Sunday

Jun. 15, 2014

Solitude

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

"Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Public Domain. (buy now)

It's the birthday of advertising exec-turned-writer Ilene Beckerman (books by this author), born in Manhattan (1935). She didn't begin her writing career until the age of 60, and even then, she became a published author almost by accident. She had written and illustrated a book for her five children, something to remember her by. She said: "My purpose was to say things to my children one doesn't have the time to say. I wanted them to know I wasn't always their mother. I was a girl, I had best friends, we did stupid things together. I was on a bus with my friend once eating dog bones so people would look at us. I wanted them to know."

She took the book she'd written down to the ad agency she owned, to use the machines there to make a dozen photocopies. She put them in big red binders, with the illustrations she had sketched in plastic sheet protectors, and handed them out to her children and a few close friends. She was done, or thought she was. Then, the cousin of a friend got a hold of one of the binders and sent it over to Algonquin Books. Pretty soon, the publisher was calling her about publishing her book. Beckerman said that they offered her "an advance that had a comma in it. I think I fainted."

The book came out in 1995, and was called Love, Loss, and What I Wore. It's the story of her life growing up in Manhattan in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, accompanied by drawings of the clothes that she was wearing during that time. She insists that clothing plays an integral part in many women's memories, that they can recall important events or distinct spans of their lives by what they were wearing at the time. When the book came out, bookstores were not sure whether to market it as memoir or fashion. It has now sold more than 100,000 copies.

Beckerman insists that clothes are the least important part of her book, which she considered a memoir. The book contains advice and aphorisms from her grandmother, who raised her, such as, "If you have to stand on your head to make somebody happy, all you can expect is a big headache."

It's the birthday of psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson (books by this author), born in Frankfurt, Germany (1902). He argued that the human life cycle could be understood as a series of eight developmental stages. He said each stage has its own "crisis" that must be overcome before moving on to the next stage. For adolescents, the crisis is figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life — and that's where the term "identity crisis" comes from.

It's the birthday of Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa (books by this author), born in Kashiwabara, Japan (1763). He's one of the masters of the Japanese form of poetry called haiku, which uses 17 Japanese characters broken into three distinct units. He spent most of his adult life traveling around Japan, writing haiku, keeping a travel diary, and visiting shrines and temples across the country. By the end of his life, he had written more than 20,000 haiku celebrating the small wonders of everyday life.

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

 









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