Sunday Best – August 4, 2019

On setting and circumstance.


“Even someone I had despised and dismissed as antiquated and obstinate, when I conversed with him as a companion along some distant road or encountered him in hut overrun with vines, it was like finding a jewel among junk or discovering gold amid mud.”

        – Matsuo Basho, 17th C

For so many things we evaluate, the real question is, compared to what? Or, under what conditions? A person losing 20 pounds could be a sign of health or illness. A company growing 10% could be accelerating or decelerating. A conversation that ends in tears could be joyful or sorrowful.

But under that first layer of circumstance, there’s another. It’s not the setting of the thing, it’s the setting of ourselves. A child’s curiosity can be delightful or maddening. A slow walk through the park can be blissful or frustrating. A chance encounter can be an annoyance or a relief.

Dear friends, as we embark on this new day of a new week of a new month, let’s look for the jewels amid the junk.

Let’s find the gold amid the mud.


     * This Basho passage is quoted from Knapsack Notebook, which I saw featured in the terrific Lapham’s Quarterly. My dad introduced me to Lapham’s, which takes a big topic each quarter and explores it from across disciplines and across time. It is one of my favorite quirky periodicals.

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