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"The circle time parade of changes" (2)
"The circle time parade of changes" (1)
Survivor's guilt
Wounds, visible and invisible
Wounded people

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Clio's Temple

"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.

When is it enough?

I once heard a story in which two well-known writers were invited to a party in The Hamptons, given by some ludicrously-wealthy Wall Street whiz kid. If memory serves, they were Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. As they toured the house and listened to the host brag about all the costly architectural details and furnishings, Kurt turned to Joseph and asked, "You wroteCatch-22. Why is this guy bragging about how successful he is?" Joseph said, "Unlike him, I know when I have enough."

Desperate prayers

There's an old wisecrack that goes, "Be careful what you pray for. You may get it." But what about those things we pray, or yearn, for that never move any closer to realization? Sometimes the praying or yearning isn't followed by any positive steps to get us closer to where we want to go. Sometimes the answer is that what we want isn't possible.

Most of us, I suspect, have had at least one relationship in our lives that somehow got lost. After the fact, we wonder what happened.

Tears in the darkness

Dealing with strong emotions is a problem for left-brain writers like me. I tell people, "I can do romance, but I can't write about it." Grief is another problem area, a lesson I've had to learn and relearn. Sometimes having a focus for grief makes me shudder inside, until I have to face it.

As my friends know, my wife and I are partial to cockatiels. We adopted our first one as a baby, naming him "Crockatiel Dundee," or "Crock" for short. His constant affection helped to sustain us through some hard times in our family.
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