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Friday, January 30, 2009

Love is All Around Me?

Have you read William Carlos Williams' (1883-1963) short story, "A Use of Force"? Williams was a medical doctor who specialized in pediatrics in Rutherford, New Jersey and who also maintained a highly successful writing career. In this particular story, he seems to address that hidden facet of human behavior, violence, that lies dormant until the appropriate circumstances bring it out. In brief, during a house visit a doctor feels forced open the mouth of a defiant little girl in order to diagnose diphtheria. Naturally, it is expected that a doctor would do everything in his power to save the patient from further pain and perhaps death; however, he honestly reveals his thoughts during the situation. Since Williams is a doctor and the fictional story is about a doctor's experience, the reader starts thinking that the story is true, which makes it all the more impacting. When the girl stubbornly refuses to open her mouth and physically prevents the examination, the narrator-doctor reveals the following confessional thoughts, " But the worst of it was that I too had got beyond reason. I could have torn the child apart in my own fury and enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to attack her. My face was burning with it." You may wonder, is the doctor a bad person? I think, no, anger is the real culprit.

I'm working my way over to this morning's traffic jam, or tapon as it is commonly called in Puerto Rico. Some people are angry. Some good people are terribly angry. This anger causes them to pull out of the lane, pass on the emergency lane and then enter the lane again a bit further down the road. This impulsively impatient behavior causes other drivers who are suffering from the "I'm late and I'm not going to take it anymore" syndrome, to repeat the offence. Horns blow. Hand's fly heavenward with oxymoronic intention. Road Rage. It's pure and simple. I bought a CD, Road Sage by Sylvia Boorstein, to listen to while driving. It provides mindfulness techniques for drivers, which I have yet to successfully share with my carpool buddy. I'm sure that it is helpful. It's just that the information on breathing and focusing and such, is not what people are drawn to do in congested traffic situations. Besides, if you meditate, you probably already practice mindfulness or another focus technique during traffic jams. If you don't have a practice, it's difficult to learn (or want to learn) while under rage's grip. How can I share this information? At other more peaceful driving times, it's just not a compelling CD listen. Anti-rage instruction or the radio? Hummm...which to choose? I have hit load and play in an attempt to give Silvia a fighting chance only to be assaulted by a chorus of moans and cries, especially from the back seats, "Mommmmm." What can I do?

I may have misrepresented the situation, after all, this is Puerto Rico, La Isla del Encanto. This beautiful island of enchantment has an interesting mix of cultural behaviors. One driver may be enraged but several others are applying eye makeup, adjusting their carefully groomed hair, dialing a phone number... or sending a text message, stopping in the traffic lane to buy a La Hora newspaper, pink or blue cotton candy, avocados, or dripping wet bottled water. Or dropping a passenger off, especially if you are near a school. Or maybe the driver is turning around to talk with the person in the back, or reaching over to the glove compartment and so on. Maybe a motor scooter will speedily drive between and around the slow cars or, conversely, a distressingly sick person will be negotiating a wheelchair between the lanes, pausing at car windows with a lifted paper cup. The point being that it is quite common for the waiting drivers to be highly distracted. Sometimes drivers are patient, beyond patient- it's true- even when the hold up is caused by those who are adapting to the traffic jam as with the preceding attention diverting strategies. At other times, the entire congested beehive bursts open and many suffer the stinging consequences of an accident (fender-bender) and the resulting interminable wait for the police to arrive in order to make an accident report. It makes me think about why we are able to control ourselves under great stress sometimes, while at other times we completely lose it. Anger is the boss. To be or not to be-angry- that is the question. I read a most helpful monk's behavior principle to be practice while on retreat. I think it's helpful during traffic jams or any other type of anger provoking situation. It is: "Do not complete your anger." The way I interpret the meaning of this tenant is that even when you feel angry, at some point you will recognize your state, and that is when you have the opportunity to let go, to not complete or follow through with angry intentions, angry words, angry thoughts. Maybe you could visualize El Yunque (pictured here in free downloads) and see yourself sitting next to the waterfall while enjoying a peaceful picnic.

And if you need to move your mind to another point of attention, why not remember the scene from the movie, Love Actually, where we have to laugh and empathize with this has been rock star singing, "Love is All Around Me." No, that is "Christmas is all around me"...that's right...it's Christmas...the word that is ...I know Christmas is over.

Bill Nighy (pronounced as Bill Nye -like the science guy-2007)

Photo from wikipedia

Parents and those with gentle sensibilities be warned, you will encounter Billy Mack's profuse (perhaps eloquent?) stream of swearing in the following YouTube video.

Photo: William Carlos Williams 1926 from linked site.


  1. That is a fantastic thought! Wow! Do not complete your anger ~ so simple, yet profound in it's simplicity. I will try it.

    Cynthia, you are a beautiful soul and i love you. You know someone has' been there' by the way they treat other humans ~ with gentleness.You know what I am trying to convey? Yes?

    Big,big,bear hug to you.xoxo.

  2. Good Morning Cynthia and thank you for your book recommendations. I have perused your sidebar library and actually have read many of the titles (being also a fan non-fiction and of armchair travel in particular). I guess I've enjoyed the escapism of fiction especially so in my recent read - Middlesex.

    I would recommend to you Ruth Reichl's (famous food critic and editor of Gourmet) three autobiographies, Laurie Colwin's two Home Cooking books - simple, perfect food writing and Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon - A New Yorker & family live in Paris for a time.

  3. Thank you for visiting. I really enjoy reading your blog.
    I know it takes time but please join my tag, I would be so interesting.

  4. Hello Cynthia,
    I have finally posted the award you gave me so please check out French Essence. Have a wonderful weekend, xv

  5. William Carlos Williams’s memoirs – The Doctor Stories – are just wonderful. I love the honesty of his prose. Bill Nighy totally stole Love Actually – he's so funny and a great actor. I laughed again over that movie clip.

  6. What a wonderful story! I must add him to my reading list! Thanks for visiting my porch!

  7. I wish you I knew you in the sense of looking at you from the other side of our kitchen table,

    I'd never heard of WCW but will investigate further. As for Mr Nighy - I love him; it's the drawl that does it for me.

  8. Hi Cynthia,
    The traffic in Puerto Rico sounds just like the traffic in Sharjah, UAE! Nobody ever used indicators, they just pointed the car towards the other lane and just drove. They also used their hooters just to let you know they were there!

  9. Bill Nighy was so great in Valkyrie! He is such a talented actor.

  10. Cynthia, I am pleased to meet your acquaintance and I shall be back to read more of your entrancing blog - You live in such an exotic place, but I see the traffic is just the same as everywhere!

    Cynthia, do see if you can check out one of my earlier blogs where I explain my monicker - I am Fhina - A Woman Of No Importance is one of dear Oscar Wilde's lesser known plays, and I love him more than I love Lord Byron, but not as much as I love Mr Keats!

    Love and light,

    Fhina x

  11. I haven't seen this movie yet. Isn't Bill Nighy fabulous? I try to stay off the busy highways - although I rarely go out - because it is just too scary out there. When I do go somewhere I always take the road less traveled. I'm a very village-y kinda gal!
    Happy Weekend Ms. C. -

  12. Hi Cynthia! Thanks for visiting. I've been out all day and retutned a few hours ago with a visitor. We have been birdwatching from 9:00 am till 5:00 pm.I had to cook then and now I have time to answer all the comments.Thanks for your book review.Have a nice weekend!

  13. Natalie, thank you for sharing so much of your life and kindness. When I read your comment today I felt genuinely happy. Thank you again and I <3 you too. :-)

  14. Susan, thank you for coming over and checking out my recent random reads. I appreciate your recommendations as well-"Gopnik's Paris to the Moon" sounds interesting. I'll look for it. Good luck on your new project this week!

    Jude, thank you for including me in your tag, I worked on it today and will post it on Wednesday. I enjoy reading/seeing your blog too.

    Vicki Archer, dear, you are a sweetie for going ahead with the award...I know you are tagged/awarded often...I thought, I might have given you too much extra work but I do enjoy your writing and fashion/art focus.

  15. Dianne, yes the traffic is tough in many places of the world. I had to look up your United Arab Emirates (UAE) to discover that it is near Oman, a warm place in the Middle East that a dear friend of mine used to live and still occasionally visits. What would I do if I didn't have my friends-blogger and otherwise-to connect me with and educate me about the world? Also, toot toot! I'm here. See I'm already assimilating! But you live and paint,intutively, in South Africa don't you? Okay, now, I'm confused. <3 !

  16. Sarah Laurence, Thanks for the WCW book title and true-too true that Bill Nighy stole the show! I can't think of the movie without reflecting on his performance.

    And Willow, I didn't realize that he was in Valyrie! I read your excellent review though and now I'm definately going to catch this film.

    C at The Writer's Porch, so glad to join you and "have a sit". Also, I am genuinely pleased that you liked my story!

  17. Mrs. French Fancy, dear, thanks for taking time away from Edmund Burke and OU to read my post. I hope that you do not give up all of your obsessions because that might include blogging! I'm sure we could have long talks over coffee at the table where I would learn about what is closest to your heart and share my own. sigh I'm glad I met you in this blogger world.

  18. Dear Cynthia, I love this post, from your book recommendation to the cd to Bill Nighy, you have so many interesting points.And I love the way you tell them. I really love your blog and am so happy to have found you AND I am completely honored to be added to your blog list. I am so looking forward to getting to know you better!
    xx lori

  19. Fhina X (A Woman of (no?-not) Importance), Byron, Keats and Wilde- woman, you keep good company! Thanks for coming over from your interesting blog and reading here at Oasis. I understand your monicker now...I just have to look up monicker...okay, nickname ...I love new words! <3

  20. Catherine of A Thousand Clapping Hands, dear, how can you be village-'ie' and still love Paris so much? How facinating! You seem like a city-country or country-city person-such as myself. I don't like crowded places either but sometimes I need my city/arts fix. May you have a delightful day tomorrow! I'm going deep into the mountains to find a retreat. Abundant Affection <3

  21. Hello to my new friend Lori Ann! I appreciate that you found something in each writing point. I have just returned from your fantasy vacation and now I want to visit more islands to see what I am missing. I bet you are a great travel buddy. Your enthralled reader/commenters are a treat also. Thank you for coming over, Lori, I do miss that California special something that you emote. Your presence is heartfelt and I like you already!

  22. Reader Wil, you are so busy! I'm glad you made time for birdwatching! I loved the swans today. When you have time read the other part of this post, I was really talking about dealing with anger.

    After reading some of your life story and experiences during the war, I would like to know what you think. Also, it's okay if you don't have time. I'll continue reading your posts and maybe someday you will let me interview you?

  23. Love Actually is the flick that I watch when feeling blue:) It is such a lovely melange of tales.I could watch it again and again and again..:)

  24. I enjoyed this thoughtful post Cynthia - you bring out a very sad point about humanity - that even the best of us are prone to anger if the circumstances are right. There are two flaws in humanity that require serious changing: one is the me, me, me-ness of daily living and the second is the anger that follows when "me" doesn't get what it wants.
    When "me" becomes "we" a great deal of the anger so prevalent in the world today will disappear from our lives.

  25. Thanks for your input Janice Thompson and I hope you you can participate again-such a reflective comment about self involvement and how it impacts behavior.

  26. I think that movie clip was my favorite part of the film! Nice surprise to find it here. With regards to road rage, I just figure those people are really unhappy. I mutter to myself, but only when alone, never with passengers in the car. I used to drive a pretty Jaguar and told my husband I never minded having to stop at a red light or go slow in freeway traffic, because then more people could oogle my car. Now I drive a Prius and when I'm going slow or at a light, I burn less fuel. So I would have to say for me, being in a car I like lessens my road rage.

    Teri and the cats of Furrydance

  27. Teri, sounds like you don't need a decreasing-rage strategy! Thanks for your comment, Ms T of Furrydance.

  28. I adore Bill Nighy in that movie ! ...and the movie too, Cynthia...

    ah..road rage...yes, it occurs sometimes in Spain. Once, I had the most incredible race with some guy who couldn't stand i overtook him...so ridiculous !

  29. Lala Ema (My Castle in Spain), Nighy is incredible so natural seeming...effortless performance.
    I've been chased to...not fun!

  30. hi Cynthia, :-)

    thanks for visiting the LAM.

    yes. the smiling busker. i'm not sure what the smile was about.
    if i had to guess i'd have to say that what we see is the beginning of a laugh.
    she was aware that i was trying to snap her picture AND make my train at the same moment. and it looked likely that i would miss my train. i managed both. yay! ;-)

    i am so glad that i've stopped by your corner tonight. i've had quite the series of mishaps today. {not to worry, all is fine}. and there is so much to be pleased with in your post.

    i LOVE "Love Actually" i watched the original run, and have watched the DVD every year since then. and, i cry every time. {please don't tell anyone, they'll think i'm soft}. the ensemble cast is wonderful, and Bill Nighy is even more fantastic than he was in Shaun of the Dead. thanks for the reminder.

    then there's ole Borinquen: los tapones, el Yunque, you just brought it all rushing back to me. i DON'T miss the traffic jams, but i spent way too much time in them and they were exactly as you hilariously describe them. :-)

    El Yunque i do miss. many a day i played hookey with some hot little number from school and spent that day exploring "nature" with the cutey at The Anvil. i've got to say that it was a lot more rustic and accessible back then.

    still, a rain forest is a rain forest and its good to be reminded of the beauty that it is.

    finally, i am intrigued with what you've shown us of William Carlos William and i hope to pick up whatever our local library has from him.

    all in all, thank you for your post, its helped me get into a positive groove once more. :-)

    {oh, oh, . . . the music video is just the right stuff!}

  31. Bare eyed sun, Thank you for your reaction. So glad I could bring back some good memories for you. Isn't it funny how we overlook beauty when it's 'normal'. That's how it is with most places...we live in these beautiful central mountains in Puerto Rico and most of our family and friends find it too difficult to travel up the mountains for a visit. So everyone visits in all of the crowds and congestion. I'm not saying the the city is unpleasant, just that people don't realize what they are missing. I know in Calfornia, these country views would be worth millions-literally. I heard that William Carlos Williams mother? was born in Puerto Rico. I'm going to check that out. Thanks again for the vist!

  32. I checked it out Bare Eyed Sun, William Carlos Williams' mother was from Puerto Rico. His father was born in England but raised in the West Indies. His mother was of French-Spanish descent. He lived in New York, too. Well he went to high school there. I wonder if you will find this replay! I just post it to the blog demi god and hope it is received!

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