“Alobar seized his broom and danced it around the boiler room. His laughter echoed through the heat ducts of the Institute for Advanced Study. No wonder they didn’t understand Einstein’s last words! Einstein’s last words weren’t in German at all. Einstein’s last words were in the language of an obscure and long-lost Bohemian tribe, and had been taught to him by Alobar.
Einstein’s last words were, ‘Erleichda, erleichda.'”
“The word was a transitive verb, an exclamation, a command, of which an exact English translation is impossible. The closest equivalent probably would be the
phrase: Lighten up!”
-Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
There’s a bumper sticker that crotchety people of all political ilks like to stick on their cars: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”. This week–this month– if you’re not feeling a little awful and sad and lost, are you even paying attention?
Very appropriately for the Advent season, we are all just sitting in the dark together, waiting and watching. This year it feels especially hard to see the way out.
Here’s a few things that have been helping me keep the lights on.
The Death Sex and Money podcast. Host Anna Sale asks writers, comedians, public figures and ordinary people about all the things you’re not supposed to talk about. Start with “This Senator Saved My Love Life“, Sales’ most personal episode.
Jane the Virgin on the CW (First season streaming on Netflix) An often-goofy sendup of telenovelas that’s grounded by the story of three generations of women. Somehow a very funny show that also makes me cry basically every episode?
Josh Ritter’s joyful Sermon on the Rocks
Last of all: poetry. I’ve been keeping Rilke next to the bed lately, but also thinking a lot about this one:
The Good Survives , by Charles Harper Webb
Not the time Jane threw a coffeepot at Don,
but the time they swam with turtles in Puako Bay.
Not getting drunk and crashing your friend’s car,
but handing him your #20 Adams, that’s caught fish all day.
Not the father’s snarl and hissing belt —
the time he played catch for an hour, sick with flu.
Einstein intuited this law, but couldn’t prove it:
Not his mad son and ruined marriage — E = mc².
Not Colly Cibber — Dryden, Swift, and Pope.
Not Sweet Rebel Sword — Moby Dick.
If not in heaven, then in mind, Auschwitz evaporates;
the orchid’s purple stays. Not the boy drowned
in a backyard pool, the girl’s heart missing beats,
then lying still. The way she’d lift her arms up
from her crib, and say, “Kiss. Kiss.” The way he’d throw
open the bedroom door, and say, “Daddy, it’s day.”