I finished a book on Wednesday that I can hardly recommend with more enthusiasm.
I forget where I read it, but once I read that most people regard the words, "I could hardly put it down," as about the highest praise you can give a bit of writing. I happen to hold to an opposite point of view.
A really good bit of writing demands that you put it down. Reading a chapter can be like running a mile uphill. You're winded at the end. You need to gain your composure, mop your brow, collect yourself, buoy your balance and think.
The book is called: "One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World" and you can order it here. You can read a guest essay by the author Michael Frank here and find reviews online. I had read the review in the Wall Street Journal--I won't link to it because they have a Stasi-engineered paywall and you have as much chance getting through as logic has reaching donald trump.
I'm not going to talk about the book here today. But I am going to talk about one passage that hit me like a building collapsing. In a good way. I think it's something we all should think about as we go through our careers and our lives and our living.
I think it's important because it's about gods and ghosts and invisibility and presence. All of which are aspects of life and therefore worth consideration.
Here's the passage that got me. A description of the other-wordly magic that is in the connected ether of the world.
"They called it Los Corassones Avlan, after a phrase in Judeo-Spanish that was often used in the Juderia and has no real equivalent in English. Los corassones—or korasones—avlan: literally “hearts speak”—but it wasn’t clear to me quite what that meant, or said, until Stella explained: “You’re in your kitchen preparing dinner, or you’re sitting in an armchair and reading a book. A friend pops into your head: you see her face, you think of a remark she made, a story she told. A moment later, there’s a knock at your door. You open it, and there is that same friend. ‘Ah,’ you say, ‘los korasones avlan.’
"Hearts speak? Hearts summon? Hearts know?"
In advertising, if you stick to your knitting, if you answer overt and implicit calls for help, calls from friends, calls from clients in need, calls from the few people way up in agencies that somehow managed to keep their humanity, something happens without your even knowing it.
The goodness in the industry, the goodness of the good people around you becomes connected like the fabric of a well-knit sweater. The ghosts of gods are in the room with you. The ghosts of gods help you write, think, kibbitz, find clients, get noticed.
There's no causality in this ghostness. Los Corassones Avlan cannot be summoned with an ersatz bat signal. You can't put $2 down on Los Corassones Avlan in the Seventh at Aqueduct and expect a $2.30 payout. Los Corassones Avlan doesn't work like that.
But if you work, if you're honest, if you're kind, if you're fair, if you over-deliver, if you lift up and don't put down, Los Corassones Avlan appears. Or might.
I ran into Los Corassones Avlan once in Central Park. I was having a hard time finding a job, I turned the corner, and there was a recruiter I knew.
I ran into Los Corassones Avlan once in an elevator. An old friend, a new boss, serendipity.
I run into Los Corassones Avlan most often through the magic of connections I didn't even know I had. The ghosts of gods work that way.
That's why beyond doing good work every time you do work, you have to go beyond and try to be good. Try to be a mensch. A human. Helpful. With love.
Hearts speak. Hearts summon. Hearts know.
I know this is a lot from a lugubrious fucker like me.