May 16, 2009
And when I died, the devil came and said,
"Now here's the deal: I'll give you your old life
all over once again, no strings attached.
Like an actor in a play, of course, you'll have
to follow the same script that you rehearsed
the first time through—you cannot change a glance,
a word, a gesture; but think of taking your first
steps again, and having your first romance
repeat itself, your love back from the dead,
beautiful and new and seventeen.
What matter if you see the future coming—
The cloven hoof of sorrow, loss's horn—
her dreamy eye, her nodding head?"
Get thee behind me, Satan, I should have said.
You can say what you want about the evils of technology
and the mimicry of birds; I love it. I love the sheer,
unexpurgated hubris of it, I love the beaten egg whites
of clouds hovering beneath me, this ephemeral Hamlet
of believing in man's grandeur. You can have all that
talk about the holiness of nature and the second Babylon.
You can stay shocked about the future all you want,
reminisce about the beauties of midwifery. I'll lake this
anyday, this sweet imitation of Mars and Jupiter, this
sitting still at 600 mph like a jet-age fetus. I want to
go on looking at the moon for the rest of my life and seeing
footsteps. I want to keep flying, even for short distances,
like here between Columbus and Toledo on Air Wisconsin:
an Andean condor sailing over Ohio, above the factories.
above the dust and the highways and the miserable tires.
Today is the feast day of St. Brendan, patron saint of sailors and travelers.
It's the birthday of poet Adrienne Rich, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1929). She said, "Poetry is the liquid voice that can wear through stone."
It's the birthday of Studs Terkel, born Louis Terkel in New York City (1912). He had a hard childhood — his father was sickly and his mother was strict. His family moved to Chicago, where his parents managed a hotel.
When he was 17, he had an epiphany. It was the Great Depression, and he was walking by the house of a family that had just been evicted. Their few possessions were sitting on the sidewalk. But that evening, electricians, plumbers, and carpenters who lived in the neighborhood came over, moved the family back in, turned on the gas, and fixed the plumbing. He said, "It's the community in action that accomplishes more than any individual does, no matter how strong he may be."
Studs Terkel served in WWII as a speechwriter, then came back to Chicago and got his own radio show, The Wax Museum. But he was blackballed from commercial radio for his leftist politics, so he got a job playing records at WFMT, where he stayed for 45 years.
Terkel went around interviewing ordinary people and writing oral histories, including Division Street: America (1966), Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970), and Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974).He died just last year, at the age of 96.
He said, "I'm celebrated for celebrating the uncelebrated."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®