I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
March 14, 2017 - 11:12 a.m.
The ambient sound in here is a wintry mix. I'm listening to the peaceful and soothing In a Silent Way by Miles Davis; meanwhile outside there's a storm howling and sleep pounding on the windows. When there is a storm I feel like I'm on a ship at sea; that's appropriate as this building also houses the Nautical Museum. The storm sounds raise my anxiety level. I'd say that's new but I never lived anywhere else where it was so loud. Something else to tell my psychiatrist when I see her tomorrow. My first session with my new therapist was scheduled for today. She called yesterday and canceled because of the weather. I liked what I heard from her on the phone. She sounds like my kind of person.
I needed milk and was afraid stores would run out because people think if it is going to snow there will never be milk again and they stock up. So, I stocked up, meaning that I bought half a gallon like I usually do. I'm going to make hot chocolate today. Lots of hot chocolate. I wasn't lazy and went up to Aldi, which is far cheaper than anything on City Island and bought a few other things. The problem with Aldi is that they have too many good snacks and I have no self-control. I will now admit something I was on the fence about. I ate an entire box of chocolate peanut butter cookies on the bus ride home. This is why I don't drink or use drugs. It is amazing that I was able to lose eighty pounds through dieting. The secret is what I controlled was buying the sweets. Not starting is easier than stopping.
There was some problem with the BX 12 Select bus. On the way home I waited 17 minutes for a bus that is supposed to run every 7 minutes. On the bus time app, I saw one bus disappear. When the bus arrived. It was packed. I was the only one that was able to board and it was difficult. There was room for at least five more people but this big guy blocked the aisle and didn't move to the back. There might have been room for ten people. How do people do that? Last week on the subway on a three across seat someone sat at the left end and put his bag on the middle seat and it went all the way over to the third seat. I sat down in front of the third. He looked at me. He looked at his bag, then did nothing. I sat down. Then when he saw I was sitting on the strap he moved it over.
Talking about these people reminds me of something even more disturbing. When I first moved to Briarwood I told about an encounter with a thoughtless person in my building and had my usual reaction. Someone commented, "You're not in Bayside." I have no idea who said that. If it was you, I'm trying to teach, not demean you. I will use female pronouns because that's what the Wise Madness Style Manual says to do with people of unknown gender. What was she getting at when she said that? Is it prejudice against ethnicity? Class? Race? I've been living as gypsy, moving all around this marvelous City. Know what I have found? Most people are nice no matter where I've lived. Bayside was for the most part Jewish and middle class when I was growing up and turned more and more Asian. People acted pretty much the same. Briarwood is the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the City and perhaps the world. The buildings were ugly but the people beautiful. Every day I encountered African Americans, Caribbean Americans, Arabs, Albanians, Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Russians, Ashkenazi Jews, Bukharan Jews from Central Asia, Asians, South Americans, Dominicans, you name it. They were not as well off as people in Bayside, more working class. But for the most part, they were nice, they were helpful. Sure, there were solipsists, there are solipsists everywhere and we notice them more because they are the exception not the rule.
Since then I've lived in ethnically mixed upper middle class Ditmas Park, Chelsea, lower class minority majority Crown Heights, and weird enclave City Island. In all these places when people have seen me struggling with a big suitcase they have offered to help. People make small talk in the stores and the street. People complain about the government. People complain about people. They aren't all the same. That's part of the fun. Each neighborhood has its own feel but people are not nicer or meaner.
This was not what I meant to write about at all. I have all these deep political topics to cover. I've been waiting for an "off day" to cover them. I guess this isn't the off day.
I will remind everyone that it's Einstein's birthday. You know that refugee that America took in even though he was from a country we'd soon be at war with. From the time, I was ten if you asked me who my hero was I'd say, "Einstein" without hesitation. I have other heroes but he is above the rest. Most people don't even know he breadth of his scientific work. All people know is E=MC² and think that's the theory of relativity. It isn't. That's a consequence of the theory of Special Relativity that he came up with two years later. His greatest work is the theory of General Relativity which is really a theory of gravity. It's a distinct theory. He came up with the Special Theory in no time. He worked on the General Theory for years. He did important work in Quantum Mechanics and statistical mechanics.
He was an activist, fighting for social justice, economic justice, peace, and Zionism. He was defending the rights of African Americans when few white people were. He moved to Switzerland because of Germany's warlike stance before and during World War I. He wrote that if 10% of the people drafted refused to serve there would not be enough room in all the prisons to hold them. With the rise of Nazi Germany, he had to give up his pacifism. He was not an ideologue. He saw that Hitler was enough of a threat to warrant military action. He wrote "the letter" to Roosevelt making him aware of the possibility of a nuclear bomb and that the allies needed to come up with it before the Nazis did. That was his entire contribution to the development of the bomb yet people unfairly characterize him as the father of the bomb. After the war, he fought to stop nuclear escalation and proliferation.
He loved music, his passion was playing the violin. There is a lot of disagreement on how good he was. I grew up hearing that he was good enough to play in an orchestra. Since then I've read that he wasn't that good and that great musicians would play with him just because he was the great Einstein.
Einstein is German for "one stone." If you translated that into Greek, you get monolith. I often wondered if Arthur C. Clark was thinking that when he wrote "2001: A Space Odyssey." I'd like to think so.
I had the privilege to be the student of Banesh Hoffmann. I had him for a class on General Relativity. He collaborated on one of Einstein's great discoveries that is usually referred to as, "Einstein, Infeld, and Hoffmann." It is the capstone of the General Theory that made the beautiful theory even more beautiful. I am still friends with two of the students in the class, Lauren and Steve. We will still talk about Professor Hoffmann. He was so special. He wrote a bio, "Einstein Creator and Rebel." To celebrate Einstein's birthday buy it or take it out of the library today.
Wow I finished early today. It's only 11:08. Too bad I'm not going to go out and do things. I was going to play in the snow but with the wintry mix I won't. Snow is fun and beautiful, sleet is yuck. I'll make hot chocolate so life is good. Damn, I should have bought marshmallows. Why didn't you remind me? And you call yourself my friend.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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