BY JAMES F O’NEIL

“To be educated is to know how much one wishes to know and to have the courage not to be tempted beyond that limit.  [ . . . culture] teaches that there is much one does not want to know.”  –Michael Oakeshott (1901–1990) in The Ideal of Culture by Joseph Epstein (Axios 2018)

English philosopher and political theorist, Michael Oakeshott wrote about philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, and aesthetics; philosophy of education and philosophy of law.  He was Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics, and was a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.  He was the author of many works, including Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, On History and Other Essays, and The Voice of Liberal Learning.

Some of my high school classmates and I in the past year had an opportunity to comment upon what we thought of our education, curriculum, and teachers.  The results were overwhelmingly positive towards our liberal arts education and the courses we were enrolled in.  My transcript reads like a medieval or Renaissance Trivium or Quadrivium Liberal Arts Program: grammar, logic, rhetoric; and arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy (well, not much astronomy).

Now when I look back, our Liberal Arts curriculum was, to some extent, “lofty,” compared with that of students in other schools (like Lane Tech in Chicago)–those studying “practical arts”–or studying architecture.  (Some might have been attending private schools for pre-med, heavy on science and medicine.)

After four years, then, I graduated with a transcript heavily loaded with Latin, Greek, writing, reading, some science, history, music.  Some faculty believed that our course of study would have as an end purpose to “create” “cultured gentlemen.”  Some of my classmates, remembering these days and years, 1955-1959, more than fifty years ago, agree with their feeling of being “cultured.”

“To be cultured ideal of cultureimplies a certain roundedness of knowledge and interests . . . [yet] no one is fully rounded . . . fully cultured . . . and . . . culture, itself, remains an ideal . . . still worth pursuing. A cultured person has a standard, a recollection, through literature and history and philosophy . . . of greatness.  The cultured . . . insofar as possible, restrict themselves to knowing what is genuinely worth knowing.”  — Joseph Epstein, The Ideal of Culture

 

 

And what, at the end of four years of high school, did I have?  What did I receive, what could I do?  For one, I was self-taught in many areas: I did not know how to type (I still have not yet mastered a keyboard!), and had to teach myself.  I never learned in a classroom how to fix my lawnmower, but did install a carburetor on my ’54 Ford, and a water pump and generator on my ’57 Olds “Love Buggy.”  I had Chilton’s to help me there; reading was essential, and following directions required.

chilton's 1954-1963

CHILTON’S AUTO REPAIR MANUAL

I never played football (no football team), was a horrible basketball player (I did dribble and drool, however, from time to time); a little swimming, running, and gymnastics from gym class.  Some wrestling (heavyweight).

Nevertheless, I was able to read and speak some German; translate Cicero and Horace and some other Latin literature; and read Plato, Homer, St. Paul, and other Christian writers in Greek.  (So much of that now is “Lost in translation”: I cannot do it.)  I belonged to a Book Club, and read from a list of Summer Reading each year (complete with Book Reports submitted).  (Is there a magic list of books out there that guarantees “cultural literacy”?)  And read [“red”] and read [“red”] and wrote.

I remember so admiring some of my teachers, my favorites, as “cultured gentlemen.”  How did they know so much?  Be so smart?  Teach music, then Greek?  Play the piano, and read and teach and speak Latin?  Such talents.  Teach us writing skills in one class, German conversation in another.  Religion and Spirituality (Catholic school) in one class, then English composition in another.  Some were my models, my heroes, and one or two my “saints” who let goodness and worth and value shine through.  And then it was over. Graduation.

“Off we go!”  No military service.  Into college I went: liberal arts: English major, philosophy and education minors: 143 credit hours.  More “liberal education” (I’m known in the Alumni Directory as “James F. O’Neil BA, LAS ’64”: Liberal Arts and Sciences.)  Then after a few part-time jobs while I was “finding myself,” a full-time teaching job in a boys’ high school, English, of course.  Then a few years later (after my MA ’66), teaching English as a career in college settings: Am Lit I, Comp 101 (never the Romantics; no one wanted Milton and the Eighteenth Century: “I’ll do it.”). Maybe after a few years, nearing tenure, a course in Contemporary Novel.  After a while, I moved on . . .

After years in a community college position, getting quite adept at teaching technical writing to nursing students, police officers, business majors, and others in Associate in Science programs, I got a call to “come up to the majors.”

“Do you have what it takes?” asked one.  “It will require much preparation,” another cautioned.  “You seem to be qualified from your credentials and your experience,” the Dean remarked.  “We could use you this next term while Professor XYZ takes a leave.  Are you interested?”  “I say ‘Yes.’  I’m in.”  Thus began my new life as a teacher of humanities, for some years, for a while at least–until I retired.

* * *

Our textbook, for years: CULTURE AND VALUES: A SURVEY OF THE HUMANITIES, Ninth Edition: This text takes you on a tour of some of the world’s most interesting and significant examples of art, music, philosophy, and literature, from the beginnings of civilization to today.  Chapter previews, timelines, glossaries of key terms, Compare + Contrast, new Connections and Culture & Society features, and “Big Picture” reviews all help make it easy for you to learn the material and study more effectively.  Links to full readings and playlists of the music selections discussed in your text are available online in MindTap, where you will also find study resources and such tools as image flashcards, guides to research and writing, practice quizzes and exercises, and more.

Was I ready?  Could I do it?  I could not read music.  I was in the high school choir, in the church choir; but I always memorized the notes.  (I could sing, though–a lovely 1st tenor.)  I loved music and song!  I knew my composers, and classical pieces.  I learned rhythm, melody, and harmony.  What else?

I knew the difference between LISTEN to this and HEAR this!  I had had a record player from once-upon-a-time, had the first CD player in town (Yamaha $539), always had FM music playing.  I wrote a paper about West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet!  In high school I attended operas, and concerts, and had begun a record collection.  I really am/was a movie lover.  A reel lover!  And I had a few subscriptions to movie magazines at one time.  (My favorite actress?  Kim Novak, of course, when I was VERY young.  And, yes, Casablanca is a favorite–as is The Hours.  Did I fail to mention Meryl Streep?)

How much more did I have to know to be able to lead a class of students through a college semester, HUM 2230 17th Century to the Present?  I would have to do much reading; but the syllabus was already prepared, the textbooks were chosen,  I would simply have to gather up my wits about me (years of standing before classrooms of students and writing lesson plans), and prepare my Pearls of Wisdom.

Using the text, with my “culture” and “learning,” I created a course that would follow major themes of architecture, art, music, film, literature, philosophy, history, and religion‑‑primarily those from Western traditions.  I was even able to end the course with James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and with Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.  The course was supposed to enhance a student’s interest in examining some of the most compelling questions (and facts) about living the life of culture–physically, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally–by reading, viewing, listening, and–most importantly–by thinking.

And so it went, one semester, then another.  I got better and better at it.  More confident, that is, in my qualifications to teach humanities.

This Backward Glance over it all, My Memoriesofatime as a Humanities Teacher, was occasioned by that recent high school survey, causing me to bring it bring it all together here: All those courses enumerated on my transcript.  The college teaching listed on my résumé.  (A major bonus occurred in 2000, when the president of the college asked me to begin an honors program that would incorporate classes at Cambridge University.  While there in England during summers, tutoring students, I was able to attend seminars in music, art, literature, and history.  I was overwhelmed and honored.)

My first thought was to title this story “The Pitfalls and Dangers of a Classical Education.”  My story would have begun about the little boy from the South Side of Chicago, growing into a student of Latin, Greek, and German, and the classics.  The young reader of How to Read a Book would become a lover of literature, even an attendee at the Chicago Opera House.  Then he would evolve into a classroom teacher, with Palmer-Method penmanship, and SQ3R study skills.  Perhaps a too ho-hum story, about a little learning being a dangerous thing?

Then I thought, maybe my story would be “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent.”  This story would be told, not by an idiot, but by a seventy-eight-year-old man, no tale of sound and fury, but the story of a great-grandson of one of the Chicago Haymarket Rioters, a Bohemian kid from Chicago, a hard-working paperboy, Boy Scout, Baltimore-catechist, literature-lover, grammarian, teacher-husband-father, graduate student.  This story includes anecdotes about hospital orderly work and, yet, at the same time, his reading Chardin, Joyce, and Milton.  In this story, he formulates “My Three Favorites of All”: Othello, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and The Power and the Glory.  Then age sets in.

No, age has not set in.  Not in this story, for I do not yet “wear my trousers rolled.”  (I do wear shorts a lot.)  In fact, I consider myself a rather distinguished fellow: still concerned about teaching the classics in the classroom; still reading history essays and studying film; writing book reviews–and my own bloggy-“memoirs.”  (At the same time, the technology of media and YouTube have helped me and my hands install faucets and a garbage disposal.)youtube image

THE FAMILIAR “GO!” OF YOUTUBE

I dabble a bit, yet, in philosophy, less in theology. Even less in modern contemporary novelists (whose books might be purchased but sit on a shelf unopened, or are archived in my Kindle.)  I am, perhaps, even a bit “still crazy after all these years.”

“All these years” is my strength, the 45-plus years in education with my Renaissance-type education and training, my skills and techniques as classroom teacher, seminar instructor, and my being an educated man.  This story is mine.

At the end of the film Saving Private Ryan, one of my all-time “favorite” war films, the veteran of D-Day walks among the crosses and graves at Normandy. saving private ryan poster

He, Private Ryan, comes to that white cross of his squad leader Cpt. John Miller, killed many, many years before, June 13, 1944.  Private Ryan, in emotion, says, “I hope . . . I earned what all of you have done for me.”  Ryan has led a good life; he is told he is a good man.

 

What more could I ask for?  My life experience is nothing at all comparable to what those soldiers endured.  Yet I can be empathic during these last moments of the film.  I can say of my teachers, with honesty, that I hope I’ve earned what they have done for me.  I, too, hope I have instilled “culture” into others as it was instilled, I believe, into me.  And that likewise, I do hope my many students can . . . well, . . . you know . . .

©  James F. O’Neil 2019

 

 

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Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
And Immortality. //
We slowly drove — He knew no haste . . . //

Since then — ’tis Centuries — and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity —   –Emily Dickinson

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”  –Marcus Tullius Cicero

“The true purpose of education is to teach a man to carry himself to the sunset.”  –Liberty Hyde Bailey

“Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”  –Norman Cousins

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.  That myth is more potent than history.  That dreams are more powerful than facts.  That hope always triumphs over experience.  That laughter is the only cure for grief.  And I believe that love is stronger than death.”  –Robert Fulghum

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”  –John Donne, Meditation 17 Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

“I am dancing around the ‘D’ word, but I don’t mean to be coy.  When you cross into your 60s, your odds of dying, or of merely getting horribly sick on the way to dying, spike.  Death is a sniper.  It strikes people you love, people you like, people you know.  It’s everywhere.  You could be next, but then you turn out not to be, but then again, you could be.”  –Nora Ephron, “Considering the Alternative,” Vogue (2006)

“To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.”  –Bertrand Russell

” . . . when all is said and done, none of us will be measured on how much we accomplish but on how much we love.”  –Krista Tippett, Speaking of Faith (2007) 

 

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BY:  JAMES F. O’NEIL

“. . . yet in these days, when an extended curriculum tends to curtail considerably the amount of Latin read, it seems to me that anything which may help boys to some knowledge of Latinity in a short time is not wholly useless.”  –Preface, Latin Phrase Book, Trans. H. W. Auden, 1894 [Reprint 1990].

How much Latin should a person remember who has studied the classics and languages, say 25, 35, or even 50 years ago?  Quis curat?  (“Who cares?”)  Does it matter anymore that a person study Latin at all?  Humerus is the humorous bone.  Why know differently?  Funny, no?  Make no bones about it: Don’t forget the radius and ulna, too.

I have many semesters of Latin (and Greek) noted on my transcripts, high school and college.  I have sung in Latin, prayed in Latin, translated into Latin and Latin into English.  I have even had the good fortune (Deo gratias!) to pass the Latin examination as part of my Master’s degree program (M.A., Magister Artium).  Years of daily study, from basic rex, regis (as in “king” and “of the king”) to the study of Thomistic philosophy and theology in Latin, prepared me for a three-hour written translation of some classical piece of Cicero, without a dictionary.

I am still Latinized, cannot avoid it in my life, nor could not avoid it as an English lit/humanities major: Never would I have been able to manage my way through the works of Chaucer nor those of John Milton without some Latin.  Moreover, Latin even contributed to the success of one of my previous blogs, “HOW’S YOUR LATIN?”  OR, SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY: https://memoriesofatime.blog/2013/11/08/hows-your-latin-or-sleeping-with-the-enemy/   This gave a bit of my Latinity, and my living with a Dead Language.  Nor can you avoid it–even if you have not studied a classroom word of it.

Yet you have: “Vocabulary test on Monday, don’t forget!” your teacher says as you begin to race out the classroom door on a Friday afternoon.  You know you had to study, memorize, and remember.  And the SAT, the PSAT, the ACT vocabularies: lists of roots and prefixes (like pre-fix: “before”) were the fundamentals (fundus: “ground, earthy, foundation”).  Recall now: anti-, ante-, intro-, extra-, inter-, ad-, mal-, mel-, etc.  (Oh, that’s one: et cetera: “and so forth.”)  You studied from morning to night, a.m. and p.m. (ante meridiem: “before noon”; post meridiem: “after noon”; “before”; “after”; diem: “day,” as in per diem: “per-day” expenses).  Some of you studied long and hard, to illness (perhaps even to “mono” illness) requiring medication PRN, or BID, or TID.  Huh?  Every eight hours?  Ter in die.  Every twelve hours?  Twice a DAY is bis in die.  Maybe for that serious pain, hydrocodone pro re nata, as needed, or whenever necessary–when the Tylenol does not do it!

Ergo (“therefore,” those three dots used in geometry, or the conclusion in philosophy or logic: “Therefore, all men are animals.”), it may not be so easy to be without Latin in our daily lives.  Medicine, geography, law, politics, religion, everyday living, literature, movies, sports, etc.–each contains various Latin expressions as part of the vocabulary of the subject, i.e. (id est: “that is”), particular words recognized by users in that area.  Usually one has to first begin a study of a subject by studying the vocabulary of the subject.  (I cannot forget those long lists of vocabulary in Latin classes, every week.)

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur.  —Caesar’s Gallic Wars.  This is how my formal study began, in 1955 or so.  Church Latin began years before that, however: reading, singing, and listening to Latin at Mass and at Church services. 

I am certain that most of you reading this blog now can look at the Latin of Julius Caesar and guess at a few words, can even recognize a few meanings.  And in this very paragraph, look to see some Latin (not “paragraph,” however: that’s Greek: para-: “beside”; graphein: “writing”: a short stroke or mark was made alongside text to indicate a new “section”).  Look: “certain” (certus: “sure”) and “re-cognize” (re: “again”; cog: “knowledge”).

You can see it’s a living language for me, not a dead subject.  I can watch George C. Scott, the actor, in the movie Patton, walking in the silence in North Africa among the ruins of an ancient city.  I realize what he is there for, portraying this warrior general, George S. Patton, to annihilate (nihil: “nothing”) the enemy.  And I recall my Latin heard, learned, from somewhere, CARTHAGO DELENDA EST!: “Carthage must be destroyed [deleted]!”–now an expression of total warfare.

patton patton

General George S. Patton, U.S. Army

DELENDA.  A keystroke.  Delete: A key on my computer keyboard . . .  (Thirsty here, I take a sip from my bottle of Aquafina [“water”; “pure”] . . .) Now I don’t go around in my life obsessed with Latin or searching for Latinity.  It comes about, comes to me.  It excites me to remember something I learned long ago, still remember, have memoriesofatime, or still use.  Well, maybe not necessarily “excites,” but just makes all that previous effort so worthwhile.  That I did learn something, that I do remember something, that I can read (or hear) and make some kind of living connection somehow with ex officio, vox populi, habeas corpus, ex cathedra, fiat lux, extempore, semper fidelis!, dexter, semper paratus, ad astra per aspera, sine die, de fide, in loco parentis, sinister, gravitas, aurora borealis, summa cum laude,  contra, Taurus, ad hoc, bona fide, placebo, ad nauseam, etc., et al., ad infinitum . . .  You do get the point.

And thus, my friends, SATIS (“enough”).  My revels now are ended.  My Little Living Latin exercise ends; I make my exit (exit: “he leaves”; exeunt: “they leave”).  For certe, Toto, sentio nos in Kansate non iam adesse.  

ADDENDUM

CAESARCommentarii-de-Bello-Gallico

Books and sources abound for further study of the Dead-Living Language.  A Google search (or Amazon quest) reveals copies of major works in Latin, often with English translations (q.v.: quod vide: “which see”):  http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/index.html

Latin is still being taught in many secondary (and primary) schools, and in programs in higher education, here in the United States and in Europe.  So much the language of medicine (anatomy), law, and science, Latin is useful also in the study of words themselves, etymology, from Greek to Latin to French or Middle English.  Useful, fun, T-shirt-able, important, serious–whatever the need: “What good is Latin?”  Well, for one, it’s to help us understand our view of things, to help us “get” it, to even ponder how we think about . . . life itself?

carpe diem t-shirtCARPE DIEM T-SHIRT

. . .

**Latin for Dummies (2002) “makes learning fun and brings the language to life.”

**Latin for the Illiterati (2nd ed 2009) is a reference to common Latin words and phrases.  Not a dictionary, but rather “a compendium of words, expressions, familiar sayings, abbreviations, with an English-Latin Index.”

**More Latin for the Illiterati: A Guide to Medical, Legal, and Religious Latin (2003).

**Latin Phrase Book (1990 Rpt. of 1982 ed.).  A Longwood Academic reprint book I found is a translation (1894) from the sixth German edition of Lateinische Phraseologie by Professor Carl Meissner, organized into seventeen topics, with Latin and English indices.

©  JAMES F. O’NEIL  2018

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“I think I have serious latent Catholic guilt issues.”  –Grimes (Brainyquote)

A grey rainy late winter day in Chicago.  My dad and my sister are in the car (our ’37 Plymouth) waiting to pick me up from school.  I was in 2nd grade at St. Jarlath’s, near our apartment on Van Buren and Ashland (long gone now, concretized by the Congress Street-Eisenhower Expressway). My dad worked nights but came to get us home for lunch in bad weather.  What was the delay?  I’m inside the classroom, sitting under the teacher’s desk.  What was happening then in 1949?

Born in April 1941, I have few memories before 1944, though some child development specialists have told they could unlock the drawers holding those before-memories.  How many “major” memories do we get to keep?  Memories are the captured ones, say, the ones not ever forgotten, those “memorable” thoughts and stories that unfolded becoming our lives.  Choosing which ones to share, or to organize those recalled from time to time can be a daunting task, albeit a rewarding one (cathartic one?).  I am certain there were, in my first three or four years, those first baths, and birthdays–complete with cake and frosting in hair, or on the high chairs, and thrown about the room.  Perhaps early birthdays with games and balloons and smashed cake really do form the basis for celebrations of all kinds that come at later dates.

But the memories of our first three or four years?  I delight in all that is forgotten: the pain of early ear infections, of being one gigantic chicken pox when all the pox-dots are connected.  Scarlet fever, insect bites and stings, broken favorite toys, cough medicines, penicillin injections, Vicks-covered wrapped-chests, and more awful things that should remain in those memory drawers, not needing to be unhoused.  For what real purpose?

We hardly also remember all the good times, for they were not so traumatizing on the psyche.  Yet I would not mind the good memories that could be released: memories of first beach day (not a sun burn, of course, but the eternal sand castle building or perfect water temperature), train trips or miniature-train rides in parks or at carnivals, parties and Christmases and Easter egg hunts, and A&W root beer floats, and .  .  .  Release might involve the “good” with the “bad.”  (Personally, Dr. Jung Freud, I like it the way it is–as if I have slept through most of those first three or four years.)

Therefore, my life story begins in 1944: I was three.  That is a good start for my history.  My baby pictures tell enough of that, especially those with my favorite cousin Marilyn on one side and my sister, Janice, on the other side of me–all with our little knees showing.  Three joined at the hip, as it were, on Grandpa Schuma’s front porch.  THAT is the memory, the picture I want to keep alive forever as representative of my early-early life, the “good life.”

jimmy on GRANDMA'S PORCHTHE THREE OF US ON THE PORCH AT 5644 SOUTH SEELEY 1945

It is my school life, though, that has always been a nine-month chunk of my life cycle.  So much of my time, my daily life, was spent in school or around school or going to/coming from.  The summers, then, were sacrosanct with a life of their own.  That is why we probably use the expression so often “School Life,” from pre-K, or even nursery school, to whatever graduation point or final degree.

Overall, I grade my “school life” in the range of “good” to “above average”: C to B+, from first grade through my advanced degree programs.  In “My Life Story: Early Life in School: 1947-1949,” there exist a few milestones, like Baltimore Catechism (and hating–forever–memorization); First Holy Communion (and that dark blue wool suit seen in pictures);

jimmy's First Communion May 9, 1948

JIMMY’S O’NEIL’S FIRST COMMUNION MAY 9, 1948

a Confessional, for the first time.  The Milk Break: I loved milk breaks–any grade.  (And I wish I had gone to kindergarten to have had a blankie and a nap.  My vivid memories center upon “chocolate”: for morning milk [in glass bottles in metal cases, ordered a week ahead].)  Nuns-as-Teachers (I cannot remember their names or their faces, but I do have a picture of 1st and 2nd grade blackness.)  And, finally, the memory that I cannot ever eradicate: Being Late:  A rainy day when my dad was able to pick us up for lunch.  I was late.

Let me back up now.  Earlier that morning, I got myself into trouble.  I was talking to the kid across the aisle from me, no doubt my friend Peter Mendoza.  Now what do 2nd graders have to talk about in 2nd grade in mid-morning after Milk Break?  What is so important that is worth violating the Silence Rule?  (We had no Smart phones to keep us occupied.)

I cannot recall nor remember.  “I have no recollection of the event or the conversation,” politicians say.

Whatever it was certainly drew the attention of Sister Mary of the Rosary Beads, our nun-teacher.  My nun-teacher called a name-not-mine.  I thought I heard her call my name, “Jimmy O’Neil come to the front of the room.”  (Caught!  I was probably talking.)  Guiltily I stood up and accepted the punishment.  So I walked to the Time-Out spot near the blackboard.  A classmate was already there.  “Did she call your name?”  Soon I began talking to one rightfully punished standing by the blackboard.  “Jimmy O’Neil.”  This time I was called out for talking by the One-in-Black-Who-Saw-and-Heard-Everything, and told to go sit under her desk–a Final Punishing Place!  My memory of pulling away the teacher chair and crawling under the drawer and skootching next to the “modesty panel” still hurts.  And how was I going to explain my situation to my dad if I did not come out for lunch on time?  Fear of the Lord.  Guilt.  Crime and Punishment.

I was wearing a flannel plaid shirt.  Brown and white.  I happened to be wearing one of my collectibles: a metal pin-back pin found in cereal boxes, pins of railroads.

Vintage-1980s-Prr-Pennsylvania-Railroad-Train-Logo-Pinback

PENNSYLVANIA RR PIN-BACK PIN

I took off my Pennsylvania RR pin and played with it while listening to nun and students.  I began to formulate my excuse: The Lie.  I would lie and say I hurt myself and had to stay after for help.  I managed, at eight years old, in 1949, to plot a lie-story that would save me from home punishment for the double-punishment of the 2nd grade classroom.  I would show my injury on my hand.  I had to create an injury story.

I picked at the wrist of my left hand with the pinpoint of the Pennsy RR button.  I picked and picked until I began to bleed and open a wound.  I felt no pain.  No guilt either.  Time passed quickly.  The class continued its lessons without me as I picked and poked and bled.  Then the bell.  I heard all leave the room; the door shut.  All left except Jimmy O’Neil, forgotten under the desk.  Everyone forgot me.  I crawled out, with my bloody sore already scabbing over.  It was much smaller than a dime.  I went to the cloakroom for my coat.

Dad and my sister were waiting in the car, in the rain.  As I ran to the car, I let my courage come unstuck from somewhere.  “I’m sorry I’m late.  I was kept after for talking.”  (No mention of being forgotten by everyone, including my teacher.)  No more was said.  Moreover, no one asked about the sore on my hand; I didn’t tell any more than was required.

That’s it.  My brain, learning, and memory cells increased proportionately after 1949.  I know I learned the basics of how to count, to use the alphabet, and how to tie my shoes–even at school.  And, I’ve forgotten so much–trivia, irrelevancies, factoids.

Yet I cannot ever eradicate this one 2nd grade anecdote.  I want to keep it, not tug it around to depress me, but not throw it away either.  It’s a story by a little boy about a little boy.  Maybe it has some Catholic guilt within, maybe some fear of disappointing a dad (or worry about some punishment), or maybe it has a small step in my growing up.  For sure, though, I made certain I never ever had to sit under a teacher’s desk again!

. . .

“Every person’s autobiography is both unique and usual, the story of an individual life and of all mankind.  We are shaped by an inescapable human condition which dictates certain events and themes that will figure prominently in every life story.”  –Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox, Your Mythic Journey (1989)

©  James F. O’Neil  2018

 

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“Your blood type is the key that unlocks the door to the mysteries of health, disease, longevity, physical vitality, and emotional strength.  Your blood type determines your susceptibility to illness, which foods you should eat, and how you should exercise.”  — Peter J.  D’Adamo, Eat Right for4Your Type (1996). 

blood typesI remember the first time I donated blood.  College.  I was 19; it was a warm afternoon there in St. Louis.  I was nervous.  I didn’t faint.  I was lucky.  And I was O+.

I received blood transfusions from my mother–at my grandma’s home–when I was very young.  I had Scarlet Fever, I was later told, and was very ill.  I don’t remember much of that early age, except sleeping alone in grandpa’s front bedroom (Grandma Schuma was an invalid and slept in her own bedroom), eating pork chops that I hallucinated had ants crawling on them, and horrible-burning-going-down pineapple juice.  I didn’t ever have much blood trouble growing up, with surgeries or cuts, or needing blood.  So my blood donations later were common when I could give.

However, looking back now, I have learned since 10th grade that Type Os have a deficiency in clotting.  When I was a sophomore, I had tonsils removed.  The surgery and ice-cream follow up went fine.  At home, after a few days in the hospital, I had some bleeding.  Our doctor came to our home (!) and gave me an injection of Vitamin K.  Now it all makes sense: I needed some extra clotting factor.

My wife-to-be is still O-(negative).  What did we young-in-lovers know “back then” (in memoriesofatime) of O+ plus O- = risky birth or possible birth defects because of the Rh factor?  No one told us those details in pre-Cana, or pre-marriage counseling.  The doctor did, after the birth of our first child.  For many years, it remained a mystery to doctors why some women who had normal first pregnancies developed complications in their second and later pregnancies, often with a result of miscarriage–or even the death of the mother.

“The Rh factor is an antigen occurring on the red blood cells of many humans (around 85 percent) and some other primates.  It is particularly important as a cause of hemolytic disease of the newborn and of incompatibility in blood transfusions.”

[From Mayo Clinic, 14 June 2018]: “During pregnancy, problems can occur if you’re Rh negative and the baby you’re carrying is Rh positive.  Usually, your blood doesn’t mix with your baby’s blood during pregnancy.  However, a small amount of your baby’s blood could come in contact with your blood during delivery or if you experience bleeding or abdominal trauma during pregnancy.  If you’re Rh negative and your baby is Rh positive, your body might produce proteins called Rh antibodies after exposure to the baby’s red blood cells.”

“The antibodies produced aren’t a problem during the first pregnancy.  The concern is with your next pregnancy.  If your next baby is Rh positive, these Rh antibodies can cross the placenta and damage the baby’s red blood cells.  This could lead to life-threatening anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than the baby’s body can replace them.”  And much more at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/rh-factor/about/pac-20394960. . .)

“Better wait two or more years.  Then no more children,” the doctor told us.  “But we’re Catholics. . . .”  Our second child two years later (O+) was born without complications.  Our last child.  We were lucky.  The United States has a high birth mortality rate, due to complications, some of which have to do with poor pre-natal care.  We were lucky.  In the meantime, we learned that my wife has “gold” in her veins, O-, with some special little good stuff needed and used for prenatal transfusions.  Her gift to others.  In addition, we continue to be blood donors when we can, when we are healthy, or have not had some funky medication or injection for illness or old age.

In addition, when we grew older (than youngsters), we never knew anything about digestive problems and blood types until one gastro doctor mentioned it after a routine colonoscopy.  We began to read, explore, become enlightened, and had our “Ah-ha!” moments.  Here we could see ONE “diet solution to staying healthy, living longer, and achieving ideal weight.”  Forget the last item.  That’s not why we do it.  We know now certain foods affect our Type Os–and we can tell, can feel it.

We shall survive.  I used to believe that Bar-B-Q was one of the four main food groups.  bbq ribsOn the contrary, fewer and fewer trips now to Sonny’s Bar-B-Q.  However, I can have as much liver and onions as I want . . . or buffalo . . . or rabbit . . . and most seafood.  Now that’s not a bad diet, with some salad, avoiding caviar, barracuda, and octopus.   

Seriously, it is not all that bad.  We have made up some 5 x 8 cards: “GOOD.”  “OK.”  “NO.”  We know now most of the No’s, and we know the good fats and bad fats, good carbs and “really good carbs,” like chocolate peanut butter pie, which is “really bad bad carbs.”  Shopping has gotten easier since I am not often allowed in the grocery store, or need to be put into restraints while in the candy aisle.  No problems whatsoever in the fruit department (except for those little bags of sugar called “grapes”).  grapes

Oh, we don’t go crazy-ill, lapse into anaphylactic shock, or have tremors or spasms.  We don’t like to call it a “diet.”  It’s a plan, our life style.  In the scheme for us, we are meat-eaters, depending on lean chemical-free, grass-fed meats, and poultry and fish.  We don’t do well with dairy products and grains.  But we will never starve; for we love spinach salads, broccoli, kale, and chicken.  Soy “milk” is good, as is feta cheese.

Nevertheless, we still have to watch what we eat, or there will be chemical consequences in our systems.  Even though wheat products are no-no’s, I love my happy breakfast cereal, Cheerios!–and Frosted Mini-Wheats (not daily!)–but very limited. cheerios

Certain nuts and seeds are “good”; we must avoid others.  With a weakness (addiction) towards sweets (sugar), hold me back from Apple Fritters!  Or chocolate (of any kind)!  Help me avoid anything “white” (hot dog buns? white chocolate, too?)!  Can sheer will power enable me to continue my path of sobriety (scotch and bourbon: sugars)?  Must the gods help?!  Orate pro me!  Mythological Apollo, the Bearer of Truth, is my go-to guy.  He represents the therapeutic healer of mind and body, among other attributes.

 

gods_goddesses_chart tccl arcc albany edu

[from tccl.arcc.albany.edu]

 

I’ll take any helps I can get.  That involves diet, exercise, dietary supplementation, stress control, personal qualities (INFJ?), and weight management.

My understanding of my blood type now makes complete sense to me, though I may not always be doing something positive about, say, the exercise regimen or the weight control.  Do I really want to be again that pimply-faced memoriesofatime-kid who went off to college weighing 160 pounds?  180? 210?

'David'_by_Michelangelo_JBU0001

How about 225?  And so forth.  I can never forget I am an evolutionary product, Type O, the oldest and most basic blood type, survivor, hunter, Cro-Magnon, NO FEAR!, meat-eater, mesomorph, Crood! 

It’s Me:

THE BIG O+:  Michelangelo David-Fat

© JAMES F O’NEIL  2018 OCTOBER

 

 

 

 

 

“I, TomDickHarryJoeMaryJaneAnnDorothy, do solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

WHAT IS TRUTH?

TRUTH

Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard.  Truth may also often be used in modern contexts to refer to an idea of “truth to self,” or authenticity, we can find in Wikipedia.

More?  Truth is usually held to be opposite to falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also take on a logical, factual, or ethical meaning.  The concept of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts, including philosophy, art, religion, and science. 

Many human activities depend upon the concept, where its nature as a concept is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most of the sciences, law, journalism, and everyday life.  Some philosophers view the concept of truth as basic, and unable to be explained in any terms that are more easily understood than the concept of truth itself. 

Various theories and views of truth continue to be debated among scholars, philosophers, and theologians.  Language and words are a means by which humans convey information to one another, and the method used to determine what is a “truth” is termed a criterion of truth.  There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth: what things are truth-bearers capable of being true or false; how to define, identify, and distinguish truth; the roles that faith-based and empirically based knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.

So, “Tell the truth now.”

the truth 2

“I repeat.  Are you 100% certain, sure, absolutely positive?”  “100%!”  “Well, I looked him in the eye, and I could tell he was telling the truth, by God!”

The search for truth, write Richard Marius and Melvin Page in a popular textbook A Short Guide to Writing about History (2014) is based on three processes: the search for evidence or SOURCES; the evaluation and ANALYSIS of the evidence; and the PRESENTATION of one’s findings.

PRIMARY sources are NEAREST to any subject or topic of investigation: all kinds of materials written or other communications–including, even, sculpture and architecture, interviews, statistics, geography, military history, videos,

SECONDARY sources are ABOUT sources: books and articles by scholars–or even book reviews, documentaries, biographies. 

THEN: ASSEMBLE sources; EVALUATE sources (who, what, when, where, why); DETERMINE reliability (bias, prejudice, incompleteness). 

Good historians, the authors write, do not implicitly trust their sources, nor do they trust their own first impressions.  They do not either simply ask random questions: they systematically use questioning and make inferences. 

THEN: Historians fit together the evidence to create a story, an explanation, or an argumentation (p.20): the PRESENTATION.  The results of the findings–the “truth of the matter”–come in the form of DESCRIPTION, NARRATION, EXPOSITION, or ARGUMENTATION–the four common modes of communication or expression. 

In the search for the truth, they write (p. 48), “Skepticism is one of the historian’s finest qualities.”

A note about ARGUMENTATION: [Classical definition: “A mode of communication which attempts to convince or persuade by using ethos, logos, or pathos.”]  They state that argument is “a principle of organization that unites facts and observations to present a proposition to the writer” (58); arguments arise “because the evidence can be interpreted in different ways according to the assumptions of the historians themselves” (78).  

© JAMES F. O’NEIL 2018

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“HOMEOSTASIS is the ability or tendency of an organism or cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physical processes.”  [Chlordiazepoxide, trade name LIBRIUM, is a sedative and hypnotic medication of the benzodiazepine class; it is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and/or drug abuse–discovered accidentally in 1955.  Wikipedia]

 “RISK is the possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger.  A factor, thing, element, or course involving uncertain danger; a hazard.”

RISK HOMEOSTASIS was a hypothesis posited by Gerald J. S. Wilde, a professor of psychology at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, dealing with the notion that every person has an acceptable amount of risk that she or he finds tolerable.  If the perceived level of risk in one part of a person’s life changes, that person will compensate by either reducing or increasing the amount and severity of risks taken–all in order to maintain an EQUILIBRIUM of perceived risk. 

Let’s say, for example, a rocket ship with astronauts aboard is about to lift off into space.  The night before liftoff, temperatures dropped and the seals around the fuel tanks may have hardened a bit from their softened sealing state.  These are the large O-rings connecting and sealing.  Launch engineers can observe ice on the rocket, around the O-rings.  Is it all sealed properly?  Should they abort?  Manufacturing engineers are consulted.  They’re not sure.  The mission is a GO FOR LAUNCH!  (Cannot disappoint the country, the crew, the politicians, the families, the companies.  Hubris: pride.  USA!  USA!) 

Up, up it goes.  A beautiful candlestick into the blue sky on a full-sunny morning in Florida.  POOF!  No more.  Risky business, this space travel stuff. 

It’s Risky Business, this technology of ours.  Was the long-ago, not-often-thought-of Challenger explosion an “accident”?  a “catastrophe”?  a “disaster”?  On the other hand, was it a kind of “Russian roulette,” as some suggested? 

The Challenger explosion–and also the Columbia accident (which certain engineers knew was doomed when they saw a panel hit the wing at liftoff)–teaches us that we live in a world which we have made, a world of technology which has the potential for catastrophe: “It will happen again.”

Do we want the safest of all possible worlds?  Really?  Life is filled with trade offs, for safety and comfort: The “ancient” national speed limit of 55 mph saved lives…. 

“Under certain circumstances, changes that appear to make a system or an organization safer, in fact, don’t,” writes Gerald Wilde in his book Target Risk.  Why is that?  Human beings have a tendency to compensate for lower risks in one area by taking greater risks in another.  “Ah, now I have new brakes and tires.  I feel safer, can drive better, and can go faster–stopping better.” 

Pedestrians are still killed at marked crosswalks.  They feel more safe because of some white paint–but are less vigilant about traffic.  Did they Mind the Gap?  Look both ways?  They assume “safe zones” or assume they are invincible, not even bothering to look out at all. 

Do we have a sense of indestructibility because we drive a large SUV, or large-cab truck?  Is there a false sense of power–or safety?  (I remember my brother who drove a semi- telling me he worried only about trains, tanks, and road ice…) 

What are the benefits of risky behavior, speeding to gain time?  What are the benefits of lighter-constructed vehicles?  More plastics, less weight, better fuel economy, faster speed.  Better air bags, passenger-compartment safety.  Observe the Crash-Test Dummies for results, at the pile of rubble at a 35-mph crash, at 65-mph, at 75-mph.  Risky Business. 

“Chances are…you won’t get caught.  So go for it.”

“It’s risky, but you’ll regret it if you don’t try it.”

“C’mon, take a bite.  It’s only an apple.”

“Might as well.  You only live once.”

“It’s not a scary movie.  Don’t be a wuss.”

“Take a chance.  What’s to lose?” 

© JAMES F. O’NEIL  2018    

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