“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” — Plutarch
“Heaven is in everything. Follow the light, hide in the cloudiness, and begin in what is. Do this and your understanding will be like not understanding and your wisdom will be like not being wise. By not being wise you will become wise.” — Chuang Tzu
The Universe is made up of vibrations and waves. Everything is in motion, everything hums, everything is infused with energy. Find the vibrations that resonate with the best vibrations in your own soul and place your attention there. Do this consistently and with care, and synergy will result… your world will become greater than the sum of its parts. Contribute your own best vibrations to the vibrations of the Universe, and harmony will arise… your life will become music. This is the Tao of living well.
Neptune is the Roman equivalent to the Greek god Poseidon. He is widely recognized as the god of the sea, standing strong and regal with his trident, heavily bearded and boldly postured, exerting great power over his underwater domain. His realm extends beyond the ocean floor, as well, since, as the ruler of water and climate, he is also the god of storms, wind and rain. He can provide safe passage to sea-faring vessels, or, just as quickly, he can bring them to their doom. He is also the provider of life-giving rainfall to agricultural endeavors, the filler of rivers and lakes with fish, and the one who causes underground springs to overflow with fresh drinking water.
Surely a deity of such breadth and reach deserves his own festival. And, as it happens, tomorrow, July 23, marks the ancient Roman festival of Neptunalia. Placed squarely in the heart of the dry season, this pleasant social event was slated as a time to celebrate the god Neptune and to implore him to bring more life-giving rain. Often, a bull would be sacrificed as a symbol of agricultural fertility, and then the people would celebrate with the traditional activities of having a feast in the shade of shelters built with tree branches, drinking spring water, and sharing a pleasant, joyful time with friends. During this festival, many of the standard social restrictions were lifted, giving people the opportunity to interact with others that they might not usually have the chance to meet. What better time to get together with friends, share a meal, and perhaps open yourself up to the possibility of meeting someone new?
Neptunalia is also a good time to reconsider our own relationship with water, both literally and symbolically. Many ancient religions place great importance on the metaphorical lessons that can be learned from water’s unique combination of fluidity, quiet patience, and immense power. “Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” (Lao Tzu) There is much that we can learn from observing water, such as how to adapt to our environment while staying true to our core selves, going with the flow instead of fighting it, and finding creative solutions to challenges.
So, in celebration of Neptunalia, I encourage you to get together with some friends, share a feast, raise a glass of water, and open your mind to the flow of the Universe. You might be pleasantly surprised where it takes you!
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” — Harper Lee
The “new” book attributed to Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman, purports to be the long-delayed release of a “sequel” to the literary masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird, but I find the entire situation dubious.
First of all, the timing of the “discovery” of this previously unpublished manuscript, and its presentation as a novel that Harper Lee “always wanted published,” seems highly questionable to me. I find it difficult to believe that Harper Lee, one of the best-selling and widely-adored novelists of the 20th century, could not have had anything she wished published at any moment in her long life. If she wanted this book out, it would have been out years ago, even decades ago. The timing of its release, following the death of Harper Lee’s sister, a staunch defender of Lee’s legacy and work, smacks to me of a manipulative money-grab by people around the 89-year-old author, and it is unconscionable, in my opinion, because it is at the expense of nothing less than her legacy.
Which brings us to the second point: the content of the book. The story takes place 20 years after the events of the original, and purports to describe how, later in life, the virtuous hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, eventually conforms to the petty, racist narrow-mindedness of the world around him. This, however, in my opinion, is something that Harper Lee would have never wanted. My evidence of this? If you read the original To Kill a Mockingbird carefully, you will see that it is not written from the viewpoint of the child “Scout,” as many people think. The book is actually written from the viewpoint of the adult Scout, looking back on her childhood. The key here is that she not only holds her father Atticus Finch up as a character of heroic virtue, kindness and strength from the perspective of a wide-eyed child, but that her love and respect for him remains unabated into her adult years. This was no accident. It tells me that Harper Lee wanted to secure the notion that the virtue and character of Atticus Finch never changed, never faltered, even later in life, as this “new” book seems to suggest that it did.
We readers, however — we lovers of literature, we champions of culture — can help preserve the legacy of a great writer and an amazing book by merely choosing to relegate this “sequel” to the status of the false work that it is, and by choosing to retain the original masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird as the final word on the world created by Harper Lee. Because, while it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is far worse, in my opinion, to attempt to kill the very heart and virtue of the defender of mockingbirds, Atticus Finch.
There are two things, then, that we can learn from this situation. First, if you are a writer and you have work that you do not wish to be published, destroy it. Don’t imagine that it will be looked upon in the proper light and/or reasonably presented at some future time. You cannot count on this happening. And second, we must cherish our classics in literature. We must appreciate, preserve and celebrate wonderful books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Old Man and the Sea, The Fountainhead… any work that presents virtue as a truly heroic, yet humanly attainable character trait. Books such as these represent the height of what literature is capable of doing, presenting us with higher versions of humanity to which we can aspire, and giving us a blueprint from which we can forge the mettle of our own character and become better versions of ourselves.
Long live Atticus Finch.
“If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the revealer of all creation. To the mind that is still, the entire universe surrenders.”
— Chuang Tzu
“I am he that walks with the tender and growing night, I call to the earth and sea, half-held by the night… You, sea! I resign myself to you… Sea of stretch’d ground swells, Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths, Sea of the brine of life… Howler and scooper of storms… I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases.”
— Walt Whitman
“I immediately fell into a blank thoughtless trance wherein it was again revealed to me ‘This thinking has stopped’ and I sighed because I didn’t have to think anymore and felt my whole body sink into a blessedness surely to be believed, completely relaxed and at peace with all the ephemeral world of dream and dreamer and the dreaming itself.”
— Jack Kerouac