David Bouchier: A Few Well Chosen Words

David Bouchier’s weekly essays are full of unexpected observations and whimsical opinions. Listeners will relish his entertaining, enlightening, and sometimes exasperated commentaries on the routines that carry us through the year, the surreal rituals of politics, the unsettling experience of foreign travel, and the confusions and comedies of everyday suburban life.

You can hear David Bouchier on-air Monday mornings or by subscribing to his podcast, A Few Well Chosen Words.

Thibault Camus / AP

Nobody can complain that we have had a dull year and, on this first day of January, we are more or less forced to make a choice between optimism and pessimism about the year to come. 

Let’s face it, no matter how much we worry and complain, we are lucky to live here and now. If we consider the history of the human race as one big party we arrived at just the right moment. The party is in full swing, all inhibitions have been cast aside, and the drinks have not yet run out. We older folks may even miss the worst of the hangover.

Christmas was the most exciting season of the year when I was a child. I don’t think anything has quite lived up to it since. On Christmas Day itself the house would fill and overflow with aunts, uncles, friends, cousins, my formidable Grandmother, and anyone else who could squeeze in. But until Christmas Eve we were alone, my parents and I, and it was very quiet, the way soldiers describe the calm before a great battle. The anticipation was almost overwhelming.

When Santa Claus parades down 34th Street it’s more than just an entertainment with giant balloons. It is the ritual signal or starting gun that launches us into a month-long frenzy of consumption. We must buy gifts, right now, and on all sides we hear the dreaded and unanswerable question: what do you want for Christmas?

Halfway up a hill behind our local art center there is a small building – a hut or a shed really – just about big enough for one person. It has plenty of windows, and I would be willing to bet that it was built as an artist’s studio.

If so it is a perfect example of what I call the Creative Hut, a very ancient device to promote serious thinking. Diogenes, an eccentric Greek philosopher of the fourth century BC, spent much of his time living in a large jar in the marketplace because it helped him to concentrate. Concentration is the operative word. A small space blocks out many distractions, most importantly, the distraction of other people. Leonardo da Vinci said, “An artist’s studio should be a small space because small rooms discipline the mind.” You can’t really argue with Leonardo, especially when one of his paintings just sold for $450 million.

Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

Thanksgiving is quintessentially a family festival. Never mind that improbable story about Indians and turkeys, this week is all about families getting together.