On holiday with Mister Cookie Bar

Spent a very nice hour at Fido’s with an old friend yesterday. We worked together twenty years ago, used to take work-break meetings over espresso and what we called (following our shared tragic hero Barney Fife) a “Mr. Cookie Bar” – to keep up our “sugar blood.” Those were good! And even better in recollection.

No Mr. Cookie Bars yesterday, but the coffee was pretty good. So too the conversation. Barney’s pal from the fillin’ station joined us to philosophize about time and change, as he often did at our meetings back then. He was always good for our morale.

In the aftermath of Newtown, I think many of us need to take a few of those kinds of meetings. The subject didn’t come up in our conversation, I suspect we both decided independently that we needed a break from thinking the unthinkable. Just a break. A mental health moment, before getting back out there. A momentary moral holiday.

“I fully believe in the legitimacy of taking moral holidays,” James wrote, meaning those marvelous respites from care and concern and struggle, typically coincident with the aggressively pursued leisure we call “vacation” (and the English call “holiday”). A moral holiday, then, is a vacating, an emptying, a withdrawal from the daily grind and the daily hand wringing, when we tell ourselves that it is truly morally acceptable just to relax, not only our bodies but especially our consciences, with regard to the world’s (and our own) panoply of worrisome and regrettable facts; to accept ourselves and the world for awhile, despite our flaws and its corruptions and depredations; and so, to renew ourselves for return to the fray. Springs

proust_in_hellI’ve been asked to consider reviewing a draft manuscript about William James, whom I know just a bit about,  and his connection to Marcel Proust, about whom I know next to nothing. But I do know that he loved his Mr. Cookie Bars too. He called them something else, something frenchy, but that’s exactly what they were: a wonderful sweet little comestible with the power to transport a person through time and away from trouble, for just a bit.

Couldn’t get too many of ’em ourselves, up there in the atrium just off the 2d Story Cafe, could we Mr. Jimmy?

I know too that Shelby Foote, of recent “teahouse” mention, used to set aside six weeks or so just to treat himself to a re-reading of Proust’s magnificent ouvre.

I don’t have six weeks, but I have a couple. This might be just the project I need, at just this time.  I’ll consider it.

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