Mom’s Rainbow Inspiration
2022-03-17 journal entry #1
7:47am, broken tray chair
I’m completely out of the swing of writing.
Dec. 30 – Feb. 27: Focused on mom’s hospital stay, accidents, and decline until death.
Feb. 27 – March 9: Focused on shiva and memorial.
March 9 – March 16 (yesterday): Focused on going through and clearing mom’s apartment, while Daxe is in charge of the financial and administrative stuff. This is ongoing.
Writing possibility: “Heroes and Inspiration” From Kimberly’s March 8 email:
Also, our next issue (which we hope to get up by the end of this month, so we would be grateful for submissions by March 25th) will be on the theme of “Heroes and Inspirations,” and dedicated to Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky. We’ve already received an essay from Ukrainian-American Sonia Kowal, who heads up social investment at Zevin Asset Management, one of the leaders in the field of responsible investment, and we’re grateful for other reflections directly related to the current conflict in Eastern Europe; but we’re also interested in any reflections people have on the theme of inspiration and heroism, whether political or personal or both. (I plan to write about some of my intellectual heroes, including Felix Hausdorff, Charles Baudelaire, and good old Wittgenstein. :))
Writing possibility: Thread with Jim and Daxe started
• Started with Jim’s question: Does Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem imply dictatorship is a likely outcome?
Writing possibility: Things to do with Dostoyevsky
• Wondrium Course: Classics of Russian Literature
• Notes from the Underground
• Crime and Punishment
• Brothers Karamazov
Ramble: On personal, intellectual, political, and spiritual heroes, inspirers, and leaders.
People are complicated.
We embody contradictions.
We long to be pure and noble.
But we miss the mark; we feel bad; we are tempted to do bad.
We want to be as alive and as human as possible, and yet sometimes long to be saintly or dead.
We chafe at the constraint of being purely reasonable or purely emotional. Worst of all is to be purely predictable.
Some of us fight battles within ourselves on many fronts.
We seek guidance that we may guide.
We seek role models that we may be role models.
But scratch the surface of a perfect piece of glass, a diamond, a perfectly calm pond, or the smooth and unblemished skin of a perfect beauty, and you have a scratched surface.
The scratch begets an itch and further scratches.
Pretty soon, my search for perfection degenerates into an examination of the hostilities between my voices within.
The math voice yearns for order. Silence the cacophony. Or better (which is really worse), make it fit in some grand pattern.
But the philosopher voice knows well about foolish consistencies. Emerson Consistency Quote:
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
So we have some candidate heroes: Emerson, Pythagoras, Socrates, Jesus, Luther, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton.
And I could name many more.
And anti-heroes as well.
I could put together a story of heroes dearest to me. Those that come to mind right now:
• My mother, who passed from this world less than a month ago.
• My father, who passed just under four years ago.
• Thomas Paine, who wrote with perennial prescience: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” He was rising to lead people to a noble challenge to throw off tyranny.
• Oh, and Dostoevsky. I loved you in my youth, but did not know how. Because I never took leadership of my own soul. I have let it dangle about me like a misfit overcoat. I could not conform to its shape or conform it to mine. I did not, I do not, even know it’s shape now.
Who could I have been that I not only did not fall in love with Nastenka when I read her story in “White Nights”? Worse, when I recently re-read the story, I barely remembered a wisp of her.
Fyodor, I followed you by turning pages. The juices you put in those pages did seep into my unconscious, unknowing soul. You affected me deeply in ways I did not know. And being unaware I did not come closer to you.
Ah, is that the rub? I lack the will to come closer to others. We are afraid to scratch each other’s skin.
So, we are left with osmosis, keeping our shields up and only internalizing others by letting them slip through the cracks you can’t even see.
Mother, shall I apply a salve or scratch the cracks that are opening wide? You taught me that it is up to me to find meaning. And I keep looking for it.
But uncertainty, and doubt, and failing body and mind, keep me from penetrating the surface.
What mother would give a child the instruments to perform surgery on themself?
Would you want me to see you as a saint for giving me bandages or as a human who could not do more?
You did not say “search your soul, here’s a sword, go and use it”.
You, and Dostoevsky and Spinoza who you pointed me to, would not push me into an outside battle.
But, oh, it was so simple when the demons where external.
What help do you need now for a smooth ride in the bardos?
Do I have any right to expect help from you, even while you explore those unknown countries?
Who are we to follow?
Go to the light. That is what I am advised to tell you, and in so doing perhaps you give me a parting piece of advice.
Go to the light.
I don’t know how. The light is under a bushel – a lamp under a bowl. Does God run a casino – a shell game of lights, a dice game of possibilities? My brother played tunes saying God Doesn’t Play with Dice. And the meditation therein helped honor and let my mother go.
But, as Dostoevsky knew, as everyone knows, I will hold onto opposites and try to keep the crack between them small: I will let go and I will hold on tightly.
You are a hero, an inspiration, a leader, but it is your cracks that create a prism that turns the white light you are headed to into a rainbow that colors my world.
~ Scott Axelrod ~
Table of Contents
Cover: Wheat Fields by Steven Sexsmith
Publisher’s Note: Kimberly Gladman
To Celebrate my Father: Naomi Myrvaagnes
Using a Scalpel Not A Sledgehammer: The Investor Response to the Russian War in Ukraine: Sonia Kowal
Mom’s Rainbow Inspiration: Scott Axelrod
Gödel, Arrow, Preference, Spirit, and Dictatorship: Scott Axelrod
Shorting the Earth (Blue Hill) : Kimberly Gladman
Ukrainian Embroidery: Heritage, pride, compassion: Beverly Bartos Burns