Have you gotten caught up in the Christmas frenzy? If so, I envy you.
. . . Buying presents, making presents, arranging parties and dinners, going out to special events -- this is the busy month. Getting in a frenzy means you actually get done much of what you hoped to do. Me, I enjoy the season but it takes a lot to get me in a frenzy. For that reason, much I'd like to do is left undone.
. . . As many of you know, I have a book in progress called "Things Left Undone" -- an appropriate name for an unfinished book. This book, which will be a best seller if it ever gets published, deals with the philosophical issues concerning those things we would like to do but don't.
. . . My basic observation about things left undone is this. We think of things to do faster than we can do them. This assumes, of course, that people have imaginations. You, I know, have an imagination that bubbles over with possibilities. I know this because your life is full of things left undone. Am I right?
. . . The fellow who designed the Brooklyn Bridge (John Augustus Roebling) once observed that an engineer, in fifteen minutes, can design the basic plans for a structure that will take a hundred men a hundred years to complete. That's how the imagination works. Anyone with an imagination is doomed to a life of frustration, a life in which only a fraction of what they hope to do actually gets done.
. . . My book, when it gets published, will provide a cure for this frustration. For that reason alone, I should finish it. The benefits to humankind would certainly win me a front seat in God's balcony. Trouble is, having thoroughly examined the dynamics of imagination, of possibility and fact, of planning and doing, I seldom worry about things left undone, certainly not writing books.
Instead, I rely on my wife. With Barbara's prodding, I'm working on presents. Wednesday night she dragged me to a mall. Saturday she "encouraged" me to string two hundred feet of Christmas lights along the hedge. Last night she cooked dinner for a friend and then we enjoyed the decorations and choral singing at Longwood Gardens, as seen above and to the right. Tonight we'll hear Tony Trischka and other bluegrass musicians perform Christmas music just down the street at the Gild Hall. With Barbara's guidance, I'm participating in Christmas.
. . . Thank God I have a wife uncorrupted by my philosophical musings. Left alone, I forget the time. I come across a thread of Arts and Crafts history and follow it for hours. I read about the typeface designs of William Morris and Selwyn Image. I find samples of "Golden" and spend an hour seeing what typefaces are similar. Then I spend two hours on the Web seeing what Arts and Craft typefaces are being offered there. We are in the middle of a type renaissance! Hundreds of people are suddenly creating typefaces. For the first time in history, the tools of type production are in the hands of many.
. . . Left to myself, this is the kind of intellectual adventure I get caught up in, heedless of time, as though I was confident I was going to be resurrected from the dead and have all the time in the world AND heaven.
. . . Perhaps it's just as well my book is unpublished. If everyone thought they had all the time they needed, what would get done?
. . . So please, like my wife, ignore anything I might have said about the imagination. Get caught up in the season. Enjoy the frenzy. Prepare for another Merry Christmas and -- now that it's really here -- the start of a new century, of a new millennium. There are tens of thousands yet to come.
Click here to receive the next letters.
As I write them, I'll send them to you via e-mail.
Go to Previous Sunday Letter
I concede defeat in my first public election.
Sunday, November 26, 2000.