Anger is Poison, Revisited
I have been thinking about this line I shared with you from Garrison Keillor a few months back-- and how it resonates so well with both local and national politics right now:
"Anger is poison. Meet hostility with courtesy. Don't spit into the wind. We've got to live with each other angel cakes."
I typed it out and carried it to my first Haines Borough Assembly meeting, placing it on the table where I could see it. It helped me then, and continues to in dealing with a couple of ugly emails I've since received.
One former assembly member in Haines, whom I admired for his ability to be polite under fire, was Ray Menaker. This week a friend reminded me that Ray let personal insults slide off him, 'like water off a duck's back' and that was the secret to his long, cheerful community service. I'm not sure how he did it, but I'll try.
This morning, I read from, and about, Michel De Montaigne in my Harvard Classics. (I bought the incomplete red-bound set of the world's important writings at one of Char and Dave Olerud's garage sales back when Doug and Sarah -- who now run the family businesses their parents began-- were school kids. This was pre-internet, and I was new to Alaska, and wanted to be sure I had plenty of wisdom at my fingertips, just in case.)
Montaigne is the first writer (or at least is credited with being so) who wrote about himself in such a way that readers learned something about themselves too, and he did it in the round about style that is now known as the personal essay. This is what I attempt to do in my books and essays, and here, basically. Personal essays begin in one place and end in another, with the writer learning right along with the reader, as he or she pens thoughts to paper.
Turns out-- and I did not know this before today-- that Montaigne was also involved in local politics. He was mayor of Bordeaux for four years in the late 1580s. (Writing in this style was not invented with blogging.) Montaigne was always aware of his spilt roles as public servant and writer. He did a good job, but never took the affairs of his town so strongly that they ruined his health or crushed his spirit. The mayor and the writer were two distinct people. How did he do it? Can I? "You must lend yourself to others, but only give yourself to yourself," he wrote.
Montaigne also concentrated on the facts presented in his civic duty, rather than the people who made the most noise. He observed that the "dignities of office," and any higher status in the community they may bring him, depended on whom he was speaking to and changed dramatically "from one cross-road to the other." It's almost as if he time traveled to Haines.
So what "facts" should I pay attention to first? Well, my chief advisor is notoriously frugal. Here Chip is repairing an old book bag that he uses to bring his lunch to work with, and he will be volunteering to take tickets at tonight's Arts Council concert in the Chilkat Center. We will sit in the seat he bought to help the Center build its endowment. Chip might seem all business at his lumberyard, but he cares deeply for matters of the heart and spirit of this town. And there's a third role he and Montaigne also share-- family man. Montaigne had six daughters. If Chip and Montaigne can wear several hats so well, I should be able to, don't you think? This week I read a phrase I'd never heard before. The writer said we should focus on the length of our "health span" rather than life span. The good news, angel cakes, is that meaningful community and family connections may be as good for you, and me, as exercise and fresh air.
Speaking of what makes life in Haines good, here's something to put on your calendar for next week:
The Big Brothers Big Sisters annual Dream Big Dinner will be held at the school on November 3rd at 6pm and you are invited and asked to bring a friend. Volunteers will be preparing and serving lasagna made from scratch, Josie is donating her wonderful bread, and local speakers will ask the diners to dig into their pockets to support BBBS in Haines. If you'd prefer to give without attending the event --and there are non-monetary ways too-- contact Rosalie at the BBBS office in the Gateway Building on Main Street.