Aug. 29, 2012
Years From Now When You Are Weary
and worn out, wondering how you'll pay
a bill or make the rent or meet a deadline
set by some thoughtless boss—and kid,
such days will come—remember yourself
at five: hair light from the sun or just from
being young, new lunchbox pasted
with butterflies, how you hung your backpack
on a hook, then wouldn't let me take your picture
on the first day of school, sending me
out of that classroom, to the car, to my job
where a pair of bats flapped in the hallway.
Bats may be just bats, but one darted
into my office, quick as the boxer's head
that bobs and weaves and never gets hit.
It landed and hung from the drapes, upside
down, as you hung in my body for a while.
Bats are not the only flying mammals.
That afternoon in line for the bus, you cried,
so tired you thought you'd fall asleep
and miss your stop. Years from now, child,
in some helpless dusk, remember that fatigue
but how you made it home to me anyway
in the care of a kind farmer—bus driver.
Recall that once I arrived late, your bus
gone, and when I found you, carefully seated
by a coffeepot in a corner of a dim garage
at the school bus lot, you just said, Let's go,
Mama. Don't tell anyone about this.
It's the birthday of the man who said, "Love is the master-key that opens the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and, most easily of all, the gate of fear. How terrible is the one fact of beauty!" That's 19th-century poet and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (books by this author), born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1809).
He ran in the same circles as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and other Boston intellectuals. He helped found The Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1857, and it was Holmes himself who came up with the name. He published his poetry and articles in TheAtlantic Monthly at the same time he practiced medicine and taught at Harvard Medical School. He's also the father of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
He's perhaps best-known for his essays that make up the "Breakfast Table" series. In The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1872) he wrote, "We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible."
He said: "Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked. Good mental machinery ought to break its own wheels and levers, if anything is thrust among them suddenly which tends to stop them or reverse their motion. A weak mind does not accumulate force enough to hurt itself; stupidity often saves a man from going mad."
It's the birthday of the man who said, "The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts": British philosopher John Locke (books by this author), born in Wrington, Somerset, England (1632). He believed all of our knowledge is derived from the senses. He also believed that we can know about morality with the same precision we know about math, because we create our ideas. His Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1688) was an instant success and sparked debate all across Europe.
Locke said, "Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®