Siege Diaries 7/7/2021

Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: Can I show Odysseus-like determination and perseverance?

While I think Odysseus‘ story is plenty inspiring, I always come back to the story of Penelope, who, in Odysseus’ 20-year absence, raised the son who was a baby when he left and fended off over 100 suitors. Famously, she worked tirelessly on weaving a burial shroud, promising to listen to the suitors’ petitions once finished, and every evening she would undo what was woven. She doesn’t even believe Odysseus when he finally appears, until he reveals information that only her husband would know. Of course, later writers focused on her chastity as her most redeeming quality, but Penelope is easily Odysseus’ equal in determination and perseverance—and cleverness.

Can I match this? That is, can I continue to do what is needed to survive and thrive each day while the future is still uncertain? At this point, it is the only way forward.

A friend yesterday noted how busy I was. And it’s true, and it’s by design. I know myself well. Like the shark, to stop swimming is to die. There are always projects worth doing, or books to read, or music to listen to. And right now, there is the steady drumming of rain outside, punctuated by the swishes of passing cars cleaving puddles.


Today brought me the new Boston Symphony Shostakovich recording. So far, I’ve just listened to Symphony no. 15, which I like very much. While the second movement is a little slower than I’d like, the final movement makes up for it, particularly in its last three minutes, as the sweet string melody carries the listener into a fairy-land of suspended time, a hazy place punctuated by twinkling percussion, the fuzz of an unchanging string chord underneath the ticking and clicking, as time runs out but ends in a major key. It’s not just otherworldly here, it’s otheruniversely.

Other events of today included a win for England in the Euro Cup semifinal. I wasn’t able to get anywhere near all of the flags this time around, but 17 out of 24 was at least respectable for a year where I was at home much more than in the past. And I’m genuinely happy for England. I have quite a few serious footie fans who are very happy about this. Now, if they can just beat the Italians…

Another minor miracle: For several weeks I’ve been contemplating finding a new headset for the work computer, a wireless one that would end the constant annoyance of tangled cords and would allow me to move around if need be. Since Bluetooth is blocked on the work computer, it would need to be one of the USB-dongle variety. So while one of my meetings was going on, I was checking Best Buy—and my current wireless headset came up. And that’s when I remembered: didn’t that come with the little USB plug-in wireless connection? Where did I put that? Checked the little basket by my home computer. Nope. Then I glanced over on the other side, and there was the little USB plug in. Could it be? Plugged it in to the work computer, and it says “setting up wireless headphones.’ Bingo! Realized that the reason the on switch on the headphones has three positions is that one is for the USB wireless. So…apparently I’ve had the ability to use my wireless headset with that computer for months. A little annoyed it took so long, but even more relieved I figured it out before buying another headset!

On a more somber note, I’m reading the 2015 Nobel prize-winning book Voices from Chernobyl, which just arrived today. These are first-hand oral accounts from survivors and witnesses to the disaster, many of which were drawn upon for the Chernobyl miniseries. (I also just realized that the translator is the brother of one of my favourite authors who writes about Russia, Masha Gesson. ) The stories are raw and harrowing, but also riveting.

Two years ago tonight, I stayed in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel. I spent time just wandering its halls, sitting in the lobby, and listening to Shostakovich. I’m so glad I took the opportunity when it arose.