Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Philosophy professor Dr. Ferm described dogmatists this way:  “A dogmatist is a person who stomps with both feet and pounds with both hands while he says, ‘It is!  It is!  It is!’  And how to reason or argue with a dogmatist?  You say, ‘Be sure to wear your rubbers when it rains.'”

The self-righteous are akin to dogmatists, perhaps a subset.  What do we say to them?  Here’s what John Greenleaf Whittier says:

I walk with bare, hushed feet the ground

     Ye tread with boldness shod;

I dare not fix with mete and bound

     The love and power of God.

                                                       “The Eternal Goodness”

The last time I taught writers of the United States, about a decade ago, Whittier was still in high school anthologies, illustrated only by selections from Snow-Bound.  A couple of years ago I read a short anthology of his poetry and was impressed by his anti-slavery and religious poetry.  The poetic technique, better than I could manage, is according to nineteenth century fixed style, but his thoughts, as that above, are marked by a quiet, reflective, keen mind; his thoughts are expressed with simplicity and effectively.  There is power in the simplicity.  It’s what one would expect from the Quaker bachelor living in rurual America.

I enjoyed watching all three of the series of Ken Burns’s “Prohibition,” which I received from Netflix.  The idea of prohibition illustrates what Karl Marlantes, in his well-done What It Is Like To Go to War (2011) says, “If you go to war singing ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers,’ you’re going to raise the devil.”  Prohibition was that devil.  Marlantes’s book is a rovocative look at war in our culture.  It changed and expanded many of my views of war.  It challenged others.  Excellent writer, Marlantes.

How some of us speak:  (1) “…wouldn’t recognize him if he walked through the door.”  (2)” …good looking enough that the mirror didn’t crack every time he combed his hair.”   (3) “…full of sass and vinegar.”   (4) “I hated to lick the red off her candy…”   (5) “…temper rides her tongue.”   These expressions were taken from Margaret Maron’s Winter’s Child, my work of fiction of the week.  The book is a triple mystery.  There’s a man shot in NC, a woman murdered in Virginia (the former wife of the investigator), a child abducted (the child of the investigators).  Maron again shows her skill in presenting characters and social classes, as this revealing short example of a bloodblood culture:  “…her regretful tone was clearly meant as a condolence for her cousin’s exclusion from an inner circle.  It reminded me of the pitying look my Aunt Zell gave a newcomer to Dobbs, who was so clueless as to openly desire to join the town’s oldest book club, a club limited to the female descendants of the original 1898 founders.”

I wonder what that book club read.  I’d not enjoy the discussions, I’d bet.

My nonfiction of the week, The Art of Teaching by Gilbert Highet, from 1950 is dated.  Its strength is its eloquent prose.  Highet gives us a meaning of eloquence:  “Eloqence needs logic.  The lecture and the speech must have a well-built substructure of reason.  But to it the eloquent lecturer adds other power–a varied and attractive delivery, graceful and memorable phrases, striking illustrations, a personal relationship with the audience.”  Much of the dating is the patrician tone and the use of sexist language and examples.  It shows me how much the Women’s Movement freed all of us from structuring language and thought on a female-exclusive model.  Highet, for example, writes a section on fathers and their famous sons and how the fathers taught.  All the examples of great people from classical Greece are male.  This kind of writing, this kind of thinking were never appropriate.  We just didn’t know it in 1950.  I didn’t know it until about 1980.

Sometimes our state does things right.  The current issue of Sierra lists six colleges from North Carolina in the top 100 of the most green schools of the year:  Warren Wilson, Elon, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Chapel Hill, Appalachian, Duke.  The last three are in the top 10!

As I walked into the grocery store yesterday, I met a man with mutton chops the same color as a bandage.  I thought that he was growing mutton chops on his nose, but I saw that there was a bandage instead of beard there.  He seemed to be a Gilbert and Sullivan character.  Inside the store a mother and child passed me on one aisle.  The mother said, “Yes, you ate all of those up.”  “Yes,” replied the child.  “Get some more and I’ll eat them up too!”

It was a pleasure to listen to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” from 1808.  My recording is Claudio Abbado with the Weiner Philharmoniker.  As I listended to the familiar work, I enjoyed Maestro Abbado’s effective use of accelerando and dynamics and learned that repetition need not be varied.  I’ve not heard a live performance of the piece; I would love to see a first-rate orchestra perform the short fourth movement, “Storm.”  I bet it would be fun to play, too!

The second part of August brings new growth to my yard.  Mowing yesterday, I noticed a new grass in among the creeping charley–smaller blades and lighter green–that seem not to be overtaken.  There is new growth on the two holly trees I planted last winter and on the Atlas cedar I put out a couple of winters ago.  These cooler wet days have brought more growth.  I’m behind on weeding.

I hope you enjoyed your time last week, and I hope you enjoy the time before I write again.

About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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4 Responses to Wednesday, August 22, 2012

  1. Margaret says:

    I have been collecting Margaret Maron’s books for awhile but haven’t started reading the series yet. Glad you finally told me you have a blog so I can keep up with you.

  2. Margaret says:

    I also meant to say that your blog LOOKS lovely.

  3. Debbie Carter says:

    Along the same line of your Whittier quote:

    Our choir recently sang an anthem version of “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” that included a verse that isn’t in our (Episcopal) hymnal:

    But we make His love too narrow
    By false limits of our own;
    And we magnify His strictness
    With a zeal He will not own.

    I found it here:
    along with some other verses of similar spirit. I really like the sentiment.

  4. Sandra S says:

    Oh, Bill, I hear the sound of your voice in your writing. My visit with you was enjoyable. I’ll return for more.

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