“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
Today I took our dog Alabama to be put to sleep. She was fifteen, a Pointer mix, white with black ticking, black ears, and a black eye-patch. When she was on her feet and anxiously pacing the room (thank you, dementia, you bastard), she stood about knee-high to me, a bit less to my husband, Andy, who is very tall. She was emaciated, but this was more alarming to strangers than it was to us, for she’d been thin to the point of ribbiness her entire life, and one of her thousand-and-one nicknames was Fishbones.
Turn-of-the-century author Anatole France wrote, “There is no such thing as objective art…. The truth is that one never gets out of oneself. That is one of our greatest miseries. We are locked into our persons as into a lasting prison. The best we can do, it seems to me, is to gracefully recognize this terrible situation and to admit that we speak of ourselves every time that we have not the strength to be silent.” He added, “To be quite frank, the writer ought to say, ‘Gentlemen, I am going to talk about myself on the subject of Shakespeare, or Racine, or Pascal, or Goethe — subjects that offer me a beautiful opportunity.’” *
So when I say I would like to write about a gentleman named Richard, I’d be more honest to say, “I would now like to talk about myself on the subject of Richard, who gives me an excellent opportunity.”