Being avid – taking a keen interest in something, enthusiastically – can affect every aspect of life and Being. The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek, in – theos, which means “in God.” Thus, enthusiasm refers to a state of being engulfed by and in harmony with the divine (matters of greatest importance and highest concern). For a scientific naturalist, this simply refers to an “intensity of feeling; excited interest or eagerness.” For us, the enthusiasm of being avid helps us transcend our previous limits. It implies nothing other-worldly. It is all within ourselves.
These authors' enthusiasm for their subject matter is evident in their writing.
- Eugenia Bone, Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms (Rodale, 2011): "Bone's enthusiasm would prompt even the most languid armchair ecologist to take a new interest in the role played on our planet by mushrooms". . .
- Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc. (Doubleday, 2011): a critic’s miscellany.
- John Leonard, Reading for My Life: Writings, 1958-2008 (Viking, 2012): “John Leonard championed women authors and writers of color.”
- Mark Lamster, The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century (Little, Brown & Company, 2018): “. . . the most interesting thing about him was not the buildings he designed. The qualities that make him, and this book, fascinating are his nimble intelligence, his restlessness, his energy, his anxieties, his ambitions and his passions, all of which were channeled into the making of a few pieces of architecture that will stand the test of time, and many others thatwill not . . . He was fascinated by everything . . .”
Technical and Analytical Readings
- Janna Levin, Black Hole Rules and Other Songs From Outer Space (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016): “ . . . astrophysicist and novelist Janna Levin chronicles the decades-long development of (a) magnificent machine — a quest marked by the highest degree of human intelligence, zest and perseverance.”
Documentary and Educational Films
Film and Stage
- A Touch of Greatness, documenting the teaching methods of Albert Cullum, who taught by involving children in every domain of Being
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Felix Mendelssohn composed his Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11 (1824), at the age of fifteen, thereby illustrating the virtue of enthusiasm as a quality of Being. It is “indubitably a young man’s creation, energetic, muscular, and bursting with rambunctious high spirits”. (The quotation is from a now deleted link.)
Avidity, which we might also call the quality of enthusiasm, is apparent from the opening bars of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in the performance by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. Honeck took this masterwork from beginning to end in under sixty-three minutes – faster than nearly any other great conductor. Honeck’s performance of the second movement, a scherzo that is ebullient by nature, sounds similar to other performances until 7:10, when the conductor takes the orchestra on a galloping romp. Pensive in character, the third movement does not invite an enthusiastic interpretation. Still, Honeck’s tempo gives this performance a sunnier tone, from the outset, than perhaps any other performance of the movement. This robs the movement of its dark-night-of-the-soul emotional contrast. Honeck’s tempo after the emotional turning point sounds like speed for its own sake. A brief journey into darkness could have made this movement especially powerful. Ebullient by nature, the fourth and final movement left Honeck nowhere to go, until 4:50, when avid enthusiasm burst forth from then on, orchestra, chorus and soloists telling Beethonven’s symphonic story in Honeck’s thoroughly inspiring way.
- Geminiani, 6 Concerti Grossi, Op. 3 (1733)
- Hakola: Loco for Clarinet solo
- Vivaldi, Concerti per archii: This album includes RV 150, 134, 151, 119, 110, 160, 128, 164, 127, 166 and 157.
- Buddy Guy, “Stone Crazy!”
No idea can be formed of his delight on days when the grand peal was sounded. At the moment when the archdeacon dismissed him, and said, “Go!” he mounted the spiral staircase of the clock tower faster than any one else could have descended it. He entered perfectly breathless into the aerial chamber of the great bell; he gazed at her a moment, devoutly and lovingly; then he gently addressed her and patted her with his hand, like a good horse, which is about to set out on a long journey. He pitied her for the trouble that she was about to suffer. After these first caresses, he shouted to his assistants, placed in the lower story of the tower, to begin. They grasped the ropes, the wheel creaked, the enormous capsule of metal started slowly into motion. Quasimodo followed it with his glance and trembled. The first shock of the clapper and the brazen wall made the framework upon which it was mounted quiver. Quasimodo vibrated with the bell.
“Vah!” he cried, with a senseless burst of laughter. However, the movement of the bass was accelerated, and, in proportion as it described a wider angle, Quasimodo’s eye opened also more and more widely, phosphoric and flaming. At length the grand peal began; the whole tower trembled; woodwork, leads, cut stones, all groaned at once, from the piles of the foundation to the trefoils of its summit. Then Quasimodo boiled and frothed; he went and came; he trembled from head to foot with the tower. The bell, furious, running riot, presented to the two walls of the tower alternately its brazen throat, whence escaped that tempestuous breath, which is audible leagues away. Quasimodo stationed himself in front of this open throat; he crouched and rose with the oscillations of the bell, breathed in this overwhelming breath, gazed by turns at the deep place, which swarmed with people, two hundred feet below him, and at that enormous, brazen tongue which came, second after second, to howl in his ear. [Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris, or, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), Volume I, Book Fourth, Chapter III, “Immanis Pecoris Custos, Immanior Ipse”.]
- Gabrielle Zevin, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: A Novel (Knopf, 2022): “Zevin’s three main characters are Sadie, Sam and Marx, bright young things who plunge together into the game-making business while students at Harvard and M.I.T.”
I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed —
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you —
It takes life to love Life.
[Edgar Lee Masters, “Lucinda Matlock”]