September 18, 2014
Named as one of the “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children”, Platt & Munk‘s (publishers) “The Little Engine That Could” was famous for teaching optimism. In visiting the Cape Poge Lighthouse (see previous blog post) I witnessed first hand the hard reality of what that story tried to convey. In the lighthouse the actual light bulb that was employed to send out the beacon was only 2 inches high. Only by the physics of the Fresnel lens was it able to be broadcast 9 miles.
After a life time of watching people struggle to achieve goals or whatever, I’ve always come back to the sobering fact that there is a two inch light bulb in all of us. The two inch light bulb is our self; the Fresnel lens is our individual personality. Albert Bandura championed this idea in his seminal work, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change.” It is an extremely simple idea, so simple that, I believe, people discount it.
There seems to be a drag, an inertia, a governor that actively counters any forward movement to positive gain. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew Ch.26:41).
I believe that the soul of man is mirrored in nature, and to observe nature in its vastness and subtlety is to glimpse the soul of ourselves. Such was my experience of Cape Poge Lighthouse on Chappaquiddick Island.
September 16, 2014
About this time last year my wife and I sold our piece of Paradise on Cape Cod(see Blog Entry, End of an Era). Ever since then I’ve accepted the fact of moving on to other adventures, but the sheer beauty of that landscape still called to my soul. I still wanted to discover that kind of unspoiled countryside with awe-inspiring vistas.
So, this past month we went to Marthas Vineyard (not hard to get to from Rhode Island, just a quick ferry ride across Narragansett Bay and Vineyard Sound). From the outset I realized that the Vineyard was terribly compromised by tourist crowds and fashionable trendsetters, i.e., it was not a National Park. However, it still retained more pristine qualities than Cape Cod simply because it was harder to access and, of course, more expensive.
We chose to stay in Edgartown on the far eastern coast of the island. It was the quaintest of the towns on the island and retained the flavor of yesteryear, as it were. We were not disappointed. The streets reminded me of those in Europe where sidewalks really did not exist and barely one or two cars could fit at a time. The beach at Edgartown Lighthouse was easily walkable but was sited on a peninsula where one felt even more remote than one was.
Edgartown sits essentially on the water, and across from Edgartown (in fact, just 527 feet) is the island of Chappaquiddick. Chappy, as locals call it, sits basically unspoiled with only one main paved road, with all others being dirt, gravel, or sand. There are several dozen homes but these remain isolated and unseen, for the most part. The island is truly a world apart while being fairly close to civilization.
Chappy has always been a symbol for me. I remember the first I heard of it was on July 18, 1969, when Ted Kennedy was involved with the accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne. As an aside, the incident was doubly memorable for me since Ms. Kopechne was Polish and was buried in Plymouth, PA, a town just seven miles from where I was born. The accident never really made any sense to me since there were too many inconsistencies and so-called contradicting “facts.” Maybe because I am at heart an idealist and liberal, I always believed there was a legitimately good reason why Ted Kennedy really was not responsible for the death of Ms. Kopechne. This could be labeled naiveté, but it is my segue into this blog post.
The Chappaquiddick Incident, as it has become known, is really the end of the 1960’s movement where Camelot reigned and flower power was in charge. At least for my generation it was the end of innocence. There would never be another Kennedy or Martin Luther King to grace our media with their eloquence and call to service and activity. In my mind Chappy melded and sustained that kind of innocence and unity of focus and ideals.
The photo above is of Cape Poge Lighthouse, which resides on the further most tip of eastern Chappaquiddick, literally land’s end, facing the Atlantic. What makes the lighthouse even more remote is the fact that to get to it one has to cross the infamous Dike Bridge (since rebuilt to be more secure than it was in 1969) over to a peninsula or barrier beach (if one wishes) called Cape Poge, even less accessible since one needs a four-wheeled drive vehicle with deflated tires plus a $180 permit to travel it (it is a wild life refuge). Needless to say, it is raw and unspoiled beauty. It brings peace to my heart knowing that with the passage of events and times, somethings remain untainted, and as they were meant to be.
August 12, 2014
Back in the 1960s Jonathan Winters was one of the most popular comedians. He was a master of improvisation, was particularly quick of wit and an overall funny guy. One of the movies he starred in was “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” where Jonathan was one of a wide cast of comedians over the last 30 or so years (Mickey Rooney, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, Dick Shawn, Buster Keaton, Don Knotts, Jim Backus to name a few; oh, yes, the 3 Stooges and Jerry Lewis).
A few years ago I saw an interview where Robin Williams noted that Jonathan Winters had a major influence on his comedic life. In many ways they were very similar and I enjoyed the work of both men. It was as if Robin picked up and carried on the soul of his teacher.
I have often wondered how a soul is passed on to another generation. Surely it does happen, for even Plato and Socrates wrote about it in their philosophies. The mystery which all great philosophers could only hypothesize or speculate about, was how this was accomplished. How are unique souls passed on.
With the passing of Padua Prep who has picked up its soul, or who will pick up its soul? Just a few random thoughts on a hot August night.
[By the way, the photo is of the Grand Canyon, Yavapai Point specifically, at sun set, taken in May 2014. The place is wondrous and awe-inspiring. Was there a soul here?]
August 3, 2014
I’ve been trying to find a Latin phrase for “the corpse is still alive.” The best I could come up with is “Vivens Mortua est,” but I believe that is more akin to the “living dead” which connotes quite a different image. My GP is curiously quite fluent in Latin, so on my next office visit I’ll query him. Be that as it may, I am still here, though I’ve been through the valley of darkness. It must have been one of the stages that Eric Erickson missed in his stages of man, since I thought I had achieved complete consciousness by now. I was wrong about that, but I am still here trying to enjoy what the Good Lord deems worthy to present me.
Spring has come and gone, and while it was invigorating while it lasted, there was nothing to animate me to get excited about what is to come. For some reason I have been fascinated about the world that Bill Belichick builds every year. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he creates a complex entity (a team) every year to face other complex entities (other teams) to engage in a complex game of football. I’m not going to try to defend him; I’ll let his record speak for itself. I’m just happy to be able to witness what he is able to achieve when it seems that the world and the gods are against him.
That leads me to the annual visit to Patriots training camp 2014. I usually go once every year with my wife, but this year I went twice since I take a bunch of photos and the first batch got screwed up. If you had never been to a training camp of any kind, it sort of is a unique experience—sort of where the tire hits the road kind of thing, since in this current era of hype, sound bites, and advertising, this is the stage where you have to put up or shut up, so to say. In one sense it is brutal, but in another it teaches many life lessons.
Anyway, what Bill Belichick does during his practices is to play rock music to simulate crowd noise. It’s part of his whole football philosophy of “situational football.” So, what comes on for one of the first songs during practice on 7-30-2014 is Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.” Beside being a great song, it starts me thinking about what does this song mean. In many ways the lyrics are ambiguous, but the general feeling they depart is that the best days have passed us by. So, while I think this is a great song, I hardly think the best days have passed us by. They have passed us by if we forget all the gunk and oppression that was thrown our way while the “glory days” were happening. The “glory days” were tough, period.
Thinking back on the Padua experience I tend to think they were “glory days,” i.e, halcyon days, but in many ways they were not. They simply were glory days as every day is a glory day if we meet the challenge of every new day—“situational football” in Belichick-speak.
So, besides having a déjà vu regarding about his whole experience, it is interesting to note a sports commentator’s take on the photo to this blog’s post, namely, “the four horsemen,” alluding to the four horsemen of the 1924 Notre Dame football team. Clearly, it is a loose analogy, since Bill Belichick (coach), Daryl Revis (24, corner back), Rob Gronkowski (87, tight end), and Tom Brady (12, quarter back) are not in the backfield as players. But, it does connote the potential power of these four players.
Only time will tell. So, onward…
July 23, 2013
In some sense this blog post is a culmination of various streams of thoughts, with the heart of it remaining in Scotland. To begin with, the photo is one I had taken when I turned around physically from the photo I took in my last post regarding Glenfinnan (“Place as Evocative”). In the distance was this viaduct, specifically the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
This viaduct has recently become quite popular due to J.K.Rowling’s novels re Harry Potter; more precisely, it was used in the movie version of Harry Potter where the Hogwarts Express was seen transversing the countryside. In reality, it is a real steam train still in use today, but having had many different owners over the years. Seemingly, it was not a profitable route for a train until Harry Potter made it famous. [See the photo of the train on the viaduct; this photo is from Wikipedia.]
Obviously, there was a magnetism here for the imagination in this most picturesque of places that drew different historical events to converge on a singular point, namely, Glenfinnan. This will be my segue to the early 20th century writer, H.P. Lovecraft. Now, I grant you, this is quite a leap in association, but, if you think about it, it really is not. H.P. Lovecraft was a minor sci fi writer who had a great influence (despite not being that famous himself, in his time) on current day sci fi writers (e.g., Stephen King). One of the distinguishing features of Lovecraft was that he placed his stories in real places (principally, Providence) that one could find on a map. This somewhat minor point actually was quite powerful in lending credence to this tales.
So, in a sense, imagination melds with reality to produce a fuller picture of our vision of the world. All of this from a simple trip to Scotland. It beckons to be discovered…
July 20, 2013
This blog entry is a little difficult for me since I am trying to describe a feeling state brought about by being in a certain place and time. My guess is that this feeling state is what people throughout history talked about as having a vision or presence of the divine. After visiting the county side of Scotland, especially the Highlands, it became easy to imagine Scotish poets and writers as having their inspiration from their homeland. The majority of my time in Scotland the land was draped in roaming mists and low arching clouds, with light playing a game creating scenes where vapors appeared to take on human or animal forms in the pastures or suddenly appearing valleys or lake scapes. In other words, the land and space was alive or habitated where life should not be. The world was, quite frankly, enchanted.
This blog photo of Glenfinnan marks the spot where Prince Charles Edward Stuart reentered Scotland to meet with Highland Chieftains to start the Jacobite Rising, a series of encounters with Great Britain to regain the throne. When listening to Scots speak of these encounters with Great Britain, it seems to have happened in the recent past, but they occurred between 1715 and 1745. Needless to say, this is a wondrous spot. As will be seen in my next post this place also has a connection to the most recent literary past.
July 18, 2013
This is obviously a play on words for the phrase of “elegant sufficiency,” which probably originates from another Scotish poet, James Thomson. [Are you getting my drift here?] The photo is of the Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland, whose current notoriety is that it was the place where J.K.Rowling wrote a lot of her Harry Potter series.
As the story goes, Ms. Rowling used to see this boarding school across the way from where she sat at the Elephant House. As the inspiration would have it, this boarding school became Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in her novels.. This tea room or coffee shop, as one would have it, is nearly impossible to get a seating, simply due to the popularity of the Potter stories. After visiting Scotland I can see where Ms. Rowlings had a wealth of imagery to draw from in writing her tales. I will post more of the imagery in upcoming posts.
In closing, though, I must say that Edinburgh itself could easily have supplied material for many a fantastic story or tale. Would that I had been born in Ediburgh or the Highlands. Alas, laddie, that would be a wee bit much to ask!
March 18, 2013
This time of year is one of those critical points in time that symbolizes the cycle of life-death, namely the dark before the dawn. One can use a myriad of descriptive terms but the main idea is that when life seems at its lowest, suddenly it bursts forth stronger than ever. It is three days before the arrive of Spring.