I would sooner a writer were vulgar than mincing; for life is vulgar,
and it is life he seeks. ~ W. Somerset Maugham
So, I was thinking (yes, I understand the risks)…
But, I was thinking, just imagine if each of the 25,109 and growing followers of this humble site were to donate just $1.00 to help me fund my film LEAVE…
Just imagine how much that would be!
Keep in mind that I am a product of the United States public school system, and that, by design, my higher level degrees have absolutely nothing to do with math, so my calculations may be a bit suspect…
But I believe that if every one of the 25,109 followers were to donate $1.00 to help me fund my film, that would come to the heavenly financial figure of… [finger cipher]…
Now that there would be a whole lotta of cheeze and it would help me in a whole lotta ways in realizing my cinematic dream called LEAVE.
Now, I’m a practical man (not!), and I know all 25,109 of you donating $1.00 each to support my dream is an impossible expectation…
But, let’s consider what you get here for free 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365-days a year non-stop and in perpetuity for as long as our pretty yet petulant planet revolves around the sun that may help motivate you towards donating that $1.00…
You get to publish your work to the RELATING TO HUMANS feature…
You get the IABS&R…
You get occasional “PRO-TIPS”…
You get LITERARY ZEN…
You get ARTWORK?…
You get HUMOR…
You get HEALTH advice…
You get MOTIVATIONAL ADVICE…
And you get so much more.
But, even with all this free stuff created just for you forever floating around here, I understand that my hope of everyone donating even just $1.00 is an impossible expectation.
But then again…
AND SO IS THE TRIBE WINNING THE WORLD SERIES!
BUT IT’S THE YEAR OF “BELIEVELAND” BABY!
THIS YEAR, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
WHICH MEANS, WITH YOUR HELP
LEAVE IS POSSIBLE!
Too much, right?
Sorry ’bout that…
Please donate what you can, if you can, my friends >> BELIEVE IN LEAVE.
I am not one who dwells on the past, or, at least I try not to; for, unless one is fondly recalling, perhaps in a prayerful moment of divine gratitude, all the wonders and blessings the Begetter On High has begotten one, it is mostly a futile and potentially harmful self-flagellating exercise of ego worship in the negative. However, as hard as I try to stay securely in the now and out of the then, I still do find myself unconsciously lost back yonder from time to time reflecting on my life, and I am highly skeptical of anyone who righteously says in a wispy Eckhart Tolle wannabe voice while meditation bells softly chime in the background that they never do. (Just as I am even more highly skeptical of anyone who says they have complete and whole body faith in anything, be it their favorite sports figure or favorite God figure — we all have our doubts. But I digress…) So, if I were to be in the dwelling-in-my-past kind of mood, and if, while there, I were to dwell down even deeper into that dark danger zone of “what ifs”, I just might wonder what my life would have been like if I were to have had the strength and integrity to commit it to such intellectual rigor and deep thinking as Kenzaburō Ōe has had and has done throughout his highly acclaimed and respected life. Just where would my brain and I be right now? Unfortunately, I can only imagine.
When I was in my twenties, my mentor Kazuo Watanabe told me that because I was not going to be a teacher or a professor of literature, I would need to study by myself. I have two cycles: a five-year rotation, which centers on a specific writer or thinker; and a three-year rotation on a particular theme. I have been doing that since I was twenty-five. I have had more than a dozen of the three-year periods. When I am working on a single theme, I often spend from morning to evening reading. I read everything written by that writer and all of the scholarship on that writer’s work. ~ Kenzaburo Oe, Paris Review
I have read much of Ōe’s work and I believe it is some of the finest writing written, deserving all the acclaim and respect it has earned him, including the Akutagawa Prize, Japan’s highest literary honor, and, of course, the Nobel Prize for Literature; however, it is his integrity and commitment to that which he holds dear that I most admire about him. He is an ardent supporter of human rights and proponent for peace, mostly through his lifelong activism for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. But even more than his activism, I admire him mostly for his love and care and complete devotion to his mentally disabled and musically savant adult son Hikari, of whom most of Ōe’s inspiration has been drawn from and much of his writing has been about.
So, what is one to do when one admires someone as much as I admire the great Kenzaburō Ōe? Emulate the behavior of the one whom is admired, of course.
And that is what I resolve to do. To emulate Ōe’s behavior of surveying broadly and digging deeply into both an author’s work and life.
I have decided to commence this resolute commitment of mine with one of the greatest intellects my country, the United States, has begotten: Ralph Waldo Emerson. While familiar with the man and his work on a surface level — an essay here, a poem there, not to mention all the quotes of his that travel and transcend all the ethernets throughout the internet — I have yet to fully discover and understand the man and his work. To begin this discovery and understanding process, I will read first his Complete Essays and Other Writings, followed by (or perhaps even in conjunction with) Oliver Wendell Holmes’s work, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Biography.
Now, I have no intention of committing to, or even attempting, Ōe’s herculean three-year / five-year schedule; I do, however, intend to read as much of Emerson’s writing, as well as writing about him and his writing, that my way less than Ōe-ian brain can hold. And, I also intend to document this Emersonian commitment of mine here, through the posting of essays and other reflections on my readings. What, or whom, awaits me after I fulfill my Emerson commitment, I am not yet certain. I will let the literature decide.
Wish me well please, for I may need your encouragement from time to time.
But, who knows, maybe I won’t need it so much, as I am quite excited about this initiative; for just think of the opportunity I am providing myself – henceforth, a lifetime committed to the full development of my own intellect. Who can predict what joys and benefits I will reap from this effort? Because in twenty-five years when I am close to the age Ōe is now, I don’t want to be able to just imagine where my brain and I will be after such an enduring and fulfilling effort, I want both my brain and me to actually be there. I want to be able to, perhaps in a prayerful moment of divine gratitude, reflect on the twenty-five years gone past, and give thanks for all the additional wonders and blessings that the Begetter On High has begotten me because I was able to have had, if not fully, then at least partially, lived such an admirable life of integrity and commitment as had the great Ōe himself.
Sorry ’bout the homework.
Sorry ’bout the room.
Sorry ’bout the mix up
With the chimney and the broom.
Sorry ’bout the hamster.
Sorry ’bout the bug.
Sorry ’bout the purple stain
In the middle of the rug.
Sorry ’bout the superglue.
Sorry ’bout the report card.
Sorry ’bout the neighbor’s cat
I buried in the yard.
Mom, I really am so sorry
For not behavin’ like I should.
And if you please just give me one more chance
I promise I’ll be good.
Oh yeah…sorry ’bout the china.
From Poem Man
And conjugating fables,
On Periodic Tables,
Sure is tough
And it ain’t always fun,
But it ain’t so bad
As long as there’s sun.
Cuz as long as there is sun
At least we’re sure
We can go outside
And let the sunshine cure
Our mathematics blues
And our scientific stress…
At least for a bit
During lunch recess.
But when the day is dark
And the raindrops are dumpin’,
And the sky is filled with sparks
And the thunder is a thumpin’,
We can’t go out,
We have to stay inside and—look.
Instead of kickball
We get to read a—book.
Or we can finish up our homework
Or silently sit and—think.
Sheesh, days like this
Sure do stink!
Can’t be healthy, that’s for sure.
Cuz trapped inside the school
We never can cure
Our mathematics blues
Or our scientific stress.
Will there ever be a cure
For a rainy day recess?
From Poem Man
Another rainy day
As it is
In all its
A Cause to
And all its many
All I can do is
Sit here and
Are out there
Some in the
But You are out there
As I sit
BOOK | FICTION | LITERATURE
OF HUMAN BONDAGE
by W. Somerset Maugham
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★
I suppose the easiest, and quickest, way to sum up Maugham’s OF HUMAN BONDAGE would be to write something along the lines of “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” which is certainly the case for the story’s protagonist, Phillip Carey.
If, however, that was all I wrote, then not only would I be overly brief in this review (which probably is not a bad thing), I would also be overly unoriginal since we all know the above quote belongs to the great Henry David Thoreau.
Unfortunately, because I do not have Thoreau’s genius for writing simply (which requires skill and patience that most writers, to include me, do not possess), I will have to deploy many more words than just Thoreau’s for my own summing up of Maugham’s masterpiece.
But what Thoreau wrote so poetically is undeniably what the essence of Maugham’s story is about:
Carey, born with a clubbed foot and who grows up to be shy and insecure because of it, lives a life yearning to be someone he can never be, to love someone whom he can never love, and to be somewhere other than where he happens to be.
His yearnings, we find, go mostly unfulfilled.
What I enjoy most about the story is Maugham’s descriptive ability. His writing magically places me deep within the England and the Germany and the France of the early twentieth century. I can hear the cart wheels rolling along the cobble-stoned streets. I can see the crowded, smoke-filled cafe. I can taste the absinthe and feel the immediate allure and rush as it blissfully numbs away the bite of reality.
What I enjoy least about the story is Carey’s excessively drawn-out infatuation with Mildred Rogers, the cruel and insensitive simpleton who fancies herself to be of a station in life much higher than the one she is unable to escape, no matter how hard she tries. While she does not have the capacity to improve her lot in life through earnest devices and effort, she does have enough smarts about her to understand early on in her relationship with Carey that she has a power over him from which he is also unable to escape no matter how hard he tries. She uses and abuses Carey with her power so often and for so long that I found myself becoming impatient and bored with, not only Carey’s unbelievable weakness, but with the story as a whole. However, by that point, I was already deeply hooked, addicted to the tale and desperate to know whether Carey would find a way to ween himself from his deadly addiction to Rogers, or if he would die unfulfilled and, as Oliver Wendell Holmes writes in his poem “The Voiceless,” with his music still in him.
While I find the tortuous, one-sided love affair between Carey and Rogers to be a bit too much, through it I am reminded that any unhealthy dependency, be it our dependency on love, on money, on drugs, or on whatever, often takes us down a long and troubling path that, if we stay on it, will eventually lead us to the point of our destruction. And it usually is not until we nearly reach that point that we are finally able to realize just how destructive our dependency, our yearning, really is. Only then, if we are lucky or blessed or both (for unfortunately, many are unable to stop before reaching the point of their destruction and continue helplessly, fatally on), can we find the strength to separate ourselves from that which is destroying us and begin on a path to recovery.
But I guess that’s how life goes, and how it has always gone throughout the desperate ages — if we do not somehow find a way to come to peace with our satiated yearnings, our unrequited desires, they will most likely be the sad and desperate songs we sing until we finally, and at last, are placed within our cold and lonely graves.
I once knew an old truck driver
Who’d been drivin’ a rig all his life.
And he never knew a single worry.
Nor was he ever bothered with strife.
His life was oh so relaxin’.
As for stress, he just didn’t know it.
He had not a care in the world,
For he was a truck drivin’ poet.
When traffic was backed up for miles
And he was in a rush to get through,
Instead of getting all upset,
Here’s all he would ever do:
Into his citizens band radio mike
He’d recite a verse or two
Of Blake, Shelley, cummings, or Whitman.
To him any old poet would do.
Cuz it’s poetry that kept him so happy,
And kept his life completely carefree.
It’s poetry that taught him ’bout livin’,
And that life’s what he makes it to be.
But when he recited the oldies
The other truckers would always complain.
Cuz to them those old poets were so boring.
They made staying awake such a strain.
The truckers wanted poems with attitude—
Poems that would make them tap their toes.
They didn’t want to be bored and befuddled
By such pitilessly pretentious prose.
The Truck Drivin’ Poet wasn’t offended.
It happened to him all the time.
So he stopped recitin’ Ferlingetti
And started recitin’ poets who rhymed.
He recited poems that had rhythm,
And poems with discernible beats.
And soon the truckers were much happier
Than they had been while listening to Keats.
Now Keats, himself, had some rhythm
(And the truckers did give him a try).
But for them he was way too Romantic
And his poems just a little too dry.
What those truckers wanted to hear
Were poems with a lively, snappy tone.
Shel Silverstein pleased them the most.
Second were the Authors Unknown.
And what they wanted he’d sure try to give ’em.
Cuz all he ever wanted to do
Was to make them truck drivers happy
So they’d know not a worry, too.
For he knew truck drivin’ wasn’t easy—
It’s tough drivin’ a rig every day.
And that’s why he recited them poetry—
To help drive their troubles away.
From Poem Man
Most of what little refinement I have can be attributed to my lovely and loving wife.
I would say all of it could be attributed to her, but I do have a pretty good three-object juggling technique that I’ve worked hard on over the years to perfect.
Metaphorically speaking, the wife can juggle just about anything thrown her way; non-metaphorically speaking, however, she’s not a juggler by any stretch of the imagination.
But other than my juggling skills, just about anything else refined about me — especially anything artistic or intellectual — more than likely has its foundation somewhere within in my wife’s lovely and loving intellectual and artistic brain.
For instance, my love and appreciation of George Winston’s music is wholly responsible to my wife.
My wife and I met waay back in the Eighties. And waay back in the Eighties when we first met, my brain was only used to hearing such base, animalistic music as Led Zeppelin and The Smiths and Tom Waits and, unfortunately, all that New Wave pain with its fake drum machines and stoopid hairdos that was inflicting itself upon humanity at that time.
But after I met my wife and we started dating, she immediately introduced me to something strange and different. Something called Classical Music.
She introduced me to all the masters, of course…Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and, my favorite, Vivaldi, among others…
And she also introduced me to some contemporary Classical Cat named George Winston.
Yeah, that cat was not just classically Big in Japan (like that slick Tom Waits reference?), he was huge in Japan. Immense.
And I listened to Autumn and the rest, as they love to say, is musical history.
And I have been a huge, immense, fan of his ever since.
I remember when mp3 players first came out. This was at the turn of the century; several years before the iPod.
I bought one for my daughter and my eldest son.
But since these mp3 players were new and all the copying of the CDs and uploading of the files was so tedious and technical at the time (Apple hadn’t yet come along to tell us that these new players were going to be important and all the copying and uploading would become second nature to us), the kids didn’t get much value from them.
So I assumed control, first over my son’s (my daughter was older so her giving up on her mp3 player would come several weeks after my son’s giving up). And I loaded all our George Winston CDs onto it. And then I pressed “Play” and it never stopped playing his music for the next, oh I don’t know, three months or so.
We just kept George Winston’s music on. Day and night.
It was magical.
And after the son’s player died from exhaustion, I loaded up the daughter’s and George’s music continued to play, day and night, until it, too, eventually bought the technological farm, so to speak, from overuse.
My sister and her family came to stay with us for a few months during this period of George Winston as the soundtrack of our daily living. She mentioned not too long ago that one of the things she remembers most from that time was the beauty of George’s music constantly playing. Day and night.
Grand memories they are when they come with a soundtrack.
A few years ago, George came through York, PA, and played its Strand Capital Performing Arts Center. The wife and I went to see him perform for the first time as part of a wedding anniversary treat.
And what a treat it was. But we didn’t stick around after the performance to try to meet him. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone of his stature (An example of his stature is illustrated by the fact that he has close to 2 million followers on Soundcloud. Soundcloud! My guess is many of you haven’t even heard of Soundcloud, yet he still has such a following there.) would bother coming out afterwards to meet his fans.
Boy* was I wrong…
My wife, as artistically and intellectually talented as she is, writes and photographs for a Japanese travel website. And when she discovered that George Winston was once again making his way through our neck of the woods, she boldly (she is completely fearless) sent out interview requests to him.
And he responded positively and kindly said to make all interview arrangements with a member of his team.
Which she did.
And just like that my wife and, by extension, I were going to be able to meet this long-time musical hero of ours.
The show was magical, of course. Sublime…
As we were waiting for it to begin, I couldn’t help but overhear all the conversations going on around me. It was interesting, and rather amazing, that they all were basically saying the same thing: How they have been long-time fans of George’s and how important his music has been to their lives.
How wonderful life is that there are such people who can make it so wonderful…
George is one of those wonderful people.
And he would be such a person just by his musical contributions alone.
But, I’ve come to find out, that he is such a wonderful person even had he not been the genius of a musician that he is.
After the show, the wife and I, somewhat nervously, went down to the stage to wait for this wonderful musician.
And so did a gaggle of other dedicated fans.
As I waited for him to come out, I wondered how we all, this gaggle of fanboys and girls, would be received.
To be honest, I was a little worried.
This man and his music have been such a solid, foundational element of my life for so long — over thirty years — and that of the life of the woman I love the most, that I was worried that we were going to be disappointed in him as a person.
How many times have I heard that old saw of a saying, Never meet your heroes.
Forget how many times I’ve heard it, lord only knows how many times I, personally, have said it.
I, the skeptic’s skeptic, can be very skeptical of the human species, to say the least.
I’ve always had a short list, a very short list of heroes.
Mostly I believe heroes are for kids.
Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny…
I didn’t really believe that George Winston could live up to all that my wife and I had built him up to be.
And I was worried that my most lovely and loving wife would be let down, hurt even, because of it.
But then George came walking out as if he hadn’t just played his heart out for the last two hours.
As if he hadn’t been performing for the last thirty years or so.
As if he were really looking forward to meeting with those who were so anxiously waiting to meet him.
George came out with a bounce in his step and the most welcoming of smiles.
And he headed head first into the waiting gaggle and he shook hands and he hugged and he signed autographs and he took pictures as if he truly enjoyed doing it.
And he did enjoy it.
It was so easy to tell…
By the twinkle in his eye and the ever-present smile on his face, it was so completely obvious that he did really enjoy meeting with us who were so looking forward to meeting with him.
And finally, after all the hand-shaking and all the hugging and all the autographing and all the picture taking, the gaggle went on its merry and mesmerized way…
And then he turned to my wife.
And I thought, okay, how is he going to respond to someone who has come not just to worship, which we of course did, but to also question him and photograph him for a purpose beyond just pure fandom.
Ha ha ha…
He didn’t even think twice about it.
His eye lost not a glimmer of its twinkle, nor did his smile lessen the least bit in its broadness.
He, much to my wife’s amazement and joy (and of course mine..but especially the wife’s), treated her to, quite literally, the time of her life.
I could go on and on in very vivid detail how impressive George Winston is. I could because I saw it first-hand, up close and personal for very near an hour. I watched in awe as he reminisced and laughed and joked – oh lordy is he a funny guy – and impressed us with his knowledge of Japan (he has been to the country twenty-six times and has visited over sixty cities) and its language and his humorous outlook on some of the funny quirks and peculiarities of the Japanese way of life; and I watched especially awed as he performed in his own unique and beautiful way traditional Japanese songs just for my wife…
While she sang to him!
I could go on and on…it was just that special.
It was just that magical.
But I guess it would be better for me to just stop here so I can begin reflecting upon that most magical of evenings.
Yes, I truly am the lucky guy, for I now have the memory of a lifetime, a magical memory, one starring a true hero, and one with the most beautiful of soundtrack from which I will be able to draw upon and play over and over again in my theater of a mind for the rest of my long and lucky life.