When someone truly great leaves us, there is a palpable sense that we must figure out a way to go into the unknown future without them. Maya Angelou was one of those people. RIP.
Poet, author, and activist Maya Angelou has died at 86. Brian Lehrer spoke with her last year about her life, work, family, and more.
-Jody, BL Show-
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Photo by Matthias Steinbach
Each month, two to three new cases are admitted for tuberculosis and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment in MSF’s Green House clinic in Mathare, one of the largest under-resourced neighborhoods in Nairobi, Kenya. In early 2014, MSF put the first patient on “compassionate use” treatment with bedaquiline, the first new drug to treat TB in 40 years. This allows a pharmaceutical company to provide a drug that has not yet been through all the required clinical trials to physicians for patients who have no other therapeutic alternative. According to the World Health Organization, Kenya ranks tenth on the list of countries with the 22 highest TB burdens in the world and third in Africa for prevalence and incidence.
It reads: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
I love the juxtaposition of the script of one of the first societies to introduce a hierarchical society to humans with the text of a document that seeks to bring that period of history to a final close. Full circle.
“To appreciate the wild and sharp flowers of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. The outdoor air and exercise which the walker gets give a different tone to his palate, and he craves a fruit which the sedentary would call harsh and crabbed. They must be eaten in the fields, when your system is all aglow with exercise, when the frosty weather nips your fingers, the wind rattles the bare boughs or rustles the few remaining leaves, and the jay is heard screaming around. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet.”
Not an October fruit. But the idea is the same.
|—||Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels|
"A Walk by the "Lost" Creek"
The other day, I went walking in what they call Lost Creek Park. It has a trail that nowadays is mostly used as a jogging path for the people of my Texas town, Sugar Land. Here the community is as diverse as the globe, and as I walked along the path I heard a dozen languages being spoken which a mere twenty years ago were never before heard in the woods by that creek near the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. This comes even as the language of those who once reclined along its banks shucking oysters for their dinner, which for generations was the only human language ever shouted or whispered among these trees and vines - that of the Karankawa Indians - is now lost even to linguists, such was the rapid pace of their destruction when outsiders from elsewhere began their settlement in the area in earnest.
Since I was there to scout for wild Muscadine grapes and late dewberries, it struck me that for everyone else, and for me during the great majority of my life growing up not a quarter mile away, it was the usual habit never to look deeply or intently into the thick, jungle-like creekside foliage in the lushness of May. Now that I was there for this odd purpose, I sensed how out of place I was.
You would think, for as little as the passing joggers peer into the woods, that the green life of this Texas forest was so verdant as to be impenetrable to the eye, though in fact you can nearly always see straight to the other bank of the creek, if you will only look long enough. This last, I suppose, is the relevant requirement, since for a jogger or cyclist hurrying by, the green tunnel they create with their speed must surely seem opaque.
And so I thought, as a cluster of immature grapes caught my eye, and a language quite alien to me spoken by two passersby mingled with the wind on the leaves and the birdcalls to reach my ears, of what Thoreau once wrote:
"Most of us are still related to our native fields as the navigator to undiscovered islands in the sea. We can any afternoon discover a new fruit there which will surprise us by its beauty or sweetness."
I thought then that it was truly strange when such a saying as this, in my town, had become literally true, given that the land was actually foreign to the majority of its residents, not simply for the neglect of which Thoreau wrote, but also because the land, though it houses them and their families, was, given the faraway lands of their birth, all the more foreign to them as they sped by me while I plucked a bunch of handsome green grapes.
A few minutes later, as I ventured down away from the trail toward the bank of the creek (ignoring the over-cautious signs warning to stay away for fear of water moccasins and our nearly-extirpated but much-fabled alligators), which was covered in wild onions and cattails, I glimpsed the momentary glow of a firefly in the failing light of dusk. The small dance it did in the air as it sparingly performed its trick, for no one but me to see, seemed to me then as strange and foreign as any language or culture from overseas, though in fact in my own case, this proverbial field was my native one in the original sense of the word.
As I left the place, my bunch of grapes in hand, it occurred to me that the creek is indeed lost, but not in the way the planners of our town had in mind when they chose the name Lost Creek Park. If our generation is to one day redeem itself, we must hope our diverse descendants who inhabit this place will one day find it again, as the Karankawa had found it before, and, perchance, even dare to change its name a final time.
"It’s not that he was fearless, it’s that he was motivated to face his fears."
That’d be flattering.. For now I can just strive in that direction.
"But there have always been some of the others, the willful loners. And out alone for a time yourself you have some illusion of knowing why they are as they are. You hear the big inhuman pulse they listen for, by themselves, and you know their shy nausea around men and their relief of escape. Or you think you do…
There was old Sam Sowell. He didn’t live on the river, but not far from it either, in the limestone and cedar country near Glen Rose. His home was a dugout on a hill with a grove of live oaks, on the backest back end of 180 acres that belonged to him. In those depression days the land would have been expensive at seven dollars an acre, but it was his bank. He subsisted on flour and beans and fatback and squirrel and mustard greens and such luxuries, and he dipped snuff. When he needed to buy anything, he would chop two cedar posts out of the matted brake that covered most of his estate, and would shoulder them and walk straight across country three and a half miles to a store on the Stephenville road. There he would trade the posts for two bits’ worth of whatever merchandise it was that he wanted, and would walk back home.”
Mankind’s greatest lie:
“No good deed goes unpunished.”
Refute it yourself.
A tear, wiped away.
Wounds, set to heal. Each one is
A grand masterpiece.
Look back on your life.
Have you ever regretted
Doing something good?
No matter how old,
Or young, or rich, or poor, or
Sick - doing good heals.
The indifferent world?
But there’s love and kindness here.
It’s all around us.
Ever made someone
Smile? Remember how it felt.
Feel that way again.
Simply doing good
Trumps all other ecstasies.
No high can compare.
When is the last time
Someone cried on your shoulder?
On their behalf: thanks.
Ever needed help?
Someone out there needs you, too.
So go and find them.
What makes life worth it?
Isn’t it just everything
Good we’ve ever done?
Whenever, wherever, there’s
The right thing to do.
The world is scary,
But that much less if you do
Every evil fact
Is an opportunity
To do the right thing.
Dwell on this saying:
“Today you, tomorrow me,”
And pay it forward.
“Goodness: the only
Investment that never fails.”
Wise Thoreau said that.
Many helped you, but
There’s no debt you can’t repay
By helping others.
What is selfishness
But a disease to be cured
With simple kindness?
Is goodness cheesy?
Or is it cynicism
That’s spreading evil?
Bad news: you’re going
To die. So what do you want
To do while you’re here?
There’s no better thing
Than being renewed by good -
An eternal Spring.
Defend the weak, and
Comfort the weary and sick.
It *is* that simple.
No, it’s not a scam or a cheesy kickstarter, it’s for a non-profit I work for (so I can vouch how badly any money is needed): The New Orleans Fruit Tree Project! Our work involves harvesting fruit from people’s private trees that wouldn’t have used it anyway, and donating the harvests to food banks.
A sensible initiative, wouldn’t you agree? Today is GiveNOLA Day, a 24-hour donation-spree for local non-profits in New Orleans. Since there are so few of us that work at the Fruit Tree Project (and we are all volunteers), I figured I ought to do my part by publicizing the chance to help us out as much as I can.
So, if you would like to do a good deed today and throw a few dollars our way (which has the potential to be matched, and more), here is the link: