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"Rainy Day People"
The personal is the political, and vice versa
A question of values
"The circle time parade of changes" (2)
"The circle time parade of changes" (1)

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Clio's Temple

"Rainy Day People"

Gordon Lightfoot recorded a song some years back called "Rainy Day People." It was about those people who "always seem to know when it's time to call." Perhaps you've been fortunate and you've had one or more of these folks in your life. If you have, you know how they can make a rainy day seem less dreary.

Or perhaps you've never known anyone like this. Currently, our nation seems to be in the grip of raging furies, with charges and counter-charges flying like artillery shells in a World War I barrage.

The personal is the political, and vice versa

Those of us who were around during the 1970s might remember the chant of some critics, "the personal is political." While not true in the sense that such critics intended, I've come to believe that there is a certain amount of enduring truth in this chant. Case in point: my efforts at writing historical fiction.

I've been laboring for five years, off and on, at completing a historical novel with the working titleThe Vials of Wrath. This work is to be the first in a series of four or five novels exploring some of the titanic changes in the Western world since 1900.

A question of values

In one of life's many ironies, I wound up having a conversation last week with a hospice doctor. The irony lies in the fact thatFaith, Hope, and Dr. Vangelis, my nearly-complete next book, has a hospice doctor as protagonist. He listened with interest to what I told him about the plot and offered some suggestions about "how hospice doctors think." This was a bit of serendipity, as I wasn't there to do research or discuss writing issues. I was there to get shaken up, an expectation that was rewarded.

"The circle time parade of changes" (2)

Many of us have seen photographs of "ghost towns," most of them out West, where they flourished during the heyday of mining or cattle ranching, but subsequently lost their economic vitality and now are reduced to empty buildings. These are the kind of places that can give one the creeps, if we meditate on the sources of community vitality.
When I lived in Pennsylvania, I had the occasion to drive through Centralia, a town in the anthracite belt that had been depopulated over almost a quarter-century because of an unquenchable mine fire.

"The circle time parade of changes" (1)

This line, from Phil Ochs' "Changes", has long been one of my favorites in summing up what life's about. Now that I'm closer to being an old man than a young man, I try to look at my life and see what's been lasting and what's been impermanent.

I suspect that many of us, remembering our childhoods, might recall a time when we thought our grandparents had always been the same age as when we first knew them. That may account for the sense of wonder we sometimes feel when we see pictures of our elders as "youngers.

Survivor's guilt

Of all the war veterans I've known, the majority of those who saw combat had a least a minimal degree of survivor's guilt. That is, the gratitude for being alive was challenged by the knowledge of friends who didn't return from the battlefield. The more morally attuned often report wondering "why did ____ die and why did I live? I wasn't any better as a person."

Lincoln addressed this, at least obliquely, in the Gettysburg Address, when he referred to "the brave men, living and dead" who had fought there, as a bridge to his exposition on

Wounds, visible and invisible

My father, my father-in-law, and my uncle were all combat veterans of World War II. The stories Dad told when I was growing up were in the vein ofTwelve O'Clock High, colored (or perhaps discolored) by Hollywood's inevitable falling-short of the ugly realities of battle. When my father-in-law was stationed in Munich from 1960 to 1962, my wife and mother-in-law had the chance to take a tour of the Dachau concentration camp. My father-in-law drove them to the tour, but refused to go in. When my mother-in-law asked him why, he said, "I've seen this before.

Wounded people

Most of us have (I suspect) at one time or another said something out of ignorance, anger, or other quick emotional reactions that wound up calling us acute embarrassment. Perhaps it was making a comment about a third party to someone who, unbeknownst to us, was a friend of said party. I've often spoken in haste without asking questions that would've spared me some humiliation.

Anyone who's take a class in communications knows there are three basic parties to any communication: sender, receiver, and method of communication.

Fellow travelers

Some of you may have seen the movieQuo Vadis, a 50s-era Biblical epic featuring Peter Ustinov, camping it up as the Emperor Nero. The movie (and the novel on which it was based) derived from a tradition that St. Peter, escaping a death sentence in Rome, met Jesus on the Appian Way. When Peter recognized who his fellow traveler was, he asked, "Quo vadis, Domine?" ("Where are you going, Lord?") Jesus replied, "To Rome, to be crucified again." Peter fell on his face, unable to face the fact that he had denied Jesus yet again.

Memories and promises of an old man

The Pygmalion myth is an enduring one. Given new life by Shaw in 1914'sPygmalion, it received its apotheosis inMy Fair Lady. These latter-day takes on a very old tale speak to some deep truth in the relationship between artist and creation, between teacher and student. Is it love or folly to cherish an excessive admiration for one's creation?

As some of you may know, I taught as an adjunct instructor at Piedmont Technical College for several years. One danger that became real to me is what I would call "the Pygmalion effect.
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