Category Archives: Life

Zarathustra Speaks to the Stream

I’ve been away from this blog for a while but recently a few people have encouraged me to return to it. I thought I’d start with the big event that occurred during the haitus, which was to get remarried!

Long-time readers may remember a little piece of existential philosohy I wrote called Zarathustra Speaks to the Trees. Borrowing the main character of Nietzche’s famous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, it explicated my outlook on life at the time. For my wedding, I borrowed the wise man again to talk about love, marriage, and my relationship with my bride-to-be.

* * * * *

As Zarathustra was descending the mountain that borders the Lake of Blue and Silver, he heard a stream tumbling and playing down a rocky bed. It was such a joyous sound that he decided to visit the stream. 

Approaching, he called out, “Hail, friends!”  

“You call us friends,” replied the stream. “but most who come this way see only me, and not my companion. Perhaps you are the sage, Zarathustra, who is rumored to travel this land from time to time.” 

“I am,” said he, “but as for there being two of you–stream and stream-bed–it could not be more obvious. Stream, I could hear your laughter at a hundred paces, and there are few who laugh alone. I might even say that I hear the unique notes of love in your laughter.”  

“You are right about that, too” said the stream-bed. “In fact, we are to be married next week.” And then, after a pause, “Perhaps you would favor us with some advice for our life together, and pronounce your blessing?” 

“Tell me about yourselves first,” said the wise man. “Why do you love each other? And what does love mean to you?” 

The stream-bed spoke first. “She is my reason for being. Without her, I would only be a dry home for lizards and the insects they hunt.” 

“Without him, I would be a swamp,” she laughed. 

“Not so, my dear. You would find your way down the mountainside without me. But it is my joy to carry you to the Lake of Blue and Silver, where the sun dances by day and the stars are doubled at night.” 

“And carry me he does. He holds me so close that there is no space between us, yet I am always free to leap and play as I please.” 

“She fits me so perfectly and covers me so completely that I want for nothing, yet she is so clear that I can always see the sky.” 

“I am not always clear,” she said to Zarathustra. “Sometimes I carry sediment that falls into him like slow tears. He receives it in a quiet, peaceful place and I am able to leave it behind.” 

“When I am down,” he said, “when I plunge most steeply, she becomes more beautiful, sometimes even becoming a misty rainbow. Invariably, I recover soon after.” 

“But most of the time,” said the stream, “we just enjoy life together, as we were doing when you arrived.”   

“You seem well-matched,” said Zarathustra. “What do you see in your distant future?” 

“I am going to the Lake of Blue and Silver,” said the stream. “There is a star that we have chosen together, and when I have come to the place of my resting, I will hold the reflection of our star in my heart forever.” 

“I do not know how my journey ends,” said the stream-bed. “It is not my nature to move as easily as my love, nor is my destination as well-determined. Whatever happens, it is enough for me that she holds our star. 

“And now, Zarathustra, perhaps you would give us your counsel and your blessing?” 

“I shall address you first, my rocky friend. You have great strength, but a stream-bed without a stream is just an obstacle. You have well said that the stream is your reason for being. As long as you act from that principle, you will bless not only her, but everyone who travels this way–yourself, too, for her lovelines and clarity will become the lens through which you see the world. 

“Stream, your task is easier. Your nature is to refresh everyone you touch, and at this you will succeed without any effort at all. However, if your husband is wise, he will offer spaces in which you may multiply your loveliness: cool, shady pools in which you can become deeper; rocky, winding courses where you can frolic; and tranquil expanses where you can spread out and reflect the sun. Enjoy them all without fear, for he loves you.  

“My blessing for your marriage is this: May rock guide water so gently, and may water carve rock so tenderly, that your growing harmony will seem at once miraculous and inevitable.” 

Thus spoke Zarathustra. 

* * * * *

For our first anniversary, in August of 2019, I commissioned this painting. Zarathustra was from Persia, which was centered in what is now Iran, so I was thrilled to find the Iranian artist Sahar Ghavimi living in a town near me. She painted it in the style of a traditional Iranian miniature.

The caption is a translation into Farsi of a line from the story: her loveliness will become the lens through which you see the world.

Racially Profiled in His Own Driveway?

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A Tudor-Style Home in Hartford, CT

When I was a baby-faced teenaged boy, I was in a department store and a sales clerk asked, “Can I help you, ma’am?” Talk about humiliating! When I responded in my teenaged-boy voice, the clerk realized his mistake and was as embarrassed as I was.

I was recently in a jewelry store where I wanted to buy a semi-custom item. I described what I wanted and asked the woman behind the counter, “Would you be the one to help me with that?”  I cringed because I knew she was probably thinking, “He would not ask a man that question. It’s only because I’m a woman that it enters his head that I might not know what I’m talking about.” Of course, that was not the case. I didn’t know if she was a sales clerk or an actual jeweler, so I had to ask the question before I rambled on and wasted both our time.

Now imagine that for your whole life people have assumed you are less than you are, just because of your race. That was the case for retired professional Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville, who is African-American.

As a successful man with a full career after 15 years as a baseball player, he had plenty of money and lived in one of the “nicer” neighborhoods in Hartford, Connecticut. One day he was shoveling snow in his driveway. Here is his account of what happened next:

A police officer from West Hartford had pulled up across the street, exited his vehicle, and begun walking in my direction. I noted the strangeness of his being in Hartford—an entirely separate town with its own police force—so I thought he needed help. He approached me with purpose, and then, without any introduction or explanation he asked, “So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?”

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The Gentleman and the Jester

James HamblinJames Hamblin of The Atlantic is one of my favorite columnists. He’s a 35-year-old medical doctor who looks like a teenager and has a wonderfully dry sense of humor. For example, he wrote a piece this summer called The Eclipse Conspiracy:

On August 21, the “moon” will pass between the Earth and the sun, obscuring the light of the latter. The government agency NASA says this will result in “one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights.” The astronomers there claim to have calculated down to the minute exactly when and where this will happen, and for how long. They have reportedly known about this eclipse for years, just by virtue of some sort of complex math.

…Meanwhile the scientists tell us we can’t look at it without special glasses because “looking directly at the sun is unsafe.”

That is, of course, unless we wear glasses that are on a list issued by these very same scientists. Meanwhile, corporations like Amazon are profiting from the sale of these eclipse glasses. Is anyone asking how many of these astronomers also, conveniently, belong to Amazon Prime?

Let’s follow the money a little further. Hotels along the “path of totality” — a region drawn up by Obama-era NASA scientists — have been sold out for months. Some of those hotels are owned and operated by large multinational corporations. Where else do these hotels have locations? You guessed it: Washington, D.C.

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The Virtue of Hopelessness

Here’s one more post (for now) on the philosophy of actor Jim Carrey. He said,

There’s a virtue in hopelessness. I’m not kidding. You’re off the hook and you don’t have to worry about what’s coming. “Okay, the world freaking ended. That’s great. Now what?” Give up! Surrender to the idea that things are bad and yet still, from 3,000 feet up, we don’t matter. Things are happening and we’re going to happen along with them whether we like it or not. But we don’t matter. …Once you lose yourself, you’re pretty okay. Just get out of the way.

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People Will Surprise You

CuneiformIn case the last 59 years had not taught me this already, I learned it again this morning: the moment you think you have someone pegged, they will surprise you.

Today’s lesson came as I overheard a conversation in Starbucks between two gentlemen who could only be described as bros. One looked to be in his early 20s and was wearing a sweatshirt from his high school. The other was probably in his mid-thirties but looked older. To give you the flavor of the conversation, here are some things that were said.

On Marriage

Older bro: I don’t ever want to get married.

Younger bro: I know; getting married scares me to death. The only way I’d ever marry someone is if I loved her so much that I wouldn’t care if she took everything [in a divorce].

Older bro: Women are much better than we are, dude. Men do everything half-assed. Women work hard.

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Transformative Experience

Transformative ExperienceOnly eight posts ago, I lamented that the more important our decisions are, the less thought we seem to put into them. We only invest enough thought to find what makes us feel good, I said, and I wished we would apply more rational thought to our big choices.

Maybe I was asking too much.

Philosopher L.A. Paul says that when it comes to truly life-changing decisions — ones that transform the way you think or your mode of being — there’s no way we can be entirely rational, because on the other side of those decisions we will be so profoundly changed that our present selves can have no idea what our future selves will think.

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What Defines You: What You Think or What You Do?

In the movie Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) is acting the part of an outrageous playboy in order to maintain his cover. At the tail end of one escapade, who should appear but Rachel Dawes, a friend from years ago whose admiration he craves. He tries to explain that what she has just witnessed does not represent the real Bruce Wayne.

Rachel devastatingly replies, “Deep down you may still be that same great kid you used to be. But it’s not who you are underneath; it’s what you do that defines you.”

Is that true?

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