Scott and I ran the franklin loop this morning. First, we talked about The Dukes of Hazard and how Uncle Jessie was related to Beau and Luke, if at all, and how Daisy fit into it (Scott brought it up). Then we talked about realism and truth and postmodernism and academic street fights and the scientific method (my topic). A lot of fun. Not sure how much I remember about the run. Sometimes it’s nice to be completely distracted. I remember noticing the big lion sculptures on the front stoop of a big house by the river. A few trees leaning towards the road. The boat dock over at the rowing club. The row of gloves and one hat perched on the fence posts at the Town and Country club. Running through a lot of sandy grit and potholes on the edge of the river road. Smelling cigarette smoke. Feeling warm and overdressed. Hearing the bells at St. Thomas.
There is no Frigate like a Book (1286)/ EMILY DICKINSON
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –
I think this would be a fun poem to memorize and always have at the ready when thinking about why I love reading. I remember when I first encountered the word frigate. It was from one of my son’s friends. I think they were both 11 or 12 at the time. He mentioned how fascinated he was by old warships, including frigates. Then he gave me a lecture on the different types of frigates. Strange.
So, reading this, I knew frigate, but I was unfamiliar with courser. According to the OED, it’s a swift horse. Something interesting: a frigate is “a light and swift vessel, originally built for rowing, afterwards for sailing,” which is what I think ED intends here, but it is also a war vessel, which is what FWA’s friend meant. A courser is a swift racing horse, but it is also “a powerful horse, ridden in battle.” Was ED thinking at all about the frigate or courser as images of war? That wouldn’t seem to fit with the overall meaning of the poem, but I just found it interesting that both of these figures have that double meaning. Oh–and the chariot too–that’s a “vehicle used in ancient warfare.”
I agree with ED’s sentiment here: reading is wonderful in its ability to transport us to other worlds, to learn about other places and people, to be moved by others’ stories. Reading does has its limits too, however. Yesterday morning I read a twitter thread about the problems with suggesting that white supremacy can be solved by just reading more widely about non-white experiences, that is, through reading, we can gain empathy and understanding, or reading = empathy = no more racism. As Lisa Ko (the thread starter) suggests, empathy is not enough to counter or correct state violence. I’m not bringing this up to challenge ED’s championing of reading and books; I just wanted to place another idea about reading beside it.
Speaking of reading, I just started Braiding Sweetgrass. Wow! Love it. Only a few pages in, and I already found this great bit about the Original Instructions:
These are not “instructions” like commandments, though, or rules; rather, they are like a compass: they provide an orientation but not a map. The work of living is creating that map for yourself.