12 August 2007

Think of the exhilaration of the quadriplegic who has recovered command of his limbs; the joy of the blind receiving the gift of sight; of the aphasic who painstakingly re-learns the command of language. 

(Think of the excitement in learning every day which you experienced as a young child.)

Must we suffer sensory deprivation in order to experience the wonders of our touch or the music of nature?  Is it only after temporary disability that we can know the full joy of the dance?   

I hope not.  We can culture gratitude as a a prayer or meditation.  We can take time to notice how it feels to frolic in the water.  We can appreciate the poetry in the words that seem to spring effortlessly into our mouths.  We can remind ourselves frequently of the sensual pleasures to which we are treated in everyday life.

For stronger medicine, we might play games with our abilities:  Navigate around town in a wheelchair for a day; go through a day (or an hour!) with closed eyes; forgo your favorite foods or favorite activities for a time, until you remember how you treasure them.

– Josh Mitteldorf

11 August 2007

The Alchemist

I burned my life, that I might find
A passion wholly of the mind,
Thought divorced from eye and bone,
Ecstasy come to breath alone.
I broke my life, to seek relief
From the flawed light of love and grief.

With mounting beat the utter fire
Charred existence and desire.
It died low, ceased its sudden thresh.
I had found unmysterious flesh --
Not the mind's avid substance -- still
Passionate beyond the will.

~ Louise Bogan, born this day in 1897

10 August 2007

from the New York Times Letters page

To the Editor:

I am only 70 years old, but I certainly understand what Atul Gawande describes. I, too, have been through old-age crisis and believe that I have been lucky enough to have come out the other side.

My major decision was to take on a task that I could never complete no matter how long I lived and to fade into the night still working at it. I decided to take up Chinese landscape painting and found myself in a beginner’s class of 6- and 7-year-olds.

The children’s boldness, creativity and energy were infectious, and I found myself going from a fearful and slightly depressed elder to an energetic painter embarking on a task that I couldn’t possibly complete in a lifetime.

I recommend that older folk look toward impossible challenges at the end of their lives. You don't need to tie everything up before you go. Try to do something difficult and essentially incompletable, and when you die, the unfinished nature of your challenge will be a mark that you've been here and still in the midst of living even at the very end of life.

Herbert Kohl
Point Arena, Calif., May 30, 2007

9 August 2007

“The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers”

 – Jean Piaget taught us how children think, and what they need from us.  Today, he celebrates his eleventy-first birthday.

You and I were raised in schools that fall short of Piaget’s ideal, but we hold out his vision as an ideal for our children and our children’s children.

8 August 2007

Be realistic – plan for a miracle.

~Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

7 August 2007

How were the Polynesian islands populated?  and where did they get the technology to erect the giant Easter Island monoliths?

Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in the south Pacific in Pre-Columbian times. His built a balsa raft and sailed it westward from Peru to demonstrate, by using only the materials and technologies available to them at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so.

Kon-Tiki was the raft used by Heyerdahl in his 1947 expedition. It was named after the Inca sun god, Viracocha, for whom ‘Kon-Tiki’ was said to be an old name. Kon-Tiki is also the name of the popular book that Heyerdahl wrote about his adventures.

Heyerdahl and a small team went to Peru, where they constructed a raft out of balsa logs and other native materials in an indigenous style as recorded in illustrations by Spanish conquistadores. This trip began on April 28, 1947. Accompanied by five companions, Heyerdahl sailed it for 101 days over 4,300 miles across the Pacific Ocean before smashing into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands sixty years ago today, on August 7, 1947. The only modern equipment they had was a radio and watches.

6 August 2007

The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars

~ from Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson, born this day in 1809