The first snowfall of 2019 arrived today in Baltimore.
The magic of snow has been with me since childhood.
I have fond memories of mixing clean snow with orange juice and slurping it down and making little snow angels with my friends.
I have also inherited memories of snowfalls.
The older generations of my family spent a great deal of time in Lebanon where snow falls on the cedars of the mountains while the beach awaits at the foothills.
Every year Anchor Books publishes a collection of short stories honoring O. Henry.
The 2018 edition did not disappoint and I highly recommend it.
O. Henry’s given name was William Sidney Porter. He was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1862 and wrote over 600 stories.
The most famous of his stories is probably “The Gift of the Magi.”
He is known for his surprise endings.
“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”
– William Butler Yeats
Yeats’ definition of education is a useful model.
Some believe that the learning process is really a piling on of more and more information.
Yeats points out the opposite.
Because, education, if not sparked by passion, does not endure.
“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”
The Greek philosopher, Plato, emphasizes the importance of making sound decisions.
So what kind of decision would Plato identify as “sound?”
Well, he appears to be downplaying the importance of numbers or the “bottomline,” which has become so prevalent.
In Ancient Greece, mathematics was already in use but people valued what we now refer to as “the big picture” and trusted it more than just facts and figures.
That is what Plato means by “knowledge” – looking for the big picture.
“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”
– Anthony J. D’Angelo
Learning is the process by which our passions come to fruition, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Thus, we find our strongest motivation within ourselves as we passionately explore the world around us.
D’Angelo proposes that growth happens through learning.
“There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.”
– C.H. Spurgeon
Fiction encapsulates truths.
In doing so, it makes the truth about the world around us more appealing because the truths are revealed as the story unfolds.
Literature is the study of truth revealed through fiction.
C.H. Spurgeon takes the argument one step further in saying the truth is best left to fiction.
So why is literature waning in popularity?
“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness and truth.”
– Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
You might recall a similar quote from Bruce Lee which I posted last year.
Bruce Lee said, “Simplicity is brilliance.”
I agree with him but I do wonder if he was a fellow reader of Tolstoy.
We speak of the history of literature and within it we often find original or older versions of modern, even contemporary counterparts.
This ultimately brings us back to history as the foundation of the humanities.
Today marks the twelfth and final day of the Christmas season.
At Thursday’s Taizé service we were asked to contemplate what the season of Christmas meant to us.
I do not find it unusual that the Christmas season precludes our celebration of the new year.
What did this year’s season mean to you?
Today marked the first meeting of my writing group, Pen to Paper, in the new year.
I came to learn about this group through my coursework and retreats with the Johns Hopkins Odyssey Program.
Why do writers, normally a solitary bunch, have groups?
Because writing is a solitary activity we can easily lose motivation and interest in our projects, so we come together periodically for:
For moral support,
A sense of community,
And of course to share in that all important good cup of coffee as we work.
Lasting friendships have emerged from these types of meetings, not unlike the intellectual salons or tertulias I had blogged about some time ago.
Even though our writing projects are as unique as we are and often span genres, we find ourselves connecting to each other professionally as well as personally.
The international organization, Shut Up & Write is offering a January Writers Club, so I have been receiving daily inspirations and challenges since the start of 2019. They have chapters worldwide, including Baltimore.
Find out more and join at: http://www.shutupwrite.com
If you’re ready to think about publishing, check out The Author’s Guild or The Alliance of Independent Authors, as per your approach to publishing.
It’s good to know we’re not alone in our 2019 writing journey.
“Art is the most intense form of individualism that the world has known.”
– Oscar Wilde
The above line appeared in 1891 in The Soul of Man Under Socialism.
In my ongoing journey through literature, I have always considered Wilde to be an “old friend.”
That is how I wistfully refer to authors we only meet in the art they have left behind.
His powers of wit and observation move his readers to laughter, tears and bouts of anger, often all at once.
Today’s quote certainly does not disappoint:
It lifts up the artist in his individual and thereby unique abilities for self-expression.
It sets up the reader for the explanation that follows utilizing a sharp outlay of the societal issue at hand. (A typical Wilde tactic.)
And, it reminds us that there is an artist in each individual.
(Oscar Wilde’s much celebrated The Importance of Being Earnest was performed at Baltimore’s Everyman Theater December 4th through December 30th of last year.)