We do not learn only from great minds; we learn from everyone, if only we observe and inquire. I received my greatest lesson in aesthetics from an old man in an Athenian ‘taverna.’ Night after night he sat alone at the same table, drinking his wine with precisely the same movements. I finally asked him why he did this, and he said, “Young man, I first look at my glass to please my eyes, then I take it in my hand to please my hand, then I bring it to my nose to please my nostrils, and I am just about to bring it to my lips when I hear a small voice in my ears, ‘How about me?’ So I tap my glass on the table before I drink from it. I thus please all five senses.”
An Interview With Tom Paxton
The bottom line is whether I think I have the power to change people’s minds and the answer is no. All I can do is write my songs, put them out there, and what happens after that is out of my control. The effect that they have is beyond me. My job is to make sure that I write the best songs I can write.
I’m not praising the middle class, but we are returning to the problem of why so many of our poems carry no values except private ones. I think the universities have had a part in this. One could say that the M.F.A. programs de-class a young poet.
Human beings possess a reality of inner space that has been all but ignored in Western civilization’s obsessive preoccupation with outer phenomena. Though we are all intuitively aware of the energies beyond the superficial levels of our selves, there is a profound existential fear associated with the journey of self-discovery. Faced with seemingly limitless freedom, we fall back in dismay and opt for a very limited range of experience.
For the past few weeks in Chapel Hill we have gathered in front of our television sets to watch the Carolina basketball team move steadily through the NCAA tournament, game by game, winning them all, never with any great ease but always looking like the team everyone of us wanted: disciplined but unpredictable, talented beyond legitimate expectation but not overly-talented like a “bought” team, as good at defense as offense, and most important of all (at least for the fan), a team which in its combined personality embodied all the complex and contradictory elements of our own personalities.
In 1975 I came to love Faye Henry. She was thirty-five years older than I and necessary for my mother, who had no friends at Harvard until she and Faye Henry fell asleep together in the back of “Practicum in Ethnographic Futures Research,” knew they were destined to be friends, and have been ever since.