“Beautiful and wise and moving book!” — Amy Friedman, author of Desperado’s Wife: A Memoir and Nothing Sacred: A Conversation with Feminism
“My favorite so far is the one on p. 122, “Nurture.” It’s just so thought-provoking and so poetic that I didn’t want it to end! “I think the mark of an excellent piece of writing is that it makes the reader want to respond in some way. That’s how I felt.” — Carol Wills, oet and mother!
“William Eaton’s Surviving the Twenty-First Century is a delicacy full of surprises and pleasures. This little book is entertaining, yet packs a quiet intellectual wallop. The stealth weapon is Jonah, 12 years old. Eaton’s intellectual forays are given meaning by his clear-eyed love for his child. Any parent will recognize those little flashes when your heart is pierced through. With humor and without gooey sentiment, Eaton suspends this sensation for readers to enjoy.” — Claire Stewart, CUNY
My sensibility is such that I do not feel that killing a stalk of wheat is somehow less bad for the wheat than killing a cow is for the cow. An argument against my position could be that cows, or crustaceans, feel pain not unlike we do, and that stalks of wheat do not. And I would say then that it is also worth appreciating the validity of the “feelings” or experiences of species and things that do not seem so like us, of species and things that may “feel” in ways we cannot imagine or that may be beyond feeling, without this implying any inferiority.
To read the original and full text of this essay, click on Warmth and love and truth. Photograph is by Michael Interisano, Close-up Of Green Wheat Stalk, Alberta
We ignore how our thinking—about feelings, bodily functions, friends, politics, what’s on the television— lets us down. I am not talking about the possibility that someone else—Sontag, say—might be smarter than I am or have more-incisive insights than I do. I am talking about thinking on a much more basic level: that a particular peach tastes particularly good, or wondering in the middle of kissing if it is going to lead to sex, or what’s for dinner? This is hardly the same as tasting the peach or kissing.
To read more: Click on Wild life, wild mind. Originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Illustration by Pat Kinsella for The Chronicle. For more on the topic of savoring, see Zeteo: On Savoring.
(A personal favorite because of its oddly repetitive, experimental approach.)
The list has ten items, plus some variations. Below are a few:
1. How could I have known this is what you wanted—because you never mentioned it?
2. The role of imagination in sensation may be underestimated. The highly sensitive may add imagination to sensation and thus perceive things, present and not present, that others cannot.
3. People express their desires reasonably clearly, but often they will not hear what their words are saying. If you respond to what has been expressed, it may seem to be you who is confused.
5. Suppose you continued to listen carefully to what people were saying, and in particular to the desires they expressed, but you responded as if they had said the opposite. Would you live in greater harmony?
Photo of Cypripedium acaule (Pink ladies slipper) is by Thomas G. Barnes, University of Tennessee Herbarium.
A parent has a great, if not entirely fulfillable responsibility to prepare his child to survive as well as possible in the social, professional, commercial and psychological jungles in which the child will find herself. And learning must be done step-by-step. Even if a child is ready intellectually to understand a complex moral argument, if she lacks a sufficient foundation of experience it will be an academic concept, hard to take seriously or retain.
In The Education Henry Adams recalls how as a young man he asked the veteran New York politician Thurlow Weed if he thought that no politician could be trusted. “Mr. Weed hesitated for a moment,” Adams writes, “then said in his mild manner:—‘I never advise a young man to begin by thinking so.’”
May each parent decide for himself at what age his child is ready to move on from “Put that back where you found it” to “Americans think that if you are not going to buy an item you should put it back where you found it,” or, “The store has suckered you into grabbing that item, now do you want to let it sucker us into giving them money for it?” Or, “If you think anyone may have seen you break that item and you want to fit in, it may make sense for you now to make a show of telling some member of the store staff what you did and that you want to pay for the item.”
To read more: Click on Sick. Originally published in the Wed del Sol World Voices series. Illustration by Richard Delgado. One of a series of illustrations he did for Surviving the Twenty-First Century.