A few years ago my grandmother Joy Willing passed away. She left behind this tome, among many other treasures and memories, for my mother. While helping to pack and sort some of my grandmother's belongings, I took a liking to this book, and I asked my mom if I could have it. She said no, but that maybe someday she would pass it on to me.
This past Christmas, having largely forgotten about it, I unwrapped a gift from Mom, and there it was. A Treasury of the Familiar.
I spend some time late at night a couple times a week leafing through the pages, some still sheltering some of Grandma's bookmarks scrawled with her notes and her distinct and nearly illegible tiny handwriting. She was incredibly well read, and very conservative. I remember some conversations with her over chocolate pie and burgers, before I knew much at all about politics. I, along with a millions of others became enamored with Barack Obama as he rose through the ranks and became our President. Grandma was not a fan. Growing up in Iowa and then raising a family in the suburbs of Chicago, she was quite wary of the politics in that city, and after learning more about the city and it's history during and after that conversation, it wasn't hard to understand why.
I wish she was alive today, so that we could share a chocolate cream pie and pick apart the current events, and the impending presidential inauguration. I wonder how she would have voted, and I wonder what she would have had to say about it all. She abhorred and mistrusted Hillary, and did not like the Clintons, but she was quite pragmatic, and likely wouldn't have been reactionary. I would have loved to get her take on old Bernie Sanders. She came from a different era, and lived most of her adult life alone and battling Multiple Sclerosis. I remember her going from a cane to two arm canes, to a walker, and finally a motorized wheelchair. Her mind stayed sharp, up until the very end, even as her body finally quit on her and she left us.
The book meanders through Shakespeare, to Emerson, to sections of the bible, to Aesop's fables, to George Washington's farewell address, to the constitution... and many other rivers of words in between. It's fascinating, and I love it. I thought I'd share a few passages that I find quite relevant, and even poignant at this point in history.
I like to imagine Mr. Saxe as a time traveler, at one point appearing out of a glowing orb somewhere, and after a brief acclimation, being thrust into a political facebook comment section, inspiring this poem.
The last two leave me hopeful, and I've gone back to them once or twice in the last couple of days. I think a lot on the virtue of humility. I crave simplicity as often as I crave adventure and an unknown path. I no longer crave fame, as I once did as a boy with big rock dreams. Now, only meaningful challenge, love, art, and respect. I want to be good, in every sense, and I want to inspire that in others. "He serves all, who dares to be true." It is a daring endeavor, to seek truth, and to hold yourself to the standard of truth. Easy, it isn't. Rewarding, it is. Yoda, I sound like.
I haven't scoured through the whole book, not by a long shot.. but so far my favorite passage is the very first one, and a very famous one it is. The Way of the World, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. To be sure, we are all in this thing together, but we are also at once undeniably alone for much of our lives and many of our journeys, whether inward or outward, upwards or downwards. A challenge unlike any I've seen in my lifetime lies ahead. A complicated and agitated world is in desperate need of the simplicity of love, patience, and truth in all forms.