Monday, May 23, 2011

A Letter on Connections and Current Events

Dear readers,

I'm writing to you again to keep up promoting letter writing (beyond e-mails of "How's it going? Same here") and putting more time into our thoughts and interactions, celebrating the word and to discuss to some current events on my mind.

I've been thinking about this New York Times article on Facebook taking the personal touch out of birthday well wishes.

"People feel so good about themselves for acknowledging you with a token 'happy birthday,' but it's part of the world's great migration away from true connection. And then the birthday person writes back, 'Thanks so much for remembering.' But I didn't remember.'"

The migration away from true connection, yes, that is exactly what is plaguing our nation socially! How little valuable time do we make for each other? Is social connectivity about a numbers game or limiting our time we invest in one another? I hope not.

Are there any articles on your mind? A few weeks ago, I read this article about how solar panels are popping up in neighborhoods in New Jersey (there's a state mandate that by 2021 power providers get 23 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.) I was extremely excited when I spotted them in my neighborhood. Well as it turns out, the American vanity obsession extends to our telephone poles. Some New Jerseyans are annoyed and see them as an eye sore and want them removed. Well, Owen Meany – THE VOICE! – would have something to say about that. "JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN'T SEE POLLUTION DOESN'T MEAN IT DOESN'T EXIST. PEOPLE BELIEVE IN GOD BUT THEY CAN'T SEE HIM. WHY DON'T PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THE POLLUTION TO GOD'S GREEN EARTH? WOULD YOU RATHER SEE THE PANELS, OR HAVE THE INVISIBLE POLLUTION?"

I read that Kindle eBooks are now outselling printed books on Amazon. What do you make of this? Don't think publishers aren't glad you can't pass on a favorite book.

A town in New Jersey by me, Northvale, will see the shuttering of its 54 year old library since voters didn't want to increase property taxes to fund it. The VOICE says, "WELL THAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE, BECAUSE YOUR PROPERTY VALUES WILL DROP WITH NO LIBRARY IN TOWN, PROBABLY MORE THAN THE COST OF WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE HAD TO PAY!" I wouldn't move to a town with no library, would you?

I need to turn to books to escape this madness. Are you reading anything wonderful? A book group I belong to at work just read "Let the Great World Spin" by Column McCann, which was a recommendation from Cate at Liberal Simplicity.

Some of the passages still sit with me...

"Let this be a lesson to us all...You will be walking someday in the dark and the truth will come shining through, and behind you will be a life that you never want to see again."

"The only thing worth grieving over...was that sometimes there was more beauty in this life than the world can bear."

And this passage on New York City:

"It was a city uninterested in history. Strange things occurred precisely because there was no necessary regard for the past. The city lived in a sort of everyday present. It had no need to believe in itself as a London, or Athens, or even a signifier of the New World, like a Sydney, or a Los Angeles. No, the city couldn't care less about where it stood. He [a judge] had seen a T-shirt once that said: NEW YORK F*CKIN' City. As if it were the only place that ever existed and the only one that ever would."

Thinking of the solar panel objectors, I considered how some fellow Americans act just as New York City is described with regard to our impact on the environment, animals and our fellow citizen. Not caring on the ground where we stand. Because we have little regard for the past. Like we're the only people that exist or matter.

As for those who don't use the library who voted against it: What about the children who went there for homework or to find life-forming books, job seekers, seniors, weary workers seeking refuge? I don't like high taxes either, but some things are worth paying for.

Next we're reading The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, but I've got another book I'm reading and can't wait to share with you, but it's worthy of its own letter.

There is so much beauty in this world – which I'm glad didn't end May 21st! True story: I wanted to take the family dog to the park around 5:15 (the world was supposed to end around 6) and my sister and mother both protested, "NO! Just in case!" Two hours later, Scotty and I were enjoying a sunset stroll in the park. Besides, I think the animal kingdom, in their own way somewhat smarter than us, would have sensed any disaster more than some false prophet.

On that note, hope you are enjoying spring, and are connecting with those whom you love and value: family, friends, sweethearts, pets.


PS: I'm holding off on doing any more Mad Men Mondays columns for now. I may discuss the series and themes in less frequent posts, but have many other things I want to share, and too little time.


  1. I will miss Mad Men Mondays, but I'm also looking forward to everything else you have to say.

    I'm so glad you liked Let the Great World Spin! I'm considering re-reading it every year. As for ebooks, my main problem with them is that as far as I'm concerned, you don't really "own" the book. You can't let your friends borrow it! I'm all for borrowing books when possible (whether from the library or a friend), and if I do actually pay for a book, I want the right to lend it to as many friends as I want.

    I would most definitely not move to a town without a library; in fact, the quality of the local library system is one of the main factors in determining whether or not I would move to any particular place.

  2. Dear Catherine,

    Please forgive me, but this will be a short note. Deadlines are bearing down on me. But I really just had to let you know about a book I just finished. Your note about the lack of a town library, the rudeness of people not wanting the "eye sore" of responsible energy consumption...oy! You must read Garrison Keillor's "Homegrown Democract."

    It is a delightful, quick read that I think you might actually enjoy. Of course Keillor can be a bit of an old crab, but can't we all?

    Hugs from the Left Coast,

  3. Hahahahaha
    What better place for your dog to be than in the park if The End is coming!!
    I'm taking a wait and see additude with this Kindle thing - they still read mags and books in Europe. Book stores are NOT closing in panic like here.
    Maybe they are slow on the uptake? Who knows?

  4. Greetings Cate,

    I did, thank you so much again. And I read a library copy. In addition to the money I save (no Netflix account alone saves $100 a year, plus the value of books and magazines read, music listened to, etc), I cannot measure in dollar terms the knowledge and joy I get from the library. While it's a small blip of news, it's happening in communities across America: What do we value? How big a price do we pay for the financial mistakes of past generations? What is that impact on future ones?

    Dearest Aldra,

    Thank you so much for sharing, and I am thrilled to be in the company of avid readers! Why don't I hear people enthusiastically talking about a book they are reading as they do about some "reality" fake show they are watching or some pricey possession they acquired?

    Hiya Carol,

    I hope Europe doesn’t follow our lead. I'm going to my favorite independent book shop in New Jersey (Shaw's in Westwood) today to purchase some books. I like the library almost always for the thriftiness, but I want to keep local shops around, support some authors and keep books alive.

    Thank you all.