Thursday, November 24, 2022

On This Thanksgiving

I cannot pretend I am without fear.
But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.
I have loved and been loved;
I have been given much and I have given something in return.
~ Dr. Oliver Sacks
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Quoted from Oliver Sacks, "My Own Life" (Opinion), The New York Times, February 19, 2015

When the piece above was published, Sacks, a neurologist of renown and author of many best-selling books, as well as a professor at New York University Medical School, was taking stock of his relatively long and fruitful life, which was soon to end because of incurable cancer. 
 
Remarkably, after nine years of trying to face down his cancer's spread, Sacks could still describe himself as "intensely alive" and even "lucky" and, perhaps more important, "grateful" for being able to "choose how to live out the months" that remained to him. "I have to live," he wrote, "in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can." That he did, publishing in the short time left to him five books and "nearly finish[ing]" others, all while completing his memoir, On the Move: A Life, published in the spring of 2015. Declaring his "detachment" from daily news and politics and issues of the day, he turned his focus "on myself, my work and my friends." His was, in every sense, lived life.
 
This Thanksgiving, having crossed that threshold that places me among the old, though not the old old, I find inspiration in re-reading Sacks's op-ed, to consider and affirm, as he did, what an "enormous privilege" it is to be of this world, especially to "have loved and been loved," to "have been given much" and "have given something in return."
 
Note: Sacks's essay and three others comprise his slim volume of reflections, Gratitude, published the year he died.
 
Earlier this week, the wonderful writer Margaret Renkl published her own essay on gratitude, "How to Give Thanks in a Screwed-Up World," which can be found online and in print in the November 21, 2022, edition of The New York Times. A copy of it will now take its place alongside my copy of Sacks's.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Thought for the Day

All that is left to one who grieves is convalescence, 
no change of heart or spiritual conversion, for the heart 
has changed. And the spirit has been converted 
to a thing that sees how much it costs to lose a friend it loved.
~ from "Gilgamesh"

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Quoted from Herbert Mason, "Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative" (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Co., 1970; New Afterword, 2003); Requoted in Chard deNiord, "Singing Back to the World: A Conversation with U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limon", World Literature Today, November/December 2022, page 48.
 
Gilgamesh is an ancient Babyonian epic.  

Herbert Mason, Writer and Translator; Scholar of Arabic and Islamic Studies; Emeritus University Professor and William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of History and Religion, Boston University

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Thought for the Day

Insofar as poetry has a social function it is
to awaken sleepers by other means than shock.
~ Denise Levertov
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Quoted from Denise Levertov, Letter for The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, Academy of American Poets Archive (Posted May 4, 2016)

Denise Levertov (1923-1997), Poet

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Thought for the Day

[. . .] the most basic lesson that all art teaches us
is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet,[. . .]
In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole
idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left
where we can speak to each other of holy things. [. . .]
~ Frederick Buechner
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Quoted from Frederick Buechner, "Art", January 25, 2018

Frederick Buechner (1926-2022), American Writer and Theologian