Friday

Mar. 13, 2009

The Meaning of Life

by Nancy Fitzgerald

There is a moment just before
a dog vomits when its stomach
heaves dry, pumping what's deep
inside the belly to the mouth.
If you are fast you can grab
her by the collar and shove her
out the door, avoid the slimy bile,
hunks of half chewed food
from landing on the floor.
You must be quick, decisive,
controlled, and if you miss
the cue and the dog erupts
en route, you must forgive
her quickly and give yourself
to scrubbing up the mess.

Most of what I have learned
in life leads back to this.

"The Meaning of Life" by Nancy Fitzgerald from Poems I Never Wrote. © Poetry Harbor, 2001. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is Friday the 13th. The superstition that Friday is unlucky has been around for hundreds of years. Chaucer mentioned it in his Canterbury Tales, and by the 1800s, there was a whole list of things that were unlucky to do on a Friday, including needleworking, writing letters, beginning a sea voyage, moving, getting married, and going to the doctor. As for 13, its status as an unlucky number probably comes from the Bible — Judas Iscariot was said to be the 13th guest to sit at the table at the Last Supper. By the 1700s, it was a common superstition that if 13 people sat down at a table together, one of them would die. Eventually the number 13 became unlucky in any circumstance. Many hotels still skip the 13th floor, labeling it as 14. At some point, these two superstitions were combined into a fear of Friday the 13th.

It's the birthday of Uncle Sam. He made his debut on this day in 1852 as a cartoon in the New York Lantern, drawn by Frank Henry Bellew. The name "Uncle Sam" had been used to refer to the United States since about 1810, but this was the first time that someone thought to make him into a character and draw him in human form.

It's the birthday of the writer Janet Flanner, (books by this author) born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1892). Flanner got kicked out of the University of Chicago for being a "rebellious influence." She went back to Indianapolis, wrote for newspapers, and then moved to New York City to try and make it as a writer. She became friends with a woman named Jane Grant, whose husband, Harold Ross, was dreaming of starting the magazine that would become The New Yorker. In 1922, Flanner moved to Paris, where she made friends with Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemmingway. She wrote letters to Jane Grant, who shared them with her husband. Once The New Yorker was up and running, Harold Ross asked Flanner if she would contribute a letter from Paris to the magazine every two weeks. Which she did, under the pen name "Genet." "Letter from Paris" ran from 1925 to 1975.

It's the birthday of science fiction writer and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, (books by this author) Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, born in Tilden, Nebraska (1911). He started out writing for pulp magazines, and he was a prolific writer. In 1950, he published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950), which promised that a therapeutic process called auditing could erase a person's cellular traces of traumatic experiences, and that this would cure any physical or mental ailment and increase intelligence. Psychiatrists and medical professionals spoke out against Dianetics, but the book became a best-seller. Hubbard used his ideas about Dianetics to found the Church of Scientology in 1954. In 1983, 11 church leaders were convicted for conspiracy. Hubbard wasn't convicted, but he went into hiding and died of a stroke in 1986 on his ranch in California.

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

 









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