Jan. 17, 2010

The More Loving One

by W. H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

"The More Loving One" by W.H. Auden, from Collected Poems. © The Modern Library — Random House, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet William Stafford, (books by this author) born in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1914. Among his best-known books are The Rescued Year (1966), Stories That Could Be True: New and Collected Poems (1977), and Traveling Through the Dark (1962). He taught for many years at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon.

Stafford usually wrote in the early morning. He sat down with a pen and paper, took a look out the window, and waited for something to occur to him. He wrote, "In the winter, in the dark hours, when others / were asleep, I found these words and put them / together by their appetites and respect for / each other. In stillness, they jostled. They traded / meanings while pretending to have only one."

It's the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, (books by this author) born in Boston (1706). After he retired from the printing business a wealthy man when he was 43, he turned his attention to science and inventions. He had already invented a safer, heat-efficient stove — called the Franklin stove — which he never patented because he created it for the good of society. He also established the first fire company and came up with the idea of fire insurance. When he grew tired of taking off and putting on his glasses, Franklin had two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in a single frame, now called bifocals. Among Franklin's other inventions are swim fins, the odometer, and the lightning rod.

And as the author, printer, and publisher of Poor Richard's Almanac, he circulated adages such as "Little strokes fell great oaks," and "Early to bed and early to rise, Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

It's the birthday of Sebastian Junger, (books by this author) born in Belmont, Massachusetts (1962), the author of the best-selling book The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea (1997), about a Massachusetts commercial fishing boat and its crew of six caught off the coast of Nova Scotia in a massive storm in October 1991. The last time the crew checked in, they reported wind gusts of 80 knots (150 kilometers per hour) and waves of 30 feet. Later weather reports indicated that the waves had gotten bigger than 100 feet.

At the time Junger heard news of the storm, he was recovering from a bad injury in which he'd accidentally cut his leg with a chainsaw. He wanted to be a journalist, but was working as a tree-cutter to make ends meet. While he was bedridden and nursing his leg, he started thinking about dangerous professions like cutting trees and fishing out at sea, and the sorts of people who chose or were forced out of economic necessity to take on hazardous jobs. He wanted to write a book about these people. And while he was thinking about this, six men on a 72-foot commercial fishing vessel that set sail from his home state were lost at sea, caught in "the perfect storm."

When his book was published in 1997, it was a huge rousing success. Since then, Junger has pursued his dream of being a foreign correspondent. He's written for Vanity Fair and National Geographic and reported from places like Kosovo, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan. He's also set up a foundation to give scholarships to the children of fishermen.

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




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