Sincere Appreciation

It’s always worth taking the trouble to praise people.
— My fortune cookie, today

Any flattering remark, if repeated too often, will always wear thin in the end and become as wounding as any insult.
– José Saramago, born this day in 1922

Apprenez que tout flatteur vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute.
— Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695)

Between flattery and admiration there often flows a river of contempt.
Minna Antrim (1861-1950)

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.
Dr Joyce Brothers

Most people are much more able to take criticism to heart than to hear words of support or appreciation.  It’s a good rule to offer ten instances of the latter for every one of the former that you utter. — Harville Hendrix

Some of us are surrounded by destructive people who tell us we’re worthless when we’re endlessly valuable, that we’re stupid when we’re smart, that we’re failing even when we succeed. But the opposite of people who drag you down isn’t people who build you up and butter you up. It’s equals who are generous but keep you accountable, true mirrors who reflect back who you are and what you are doing. — Rebecca Solnit



I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician–
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and

school-books’1; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’2–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’3, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

—Marianne Moore, born this day in 1887


1. (Where the boundary between prose and poetry lies I shall never be able to understand. The question is raised in manuals of style, yet the answer to it lies beyond me. Poetry is verse: prose is not verse. Or else poetry is everything with the exception of business documents and school books.)
— from diary of Tolstoy

2. From a comment by W. B. Yeats about William Blake: “The limitation of his view was from the very intensity of his vision; he was a too literal realist of imagination, as others are of nature; and because he believed that the figures seen by the mind’s eye, when exalted by inspiration, were ‘eternal existences,’ symbols of divine essences, he hated every grace of style that might obscure their lineaments.” Source

3. One of the most striking moments in the poem is the phrase “imaginary gardens with real toads in them,” a formulation Moore sets off with quotation marks even though, as far as I know, no one has ever identified a source. I suspect that Moore invented the image but, finding it a little too pat or studied, tempered and complicated her line by pretending it was a quotation. But who knows?
Robert Pinsky

Sita Sings the Blues

“I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man.”
— The Beatles (Rubber Soul, 1965)

To John Lennon fifty years ago, this kind of jealousy was not a healthy love.  To our present-day sensibilities, the attitude sounds like a depraved contorted sentiment that could never be confused with “love”. Today, we can no longer relate to Frank Stockton’s short story The Lady or the Tiger (1892).

Classic plots are rooted in jealous rage (Zeus’s wife HeraOthelloThe Winter’s Tale, The Kreutzer Sonata).  Most incomprehensible and infuriating to us is the ancient practice of punishing women who have been taken against their will.  Such is the plot of the ancient Hindu tale of Rama and Sita, which has been retold with variations for each generation.

Nina Paley brings her modern, feminist sensibility to the Ramayana, complete with music by Rachmaninoff and Irving Berlin.   Sita Sings the Blues


For those of you who are accustomed to using the Daily Inspiration for a two-minute break from your work, I apologize for stealing 80 minutes from your workday. I know you have not regretted the time. –JJM

Rally for Democracy

On Saturday in Barcelona, hundreds of thousands of protesters demanded release of  their jailed representatives.

Background: There is a separatist movement in Catalonia, the Northeastern province of Spain (capital=Barcelona).  The central Spanish government has declared the movement illegal and jailed the elected people’s representatives to their provincial government.

Eight former members of Catalonia’s dissolved Cabinet and two activists are in jail while Spanish authorities investigate their alleged roles in promoting an illegal declaration of independence last month in violation of Spain’s Constitution.
WaPo article



Deep Background: The machinery of democracy are being undermined, including independent news services,  voting mechanics, and structures of government.  Unless we take to the streets, we will certainly lose what is left of our democracy.  Whether for or against independence, the Catalan people are lighting the way for us.

The Greatest Hero in All of Military History

It was the height of the Cuban missile crisis, October 27, 1962. It was the most dangerous moment in the Cold War, when the US and USSR stood toe-to-toe and each dared the other to risk global nuclear annihilation for strategic gain. Both President Kennedy and Premier Khruschchev were wary of the risks, but both were being pressured by hard-line cabinet members. Khrushchev placed nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, but didn’t announce it because he didn’t want to create a panic in the US. The ploy backfired when the US CIA found out about the missiles and recommended to Kennedy that this was the opportunity they had been waiting for, the excuse to invade Cuba and replace Castro with a government friendly to the USA.

Kennedy successfully defused the call for an invasion, but substituted a blockade of Cuba, allowing no ships to enter Cuban waters or planes to enter Cuban air space. Blockades are an act of war. Kennedy tried to soft-pedal our aggression by calling it a “quarantine”. Both nations’ nuclear arsenals–thousands of hydrogen bombs–were on high alert. There was a standoff with Soviet warships outside Havana’s harbor. A Soviet submarine, however, was undeterred. Unbeknownst to the Americans, the submarine was armed with nuclear weapons. US battleships set off depth charges to warn the sub to take the quarantine seriously.

It worked. They were locked below the surface, afraid to surface, and running out of air. Everyone in the crew was shaken up by explosions that echoed like hammers on hollow metal. Some crew members passed out from toxic CO2 levels in the sub.

Panic ensued. Commander Valentin Savitsky tried unsuccessfully to reach the general staff. He then ordered the officer in charge of the nuclear torpedo to prepare it for battle, shouting, “Maybe the war has already started up there, while we are doing somersaults here. We are going to blast them now. We will die, but we will sink them all. We will not disgrace our Navy.” [Oliver Stone & Peter Kuznik, Untold History of the US  Read the bookWatch the video.]

Savitsky turned to the other two officers. Unanimous consent of the three was the required protocol for using the nuclear torpedo. One officer agreed immediately, but the second, Vasily Arkhipov kept a calmer mind and a clearer head. He was able to calm the other two, and convince them to be patient.

We are all grateful to Vasily Arkhipov. In that act of reason and restraint under duress, one man saved the world from a war that would have instantly killed a billion people, and, over several years, wiped out most of the world’s human and animal populations through fallout and nuclear winter.


Not by ourselves

Shrimad Rajchandra lived only 33 years, and he is 150 years old today.

Rajchandra was a Jain master.  Jainism is a minority Indian religion, the most important principle of which is

ahimsa — not harming of people or animals.

Other important principles include
anekantvada — the multifaceted nature of truth, reflected in many traditions.
aparigraha — freedom from having possessions

Gandhi credits Rajchandra with inspiring him to seek a spiritual core in his life and his work.  He was a young lawyer when he met Rajchandra, who, though not much older than Gandhi, had devoted his life to spiritual practice.

Rajchandra came to his self-realization via a path of renunciation and unflinching contemplation of death.  He credits his ascendance to imparted grace from a spiritual master.

Mighty foes like egotism cannot be overcome by self-indulgence,
They can be overcome with little effort by surrendering to a true guru.

One who attains omniscience from the teachings of a right Guru reveres him, even though the Guru himself might not have attained omniscience. 

These lines come from (translation of) a poem called Atma Siddhi, written by or through Rajchandra.