The Greatness of Walt Whitman

American literary scholar and critic R. W. B. Lewis writes about the genius of Walt Whitman in Major Writers of America:

He was the poet of the self’s motion downwards into the abysses of darkness and guilt and pain and isolation, upwards to the creative act in which darkness was transmuted into beauty. When the self became lost to the world, Whitman was lost for poetry. But before that happened, Whitman had, in his own example, made poetry possible in America.

The American poet and critic Ezra Pound once acknowledged Whitman’s prominence:

He is America. His crudity is an exceeding great stench, but it is America. He is the hollow place in the rock that echoes with his time. He does “chant the crucial stage” and he is the “voice triumphant.” He is disgusting. He is an exceedingly nauseating pill, but he accomplishes his mission. … He is content to be what he is, and he is his time and his people.

Mao Zedong Glorifies Lu Xun

Lu Xun was a leading and influential figure in modern Chinese literature. A pioneer in the May Fourth Movement-inspired new literature of the early 1900s, he specialized in the short story, endowing this genre with new form and content. Chairman Mao Zedong in The Culture of New Democracy,

Lu Xun was the major leader in the Chinese cultural revolution. He was not only a great writer but a great thinker and a great revolutionist. . . . Lu Xun breached and stormed the enemy citadel; on the cultural front he was the bravest and most correct, the firmest, the most loyal and the most ardent national hero, a hero without parallel in our history. The road he took was the very road of China’s new national culture.


Since the May Fourth Movement, China has produced an entirely new and vigorous cultural force … And Lu Hsün was the greatest and bravest standard-bearer of this new cultural army … The direction of Lu Hsün is the direction of the new Chinese culture.

The Contented Slave

American abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass in his 1845 memoir Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,

I have observed this in my experience of slavery, that whenever my condition was improved, instead of its increasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans to gain my freedom. I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceased to be a man.

Wishing Others Well

Cyndi Lee writes in May I Be Happy,

When we really see, in our mind’s eye, a person we think we don’t like, and instead of solidifying our reasons for hatred we honestly wish them happiness, good health, safety, and as easeful life, we start to forget what we thought we hated and why we felt that way in the first place. A sense of equanimity toward everyone arises as we do this practice—we feel compassion for those who were once invisible to us, and our disregard and apathy morph into concern for their well-being and safety.

Pragmatic Framework

Patricia Anderson writes in Real or Pretend: A Personal Account article in the Spring 1999 issue of The Tricycle magazine:

I became enamored of Buddhism when I realized its basic tenet began by saying, essentially, “Life sucks and then you die, so what’s that all about?” This was the religion for me. This was a framework I could use to examine my actual experience. Far from the promise of pie-in-a-big-sky afterlife, this was about dealing with the fear that comes when you realize nothing is going to save your ass.

Curiosity and Exploration

Cicero referred to curiosity as a “passion for learning.” Writing about the outstanding brilliance and peculiarity of his subject, historian extraordinaire Walter Isaacson discusses curiosity in his biography of Leonardo da Vinci,

In addition to his instinct for discerning patterns across disciplines, Leonardo honed two other traits that aided his scientific pursuits: an omnivorous curiosity, which bordered on the fanatical, and an acute power of observation, which was eerily intense. Like much with Leonardo, these were interconnected. Any person who puts “Describe the tongue of the woodpecker” on his to-do list is overendowed with the combination of curiosity and acuity.

His curiosity, like that of Einstein, often was about phenomena that most people over the age of ten no longer puzzle about: Why is the sky blue? How are clouds formed? Why can our eyes see only in a straight line? What is yawning? Einstein said he marveled about questions others found mundane because he was slow in learning to talk as a child. For Leonardo, this talent may have been connected to growing up with a love of nature while not being overly schooled in received wisdom.

…His curiosity was aided by the sharpness of his eye, which focused on things that the rest of us glance over…. The acuteness of his observational skill was not some superpower he possessed. Instead, it was a product of his own effort. That’s important, because it means that we can, if we wish, not just marvel at him but try to learn from him by pushing ourselves to look at things more curiously and intensely.

In his notebook, he described his method—almost like a trick—for closely observing a scene or object: look carefully and separately at each detail. He compared it to looking at the page of a book, which is meaningless when taken in as a whole and instead needs to be looked at word by word. Deep observation must be done in steps: “If you wish to have a sound knowledge of the forms of objects, begin with the details of them, and do not go on to the second step until you have the first well fixed in memory.

Isaacson’s previous biographical subjects include Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Ada Lovelace, and Steve Jobs—all blue-sky thinkers, with insatiable, lifelong appetite for knowledge and the ability “to make connections across the disciplines” and “to marry observation and imagination.”

Anything Can Happen Anytime in the Stock Markets

From Warren Buffett’s 50th annual shareholder letter for Berkshire Hathaway:

Investors, of course, can, by their own behavior, make stock ownership highly risky. And many do. Active trading, attempts to “time” market movements, inadequate diversification, the payment of high and unnecessary fees to managers and advisors, and the use of borrowed money can destroy the decent returns that a life-long owner of equities would otherwise enjoy. Indeed, borrowed money has no place in the investor’s tool kit.

Anything can happen anytime in markets. And no advisor, economist, or TV commentator—and definitely not Charlie nor I—can tell you when chaos will occur. Market forecasters will fill your ear but will never fill your wallet.