Monday, May 10, 2010

Your Library

The writings of the wise are the only riches our posterity cannot squander.

Walter Landor
The way I see it, everyone's life is worth a biography. But almost no one will ever have one written, at least not in a book that sits on a shelf. In fact everyone's biography is written in what they have done with their lives. Sometimes those deeds have been left as tangible results to the ages and sometimes not. But no one lives without having an effect on the world. There's a saying I like: "When an old man dies, a library burns down." It's not a library of books, of course, but volumes of wisdom and life experience.

But sometimes the volumes are tangible things: the dialogues of Plato, the music of Bach, the plays of Shakespeare, the operas of Wagner the drawings of Da Vinci, the paintings of Van Gogh, to touch the summits. In the midst of my career as a theatre actor I became aware of the fact that, other than some important memories in people's lives and some good influence on young actors, I was not leaving anything tangible behind to posterity to enjoy or attempt to squander, if they so choose.

I started to learn how to paint and as my studies developed I became more and more impressed at how great the master painters were. I went to an exhibit of paintings by Van Gogh at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, strode into a large room with his pictures all around and I was stunned. Each picture was competing for my attention. I wanted to never leave that room.

There are many riches left to us to enjoy and not squander: the intricate never repeating dialogues of Bach's music, the surprising discoveries in Shakespeare, the grand eloquence in Wagner, the magic of Mozart.

Upon retiring I began to read the philosophy, history and fiction I never had time for. Now I write and hope that I can think and write one quarter as well as those authors did. I don't consider myself a wise man, certainly not in comparison with the wisdom at my disposal, but I have my own library of experience and an affectionate desire to leave some of it behind me as I pass along the way.

The Vagabond
Weekend Puzzle

No contestant and so no winner.
What a shame, here I went and made a special Mother's Day cupcake to give away. Well, I'll just have to eat it myself.


Nance said...

My blog is a form of autobiography for me, but it's not the story I want to write. That story is the one about growing up in an idyllic Southern town (my husband calls it "Mayberry") in the apparently idyllic 1950's. Only I put in some time sitting as high as I could get in a chinaberry tree watching for Japanese bombers when I was four. We all learned to duck-and-cover and dread the air-raid siren practices on Saturdays at noon.

Hey, looks like I just made a start on that story. Looks like you've got a pretty good autobiography going right here, too.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I agree that everyone has something deserving to share. That is one of the reasons I think the National Archives projects to document recordings of everyday folks and their stories is so fascinating and important.