What Sarah’s Been Reading with Gusto

I emailed Saran McNeal, and wrote: “Tell me something you’ve been reading lately that jazzes you up!

Here’s how she responded…

Hi Mark,

Good to hear from you. Sorry for being so quiet these last weeks. Thank you for this Thought for the Day and for the question. I might be giving you more than you bargained for, but your question has been fun to think about throughout this long-ish day.

This idea of courage has been on my mind a lot lately. I read a book called Deep River, by Karl Marlanteds, and learned about a concept from the Finnish called sisu and it has to do with determination and courage. Throughout the book various members of a Finnish family call upon their sisu when necessary. They say things like, “it is the time for sisu” or “now is not the time for sisu.” I love it.

A couple of quotes from Deep River:

“There are three good-enoughs in basket weaving. The first is that your basket does the job it was made for. … The second is that your basket will hold water for a year. … The third is when you can make a basket without worrying about whether it is good enough. The third one is hardest.” (473)

“‘When we face hard or scary things, what do we do?’
Eleanor said nothing.
‘What do we do?’ Alma insisted.
‘Remember our sisu,’ she said without looking at her.
Alma waited for Eleanor to do what needed to be done.” (594)

Something else:
I haven’t read any of Dr. Edith Eger’s books, The Choice or The Gift, but I heard her say the following on a podcast the other day and it has been ringing throughout my body this last week. I also shared it with a 13-year-old student going through a tough time and am hoping she remembers this in the years to come. “The opposite of depression is expression. What comes out of our body doesn’t make us ill. What stays in there does.”

Another thing:
In a book translated from the Japanese called Spark, by Naoki Matayoshi, comes this passage. It is just after one character interrupted someone playing a drum in a park and ended up sort of conducting his playing.

“That then led Kamiya to start philosophizing: ‘The essential thing, Tokunaga, is to disrupt things. Disrupt the colourful, beautiful world, and another unreal, more awesomely beautiful world will appear all on its own. That dude in the park had a radical instrument, but he wasn’t doing anything with it. An instrument like that has to be taken seriously. There’s no beauty in a world where it isn’t. I dunno how he got that instrument, but somehow he did, so now he owes it to the world to play the hell out of it. You can’t just go through the motions – it has to be done with total heart.’ And then he sipped his very expensive coffee.” (36)

And one more thing…
I was completely jazzed reading this passage from Macbeth today with a few students in our witchiest of witchy voices. It was silly and dark and fun.

“Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, mawa and gulf
Of the ravined salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock, digged i’th’dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew,
Slivered in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe,
Ditch-delivered by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab.
Add thereto a tiger’s chawdron
For th’ingredience of our cauldron.” (4.1.22-34)

I am looking forward to Sunday if anyone is still available to meet. I also (thankfully!) have the next two Thursdays off for term break, so if people are planning to meet on Wednesday nights, I’ll be around then too. And in other news, my poems are being recited with Brian’s music this coming Saturday at a recital for about 50 people. It’s a freeing feeling!

Thank you.

Take care and talk soon,


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