I am not a huge fan of travelling any more. I prefer to be home surrounded by the old familiars: furry, noisy, demanding. And to sleep in my own bed. I have become a creature of habit over the last years, and I like that just fine. However, one of the things I do like about travelling (apart from seeing my parents and the successful work week we had for The Lunchbox Fund) are the two unreachable hours I spend on the airplane.
I always book a window – so that I can angle my body away from my row mates. I also bring my own water and snacks: I don’t want to be scratching around for change to give the hostess when she comes by with the drinks trolley. Then I put something warm around my shoulders, happily switch off my phone, grab my Kindle: and I read.
I’ve been dipping into Letters of Note for a while now, and did again today flying back from Joburg. Later …. checking in on Facebook, I saw that my friend Hedgie and his friend Nicholas had both shared the same letter that I had read in-flight. Seemed like one of those convergences that demand not to be ignored, so I decided to pay the wisdom forward.
I’m going to follow Vonnegut’s suggestion this weekend when I am in McG with my pal Annette. She lives in Germany and I haven’t her seen for a good while. We met at an Ashram … and she’s a big fan of spiritual growth, so I know she won’t wonder if I have lost my mind, and will probably take a run at it too.
I dedicate this post to camparigirl, because what Kurt has written to the students is what we set out to do with campari&sofa. And I know she will be rhyming it up this weekend too.
In 2006 an Xavier High School English teacher named Ms. Lockwood gave her students an assignment that was to test their persuasive writing skills. She asked them to write a letter to a famous author and ask him or her to visit the school. Only one author responded – Kurt Vonnegut. Here is what he said.
November 5, 2006
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
(Source: Letters of Note. Read more Vonnegut wisdom here. Image of the original Letter found at Liberal America. Portrait of The Handsome Iguana found on Wikipedia. Image of Kurt Vonnegut: copyright Mike Schroeder. Thanks to Eddie C and Nicholas C for the share.)