Jan 8 2012

#253 Less is More (8)

From a stranger in Halifax, Canada

Please enjoy this selection from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
by T.S. Eliot

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous -
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

 


Dec 17 2011

#231 “I get by…”

From a stranger in reddit-land

A squirrel riding a bearded wolf… Is this the result of an overactive imagination dreaming up whimsical thoughts for the mere fun of it? Or is there something more going on here? Only the artist knows for sure, but what can easily be seen by every viewer is that there is an intimate relationship between the two characters in this picture. There’s a friendship, a codependency of sorts, that helps to show that we are not alone, that we all need companionship, and that no man is an island. And speaking of this concept, I believe it would be very fitting to pair this illustration with one of my favorite pieces from the well-loved Renaissance writer, John Donne. If you’re feeling intellectually malnourished or simply in need of emotional sustenance, or if you’re feeling up to diving into the deep end of a pool of classic literature, you should look up Donne’s “Meditation 17.” I’m sure you’ll find it very fitting.

But then again, if you’re not so much into classic literature, you might find the words of some contemporary poets a bit more fitting. Maybe John, Paul, George and Ringo said it best when they sang these simple words: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Thanks for the picture, stranger. Even though we’ve never met, we’re intimately connected, and strange as it sounds… I consider you my friend.


Aug 2 2011

#94 “Fair/Foul”

From Samreen

Macbeth paced anxiously in his quarters, stroking his beard with one hand while attempting to smooth his sweaty and furrowed brow with the other. He had left the dinner table, left his guest, his king, unattended. The prospects of the night’s venture weighed heavily upon his mind. Could he go through with the act? He had begun to have doubts. After all, King Duncan had honored him recently; he was also his king and his kinsman, distantly related by blood, but besides this, he was a guest in his own home, and if nothing else, it is the duty of the host to shut the door to the murderer, not become one, himself. He pounded a fist firmly against the table; his resolve had regained its firmness. His strength was renewed but with a new plan: He would not kill the king.

At that moment, the door swung open and a cold breeze entered the room along with the wife of Macbeth. “Why have you left the table?” She hissed. “Do you not know that he hath almost supped?”

“We’ll proceed no further in this business,” Macbeth replied. “He hath honored me of late.”

At this, the countenance of the lady fell. The demon inside took control, and the poisonous words flowed like honey from her lips: “Art thou not a man? Art thou afeard? Did thou not a promise make? I have given suck and know what it is to nurse a child, yet had I sworn you as much you to this, I would pluck my nipple from the mouth of the babe and dash its brains out; this I would do if I had promised.”

Injury. Insult. An attack on his masculinity. He could not stand for it.

“I would do all that becomes a man…” he said, sulking and turning away from her.

“Then screw your courage to the sticking point and we’ll not fail. Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it. Then, leave all the rest under my dispatch.”

And with these words, Lady Macbeth convinced her husband to follow through with the murderous plan to take the life of Duncan. As a result, a country was thrown into turmoil, countless lives were lost, and a dark blot formed on the scrolls of the history of the great nation of Scotland.

These lines are obviously not the actual ones from William Shakespeare’s famous play Macbeth, but this brief paraphrase hopefully serves as a reminder of the damage that can be done when we enter into a world of deceiving appearances. The italicized quote above by Lady Macbeth was included in the email from Samreen that accompanied this picture. Samreen also included a few brief ruminations on how appearances can be deceptive and the idea that we cannot always judge a book by its cover. Overall, this is relatively deep material to be associated with a simple wolf picture, but it fits, nonetheless.

In his discussion of this concept, Samreen noted the nonthreatening demeanor of this lupine marvel, but then stated that there was no telling what savagery might lie underneath the animal’s calm exterior.

“Come a little closer”: words that sound sweet but hold so much foreboding. The choice is yours. Keep your distance or take that step forward, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…

 


Jul 12 2011

“73 “A Midsummer Night’s Wolf”

From Emily in Chattanooga.

It’s often a wondrous experience to sit back and examine the path that the stream of one’s life has taken and to speculate what further twists and turns lie just beyond the next bend. Who can predict the track that a stream takes on its journey to the sea? Each of us must sail the river of his own existence; the eddies that pull us back and the rapids that tumultuously present life’s problems are unique and individual. Even so, at times our separate waters may overlap and become one; and thus we may become a part of waterways vast and deep and then a short while later branch off into tributaries both narrow and shallow and drift back into our own individual existences once again.

Just recently my path crossed serendipitously with a young woman in my own community known as Emily who just happens to be the illustrator of today’s post. In an accompanying letter, Emily described how she found an orange Easter egg that I had hidden in downtown Chattanooga and opened it to discover a miniature WBS flier inside. She said that she had made immediate plans to draw a wolf and send it in, but for whatever reason her intentions never came to fruition until she happened to be walking along on one of Chattanooga’s many bridges and came upon one of my fliers. It was then that she knew that fate was calling her to produce this masterpiece of “A Midsummer Night’s Wolf” and contribute it to the Wolves by Strangers project.

How stranger and funny life can be sometimes. In a community in which some people have not ever heard of this project, this young lady just happened to come into contact with my pleas in two different ways and at two different times, months apart. And then, when she did comply with the request, she did so in a way that could not be better suited to my personal interests. How could she have known that I am an ardent fan of classic literature and have studied the work of Shakespeare quite extensively? And on top of this, how could she have known of my love for unusual modern poetry when she included the poem below?

I’m not sure. I guess life is just funny sometimes.

“There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves”
by James Kavanaugh

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who prey upon them with IBM eyes
And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon.
There are men too gentle for a savage world
Who dream instead of snow and children and Halloween
And wonder if the leaves will change their color soon.

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who anoint them for burial with greedy claws
And murder them for a merchant’s profit and gain.
There are men too gentle for a corporate world
Who dream instead of candied apples and ferris wheels
And pause to hear the distant whistle of a train.

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who devour them with eager appetite and search
For other men to prey upon and suck their childhood dry.
There are men too gentle for an accountant’s world
Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
And search for beauty in the mystery of the sky.

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who toss them like a lost and wounded dove.
Such gentle men are lonely in a merchant’s world,
Unless they have a gentle one to love.


May 12 2011

#12 “Carpe Diem: Seize the Day”

From a stranger in Boulder, Colorado

There may be no singular Latin expression that has endured to a greater degree than the famous “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day.” What a fantastic notion this is; for in this one phrase lies an obvious but difficult key to happiness. This aphorism encourages us to take advantage of the time that we have on this earth, to indulge our human impulses, and to drink life to the lees; but what I find particularly interesting is that most people tend to accept this slogan as an invitation to live in such a manner that casts off responsibilities, duties, or daily tasks. I’m not sure if this was the original intention of this famous phrase.

To better understand this sentiment, I think it is necessary to examine some of the most famous literature associated with this quote from the English Renaissance. To be fair, a lot of Carpe Diem poems do seem to deal with physical pleasures and indulging our lustful desires. This idea is evident in poems such as “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell and John Donne’s “The Flea.” However, the most famous Carpe Diem poem of all time is arguably “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick. This is the poem in which the speaker encourages the virgins to gather rosebuds “while they may.” One logically assumes that the address of the poems to the “virgins” is meant as an encouragement for them to engage in sexual pleasures. This is undeniably true, but Herrick never actually mentions sex in the poem, nor does he encourage irresponsibility or immorality. In fact, what he specifically encourages the virgins to do is to get married; so while Herrick is encouraging the ladies to enjoy physical pleasures, he is also supporting responsibility.

Progressing further, another famous Carpe Diem poem that seems (at a superficial examination) to encourage a lackadaisical lifestyle is “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” I will concede that the speaker in this poem does encourage an existence focused on pleasure; but what is really interesting is that Sir Walter Raleigh actually wrote a response to this poem (“The Nymph’s Reply”) in which he bombasts this unrealistic lifestyle and accuses the shepherd of being deceitful and embracing fanciful notions too freely.

As a final note, let’s not forget that the most famous Renaissance writer of all time was William Shakespeare. It is important to point this out because much of Shakespeare’s work warned against ideas related to self-indulgence. One small example would be the tragedy of Macbeth in which the title character’s self-serving nature leads to his own pitiful downfall.

So, in conclusion, admire this wolf for his romantic sentiment, acknowledge and respect his idealistic outlook. Go ahead and “Seize the Day” if you will, but take care to remember that tomorrow is just around the corner.