There is little to be gained by becoming agitated about what has been.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
[Rudyard Kipling, “If“]
Equanimity is the art of remaining focused on the work before us and not being distracted by extraneous matters. I can add nothing to Kipling’s magnificent poem.
- Roger Ebert, Life Itself: A Memoir (Grand Central Publishing, 2011): “ . . . although Mr. Ebert can no longer eat or speak, for reasons that the book explains, he has grown better than ever at replaying ‘the jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and memories I miss.’ The book sparkles with his new, improvisatory, written version of dinner-party conversation.”
- Russell Baker, Growing Up (Congdon & Wood, 1982): “His laughs are distilled from the juices of life. It is a natural comic sense that comes from playing on a pool table that is slightly out of plumb, on which the most carefully lined-up shot veers off, leaving you behind the eight ball.”
Film and Stage
- Searching for Bobby Fischer, about a chess prodigy who could take it or leave it
- Richard III, about a notoriously ambitious king
- Timon of Athens: a man destroys himself with vengefulness after his “friends” fail to return his generosity
- What’s Up, Doc?: Nothing ever bothered Bugs, or Barbra
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
- Carlisle Floyd, Susannah (1954) (approx. 106’) (libretto): the title character maintains her innocence and virtue despite scurrilous and unfounded accusations made against her. Links are to a recorded performance by Studer, Hadley & Ramey (Nagano) in 1994, and to a live performance at Undercroft Opera in 2012.
- Douglas Moore, The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956) (backstory and libretto): a man leaves behind his practical wife, who is not interested in wealth or pretension, for a much younger woman with expensive tastes. He dies in poverty, as does his second wife, many years later.
- Raga Tilak Kamod is a melodious Hindustani classical raag for late evening. “ This composition is about music. It describes the virtues of a good performer as one who has command over the rag, tal, intonation of notes and enunciation of words.” This command of every aspect of the music conveys the sense of being untroubled. Links are to performances by Vilayat Khan, Budhaditya Mukherjee, Ravi Shankar, Kishori Amonkar, and Kishori Amonkar.
- Roger C. Vogel, Things Fall Apart (2011) (approx. 59’), is a song cycle based on a novel by Chinua Achebe.
- Joaquín Rodrigo, Elogio de la guitarra (1971) (approx. 14-18’) evokes both festival and funeral.
- Harry Partch, Delusion of the Fury (1969) (approx. 72-73’, “is a complex theater piece in two acts, telling two stories, the first from Japanese Noh Theater, the second from an African folk tale. Both pursue the idea that anger (Fury) is a delusion, never helping to solve anything.” Performances are by Ensemble of unique instruments in 1998, and Ensemble MusikFabrik in 2022. Here is the 1969 film version.
- Francesco Antonio Bonporti composed several sets of sonatas for two violins and basso continuo. They are uniformly unhurried and even-tempered. Labirinti Armonici has recorded Op. 1 (1696) (61’), Op. 2 (1701) (58’), and Op. 4 (1706) (64’).
- Hound Dog Taylor, “Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers” (1971) (44’) – it may be blues but he’s happy anyway.
- Edward Simon with Afinidad & Imani Winds, “Sorrows & Triumphs” (2018) (71’) – the two imposters to be treated just the same.
- Ahmad Jamal, “Marseille” (2017) (60’): “With nothing left to prove (at age 87) and in complete command of his instrument and his group, Jamal seems willing to open his approach and add baroque and expansive touches to what once was a measured, minimalist style.”
- Byron Allen Trio, “The Byron Allen Trio” (1963) (43’): “Allen and company have the harmelodic looseness of Ornette but Allen stakes out his own turf. He is bluesy-rootsy and outside the bop-structured changes-based music of the prevailing orthodoxy like Ornette, yet he has his own sound and phraseology.”
- Immanuel Wilkins, “The 7th Hand” (2022) (59’): “The album consists of an hour-long suite comprised of seven movements that strive to bring the quartet closer to complete vesselhood by the end, where the music would be entirely improvised, channeled collectively.”
- Alfred Schnittke, Cello Sonata No. 2 (1994) (approx. 14-17’) sounds like worrying. Excellent performances are by Ivashkin & Irina Schnittke, Thedéen & Pöntinen, Østerlind & Gryesten, Geringas & Schatz, and Rostropovich & Uriash.
Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery's every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door, and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts. [Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843), Stave III: The Second of the Three Spirits.]
They made a thousand advances to him. He refused. This time the good gossips had no trouble. "He is an ignorant man, of no education. No one knows where he came from. He would not know how to behave in society. It has not been absolutely proved that he knows how to read." When they saw him making money, they said, "He is a man of business." When they saw him scattering his money about, they said, "He is an ambitious man." When he was seen to decline honors, they said, "He is an adventurer." When they saw him repulse society, they said, "He is a brute." In 1820, five years after his arrival in M. sur M., the services which he had rendered to the district were so dazzling, the opinion of the whole country round about was so unanimous, that the King again appointed him mayor of the town. He again declined; but the prefect resisted his refusal, all the notabilities of the place came to implore him, the people in the street besought him; the urging was so vigorous that he ended by accepting. It was noticed that the thing which seemed chiefly to bring him to a decision was the almost irritated apostrophe addressed to him by an old woman of the people, who called to him from her threshold, in an angry way: _"A good mayor is a useful thing. Is he drawing back before the good which he can do?"_ This was the third phase of his ascent. Father Madeleine had become Monsieur Madeleine. Monsieur Madeleine became Monsieur le Maire. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume I – Fantine; Book Fifth – The Descent Begins, Chapter II, Madeleine.]
- Val Emmich, Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel (Poppy, 2018): “. . . the story expertly dissects teenagers’ tortured relationships with popularity and social media.”
- Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart: A Novel (1958), “chronicles the life of Okonkwo, the leader of an Igbo community, from the events leading up to his banishment from the community for accidentally killing a clansman, through the seven years of his exile, to his return, and it addresses a particular problem of emergent Africa—the intrusion in the 1890s of white missionaries and colonial government into tribal Igbo society.”
Novels from the dark side:
- Christine Smallwood, The Life of the Mind: A Novel (Hogarth, 2021): “If you think Dorothy might be protesting too much, she would probably agree. Second- and third-guessing herself comes naturally.”
· Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”
· John Keats, “On Fame”
· James Joyce, “Be Not Sad”
From the dark side:
· Edgar Lee Masters, “E.C. Culbertson”
· Edgar Lee Masters, “Granville Calhoun”
· Edgar Lee Masters, “Harry Carey Goodhue”