Yesterday I posted one of my favorite quips of good advice: “Whatever you do today is what you do.” I can’t remember the source but a reader sent me a similar quote from Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend out lives.”
Following the Annie Dillard rabbit hole – it’s a Saturday and I’ve got a few minutes to wander leisurely – I found this wonderful essay written by William Deresiewicz titled Where Have You Gone, Annie Dillard? The essay is putatively a review of Dillard’s new book of essays The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New, but it is more of a review of Dillard’s work over the last forty years. The essay captures Dillard’s genius and makes me want to go back and read every word she has written. I immediately dashed off a tweet to Deresiewicz and thanked him for the best ten minutes I’ve had in a very long time.
Not everyone will enjoy Dillard. She is sublime when writing about nature. Materialists will bristle, though, as under every gorgeously described husk of a dead dragonfly she is searching for hints of god. Theists of a traditional sort will feel the same irritation. The god she seeks is not found in medieval scripts. Whatever your view, I cannot for a moment imagine someone reading Ms. Dillard and not coming away enriched.
As parents, every one of us puts our children at risk every day. I’m going out this morning with my two girls and recognize that just leaving the driveway poses some risk so I make sure that they are strapped in to car seats before we leave. And I shudder a little bit each time I buy fast food and wonder what cumulative effects this could have on their health. I grew up in a cloud of second hand cigarette smoke and seem healthy now but could this still affect me in later years?
Questions of right actions often revolve around the ability of a person to make a choice for themselves. Children don’t ask to be born and they are unable to understand the world or the dangers around them. That’s why, at six, I still always ask if they’re buckled up when we drive away. I know that getting that My Little Pony doll posed just right on the arm rest is a hundred times more important than the seat belt. But it is my job –and the job of every parent – to make sure that children are safe.
Not vaccinating your child is stupid. It is indefensible. And, for what it’s worth, it’s an inanity only available to first world parents where kids are expected to outlive parents. In those parts of the world where the most dangerous thing you can do is to be born parents weep for healthy opportunities that I expect from my doctor and insurance.
It grinds hard against my libertarian sensibilities but I argue for state mandated childhood vaccinations. Parents? You do what you want. Smoke weed, dive off cliffs, or sniff glue. It’s your body and I’m happy to let you have it. I will protect your right to be stupid as long as you don’t ask me to care for the consequences. But children cannot make those decisions for themselves. They need to buckle their seat belts. They need vaccinations. They need basic education. They need basic housing and food. And until they reach the age where they can make these decisions for themselves the state needs to make the decision for them to protect them from parents who won’t.
Last Sunday I posted a link to letter written by Roald Dalh – the famous author of books for children – who urged parents to vaccinate after he experienced the death of his daughter from encephalitis. Here is the gist:
Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.
“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.
“I feel all sleepy,” she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
Clean up the Junk and your mind will thank you. Brief essay on how paring down from an overflowing 3,500 square foot home to a spartan 1,600 square feet has made life a little more manageable.
Recommendation of the London Museum of Natural History. Fantastic resource for biotypes like me.
Book review of How to Live, by Sarah Bakewell. A kind of history, biography, philosophy mish-mash about the French essayist Montaigne and The Good Life. The one new book that I keep going back to.
Fathers and Sons part four – We’re Not Slave Drivers You Know. Wherein I recount how Mom and Dad colluded to teach me a thing or two about work.
Books I’m reading…
A little slow right now. I’m re-reading Annie Dillard’s Holy The Firm. I don’t know of any other book I’ve read that has so much packed into seventy pages. Maybe The Wasteland by TS Eliot? I don’t understand half of what I read. I don’t know if it’s poetry or prose. I don’t know if she is still describing Puget Sound at moonrise or if she has slipped into stream of consciousness. What I do know is that it is one of the most appealing books I’ve read and maybe the one book I’ve read that makes me wish religion were true.