Date: March 1st, 2011
Info: I read a Herman Melville quote last night which reads: “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” This quote really hits home for me – and while this blog travels across the binary circuits of the World Wide Web – many of the readers may not have any idea who I am. The above quote is intended to provide you with an appropriate reference. Those of you that do know me are more than likely in complete agreement and I’ll leave it at that.
Let’s look at the first part of this quote – FAILURE.
Have I failed in my life? – Indeed. The list of failures is actually so long I’d rather not provide all of you with the should haves, could haves and would haves, though it’s safe to say I’ve chosen the path less traveled on more than one occasion – fruitful at times, extremely costly at others.
Bonnie would agree 100 percent her husband is original – our daughters would also concur, almost to the point where it’s sometimes painful for them to witness. This is one reason why the two of us would rather purchase the MLB package to watch our Boston Red Sox season unfold in front of us while in the confines of our home versus heading out to the local taverns wearing our ball caps and shirts and mixing it up with those who see no future in the crew from Fenway. Experience and history dictate we remain in the comfort of our home where the glass is always half full.
Now the second part … being ORIGINAL.
Good portions of Melville’s writings are about his days at sea. Born in NYC at the birth of the 19th century he once quipped the oceans of the world were his Yale and Harvard. When he became landlocked his books grew to be inside narratives, the voyages of a mental traveler. Upon further review of Melville one learns he was the son of a colorful Bostonian and his grandfather, Major Thomas Melvill (notice the last e is dropped) was a venerable survivor of the Boston Tea Party whose refusal to change the style of his clothing or his manners to fit the times made him an emblematic figure in Oliver Wendell Holmes’s poem “The Last Leaf.” I knew I liked Melville for a reason.
Melville himself grew up in a stable, with an unremarkable childhood until he was forced to leave the Albany Academy due to his father’s financial decisions. Herman clerked in the family fur and cap business in Pittsfield, Mass, taught irregularly in various school districts and in 1839 he stomped aboard his first merchant ship; St. Lawrence, bound for Liverpool with a cargo of cotton to return home a decade later writing about his first voyage, now a drifter and fatherless.
What is a man to do without a father? With luck, the son will have adopted a few key attributes that can carry him into the days ahead. In my case, losing my dad fifteen years ago was truly a shock to my system and now we speak of Bonnie. What is a girl to do without her mother? Certainly the same simple rule above would apply, would it not? While it’s true Bonnie has been diagnosed with two malignant tumors, both of which are scheduled to be permanently removed on the 14th of March (20 days if you’re counting) she is doing ALL of this without the guidance of her most trusted friend and confidant, her mother Lois.
Bonnie’s cup is still half full – you’ll see.
Last night, after a delicious dinner, our youngest worked hard on an essay, and Bonnie started returning the multiple voice mails she had received during the day. One in particular I truly loved was her conversation with her cousin Cheryl. Nothing but laughter on both sides of this call – and as we all know – laughter will help destroy anything that’s bothering you, so first and foremost let me say thank you … strike that … let me shout THANK YOU to Cheryl for her time, her tone and her love.
So I started things off yammering about Melville and how he played the game. He played it without worrying about what others thought of him and he documented it all in his numerous writings, many of which were written while Melville himself suffered from sciatica and bouts of depression – yet he continued to write. Hell, he wrote ten novels inside an eleven year period. As Melville aged he wrote one of my favorite pieces of literature; Billy Bud the Sailor. This great achievement of Melville’s silver age was started as a poem about a sailor awaiting execution of mutiny. The poem traversed into a short novel. This was the work of a serious artist whereas Billy Budd, the sailor, is hanged in order to assure discipline aboard a warship, but the story, like this blog you’ve been reading, and those about Bonnie that have come before you are not that simple.
I have tried to involve you in the complex implications of where we are – and where we are heading. I, like Melville would love to end this entire blog with poetry on roses and wildflowers which is how Melville ended his long literary career. I’d like to make it clear that I’m certainly not paralleling my daily writings with that of one of America’s greatest sailors & authors.
The intent of the entire blog really is this: Our cups are always half full and no one is going to tell me different. I have my father to thank for providing me the stubbornness to think for myself, I have my wife to thank for allowing me to continue being original and in the words of our cousin Cheryl, who says last night “Paul, when you reach 50 you can feel at ease telling anyone and everyone to shut the &*(@ up.”
Thanks for the reminder Cheryl.
I apologize for the rant … or do I?
Keep her close you guys.