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In These Otsego Hills

February 21, 2013

There's a lot we can learn from the doves

We live in a noisy, unreflective world. Our contemporary discourse is characterized by the conspicuous absence of quality.

The allure of quality was first brought home to me years ago when I first read Robert Pirsig’s book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I think of it often, especially within the context of the acrimony and meanness that define public discussion and discourse these days.

There is one point in John Stuart Mill’s essay “On Liberty” that bears mention here. Open, thoughtful, and respectful discussions are crucial to the health of any democratic society. I reread Mill this week seeking some help in resolving in my own mind the tension that exists over the fundamental question of the rights of the individual versus those of society. That is the subject of a forthcoming essay. A democracy infected by uncivil public discourse suffers from a self-inflicted disease which might very be its undoing. I do not think we are there yet. But we do seem hell-bent on playing the brinksmanship game.

Which takes me to sitting doves. The other morning while on the way to the kitchen to fill up the tea kettle, one of many procrastination strategies I use, I noticed eight mourning doves nestled comfortably in the snow at the foot of a maple tree. They sat there within inches of one another absolutely motionless. I must have watched for five minutes, perhaps longer. I was mesmerized by their total devotion to stillness. As one who craves stillness and quiet and the solace it provides, I felt a palpable kinship with these lovely puff balls so at ease with themselves and one another. As one who has always been uncomfortable in crowds and when in close quarters with others, I thought of how wonderful it would be to be able to spend time with others of my species talking less, thinking more, and experiencing together the deeply profound spirituality that silence allows. I am not about to enter a monastery where speech is prohibited. What I do dream of is a world where speech, when it occurs, especially in the public arena, is both civil and tempered by an ethics of conduct based on mutual respect and a toleration of difference.

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In These Otsego Hills
  • Flash back to debate over tourism Congratulations go out to Sandy and Marshall Thorne on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.

    August 21, 2014

  • Reflecting on the noon whistle Over the years we have been taken to task by readers who do not agree with our thinking. And we have never thought that to be a problem. Opinions differ and it is always good to hear all points of view on an issue. However, for what we think is perhaps the first time, we have been taken to task by a complaint that while we had taken what was an obviously unpopular position on buses within the village, we had been negligent in commenting on another issue, namely the noon whistle. In the writer’s opinion, the current issue, which we now think we understand to be the elimination of heavy traffic on residential streets, is just like the issue of the noon whistle.

    August 14, 2014

  • Summer heading toward destination We were pleased to learn that general reaction to the Hall of Fame Induction Weekend was most positive. From what we read in newspaper reports as well as what we heard from people who attended various events, the crowds really enjoyed themselves. The parade on Saturday got rave reviews from everybody who talked with us about it. Plus, in spite of what we thought when the rain hit Sunday morning, the weather overall seemed to be cooperative. And we gather that the merchants were pleased with the weekend. So we have to think it is probably safe to say it was a win-win for everyone who partook of the weekend's activities.

    August 7, 2014

  • Bringing up a matter of poetic license Since we seem to spend time each week both reading and writing, we have always found the English language interesting to say the least. It seems that it always follows the rules until it doesn't follow the rules. Thus we found Jim Atwell's column "From word to phrase to sentence," which appeared in last week's paper, to be most delightful. But more importantly, it gives us something about which to write this week.

    July 31, 2014

  • Visitings with the Widge, Mare Bear This past week we found ourselves enjoying a delightful visit from the Ohio Ellsworths. And while our daughter-in-law Annie had to attend a conference at Hamilton College during part of the visit here, we greatly enjoyed our time with them. We were, of course, quite surprised to realize how much the granddaughters, The Widge and Mare Bear, had grown since we last saw them at Christmas. Obviously, their parents had not put bricks on their heads to retard their growth.

    July 24, 2014

  • Thoughts on traffic and roads We recently enjoyed a brief visit from Jon Battle, one of our late husband's college buddies, who always enjoys visiting Cooperstown and passing howdy on the front porch. And while the front porch is not as welcoming as it used to be since there are no chairs on it, we were able to pass howdy from the comfort of our family room. And during the many subjects that we covered in our conversation, the topic of potholes came up.

    July 17, 2014

  • Potholes and oversights bring bumps We have received a number of comments regarding our discussion on potholes in last week’s column. And most of them were in agreement that the potholes are indeed a problem.

    July 10, 2014

  • Potholes need place on village agenda We have long thought that the concepts of perspective and priorities have the ability to present problems for people. As we are inclined to say, getting one's ducks all in a row is often difficult. And as we have learned about issues currently under consideration by the Village of Coopertown it does make us wonder about their ducks.

    July 3, 2014

  • Summer unofficially begins with ice cream Although summer officially arrived this past weekend, we have long thought that the kick off event for the summer season in Cooperstown is the annual Ice Cream Social sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church on Pioneer Street.

    June 26, 2014

  • Splitting logs gives splitting headache We are happy to report that Woodside Hall is continuing with its presentation of programs which are open to the public. This evening at 6:30 p.m., they are hosting Glimmerglass Festival designers Troy Hourie and Erik Teague who will discuss their role in the company's summer production of Strauss' opera, "Ariadne in Naxos: Unplugged."

    June 19, 2014