Thursday

Jul. 30, 2009

Ben

by David Budbill

You can see him in the village almost anytime.
He's always on the street.
At noon he ambles down to Jerry's
in case a trucker who's stopped by for lunch
might feel like buying him a sandwich.
Don't misunderstand, Ben's not starving;
he's there each noon because he's sociable,
not because he's hungry.
He is a friend to everyone except the haughty.

There are at least half a dozen families in the village
who make sure he always has enough to eat
and there are places
where he's welcome to come in and spend the night.

Ben is a cynic in the Greek and philosophic sense,
one who gives his life to simplicity
seeking only the necessities
so he can spend his days
in the presence of his dreams.

Ben is a vision of another way,
the vessel in this place for
ancient Christian mystic, Buddhist recluse, Taoist hermit.
Chuang Tzu, The Abbot Moses, Meister Eckhart,
Khamtul Rimpoche, Thomas Merton—
all these and all the others live in Ben, because

in America only a dog
can spend his days
on the street or by the river
in quiet contemplation
and be fed.

"Ben" by David Budbill, from Judevine. © Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the anniversary of the first meeting of the House of Burgesses, in Jamestown, in the Virginia Colony, in 1619. It was the first representative assembly in America and served as a model for later forms of local government.

It's the birthday of the novelist Emily Brontë, (books by this author) born in Thornton, England (1818). Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights(1847), considered one of the greatest love stories of all time, but she never had a lover. She and her sisters Anne and Charlotte and their brother Branwell educated themselves at home by reading their father's large collection of classic literature. They invented elaborate fantasy kingdoms and filled notebooks with the history and inhabitants of these places. Emily was the most reserved of the children.

Emily is most famous for Wuthering Heights, but she also wrote poetry; and when her sister Charlotte discovered some of Emily's poems, she said: "Of course, I was not surprised, knowing that she could and did write verse: I looked it over, and something more than surprise seized me — a deep conviction that these were not common effusions, not at all like the poetry women generally write. I thought them condensed and terse, vigorous and genuine. To my ear, they had also a peculiar music — wild, melancholy, and elevating." In 1836, Charlotte — who was the most outgoing and confident of the sisters — decided to publish their poetry, but she figured it wouldn't sell if they used their real names, so she gave them all male names, and Poems by Currier, Ellis and Acton Bell was published in 1846. Wuthering Heightscame out in 1847, and a year later, Emily died of tuberculosis at age 30, standing in the living room of her family's parsonage.

It's the birthday of Thorstein Veblen, (books by this author) born on a farm in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin (1857). His parents were Norwegian immigrants, and he had 11 brothers and sisters. He's best known for his book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), in which he came up with the idea of "conspicuous consumption."

He said, "The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where only one grew before."

It's the birthday of Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Thal, Austria (1947). He started weight training when he was 15, then became a body builder, an actor, and now he is the governor of California.

It's the birthday of the essayist and novelist William H. Gass, (books by this author) born in Fargo, North Dakota (1924). He wanted to write fiction, but he was afraid he wouldn't be able to support himself. So he got a job teaching philosophy, and he was busy teaching and raising three kids, so he wrote slowly. He only had one copy of his manuscript, written on a typewriter, and it was stolen and he had to start all over. When he finally did finish it, it was rejected over and over again. Finally, in 1966, he published Omensetter's Luck. He's also published several books of essays, including On Being Blue (1976) and Tests of Time (2002), and in 1995 he published The Tunnel (1995), a novel that is more than 600 pages long and took him almost 30 years to write.

It's the birthday of auto maker Henry Ford, born on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan (1863), who created the Model-T and the concept of an assembly line. He said: "We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's dam is the history we make today."

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

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »