"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What a Wonderful World

"I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world"

Sung so beautifully by
Louis Armstrong ~ Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don't mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don't sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn't half bad
if it isn't you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
'living it up'
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling


Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Earlier in the year, my esteemed eldest brother Dave suggested the following roundtable discussion for facebook friends and family:
I would like to present you all with a thought game and ask that you consider playing along. Here we go!

Dave: Today, when most people watch cartoons and comedies from the 30's - 50's, they find all manner of things offensive, i.e. portrayal of black people, smoking, how women are viewed and treated and so on. What many forget is that when these films were made, they were the societal norm. No one was particularly horrified or disgusted by the issues I presented.

We of course know when the changes took place, and we really old codgers can even identify specific events or trends that heralded them.

Now, you are surrounded by films, cartoons, comedies, etc. that are entirely normal and acceptable to modern society. That is and always has been the norm.

Last step! Imagine you are now living in your eighth decade and have seen huge changes over your past fifty years. What things will your children, grand and great grand children find repulsive, or disgusting when viewed through the lens of their young perspective. In other words, what are we doing as a society today that will be a thing of shame in the distant future; a shame that you will have to personally "own" by virtue of having lived it?

I wonder if this is a corner of our being that we care to examine?

My cousin Nick got us started:
Nick: I think by then the pendulum will have swung the other way and my great grandchildren and grandchildren will look at the early 21st century with disbelief and humor that we were so overboard with political correctness and kowtowing to the very smallest minority at the expense of the overwhelming majority. I can't imagine what's left for anyone to be offended about.

Maybe some breakthrough in transportation or power will come and that generation will look in horror and disbelief at our use of fossil fuels (which I believe do pollute).

Maybe by then the gay marriage movement will break way to polygamy, and they'll be amazed that (on paper) most people were monogamous.

Hopefully war will be looked on as the absolute final, disgusting choice to solve problems

Definitely I think they'll be disgusted at the amount of our waste, both organic (uneaten food), and inorganic (packaging particularly).

I also think they will be disgusted / amazed at our preoccupation with sex and sexuality; both individual and others, as a person's sexuality becomes as relevant as eye color. By then, not only will people be more accepting of others' sexuality, but minority sexualities, if you will, won't be flaunted and shoved in others' faces.

Bear in mind I live in Thailand and this is how we live here already so I know it's not only possible but also beneficial to society as a whole.

And then my sister Peg:
Peg: Rap music lyrics and current song lyrics in general; hopefully: our reluctance to go back to an active space program; our need for chasing the almighty dollar over spending time with family; our rising health issues with a failure to address the money spent on developing medications which are only band-aids on the problem and not solutions.

And niece - in - law Chantel:
Chantel: I think that we will have rationed food and water and such in the future. I think that the wastefulness of this era will be found obscene in the future.

Next to take the ball and run with it was my
inspiring millennial son Ben McCartney,
featured here in 1991, shortly before his first birthday,
trying to figure out how to make the world a better place!

Ben: This is a fun thought experiment. Thanks for posing it!

I'm going to lump my ideas in to one of two categories. The first are those issues which I think are going to continue to be issues for a long, long time, but will probably look and feel slightly different in 60 years. The second group is things which are going to, I’d guess, have some really stark turning point that makes them looks incredibly different.

Long time issues: gun control, race relations, privacy, and religion.

Gun control. The current policy is obviously broken. The murder rate in the US is just so much higher than literally everywhere else moderately developed that something has to give. But, as much as I’d like it, there’s not going to be a dramatic, overnight change in gun regulations in the US. I can see laws being stricter 80 years from now, maybe gun licenses will be harder to get, maybe people with convictions of violent crime won’t legally be able to buy guns. I can also imagine personal defense technology developing enough over the next century that guns in their current forms will pose less of a threat. Hopefully the 2nd amendment goes the way of legalized slavery and has its federal approval tag removed. But I’m not counting on the founders' f--k-up getting fixed any time soon.

Race relations. Clearly the biggest issue in the United States. Has been since its inception and will be for at least a while longer. The problems run so deep that I’m not even sure what change would look like. Hopefully it’s better in the future than it is now, and I imagine it will be. But change will be slow. Will people 80 years from now look back on 2016 America as a place where the problems between blacks and whites were amazingly bad? Yes, I’m sure they will, as we do now. But I’ve no idea how to go about fixing them in an overnight sort of way.

Privacy. The second biggest issue in the United States. What is the government allowed to know about us? What are they not? When can they search us? When can’t they? Can they see our internet search histories? What about our location at a given time? There will be a tug of war between personal liberty and security. No idea who’s going to have pulled farther over the next 80 years.

Religion. I’m surprised this is still a thing. I don’t really get it. But I’ve decided I’m just missing something. Too many people for too long have been so inspired by their religions that there must be something to it. I guess it’ll still be around in 80 years. But when it finally goes away, whenever that is, people are going to look back and roll their eyes.

Radically change: football, abortion, and driving.

NFL. This is going the way of gladiatorial fights. And it will happen quickly. Not exactly sure when, but the game in its current manifestation is short for this earth. “Wait, people wore what and hit each other how often and how hard? And half of them had dramatic brain injuries? And the majority rich, privileged owners traded and drafted these predominately desperately poor players to compete against each other?”

Abortion. Obviously a hugely divisive issue right now. But I think it will become a non-issue soon. Not because of any change in how readily or effectively people prescribe their moralities, but because of technology. Birth control is going to become so cheap, and so easy, that unintended pregnancy will go away. It really ought to be this way now; but, predominately conservative, obstructionism has kept birth control expensive. Technology will change, though, and birth control become less of a game-time decision (when people are notoriously poor decision makers) and less expensive.

Driving. “Wait, what? People drove these things themselves? But so many people have such bad coordination! How were they allowed to do this? 30,000 people died EVERY YEAR? What happened if people got drunk? What if people fell asleep? Wait, people agreed that they were so bad at this they all pooled money together to give to people who crashed into other things and other people and they DID IT ANYWAY?” Driverless cars are coming. And I can’t wait.

Vaccinations. The measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and polio. These diseases are devastating. But there’s tons of promising research into these things called vaccinations that make people who get them completely immune. We’re not quite there yet, but I think medical progress will be sufficient to completely eradicate these things and save more than a million lives per year soon.

And I brought up the rear:
Sorry to chime in late; I held back since I didn't think my answers would be a big hit. But everyone else's responses are so inspiring, so I'm going to at least try:

1. Gender Inequity -- is it ever going away? I've been waiting 40 years, and women older than I have been waiting even longer. As radical feminist writer Andrea Dworkin said when asked how she would like to be remembered: "In a museum, when male supremacy is dead. I'd like my work to be an anthropological artifact from an extinct, primitive society." How long is this going to take?

2. War -- is it ever going away? Again, please allow me to quote an expert; this time Ulysses S. Grant, who has been waiting well over a hundred years -- let alone 40 -- for his hoped for result: "Though I have been trained as a soldier, and participated in many battles, there never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword. I look forward to an epoch when a court, recognized by all nations, will settle international differences." How long is this going to take?

3. Smoking -- is it ever going away? As Dave points out, it is no longer portrayed in children's cartoons; and it was legally eliminated from television advertising in 1971 -- 45 years ago -- and gradually disappeared from most television programming soon after -- but certainly not from movies, where it still retains its falsely glamorized status, and certainly not from real life, despite very well known and highly visible health hazards. 40 years ago, I incorrectly assumed, that anyone older than I who was still smoking would surely quit immediately, and that anyone younger than I would never start. But time has proven me wrong. How long is this going to take?

I'll be in my 8th decade in a mere 12 years and curious to see if much changes between now and then. Maybe it will take another 40 years beyond that, or another 80. Well, there's my three cents worth.

In closing (well, until next time) many thanks --

1. to Nick, who wrote a lengthy response to all of my concerns. I've been meaning to respond properly for months now and promise that I will do so very soon . . . like in time for my next blog post!


2. to Dave, who kindly relinquished all copyrights: "Anything I write on Facebook is in the public domain. So, no, I don't mind what you do with them. Question. comment, add content? By all means go ahead." [I hope that includes writing a Blog Post!]

I trust that everyone else quoted above concurs! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hopes for the future of our wonderful world!

This Cracker / Carriker Barrel Discussion to be continued . . .

Next Fortnightly Post
Friday October 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ever the Best of Friends

Or, A Little Fortnightly in the Park With George -- and Celine!
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884 - 86)
Georges Seurat, French Post-Impressionist Painter (1859 – 91)
@ Art Institute of Chicago
Echoing Seurat's masterpiece is this related painting, which Gerry and I were lucky enough to see while we were living in Philadelphia and able to attend some Barnes exhibits:
Les Poseuses (The Models) (1888)
Seurat's Companion Painting
@ Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

In connection with last fortnightly's post on the birthday of my kindred spirit Celine Carrigan (August 29, 1942 - April 24, 1997), here are a few stories of her endearing and enduring friendship, and some fun times that we shared while in grad school and beyond. We did our best to observe all feasts and seasons and acknowledge all holidays and festivals, through the mail if not in person. The last Valentine Celine sent, in February 1997 when she knew she was very ill, was printed with the simple verse:
Heaven knows each heart, each name
Heaven sees us as the same

and Celine had added in her own elegant handwriting:

Whether we're
happy or sad
sick or well
near or far.
One happy time we loved to recall was the day we rode the South Shore Line from South Bend to Chicago to visit the Art Institute, stand before Seurat's magnificent depiction of A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte (scroll up), and then see the Sondheim musical that was all the rage at the time, Sunday in the Park with George:

". . . staring at the water
As you're posing for a picture

After sleeping on the ferry
After getting up at seven
To come over to an island
In the middle of a river
Half an hour from the city
On a Sunday
On a Sunday in the park with...
George . . .

People strolling through the trees
Of a small suburban park

On an island in the river
On an ordinary Sunday

~ Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

We weren't using the greatest camera in those days,
but I treasure this fuzzy photographic keepsake of the day:

~ Kitti & Celine ~ Labor Day Weekend 1987 ~

The following semester, Spring 1988, Celine completed her Ph.D. and returned to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. I was two years behind Celine, and didn't finish until August 1990. As scheduling conflicts would have it, we were unable to attend each other's ceremonies, despite having been through so much together. Instead, we celebrated over the phone and through the mail. Celine sent me two beautiful cloisonne bracelets from the Smithsonian and told me that they represented all the hoops that we had jumped through. You can see that -- like Emily Dickinson (whom she greatly admired) -- Celine was a master of the dash:
Dearest Kitti -

Am wanting today to have something very special to mark your graduation day, something which reminds me of the hoops one must jump through for the degree. I would lavish gifts on you, but most of all -- dear friend -- I send armloads of love. How I wish I could be there for you and with you! When I think of all this degree entails -- you deserve Congratulations Unending!

I'll be calling soon, and I look forward to seeing you, Gerry, and Ben whenever you come this way.

Peace, blessings, and always love, Celine

P.S. My Congratulations with a reminder that -- there are no more hoops -- only love that -- in the end -- lasts. Yours -- ever gratefully -- Celine
I had only rented, not purchased, my robe and doctoral tam o' shanter for the ceremony. Even so, I was allowed to keep the souvenir tassel at the end of day. But, alas, in all the excitement of traipsing around campus, picking things up and turning things in, I surrendered my tassel quite by accident and did not even think of it until late that night after a long drive home, as Gerry and I had already relocated from Notre Dame to Purdue -- and were the new parents of two - month - old Baby Benedict.

I called Celine the next day to share all the graduation details, including my disappointment about the forgotten tassel. We talked about the possibility of contacting someone in some office at Notre Dame and figuring out how to order a replacement, coming to the conclusion that, in time, this small crisis would sort itself out; though with tiny Ben to take care of, it might take me awhile to work through the red tape.

Celine, however, did not miss a beat. Although she didn't mention it to me on the phone that day, she had come up with a plan, even as we were speaking. She too cherished her graduation tassel but generously, and without dropping the slightest hint to me, slipped it in the mail the next day so that I would not have to be without. Imagine my surprise a few days later, finding a package from Celine in my mailbox, and inside such an unexpected and treasured memento!

That's just the kind of thing you do when you're "ever the best of friends" (our favorite phrase from Great Expectations) -- and when you are as kind - hearted as Celine. Somehow, in the end, we procured the duplicate, so we each ended up with our coveted tassels (for those who collect such things). In the grander scheme of an entire degree program, the tassel was only a small thing, yet the selflessness of Celine's gesture was huge. Reminiscing in 1993, she wrote to me:
Can you believe that it is 10 years since I began the Ph.D. at N.D.? How grateful I remain for you and your being there in those "good old days."
In Our Academic Regalia
Celine & Her Parents ~ Spring 1988 / Kitti ~ Summer 1990

October 1990
Taking Baby Benedict to visit Sister Celine
Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas

The following year, we had another adventure at the Chicago Art Institute. We had seen each other every year or so in various locals since our departure from Notre Dame, but it had been four years since our South Shore Ride to Chicago to see Sunday in the Park, and we determined to meet once again in our favorite city.

This time, I was riding the train up from West Lafayette just for the day, and Celine was flying in from Kansas City with some colleagues to attend the M/MLA, held in Chicago in November 1991. Before her meetings began, we were going to enjoy the art museum. I arrived first and browsed the gift shop for awhile, then took a seat on a bench in the lobby. As I was opening my book to read, a receptionist approached and asked -- was I Kitti Carriker, waiting for Celine Carrigan? Remember, these were the days before cell phones or texting, but from a payphone at the airport, Celine had called the museum and asked them to convey a message, to someone of my description, that her plane was delayed. As often happens in these situations, one delay led to another; but Celine kept phoning in updates, all of which were delivered to me by the kindly folks at the front desk.

Not to worry. I knew Celine was safe and on her way. I had plenty of reading to do -- and some Christmas shopping:

At last Celine arrived, somewhat frazzled by a trip that should have been much simpler than it turned out, but ever her faithful and optimistic self. The ticket takers embraced us and said they were waiving our Art Institute admission that day, as a reward for being such loyal friends and so determined to enjoy our day together at the museum, despite gloomy weather and traffic jams. Whatever hours of quantity time we may have lost that morning, we made up for in quality time that afternoon, revisiting the Seurat, as well as Caillebotte, Cassatt, Chagall, Hopper, and O'Keeffe. Another unforgettable day in legendary Chicago.

After a cup of tea together, I scurried to catch my return train, and Celine hailed a cab to her conference hotel. Ever the best of friends.

1988 ~ "Ever the best of friends; ain't us, Pip?" ~ 1995

More Pics

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday September 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading