Maira Kalman has a blog hosted on the NY Times site called “And the Pursuit of Happiness” which is phenomenal. She is an illustrator, author and designer and the blog, which is a mix of content and illustration, is about American democracy. A new post appears on the last Friday of each month and after reading this month’s post about Ben Franklin I then read the June Thomas Jefferson post and now I am hooked – thus me posting about it.
Both of these posts really struck me because both of these men were so very productive in their lives and I feel often, and by often I mean on an almost daily if not more than once a day basis, that I simply waste days. While I may have fun each day, its not often that when I put my head to the pillow I am proud of what I accomplished that day. As each day brings me a touch closer to my own demise, and with a third of my life probably behind me (and possibly more depending on when my time is up), my tangible accomplishments are nothing when compared to these two giants. Sure, it’s stiff competition but I’m not going to compare myself to Dave from Yonkers. I’m going to compare myself to the best.
Kalman says that Franklin “was a genius, one of the great inventors of this country.” She goes on to say “I don’t think he was ever bored. He saw a dirty street and created a sanitation department. He saw a house on fire and created a fire department. He saw sick people and founded a hospital. He started our first lending library. He saw people needing an education and founded a university. He started the American Philosophical Society, where men and women shared developments in science. And then, by the way, he helped create and run the country.” And so on and so forth – if you want to learn more, read the post.
Moving backwards from July to June, Kalman says that Jefferson “was a scientist, philosopher, statesman, architect, musician, naturalist, zoologist, botanist, farmer, bibliophile, inventor, wine connoisseur, mathematician and and…he was the governor of Virginia, Secretary of State, Minister to the Court of Louis XVI, Vice President and then President of the United States, initiator of the Louisiana Purchase and its exploration by Lewis and Clark.” Again, its a “and so on and so forth” situation here because he did a lot more as well. If you want to learn more, read the post.
The part of the Jefferson post that struck me the most was at the very end, when Kalman talks about how when Thomas’s wife of 10 years Martha lay dying, “he never left her side and copied out their favorite passage in the novel Tristram Shandy. First in her hand. Then in his.”
The passage they copied together sums up how I feel, especially now that I’m closely watching my daughter grow up. First she learned how to roll over, then to crawl, then to walk and now is learning how to talk. The mystery of life is confoundedly amazing and it’s fast. Without further ado, here is the quote:
Time wastes too fast: every letter trace tells me with what rapidity life follows my pen. The days and hours of it are flying over our heads like clouds of windy day, never to return – more every thing presses on – and every time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, every absence which follow it, are preludes to that eternal separation which we are shortly to make!
Not my usual cherry and funny “Happy Friday!” type post but thought provoking and therefore worth sharing nonetheless. Have a great weekend – make it count!