Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Six Places.  After viewing the documentary, “Rothko’s Rooms,” I thought of places where I have been open to Spirit, where I have been moved by Presence:

  1.  Oregon Inlet at Bonner Bridge, Outer Banks, NC
  2. Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX
  3. A pond at Bear Creek Opens Space Park, Denver, CO
  4. Beach at Asilomar, Monterey Peninsula, CA
  5. View of harbor and by at statue of Santa Rosalia, Fisherman’s Shoreline Park, Monterey, CA
  6. Promenade nocturne, son et lumiere, at the Abbey, Mont-Saint-Michel, France
  7. Roadside woods in rural Georgia between Atlanta and Warm Springs

Things I Love About Summer in NC.  I witness all but #4 on summer walks:

  1. Prodigious growth alongside roadways, in yards and gardens
  2. Blazing flower of crepe myrtle trees throughout the town–red, pink, purple, or white
  3. Lingering sunsets that melt into clear, lingering highlights
  4. Rare afternoon thunderstorms, dramatic with thunder and lighting and downpours
  5. Night sounds of insects and tree frogs
  6. Smell of newly mown grass
  7. Deep shades cast by great trees and tall shrubs

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life,  New Harvest, 2012.

This book is divided into six sections: Meta-Learning, The Domestic, The Wild, The Scientist, The Professional, and Appendix.  In Meta-Learning, Ferriss presents techniques of fast, efficient learning, illustrated by anecdotes and methods of learning such things as the Japanese language, memorizing lists, learning freestyle stroke in swimming, and learning to dance the tango.  In The Domestic, he gives 35 cooking lessons, emphasizing techniques of professional chefs and recipes.  In The Wild, he presents his learning techniques as applied to life in the wilderness, including such things as building a hut from debris, killing and butchering game, and making drinkable water.  In The Scientist he presents techniques of fermentation, dehydration, and gels, among other things.  In The Professional, he presents advanced, classical cooking techniques.  The Appendix is a compilation of miscellaneous things: world cuisines in 4 pages, lists of master chefs, learning how to memorize a deck of card, appreciation of weaponry, and tying knots.  There are culinary maps of New York City and San Francisco.

This is a big book, 670 pages, with many full-page color photographs to illustrate the topics.  It’s an interesting book to peruse, an enlightening book to read.

Values / Virtues / Abilities

Except for the personalities of the teachers, I remember only one thing from my two years of high school history.  Early in eleventh grade world history, the teacher asked us to consider, as we studied leaders and influential people during the year, the question, “What makes a person great?”

I thought once again of this question as I watched the documentary by Simon Kirk, “Alfred the Great.”  At one point in the film, the actor playing Alfred enumerates kingly virtues:   “wisdom, humility, caution, moderation, restraint, loyalty, generosity, chastity, continence.”  He said that these are “anchors” to “protect out states of mind.”  He believed that “faith, hope charity” are “the anchors which we fix a cable to God.”  Alfred, who ruled in the late 800’s knew military strategy and fought boldly and successfully, reorganized the army for maximum efficiency, built a Navy, and valued and supported learning and teaching and the arts.

What are the qualities and capabilities by which we measure our leaders today?  What qualities and capabilities do we look for in choosing candidates for office?  As I watch political debates, I quickly eliminate candidates that show bluster, outspokenness, appeal to emotions (including fear), rudeness, intolerance.  Virtues and values in candidates will be obvious as well.

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  Frank Norris, McTeague (1899).  Signet Classics, 1981.

In this classic novel of literary naturalism we encounter characters of lower middle class and lower class society, some of them living mouth-to-mouth, handicapped by lack of education, and struggling with poverty and mental illness.  Predictably, many of their lives end in violent death.  The book is set in nineteenth century San Francisco and in parts of the California and Nevada desert.

There are interesting and well-done set pieces: picnics at a beach park, a theater variety show, a wedding feast in the apartment of the bride, street scenes, and descriptions of the desert.

Quotations from Readings of the Week.

“The stars winked out, and the dawn whitened.  The air became warmer.  The whole east, clean of clouds, flamed opalescent from horizon to zenith, crimson at the base, where the earth blackened against it; at the top fading from pink to pale yellow, to green, to light blue to the turquoise iridescence of the desert sky.  The long, thin shadows of the early hours drew backward like receding serpents, then suddenly the sun looked over the shoulder of the world, and it was day.”  (Frank Norris, McTeague)

“. . . I fundamentally view this elusive beast [success] as a combination of two things–achievement and appreciation.  One isn’t enough. . .”  (Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Chef)

“. . . if you attend thoughtfully to what you already have you need nothing more.  It’s all here, inside, and in the room–not on the [computer] screen–before us.”  (Claire Messud, “In Priase of Boredom, Harper’s, August, 2015)


About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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