Category Archives: miscellaneous; general interest

“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

 

RED_SQUARE_RUSSIA’S_PULSING_H

 

It is often claimed that either Lenin or Stalin said this. The phrase — as S. J. Taylor. the author of Stalin’s Apologist: Walter Duranty; The New York Times’s Man in Moscow, has noted — “would become the standard rationalization of Stalin’s actions during the First Five-Year Plan, years that would cover the brutal process of collectivization, the ‘liquidation of the kulaks as a class’—and the devastating famine that followed.”

It was Duranty who popularized the phrase, in his poem “Red Square,” published in the New York Times Magazine on September 18, 1932.

Russians may be hungry and short of clothes and comfort
But you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2022

what sort of man was Dr. Colp?

 

I shared this whole letter from my mother to my father — a very long and loving letter, written when my parents were in middle age, seven years before my mother’s untimely death — with my therapist, Dr. Ralph Colp Jr.

The salutation is so tender and touching, I said to him.

It brings tears to my eyes, he replied.

 

my parents, 1944

— posted in loving memory by Roger W. Smith

   November 2022

my mental influences

 

I got a great education, almost entirely for free. Realizing this now, I consider myself very fortunate.

But I want to talk mostly about my parents — Alan W. and Elinor Handy Smith (how I miss them!) — and their influence on me. Again, I was very fortunate. How much so I have grown to appreciate over the years. Posthumously, as it were.

Intuition and critical thinking skills. The ability to do mental work requiring great effort. To pursue an area of study: languages or mathematics, for instance; the principles and rules of composition and rhetoric.

To persist in research. The laborious undertaking (only a practitioner can appreciate this) of translation.

Sculpting a piece of writing. Perfecting it and trying to ensure comprehensiveness and accuracy.

Intellectual colloquy. Listening ability. The ability to assimilate and weigh contrary opinions. (How much I have enjoyed this with cherished friends. Incalculable.)

So called emotional intelligence. And what my former therapist, Dr. Colp, called “rapid insight.” He complimented me, saying I had it.

These are gifts which I was bequeathed. This being the case, I made the best of them. I am proud of this and, like Walt Whitman, feel entitled to be “no more modest than immodest.”

My mother. She had a “preternatural” intuitive faculty. Great insight. Emotional sensitivity like that of Dr. Colp, the practitioner of medicine and man of science who was a deep thinker (and a writer as well as physician) with keen analytical abilities; and, at the same time, like my parents, the opposite of emotionally clueless. He never lost or left at the door his humanity.

I must have gotten my memory from my mother. She recalled emotionally significant situations, people, incidents in novelistic detail–minute detail. Something amusing or significant from her youth or young adulthood. Elementary school teachers. Relatives (aunts). Funny things they said or did. Wisdom from her father. Books she read and loved (from both childhood and later, e.g., Little Women, All the King’s Men), words and incidents. She would quote lines and passages from memory, as can I.

Humorous things she remembered and recounted. The oddities and peculiarities of a person. Related as might a Melville with his Bildad and Peleg and Peter Coffin of the Spouter-Inn.

My father. Blessed with native intelligence. A lover of learning, meaning, as was the case with me, intellectual immersion and challenge. For its own sake. (He would recount the sheer pleasure he took in certain school subjects and areas of study.) He was the first in his nuclear family to attend a four year college. Like me, valuing it mostly for intellectual enrichment, rather than regarding a degree as a steppingstone. (The same very true of my mother.)

Insight combined with intellect (rationality). (Thinking mostly of my father.)

My parents’ keen aesthetic sense. They both had it and transmitted this to me and my siblings, who all have it, in spades. This was perhaps the most important thing of all. My mother majored in Fine Arts in college, my father in Music.

Like Dr. Colp, who had every right to be presumptuous, my parents did not seem to care that much about degrees or credentials. Other than being proud, implicitly, of having graduated from prestigious schools. It was the same with me (insofar as regards how I valued having a degree).

The following is a final point or points which I believe are critical.

The abilities I acquired should not be taken for granted. As I have said, they were inherited. But they had to be developed.

Most people, I would guess, think college is everything. The school one attends, what one majors in. This is not quite true. For me, at least. I think also for my Dad (a Harvard graduate). It was quite interesting to see his high school transcript and to find about the languages he studied and how he excelled in math (as did I). He studied Latin and French! (And German in college.) I never knew it.

College (for me) was greatly enriching and intellectually broadening and stimulating, an intellectual finishing school. But high school–early adolescence– in contrast, was foundational, critical. Made all the difference. (A nod to Robert Frost.)

French. Latin. Le subjonctif. Declensions and conjugations.

Magna cum celeritate. Castra ponere. Caesar’s Gallic Wars. Corneille and Racine.

Algebra I and II. Theorems and proofs. Quadratic and simultaneous equations. Cartesian coordinates. Logarithms.

English class. Writing essays in first period. Like pulling teeth, as they say. Coming up with something to say. Trying not to make a fool of oneself.

Lucubration. Intellectual effort.

Workshops and discussion groups in my church youth group.

I have often thought of Samuel Johnson in this regard. Like me, he got an excellent primary school education. But you know what the most important period was? His adolescence. Not his year at Oxford. The influence of his cousin Cornelius Ford, whom he boarded with for a year or two beginning at age sixteen. See W. Jackson Bate’s magnificent biography of Johnson. With Ford’s example and from conversation with him came the brilliant Johnson– scholar, writer. and conversationalist — whom we meet in Boswell’s Life.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

  November 2022

“He would do good to another”

 

To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit — General Knowledges are those Knowledges that Idiots possess.

— William Blake, Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourses

 

AND many conversèd on these things as they labour’d at the furrow, Saying: ‘It is better to prevent misery than to release from misery; It is better to prevent error than to forgive the criminal. Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little Ones; And those who are in misery cannot remain so long, If we do but our duty: labour well the teeming Earth.… He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer; For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars, And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power: The Infinite alone resides in Definite and Determinate Identity. Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falsehood continually, On Circumcision, not on Virginity, O Reasoners of Albion!

— William Blake, “Jerusalem”

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2022

the museum … the library

 

The late William S. (Bill) Dalzell was a very important and valued friend to me, beginning in my twenties when I first came to New York.

We worked at the same place, 218 East 18th Street — technically not for the same employer, since Bill was a self-employed printer.

We hit it off immediately. Bill (as I turned out to be) was a lover of his adopted city. He grew up in Williamsburg, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

He had many pregnant thoughts. We had such interesting conversations.

He was a confirmed bachelor and a creature of habit.

He never worked on weekends.

On Saturday mornings, he would go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He would begin in the cafeteria, nursing a cup of coffee and lost in thought.

He said that for him the museum was like a cathedral. It had that effect on him mentally. Either explicitly or implicitly, he was also thinking of Norte Dame Cathedral. He had been there several times and said it was “the holiest place” he had ever visited.

Which brings to mind the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.

It has that effect on me. The beautiful building. The interior. The high ceilings and sunlight streaming through. The staff. The “serious,” “dedicated” sense of purpose and calm quietness. The calming and focusing effect it has on me mentally.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 2022

addendum (his character)

 

Elaborating further on my latest post

his character

his character

Was my praise of my father fulsome? A Falstaff and all that.

Enumerating such things (as James Joyce did in the case of his own father), I would say that I got from my father:

– intelligence

– good nature towards all and sundry

– conscientiousness

– a sense of humor

Regarding personal flaws, mine and everyone else’s:

I don’t choose friends or intimate acquaintances (to the extent one chooses one’s spouse, significant others, and closest friends) based on a checklist.

If I see good in someone, humanity, sincerity, etc., that is enough for me. There may be egregious failings as well.

I greatly value the friendships I have formed with intellectuals and deep thinkers. I do not, however, look down per se on people less well read or educated than me. This is not just out of kindness of indulgence on my part. There are all sorts of wisdom and intelligence that one can profit from. And, character means a lot to me. Plus – as an afterthought – I have observed wit and insight in persons who don’t necessarily read a lot. This is something my father, who was entitled to pride himself on his education, was very capable of.

I have tended for most of my life to be very self-critical. I am more able now to live with myself when I do something “wrong” out of heedlessness or resulting from willful misbehavior. But I don’t just forgive myself or give myself a pass. I have not changed in that respect.

Regarding friends and acquaintances of mine who have been guilty of transgressions or have character flaws — or what seem to be misguided beliefs — I err far on the side of tolerance. And the same with those who have problems causing them to be castigated as deviant or abnormal.

I was greatly influenced by the Bible when I was young, how Jesus treated sinners: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

and

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2).

And Walt Whitman:

This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest

— Watt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022

James Joyce on his father

 

James Joyce said of his father, John Stanislaus Joyce, “I got from him his portraits, a waistcoat, a good tenor voice, and an extravagant licentious disposition.” In Ulysses, Simon Dedalus is a version of the author’s father. While the fictional character is a bad provider for his family, leaving his daughters penniless, James Joyce also portrays Simon as witty and good company outside of his home, popular in bars and gifted with a wonderful tenor voice that soars in the novel’s “Sirens” episode. Of his father’s influence on the book, Joyce told a friend, “The humor of Ulysses is his; its people are his friends. The book is his spittin’ image.”’

— James Joyce exhibit, Morgan Library

 

I can relate to this portrayal.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022

The path leading them wherever they choose.

 

 

Around 4 p.m. on Father’s Day.

I am sitting, rather bored, in a bar on Seventh Avenue.

I have a good view of the street.

It’s a lovely Sunday afternoon. A stream of pedestrians keeps passing by.

Where are they going?

Who knows? They themselves probably don’t.

They are walking on air. The energy of the City propels them along.

Multiple attractions, things to do. Oh, to be a part of it.

The path leading them wherever they choose.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

  June 19, 2022

“Use of A-Bomb Condemned”

 

See my post

“Use of A-Bomb Condemned”

at my Sorokin site

 

“Use of A-Bomb Condemned”

— Roger W. Smith