A Birthday Sonnet to Ms. Virginia Thomas

May you, my friend, Ms. Thomas find the way,

and walk with myriad angels abreast.

May God shine down his blessings on this day,

And grant you strength, courage, and steal duress.

 

On this your birthday we will celebrate.

As you gain another year in your life.

We honor you with treats, with love, and cake.

And grant you riches that we found a rife.

 

To quote good words and strike a chord n’your heart,

“This is the day the lord has made” for you;

“Let’s rejoice and be glad” were not apart.

Unhappy thoughts, ill forms, we will eschew.

 

Tis your Birthday and life is in a bliss,

Good God above protects you with his kiss.

The Last Christmas Song

Christmas day 2011 I lost my paternal grandfather. His body had been shutting down for many years. My grandmother had done her best to keep him in good health. She began by forcing a healthier diet upon him that took out all of his favorite things: fried foods, salty foods, sticky foods, and his favorite deserts. He still would find ways around this. For instance, when he would drive himself to the store, to church, or to the exchange club he would stop at a restaurant and pick up one of his new found delicacies.  One of his favorite things had been fried catfish. My entire life, we had grown up sharing that as a regular family meal, and, since he was unable to get it at home, he would go to the southern home cooking food across the street from his house.  After many years of this, my grandmother relented her pressure and allowed him to enjoy himself more as he was able, but still no salt. Then his health began to plummet, and he progressively spent more and more time in the hospital. His spirit was gone; most of the time his consciousness was nowhere to be found.

It was nearing Christmas, and all of the family had come down to spend this one together. We were cloistered in one section of the waiting room at the I.C.U.  After the usual discussion of “how have you been” and “what’s new with you,” the topics changed to more interesting matters. My Uncle Denny loves to insight controversy. He is not ill spirited but just does it out of sport.  While this was going on, I was busy working on my thesis for the honors program. I had thirty pages to write by the end of March and was nowhere near finished.  My thesis was a discussion of Immanuel Kant and whether or not his ethics was teleological or deontological.  At one point during the conversation, my uncle asks me whether or not that was Christian.  He is not ignorant, and the question came out of left field , but all of a sudden everyone was looking at me.  I was in no mood to address all of Kant’s philosophy with them, but the simple answer was yes; he was a Christian, but he was definitely not a southern American protestant. About an hour later a bell sounded.  The bell was to signal that family could come back and visit the patients.

There was only a certain allotment of time in which the family was able to go back and visit. The hospital had strict rules on the number of people who were able to go at one time, so the family went in sub-groups. It was Christmas Eve and I was heading back to see my grand-father for what would be the last time. As my father, my brother, and I talked with him I made the comment that the monitoring device that the hospital had attached to his finger was “lit up like Rudolph’s nose.” My grand-father, always the man to distill life and passion into others, began to sing his last Christmas song, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. To be honest, it sounded terrible and was missing some of the lyrics, but it was the most beautiful Christmas carol ever to be sung, because he sung it. It was the last time I heard my grandfathers voice, the last time we could share an “I love you,” the last time our souls would be found as I was to continue on my journey. As I, my father, and my brother walked back into the waiting room of the I.C.U. we knew.

Anarchism is an Impossibility

What is Anarchism?  It is the want of no overseeing authority, and as such I believe that it cannot exist.   Why do I say this?  I say this because as long as someone has some influence or guidance over a person, such as a parent, teacher, bully, siblings, anyone you can think of, in a way that they are compelled to act in a way that they would not if free from that person, then there will be some sense of overseer.  That is how I see anarchy- without any overseer.  Even in stories I have read where the author was trying to reveal an anarchist state, such as Lord of the Flies, as time progressed anarchy refused to remain.  People wanted to feel safe so they sought protection.  I may have an oversimplified version of anarchy, but I do not see that it can exist.

 

That said, I don’t think there should be.  Not because I don’t believe in the best of man, but that some organization is needed.  I read once on the origins of government and the writer was illustrating his point by going back and looking at a caveman he named Bob.  Bob was out scouring for food one day and wandered to a stream.  He noticed that some of the plants he found  there had some juicy fruit (not the gum), and thus had an appetizing snack.  He also noticed that there were hard stones in this fruit so he tossed them on the ground.  A few months later he came back to the same spot, noticing his familiar tree, and found that there were even more of the trees except they were smaller.    It dawned on him that what he has seeing were those same stones he had spit on the ground.  He wanted to see if he could do this again, and sure enough there again sprouted more trees after a few months time.  He decided to move his family back to that area by the stream so that they would have plenty of food.  As food was now readily available he could spend time looking for more kinds of food knowing that if he didn’t find anything his family wouldn’t go hungry.  One day a group of wandering cavemen came and took all the fruit off the trees that had provided him so much food.  Not only that they took all the branches off the tree to use for their hunting supplies.  The cave man realized that he had no means of defending his area and was forced to give his fruit away because he had no defense.  He decided to find more cavemen and show them how he had made fruit from ground, so that maybe together they could defend the area and mutually benefit from each other.  The new caveman decided to grow something  else using the new method he had been taught.  After a while they had the beginnings of a farm going on, able to provide plenty for their families.  It was good.  Suddenly that group of wandering cavemen was spotted off in the distance and the men decided to defend their area rather than let it be taken by someone else.  According to the book something like that was the beginning of government.  The point was that some structure needs to be there in order to be able to support yourself and others.

 

Government is a way of organizing people.  People can bond around a common language, common situations, common life experiences.  That said I am no proponent of Large and intrusive government.  I think it should be small and limited in scope and what it can do.  I also believe that the constitution of the U.S. provides the best form of government giving people freedom.  In practice it may not happen like that, but the idea is there.

 

I see the pulling of anarchism- freedom.  I would like to use a quote I have heard a lot in relation to the Military, “freedom isn’t free.”  Isn’t that true?  Do we not need to protect ourselves from those who would want to harm us?  And though you can say a lot about the evils of government, and yes there are a lot, but protection is something vital to us right after our basic needs of food, water, and oxygen.

 

 

 

 

The Poesis of Our Lives

The poesis of our lives is part of who we are as human beings. A well lived life takes training, care, diligence, and the willful care of the mind and soul. It is through long endured effort and management of a life that the human art will be realized.  I think that this is the deeper connotation of what Pope is saying. In this fragment, from Essay on Criticism, he is making a statement about the craft of the written word. What appears to come easily to “gifted” individuals stems from training; stems from care; stems from diligence; stems from the willful care of the object towards that which the gifted craftsman is working. The gifted craftsman is not gifted because he was born with those set of skills, nay, the gifted craftsman is gifted because he has put in his time and his resources to hone those skills for which he has sought after.

It cannot be argued that each of us are naturally better at some things than we are at others, but that can only take us so far. For instance, some people are born taller which gives them the natural ability to reach higher than does a short person. But, in a situation reverse of that just stated, a person of smaller stature has some evolutionary traits that will be beneficial in other situations, such as getting into a confined space.

I like the simile that Pope uses to compare the artisan to the dancer. We can see that the dancer, after honing his skills,  does not only use them when he is out on the dance floor. Instead, the long labored after skills intertwine themselves with the very core of the dancer.  After going through their own form of chrysalis, the dancer is changed.  What was their life beforehand is not the same as it is now. The dancer now has the grace and elegant ease of movement that is characteristic of that profession.

What the analogy serves to inform is, in contrast to popular thought, not everyone can be a skilled writer. Yes, most people can form sentences; most people can use words correctly; most people are intellectually conscious enough to weave them together to form contextual patterns, but not everyone is a gifted writer; not everyone is an artistic writer; not everyone is Alexander Pope.  Simply put, to become a good writer takes the same training, care, diligence, and willful care as it does to become a dancer, but not just any dancer- the Prima Donna.

Book Review: The Disuniting of America

     The Disuniting of America, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., is part philosophical, part political, part historical, part cultural critique, but all American like the theme which courses throughout this book, and resides within the heart and soul of what it means to be an American: E Plurbus Unum (out of many, one). As he states in the closing of his work, “The question America confronts as a pluralistic society is how to vindicate cherished cultures and traditions without breaking the bonds of cohesion – common ideals, common political institutions, common language, common culture, common fate – that hold the republic together.” (Schlesinger 138)

        This work is specifically focused on the issue of how to approach a pluralistic society and what a plural society means in the American republic.  Schlesinger never waivers from the hope for a united America, with all of its history (both the good and the bad), as opposed to what he describes as “the division of society into fixed ethnicities.” (Schlesinger 113)

     When I was searching for a book to review I was not expecting to find a book that’s primary focus was on the unity of cultures in the American experience; rather, I was expecting to find literature that dealt with the disuniting of America from one people, sharing common dreams for a better life and common ideals through strong work and determination, in favor of the more relativistic approach of multiculturalism as a form of separatism, where each historical cultures, or subcultures, particular roots are advocated above the idea of the melting-pot and becoming one people . So, to find one that advocated the strong bonds of unity, I was very enthralled in what the author had to say.

        The intended audience for Schlesinger’s work is any person who counts themselves an American, strongly held in that is his ascription to the theory of the melting pot.   This work, though philosophical and political in parts, is neither technical nor clinical in approach, nor is it too elementary or too basic.   The Disuniting of America is written to be consumed and understood by novice and expert alike.  It is more a compilation of Schlesinger’s ideas, which had been forming over many decades of experience and reflection, than a traditional scholarly work, even though it was written by a renowned historical scholar. Schlesinger is a master at the story telling of history, and the ease in which he incorporates historical themes into his overarching theory is quite refreshing. The reader has no trouble following his train of thought, but, for those less familiar with American history, at some points an encyclopedia would serve as a valuable addendum to the overall comprehension of his more detailed points.

        This work was originally written in 1991; from what I can find online, there was a revised and enlarged edition which came out in 1998, but I cannot find anything more current than this. Mr. Schlesinger was a prolific writer throughout his lifetime writing over twenty books and hundreds of articles before he died in 2007. (New York Times: Arthur Schhlesinger)

        This book is very easy to use and it is a good read on a multitude of subject matter.  I would reference this source on subjects such as American history, philosophy, politics, ethnocentrism, multiculturalism, education, sociology, and many more. The Disuniting of America, as is Schlesinger’s style, conveys many themes and parallels throughout history and finds the common thread that binds them together. Every new question he espoused always reverberates back to the central theme of as Americans, we are better off united in our political philosophies, than separated by the divide of a staunchly multicultural approach to the American experience.

        Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., was an “American historian, educator, and public official.” (Britannica 2013)  He was a graduate of Harvard and a writer of biographies such as Orestes A. Brownson: A Pilgrim’s Progress, The Age of Jackson, The Age of Roosevelt (in three volumes), and A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House.  He was “twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.” (NYT: Arthur Schlesinger)

        “Throughout his life Schlesinger was active in liberal politics.” (Britannica) He had the opportunity to serve such figures as Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy.  Kennedy even appointed Schlesinger a “special assistant” for Latin American affairs.  “However liberal, he was not a slave to what came to be called political correctness. He spiritedly defended the old-fashioned American melting pot against proponents of multiculturalism, the idea that ethnicities should retain separate identities and even celebrate them.”(NYT: Arthur Schlesinger)

     The Disuniting of America will serve as a valuable resource in anyone’s further understanding of America, Americanism, ethnocentrism, and multiculturalism. As I stated earlier, The Disuniting of America is easy to understand, and is not bogged down in a myriad array of details because Schlesinger plays on universal nodes on which we all share. “The United States has worked, thus far,” Schlesinger writes, “because it has offered” to “give ethnically diverse peoples compelling reasons to see themselves as part of [this] nation.” (Schlesinger 11)

References

Doniger, W., Friedman, B. M., Gelb, L. H., Gelernter, D., Gell-Mann, M., Gregorian, V., & Houndwood, L. S. o. (Eds.). (2013). Encyclopedia britannica: Arthur M. schlesinger Encyclopedia Britannica.

Martin, D. (2007, March 1, 2007). Arthur schlesinger, historian of power, dies at 89. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/01/washington/01schlesinger.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Schlesinger Jr., A. M. (1992). The disuniting of america. United States of America: Norton.

To Those Listening to MAIG

Discovering the Lie

you might be to late;

At the opportunity for Truth

you became quite irate.

You spat in Truth’s face;

you slandered her message;

you twisted Truth’s arm,

and destroyed all her blessings.

When the truth wanted friendship,

you beat her away with glee;

malice in heart;

destruction in mind;

hatred in purpose.

And what did you find?

After trading Truth for a lie,

what are you left with?

But the end did not occur

when the beginning took place.

And so without your thought

Truth left in disgrace;

her message was pure,

and what did you do?

You traded Truth for a lie

wanting Truth to die.

Leaving just the Lie and You.