Favorite New York Times quote of the day
"The New York Times will be in great hands no matter who leads." - Gerald Boyd, announcing his resignation as managing editor. (What? You don't believe he said that? See today's article by Jacques Steinberg.)


5,000 years of churning
We just got back from viewing the show at the Metropolitan Museum, "Art of the First Cities," with statuary, clay accounting and story tablets, personal ornaments and fragments of architecture from Ur, Urek and their successor cities, beginning around 3,000 BC. The show is a fragment of what it might have been, because so many of the greatest treasures have just been looted from what remains of their bombed out homeland of Mesopotamia. Still, it's mighty impressive to be reminded that we human beings have been struggling to civilize ourselves for over 5000 years, without making any progress. For signs of stupidity and destructive arrogance to equal any known to Nebuchadnezzar or Ozymandias, see the truly scarywww.probush.com.


I, Simurgh
From as early as I remember, I have known that I could fly. All I really had to do was truly believe, to unlock the chain of doubt, and soar. You can, too. If you don't already know this, you will after seeing the marvelous movie, Winged Migration.

When I told a friend how wonderful it had been to leap from the top of S�o Conrado peak in Rio de Janeiro beneath the delta wing of a hang-glider, to fly beside the pelicans over the great favela and the valley and the country club and finally the sea, before circling back to land softly on the beach, he stared at me in panic. Just the idea of it made him gasp -- he suffers from acrophobia. Well, then I guess I must suffer from acrophilia. I loved it! And a year or so later, when my son took me climbing up a sheer rock face in the Shawangunk Mountains, and we stopped for a breather after the second stage of the climb and I looked down at the circling buzzards -- waiting for one of us to fall, no doubt -- I felt tired but very much at home, believing (against all logic and experience) that even if I lost my grip, the air currents would support me as surely as they did those feathered wings.

The Simurgh is a gigantic and magical four-winged bird that nests in the Tree of Knowledge, wherein grow all the fruits of the Earth. When the Simurgh flaps its wings in take-off from the tree, it scatters the seeds in the direction of the downdraft -- which is how pineapple ended up in South America, and cherries in Japan. In the 13th century, the Persian poet Farid al-Din Attar discovered its true nature, through the twin sciences of etymology and analogy. "Si" in Persian happens to be the word for the number 30, and "murgh" -- well, I don't know what that means in Persian, if anything, but Farid thought it must be "birds." In his delightful poem, the birds of the earth, seeking the simurgh to be their leader, go on such a long exhausting flight that only 30 of them remain aloft. It is then that they realize that they themselves are the simurgh. We must be our own leader. Go see this movie, "Winged Migration," and you too can be part of the simurgh.