying hell. The options are not good: sharks, imagined carnivorous turtles, burnt lungs.
Fear of going through such terrible experiences keeps the narrator from letting himself die, no matter how much he claims to want the out of death. As a result, he stays alive.
With this story Marquez confirms that our extreme cowardice when faced with gore, pain, any form of death by dying is so effective that it finally makes us brave.
British artist Fiona Banner turned the opening scenes of the cult classic Point Break into a huge canvas with red words. The point? Convey the break, the chiasm between what is experienced visually and mentally. Suspense is lost. Impact becomes flaccid. Scenes become silent. In the case of high-voltage action, Banner implies that sometimes the movie is better than the book.
On view at the ever magnificent British Tate.
During a recent blissful Sunday afternoon on a London rooftop a friend dutifully informs me that, from an evolutionary perspective, our happiness is problematic. He then plops open the book he is currently logging around town to the page above.
Writer Yuval Noah Harari makes a good point: our evolution is not based on survival of the fittest but, rather, on survival of the hungriest, indeed, the horniest.
Those of us who are most adept at wanting and finding instant gratification have a better chance of surviving and reproducing out in the wild. But, we are no longer out in the wild.
Here, in an urban context, the constant need for instant gratification becomes a burden, one that hinders our ability to execute long-term plans, which are key to obtaining hapiness’ less attractive but more discerning older cousin: satisfaction.
Our biological need to get fed and laid is the reason why Mick Jagger et al can’t get no satisfaction. Perhaps the results would vary if we gave vegan sober abstinence a try. And a try. And a try.