Looking Ahead

This is the last Saturday of 2017. It has been a fun and fruitful year for me, especially in starting this website.

Once again, I thank you for your readership and I hope you enjoy the new presentation and format.

I want to share my plans for 2018 with you as we bid 2017 adieu. In the dead of winter, the start of the New Year offers us the promise of a renaissance. My website’s look might be new and fresh but I will be delivering the same humanities focused content more frequently.

I will be posting daily instead of just weekly.

During the week I will be responding to the one-word prompt provided by WordPress in celebration of my new found interest in creative writing.

Saturday’s feature on the humanities will continue as scheduled. More on books and discussions that have spoken to me as a reader of the written word as a mirror of life.

On Sundays I will offer a personal reflection on the week’s events. I would like to get to know you better this year and I ask that you send comments whenever possible. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. If you do not wish for your comment to be published, let me know when you fill out the form found on the Contact page.

Cheers to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018!

 

 

Stories in Closing and As Beginnings

Thank you for your readership this past year. 2017 has been the launch year of my website and I greatly appreciate your time, interest, and feedback.

For my last post of the year I would like to return to the central concept on my About page: the concept of stories.

Coming from a literary specialization, I offer a reflection on what stories mean to us as readers and as individuals living life.

Call me biased, but literature is the cross-roads of the liberal arts because literary critics employ one or more techniques that become entry points into a given text. The humanities and social sciences come to the surface of literature in their own artistic form as reflected in the text.

I say reflected because starting in the sixteenth century, literature began to mirror life. The stories, or snippets of stories that we find in novels, short stories, and poetry in the modern era are reflections of human existence.

Thus, we look for ourselves in the characters we read about. I posit that a successful reading comes from finding an aspect of ourselves embedded in the story before us.

In a very tangible sense, our lives are stories; manifested on the written page as autobiography or biography.

An interview is a poem of someone’s life in the sense that it is brief and focused.

Mary McCarthy, the American author and critic said, “We all live in suspense from day to day; in other words, you are the hero of your own story.”

As Christmas approaches in a few days, I wish you a story that reflects your own and a modern antiheroe that makes you smile in self-recognition.

See you in 2018.

 

On Being: “Practicing Doubt, Redrawing Faith”

On Being “is a social enterprise with a radio show at heart.” (www.onbeing.org)

The programs on On Being were first recommended to me by philosophically and philanthropically minded friends. I enjoy listening to their podcasts because they are existential in nature. They take the initiative to ask the ancient and still controversial question, “What does it mean to be human?”

On December 7, 2017 guest speaker Adam Gopik, who writes for The New Yorker, was interviewed by Krista Tippet. Gopik wrote the Preface to The Good Book, a collection of modern day reflections on the Bible, all coming from different sources. Gopik’s grandfather was the first rabbi back in Lisbon since the Expulsion. His father’s first language was Yiddish.

In the interview, Gopik pointed out that our ancestors practiced faith while making room for doubt, while we do the opposite.

In his discussion of Darwin, Gopik indicated that Darwin thought he had found “the secret of life” while “nothing could explain the mysteries of living.” Tippet agreed, pointing out that these mysteries bring us to religion.

Gopik took the point a step further, in saying that religion brings practice, not dogma. His observation brought to mind Blaise Pascal’s Pensées because Pascal advocated faith through habitual practice rather than blind faith.

Gopik clearly emphasized that fundamentalism is “a betrayal of varieties” of what we know as modern religion. He identifies tolerance as “plate by plate” at “the common table” and calls for clarity in communication.

Interestingly, he observes that we are inspired by the people in religious stories. As someone who has studied and loves literature, I have to agree with him. As readers, we look for ways to identify with the people we find in the texts we come across, no matter the source.

 

 

Medicine and Literature

Once again, please excuse my absence, which has been far too lengthy this time. I have been recovering just in time for Advent.

Yesterday I met a Johns Hopkins specialist who had heard about my degree in Spanish Literature from my regular physician.

I nodded.

“So Jorge Luis Borges wrote in Spanish?,” he asked excitedly.

I beamed.

“Yes!,” I exclaimed. “He was from Argentina!’

“Oh,” he replied, “I know a lot about medicine but little about literature. You have read a lot.”

I beamed even more brightly and felt no shyness in asking him questions about his field.

Our conversation was the perfect example of the arts and sciences working together instead of in competition.

I am delighted.

As I am delighted to tell you aa bit more about one of my favorite authors, Jorge Luis Borges.

Borges was born in 1899 in Buenos Aires and died in 1986 in Geneva.

As a key figure in modern and postmodern Spanish Literature, he wrote short stories, essays, and poetry. He was also a translator.

He was know his pithy wit and keen observations.

My favorite book of his is Ficciones (Fictions).

As a translator, I smile at reading his famous quote, “The original is unfaithful to the translation.” Just one of many famous quips by Borges.

(He reminds a bit of our old friend Oscar, don’t you think?.)

If you belong to the sciences and have an interest in the humanities, please let me know by responding to this post.

 

 

Halloween in Baltimore

Halloween in Charm City is marked by a very special tradition. The tragic figure Edgar Allen Poe is buried in downtown Baltimore. He is known for the macabre in his stories and poetry.

Every year in the middle of the night an anonymous visitor leaves a bottle of cognac and a single red rose on Poe’s grave in honor of the author’s life and works.

My favorite of Poe’s poems are “Annabel Lee” and “Nevermore,” from which the Ravens derive their name.

Be The Change

Mahatma Gahndi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

So we need to ask ourselves what we can do on a daily basis to make the world a better place.

Whether in our professional calling or personal lives, we can each use our skills and talents to improve the the conditions of those around us.

How We Mark Our Endings

We mark our endings, in our stories and our lives, within our beginnings. Literature in all languages is often classified and studied by famous opening lines. But what about life?

Are we bound by our first impressions?

Do the days that roll by between birth and death prevent or enhance the outcomes of our efforts and decisions?

And, most importantly, are we born only to struggle and die in that deeply existential or even nihilistic sense?

A Danish proverb recently came to my attention: “Af god begyndelse haabes en god endelse.”

Fortunately I thought to ask for the translation as I do not speak Danish: “A good beginning makes a good ending.”

My joy in collecting proverbs and sayings began a long time ago, and I love to add to my collections from languages I do not speak. Doing so reminds me of the infinitude of Borges’ library.

I particularly like this one because it provides a professional and personal secret.

If you plan a project, an essay, or book with intention, you will be able to see it through.

If you greet new people in your life with an open heart and mind with an eye to sharing what each offers, you will found lasting relationships.

Any proverbs or sayings you would like to share?