Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Johnson’

“Sometimes, like right now…”

In Depression, Life, The Examined Life, Writers on June 8, 2012 at 6:00 am

Black dog

Sometimes, like right now, this evening, when the black dog nips at my heels, I look out the window and attempt to remember what matters. Then something rises in me and suggests that it all matters, if only I pay attention. For instance, I paid a high degree of attention to that last period, after the word attention. I read recently that in poetry a period is an exclamation mark seen from above: down the shaft and the dot driven into the sod. That is, indeed, a high degree of attention and is enough to serve a person well for a while.


I wrote the above paragraph three months ago and saved the draft thinking I would get back it to. Never got back to it. I don’t remember writing it. Nor do I recall being chased by the black dog. (I have held for many years that it was Hemingway who labeled depression the black dog. Now, however, I am given to understand that Dr. Johnson was first with the phrase, though he would have been alluding to melancholia, as they called it back then. I am intent on not settling this. Occasionally I prefer to live in an imagined pre-Google world of ambivalence.) I find it interesting that I chose to write about paying attention, yet have no recollection of doing so. It is too frequently a personally inconsistent and troubling world.

…walking across town.

In Dogs, Life on February 18, 2011 at 9:59 pm

We have panhandlers in Portland. A lot of panhandlers. I walk across town almost every day (to the Y–no longer the Young Men’s Christian Association. Now just the  Y.) and am always accosted (though that seems such a strong word). I give. I have been fortunate and recognize it. Most of these guys (always guys) have not (been fortunate, that is) and maybe a buck or two from me will make them feel more so. I recall reading a biography of Samuel Johnson. He was admonished by a friend for giving money away to every drunk and indigent who approached him. He said something to the effect that he did not care what they spent the money on, that he was not in a a position to judge; that he only hoped if, for instance, they liked to drink, his donation would give them happiness in more drink. It is probably a naive consideration, but I find it a refreshing perspective. Regardless, why justify? If someone asks me for a bit of change because they’re in a hard way, I wish to help. “Seek and ye shall find.”

And, while on the subject of walking across town. Why is it that people with pooping dogs (and all god’s creatures gotta poop) think that because their dogs shit in/on the snow they don’t have to pick up behind the beast? What?, does snow, as it melts, make the shit disappear? No, to the contrary, it rises to the top. Our town is littered with ever so much and canine poop seems to be in a pole position.


Enough ranting. I have a new (short) essay up at The Nervous Breakdown: Like Burned Coffee.