Angels and Molecules

The other day Ana and I went out for a few hours. When we came back, we parked the car, entered through the downstairs garage door, came up to the first floor and into the living room. Where we saw our intrepid dog Ben, standing on the back of the living room couch, gazing out the window. Waiting. To explain: Ana is the center of Ben’s universe, the sun around which all his planets revolve. She is his oxygen, his A to Z, his why the universe exists. He was waiting for her. But Ben has gone deaf. He had somehow missed seeing the car’s approach, and hadn’t heard it come down the drive, or the motorized grind of the garage door opening, or our footsteps up the stairs. As far as he knew, we were still gone. Moments after I snapped this picture, I clapped, loud enough for him to hear, and he turned his head—and saw Ana, and his little dog face broke into an ecstatic OMG, why didn’t someone tell me?! and all was right with the world. It made me think of Beethoven. Late in life Beethoven was attending the premier of his ninth (and final) symphony. “Attending” is perhaps not the right word. Although he was by this time deaf as a board, he strongly felt he should be on hand to guide the musicians along in this huge and enormously challenging composition, so he stood right up there on stage, by the conductor, and gestured like crazy throughout the performance, doing his utmost to shape the right tempi and dynamics and phrasing —...

Sweet Rejection

“We have not had success with parables, and have moved away from the food area.” As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have a manuscript right now in the hands of twenty publishers. Make that in the hands of eleven publishers, because nine have now said “No,” the ninth being the one who just replied as above. (Our manuscript, as you’ll have guessed, is a parable about food.) Rejection is painful. Whether you’re a lonely single asking someone out on a date, or a salesperson hoping for a contract, or an entrepreneur seeking investors, or a writer looking for a publisher, it’s always difficult to hear, “No.” What’s really interesting about it is what happens next. Every romantic comedy, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Tootsie, hinges on the sting of vehement rejection. The explosion, the split, the unequivocal “You? Never!” always occurs somewhere in the midnight that then leads to the dawn of Yes. The “No!” has to occur. It is the little death that clears the way for new life, the wintry freeze that fertilizes the coming spring. When Harry first met Sally there wasn’t room for them to fall in love; they both first needed their personalities stretched out a bit. And it’s not just in movies. It happens in real life, too. Our lives. I’ve certainly known rejection, and I know you have, too. Everyone has. It’s part of the human comedy. Hey, our whole journey started with being rejected (or at least ejected) by our mothers, right? And yes, it was warm and comfy where we were before, and yes, the room service was awesome, and yes, we...

Forgiveness Day

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, the day we in the United States have celebrated for the past 240 years as a day of independence and freedom. Yet as much as I cherish freedom (and I do), I have come to think of the Fourth as Forgiveness Day — because it always makes me think of Adams and Jefferson. John Adams, the scrappy lawyer from Massachusetts, and Thomas Jefferson, the gentleman-farmer from Virginia, were two of the three prime architects of the Declaration of Independence (Ben Franklin being the third). During those heady years they became close colleagues and, despite being temperamental opposites (or perhaps in part because of it), exceptionally close friends. That all changed with the election of 1800, when the sitting president (Adams) ran against his sitting vice president (Jefferson). In that distinctly human sort of reverse alchemy that can turn gold into lead and lemonade into lemons, the two now became bitter enemies, facing off in what still stands today (yes, even today!) as a down-and-dirty landmark in gutter politics. One attack on Jefferson claimed that if he were elected, “we would see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution” and the United States would become a nation where “murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught and practiced.” A counterattack on Adams held that the incumbent was a rageful, lying, warmongering fellow; a “repulsive pedant” and “gross hypocrite” who “behaved neither like a man nor like a woman but instead possessed a hideous hermaphroditical character.” The two did not speak for years.… And then, decades later, seemingly out of the...