The Presence of the Past

History is the process of the past negotiating its terms of surrender to the future.

Although the past cannot defeat the future, it will do, and is currently doing, all it can, to break as many hearts as possible in the present. Cruelty seems to be the guiding principle of those in power, in the USA and across the globe, as they confront the horror of knowing that their power will soon be gone forever.

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This is nothing new. In 19th Century Europe, monarchies crumbled under a rising tide of democracy. In the 21st, with a little courage and devotion to honesty and justice, we might see white male privilege go the way of kings, kaisers, and czars.

See if you recognize our current situation in these words that Victor Hugo wrote in 1862:

The past, it is true, is very strong right now. It is reviving. This revivification of a corpse is surprising. Here it is walking and advancing. It seems victorious; this dead man is a conqueror. He comes with his legion, superstitions, with his sword, despotism, with his banner, ignorance; within a little time he has won ten battles. He advances, he threatens, he laughs, he is at our doors. As for us, we will not despair.

We who believe, what can we fear?

There is no backward flow of ideas any more than of rivers.

But those who do not want the future should think it over. In saying no to progress, it is not the future they condemn, but themselves…There is only one way of refusing tomorrow and that is to die.

He concludes that chapter of Les Miserables with this observation of the relative powers of the hopes of the future and the fears of the past:

The ideal…thus lost in the depths – minute, isolated, imperceptible, shining, but surrounded by all those great black menaces monstrously amassed around it, yet no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.

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I Never Knew Your Name

When I say I never knew your name, I am not talking about the one your parents gave you. I am talking about the one you gave yourself. You know the one I mean, the one that bubbled to the surface of your life on a hot summer night, like this one, when you were all alone in your room, feeling inexplicably sad but hopeful.

This name was not one that you had heard before, yet you instantly recognized it as yours.

Although at that time I was hundreds of miles away from you, and had not met you, and could not hear the name you gave yourself, I felt the reverberations of its echo.

When I am calm enough, I still can.
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We never will be done…

Every leaf on every branch of every tree in the forest
dances to a different tune
Every star that twinkles with a million-year-old light
looks all the way into you
Every bit of foam on every wave in every sea
likes to know that you are here
And every moment of a lifetime in eternity
offers up its own opportunity

Every brick in every wall we build to keep us apart
cries to be taken down
every lie we ever told and all that we believed
hide from us now

we’re stalking something wild and empty
without a penny, or a gun
we’re following the trail of something free, and
we never will be done
we never will be done

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This party has got to end

This party has got to end
After I bandage up this kid
I think this party has got to end
Remember me?
I’ve got to bandage up this kid I think
This party has got to end
After I bandage up this kid
Remember me?
I think I remember
If I bandage up this kid I think
This party
I have got to end this party
After I think
Remember me?
I think I remember that
This party has got to end
After I bandage up this kid and
remember me
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Antigua Sketchbook

Antigua is an island bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other by the Caribbean Sea. The only things more beautiful than its beaches and the breeze filtering through the shade of its palm trees are its people.

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The word vacation comes from the Latin vacare – to be empty. I spent last week on vacation in Antigua and was so busy being emptied that I only found time for three quick sketches. Sometimes even the enjoyable parts of life are a chore and I need emptiness to appreciate the fullness of the life I’m lucky enough to have.

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I spent a healthy portion of my vacation with my eyes closed,  not sure if I was asleep or  meditating. The membrane between layers of consciousness becomes so thin that it would take a mind more analytical than mine to measure it.

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Citysketch: A saxophone in the park

I bought a sketchbook on my way to work yesterday and needed to break it in with a quick sketch. At lunch I went to Central Park and came across this man playing saxophone. It finally feels like winter has retreated and left behind hopes for better days ahead. The melody is All The Way, written by Jimmy Van Heusen and made famous by Frank Sinatra’s 1957 recording.

Fun fact: In 1953, Sinatra slit his wrist in a suicide attempt, distraught over his divorce from Ava Gardner, and it was Van Heusen who rushed him to the hospital.

The lyrics to All The Way were written by Sammy Cahn:

When somebody loves you
It’s no good unless he loves you all the way
Happy to be near you
When you need someone to cheer you all the way
Taller than the tallest tree is
That’s how it’s got to feel
Deeper than the deep blue see is
That’s how deep it goes, if it’s real
When somebody needs you
It’s no good unless he needs you all the way
Through the good or lean years
And for all the in-between years come what may
Who knows where the road will lead us?
Only a fool would say
But if you’ll let me love you
It’s for sure I’m gonna love you all the way