Tending One’s Garden

“The man who tends a garden is the man most directly in touch with God.”

~ Henry Miller


For those of you who read my debut memoir, Ontwaken uit de Amerikaanse droom, you know that I have been wrestling with the garden gods of this house: When we moved in, the entire house was overgrown with roses and ivy, and the backyard was impenetrable due to a wilderness of blackberry bushes.

As the kids grew bigger, we put a lawn in, in front and back and that was a mistake. Soon the drought hit California and we had to “brown” our lawns to conserve water. Lawns are for English gardens — it needs a good soak now and then and those are few and far between in a state that has been named after a hot oven.

And then work happened and the blackberries came back and the things I had planted when I was still on a honeymoon with this house, were destroyed by the blackberries and other nefarious plants and weeds.


There are other issues with this house (like old windows), so the garden is not a priority. That said, in January I started attacking the blackberries again and they attacked me. I want to make the garden work for us this time, not by imposing our will upon it (like a French formal garden) but by letting the garden guide us (more like an English landscape garden). After all, in spite of the lawn, old bulbs, planted when this house was built, started poking up again inside the lawn and roses have always flourished and taken over. So why cut them back or replace them with something else that won’t adapt as well?


I was inspired by the garden of Anaïs Nin, whose house at Louveciennes (part of the Mme Dubarry estate), was described by Alfred Perlès. He said it was something akin to Le Grand Meaulnes, Nin’s garden being:

allowed to grow wild within reason. Nature was not permitted to gain the upper hand completely, but was, so to speak, kept on a leash: it could only go so far as to endow the place with a certain sleeping beauty ambiance, no further. But the touch of unreality, so cunningly contrived was impulsive; had a few elves or fauns suddenly appeared and pranced about the lawn, it would not have seemed incredible.


So… after removing all the blackberries, I was planting stuff yesterday and today, the soil so black, fertile and malleable that I felt like a kid playing in a sandbox. Gardening is back-breaking work and I’m not sure at all whether, as per Miller’s quote on top, I felt like God today, but there’s something about tending your own garden to make you focus on the here and the now. I can highly recommend it.


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Side Trip to Corfu, Greece

images-2There were many things that made my day today but what stood out was Henry Miller’s letters to Anaïs Nin.

The year was 1939 and as the war came closer, and Miller talked of “international gangsterism” and lack of noble statesmen to do the right thing and avert war (sound familiar?), Miller decided to leave France after having lived there for almost ten years. But rather than taking the first boat back to New York City, he made a side trip, to visit his friend Lawrence Durrell on Corfu, Greece. Here’s the house:


Miller had been working hard in the years prior, and Corfu was like a little remote paradise where, for the first time in years, he felt he could relax and forget about work. His descriptions were so colorful that I did some armchair traveling and I simply longed to swim in the Mediterranean again and feel the sun on my skin. Here are some of the more memorable quotes so you can make that same side trip to Corfu with me and forget about the mundane lives we’re all living:

Corfu really is marvelous. It’s somewhere between Palestine, Arizona and Greece. […] It’s a world of intense light. […] We have two or three little secret coves where we go bathing in the raw– It’s like a tonic. I go about now in a pair of khaki shorts and barefooted. You’d be amazed to see the rough jagged cliffs I scramble over in bare feet. […] And the rowboat is splendid exercise. Here the fishermen stand up to row their huge boats and we imitate them. Their boats are beautiful. Like Van Gogh pictures. […] I’m crazy about the olives, the olive oil for inside and out, the wonderful homemade bread, the luscious fruits and vegetables. It’s a good healthy diet […] Whether I shall ever write anything here or not, I don’t know […] I am more interested in the state of my feet, my agility, my sunburn, my rowing and swimming progress, etc. Going naked is in itself the greatest cure. I think 9/10 of all the world’s neurotics could be cured thus— and thus alone. Just by the sun and water playing on the naked body. It’s very chastening, too. There’s nothing sensual about it. One becomes a rock or a tree.


The whole country seems as if it had existed from eternity. One feels it will go on forever, always bare and always full of surprises. Often, amidst the most barren rocks, in the most inaccessible places, one sees a little monastery, shrine or sanctuary. Larry says it’s the country of the ‘desert fathers’. Anyway, from time immemorial men have lived here in voluntary and blissful solitude, warmed and nourished by sea and sky. One can still do it. There are two categories, two types of men here– the islanders and the highlanders. Like Jung’s division of extroverts [sic] and introverts. And then there must be another rarer type also, who knows how to look above and beyond, as well as within and without. These were the men, I feel, who gave Greece its form. Greece stands between the Arabian world and the European world, between the Occident and the Orient, in every way.

I went online to see what real estate goes for in Corfu. Land and property seem dirt cheap. Take a look at this one…

Ah– to have a house looking out over an expanse of sky and water and… when the eye can no longer take it all in, to fall asleep to the sound of the waves…

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The Language of Animals

I grew up extremely introverted. Painfully shy. I think that painfully shy girl is still there, buried deep inside, but as you grow up, you learn to cope and build a facade of normalcy, although extraversion, feigned elation, fake enthusiasm… I just can’t do it.

Parties I still don’t like, and small talk I hate. Empty words to fill a void are a waste, a waste of time and a waste of words. Silence is underrated and doesn’t have to be awkward. Silence is where things happen.

That said, I also learned when I was little that although I missed the language to communicate with adults, I had a language all my own. It was a language I shared with animals. I felt I understood animals better than I did people– and the feeling seemed to be mutual. I had a pet rabbit that followed me around the house like a dog (I even potty trained it) and one of the more difficult horses we had was extremely sweet around me. After riding I would climb on top of his feeding area and he would lick my riding boots, which everyone thought hilarious.

I think I inherited this love of animals from my paternal grandmother. I remember visiting her once on a summer day, and when I turned the corner that opened up on her patio, my widowed grandmother was there talking to… an insane amount of birds.

It seemed like a scene from a kid’s movie. My grandmother, I realized, was Dr. Dolittle!

As I grew a little bit older, I realized I shared this gift with my grandmother– it was effortless, or so it seemed, for me to put animals at ease but also children. And it didn’t require language.

People have told me it’s because of an inner calm I seem to exude which I myself am not aware of. But I do think this is a form of my shyness– I don’t like to impose myself upon the scene, or anyone and often I enjoy listening better than talking. Animals and children feel this and are attracted to it. It’s a mere form of energy I give off, and not so much a “language”.

Which brings me to the story, my happy moment of the day that I want to share with you here. As some of you know, I host dogs which I really truly love to do. Today I had a meet & greet with a new dog. As I was talking to the owner, the owner told me her dog was a rescue, very shy around strangers– and she seemed nervous even telling me that fact. Without saying anything I sat down and the dog immediately came toward me, leaned into me and started licking my hand. That broke the ice. I rubbed the dog’s chest gently and when I stopped, she raised her paw to my hand, encouraging me to rub some more. The owner laughed, relieved.

She’s very shy, the owner had said, and with that I seemed to have communicated to the dog, well, so I am. Join the club. Let’s hang out and enjoy the silence together, for silence is where things happen…

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Dripping Garden


Hell, it hailed yesterday

And then it rained big fat drops

Saturating the California soil which has been screaming for water.


This morning the sun burst through the overcast sky

A new day.


I went outside into the garden

As nature smells best when it’s had a good soak.


I thought I just heard one bird

But closing my eyes,

I heard lots of bird chatter–

As if we have a rainforest behind our humble abode.


In the background, was the constant beat

Of a dripping garden– and the drip… drip… drip… never sounded so good.


The things you’ll hear, when you close your eyes and pay attention…

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What Was the Best Part of Your Day? An Exercise in Cultivating Happiness…

Last year I tried to journal every day and for the most part I was successful– this year, there is all sorts of other shit going in my life that I don’t want to bother you with here but I do want to keep connecting with readers as it’s an important part of making myself accountable in writing and keeping the engine oiled.

Also, it’s strange but since I was journaling daily or weekly, I still feel a compulsion at the end of the day and reach out to you, dear reader, so I was thinking about giving this blog a new jolt, an impetus, a stimulus to get back to a daily form of accountability and meditation.

When the kids were little, we’d gather around the dinner table and did the conversation starter What was the best and worst part of your day and the other day, when I was walking one of my guests dogs at the break of dawn, I looked out and saw the frost on the green hills of the golf course near our house and it was an absolutely majestic sight. Like angels had been at it all night, carefully decorating the landscape with crystals of white frost. It stopped me in my tracks. The morning sun hit the view at just the right angle and I heard myself say Would you look at that. That was the best part of my day that day and it nurtured the soul and made me happy, even if it was for a few fleeting seconds.

Yesterday, when it was pouring for most of the day, I snuck out in between showers on my bike. The road was slick and the wetness of the road hit my back, but at the top of the canyon, I was rewarded with this view and it made my day:


My grandmother used to say– if skies are overcast, but you can find a little blue, even if it is as small as a pair of blue shorts, sunshine may be around the corner. She was the kind of person to focus on the blue in her life and I think it’s why she made it to her 90s.

With all of our smart phone addictions we don’t know how to look up anymore and take in the view when it presents itself in all its glory.

Also, as I told Jon the other night, I think the key to happiness and training yourself to be happy is to look for the points of light, the blue if you will, in your day. A view, a joke, a nice comment from a stranger, a meal with an old friend, a priceless text from your child, a drink at sunset– you catch my drift.

In this blog, I’m going to try and share those moments with you and why they were special. They may be offset by what was the worst part of my day (such as the number of bots I report to Twitter on a daily basis) but I think and believe that we must continue to look for the beauty and happy moments in our life (on a daily basis!) in order to live a truly blessed life. I would love it if you joined me and shared some of your happy moments (and now I sound corny, ugh) but maybe we can start a movement to fight all the ugliness and evil we’re surrounded with. Beauty and love always win. The question is: Are you in?

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How “Showboating” and “Gaslighting” Makes Everyone Yearn for Dullness


I’d like to ask my fellow Americans how they’re doing, now that we’ve had President Trump at the wheel for more than an entire year.

Maybe some of you revel in the scandals that seem to come out of Washington DC on a daily basis but I myself find it exhausting.

In fact, I truly believe that the flu this year could only have this kind of effect because people’s resistance has been worn so thin from mental anguish that any little germ may make you keel over.

In all the coverage, that I, too, do watch, I keep hearing two words that seem to be very much in vogue right now and that is

Showboating: “The act of showing off, and or letting your ego roam free after you have done something extremely awesome.” (Urban Dictionary)


Gaslighting: “A form of intimidation or psychological abuse, sometimes called Ambient Abuse where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity.” (Urban Dictionary)

We’re all victims, or rather objects of daily showboating and gaslighting and our president and Fox News seem particularly adept at it. In Nazi Germany, showboating and gaslighting probably fell under the term “propaganda”, where showboating did a fairly effective job of turning a frustrated painter and sociopath into a nearly-divine and fearless leader and Third Reich emperor, while gaslighting was used to plant false narratives about the Jews and independent press. Trump gaslighted ALL immigrants this past Friday by describing them as murderous snakes and he was showboating this morning when he told this country’s governors that he would have hurried into those Florida classrooms, to protect the children. This from the man who is borderline phobic about stairs and tweets at such a feverish pace these days that I think he’s wetting the bed about Mueller coming after him.

I hunger for the days when I never checked into a White House press conference/spin conference (more gaslighting) or didn’t check for months to see what the Obamas were up to. When things work the way they’re supposed to work, they become blissfully boring, yet now we’ve been thrown into a snake pit with funhouse mirrors and Hannity and Tucker foaming at the mouth.

The silence from the GOP after the 13 indicted Russians has been deafening, the Russian sanctions are non-existent, our midterms may well be compromised by further interference (as NOTHING is done) and the man who steers this ship and shit show seems to choose forever choppier waters.  Worse yet, CPAC, the Conservative Conference where Trump wasn’t welcome two years ago, now hailed him as Il Duce and full on embraced his agenda of hatred, a clear warning sign that Il Trumpo is being normalized in a way that jeopardizes our Constitution and the coming together of this country.

This weekend, I was doing my first phone bank, trying to get the Democratic vote out in Nevada. I got a whole bunch of answering machines but also one or two young people who told me “they’re not interested in politics”.

This just blows me away, but I’m also strangely envious. After 13 months of showboating and gaslighting I want my life and time back. The Beltway shouldn’t be Netflix’s House of Cards— it should bore everyone to tears so we can all get back to our lives and back to loving and respecting one another as we used to.

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I’m So Sad…

So here we are… in the aftermath of yet another school shooting and I must tell you, it has driven me over the edge. I felt frazzled all day yesterday and my anger has not abated.

But don’t feel sorry for me. Feel sorry for the parents who are planning funeral arrangements for their children right now in Florida. Once I’m done with this blog I’m going to donate to this page: https://www.gofundme.com/stonemandouglasvictimsfund and I encourage you to do the same.

Americans are generous people and they will give. Sadly, all our government does is take.

The past few months, the whole country has been in a state of frenzy. There is a palpable anger over Russian interference and a corrupt, autocratic President who cannot keep out the Russians. He cannot even console a nation in grief. Rather than speaking from the heart, he reads from a teleprompter with the charisma of a fish. His administration is riddled with scandals, he has introduced kleptocratic tax reform, his budget is a hoax, he’s deporting law-abiding fathers and mothers, is about to deport Dreamers and has unleashed a hatred of the Other (people of color, women, the poor, immigrants), that mentally ill people, like the shooter yesterday, feel emboldened to act upon what was once a latent hatred.

I hardly recognize this country.

I came to this country as an immigrant and had a great deal of admiration for this place. It truly felt like a New World still. The Old World had a dark history which had left sinister scars on my own family history: The Netherlands was occupied by the Nazis for five years and while my family was not Jewish, the stories I grew up with often drove me to tears. Such as the story of my great-uncle who married a fellow artist, a Jewish woman, to keep her out of the camps. She was saved but before getting married, the Nazis mandated she get sterilized. Once the war was over, she found out all of her family had been killed and the desire for children, which may have been all the greater when your family is wiped off the map, was squashed because she had been sterilized against her will. Like we do with dogs and cats because there are too many dogs and cats.

The deportations in this country have started already. Deportations today, camps tomorrow, sterilizations the day after tomorrow.

Democracy dies in darkness.

Part of my family was in the Dutch East Indies when the Japanese invaded during WWII. Like the Jews in Europe, they were quickly stripped of their civil rights and ended up in Japanese starvation camps. My great-uncle resisted and was tortured by the Japanese, to die shortly before the war was over.

Resistance today, torture tomorrow?

Democracy dies when no one is looking.

My great-uncle’s wife and three children survived the camps, but as they were evacuated, his two daughters were brutally murdered by Indonesian revolutionaries. Maybe they were collateral damage of Dutch colonialism and exploitation but from a personal angle, the war and its aftermath left a troublesome scar on my family that I have written about in this book.

And America? America, in my limited world view of things, had been the liberator. I know there is every bit of revisionist history about the atomic bombs these days, and whether they were justified, but the Japanese Emperor was not going to stop at anything and if the bombs hadn’t fallen, all those people in (and outside) the camps would have slowly starved to death. Yes, America prevented the death of my great-aunt and her son.

I came to this country in the 1990s so I could leave all that dark history behind me. I came to a country that thrived on immigrants, a country that sent so much Marshall Aid to Europe after the war that, in some ways, America felt like a benevolent Santa Claus. Sure, the burdens of being a world power came with the same overreach and blunders of the imperialists. Vietnam was a mistake, the war in Iraq a travesty but there was still plenty to be proud of — and we were forging ahead, in internet technology, science and innovation.

And now? I’m not so sure…

Last night, I felt a pit in my stomach, and debating gun control with people on social media felt like a total waste of time. I enjoy trolling someone as inept and mentally challenged as 45, and I do report people who preach violence and hatred, but I also see more of America’s dark underbelly. I’m tired of it. And I’m scared.

My sense of powerlessness, the lack of checks and balances, the feeling that 45 and the GOP just serve an oligarchy and will saddle our kids with debt, the fear of a war with North Korea, the daily maligning of the press and FBI, the conspiracy theories of Fox News, the insults and the hatred coming from deranged Oval Office tweets, the stories of deportations– this is a world (minus the tweets) that my grandparents and parents lived in when the Germans and the Japanese invaded and, while opposing the fascist regime, they did way too little in terms of resistance, and finally could not do anything to stem the tide of evil, deportations, killings and general oppression.

The sense of powerlessness and mounting anger peaked yesterday and today when members of the GOP and our President talked about the mental health of the shooter but NOT the PTSD of the victims, and showed, in addition, an utter refusal to even consider reasonable gun proposals that a majority of Americans back, like the ban of assault rifles (80% in favor) and enhanced background checks (90% in favor).

Democracy dies when you won’t even bring a vote to the floor.

The American experiment is failing, folks, and in the words of the woman who was killed in Charlottesville by “some very fine people”, If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

So what am I going to do about it?

I’m going to push back on some of the volunteering I do and use that time to make the blue wave happen. That means phone banks, knocking on doors, getting people to register to vote, drive them to the polls and maybe even run for office myself.

Enough is enough.

And yes… I want to have an answer when my grandchild asks me: “But what did you do about it?”

The GOP, once the party of libertarianism and fiscal responsibility, has lacked the backbone to loudly condemn white supremacy, hate crimes, gun proliferation, wife beaters, Southern judges who date young girls, Russian interference, Trump’s attacks on the press and the FBI, unfair deportations and abuse of ICE, attacks on the Special Counsel, and the daily erosion of our constitutional values and freedoms.

Democracy dies when people stop speaking up. Democracy dies when people stop organizing. It is happening here: a silent coup, orchestrated by a Russian dictator who has the goods on our used car salesman of a President.

If you still stand with Trump, you stand with treason, and if you support the NRA, you have blood on your hands. You simply do not represent what this country is all about.


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My February News: I’m Becoming a Vegetarian…

download-1I see that traffic to this blog has slowed to a crawl, so time to put in another blog.

The last few weeks were kind of a wash because of that horrid flu that lots of people have been grappling with. I continued to work and exercise until I could no longer because of an infection in my ear and both eyes filling up with pus, but after an infusion of antibiotics, I’m back in the running, i.e. working, spending time with Henry Miller (see my last blog here) hosting dogs and coaching students.

Last year, I resolved to update you every day, as a way of making myself accountable and trigger an audience, but this year I want to make myself accountable on other fronts, and these concern my overall health.

Over the Christmas Break I was listening to Will who told me about intermittent fasting and the health benefits. I then happened to watch The Science of Fasting on Amazon Prime and I was amazed by what I heard. Mind you, most of the research has been done on mice but findings so far are interesting in terms of cell reparation and the prevention of diseases like cancer and Type 2 Diabetes. Of course, the pharmaceutical industry just wants sick people so they can sell more pills, and with fasting there is nothing you can sell, except for fasting “spas” which were, in fact, featured in The Science of Fasting, but this explains, I hope, why we have heard so little about this.

Intermittent fasting (stop eating at 8 PM, resume eating at noon, but make sure you eat healthy stuff in between) may not have the same effect as going on a fast for say three weeks, but if you exercise daily, which I have resolved to do this year as well, you need some fuel to keep you going.

Speaking of fuel– for years I have been wondering about cutting out meat from my diet. The research is well-established on that front. There are all sorts of reasons why everyone should consider becoming a vegetarian, the most prominent being the environmental one, i.e. we should keep cows from farting if we want to preserve the planet.

Secondly, if you’re a lover of animals, eating them is just not right. The pain and trauma at slaughterhouses is something I no longer want to be a part or the cause of.

Thirdly, meat is bad for you, and possibly gives you cancer.

Fourthly, with all the deregulation that is going on under the Trump administration, I can’t trust our government anymore to ensure quality meat. If controls fall away, it becomes easier to slaughter sick animals or feed animals with animals (mad cow disease, here we come) and that affects our general public health.

As a Dutch person, I simply cannot cut out dairy (yet). I shouldn’t be eating fish either, but for the occasional protein, I may be tempted to eat fish on occasion.

To give credit where credit is due: Will has been an inspiration but then so has Caroline, who became a vegetarian years ago.

Yesterday, I did my first grocery run for the week. Interesting, how we’re all deformed by our habits. Staying away from the meat counter wasn’t that hard, but filling up my cart with veggies and fruits felt different, promising and light.

54018738315__56D90A8C-9906-4BF5-8ED6-09CD0EB8B41B.JPGLast night, Jon and I feasted on a West African tomato peanut soup. It sounds totally weird but it was awesome.

I’m “coming out as a plant eater” in this blog, not because I want to brag but because I want to make myself accountable to you my dear reader, and the world.

Here’s to plants, and lots of them. Just don’t tell me plants have feelings, too…


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A New Window, A New Desk, A New Book…?


In our story book cottage we had a window with diamond shaped glass that had seen and felt too many an earthquake so the glass was popping out of the lead. For a while we fixed this the cracker/white trash way (duct tape) but since this was my study, it became an eye sore as well as the reason for frigid temps. I started calling it my Wuthering Heights because on wet and windy days, I only needed to close my eyes to find myself on the Yorkshire Moors.

Of course the window was not a standard size, as nothing is in this wretched house, so we ordered a new custom-made Marvin window. It cost more than you want to know (and now we have to replace the even more expensive and bigger windows in the bedroom), but the window for my study was installed Sat morning.

For years I had only half the desk you see above because we lost part of the IKEA hardware and they don’t make the friggin’ desk anymore but luckily we found some of it, and Jon just put the desk together, so now I have a new window, a “new” desk and a new study. Is this the harbinger for a new book?

Which brings me to an update on the Henry Miller book. I’m putting the finishing touches to the Henry Miller bibliography and that has in it his novels etc. but lots of essays and little pieces that are spread out over 90 publications or so. I have read one third of it, and mind you, some of these publications are hard to find, but luckily UC Berkeley has a lot of stuff, so as part of my biking regime I include trips to Berkeley, to pick up, drop off books or simply work there. Although… now that I have a nice study, I have a good excuse to work from home, so life is good. I also have lots of dog guests these days so at this point I am quarter kennel, quarter Henry Miller scholar, quarter translator and quarter college essay coach. I guess that’s what people mean by a “portfolio career”. Do I miss a corporate office? Nah. On the contrary, I relish the freedom, and strange to say, Henry Miller has really inspired me to live the life I want to live and not live a life that others want me to live.

In his book The Books in My Life, Henry Miller explains that as he gets older, he puts inspirers above authors (Jesus, Krisnamurti, Lao-tse etc): “Their aim and purpose was to open up life, to make man hungry for life, to exalt life.” Miller became that kind of sage and inspirer in the latter part of his life and he has been helping me setting priorities.

Cheapest life coach I’ve ever had.

All I have to do now is read more and deeper and do the kind of writing that excites me and the world, and who knows… if I stay off social media and let the noise be noise, I may have half a book by the end of this year?

Life is short. Use it well.


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Turning Living into an Art


Now that the holidays are over and Christmas tree corpses are littering our streets (ah, our consumer culture…), I have been wondering about how to improve on the art of living.

Besides my resolution not to be lived by the short-term demands of tech companies, but instead, set my own schedule, stick to riding daily and walking and being in nature, (as well as getting rid of all the clutter inside and outside our home since I think this will also declutter my mind), I realize that mindful living is a form of focus that you need to summon every day in order to reap the benefits.

The Sunday NYT had an interesting article about the app WeCroak, which will send you daily quotes reminding you that you too will be snuffed out, i.e. memento mori reminders like the paintings we used to have in seventeenth century Holland, or as the app described it: Find happiness by contemplating your mortality. To some this may seem morbid, but remember how some people, who have been faced by mortality because of an illness or other life threatening situation, will say that after that, they have become better at seizing the day and truly enjoying life?

When Henry Miller transformed into a sage, his writing started to truly inspire, and fed, in part, the Beats and droves of adolescents who decided to “drop out”. This wasn’t because Miller wanted to be hip or be in synch with his time but because he was perfecting the art of living. For him the turning point came in Paris, when he was in his forties: “I had lost my illusions, but fortunately not my enthusiasm, nor the joy of living, nor my unquenchable curiosity — about anything and everything — that made me the writer I am. It has never left me.”

Thus at 80, he penned this famous passage, which, if you are a glass half full kinda gal/guy, you might as well hang over your bed:

If at eighty you’re not a cripple or an invalid, if you have your health, if you still enjoy a good walk, a good meal (with all the trimmings), if you can sleep without first taking a pill, if birds and flowers, mountains and sea still inspire you, you are a most fortunate individual and you should get down on your knees morning and night and thank the good Lord for his savin’ and keepin’ power. If you are young in years but already weary in spirit, already on your way to becoming an automaton, it may do you good to say to your boss – under your breath, of course – “Fuck you, Jack! you don’t own me.” If you can whistle up your ass, if you can be turned on by a fetching bottom or a lovely pair of teats, if you can fall in love again and again, if you can forgive your parents for the crime of bringing you into the world, if you are content to get nowhere, just take each day as it comes, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from going sour, surly, bitter and cynical, man you’ve got it half licked.

He wrote this in his essay On Turning Eighty, and in it he had some other good advice to savor the art of not only aging gracefully but what goes into living a fulfilling life. Interestingly, some of these wisdoms are now being confirmed by research, such as the importance of friends– who aren’t necessarily echo chambers but who speak the truth.

He also mentioned the sense of wonder, not taking things and yourself too seriously, and trying to live humbly. We cannot convert people who have made up their minds (an oak is an oak, and a pig a pig, Miller said) and there are really only very few people who learn from life or from each other. His line “One can fight evil, but against stupidity one is helpless” I find particularly prescient of our current times. Yet, no matter how depressing the world may get, Miller also said “All we really have is the present, but very few of us ever live it.” And these days, it seems, we don’t read Miller (or any writers anymore) but we need a $1 app like WeCroak to make that nugget of wisdom count…

Some of Miller’s beliefs were already familiar to me as far as Miller’s general outlook on life goes, but there was other stuff I hadn’t read before: his disinterest in competitive sports for instance, stressing that exercise through play is more beneficial than our focus on performance or winning. Nor did Miller believe in health fads or diet: “I want to enjoy my food”. Miller also advocated euthanasia, when euthanasia was much more controversial than it is now: “We were not asked to be born; why should we be refused the privilege of making our exit when things become unbearable?”

In spite of Miller writing that he had had a lifelong disinterest in politics, religion or isms as they tend to get us down, Miller nonetheless (and always) deplored where the world seemed to be headed. In 1972, he missed a general “lack of grandeur, beauty [well, that may have been 1970s fashion and style…], love, compassion and freedom” — again, prescient words…

In closing, Miller said these wise words:

There is nothing wrong with life itself. It is the ocean in which we swim and we either adapt to it or sink to the bottom. But it’s in our power as human beings not to pollute the waters of life, not to destroy the spirit which animates us.

There. We can only save ourselves. But that takes willpower, and well… forget the app.

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