Friday, September 30, 2005

Admiral Lord Nelson

Glory was his constant desire; duty his steadfast aim.

A hero for the ages: Horatio Nelson. October 21 will be the 200th anniversary of his great and final victory, the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson commanded the British Navy as it went up against the combined naval forces of France and Spain. As the battle was about to begin he ran up signal flags on the H.M.S. Victory to proclaim: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” At the end of the battle, 14,000 French and Spanish lay dead, and 1,500 British lost their lives including Nelson himself. Napoleon was defeated, and the British established an indisputable dominance of the high seas.

The man who would become Admiral Lord Nelson was the sixth of eleven children born to the village rector of Burnham Thorpe. He went to sea as a midshipman at age 12, and worked his way through the ranks to become Admiral of the British Navy. He fought alongside his men, and wore a conspicuous uniform that made the fact evident to friend and foe alike. He lost an eye and an arm in battles, suffered disease and deprivation, storms and wars. He maintained his sense of humor and intelligence and inspired an unprecedented level of devotion and loyalty from the men under his command.

Along the way, he married and fell in love—unfortunately, two different women were involved. Emma Hamilton was his great love. They had a child, but never married. Lady Hamilton’s situation was not approved by society, and she eventually died in relative poverty.

Nelson has served as the inspiration for at least two great book series: the Captain Hornblower series by C.S. Forester, and the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Read-Think-Live: The Theme

Comment by Pixel: "...I truly don't understand why people care about the lives of celebs."

There is no way to argue with that point. Although it is obviously a common human trait, it isn't logical or defensible. I'm sure there is some primitive evolutionary advantage that could be teased out if we thought hard enough [something about the survival benefits of paying close attention to the alpha pack members], but there's no real justification for purchasing People magazine or The Enquirer.

The theme of this weblog is that most of the events in my life are literary. Not that I have no life, but that my physical-world life is somewhat linear: in real life, one thing happens and then the next thing happens. It's limited, and it's also repetitive. But the stuff I read--that has no limits! And as I read, I'm thinking, and that is also a multi-dimensional, infinity-based experience. So, yes, I read the celebrity gossip, just about every day. I also read the headlines and the local news and numerous magazines and books, books, books. I read labels and billboards and personal notes and emails and so on. [I read every word of Achenblog, every day.] The most momentous event in my life this week was the Battle of Trafalgar—more about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Celebrity Gossip: Demi and Ashton

The news of Demi and Ashton's wedding reminds me of the item a couple of years ago when Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt were going to get married. There was an on-line poll: "Will this relationship last?" And one hundred percent of those who responded said, "NO."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


“Psychologically healthy people will pause at least once a day to say, out loud, ‘I hate myself.’ This is a kind of purgative, a casting-out of the demons that cause one to do stupid things. You feel better instantly. And you can be proud that you have the courage to get in touch with your Inner Loser.” –Joel Achenbach

I liked being reminded of this. It is such a positive way of looking at a negative trait. The positive and negative are so twisted, so entwined, like two vines tangled. I hate myself, but I don’t accept that, so I deny that I hate myself. I don’t hate myself!! I’m not disgusted with my every thought! I’m not looking around at everyone else, thinking that they have it all figured out while I am the poster child for alienation. But all this denial is just digging me deeper into the muck. So if I can have a moment of clarity, I can admit that, yes, I am alienated, and for good reason–that sometimes I’m like the John Nash character in the movie, A Beautiful Mind: “I don’t much like people, and they don’t much like me.” Whew. That’s a relief. Now I can start anew and maybe salvage some positive thoughts.

I am keenly aware of the pleasure I derive from other people. And not just my family and friends. Today when I was walking at lunchtime I passed a young woman on the street; she looked at me and said “Hello, there!” It made me smile.

I like helping people at work and it’s great when I can solve someone’s problem and be the hero of the moment. For that matter, I also enjoy the feeling of being a steady member of the team, just doing my part, day by day.

The internet has opened a whole new world of ideas and the interchange of opinions with others. I’m amazed that so much gratification can be derived from typed words on a computer screen. No physical manifestation of humanity at all. We could just be brains floating in vats of fluid, sending signals back and forth, and it would be the same.

There is wisdom in Achenbach’s humor. If I can keep the negativity under control, and just pause to purge once a day or so, I can hope to achieve this “psy-cho-log-i-cal health” that he speaks of.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Disney vs. Victor Hugo

Sometime in 1994 or 1995 I learned that Disney was planning a movie based on Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris. It was inevitable--and appropriate--that my daughter, Danielle, then about eight years old, would see the movie. But I was horrified by the prospect that she would be introduced to this magnificent story in an abridged, adulterated form. I immediately checked the book out of the library so I could read it to her. I had read the book years before, but my tendency with great literature is to rush to the next paragraph, the next chapter, read it as fast as I can, all the time promising myself that I will read it through a second time, more slowly. Of course when it is finished there is always another book waiting that I've never read and I'm off to devour it. So it was with happy anticipation that I sat down with Danielle to read aloud from Victor Hugo's great novel.

It became a wonderfully memorable experience because of my own delight in the story, shared with my daughter who was equally if not more engrossed. I was once again enchanted by the poet Gringoire, the classic archetype of the artist, who is not deterred from his ambition to become the greatest poet in history by the mere earthly fact that he cannot read or write. Danielle greatly admired Esmeralda and of course the little goat, who is literate, bringing to mind Truman Capote's phrase, “that's not writing; that's just typing.” The humor of the story is perfectly balanced by drama and tragedy. An important philosophical point that we discussed at length was Frollo's "love" of Esmeralda–by his definition, he loves her so much that he prefers to see her dead rather than married to someone other than himself. Every young girl should be made aware of this common human trait. In middle school Danielle endured some jealous friends and I was able to refer back to Frollo to help her understand the phenomenon. Reading the novel aloud prevented me from rushing through it, so I appreciated it even more.

In due time, the Disney movie came out, and Danielle went to see it. She was able to enjoy the splendors of the animation without being misinformed regarding the plot of Hugo's novel. "Mom," she said to me in an exasperated tone of voice, "At the end, Esmeralda marries Phoebus, and the 'deaf' Quasimodo sings at their wedding!" Ridiculous, indeed.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

New York State of Mind

What a pleasure it is to wake up on Sunday morning and have The New York Times on my driveway. Real life has to stop for a while, at least until I've read the magazine and the book review--oh, and let me just glance through the arts section. Look, Polanski's new Oliver Twist movie is "now showing"--in New York. And the American Ballet Theater has a new production, and Harry Connick, Jr. is on Broadway (at least that's one item that doesn't incite helpless spasms of longing). Out here in the rest of the country, we have to wait for the second wave. ABT sometimes comes to Miami Beach. Oliver Twist will be at the multiplex soon enough. But the magic of NYC is that everything happens there, first, best, all at once.

The summer after we got married (1982), Tocci and I went to New York, lived there for three months. We stayed at Sullivan's rooming house in Rockaway Beach (bathroom down the hall; shower in the back yard; 45 minutes from Manhattan on the CC train). We spent our days on the streets of New York, trying to sell enough artwork to buy food and subway tokens. We mostly succeeded. We sold Tocci's paintings and glass engravings in the financial district, on Broadway, in Greenwich Village, in Central Park (Bethesda Fountain), and our most ironic location, across from Fortunoff's. Those were the days before the clean-up of the theater district--it was full of porn shops and peep shows. Crime was rampant. Once, Tocci went into a bar to use their bathroom, leaving me holding the money and watching the merchandise, and he walked into an armed robbery in progress. "You too!" the robber barked at him, "Against the wall! Take out your wallet!" Probably the same conditions that allowed that to happen down the street from the latest Broadway hits also made it possible for us to earn our living as unlicensed street vendors. Later the same week, we saw Woman of the Year, starring Raquel Welch. [She used to be a huge star, but now, typing her name, I realize that she hasn't been in the news for a long time, and she didn't leave any classic body of work to perpetuate her legacy. I guess Myra Breckenridge will have to be her ticket to immortality.] We also saw ET before the rest of the country had that thrill--we stood in line for over an hour for the privilege. I have always thought that movie was overrated. Also, that summer, in addition to watching for cops and living on hot dogs and Italian ices, I took a course in children's literature at NYU. So, my point is, New York has everything, and in three months we sampled it. Now, we live in south Florida. There are a lot of New Yorkers here. That makes driving less pleasant, but we do have pretty good bagels. And there's always The New York Times.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

From My Quote Collection, Random Samples

"As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand."
--Josh Billings

"All great truths begin as blasphemies."
--George Bernard Shaw

"The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
--John F. Kennedy

"The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."
--Eden Phillpotts

"So long as I remain alive and well, I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information."
--George Orwell

"It belongs to every large nature, when it is not under the immediate power of some strong unquestioning emotion, to suspect itself, and doubt the truth of its own impressions, conscious of possibilities beyond its own horizon."
--George Eliot (Romola)

"The means are part of the truth, as well as the result. The search for truth must itself be true; true research is truth spread out before us, the scattered members of which are reunited in the result."
--Karl Marx

"There is no inevitability so long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening."
--Marshall McLuhan

Friday, September 23, 2005

Recent Tocci Artwork

Tropical foliage

And more tropical foliage

(from our backyard)

Patronizing the Arts

My husband is a professional artist. When I met him, in 1981, he was homeless, sleeping sometimes on friends' couches or, more often, in a vacant lot by the electric company. He moved in with me less than thirty days after we met, and 24 years later, here we are. In all these years, the only time he had to get (as he pronounces it:) "a j-, j-, a j-, a job," was the two years after our daughter was born. During that time, he put on a suit, created a resume and got hired by a series of companies as a "marketing consultant." Our friend, Will, who makes his living as a street performer, says, "What Tocci is really, is a flim-flam man!" (That is high praise coming from Will.) One of Tocci's more recent career moves was getting his auctioneer's license, so he could run a weekly Art Auction and Comedy Show, with Himself as mc, auctioneer, talent and caterer. His comedy routine started like this: "Comedy comes easy to me--I'm married. When I first saw her, I knew I had met "Ms. Right." What I didn't know then was that her first name was "Always." [The better you know me, the funnier that joke is.] The routine is downhill from there; think Henny Youngman for the Bingo/Sesame Street crowd. Riddles are big with the kids: "What did 0 say to 8?" "Nice belt." "What did the fish say when he swam into a concrete wall?" "Dam!" You get the idea.

Regardless of which venture Tocci has embarked upon, he has not had to sleep in any lots since he's been with me. I fully expect to be getting points in heaven for my part in facilitating his career--providing him the stability and the freedom to create artwork. My daughter was born an artist, too, so I've been blessed already by spending my life surrounded by creativity and art objects. When people hear that my husband and daughter are both artists, they inevitably ask, "do you do art, also?" and I always say, "No, but I'm a patron of the arts."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Books and Libraries, A Short, Sentimental Account

I enjoy books for many different reasons. Sometimes it's story, or characters, metaphors, tone, political/philosophical/spiritual content, humor, information. Sometimes it is a huge, uplifting experience to read a book, and sometimes it's brief and casual, a way to pass the time. But books have been my constant companions since I was a very young child, and my life has been improved immeasurably by them.

When I was in elementary school, the public library that served our part of town ("south of the river") was in a trailer--a mobile home. They crammed in as many books as would fit, and somehow I was always able to find something I hadn't read yet. I went to school in the main part of town, and there was a grand library in walking distance of the school. I still visit it whenever I can--it's the historical museum now. That library has marble steps and heavy iron and glass doors, a chandelier and the smell of old books, especially in the basement. It holds precious memories for me; it's one of my favorite buildings in the world.

All that is to introduce this paragraph, the last paragraph of the latest book by one of my favorite authors. Joel Achenbach is smart and witty, and a very talented writer. I have enjoyed his work for years (decades!) and recently because of Achenblog, I have had the opportunity to get better acquainted with him, with the result that I have even more respect for him, and a feeling of affinity based on the fact that we have a lot in common--both experiences and opinions.

I don't know how many people, when they read a book, continue reading after the book ends, into the notes and end matter. But I do. And it was my reward to reach the last paragraph and have it be this:

A final suggestion for those wishing to follow up this story: Despite the powers of the Internet, which make it possible to find, for example, the full text of a Washington quote simply by searching for a phrase, there is nothing quite like browsing the shelves of a good library, where many fine books, too geriatric or obscure to be transferred to the digital realm, languish unread, in serious danger of being consigned to the category of lost information.

p. 302, The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac and the Race to the West, by Joel Achenbach

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

JAM & All

Last night was a board meeting for JAM & All, an interfaith organization I've been working with for a few years. JAM stands for Jews and Muslims. It's a post-9/11 group, started by an American Jew who was born in Israel (David Kamrat) and a Muslim leader (Maulana Shafayat Mohamed). Our plans for the coming year include various service projects, concentrating on individual impact rather than wide-spread publicity or big events.

After September 11, 2001, my husband and I, along with millions of other Americans, obviously, felt the need to "do something," and this interfaith dialog seemed like a natural direction for us. We started by going to visit the Islamic Center that is located a few blocks from our church. We went to prayers there several times and became acquainted with some people. Then we attended services at Temple Shalom, which is a few blocks in the other direction. We found out, for example, that the rabbi at Temple Shalom has a daughter in Israel and the imam at the Islamic Center has family in Jenin. The conflict in the Middle East is closer to my neighborhood than I had previously realized.

We arranged an interfaith gathering at our church which included two rabbis, two imams and two ministers, with a mixed attendance of about ninety people. That gathering was amazing, educational and uplifting. Everyone who attended was enthusiastic. The only negative feedback we got was from one person who thought it should have gone longer. But afterwards, we found that there was quite a bit of institutional resistance to any kind of continuing program. That is understandable because all these institutions run on volunteer energy and they are always strained to accomplish their own agendas, serve their own congregations, without having outside programs added in. So I joined JAM and All, which is not affiliated with any religious institutions. It's an independent non-profit and I have made more friends there. In the end, the main result of our efforts is that we have made friends with people from different cultures, different religions and nationalities.

" planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good." Genesis 50:20

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hurricane Rita / Hurricane Andrew (now/then)

Look out! It's headed right for Key West!

Okay, now calm down. It's, what did they say, the 12th hurricane in 14 months, something like that. If it isn't routine by now, it never will be.

In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew, a very large and strong storm, looked like it was surely going to hit Key West. At the time we were living there, not in a mobile home (this is like that Monty Python skit again: no! a mobile home would have been heaven to us!)--we lived in a 30-foot Airstream trailer. We called it our "land yacht." Our daughter's 5th birthday party was planned for August 24. On the 23rd, I called all the guests to tell them the party would have to be postponed due to weather. We spent the night at a shelter, and I was worried. I was awake most of the night, waiting for something to happen. There was not a gust of wind, not a drop of rain. Nothing. The following Saturday, we had the party and a good time was had by all, and we listened to everybody's hurricane stories. One family had done the sensible thing, they evacuated. They took refuge with friends in Miami--in Kendall. That is where Andrew went, too. The house they were staying in lost its roof. A tree limb fell on their car and broke the windshield. Make up your own moral here; I'm not offering any. To me, it's just weather, not the wrath of God.

Here's a webcam from downtown Miami.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Reinhold Niebuhr

Arthur Schlesinger's essay in Sunday's NYTimes is entitled, "Forgetting Reinhold Niebuhr." In the interest of keeping alive the ideas that Mr. Niebuhr espoused, I am dedicating today to this article.

The idea of liberal Christianity, a Christianity that supports labor unions and sympathizes with the Socialist Party seems exotic today. But I was raised on this theology, and it comes straight from the New Testament. I never really needed Paul Tillich or Reinhold Niebuhr to tell me that Jesus cares about the poor, the sick, the imprisoned--and that He commands us to do the same. It's in the Bible. When Jesus was asked, what is the greatest commandment, He said,
"The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

It is my opinion that this is the heart of the New Testament, and that anyone who wants to be a Christian should start here.

Niebuhr had an objection to the "individualistic" gospel of Billy Graham. The emphasis on sin and salvation leaves out the social obligations that Jesus emphasized. ("Do you love me? Feed my lambs.")

We haven't all forgotten Reinhold Niebuhr.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

People Watching

In today's Washington Post Magazine, Achenbach writes about his visit to Hollywood, CA. One thing he noticed is how people look at each other's faces. People look at your face to see if you are Somebody. Of course, if you are not, then you have a continuous silent chorus of disappointment surrounding you, which could be disheartening if you weren't a humor columnist who is going to get to write about the experience.

The story reminded me of a similar experience I have in Key West. There, people also look at your face--to see whether they know you. It's a sociable town, and full of tourists, so you are either a stranger to be more or less ignored, or a familiar face to be greeted. In the town where I live now, it's so unlikely that I will meet someone I know at the grocery store or the library or WalMart that I don't spend any energy checking people out. But in Key West, even though it has been 12 years since we lived there, I see familiar faces all the time, and often run into old friends. Even people I don't recognize sometimes remember me. Last time I was at the Key West Bicycle Center, the guy there said, "I remember you--didn't you work at the MARC house?" The heart yearns for community. I probably will end up back in Key West someday, because it is the only place I have ever known that kind of external happiness, the joy of friendship and community.

Now you country fools in your one-horse town, you can laugh at me
It's plain as rain that you've never been down to the southern sea
To see me now, it's like watching a fish on dry land
I only wish you could see me down in the islands
Mister, that's my home
What a fool I was to leave the only happiness I've known

You see me coming, you wink your eye and call me "Captain Jim"
And when I don't do nothin but to walk on by you say, "Baby, get a load of him"
But all I need is the sea and the sand
And I know where I stand
Instead of you hicks, straight out of the sticks
Decidin I ain't a man
You'll never understand
'Cause up here I'm just a whiskey bum
But down there I'm a king
It sounds just like the angels up in heaven
When they sing:

"Welcome home, welcome home
Welcome home, welcome home..."

"Captain Jim's Drunken Dream," by James Taylor

Jonathan Franzen

She stopped. The parties stopped. She stayed at home; she got a sinus infection. Men were circling the moon, and she sat and rested in a kitchen chair, wishing she could taste. It was the worst infection of her life. In the shower she licked the soap off her lips and found it sweet, like one of the more congenial poisons. Cooking was a chemistry lab. Heated beef turned gray, heated chicken white. Bread had low tensile strength. A liquid could be extracted from an orange, it was volume in a glass, it was 150 milliliters.

The infection continued out of February and into March, but spring was just a change in the light, a dampening of the cold, nothing more. She saw a doctor, who told her it was only viruses, she needed to sleep a lot and let it run its course. Eventually she could breathe freely, but she still couldn't taste. She started smoking again. The smoke was frosty and almost chewable, and the pain in her throat, divorced from flavor, had an electrical quality, like leakage of current. Was it possible that people tasted what they spoke? It was possible. Words dwelt in her skull like hammerheads, falling around on their rigid claws....Every morning she licked at the soap, always hoping, and then, in April, something gave and she realized in her closet that she was smelling No-Moth. It was exactly as she remembered it. But now with each taste she rediscovered there came a sense of private ownership. Tastes and smells no longer seemed like communal stocks of which each person partook according to need and predisposition. They seemed like property. She was reading Sartre, and he hit her like a ton of bricks. She felt wild. She had insides, and at the time they weren't lonely places.

--p. 95, The Twenty-Seventh City, by Jonathan Franzen

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bicycle Transportation

On Saturday, I needed to take my bike to the shop for new front wheel bearings. I rode to the bike shop about 10:30, and they said the repair would be finished about 3:00. I used the time to get my hair cut, go to the bank, have lunch, stop by the grocery store and Dollar General, and visit the library. All the errands probably required about 2 or 3 miles of walking. It was wonderful. I realized that when I do errands with my car, I often consider how I can "save" time. It seems like the whole reason I am driving is because I'm in a hurry to get somewhere. With the bike, I have a completely different attitude. I am enjoying the passage of time, which James Taylor says is the Secret of Life, and he is right! Since I started riding my bike to work, my commuting time is my favorite time of the day.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Selective Observation Urban Nature Walks

I walk at lunchtime, most days. The standard route I take is about 45 minutes' worth. Over the drawbridge, turn just before the beach, through the neighborhood, back over the bridge. A lot of concrete in view, some dense-population high-rise condominiums, banks, construction, plenty of cars. I'd rather be climbing a mountain path or hiking through a forest. However, in addition to the human contributions to the landscape, nature is present in large amounts on my walk. I practice tuning into the nature, tuning out the rest, and it is rewarding. The texture of a dead palm frond, leaning against the trunk of the tree where it fell. A lizard running across a rock. The smell of frangipani and, immensely, the air. Yesterday I experienced the way the air that is moving across my face is connected to the sky, up there where the clouds are, so vast and various. Mind expansion is restful, and connection--the air and the sky, myself with the natural world--is essential.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Know-Nothings has an article by Andrew O'Hehir about "The Republican War on Science," to quote a book title by Chris Mooney. Here's a sample: "...Affluent big-business conservatives and pro-life "moral values" conservatives (mostly middle class or working class) may have opposing economic interests...But they share an urgent desire to undermine public confidence in science, if necessary by manufacturing illegitimate doubt or creating, as Mooney puts it,"a semblance of controversy where it doesn't actually exist."

America has a long-standing bias against intellectual pursuits. This is just the tide at the full, the pendulum swung all the way to the right. Please, let it swing back soon!! Before we are all the victims of ignorance, against which, as the saying goes, "the gods themselves contend in vain."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Achenbach: "Don't Wait for the Cavalry"

[Joel says the lesson to be learned from Hurricane Katrina is "you're on your own"--and says "Solve your own problems" is "RULE ONE" at his house.]

"Don't wait for the cavalry"--if you are a pioneer who has voluntarily taken your family into hostile Indian territory, you better take enough guns to defend your wagon. You can't assume that the Army will show up whenever you need them.

If, on the other hand, you are a taxpayer, living in a modern American city, it is very reasonable to expect that in the case of an emergency the FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY will have a plan that takes into account various aspects of the situation, such as the high percentage of poor people in the city, and the probability that some people will need assistance to evacuate (like, people in hospitals and nursing homes, AND people who have no car or money and no experience outside their neighborhoods.) That is what FEMA is for. That is what government is for. Government exists to facilitate collective action, to do things that individuals cannot do.

The analogy of parents and children also does not apply. If you die before your children are old enough to take care of themselves, someone else will take over the job--if no friends or relatives step up, the government will do it (badly, probably, but nevertheless, there is a system in place). Your kids won't be on their own until you have had a chance to teach them how to be adults, and at that point, they will be equipped to live independently. The government is not our parent. The government is THE PEOPLE, working together to help each other, and thus, ourselves.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hiroshima by John Hersey

The stories in Hiroshima are stories of survivors. Hersey notes:

A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition--a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next--that spared him.

When I watched The Pianist, I finally understood something fundamental about why people you read about (even in true stories) tend to escape miraculously and persevere through incredible hardship and so on. Simple enough idea, but I hadn't conceptualized it before: it's because the stories of the people who do not survive are shorter and less interesting--those people don't get to be the main characters--they don't "live to tell the tale." That has a great effect on our mythology, our literature, and ultimately on our collective character.