"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


D'Nealian Script, a cursive alphabet — lower case and upper case.

"I've always believed that there was a certain age
after which I would be all well and I'd stop feeling
as if I'd been abandoned here on earth with no explanation.
When I was little, the magic number was 6 --
the first - graders had maturity, secret information
(like gnostics), and lunch boxes. Then 13, 18, 21 . . ."

~ Anne Lamott ~
from Grace Eventually (p 243)

When I read these words a few years ago, I identified at once with Lamott's first - grade faith that all would be well and her misconception that the bigger kids had all the answers. Her gradual deflation expresses precisely the dismay that I felt back in grade school when I learned the truth about cursive writing -- that it was a sham, a trick, a false lead. My first real disillusion, way worse than finding out about Santa Claus!

I shared my cursive writing story recently with epigrammatist, writer and artist Michael Lipsey when he posted a similar sentiment on facebook:

"The biggest misconceptions of youth are that
somehow things will fall into place as you get older,
that there will be answers to the larger questions,
that you will attain maturity, and certainties,
and self-confidence. Perhaps this is true
if you have a talent for self-deception.
But eventually you figure out
that there won’t be any of these things --
that you will just have to muddle through
as best you can until the end."

[Previous thoughts from Michael Lipsey on my blog:
"A Little Crazier" ~ "Parallax" ~ "First Friday"
And future thoughts: "My Times" & "Winnow the Dreams"]

The words of Lamott and Lipsey brought to mind something that my wise eldest brother wrote to me back in 2002, following an introspective late summer conversation beside the pool:

Dave wrote: "In 1996, I truly thought that going back to school would be a turning point. I guess it was one more door that I thought had a magic chalice or a secret code word behind it. As a kid growing up I was always convinced that sooner or later I would turn a corner and all the concealed things of the adult and/or bigger world would be revealed. First I thought it was puberty but that just brought the usual frustrations and problems. Then I was convinced that it was being a teenager but that also was more frustration. Somehow I just knew that when I turned 16, Dad would take me aside and clear everything up.

"I was also sure that the Marine Corps [1965] would be a lease on a whole new life which, in a way, it was but not in the way I anticipated. When I was in Chicago and turning 21, I knew intellectually that it meant nothing but still had a secret hope that there was a missing block of knowledge that I would be privy too. After that I quit looking for magic doors but still held the inner kid hope that something would turn up. Hell I even joined the Masons when I was 42. There are no magical turning points. No epiphanies. No blinding lights. Just the slow process of living and doing and trying to make the pieces connect as you roll along [emphasis added].

"I have finally come to the conclusion that it isn't what you do but where your head is at when you do it. That's why old men can fish where there are no fish, talk when there are no listeners and write when there are no readers. They don't require the other side of the equation to feel complete, albeit a bit melancholy at times."
~ from Dave the Brummbaer

[Previous posts from Dave Carriker on my blog:
"Up & Down" ~ "It's Magic" ~ "Porsche"]

My brother's description of waiting for the big moment when all would be revealed to him by Dad or God or the Marine Corps or whomever reminded me of that disappointing day that I have never forgotten when I came home from grade school, having made the big leap from printing to cursive writing. I had been looking forward to this milestone for a long time (or so it seemed in my short life), starting back in first grade when I could only print, anticipating the secret joy of cursive writing to be learned in second grade.

I was kind of like giddy Gilderoy Lockhart (former Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher) who childishly brags when offering autographed copies of his photographs: "I can do joined - up writing now, you know!" (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, p 509).

The long summer between first and second grade came to an end, and I received my cursive writing workbook and soon mastered the task of joining the letters. Somehow, though, it was not quite as exciting as I had expected. In fact, after the big build - up, it did not really seem that much different than printing after all. Maybe the real fun was yet to come, in a more advanced step that would follow the mere connection of letter to letter.

So I asked my older sister Peg: "How long before we start connecting the words?" Imagine my dismay when she informed me that this would not be happening! Of course, the difficulty of deciphering "joined - up" words had never even crossed my mind. As far as I was concerned, that was just another one of those as-yet-to-be-revealed skills. I can still remember the "you-funny-little-kid" expression on Peg's face as she prepared me for the big let down: "You don't ever connect the words; those gaps are always there! What? This was it? No answers to the larger questions? I had arrived . . . already? Was I ever astonished!

It was supposed to be like those tender lines from Neil Young's beautiful song, "Philadelphia: City of Brotherly Love":

"And when I see the light
I know I'll be all right.
I've got my friends in the world,
I had my friends
When we were boys and girls
And the secrets came unfurled."

But no. There was no unfurling.

This was no doubt my first inkling that the Platonic vision of complete perfection might never become available to me here on earth. I guess we have to wait until the afterlife to see all the words connected. For the time being, we write through a glass darkly, filled with gaps, searching for connections.
Leonardo da Vinci's Mysterious Mirror Writing

Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, August 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading


  1. My sister Peg said: "I've been meaning to reply to your blog post on cursive writing. You said that when you found out that the words didn't connect you were disappointed. I see it another way. I love that the words don't connect because it's that space that allows our lives to take all sorts of twists and turns. I believe that ifallofourwordswereconnected, there's no room for life to just be, but instead our lives are always going in one direction. But oh those spaces -- so much possibility! :o)"

  2. I love the new blog on cursive and the wisdom of your brother's words. And Leave Her to Heaven! I wrote a paper on the film several years ago and delivered it at a conference, and I've read the book, too! Wonderful, my friend. You're a star. And thank you for the birthday tribute, too.