Jun. 5, 2008
Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life's ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.
It's the birthday of economist Adam Smith, (books by this author) born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland (1723), a little fishing village with a busy seaport. Out the windows of his boyhood home, Smith could see all of that bustling activity, and he grew up to write an important book in the history of economics: The Wealth of Nations (1776), which said that market forces serve the public good, and that government regulation, for the most part, does not.
Today is also the birthday of the economist John Maynard Keynes, (books by this author) born in Cambridge, England (1883). He's best known for his book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published during the Great Depression in 1935. He argued that governments can correct severe depressions by spending lots of money, even if it means running a deficit, to put people back to work. Keynes's ideas greatly influenced Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal polices, and his ideas have been used to justify budget deficits ever since.
It's the birthday of Richard Scarry, (books by this author) born in Boston (1919). He's the author of more than 300 books for children. He said that what made him happiest as an author was receiving letters from people telling him that their copies of his books were all worn out, or were held together with Scotch tape.
He spent his boyhood roaming the surrounding poplar groves and vegetable fields. He said, "My very earliest experiences are associated with the land and work on the land. ... My whole childhood was centered on the village. Shepherds, fields, sky, solitude. Total simplicity. ... I have a huge store of childhood recollections in which I can hear the people speaking. This is poetic memory, and I trust it implicitly."
In 1929, he left Spain for the first time and traveled to New York. He didn't speak any English and suffered from deep culture shock and felt so alienated and isolated that he became suicidal. He wrote about his experiences in Poeta en Nueva York (1930; published posthumously in 1940). He said, "The only things that the United States has given to the world are skyscrapers, jazz, and cocktails. That is all. And in Cuba, in our America, they make much better cocktails."
He visited Cuba, then returned to Spain in at the start of the Spanish Civil War. He was at his country home there in 1936 when Franquist soldiers arrested him, jailed him, and then a few days later took Lorca to a cemetery and shot him. He was 38 years old.
He said, "As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die."
And, "In Spain, the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®