It’s the birthday of Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti, born in London in 1830.
She published her most famous collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862), when she was 31 years old. And most people today would probably recognize one of her poems as a well-known Christmas carol.
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter
–From The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, December 5, 2022
What an amazing writer is David Shepherd! He is creative, prolific, delightful, and diverse (homilies, autobiographies, children’s Bible stories, and detective stories–often with naughty bits as well as who-done-its). I am honored to have his books on my library shelf. Thank you for your inspiration and wit, David. I remain in awe.
Yesterday I heard part of a the TED Radio Hour and was intrigued by the ideas discussed, “How Things Spread.” While I was tickled by the recordings of laughter in “Why is Laughter Contagious?” presented by Sophie Scott, I was intrigued by a word in Seth Godin’s “What Makes an Idea Go Viral?”—-“remarkable.”
In the show, Seth explained that in addition to meaning “Neat!” “remarkable means ‘worth making a remark about’ and that is the essence of where idea diffusion is going.” The host summarizes “that ideas spread faster when the people that you like talk about them.” Seth says ideas spread when it’s “giving people a tool that they can share and benefit from.”
“Marketing used to make average products for average people. That’s what mass marketing is. They would ignore the geeks and, God-forbid, the laggards. It was all about going for the center. I don’t think we go for that strategy anymore. Instead you have to find a group that really desperately cares about what it is you have to say; talk to them. They have what I call ‘otaku‘” [an obsession]. He goes on to explain that to spread an idea/product/etc without a constituency with an otaku is essentially impossible. People only tell their friends about things they care or are obsessed about.
(I was concerned of course that he says that the people who get others to spread their ideas “win,” but in fairness he is interested in this topic because he is a marketeer and that sounds like creating-desire-in-people-to-buy-things-they-don’t-really-want-or-need. So that’s me. Still, I too am interested in understanding why some ideas spread and others do not. And, again in fairness, he does talk about ideas and concepts as well as products.)
He goes on to compare the spread of ideas with the spread of disease. Patterns in epidemiology are similar for ideas. And even with all of this, having something go viral is not easy: “We are better in the rearview mirror than we are predicting.”
I am interested in these ideas especially around introducing the Salon Postisme Suite of Fictions to readers, not as commodity books but as fictions with strands of ideas worthy of reflection/consideration. More on that soon…
Things are a little messy currently on my blog–sorry! I am finding some duplication of posts and pages as well as the reappearance of the occasional old news resurfacing; funny things happen sometimes when you move content to a new location. I hope to tidy things up so the past posts are more accessible.
“None of us can truly know what we mean to other people, and none of us can know what our future self will experience. History and philosophy ask us to remember these mysteries, to look around at friends, family, humanity, at the surprises life brings — the endless possibilities that living offers — and to persevere. There is love and insight to live for, bright moments to cherish, and even the possibility of happiness, and the chance of helping someone else through his or her own troubles. Know that people, through history and today, understand how much courage it takes to stay. Bear witness to the night side of being human and the bravery it entails, and wait for the sun. If we meditate on the record of human wisdom we may find there reason enough to persist and find our way back to happiness. The first step is to consider the arguments and evidence and choose to stay. After that, anything may happen. First, choose to stay.”
Read the final chapter here and listen to Krista’s interview with the philosopher-poet here.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save. – Mary Oliver
“To laugh often and much to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child a garden patch or redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”
…you’ve got to watch this video of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard brain scientist, describe the experience of having a stroke. Listen to what she says about the left and right sides of the brain…and where the potential to become perceptive lies.
Wow! I just finished this book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, and am fascinated by the story.
It begins with the life of William in Malawi and ends with how his curiosity and persistence led to life changing events. And all of it is wondrous. From the descriptions of his village and the people who live there to the story of how his father met his mother to the devastating famine in Malawi to the creation of his own windmill, the story is told simply and tenderly. It ends with an update on William’s life and how his own ingenuity is allowing him to flourish and to assist his village as well.
I couldn’t help but marvel at what it took for William to build the windmill that generates electricity. He had only a book or two from the three shelf local library’s, and none was a “how-to” manual. He used scraps of metal and wood cleverly and was often forced to substitute one seemingly irreplaceable component with something rough. He didn’t discover electricity…but he did find a way to create it using only the simplest of materials. His first public description of how he did what he did: “I try, and I made it!” And that creation has taken him into the wide world.
He has now been many places describing his innovations and serving as an inspiration to others who have less. Perhaps the most important consequences of his travels have been his validation by others and his realization of how other cultures developed: “Seeing this, it gave me even more confidence that we Africans can develop our continent if we just put our minds and abundant resources together and stop waiting on others to do it for us.”
Yesterday I attended a luncheon held by a new friend that I haven’t known very long and don’t yet know very well. The invitation read:
I’m organizing a lunch for the most interesting women I’ve met recently on Sept 25 (Friday) at my house. Could you come? As it turns out, I think that none of the women know each other except for me! So it will be especially fun. Please say yes.
My response? “Of course! How could I decline?!”
I am really glad I went. We were ten and I, in fact, only knew one woman other than the hostess. And what a group they were: artists, statisticians, counselors, teachers, writers, volunteers, aging specialists, researchers, listeners, social activists…and that’s just what I remember from their personal descriptions. Wow!
The conversation was wide ranging with participation by the entire group; no one was silent. Each story stimulated a new story with no sense of one-upping. There were no awkward silences and yet no prompts were necessary. No one took over the floor but no one held back. The group was dynamic, interesting, and interested.
The meal was delightful: a composed salad of all sorts of vegetables and greens, crusty bread with butter, and a perfect dessert of vanilla custard with a chewy cookie. It looked so lovely on the table that we hardly wanted to sit down to devour it.
What a truly special event! I felt valued by someone that I knew only a little. And I felt honored to be included among such a fine group of self-aware, competent and articulate women.