“[E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances . . . .”
I have long had a theory that is reasonably encapsulated in Viktor Frankl’s concept of attitude – for those not familiar, he was a Holocaust survivor who wrote ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ – but, more persuasive than those attributes is this descriptor: that he was forced to dig trenches in frozen ground along side his wife – his description of that experience is so heart rending as to be transcendent. She died before ‘liberation’.
My particular take on “attitude” is what I have for a very long time described as “The Power of Personality”. Perhaps it is merely Serendipity or Fate or “Lady Luck”, but I have experienced a dynamic in my life that has created remarkable, succeeding events based on the attitude one exhibits in any given set of circumstances. I do believe it is a rather universal experience, so I will give an example that will likely elicit a pointed memory in you Dear Reader – a pointed, and I would say relatively powerful, memory because such things are unique, unusual, and relatively rare.
This is a current travel memory, if you will. It began with an exchange of emails regarding my desire to rent an apartment in Venezia for an extended period (nearly three months). That last clause is important, because the extended period was a surprising obstacle. Cost was also an obstacle, just not surprising for one simple reason: Venice has been on the top of people’s travel for pleasure and “education” list for at least five hundred years of records I am personally aware of. The most illustrious of those traveling individuals from that far back are Michael Montaigne (he who invented and first popularized the modern idea of an ‘Essay’ – a “testing out” of a philosophy, or intellectual proposition, or, even, a far fetched idea) and Edward DeVere, the 16th Earl of Oxford (he who every evidence shows was the man who wrote the “Shakespeare” canon, one-half of which are the ‘Italian Plays’ filled with details that the actor on Avon could never have known, having never himself traveled outside the precincts of greater London). Yes, Venice is so popular that it is virtually overrun and expensive for that reason – there is another very interesting, key reason, but more on that in another “episode”.
This combination of obstacles resulted in countless hours and inquiries via the Internet. The language was not as much a barrier as one would expect, but enough to add to the stream of time and necessary messages.
One particular landlady was friendly and nice. Her apartment didn’t work because it was booked during the middle of my desired period, but “she had a friend with an apartment”, and she would forward my request. That friend was Deborah K., who had an apartment to die for: location, private garden, aesthetically so appealing as to make one salivate and place themselves in the unknown environment in a psychically calming and satisfying way. She wanted a fair price for the environs, but it was way over my head.
Well, it turns out that Deborah had a wit sufficient to make you laugh out loud – at the end of one exchange, she wrote: “It’s late here, say good night Gracie”. “Good Night George”, I wrote back – committing the ultimate error as Gracie always said: “Good night Gracie”. At any rate, we bantered back and forth. She agreed to allow this crazy, Montana greenhorn to accompany her on one of her twice weekly shopping trips to the over run but oh so amazing Rialto fish and produce market. She has graciously included me in other trips and in a 78th birthday party for her equally special husband.
There is an open friendliness in Venezia that lends itself to Serendipity, Fate, Chance. I’ve been able to tap into this (if only in ever so shallow a way) through a combination of serendipity and engagement – the latter being that human attribute that transcends Fate or takes advantage of Her offerings, and which overcomes reluctance, language, rain, social mores, and responds to peoples’ outreach in an enthusiastic and responsive way – in other words, the power of personality.
For instance. In the last several days, I’ve been just wandering. On each occasion I’ve seen an “artist’s” store front and, always interested in that fascinating subset of the universe which is art, artists, and the people who hang out with them, have looked in. On both occasions, someone (once the artist and once the artist’s son, who is managing Daddy-O’s work) have invited me in. In the latter instance, it was a party (for the Equinox I was told) with champagne and snacks. Well, I was immediately swept into relationship with several people (fell in love with a woman, who was “attached” to the artist’s other son, unfortunately), and I now have promises to get together again with both the artist’s son and a fascinating fellow whose mother is Venezian and father English – a combination, Venezian and English that is – which is very common here.
The first serendipity was much more the struggling, young artist scenario (4 years out of Israel, with a wife and a child). He has promised to teach me a printing style of art he executes in a very unusual form – mostly, but not all, doctored antique pictures, like U.S. Civil War figures with the head of Darth Vadar. So, I will go back.
Continued . . .