Patron Saint of escape, Harry Houdini, wishes all of our friends and readers a very happy holiday season.
Originally sent to friends by the man himself, I half-inched this Christmas card from Letters of Note, one of the best blogs on the whole of the Internet.
Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, and Festivus, one and all.
Here is some truly wonderful direction from Hungarian dissident György Konrád:
Have a lived life instead of a career. Put yourself in the safekeeping of good taste. Lived freedom will compensate you for a few losses…. If you don’t like the style of others, cultivate your own. Get to know the tricks of reproduction, be a self-publisher even in conversation, and then the joy of working can fill your days.
I like this so much that I’m almost tempted to declare it “the whole of the law” and never bother writing another word on personal conduct. In any event, it deserves printing and framing. Or possibly tattooing, if you’re of the bodmod persuasion.
On “the joy of working”, by the way, I do not read this as “activity as mode of salvation” in the Protestant line, but as “activities to which you decide to dedicate yourself”. This may seem a generous interpretation, but after long periods of luxurious idling, some sort of productive activity or hobby usually pops up, and is far more pleasurable and worthwhile than the usual submissive employment.
Been reading Konrád essays have I? Actually no. I took the quote second-hand from Christopher Hitchens’ Letters to a Young Contrarian, which is a short book filled with warm wisdom. If you can stomach another lifted quotation, Hitchens writes:
Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the “transcendent” and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disruption for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect them to live for you.
It’s worth reading this in context, especially for the full illumination of “as if they were mammals”. Highly recommended literature for those of the Escapological persuasion.