Untethered Dog

A Commonplace By Tom Swift

Fear

The road is steep
The air is thin
I hear a voice inside my skin
Don’t be afraid
Your days won’t end with night
Feel the sun
Drink the rain
Let your body heal its pain
Bathe beneath a waterfall of light

-Paul Simon, “Proof of Love” (2016)

Breaks

Will you stop for a while, stop trying to pull yourself
together
for some clear “meaning” — some momentary summary?
no one
can have poetry or dances, prayers or climaxes all day,
the ordinary
blankness of little dramatic consciousness is good for the
health sometimes,
only Dostoevsky can be Dostoeveskian at such long
long tumultuous stretches,
look what that intensity did to poor great Van Gogh;
linger, lunge,
scrounge and be stupid, that doesn’t take much centering
of one’s forces,
as wise Whitman said “lounge and invite the soul.” Get
enough sleep,
and not only because (as Cocteau said) “poetry is the
literature of sleep”;
be a dumb bell for a few minutes at least, we don’t want
Sunday church bells
ringing constantly.

-John Tagliabue, “Moderation is Not a Negation of Intensity, But Helps Avoid Monotony,” New and Selected Poems: 1942-1997

Time

I’ve seen you say that you don’t believe in small talk. Why not?

For one, it’s boring. Two, I’m a great believer in the logic of economics. Economists talk about opportunity cost. The opportunity cost of making small talk is that I can’t get a lot of other things done. Patience, to me, is not a great virtue, because it cuts down on the things you can do.

-Andy Greene, interviewing Barney Frank, “The Last Word,” Rolling Stone, 8-11-2016

Grace

Amazing grace!
how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost,
but now am found;
was blind,
but now can see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved.

-John Newton (1779)

Happiness

So early it’s almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usually early morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and none boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys

I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm.
It’s early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

-Raymond Carver, “Happiness,” All of Us (2000)

Fear

One of the themes I try to convey to [unborn son] Rivers as I continue to shoot video journals is, Acknowledge your fear, but proceed anyway. I had to take my own advice as this film was being made. Acknowledge and proceed.

-Steve Gleason, who has ALS, “Being Human,” Sports Illustrated, 7-25-2016

Effort

The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.

-Pierre de Coubertin, scoreboard at Wembley Stadium, 1948 Olympics

Self

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting, too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling, “If,” A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

Action

Rose: [to her husband] No answer is also an answer!

Café Society (2016)

Action

‘We have spoken in jest many times, you and I,’ Baggar Vance addressed Junah, ‘about why I initially attached myself to to you, and why I’ve never strayed far from your side all these years. It was for this day, Junah. As we go, I will teach you.’

He nodded to me; I bent to the golf bag and passed it to him. Bagger Vance set it upright before the champion, its hickory-shafted irons flashing like quivered arrows in the sun. The Krewe Island car pulled up alongside us. Across the duneland you could hear the galleries cheer as [Walter] Hagen and [Bobby] Jones approached the first tee.

‘Your heart is kind, Junah. You have seen the agony of war and you wish never again to harm anything or anyone. So you choose not to act. As if by that choice, you will cause no harm.

‘This intention is admirable as far as it goes, but it fails to apprehend the deeper imperative of life. Life is action, Junah. Even choosing not to act, we act. We cannot do otherwise. Therefore, act with vigor!’

Vance glanced once to McDermott, to let the professional know we were coming. Then he turned back to his champion.

‘Stand now, Junah, and take your place. Do honor to yourself and to your station!”

-Steven Pressfield, The Legend of Baggar Vance (1995)