Monthly Archives April 2023

A Larger Vision: Frank Bruni’s “The Beauty of Dusk”

“We have no control over what happens to us; we have enormous control over what happens to us. I’ll spend the rest of my life better understanding and better accepting that paradox, which I understand and accept better today than I did before October, 2017, before that first day of incomprehensible blur, before an education in neuro-ophthalmology that became an education in so much more.”

That sentence near the end of “New York Times” columnist-turned-college-professor Frank Bruni’s 2022 memoir, “The Beauty of Dusk,” underpins most all the reflections on his ongoing experience of a rare stroke that robs him of vision in one eye and forces him to live under a portentous cloud of possibility that his other eye may suffer the same fate. It could happen at any time for the rest of his life, his doctors tell him, and it would leave him functionally blind.

Or if his luck holds, it may not happen at all.


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A Poem: “Vladimir Putin Invades My Dreams”


                                        By Andrew Hidas

Fresh off the shingles vaccine,
my arm sore, body leaden,
spirit damp and porous,
Vladimir Putin invades my dreams
through a long night I long to repel.

I want him out! gone! no more of
those lizard eyes and pursed lips
bearing down on my weakened
defenses, looking to run
roughshod over all I hold dear.

Groaning to a barely wakened state,
I lapse again, the nightmare resuming,
the assault relentless, Putin throwing
all he owns (and he owns everything)
into a fire of his own making
as lives all around us burn.

Names cross my consciousness
like some Ticker of Times Square,
dissidents facing the unspeakable
of poisonings and prison,
their courage inconceivable
under Putin’s soulless gaze.

Dawn looms and the thrashings of night
only intensify, pleas from the gloaming
to fi...

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Two Black Men Learn to Read…and the Rest Is History

In case you didn’t recognize it, that’s a picture of an aardvark off to the left. Can’t say that I know or have ever thought much about aardvarks in my life, though the oddity of their physical appearance—halfway between a pig and an anteater, it seems to me—makes them worthy of at least some note.

But “aardvark” is important here for an entirely different reason: As the first actual word in the English dictionary, it stood as a kind of gateway drug from which civil rights icon Malcolm X commenced, with an insatiable, addictive lust, one feverishly ingested word at a time, to devour the majesty of language and the reading, writing, thinking and speaking that are its constituent parts.

A  slave boy laden with bread, which he uses as currency to purchase literacy lessons from poor, under-nourished, ‘free’ white boys? We see Douglass here again soaring to visionary heights of perspective, while also swi...

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Brilliant Songs #37: Frédéric Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise in A-flat Major

Artists often reflect ancient conundrums. To varying degrees, the driving force of their work consists of seeing the world as few others do—more deeply, with greater sensitivity, more laden with feeling, judgment, nuance, beauty, curiosity, obsession, mystery.  A common refrain: they feel in the world but not of it, with warring impulses to hold it close and finally break its code or push it away as something alien and irredeemable.

The classical (Romantic Era) composer Frédéric Chopin, born in Poland in 1810, embodied all these conundrums and more in a life often compromised and ultimately cut short by tenuous health that saw him dead at age 39 from multiple complications of tuberculosis.

But like many artistic geniuses almost bouncing out of the cradle eager to begin dropping their works into posterity (he wrote his first polonaise, a traditional Polish dance form, at age 7), Chopin at 20 was alrea...

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The Nightmare From Which the Gun Lobby Won’t Let Us Awaken

The perpetrators at least have something resembling an excuse. Although specific medical diagnoses of any given mass shooter fall along a spectrum that may or may not include the frequent, often wrongly used catch-all term, “psychopath,” I strongly doubt that any mental health professional would disagree that all such perpetrators are, by both common and professional understanding, “disordered.”

Whatever compulsions inspire them to commit such heinous acts, it sets them at odds, in a profoundly anti-social way, from most all the rest of their societal peers who reflexively recoil from what they have beheld.

I don’t pretend to understand the precise disorders that drive such behavior (assuming any such understanding is even possible)...

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