From a letter in 1863, Mark Twain on New Year's resolutions: pic.twitter.com/WrBvAKUpHf— Letters of Note (@LettersOfNote) December 31, 2013
Via Literary Jukebox, a quote from George Eliot at the end of the year.
While the heart beats, bruise it — it is your only opportunity; while the eye can still turn towards you with moist, timid entreaty, freeze it with an icy unanswering gaze; while the ear, that delicate messenger to the inmost sanctuary of the soul, can still take in the tones of kindness, put it off with hard civility, or sneering compliment, or envious affectation of indifference; while the creative brain can still throb with the sense of injustice, with the yearning for brotherly recognition — make haste — oppress it with your ill-considered judgements, your trivial comparisons, your careless misrepresentations.
George Eliot in The Lifted Veil .
That’s one thing the new year always offers: a look back across the plains into the past before we move onward into the future. It is a holiday that insists upon our temporality and reminds us that time is, in fact, the strangest thing. No one ever sat you down, when you were young, and explained the workings of time the way the safe way to cross a street was explained. You just grew into it, into the way we trail the past behind us while the future comes rushing forward.
It also offers possibility. We’re all surging forward — some with more impetus than others. And now we have 2010 before us, a year that seemed unimaginable until we were right at its border.
The Times picks up the end-of-year theme I have been following all week. This peace is reflected in other places in today's paper--Time, the Infinite Storyteller, a long and interesting piece by Roberta Smith
So take refuge in art. There may be no better place — no place more stimulating or ultimately more comforting — to contemplate life’s forward motion than a large museum, especially the great time machine that is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met is closed today while most of us take a collective timeout for time, but — at least for now — there’s always tomorrow.
In a way it seems a trifle odd that artworks are such superb instruments of time travel. Time is not visual, after all, unlike space. And most works in museums are static, unchanging objects. And yet art is loaded and layered with different forms of time and complexly linked to the past and the present and even the future. The longer they exist the more onionlike and synaptic they become.
For starters, each has withstood the test of time — a portentous phrase, but really no small thing: each object at the Met has been built to last by someone, for some reason. It may have fallen out of favor or fashion and lain undisturbed in the earth (or some attic) for centuries. But it remained intact long enough to be rediscovered, cherished once more, and studied, preserved and passed down through the generations for more of the same.
Finally, there's a review of Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, an exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art, that is a " juxtaposition of Western science and Eastern religion." Even newspaper photos of what's in the show look good; it must be awfully interesting.
There are five other mini-segments to present in this New Year's 2010 Post. The first comes from writing my new book. It's really largely about the "basics," and in particular about thoughtfulness and civility. I think thoughtfulness-civility-grace-decency-kindness-appreciation pays off ... Big Time ... on the bottom line. And I think it pays off when you look in the mirror or raise your kids. And, incidentally, I think it's directly related to resilience—that is, going gently in the world serves the community and keeps the heat (emotional reaction to tough news) a little lower.
The third word is serve. In my new book I call leadership a "sacred trust,' and I think it is. To steal shamelessly from Robert Greenleaf, I am a keen fan–adherent of "servant leadership." Leaders work for those who "report to" them—not vice versa.
Word four: contribute. We Group I-ers (see above) simply have an obligation—a pressing obligation—to give back and lend a helping hand. I live in an other-than-high-wage community, and I deeply deeply appreciate the enormous amount of time and energy my wife is contributing as Board leader of our local daycare center. (This is hardly her first major act of community service-leadership; it's simply the one most on my mind at the moment.) Contradicting to some extent my Group III mention above, I am a strong adherent, assuming you're not Bill Gates, of supporting (time, $$) local efforts where you can have direct impact. (Perhaps from local "fanatic" service will grow the desire to expand the stage on which you work.)
Next up, and next to last is ... learn. The best way to stay fresh and vibrant, and thence useful, in my opinion, is to seek new experiences and learning opportunities. Like all of these "words," it takes thoughtfulness (planning) and work—though presumably this work, in every case, should largely be an act of joy.
The final word? My old friend ... EXCELLENCE. I never get tired of it, and I hope you don't either. It's a wonderful standard, a wonderful aspiration, a wonderful way of life (the aspiration to).
So my Aim2010 is to focus on these words:
Peters starts his reflection with resilience, then moves on to the keywords here. Click through for all his thoughts.
But maybe we’ve reached nostalgia’s end. “Nostalgia” — made up of the Greek roots for “suffering” and “return” — is literally a longing for the places of one’s past. And lately, it has become harder and harder to find things to miss about America’s places...
When they remember the Starbucks where they met the one they married or the Gap where they lost the one they didn’t, they will be marinating in memories that happened everywhere but not somewhere, reliving experiences that are located in time but dislocated in space. And when they return to the places where they grew up, or went to school, or fell in love, they may not even notice that the Old Navy has been replaced by an Abercrombie, the Fridays by an Olive Garden and the once-fleeting past by an endless present.
Ours may be the last generation of Americans to suffer for return — to remember events that took place when place still mattered. So tonight let us revel in our nostalgia, and long for the days when longing was easy.
From a nice piece on nostalgia by Daniel Gilbert in today's New York Times. I enjoyed reading this and watching last night a PBS program about Garrison Keillor, who also acknowledged the beauty and power of returning to the past. Hate to say I must be of a certain age, too, but there you are.