Dec. 16, 2000

Living by Kindness

by Kim Stafford

Broadcast date: SATURDAY, 16 December 2000

Poem: “Living by Kindness,” by Kim Stafford, from Places and Stories (Carnegie Mellon University Press).

Living By Kindness

Strange things happen in the mind —
like the time I stopped under a streetlight
to write on an envelope a chance thought
furrowing my head —"we haven't all
killed each other yet"— and then went on
through the dark streets of my Idaho city
trudging coal dust and snow.

Next day at the lumber yard, I caught
a clerk glancing at me sideways.
Then I remembered the envelope
in my heart — pocket, its message
bold as a badge: "we haven't
all killed each other yet."

He was good to me.
Sliding a pine plank off the rack
so clean and sweet, so long, he said,
"You paid for an eight,
but all we got today is twelves."

Words have made nothing happen yet
except a free four feet of pine
and the cradle it made
and the child I held
under a light in the snow.

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge (1944), the last major German offensive in World War Two. Hitler had gathered what remained of his crack troops on the Western Front in Belgium to attack the weakest part of the American front line, creating a huge bulge in the line, near the town of Bastogne, where they were stopped by the heroic stand of the 101st Airborne.

It is the birthday of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, born in Chicago, Illinois (1928). He wrote many, many novel, for very little money: science fiction writing was not well respected in the 50s and 60s, and he earned half a cent a word for his short fiction. His first novel was Solar Lottery (1953). Among his other books was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), which was later made into the film Bladerunner (1982).

It is the birthday of English writer Arthur C(harles) Clarke, born in Minehead, Somerset, (1917). He collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on 2001–A Space Odyssey (1968) based on his short story “The Sentinel” (1951).

It is the birthday of anthropologist Margaret Meade, born in Philadelphia (1901), best known for her book, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928).

It is the birthday of Spanish poet and philosopher George Santayana, in Madrid (1863). He spent part of his childhood in Spain and part in Massachusetts, where he graduated from Harvard in 1886. His five-volume The Life of Reason (1906), focused on the imagination of man, and his four-volume The Realms of Being (1940) focused on systems within nature and the mental activity that relates to them. He’s probably best known for having said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

It is the birthday of Catherine of Aragon, born in Alcala de Henares, Spain (1485), the first wife of England's King Henry the Eighth. She gave birth to a daughter, Mary, who became Queen Mary in 1553. But Henry wanted a male heir, and tried to have his marriage to Catherine annulled by the Pope. He separated from her to marry his next wife, and had his own archbishop annul the marriage. Rome and England broke ties over this crisis, which led to the English Reformation.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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