DAN FRIEDMAN: RADICAL MODERNIST
In 1994, near the end of his life, Friedman offered this 12-point “radical modernist” agenda for life and work—as wise, optimistic and relevant as it was 20 years ago.
1. Live and work with passion and responsibility; have a sense of humor and fantasy.
2. Try to express personal, spiritual, and domestic values even if our culture continues to be dominated by corporate, marketing, and institutional values.
3. Choose to remain progressive; don’t be regressive. Find comfort in the past only if it expands insight into the future and not just for the sake of nostalgia.
4. Embrace the richness of all cultures; be inclusive instead of exclusive.
5. Think of your work as a significant element in the context of a more important, transcendental purpose.
6. Use your work to become advocates of projects for the public good.
7. Attempt to become a cultural provocateur; be a leader rather than a follower.
8. Engage in self-restraint; accept the challenge of working with reduced expectations and diminished resources.
9. Avoid getting stuck in corners, such as being a servant to increasing overhead careerism, or narrow points of view.
10. Bridge the boundaries that separate us from other creative professions and unexpected possibilities.
11. Use the new technologies, but don’t be seduced into thinking that they provide answers to fundamental questions.
12. Be radical.
Excerpted from Dan Friedman: Radical Modernism, Yale University Press, 1994
PLAYIN' OLD SCHOOL
THINGS TO THINK
Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.
Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own home you've never seen.
When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.
A PLANK IN MY OWN EYE
The first sign of spring – It surprises me every year.
Missing the peacefulness of this place
THE USES OF SORROW
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
― Mary Oliver, Thirst
AND THE DAYS ARE NOT FULL ENOUGH
And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass
— Ezra Pound
This landed between the eyes in a sea of loss.
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
— Naomi Shihab Nye
If you asked about my Aunt Dorcas
I’d tell you she died yesterday.
I’d tell you
she buried two husbands:
one, a drunk bastard
one, a name she already wore
so then it doubled.
Thin as a kitchen match
Bright as the end of that hot-boxed Pall Mall
Sharp as the hook she baited
(squatting in tall grass
skeeters on her chin)
I’d tell you she cashed out
hid her money
in the safe at the funeral home
so she could live in hell for free
and I’d tell you
we shared some blood
and her name was biblical
but she wasn’t
even though she got popped on the foot
by a ball of lightning
skipping fast as “My Lou”
across the church parking lot
as she folded her double-name-causing second husband
and his oxygen tank
into that smoky sedan.
She laughed at that devil
while Southern Baptists watched
trembling and firmly rooted
on hot, after-church asphalt
Later I’d tell you
how I squandered my last chance
to learn more of her little brother
my long-gone father
My brother’s Velveteen Rabbit from 1959–2014. His right ear still jingles.
Had the wage been
for each firefly
we swiped from summer dark,
I would not crouch here
in this thick, blinking field
full of empty
REBUILDING IN VERMONT
I am currently swaddled in the great privilege of being in the Green Mountains of Vermont for a few weeks. It is much-needed time for rebuilding physical and emotional strength after the past two years of jagged loss. The spot in the photo below is where I hang out to think, read, write, daydream, and nap most every afternoon after mornings full of walking with my favorite Mona D. and hikes after breakfast.
I sit with crickets
in the very bottom of dark,
warm and wet
in my hands.
One of the most moving and powerful images I have ever encountered.