“Don’t take anything personally. Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. Their point of view and opinion come from all the programming they received growing up. When you take things personally, you feel offended and your reaction is to defend your beliefs and create conflict. You make something big out of something so little because you have the need to be right and make everybody else wrong.”
— Don Miguel Ruiz
Before desktop publishing, the best way to layout a complicated image for printing was to cut a rubylith.
Rubylith is a translucent sheet of thin plastic. A craftsperson would carefully cut the ruby, knowing that the parts it covered would reflect the light when the plate was created. It was difficult and painstaking work.
That’s all obsolete now. An hour of cutting a ruby is replaced by two clicks in Illustrator.
Here’s the truth: images cut by hand with a rubylith weren’t better. They were simply the best available option.
As soon as technology allowed people to skip this step, many of them did. The others fought hard, pointing out that their craft was hard-won and that the old way was the better way.
Defending your particular rubylith skill is not really a winning strategy. Because everyone else doesn’t care.
Defending better, on the other hand, is truly important.
Ronald McNair’s Civil Disobedience: The Illustrated Story of How a Little Boy Who Grew Up to Be a Trailblazing Astronaut Fought Segregation at the Public Library
“Knowledge sets us free… A great library is freedom,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in contemplating the sacredness of public libraries. “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be,” her contemporary James Baldwin — who had read his way from the Harlem public library to the literary pantheon — insisted in his courageous and countercultural perspective on freedom.
Ronald McNair (October 21, 1950–January 28, 1986) was nine when he took his freedom into his own small hands.
Unlike Maya Angelou, who credited a library with saving her life, McNair’s triumphant and tragic life could not have been saved even by a library — he was the age I am now when he perished aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger before the eyes of a disbelieving nation. But his life was largely made by a library — a life equal parts inspiring and improbable against the cultural constrictions of his time and place; a life of determination that rendered him the second black person to launch into space, a decade and a half after a visionary children’s book first dared imagine the possibility.
A quarter century after McNair’s untimely death, a contemporary children’s book set out to broaden the landscape of possibility for generations to come by celebrating the formative fortitude of his trailblazing life.
Ron’s Big Mission (public library) by lyricist, scriptwriter, and teacher Rose Blue and former U.S. Navy journalist Corinne J. Naden, illustrated by Don Tate — a lovely addition to these emboldening picture-book biographies of cultural heroes — tells the story of a summer day in the segregated South in 1959 when the young Ron, a voracious reader with a passion for airplanes and dreams of becoming a pilot, awakens with the daring determination to bring home a book from the library checked out under his own name. He knows this is not allowed — he has devoured countless books at the library, but he knows that only white people are allowed to check them out. He also knows, with the clarity that children have in seeing into the unalloyed heart of reality, that whatever justification the grownups in power might have for this rule, there is no justice and humanity in it.
On the wings of his purehearted enthusiasm to dismantle the hypocrisies of the system, Ron races past the local baker offering him a fresh-baked donut, past his fried Carl shooting hoops, and into the library as the day’s first visitor.
The head librarian greets him warmly, delighted to see the young reader who has become “her best customer.” Ron waves back and heads straight for the shelves. After the usual disappointment of finding hardly any books with children who look like him, he opts for the impersonal consolation of machines, pulling out a few books about airplanes.
When another regular patron of the library — a kindly older white lady — offers to check the books out for him, Ron thanks her but declines. He heads to the front desk and lays the books on the counter. The desk clerk doesn’t even look at him.
With a child’s benevolence of interpretation, he thinks at first that she simply hasn’t heard him. But when she continues to disregard him, he does the most logical thing, by the undiluted logic we adults have relinquished in favor of the polite pretensions we call propriety: He jumps on the counter, then calmly restates his wish to check out the books.
Everyone is aghast.
Ron is reminded of the rule.
Still polite but still standing on the counter, he simply restates his wish — a small boy’s enormous act that would have made Thoreau proud as America’s premier champion of civil disobedience and ardent lover of public libraries.
Other patrons are staring. The library staff are stumped. Finally, they call the police. Two policemen arrive immediately. “Let someone check out the books for you, son,” one of them pleads with Ron. Ron refuses.
The head librarian then turns to the ultimate authority — Ron’s mother.
When Mrs. McNair arrives, she too reminds Ron of the rule — the rule he has known all along, the rule that is not a matter of reminding but of resisting. When this nine-year-old revolutionary states simply that the rule is wrong and unfair, and asks why he can’t check out books like everyone else, all the adults look at each other and grow silent.
The head librarian stares into the empty space as pandemonium enfolds the empty rule, then looks at Ron — this largehearted, hardheaded, hungry-brained boy, her very best customer. And she knows instantly what she must do.
In a testament to Hannah Arendt’s superb contemporaneous inquiry into the only effective antidote to the normalization of evil and her insistence that “under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not [and] no more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation,” the librarian disappears into her office as Mrs. McNair and the policemen continue trying to sway Ron.
When she emerges a few minutes later, she hands Ron a library card with his very own name on it. Beaming with his triumph and with gratitude to his sole ally in this act of resistance on the small scale of the personal, with the colossal stakes of the political, he hands the card to the desk clerk as he politely restates his wish to check out the books.
She stamps it.
The rest is history, and it is the making of a future — Ron’s own future as a trailblazer who devoted his life to the ultimate unifying force, our shared cosmic belonging, and the futures of generations for whom he modeled the courage of rewriting the dominant narrative of permission and possibility. Today, a Space Shuttle graces the mural on the walls of the children’s room at the Lake City public library in South Carolina, where all children are allowed to check out any book they wish, including books starring children who look a lot like them.
Complement Ron’s Big Mission with What Miss Mitchell Saw — a lyrical picture-book about astronomer Maria Mitchell, who blazed the way for women in science — and a moving remembrance of Ronald McNair by his brother, then revisit astronaut Leland Melvin — the thirteenth black astronaut to leave Earth’s atmosphere, and among the fraction of a fraction of one percent of our species to have seen the splendor of our planet’s canopy from space — reading Pablo Neruda’s love letter to the forest.
For other picture-book biographies of visionaries who have changed the way we understand and live life, savor the illustrated stories of Wangari Maathai, Ada Lovelace, Louise Bourgeois, Jane Goodall, Jane Jacobs, John Lewis, Frida Kahlo, E.E. Cummings, Louis Braille, Pablo Neruda, Albert Einstein, Muddy Waters, and Nellie Bly.
Spell to Be Said against Hatred: Amanda Palmer Reads Poet Jane Hirshfield’s Miniature Masterwork of Insistence, Persistence, and Compassionate Courage
“When we come to it,” Maya Angelou beckoned in her stunning cosmic vision for humanity, “when the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate…” Then, she bent the mind in language to remind us, and only then will we have risen to our cosmic destiny — a destiny built on the discipline of never forgetting, never daring let ourselves forget, our shared cosmic belonging. “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. Remember?” But we do forget, and so the minstrel show of hate remains with us; the curtain falls, only to rise again, as if to affirm Zadie Smith’s poignant observation that “progress is never permanent, will always be threatened, must be redoubled, restated and reimagined if it is to survive.”
It is especially in times of uncertainty, in tremulous times of fear and loss, that the curtain rises and the minstrel show resumes — a show of hate that can be as vicious and pointed as the murderous violence human beings are capable of directing at one another, or as ambient and slow-seething as the deadly disregard for the universe of non-human lives with which we share this fragile, irreplaceable planet. “We don’t know where we belong,” Annie Dillard wrote in her gorgeous meditation on our search for meaning, “but in times of sorrow it doesn’t seem to be here, here with these silly pansies and witless mountains, here with sponges and hard-eyed birds. In times of sorrow the innocence of the other creatures — from whom and with whom we evolved — seems a mockery.”
How to end the mockery and the minstrel show is what poet Jane Hirshfield — one of the most unboastfully courageous voices of our time, an ordained Buddhist, a more-than-humanitarian: a planetarian — explores in “Spell to Be Said against Hatred,” a miniature masterwork of quiet, surefooted insistence and persistence. Included in the anthology Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy (public library) alongside contributions by Jericho Brown, Ellen Bass, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, it is inhaled into life here by musician, activist, fellow more-than-humanitarian, and my darling friend Amanda Palmer.
“Spell to Be Said against Hatred” was originally published in Hirshfield’s altogether soul-resuscitating collection Ledger (public library), which also gave us the wonderful “Today, Another Universe.” Complement it with Marie Howe’s kindred-spirited poem “Singularity” and a soulful reading of Hirshfield’s splendid succor for resilience, “The Weighing,” then revisit Amanda’s enchanting readings of “When I Am Among the Trees” by Mary Oliver, “Einstein’s Mother” by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, “Life While-You-Wait” by Polish Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska, “Humanity i love you” by E.E. Cummings, “Hubble Photographs: After Sappho” by Adrienne Rich, and “Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry.
Octavio Paz on Being Other, the Courage of Responsibility, the Meaning of Hope, and the Only Fruitful Portal to Change
I came to this country not having inherited its sins, not being afforded many of its rights, but eager to share — and having by now devoted my adult life to sharing — in its responsibilities, its atonements, its healing. I came alone, barely out of my adolescence, into a country not yet out of its adolescence — that developmental stage when the act of taking responsibility is most difficult, and the impulse toward evasion and escapism most intense. “I have a green passport and I am an American citizen, and the crimes of this Republic, whether or not I am guilty of them, I am responsible for,” James Baldwin told Margaret Mead in their historic, staggeringly timely conversation about race, forgiveness, and the crucial distinction between guilt and responsibility — historic also in speaking to Baldwin’s definition of history as “a way of avoiding responsibility for what has happened, is happening, in time.”
These complex dynamics are what the great Mexican poet and political activist Octavio Paz (March 31, 1914–April 19, 1998) explores in the opening chapter of his superb 1950 book-length essay The Labyrinth of Solitude (public library), written in Paris months after the city’s liberation from Nazi occupation, while Paz was serving as a newly appointed Mexican diplomat, and shortly after he lived in the United States as a Mexican poet, having chosen to use his Guggenheim Fellowship to study at U.C. Berkeley in California.
Like me, Paz arrived to the United States as an other — as an alien of a different tongue, from a country scarred by centuries of violent invasions and decades of dictatorship, with a culture older than the American by epochs; unlike me, he arrived male, non-white, an adult, and an award-winning poet of cultural standing. It was with all of these multitudes that he observed and interpreted what he saw in his adolescent host country. In a sentiment his contemporary Louise Bourgeois echoed in her diary — “You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love.” — Paz writes:
In a sentiment of staggering timeliness today, as we face the challenge and discipline of reflection in order to respond — and respond robustly and effectively — rather than merely react to unbearably triggering events, Paz adds:
On this latter point, Paz may be wrong — or at least incomplete, neglecting the vital outliers, the rare far-seers who speak of their present and speak to the future, voices like Baldwin’s and Mead’s, whose questioning quickenings of mind and spirit remain not only comprehensible but acutely relevant fifty years later.
Before we go on, we must pause to remember that language is the supreme vessel of meaning-making, hulled with a history and masted with a future. It carries in its colossal careening body all the baggage of its culture. Paz uses man to say citizen, to denote universal humanity — a convention by which writers of his era, male or female, abided; a convention at the gendered Goliath of which Ursula K. Le Guin shot her perfectly aimed pebble in her exquisite civilizational service of unsexing the universal pronoun. It may be a useful exercise to note with disquietude the biases of language, but the exercise becomes distinctly unhelpful when the disquietude deafens us to the message inside the vessel. Paz’s message transcends the bounds of his time to speak to ours:
Upon arriving to the United States — which, as a resident of a neighboring landmass the shared name of which a single nation has usurped as its own, he insistently and correctly refers to as culturally North American rather than “American” — Paz found himself “surprised above all by the self-assurance and confidence of the people, by their apparent happiness and apparent adjustment to the world around them.” Drawing on the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset’s distinction between uses and abuses in differentiating the revolutionary spirit from the merely reformist impulse, he dismantles the apparent with the hard actuality:
Two decades before he resigned his post as a Mexican diplomat to protest the massacre of hundreds of peacefully protesting unarmed citizens, mostly students, by his country’s armed forces, Paz adds:
Americans, he notes more with curiosity than with condemnation, consider this disposition realism — but it is only a pseudo-realism, sustained by a willful blindness to uncomfortable realities — a form of culturally condoned hypocrisy that has become part of the national character. He writes:
And yet, in consonance with Baldwin and Mead’s distinction between guilt and responsibility, Paz insists that the fruitful attitude with which to face those disagreeable realities is not guilt, for guilt is never “transformed into anything other than hatred, solitary despair or blind idolatry.” The fruitful response — the responsible response — has to do with refusing to see ourselves as islanded in the river of time, unaccountable to and for history:
Paz terms his meditation on these immensely complex and interleaved issues his “testimony” — a lovely term and a subtle way of acknowledging that all of our perspectives, however informed by a wide and deep understanding of history, however enriched by experience and empathy, are still at bottom subjective witnessings that render any self-appointed authority over absolute universal truth a farce. It is with this reverence for the shared and the subjective that he ends the chapter, reaching across the millennia, across the panoply of cultures, to wrest an elemental human truth:
We have not, he laments, achieved this reconciliation — and out of this unmet longing arises a terror that rattles the root of our humanity:
In yet another resonance with Baldwin’s insistence that “we’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope,” Paz concludes:
The Labyrinth of Solitude is a resplendent read in its entirety. Couple the vital human issues Paz explores in it with an equally vital non-human counterpart in the great nature writer Henry Beston’s reflections on otherness, belonging, and the dignity of difference, then revisit Toni Morrison on borders, belonging, and the violence of otherness, Walter Lippmann’s tremendous century-old treatise on the psychology of and the antidote to prejudice, and Baldwin’s prophetic insight into race and reality.
“There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.”
– Robert Frost
Would you rather know when you’re going to die or how you’re going to die?
Never have I ever subscribed to Netflix.
During the cremation process of a 500 pound body, the corpse was so obese that it set the crematorium on fire.
What has been your biggest financial mistake?
Like Father Like Son
Meaning: Resembling one’s parents in terms of appearance or behavior.
Did you know…
… that today is Bob Zimmerman Graduation Day? In 1959, Bob Zimmerman graduated from high school in Hibbing, Minnesota. And who is Bob Zimmerman you might ask? You probably know him best as Bob Dylan, the American musician, singer-songwriter, artist, and writer!
Today’s Inspirational Quote:
“You can’t change all that is wrong in this great big world, but you can have an impact, even if it is just a tiny, positive impact on a stranger that receives a smile from you on the street today. There’s so much we can do for others, and in the end, what we do for others ends up benefiting us tenfold. So, let’s do this. Let’s make our little worlds amazing today.”
— Craig Ballantyne
THE BEST LEADERSHIP QUALITIES: L = loyalty E = engagement A = authenticity D = dedication E = empathy R = respect S = servanthood H = humility I = integrity P = perseverance
via My Views
6. World Food Safety Day – 7th June
This day is marked to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect, and manage food-borne risks. The theme for 2020 is ‘Food safety, everyone’s business’.
Content marketing opportunities:
- Listicle idea: Delicacies that can be dangerous if not prepared properly
- Infographic idea: X Diseases that can spread through food
- Video idea: What’s the right way to store food so that it doesn’t spoil?
- Podcast idea: How has COVID-19 changed our access to food?
Brand campaign that worked:
This video by Mytonomy explains how we can safely shop for food and groceries during the coronavirus.