Leeches are Loyal


The Daily Post word-of-the-day is Loyal , which is defined as faithful to one’s friends, family, country, ideals, etc. It is giving or showing firm and constant support and allegiance to a person, an institution, etc. The definition says nothing about worth of either the loyalist or the “loyalee.” It is possible for a person to be loyal to a real stinker.

Leeches and other parasites are loyal. A leech will faithfully attach itself to a host to the point of killing it. That’s loyalty for you. However, can one really blame leeches for behaving the way that nature made them? Do leeches have a choice in their blood-sucking ways? No, the poor things have to keep doing what they do because they don’t know any better.

Humans, however, should know better, but some of them act as if they don’t. C. S. Lewis wrote:

“She’s the sort of woman who lives for others—you can always tell the others by their hunted expression.” The Screwtape Letters

That being said, I am all for loyalty. I am a loyal person myself. But I pay a price for it. My loyalty demands that I exercise critical thinking and value objectivity over sentimentality. It means I must be willing to change my mind about to whom or what I am loyal. I think, in the long run, that blind, underserved loyalty eventually sucks the life out its object, just like a leech.

I say “no” to leechery. It’s not fit for human consumption.

(Note to self: In Jane Austen’s book Sanditon, one of the characters fancies herself ill and has a treatment of leeches. It is odd to associate Jane Austen’s world with leeches and blood-letting, but there it is. I wonder if Mr. Darcy was ever “leeched” when no one was writing about him.)


Looking Daggers at Cloaks


The Daily Post word-of-the-day is Cloaked. It reminds me of a passage in the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

The setting is a feast in honor of Prince John to which all nobles are invited to attend, both Norman and Saxon. Cedric and Lord Athelstane, Saxons, accept Prince John’s invitation.

“Cedric and Athelstane were both dressed in ancient Saxon garb, which, although not unhandsome in itself, and in the present instance composed of costly materials, was so remote in shape and appearance from that of the other guests, that Prince John took great credit to himself with Waldemar Fitzurse for refraining from laughter at a sight which the fashion of the day rendered ridiculous.”

It turns out the offending garment was a long cloak; the Normans favored short ones. Scott provides a brief commentary on short cloaks.

“The Emperor Charlemagne, in whose reign they were first introduced, seems to have been very sensible of the inconveniences arising from the fashion of this garment.

‘In Heaven’s name, said he, ‘to what purpose serve these abridged cloaks? If we are in bed they are no cover, on horseback they are no protection from the wind and rain, and when seated, they do not guard our legs from the damp or frost.’

Nevertheless, in spite of this imperial objurgation, the short cloaks continued in this fashion down to the time of which we treat. They were therefore in universal use among Prince John’s courtiers, and the long mantle, which formed the upper garment of the Saxons, was held in proportional derision.”

Apparently humans have been silly about clothes for a long time.

As Louisa May Alcott wrote, “let us be elegant or let us die.”

Exposing the Exceptional

Moose “The impulse to say something to make people sit up and take notice is universal to humankind.” H. L. Mencken ~ “The Worst Trade of Them All”

“I don’t mind so much that people invent stories; it’s when they behave as if the stories are true.” The Book of Rhino

(Life at Cabela’s)

“My dear, “Greg announced one morning, “I have decided to be exceptional. Now, don’t try to dissuade me. I feel that it is my chosen fate.”

Marina digested this piece of news with her toast.

“Exceptional,” she replied. “That’s a bit of a tall order, isn’t it? Won’t you find your prospects somewhat…limited?”

“Nonsense! It’s all a matter of timing and perspective, coupled with a willful change in attitude. If I say I am going to be exceptional, then there is no doubt I can pull it off. I just have to attune myself to that which is unusual and uncommon about me. And, what is more important, I must overcome my natural diffidence to expose myself.”

“I suppose,” said Marina. “But what if diffidence is the very thing that is exceptional these days? Might it be possible that exposing oneself is the rule rather than the exception? Just asking.”

Greg was aghast.

“What a preposterous idea! If everyone took it in their head to expose how exceptional they are, there would be nothing exceptional at all, except those who labor in obscurity. And if someone is exceptionally obscure, the world remains ignorant of his or her exceptionalism. No, no, my dear. The idea is too monstrous. You must allow me to expose myself, in full confidence that in doing so, I will be exceptional”

“Very well; I won’t say another word about it.”

“That’s better,” said Greg. He looked about the room, feeling extremely exceptional. Marina hoped that no one noticed.

Daily Prompt:Exceptional

The Planet Paris


The Book of Rhino ~ Between the Lines

Amalia awoke one morning to the sounds of whispers and muffled giggles. She sat up in bed and leaned over the other side. On the floor were Anna and cousin Bethna, busy at play.

“Mole! You’re awake!” Anna shouted. “I am taking Bethna to the planet Paris. It’s her first time.”

“Paris!” said Amalia. “Do you still go there?”

“Of course,” said Anna, “they expect us, you know, although I haven’t been there since you went away. Bethna is old enough now to go with me. See? We have everything packed and ready to go.”

Amalia surveyed the scene on the floor. Three pairs of shoes were lined up heel to toe and were tied together with string, forming a long train. The shoes were filled with an assortment of odd and ends. There were tiny dolls made of cornhusks and strands of wool; there were small animals, some carved from wood and some constructed of acorns and pinecones. One of the shoes was filled with bits of cloth, sticks, and strings, and another shoe was stuffed with nuts and dried apples. The remaining shoes carried a small crock of honey, pieces of bread, and a flask of water.

“Are you taking the usual route?” asked Amalia.

“Yes,” said Anna. “Since this is Bethna’s first time, she needs to learn the way. I promise we will be back in time for supper.”

Bethna hopped on the bed and put her arms around Amalia.

“Would you like to come with us?” she asked. “You can have my share of the food.”

Amalia kissed her cousin.

“I would love to; Paris is the most beautiful of the planets and well worth a visit. My goodness, I think it’s been over a year since we last made the trip.”

“If it’s so beautiful, why don’t you go there all the time?” asked Bethna. “Why don’t you just live there?”

“Oh, no,” said Amalia. “That would spoil it, make it commonplace. That’s the way it is with all great treasures. Too much, too soon, or too often and they lose what makes them special. It’s like the Harvest Festival; knowing that it comes around just once a year makes it that much more wonderful. We have all the pleasure of preparation and anticipation beforehand and all the memories when it’s over.”

“Amalia’s right,’ said Anna. “Hasn’t it been exciting planning and packing for our trip to Paris? And when we return, we can talk about all the fun times we had and interesting things we saw.”

Bethna clapped her hands.

“Oh, I can hardly wait! Is it almost time?”

Amalia and Anna inspected their caravan and nodded.

“Off to Paris!” they said. “And may good fortune guide our way.”

Daily Prompt:Planet

Penchant for the Unknown

Kleitsch-Older Ned

(Rhino Between the Lines)

“Older Ned,” said Rhino, “what was my father like when he was my age? Am I like him?”

“Your father, eh,” said Older Ned. “Well, now, I’ll tell you what I recollect of him, and you can decide how alike you are. When I first met your father, I could see right away that he was practical. To him, everything had to have a purpose or he wasn’t interested. The one thing he was passionate about was history. Your father was drawn to older people and used to pump stories outta them ‘til they were near dry. He could out-listen the most determined talker. You see, he wanted more than knowledge; he wanted understanding, and he thought if he knew the origin of things, he would understand them. He could not accept the unknown.”

“What’s wrong with that?” asked Rhino.

“Nothin’, lad, nothin’ at all,” replied Older Ned. “It’s fittin’ for the room one happens to be in.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, it’s a person’s dance with knowledge. I call it a room. Look, when you’re first born, you don’t know anything, and you don’t know that you don’t know anything. It’s like you’re in a room, but you don’t know the room is there. Then as you grow older, you learn a few things, one of them being that you are in a room. But all you know is what you know—you don’t yet know that there are things you don’t know. Then one day, you are aware that there is life outside the room.”

“I remember that!” said Rhino excitedly. “I remember thinking that there were things I did not know—like how to tie a knot or do arithmetic. It was about that time, I began formal education.” Rhino laughed. “I remember I wanted to study history; I guess I’m like my father that way. So what is next? Going outside the room?”

“In a sense, yes. Only there’s a trick to it. What some people think is going outside the room is really just redecorating it or making it larger.”

“So how do you go outside the room?”

“Ah, there’s the rub. It depends on the measure of faith you have in yourself. Can you believe that there are things you do not know and accept that you do not know what they are?”

“But…” Rhino looked puzzled. “How can a person do that?”

“It’s a process that is unique to the individual. That’s why it’s so hard to nab. Your father’s penchant for knowledge was his greatest asset, but it also was his greatest barrier. Your greatest asset is your greatest barrier to moving beyond the room.”

Rhino was silent for a few moments.

“Older Ned, I think you have stepped outside the room. What does it look like for you?”

Older Ned smiled and shook his head.

“I ain’t there yet. I don’t rightly know—and that’s good. All I have is an idea that keeps pokin’ at me while I’m sittin’ with it. At first I thought it was accepting that there is no longer a room, but now I’m thinkin’ that the room never existed in the first place. But what do I know?”

Daily Prompt: Penchant

Sympathy ~ Empathy ~ Apathy

Millais-Children's Tea

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Sympathy. In one definition of sympathy, the word empathy is given as a synonym. This is not entirely correct. For clarity’s sake, here are annotated definitions of sympathy, empathy, and apathy from Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language 1989.

Sympathy: harmony of or agreement of feelings, as between persons or on behalf of one person with respect to another; the fact or power of sharing the feelings of others.

Empathy: the intellectual identification with or a vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of others.

Apathy: lack of interest in or concern for things others find moving or exciting; indifference.

Example: I sympathize with someone who has lost a parent through death because I know what that is like. I empathize with someone who has lost a child through death because I can imagine what that is like.

The fact that we can sympathize and/or empathize with another person’s thoughts or feelings underscores the importance of finding your “no.” Without appropriate boundaries, feelings of sympathy or empathy can lead to emotional enmeshment. Left unchecked, “enmeshment can contribute to dysfunctional relationships, especially among family members, and can lead to a lack of autonomy and independence.” https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/enmeshment

In my opinion, fear of enmeshment is one of the reasons for apathy in a person—he or she sees sympathy and empathy as slippery slopes. People without an effective “no” cannot establish and maintain boundaries in their relationships. In their eyes, it is better to remain unengaged than to engage and get swallowed up in another person’s issues.

However, I think that one of the signs of emotional maturity is the ability to take emotional risks. An emotionally mature person is able to sympathize and empathize with the thoughts and feelings of others in a beneficial way. Finding your no is a key step to growth.

Daily Prompt:Sympathy

The Actors’ Club


“This is an actors’ club, and I must admit that actors are far superior to writers when it comes to public speaking. They have somebody else write whatever it is they’re going to say, and then they memorize it. This is a club for memorize® and I think it’s nice that they have a club. Everybody who wants a club should have one. That’s what America is all about. That, and fighting different diseases, and so on.”

Kurt Vonnegut ~ Palm Sunday

I could never be in an actors’ club, a memorize® club, because I am not skilled at memorizing things. Also, I seem to remember what I need to know anyway. When I read something significant in a book, it sticks somewhere in my memory.

As a result, all of Life reminds me of a book I’ve read, which could mean one of two things. Either I have read a lot of books, or I don’t get out much.

Daily Prompt:Memorize

How Deepeeboo


“Alright, Wilfred, it’s your turn to recite,” said Rhino. “What masterpiece have you created?”

“Hullo!” said Wilfred. “Master Altman said nothing about a masterpiece. He only said we have to write something worth sayin’ out loud. Well, I got my somethin’ and I’m sayin’ it out loud.”

Wilfred stood in front of the group with his hands behind his back.

“This must be serious,” said Trevor. “He has assumed the position.”

Ignoring Trevor, Wilfred began to speak.

“What did you learn today, my son?

I learned five things and remembered none.

And what five things did you forget?

That dust is dry, and water’s wet.

The moon is cold, the sun is hot;

There’s one more thing, but I forgot.”


“Wilfred,” said Skandar. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“That’s because it is deep,” said Wilfred.

Daily Prompt:Recite

Literary Mothers


My mother felt that something was wrong, and displayed a lot of sympathy, which tortured me because I couldn’t repay her with my confidence. One evening when I was already in bed she brought me a piece of chocolate. She asked what was wrong with me, and stroked my hair. I could merely blurt out: “No! No! I don’t want anything.” She put the chocolate on the night table and left.

Emil Sinclair in Demian by Hermann Hesse

The problem with Sinclair’s mother is the same with many literary mothers—they are shallow. They are one-dimensional saints, sinners, or shadows.

Why is that with literary mothers? Either they are perfectly wise like Marmee in Little Women or they are perfectly silly like Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.

Demian’s mother, Frau Eva, is an exalted guru who guides Sinclair on his journey to adulthood; she’s exceedingly deepeeboo, but that is all she is. I had great hopes for Anne Shirley to be a complex, interesting mother; but all motherhood did for her was relegate her to the background, like a beautiful dish of fine china displayed for special occasions.

Perhaps I am mistaken. After all, I haven’t read every book about mothers. However, of the ones I have, mothers do not come off very well. I wonder if mother-characters are a nuisance to create. I’m going to have to explore this issue further. If my premise is that literary mothers are shallow, then I can do them justice by giving the matter a thorough analysis.
Daily Prompt:Shallow

Gateway Books


I was Leviathan with a hook in my jaw, pulled inexorably onward by an unseen angler.

The Book of Rhino

When I read a book by an unfamiliar author that immediately engages my interest, I call it a “gateway book.” By my definition, a gateway book is one that hooks me on a particular writer. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd got me hooked on Agatha Christie; Foundation did the same for me with Isaac Asimov. Once I read that first book, that gateway book, then I chase down other books by the same author.

A gateway book is not necessarily the first book an author has written. For example, in the case of Mary Stewart, her gateway book for me was The Crystal Cave, published in 1970, sixteen years after Madam, Will You Talk?, her first novel. Had the latter been my introduction to Mary Stewart, I would not have pursued the relationship.

I am just about to finish The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. I have a feeling that I have just found a new gateway book.

Some of my other gateway books are:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkein

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Man with Two Left Feet by P. G. Wodehouse

The Curate’s Awakening by George MacDonald

There is a glaring problem with this list. If you know about these authors, you will see that all of them, except for Philip Pullman, are dead. I’m in the sad situation of being hooked on writers who will not be writing any more books. That’s the danger of reading books by dead authors; if one of their works happens to be a gateway book, your supply of satisfying reads is finite.

I should have known better than to read Maugham—him being dead and all, but that’s the thing about gateway novels. One never knows until the reading deed is done that one has stumbled onto a gateway book. A person may innocently open its pages and find herself unable to put the thing down.

Perhaps there should be warning labels on books by dead authors.

WARNING: This book is known to instantly engross the reader in the story and characters. There is only a limited supply of books by this particular author so read it at your own risk.

In the meantime, Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe looks interesting.

Daily Prompt:Gate