“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
― Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum
To the all of the fathers out there – biological or otherwise,to the role models, and most especially for my husband – who is a terrific father – and to his father who is an amazing father and grandfather – I wish you a very relaxing Father’s Day.
Photo of the Rocky Mountains, July 2015.
“I still believe in man in spite of man. I believe in language even though it has been wounded, deformed, and perverted by the enemies of mankind. And I continue to cling to words because it is up to us to transform them into instruments of comprehension rather than contempt. It is up to us to choose whether we wish to use them to curse or to heal, to wound or to console.”
― Elie Wiesel, Open Heart
A Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1986, Elie Wiesel (1928 – 2016) was an Auschwitz survivor with a gift for words – and a willingness to use them in the pursuit of peace by understanding the lessons of the past. As a post-war baby boomer, the shadow of the Holocaust was as much a part of my life as the ever-present threat of nuclear obliteration and the Cold War. Wiesel’s writing, like Victor Frankl’s, was an important part of understanding that story for me. It was an piece of the foundation that left me believing in the power of education. In the need to not forget the lessons of the past. And in the power of words. And to not remain silent: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
In Weisel’s obituary on July 2, 2016, the New York Times noted that the citation from the 1986 Nobel committee stated: “His message is one of peace, atonement and human dignity. His belief that the forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a hard-won belief.”
“History is filled with tragic examples of wars that result from diplomatic impasse. Whether in our local communities or in international relations, the skillful use of our communicative capacities to negotiate and resolve differences is the first evidence of human wisdom.” — Daisaku Ikeda
Photo of the Mid-Hudson Bridge taken from the Walkway Over the Hudson.
Another week is winding down, but, from the standpoint of readying our house for sale, it’s been a productive one. New plants have been planted in front. Potted plants have been strategically placed on the deck. Disrupted grass is growing by the new front steps. Bit by bit it is, indeed, coming along. Not having anything to do with the house, but today was doubly productive – I finally identified my mystery wildflowers – Multiflora Rosa – pretty but invasive – and also this season’s dominant wildflower pest – it’s along most of the roadsides around here this year. I’d been searching most of the week – the flowers were similar to a couple of other plants, but the leaves weren’t – so I was quite happy when I finally found it – my husband was less impressed, but I think he wasn’t nearly as interested as I was to being with. And, yeah, I can occasionally be obsessive about things that, on balance, aren’t particularly important. But I solved my mystery, so I’m good now.
For a few reasons, though, my thoughts have turned just a bit darker today, as my mind wandered into the space where departed friends dwell. But from that space I also find the reminder of why it’s important to continue to do what I can to make my piece of the universe a better one.
In that spirit, I leave you today with these words from Clarence Darrow:
“When we fully understand the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains; when we accept the facts that all men and women are approaching an inevitable doom: the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other. This feeling should make men and women use their best efforts to help their fellow travelers on the road, to make the path brighter and easier as we journey on. It should bring a closer kinship, a better understanding, and a deeper sympathy for the wayfarers who must live a common life and die a common death.”
Photo of my pretty but undesirable weed – one of several taken this week.
“To say that the future will be different from the present is, to scientists, hopelessly self-evident. I observe regretfully that in politics, however, it can be heresy. It can be denounced as radicalism, or branded as subversion. There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed.”
— Robert Kennedy, 1964
I think those people are in power now.
On June 5, 1968, Robert Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California, after winning the California Democratic Party Primary. He died the following day – he was 42 years old and, like his brother before him, he was murdered by an assassin’s bullet.
The lines below were spoken in support of the Civil Rights movement, but hardly seem less important now.
“Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.”
View of the Hudson River looking south from the Walkway Over the Hudson, circa early spring 2015.
I spent the afternoon assisting at the ACLU table at the Hudson Valley Pride Festival. It was a good day to be outside, and the festival was well-attended. We, unexpectedly, had some high-schoolers assisting for most of the day – and once again, I have to say how impressed I am with ‘kids these days’ – they are the promise of a better future.
This was my first time at a pride event, but, sadly, I’d forgotten my phone so I have no pictures. I also was unaware that my husband had texted to let me know he was there to pick me up, or that my daughter had texted to let me know that she was home (and therefore would be eating with us). No worries, though – my husband found us, and helped pack up and take down the tent. And he was there to witness the drama of the medivac helicopter that came in to pick someone up after most of the festival space had been cleaned up – no idea what had happened to get to that point, but it certainly wasn’t because they were in a hurry – I assume that it was because, for whatever reason, it was necessary to transport the patient to one of the more distant major hospitals – probably Westchester or Albany. I don’t even know if the patient had been at the park for the festival, or if something had happened in one of the houses near the park. I hope whoever it was is recovering from whatever it was.
I was struck today, in a space where all were welcome, how important it is that we work to preserve that spirit of inclusion – and it most definitely does require work, particularly for those of us that perhaps came of age in a less accepting time – love and compassion, acceptance for the different, are not always easy, but they are very necessary for the survival of humanity. Our current political climate seems to have encouraged more people to wish for – to push for – a return to some idealized version of the past – a past that never was as wonderful as nostalgia would have it, and was also far less tolerant, far less inclusive, than where we are now. We need to keep moving forward to a better, more peaceful, world. We need to work to avoid falling into the trap of moving backwards instead.
“No government, no organisation, no citizen can afford to be less than vigilant in combating bigotry, intolerance and hatred. And frankly, our way of life depends on that vigilance.” — Barry O’Farrell