“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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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

EMILY DICKINSON: “I’M NOBODY, WHO ARE YOU?  ARE YOU NOBODY TOO?”

Nobody Diary 1992

 …

“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become fully conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort.  To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real.  This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance.”  –C. G. Jung, in Your Mythic Journey, Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox, p. 15 (1973, 1989)


Here I am:INFJ personality-infjI reveal all, having taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test at various times in my life, under counselor supervision, online, and just recently with my wife (using the printed tests in Please Understand Me: Character and Temperaments Types by Keirsey and Bates and Understand Me II by Keirsey, both still in print).  The recent scoring was my strongest ever, my “most solid.”  I find the indicator questions fascinating and intellectually challenging, even though a few might seem simple or simplistic:  “Are you more firm than gentle, more gentle than firm.”  “Do you put more emphasis on the definite [or] the open ended.”  I’ve always liked, when I was younger (and drinking): “At parties do you stay late, with increasing energy [or] leave early, with decreased energy.”  How about, as a writer, do I “prefer the more literal [or] the more figurative.”

Am I basically passionate, hard-headed, soft-hearted, easy to approach, cool-headed, punctual, easy going, devoted?  What type am I?  Researchers claim this test can give a description or portrait of a person’s psychological personality type.  It tells me about myself, my differences, something about my behavior or even my attitudes towards others.  I portray myself, know myself, and how I deal with and react to family and friends, teachers and students.  For me, it has paid off; I have gained from this knowledge, though sometimes, unfortunately, after the fact.  “I should have not said that.”  “I should know better.”  In other words, I never planned my career based on the questionnaire.

For a time, I wanted to attend medical school:Jefferson medical college diplomaI had even planned to take the MCAT.  Counselors had me undergo a series of tests, including the MMPI, the Myers-Briggs, and a few others that helped determine I had the desire, but not the “right stuff” to be encouraged to pursue a career in medicine.

At one time I wanted to be a Navy corpsman, then became a teacher, desired to become a doctor, stayed a teacher–and enjoyed, for the most part (91.344%, A-/B++), a long career in education.  The Myers-Briggs could describe me at each stage of my career, and did even help me understand my behavior at just the right time.  Please Understand Me!  As noted, I’m a “true” INFJ type.

The intent of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory is to make the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung in the 1920s understandable and useful in people’s lives.  The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.

“Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas.  Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived.  If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills.”

In developing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [instrument], “the aim of Isabel Briggs Myers, and her mother, Katharine Briggs, was to make the insights of type theory accessible to individuals and groups.  The MBTI tool was developed in the 1940s by Isabel Briggs Myers; the original research was done in the 1940s and ’50s.”  This research is ongoing, providing users with updated and new information about psychological type and its applications.

“Millions of people worldwide have taken the Indicator each year since its first publication in 1962.  They addressed the two related goals in the developments and application of the MBTI instrument:

–The identification of basic preferences of each of the four dichotomies specified or implicit in Jung’s theory.

–The identification and description of the 16 distinctive personality types that result from the interactions among the preferences.”

FAVORITE WORLD: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

INFORMATION: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?  This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

DECISIONS: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances?  This is called  Thinking (T) or Feeling (F). 

STRUCTURE: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options?  This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P). 

Your Personality Type: When you decide on your preference in each category, you have your own personality type, which can be expressed as a code with four letters.

(All types are equal: The goal of knowing about personality type is to understand and appreciate differences between people.  As all types are equal, there is no best type, despite what some INFJs may think!).

[This material is from https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/.  Some is used from the MBTI® Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.]  Complete tests are available online, as are shorter tests taking 10 minutes or so of your time, coming with explanations and interpretations–for free!  (I found a 12-minute-or-less test while preparing for this blog.  It was quick and simple.)  [Some are $49.95.]  Just “Google it.”  It is a trip–one worth taking.

Note, however, that the test or Type Indicator has not existed without controversy, nor without detractors.  Its reliability and validity have been questioned oftentimes, despite its popularity and use.  The response?  “The best reason to choose the MBTI instrument to discover your personality type is that hundreds of studies over the past 40 years have proven the instrument to be both valid and reliable.  In other words, it measures what it says it does (validity) and produces the same results when given more than once (reliability).  When you want an accurate profile of your personality type, ask if the instrument you plan to use has been validated.”  [www.myersbriggs.org]

So, are you ready to unlock your inner self?  If you have not ever done this, do it. 

JUST DO IT!

It will “give you a framework for understanding yourself and appreciating differences in others.” 

For further, interesting reading: “Myers-Briggs: Does It Pay to Know Your Type?”  By Lillian Cunningham (Dec. 14, 2012): https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership/myers-briggs-does-it-pay-to-know-your-type/2012/12/14/eaed51ae-3fcc-11e2-bca3-aadc9b7e29c5_story.html?utm_term=.1a7b2a0c12c8

© JAMES F. O’NEIL  2018

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

How is one to assess and evaluate a type face in terms of its esthetic design?  Why do the pace-makers in the art of printing rave over a specific face of type?  What do they see in it?  Why is it so superlatively pleasant to their eyes?  Good design is always practical design.  And what they see in a good type design is, partly, its excellent practical fitness to perform its work.  It has a ‘heft’ and balance in all of its parts just right for its size, as any good tool has.”  –Alexander Lawson,

Anatomy of a Typeface, p.345 (1990) anatomy of a typeface

When I began as a school administrator in Minnesota in 1973 (many memoriesofatime), many school districts had already put aspects of Title IX into the school district curriculum, aside from sports.  Shop classes and Home Ec classes were “integrated.”  At the same time, to be “fair,” some schools had even added required typing for all 10th grade students so that the traditional course was not any longer “girls only.” 

On any given school day, one could hear the clacking sound of typewriter keys from the typing room, set aside with 25-35 desks and manual typewriters, and, perhaps, five or so Smith-Corona electric machines for advanced proficient students.  One might observe a business teacher, male or female, pacing in the aisles, checking the work of the students, or even observe a few male students who were longhair throwbacks of the 60s, now required to wear hairnets lest their locks become tangled in the inner workings of the keys of the machines.  It did happen.

So most Minnesota high school graduates of that era learned non-sexist equality gender-free typing.  On the other hand, high school students in Florida, at the same time, had one required course in the curriculum, not typing, not World History, not English 10, but rather “AVC”: “AMERICANISM vs COMMUNISM.”

Following the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961, the 1961 Florida Legislature passed a law [233.064 (1961), Florida Statutes] mandating all junior and senior public high school students in Florida take the six-week course, Americanism vs. Communism.  The course remained an educational requirement until the law was repealed in 1983 and replaced with a mandatory economics course:

avc bulletin 2

“THE FLORIDA LAW SECTION 230.23 (4) (1), Florida Statutes: Americanism vs. communism; required high school course  1. The legislature of the state hereby finds it to be a fact that a. The political ideology commonly known and referred to as communism is in conflict with and contrary to the principles of constitutional government of the United States … b.  The successful exploitation and manipulation of youth and student groups throughout the world today are a major challenge, which the free world forces must meet, defeat, and c.  The best method of meeting this challenge is to have the youth of the state and nation thoroughly and completely informed as to the evils, dangers, and fallacies of communism …  2.  The public high schools shall each teach a complete course of not less than thirty hours, to all students enrolled in said public high schools entitled “Americanism versus communism.”  3. The course shall provide adequate instruction in the history, doctrines, objectives, and techniques of communism and shall be for the primary purpose of instilling in the minds of the students a greater appreciation of democratic processes, freedom under law, and the will to preserve that freedom.  4. The course shall be … in comparative governments and shall emphasize the free-enterprise-competitive economy of the United States … which produces higher wages, higher standards of living, greater personal freedom  and liberty than any other system of economics on earth.  5. The course shall lay particular emphasis upon the … false doctrines of communism.  6. The state textbook committee and the state board of education shall … prescribe suitable textbook and instructional material … using as one of its guides the official reports of the house committee on un-American activities and the senate internal security sub-committee of the United States congress.

communism bookONE EXAMPLE OF ADOPTED TEXT

7.  No teacher or textual material assigned to this course shall present communism as preferable to the system of constitutional government and the free-enterprise-competitive economy indigenous to the United States. 8. The course of study hereinabove provided for shall be taught in all of the public high schools of the state no later than the school year commencing in September 1962.”

 What a shock for me when I moved to Florida to teach: I began in the summer of 1980 registering students for classes.  I discovered only ONE required course: “AVC.”  (However, to be fair, I point out that the schools were going through a transition to have the law changed.)

Imagine me, on the other hand, in 10th grade, 1956-1957, parsing and declining Latin and Greek, and studying other sophomore grade subjects, like geometry.  Yet no typing classes.  In fact, I never had a typing course and had/have had to hunt-n-peck my way through QWERTY after receiving a Christmas present Underwood in 1956, useful through high school, college, and most of graduate school.  (I still have many of the papers to prove it.)

underwood typewriter

JUST LIKE MY PORTABLE UNDERWOOD

That machine, truly a collector’s item that still worked, is long gone now, purchased by a “picker” collector who knew a good deal when she saw the sixty-year-old beauty, with Courier typeface–one typeface that many of us were used to, Courier.  What type?

“Courier is a monospaced slab serif typeface designed to resemble the output from a strike-on typewriter.  The typeface was designed in 1955, later redrawn for the IBM Selectric Composer series of electric typewriters” (Wikipedia).

Those lucky few advanced typing students in the 1970s in Minnesota were later allowed to demonstrate their excellence on the Selectrics.  In addition, secretaries throughout the nation were purchasing “golf-ball” heads with various fonts never before readily available on “normal” typing machines for their newly acquired office machines.

IBM GOLFBALL.jpg

IBM SELECTRIC “GOLF BALL” TYPE FACES

Although IBM commissioned the design of the original Courier typeface, the company deliberately chose not to secure legal exclusivity to the typeface, nor seek any copyright, trademark, or design patent protection.  So Courier typeface cannot be trademarked or copyrighted and is completely royalty free.  It soon became a standard font used throughout the typewriter industry. 

courier and courier new.jpg

 A variant, however, 12-point Courier New, the U.S. State Department’s standard typeface until January 2004, was replaced with a 14-point, more “modern” and “legible” font, Times New Roman: “Of all the typefaces developed during the past seventy-five years [Times (New) Roman], is the one most frequently singled out as typifying the twentieth century” (Lawson 270). Times_New_Roman_versus_Georgia

Different fonts, italics, and speed helped make the transition to the keyboard of the PC, with QWERTY, and many, many choices of fonts, sizes, and black letter.  Now, What’s your type?  can be GEORGIA, Arial, Garamond, or PALATINO–and many more to mention here, upper case-lower case, that suits your fancy, or whatever serif-non-serif required by APA, MLA, CMS, or an office handbook, available on word processing programs, from A-Z, like Algerian to___–and in colors!

Technology is so much with us, “To boldly go where no man has gone before!”  “The computer is the most advanced typographic product yet to appear; it would seem to be the culmination of almost five and a half centuries of progress in the transfer of the scribal hands to the printed page.  Engineers have thus provided the means for printers to continue enriching the heritage they have provided humankind.  Now the responsibility falls on the printers to control the new technology and make it serve the great legacy of their time-honored craft” (Lawson 403).

© JAMES F. O’NEIL  2018

 

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All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” (1986)

In thirty-two (32) years since the book’s best-seller publication, have we forgotten, gotten lost (within family life, at work, in government, throughout the world)?

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ROBERT FULGHUM

Robert Fulghum grew up in Waco, Texas, received a Bachelor of Arts at Baylor University in 1958, a Bachelor of Divinity in 1961, and was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister, serving Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship in Bellingham, Washington, from 1960-1964.  He is currently Minister Emeritus at the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church in Edmonds, Washington. The Kindergarten book stayed on The New York Times bestseller lists for nearly two years.  The collection of essays, subtitled “Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things,” has been updated and revised.  There are currently more than 17 million copies of his books in print, published in 27 languages in 103 countries!  [See more in Wikipedia.]

Remember this: Play fair . . . Don’t take things that aren’t yours . . . When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together . . . Share everything . . . Don’t hit people . . . Clean up your own mess . . . Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody . . . Take a nap every afternoon.

“Crayolas are one of the few things the human race has in common.”

“Rock, paper, scissors: scissors cut paper; paper covers rock; rock smashes scissors.”

“To be human is to know and to care and ask, ‘What’s it for?’”

“We take what we know, which isn’t even the whole story, and we add it to what we wish and need, . . .  We even make ourselves up, fusing what we are with what we wish into what we must become.”

from the book Uh-Oh (1991):

“In high school, one learns that love is not forever.”

“A question with several possible answers comes to mind: If one man lives as though he would never die and another man lives as though he might die tomorrow, would either wear a wrist watch?”

“Will we ever have enough time?  What would happen if we only had enough time?  When will the time finally come?  Who knows where the time goes?  How far is it from time to time?  What time is the right time?  Will we know when our time has finally come?”

“Surprise is at the core of existence.  It’s true.  You never ever really know what’s coming next.” 

from the book Maybe (Maybe Not) [1993]

“Whatever we may think or believe, what we have done is our story.”

“Life is.  I am.  Anything might happen.”

“. . . since everything and anything are always possible, the miraculous is always nearby and wonders shall never, ever cease.”

“At age ___, I begin to realize there are some things I will never have or be able to do.”

“The varying truth perceived by many witnesses is a fact of life.”

“Professionals don’t know everything.”

“. . .  [My navel].  It’s the mark of mortality.

“Never, ever, regret or apologize for believing that when one man or one woman decides to risk addressing the world with truth, the world may stop what it is doing and her.” 

“THE MYTH OF THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM IS MORE POWERFUL THAN ALL THE FACTS OF HISTORY.”

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all i needed to know

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”  –Reba McEntire

“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.” –Bertrand Russell

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.”  –Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832)

“Every movie has three things you have to do – you have to have a compelling story that keeps people on the edge of their seats; you have to populate that story with memorable and appealing characters; and you have to put that story and those characters in a believable world.  Those three things are so vitally important.”  –John Lasseter

[Find more “threesie” quotations to read at https://www.brainyquote.com]

When did we first learn to compare, one thing with another, to another?  When, then, did we find not an “either…or,” but a third possibility?  When did we begin  “Hot” “Wet” “Sweet”?

We are inextricably bound together by “Threeism.”

https://memoriesofatime.blog/2014/10/21/earth-wind-and-fire-what-about-threesies

. . .

Good, better, best…THE BIG THREE: Harvard, Princeton, Yale…sex, drugs, rock-n-roll…food, shelter, clothing…beginning, middle, end…B,L,T (bacon, lettuce, tomato)…taste, chew, digest…ill, worse, worst…loaf of bread, jug of wine, and thou…bad, worse, worst…A B C’s…animal, mineral, vegetable…bad, worser, worstest…C² = A² + B² …dome, arch, spire…poetry, fiction, drama…fact, value, policy…foreplay, play, after play…to, two, too…earth, wind, fire…positive, comparative, superlative…The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe…veni, vidi, vici…purpose, worth, technique…fears, concerns, beliefs…peak, pique, peek…trifecta, triune, trilogy…Father, Son, Holy Spirit/Ghost…peanut butter, mayonnaise, banana (sandwich)…legislative, executive, judicial…there, their, they’re…morning, noon, night…enjoyment, enrichment, insight…eminent, immanent, imminent…Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night.

Finally, when approaching a piece of literature or work of art, or when seeing a movie, don’t forget The Three Levels of Meaning/Understanding: What’s there for sure; what I bring to it; what it means to me.

 

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

 “. . . I’ve been to the mountaintop.”  “I saw beautiful spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!”

July is nearly over.  Some summer vacations have finished, some already begun; all the same, some are still being planned.  “Beginning in October 2018, there will be direct flights from TPA/TIA [Tampa] to Gatwick [London].”  “I cannot wait!  I’d go in a heartbeat.” “But there is so much to see and do yet in the United States, why travel overseas?”  “There is also direct flight service by Icelandic Air to Reykjavik.”  Someday, maybe.  “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” says Rick Blaine in Casablanca.  Something like that, I say, “of all the Oh!-The-Places-You’ll-Go places I have been, including Hurley, Wisconsin (pop.  1540); Fargo; Raymond, Mississippi (pop. 1933); Bethesda, Ohio (pop. 1256, more with fracking crews); Las Vegas; Yeehaw Junction, Florida (pop. 240), I’ve been to more than others have; others, for certain, out-place me.  However, I’m not in any way in contention for a carbon-platinum Frequent Flyer Rewards Card in my wallet.

Getting from one place to another, nevertheless, has always distressed me, sometimes when I was younger, to the point of actually fainting before a trip, in anticipation.  (I do recall a near-meltdown not too many years ago while frustrating with packing a very large suitcase that would not hold everything, including my large bicycle seat.)  I hate packing, hate to pack.  I’d like to go, to arrive with my toothbrush and shaving kit–and with my medications, of course.  No luggage.  No carry on.  Maybe a book (paperback Proust, probably–or congested Kindle).  Then check in, relax, afterwards to see whatever I came to see.

What have I seen, from the top (35,000 feet: clouds and oceans, lakes and mountains) to the under (Eurostar–London to Paris–under the English Channel; the Metro; the “L” under the Chicago River)?  I have fashioned a memory-filled checklist, culled from journals, from Day-Minders and ticket stubs, in no particular order, priority, or chronology.  I am sure that as I write this (and later edit and revise) I’ll remember something, like “I forgot Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, in West Virginia, the center of the Hare Krishna movement,” or “Remember that really great Cajun restaurant where we ate crayfish down by the bayou in Savannah?” “Yeah!  That’s when they were filming Forrest Gump outside our hotel.” 

“How old was I when . . . ?”  “Were the kids with us when we drove to . . . ?”  Our first trip (in 1977) to Florida, to Disney World, to Cape Kennedy, our first “grits.” “What are they?”  [NOT, “Girls Raised In The South.”]  “Oh, that’s Cream of Wheat.  Butter, please, and maple syrup, too.  Thanks.”  So, “Once upon a time,” [read aloud]: “I have, we did, we have . . . traveled to, stayed at, climbed, flown to, rode, ate at, moved to, drove, watched, swam in, driven along, peeked over, touched, walked the, accelerated in, viewed, sped upon, stopped, adored in, looked upon, rode in, stood beneath, rushed, stepped over, rested, visited, stood before, paused, leaned over, slept in, toured, crossed, ran alongside, wandered, cruised, stalled, transfixed . . . .  [Pick a verb.  Find a place, setting, activity (surely your mind’s eye already sees, the heart already races, the memory is activated).  Locate a picture or photo to accompany a special memoryofatime.  Open up a box of Nostalgias to munch on.  Have fond, sweet (though maybe icy, rainy, cold, slippery?) memories.]

For one, Stonehenge: BIG ROCKS, and Salisbury Plain, and the Romans in Bath.  On Chesil Beach (with Ian McEwan, no doubt, having walked upon the same stones), putting a few in my pocket for my travel collection.  And stony Hastings Shore, the English Channel lapping upon the feet of the bathers in the cold water, my thinking about Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle and World War II.  One warm July Sunday, while on a noontime walk, seeing Stephen Hawking on a Cambridge street.  Three summers in Cambridge: university library, along the Cam River, bicycle riding to Grantchester, studying and tutoring, Selwyn College, trains to London for excursions, Globe Theater, writing, awe-ing, and . . . . 

I have also looked out upon the Pisgah National Forest, from the parapets of one of America’s finest castles, the Biltmore House.  The view was holy, overwhelming, awe-some in the glory of the Creator. 

However, most breath taking for me in life was standing alone before my trek up the dunes in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado. 

SAND DUNES BY JEFF COTNERCOM

GREAT SAND DUNES PHOTO by JEFF COTNER

There I stood, amazed, a people-ant to those looking down upon me; yet from my perspective, those specs beyond, above, showed how insignificant I was, am, in relation to the forces and effects of time and Nature.  So I climbed and climbed.  No steps, like at Ephesus.  Steps.  To the Parthenon.  Huffing and puffing, like climbing those steps inside the Washington Monument many (younger) years before, or those leading to Monks Mound, “at one hundred feet, it is the largest prehistoric earthen mound in North America”: Cahokia, near St. Louis.

MONKS MOUND WIKIPEDIA

MONK’S MOUND from WIKIPEDIA

Reaching the “top” of the Dunes, I became engaged with a sense of cosmic realism.  I was a part of it all.  I looked out upon . . . the waters surrounding Mont Saint-Michel in France;   mont saint-michelor came upon the Pacific Ocean for my first glimpse at Seaside, Oregon, with its Lewis and Clark Expedition history.  On Goat Island, visiting a few times the crashing and splashing and misting and forcings of the Niagara River at Niagara Falls. 

Sue and Jim at Goat Island, Niagara Falls, NY

SUE AND JIM (YOUNGER THAN NOW)

Was I able to “slip the surly bonds of earth . . . And while, with silent lifting mind I’ve trod // The high untrespassed sanctity of space, / Put out my hand, and touch[ed] the face of God. . . ?”  

interior-hagia-sophia HAGIA SOPHIA

With God-places, I’ve stood within and beneath the great domed Hagia Sophia in Istanbul-Constantinople, have been shoeless in the Blue Mosque; prayed in Chartres Cathedral; knelt in Ely Cathedral, Westminster Abby, Notre Dame in Paris; walked the aisles of St Louis (Missouri) Cathedral and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. 

I have wandered in wonderment, showered so often with kaleidoscopic colors of light from the stained glass magnificently built by crafters in so many “houses” of worship, like Saint-Severin in Paris.  Glass in Saint- Severin by Jean René Bazaine 1970.JPG

Outside, I looked UP: “Up we go!” “Into the next car, please.”: The London Eye.  “Look up!”: The Eiffel Tower: “No, I cannot go.  You ride up if you want.  But I will walk with you on top of the Arc de triomphe.”  “Sorry.  The Arch is closed today.  High winds and a storm coming” the St. Louis trip frustrating, though we saw enough of the Ole Man [Mississippi] River.  In 1966, I looked up upon the Empire State Building.  That was An Affair to Remember, my first visit to New York City.  (I didn’t ride up.)  But I was never Sleepless in Seattle, looking up at Mount Rainier, a glacier, and viewing Mount St Helens (not a far trip away).

So I’ve come to the end of the “Rick Steves Road Trip for Jimmy O’Neil”: vacations, trips, travels, excursions, journeys, stays, visitations, visits, pilgrimages–all part of a lifetime of activity, though a small part.  But when I consider how much time is spent in planning and preparing, from initial thought or utterance–“Where should we go this winter?”  “Where do you want to go for our anniversary?”  “Should we go to . . . again?”  “How much time do we have to . . . ?”–to the final credit card payment for the last meal of the trip or something bought in the duty-free shop, a vacation takes a long time in a person’s life.  No wonder we are so worn out after we return home, to rest.

Sometimes, though, the vacation place is “restful” itself, the reason for the trip itself: no touring, no running around, no shopping, just being there.  A beach.  A mountain cabin.  A quiet Walden Pond.  A cave.  A cave?  A cave on Paros Island, in the Cyclades Islands.  In May 2005, five of us adults took a memorable trip to our Greek cave.

A non-stop overnight flight from New York to Athens.  (I hate packing.)  A long bus ride from the airport (schlepping luggage) to the Port of Piraeus in Athens.  Then a ferry boat ride–BIG ferry boat, with people, trucks, cars–in the late afternoon with a dark night arrival (nearly missing our stop), finding a rental car (four sardines, holding luggage, speeding along curves and hills on dark roads, black-black outside), arriving at a car park in an asleep town, almost midnight.  “We have to do what?  Carry our suitcases up and around the hill to get to our place?”  Cursing all the way, punctuated with laughter about how we found this place.  Dogs barking at us, disturbing them, cats hissing as we snaked around homes, through alleyways, on walkways, tripping occasionally on a front stoop in the dimly lit “neighborhood.”  Huffed and puffed (of course) to the top, at the end-stop of the street.

PAROS CAVE-HOME.JPG

VACATION CAVE-HOME, PAROS ISLAND, GREECE in the HEART of the AEGEAN SEA

“What is this, a real cave?” as we entered through the front doors.  A cave-home, a home carved out from the promontory overlooking the town (LEFKES/LEFKOS).  Modernized: plumbing, furniture, fireplaces, electronics, electricity, rooms.  “AWESOME!”  I said, as I put my suitcase . . . no closets.  Platform queen-sized bed with solar tube skylight through the mountain above us, allowing light in, allowing us to view stars all night.  Two baths and showers.  Lemon trees outside, with a spectacular view of the entire town, whitewashed-in-Greek.  A 20-minute walk up or down to the chemist or bakery with chocolate croissants daily, or fresh baguettes.  Or the market.  Or to the rental car.  (We did not remain cave dwellers for the week: we explored the island, did visit another island and old Portuguese fort, sat on a beach, ate in different restaurants, visited a famous Roman quarry, among other activities–and even made fresh lemonade daily.)

What a unique opportunity that I will never forget, what an experience like no other in my entire vacation-ing life.  “Where ya’ been?” “I have been to the mountain.”  I have.  At the very top, UP, far beyond our cave, topped with giant (dormant) wind turbines.  I have been to the top of the mountain.  And it was good.

LEFKES on PAROS 2005.JPG

LEFKES on PAROS ISLAND, GREECE, 2005

 …

ADDENDUM

The Summer of 2018 will be memorable for no vacation.  Foot surgery instead forced an in-bed holiday.  Four to six weeks of no weight bearing, occasional icing, and some few hydrocodone tablets kept down travel costs considerably.  However, the electric bill may have spiked due to an overuse of audio and video, like Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. 

© JAMES F. O’NEIL 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

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