All of the virtues depend upon truth, and truth depends upon them all. Final truth in this world is unattainable, but its pursuit leads the individual away from unfreedom. The temptation to believe what feels right assails us at all times from all directions. Authoritarianism begins when we can no longer tell the difference between the true and the appealing. At the same time, the cynic who decides that there is no truth at all is the citizen who welcomes the tyrant. Total doubt about all authority is naivete about the particular authority that reads emotions and breathes cynicism. To see the truth means finding a way between conformity and complacency, towards individuality.Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom
Hi. My birthday was very nice, thank you. Lovely dinner in Vila do Porto; my Airbnb host provided pleasant company. I made a wish.
But the weather was shitty so I postponed my plan for a hike around Pico Alto – the mountain – until it cleared up. Friday I rode the e-bike the two or three miles to the summit, climbed the staircase up to the top, and then circumnavigated the peak: a good long hike. Weather still a bit cloudy; at the miradouro (overlook) on the north slope the clouds were swimming all around me, and low clouds made the latter part of the hike all misty, mysterious and magical. Here’s a passel of pictures: don your hiking boots, imagine unfamiliar woodsy scents and crisp fresh air off the ocean and a warm sun when it shines through, and enjoy the Mariense forest …
I’ve been reading, working, watching some TV and movies, and knitting. Main focus, I’m still pressing to get closer to my terror; it feels like pushing against a force field. But I’ve made some steps forward in cutting out addictions and learning to feel instead of engaging them. Progress.
Knitting because I’d packed light expecting to purchase something warm here – I’d read the local women knit – but maybe because it’s off season, there’s nothing in the artisan cooperative store. So I ordered Portuguese wool from a shop in Lisbon and I’m making a cozy sleeveless pullover. I’m tripling the yarn so it’s super bulky and knitting up fast. It’ll be a nice souvenir and a versatile piece, I hope.
This vinyasa krama yoga I’m into involves a lot of waving your arms around, and it’s helping my shoulders – am still getting back to normal strength and ROM even though the frozen shoulder thing was mostly done around a year ago. I’ve got ballet lessons in Paris to look forward to and really want to be flexible in time for those.
Reading: Just finished Maggie Nelson’s Bluets – interesting but not my cup of tea. So many people adore it – the writer substitutes an obsession with the color blue for her lost love – but it never touched my heart. Now I’m on to Patti Smith’s Devotion and I’m swooning. As a writer I’ve always felt a bit of an orphan, I’ve never found or adopted a role model, but I think Patti Smith is becoming that for me. In 1967, at age 20, she left her blue-collar family and moved to Manhattan with nothing, in order to pursue her art; in Just Kids she writes of having to choose between books and food. Obviously I’ve never struggled with that degree of poverty – but her dedication to her art, to herself as an artist; her conviction of the worth of art and of creation – those are things I need. I feel them within myself, but they’re disconnected from the outer world; I feel the world doesn’t share these values, and therefore they remain interior – so Patti Smith’s devotion to the written word, and the happiness that she finds in it, are rain on my parched soul. Also, she writes about Paris and I’m going to be in Paris soon; she writes about her life as a writer and I feel I’m just coming into that for myself. I’m measuring out this tiny, delicious book so I don’t read it all in one gulp.
I’m abstracting The Road to Unfreedom. Please read this book. Timothy Snyder draws a map showing how we’ve got to this state in America, within the larger context of European political history and Vladimir Putin’s ambitions.
Mind-bogglingly for me, Snyder finds that the crux is dedication to truth. (For a heartbreakingly concrete example, he observes that Trump’s support in the 2016 election strongly correlated with the geography of the opioid epidemic.)
For my friends who are familiar with Divine Truth, do you remember what Jesus said in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) about the causes of war – that in spite of anything we say or how we vote, our own individual desire for protection of our safety and security, even if that means violence, causes leaders to go to war? (I think of this idea of how souls affect politics as like a wind, that all of our souls are each individually flapping our wings in a certain direction, and collectively it creates a wind, and then that wind picks up specific events and pushes them in one direction or another, like leaves. A bit the way the spirit body controls the material body, the collective soul of the polity influences the material events and circumstances there.) Anyway: apply that to Donald Trump’s election … here is a man who has risen to power on the explicit basis of his pandering to people’s desire for the appealing absence of truth. I think this means that even though I didn’t vote for Trump, the emotion in me of resisting truth means that my soul has contributed to his rise. That’s a sobering thought and is helping to motivate me to value truth and work on my addictions and facade.
(For my friends who don’t know what I’m talking about, it doesn’t mean I go around telling lies all the time. It means that there are truths I avoid and resist, and it means that there are cases where I will compromise truth because I’m afraid or I want an addiction that much. I want to get to where that never happens. It’s important.)
I’m fasting today, bit slow-witted, so I’ll say ttfn. Have a good week. If I owe you an email, I’ll write soon. Bye for now, friends, take care of yourselves and each other.
PS: By the way, is this font large enough? Is it easy enough to read? Let me know if not, I’ll bump it up.