BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

PART I: TRAINS

“One of the things the government can’t do is run anything.  The only things our government runs are the post office and the railroads, and both of them are bankrupt.”  — Lee Iacocca

***

Once upon a time, a long time ago, after my Grandpa Cummings had retired from many years with the Pennsylvania Railroad, pennsylvania railroad symbolhe took me to visit a friend of his at a switching yard on the South Side of Chicago.  The three of us walked through the roundhouse, walked among the rails, and even watched to see the railroad turntable in operation.

In rail terminology, a railway turntable or wheelhouse is a device for turning railroad rolling stock, usually locomotives, so that they can be moved back in the direction from which they came.  Railroads needed a way to turn steam locomotives around for return trips as their controls were often not railway turntableconfigured for extended periods of running in reverse, and in many locomotives the top speed was lower in reverse motion.  In the case of diesel locomotives, though most can be operated in either direction, they are treated as having “front ends” and “rear ends” (often determined by reference to the location of the crew cab).  When operated as a single unit, the railway company often prefers, or requires, that a diesel locomotive be run “front end” first.  All this is visually and masterfully shown in the movie with Denzel Washington, Unstoppable.unstoppable train of denzel

So, the three of us, walking up to a diesel whose engine was running, climbed aboard.  I sat on my Grandpa’s lap for a bit, then stood at the controls.  And he moved the control my hand was on.  We moved.  Forward, ever so slowly, down a length of track.  Surely, I did not wet my pants, but surely, my rheumatic-fever heart was racing in excitement.  Yes, I sat at the engineer’s controls, with my grandfather standing next to me, and we powered the engine forward.  Slowly, I pushed the control lever forward (or sideways).  I was eleven or twelve, maybe 1951 or 1952.  Those ages and dates are not part of the details.  I was there.  The smell of fuel, the motors’ noises, the motion of the train engine I cannot forget.  How many young boys have had such an experience to talk about?  (Don’t tell Homeland Security that I actually “drove” a diesel engine in a switching yard on the South Side of Chicago.)

Pennsylvania RR diesel by RRPictureArchives Net Kim Piersol Pennsylvania RR diesel

I have had an on-again, off-again love affair for trains.  I did have a Christmas-present American Flyer electric train set that never seemed to work properly: maybe parts, maybe the rugs or the floor or the connections.  Lionel-boys always had more success with theirs; we Flyer-types were not as lucky with our two-track system american flyer track from ebay (though that was not always the problem).  Lionel had the heavier three-track, more expensive gauge sets, parts, transformers–all the right “stuff.” lionel on ebay.jpg So my frustration abounded, as trains were taken out and put away; I never had a basement with a large open space for a board for a train layout.  [An interesting bit of Wiki-history: During the 1950s, Lionel outsold its closest competitor, American Flyer, by nearly 2:1, peaking in 1953.  Some Lionel company histories say Lionel (more than just trains) was the largest toy company in the world by the early 1950s.  The 1946–1956 decade was Lionel’s Golden Age.  The Lionel 2333 Diesel locomotive, an EMD F3 in the colorful Santa Fe “Warbonnet” paint scheme that was introduced in 1948, atsf-347c-emd-f7a-santa-fe-diesel-electric-locomotive-wernher-krutein became the Lionel company icon and the icon of the era, yet Lionel declined rapidly after 1956.  Hobbyists preferred the smaller but more realistic HO scale trains, and children’s interest shifted from toy trains to toy cars.  Efforts to increase train set profitability and/or sales by cheaper manufacture (largely by replacing castings and folded sheet metal with unpainted injected-molded colored plastic) were largely unsuccessful; 1957 was Lionel’s last profitable post-war year.  In 1959, the business direction of the Lionel company changed: it added subsidiary companies unrelated to toy train sets.  The company lost more money. See more in Wikipedia.]

Trains have continued to be part of my transporting life.

Back in the ‘50s, our family vacationed for many years for a week or two at the Shubat’s Resort.  That was cabin livin’ summer cottage sisters lakes

though with indoor plumbing and beautiful water and great fishin’,

at Sisters Lakes, Michigan.  sisterlakesmichigan.jpgNot well known, but better recognized if I say “near Dowagiac,” or Benton Harbor.  Those were great growing-up summers with my cousins and siblings, and “friend-girls” from different neighborhoods in Chicago. 

One memorable summer of my hormonal youth, a sophomore in college, I was on a train, going to that Michigan Paradise with Laverne, meeting our families who were already there.  She and I had grown-up conversations; she was the grown up, the neighbor lady to my aunt, the Eloise to me-Abelard-sans letters, the Isolde to me-Tristan, my Guinevere, my courtly-loved.  She was married with kids.  I was young, naive, infatuated.  So much to think about on that train ride.  That so special train ride…from Chicago to Michigan.

During the summer of 1968, I spent time in Delta House!  On the campus of the University of Minnesota, taking a few post-grad grad courses.  Three courses, small room with bed and dresser, shared bath and shower and fridge and cereal cabinet.  Delicious library, smoking in the classrooms, considering how my light (time) was spent with John Milton and a totally delightful professor, but unfortunately also with a totally boring Shakespeare scholar.  The other peak experiences were the bus rides to the train station to board and train-ride south to Winona to visit wife and kids for a weekender, with them and no books.  And then back again on Sunday night or early Monday morning.  Those train rides that held the memories of the weekend activities, loving and familial.

Though my train-love has given way to airplanes, I still am fascinated by the sounds, and sights, and history, and large-sized picture books of trains.  And have still used the rails in my life of travel. 

I did have a horribly uncomfortable coach- ride to Richmond, Virginia, not many years past, S-L-O-W, CREAKY, AND UNSLEEPABLE.  “It will be some time before I board a train again!” you might have heard me say.  Those trains in Europe?  We’ve seen Jason Bourne speed across European countryside on the TGV.  TGV-Duplex-21.jpg Yes, I have done that too.  And the “Chunnel” Eurostar, London to Paris?  Yup, that too.  London to Carlisle, to Cambridge, to Oxford.  Never yet to Cornwall or Land’s End, or to see Doc Martin’s place.  Mostly–mostly–friendly, delightful, memorable. 

I’ve waited for a train on Platform 9 ¾ in London, at King’s Cross Station…and waitied…and waited…9 3-4 KINGS CROSS STATION

And in 2013, Paris to Chartres…  That’s  how I want to travel by train.  Maybe someday on the Orient Express?  Probably, not. 

However, I’ve heard the Canadian Pacific has a beautiful train route…  Canadian-Rockies.jpg

Perhaps…

©  JAMES F. O’NEIL  2017

 

 

 

 

 

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LESLIE FIEDLER 1967 BY JAC. DE NIJS

Leslie A. Fiedler

 

 “Thomas Mann believed that the best measure of the spiritual health or illness of a culture is its art.”  –Rollo May, The Cry for Myth (1991)

* * *

LESLIE A. FIEDLER (1917-2003) [MA, PhD] Professor of English, lecturer, Fulbright scholar, University of Montana, SUNY Buffalo, Rockefeller Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, Visiting Professor, Jay B. Hubbell Award in American literature: 1946 and on….  Fiedler’s first critical work appeared in 1948 and came about from his habit of reading American novels to his sons.  The essay appeared in Partisan Review, becoming the subject of much critical debate.  “Come Back to the Raft Ag’in, Huck Honey!” argued that a recurrent theme in American literature was an unspoken or implied homoerotic relationship between men, using Huckleberry Finn and Jim as examples.  Pairs of men flee for wilderness rather than remain in the civilizing and domesticated world of women.  Fiedler also deals with this male bonding in Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), Waiting for the End (1964), and The Return of the Vanishing American (1968).  [Ref. Wikipedia et al.]

* * *

Fiedler’s major work, Love and Death in the American Novel (1960, 1966), offended many critics because of the manner in which he discusses American literary tradition–and reconsiders the concept of the Great American Novel: how it is both derivative of, and separate from, the established European novel forms. 

He believed that literature is “more than what one learns to read in schools and libraries, more even than a grace of life; that it is the record of those elusive moments at which life is alone fully itself, fulfilled in consciousness and form.” 

**“I cannot help feeling that the chief problem of teaching anything in our atomized period lies precisely in the fact that the ordinary student cannot or will not connect the few facts he knows, the slim insights he has previously attained, the chance extensions of sensibility into which he has been once or twice tempted, into a large enough context to make sense of the world he inhabits, or the works of art he encounters.  ONLY CONNECT!  should be the motto of all critics and teachers.”

“Four major sources of indebtedness I feel moved to acknowledge…:  C. S. Lewis The Allegory of Love [taught me the sense in which love is an invention and the poets its inventors] … certain Marxian critics [the class-relations of a culture help determine the shape of its deepest communal fantasies, the obsessive concerns of its literature] … Freud and his followers, and Carl Jung [for the concepts of the conscious and the unconscious, and archetypes] … D. H. Lawrence Studies in Classic American Literature [of all the literary critics who have written about American books, he is the one who has seemed closest to the truth]”

“Anyone who, in full consciousness, surrenders the hope of heaven…for the endurance of hell…has entered into a pact with Satan…writing a gothic novel…devoting a long fiction to terror rather than love…is a Faustian commitment.  …  The primary meaning of the gothic romance … lies in its substitution of terror for love as a central theme of fiction … of sex denied … of vicarious participation in a flirtation with death.”

“Certainly the three novels granted to be our greatest works are gothic in theme and atmosphere: Huckleberry FinnMoby DickThe Scarlet Letter … In each book, the Faustian bargain stands at the focus of action.”

Hawthorne writes The Scarlet Letter “in the form of a love story an elegiac treatise on the death of love, a portrayal of the attenuation of sex in America.  …the first American tragedy.”

“One of the troubling mysteries of our life is that we can only know as adults what we can only feel as children; and Huckleberry Finn [the greatest of all books about childhood] manages to evoke the lost world of boyhood with all the horror and loveliness it once possessed for the child who lived it.  …how truly wonderful it is to remember our childhood; and yet how we cannot recall it without revealing to ourselves the roots of the very terror, which in adulthood has driven us nostalgically to evoke that past.”

Moby Dick can be read not only as an account of a whale hunt, but also as a love story, perhaps the greatest love story in our fiction, cast in the peculiar American form of innocent homosexuality.”

***Fiedler at his best: “Among the assumptions of [the tragic Humanists] Melville and Hawthorne: the world of appearance is at once real and a mask through which we can dimly perceive more ultimate forces at work; Nature is inscrutable, in some sense alien; in man and Nature alike, there is a ‘diabolical’ element, a ‘mystery of iniquity’; it is impossible to know fully God or ourselves, and that our only protection from destructive self-deceit is the pressure and presence of others; that to be alone is, therefore, to be lost; that evil is real and that the thinking man breaks his heart trying to solve its compatibility with the existence of a good God or his own glimmering perceptions of goodness.  The writer’s duty is to say ‘Nay!,’ to deny the easy affirmations by which most men live, and to expose the blackness of life most men try deliberately to ignore.  For tragic Humanists, it is the function of art not to console or sustain, much less to entertain, but to disturb by telling a truth which is always unwelcome; and they consequently find it easy to view themselves in Faustian terms, to think of their dangerous vocations as a bargain with the Devil.”

* * *

In the scheme of Fiedler criticism of characters in the novel, there exist the Dark Lady, the Fair Maiden, the Good Good Girl, the Good Bad Girl, the Bad Girl, the Bad Good Girl; the Good Good Boy, the Good Bad Boy, the Bad Boy, the Bad Good Boy…

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“We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded [completed] with a sleep.”  –Shakespeare.  The Tempest 4.1.156-58

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”  –E. A. Poe

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream . . . life is but a dream.”  –Children’s rhyme

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens into that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was a conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.”  –C. G. Jung

[Music: The Everly Brothers, 1958] :  “Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream … Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream … Whenever I want you, all I have to do is / Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream … Anytime night or day / Only trouble is, gee whiz / I’m dreamin’ my life away … Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream…”

“A dream is a personal experience of that deep dark ground that is the support of our conscious lives, and a myth is the society’s dream.  The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth.”  –Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth.

[Music: Man of La Mancha, November 1965] :  “The Impossible Dream” : “To dream the impossible dream / … To bear with unbearable sorrow / … To right the unrightable wrong / To love pure and chaste from afar / To try when your arms are too weary / To reach the unreachable star / This is my quest, to follow that star, / No matter how hopeless, no matter how far / … And the world will be better for this…”  Songwriters: Joe Darion / Mitchell Leigh.  “The Impossible Dream” lyrics © Helena Music Company

“Wishing and hoping come directly out of the function of dreaming and making myths.”  — Rollo May, The Cry for Myth.

[Music: “I Dreamed a Dream” is a song from the musical Les Misérables.  It is a solo that is sung by the character Fantine during the first act.  …  The song is a lament, sung by the anguished Fantine, who has just been fired from her job at the factory and thrown onto the streets.  See Wikipedia for more history and analysis] :  “I Dreamed a Dream”/Anne Hathaway :  “There was a time when men were kind … There was a time when love was blind … And the world was a song … And the song was exciting.  There was a time…  Then it all went wrong.  I dreamed a dream in times gone by / When hope was high and life worth living / I dreamed, that love would never die / I dreamed that God would be forgiving…  I had a dream my life would be / So different from this hell I’m living / So different now from what it seemed / Now life has killed the dream / I dreamed.”  Songwriters: Alain Albert Boublil / Claude Michel Schonberg / Herbert Kretzmer / Jean Marc Natel.  “I Dreamed a Dream” lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

“Dreams are a private application to one’s life of public myths in which we all are participants.”  –Rollo May, The Cry for Myth.

“What happens to a dream deferred?  / Does it dry up / Like a raisin in the sun?  … / Or does it explode?”  –Langston Hughes

LET THE DREAMS BEGIN! 

“Hold fast to dreams / For if dreams die / Life is a broken / winged bird / that cannot fly. . .  Life is a barren field / Frozen with snow.”  –Langston Hughes, “Dreams.”

 

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“A good book is one that, for its time, is wise, sane, and magical, one that clarifies life and tends to improve it.”  –John Gardner, On Moral Fiction (1978)img0000071A

After some forty years in the classroom, teaching about writing and literature, telling THEM about so many greats…  On and on I would go, lecture after great lecture.  Book list and book list.  Reading assignment and reading assignment.  And, of course, test after test–to say nothing of those research papers and thesis projects.  I was the Giver, with all the pearls in the basket to hand out, like so many of my good handouts.  (I wonder how many of those made it home?)

They all supposed or assumed I liked everything we ever read for class.  Often times I was teaching what I was told to teach from the curriculum, not what was my choice, what I “liked.”  (Forbidden to teach The Catcher in the Rye?  Yes.  And I Am the Cheese?  That, too.)  Yet I did have opinions.

Nevertheless, I was doing my job–which included NOT speaking personals in the classroom.  Then as I became older, the classrooms became a bit friendlier (or did I?).  I became more pensive about my own education, recalling my being a student in high school and in college.  I did less professing, more suggesting.  Hah!  It took me only twenty years to “get it.”  These were (some of) the best of times (I admit, I still did get a lousy evaluation occasionally that set me aback).

young professorPicture of Young Professor 1983

So I began to write about reading.  And studying.  I even began to write a blog, this blog, about the importance of reading–

How We Come to Love Books

https://memoriesofatime.blog/2016/08/26/how-important-is-reading/

“Adults like to talk about their reading…to force the mind to recollect forgotten but important memories of how one became a reader.”  –G. Robert Carlsen and Anne Sherrill, Voices of Readers: How We Come to Love Books, 1988.

I had written how I became a follower/reader/addict of the writings of Joseph Joseph EpsteinEpstein whom I began reading so many years ago (more than 35!) who “taught” me about those “boring” books of the “masters” that are better left unread–  “Why I Read”….

http://memoriesofatime.com/2013/05/27/why-i-read/%5D

I questioned my education and whether I was an educated person, recalling my formative years and those who tried to influence my reading habits.  Was I an educated person?  Did my reading Ben-Hur do anything for me?  (That was a book given to me by my eighth grade teacher.)  I read the Bible once completely, the Iliad, the Odyssey, Cervantes, terrible romances, existentialists, Shakespeare.

I was reading what others thought was good for me.  What were my first books?  Spot and Jane.  I began a love life with books and reading: comic books, library books, and Sunday funnies.  My favorite comics (now expensive collectibles) were about war.  I was nine when the Korean War started.  My reading of everything about it (even on bubble gum cards) led to a life-long affair with war history.  By the time I began to baby-sit for the neighbor (whose husband was a former Flying Tiger pilot), I was a sixth grader reading The Junior Classics:junior classics etsy

My mom had bought them all beautifully bound, and had them placed, displayed, in the red-leatherette credenza we had forever.  (She must have paid a fortune for them.)  After I had the babies fed, bathed, and bedded, I went into the living room and read my classic stories: about Camelot, giants, heroes, myths.

Throughout high school, I read from those required lists–but took a charmingly delightful side-trip, with James Joyce, Graham Greene, Mortimer Adler, and others when I joined the Book Club.  Afterwards, the mainstream reading, through college and graduate school, was really more, and more intense, for this “English Major”: Shakespeare and Milton; Whitman and Dickinson; Thoreau and Emerson.  And?  I became a teacher.  One of those teachers…   Some Great Teachers: Growing Up with Reading https://memoriesofatime.blog/2015/12/23/some-great-teachers-growing-up-with-reading/

“You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”  –Dr. Seuss

Yes: On my own I worked myself into Darwin, Chardin, and Eliade.  I have learned.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn–I return to it, and should more often.  It’s about me, not about some other kid.  And the famous epiphanous beach scene by James Joyce, which moved me for all time, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  I read (present).  I read (past).  I have read (present perfect).  I am reading…  I have surrounded myself with books for most of my life.  books surround me 2020And have much around me to read, if I am so moved.  Like Sisyphus, I am happy. 

Until quite recently, rather sedentary.  Now I have to answer some questions.  No slipping away, equivocating, hesitating– “Oh, there is time for the answers, Professor, but I think it would be best if you could write down your answers and get them to me whenever you get some free time.”  I was the reader now, not the teacher, not the blogger, not The Great Professor (but, perhaps, the “confessor” confessing?).  Someone “from out there” asked WHO?  WHAT?  WHY?

WHO is your favorite author and what might be a favorite quotation by that author?  Shakespeare may not be my “favorite” author, but my favorite play is his Othello.  It is the best Shakespeare did–for human weakness, love, lust, tragedy, marriage, evil, friendship, jealousy, treachery–all condensed.  It’s about a soldier who is not promoted, who plots to make his commanding officer jealous.  The quotations from Shakespeare abound.  From this play, one stands out that has surpassed “Chaos has come again!”  jealousy 719907557-OthelloIt’s my favorite: The soldier says, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; // It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock // The meat it feeds on…”  Beware the green-eyed monster jealousy!  To me, this is right up there with “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!”

 

 –WHAT is your favorite book and the main theme of that book? PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man I first read in high school then much later in graduate school.  The character Stephen Dedalus, a young man, by James Joyce, had to leave family, church, and country to grow into manhood–to question the taught values–then to accept or reject them, but not to take them without question.  I believe I am Dedalus, the Questioner.       

Do you have a favorite quotation?  What does that quotation mean to you and WHY is it your favorite?    John Milton, “On His Blindness” (1655).  “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  WHEN I consider how my light is spent… “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?” I ask.  God doth not need either man’s work or his own gifts.  Who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.  john miltonThousands at his bidding speed and post o’er land and ocean without rest. They also serve who only stand and wait.”  Milton lamented his blindness, and felt that he was not serving God the way he could be were he able to see.  But those are doing their duty, awaiting their assignments, even simply by being around.  I’ve felt that I have not always been able to be a do-er in many aspects of my life, but have been a follower, waiting to be invited or waiting to be told what to told.  In other words, waiting is also a noble office.

So, The Grand Inquisitor Classroom Professor has been inquisited.  No blood has been let.  All proceeded painlessly.  However, the process took time–and much thought, which I gave.  Sometimes easy to say “Best 10” or “Top 5”; but more difficult to announce, “And the Award goes to…”  Therefore, Dear Reader, Please answer the following…

WHO?  WHAT?  WHY?

©  James F. O’Neil 2017

readers and parents

“After all these years, I may have found my own best reader, and he turns out to be me.”  –Joseph Epstein

 

“The one exclusive sign of thorough knowledge is the power of teaching.” –Aristotle

“Today, class, we are going to answer, What are the three types of Greek columns?”

“Somewhere over the rainbow is, well, not really OVER it but is it, R-O-Y-G-B-I-V–…”

“You must know these three fundamentals before you can pass: love, sex, family; romantic, erotic, familial…”

* * *

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, Aristotle taught his students a handy method for making presentations to their students, for organizing lessons.  His method was like a show and tell, a method that has been passed down from generations of teachers to generations of teachers: pre-school to Cambridge University History Professors, to executives, to coaches. 

Aristotle said, in his favorite Athenian Greek voice, “My students, three things you need to do when presenting a new topic or lesson or subject:

TELL THEM WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO TELL THEM

TELL THEM

THEN TELL THEM WHAT YOU TOLD THEM.


1–Tell them what you will tell them. What is it nice for them to know, but most importantly What do they NEED to know? What do they NEED to hear?  This is the essence of the lesson.  [“Today we are going to see what makes the prism do what it does.”]

2–Tell them. Aristotle no doubt shouts out in the Lyceum, “THIS IS THE STUFF!”  Here is the raison d’être of the whole operation, our reason for being here, the whole enchilada.  He exhorts, “Here is what my Nicomachean Ethics is all about.”  And he lays it out–of sorts….  [“And so, from this, you can understand what Oliver Cromwell did, some historians aver, was far, far more genocidal than any act done by any Confederate general in the American Civil War.”]

3–Tell them what you just told them. “Thus, as we can see, the fifth element is Aether, that divine substance making up the heavenly spheres and heavenly bodies (stars and planets).” Here is the opportunity for the late-arrivals to catch up on their notes, whispering “WhatdidImiss?” Reiteration.  Re-iter-a-tion: journey again.  Going over it again.  “Are there any questions?”     

Such symmetry in threes…

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Are there any questions?…

 

On September 24, 2015, Pope Francis became the first pope to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress.  Dorothy Day was one of four Americans mentioned by the Pope in his speech to the joint session that included Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thomas Merton.  He said of Day: “Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

Dorothy Day (November 8, 1897–November 29, 1980) was an American journalist, social activist, and Catholic convert.  She initially lived a bohemian lifestyle before gaining fame as a social activist after her conversion, and later became a key figure in the Catholic Worker Movement, earning a national reputation as a political radical.  Some might perhaps deem her the most famous radical in American Catholic Church history.

In the 1930s, she worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker Movement, a pacifist movement that combined direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf.  She did practice civil disobedience, which led at times to arrests, in 1955, 1957, and even in 1973 at the age of seventy-five.

As part of the Catholic Worker Movement, Day co-founded the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1933, and served as its editor from 1933 until her death in 1980. 

Day supported herself as a journalist, writing a gardening column for the local paper, the Staten Island Advance and features articles and book reviews for several Catholic publications, like Commonweal.

She wrote in her autobiography: “I could write, I could protest, to arouse the conscience, but where was the Catholic leadership in the gathering of bands of men and women together, for the actual works of mercy that the comrades had always made part of their technique in reaching the workers?”

The Catholic Worker Movement

In 1932, Day met Peter Maurin, the man she always credited as the founder of the movement with which she is identified.  Despite his lack of formal education, Maurin was a man of deep intellect and decidedly strong views, with a vision of social justice and its connection with the poor, partly inspired by St. Francis of Assisi. He provided Day with the grounding in Catholic theology of the need for social action they both felt.

The first issue of The Catholic Worker appeared on May 1, 1933, priced at one cent, and published continuously since then.  It was aimed at those suffering the most in the depths of the Great Depression, “those who think there is no hope for the future,” and announced to them that “the Catholic Church has a social program…there are men of God who are working not only for their spiritual but for their material welfare.”

It was an unapologetic example of advocacy journalism.  It provided coverage of strikes, explored working conditions, especially of women and blacks, and explicated papal teaching on social issues.  Its viewpoint was partisan and stories were designed to move its readers to take action locally, for example, by patronizing laundries recommended by the Laundry Workers’ Union.  Its advocacy of federal child labor laws put it at odds with the American Church hierarchy from its first issue.  (Ironically, the paper’s principal competitor both in distribution and ideology was the Communist Daily Worker.)

In 1972, the Jesuit magazine America marked her 75th birthday by devoting an entire issue to Day and the Catholic Worker movement.  The editors wrote: “By now, if one had to choose a single individual to symbolize the best in the aspiration and action of the American Catholic community during the last forty years, that one person would certainly be Dorothy Day.”

Day suffered a heart attack and died on November 29, 1980, and is buried in the Cemetery of the Resurrection on Staten Island just a few blocks from the beachside cottage where she first became interested in Catholicism. Her many papers are housed at Marquette University along with many records of the Catholic Worker movement.

Much of her life in activism was fraught with controversy, Church versus anarchists, pacifism versus anarchism, respect for Castro and Ho Chi Minh, anti-Church and Franco.  Yet despite all her works and writings, she and her life cannot be easily dismissed or hidden away.  Her movement is a significant part of the cloth of American culture, of the spectrum of the American worker’s history, and is noted as part of her role in establishing non-violence as a Catholic principle: “the nonviolent witness of such figures as Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King has had profound impact upon the life of the Church in the United States” as written in a May 1983 pastoral letter issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The Challenge of Peace.”

In 1983, the Claretian Missionaries put forth publicly a proposal for her canonization.  At the request of Cardinal John J. O’Connor, head of the diocese in which she lived, in March 2000, Pope John Paul II granted the Archdiocese of New York permission to open her cause, allowing her to be called a “Servant of God” in the eyes of the Catholic Church.  As canon law requires, the Archdiocese of New York submitted this cause for the endorsement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which it received in November 2012.  However, some members of the Catholic Worker Movement objected to the canonization process as a contradiction of Day’s own values and concerns.  Nevertheless, Pope Benedict XVI, on February 13, 2013, in the closing days of his papacy, cited Day as an example of conversion.  He quoted from her writings and said: “The journey towards faith in such a secularized environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts nonetheless.”

Dorothy_Day_1916

 Dorothy Day

 

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.”  –Henry David Thoreau

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…”  Once more we have braved the 18-wheelers that ruthlessly plow through rain troughs, spraying everywhere.  Once more we pack and unpack: MOTEL; pack and unpack: MOTEL; pack and unpack: ARRIVAL.  “WE’RE BACK!”

Ohio Cottage #16

PIC OF COTTAGE 16

Yes, we have arrived.  It’s been two years.  A friend said the spiders probably have saddles; the webs are taut, but not too many.  Dust and some dirt.  But not too bad.

We’re back in town: Bethesda, Ohio: Same post office; pizza-parlor-restaurant remains.  However, some town expansion: new fuel pumps, re-conditioned gas station; new clock and clock tower, and newly established military memorial.  Some streets recently paved. 

More ducks and geese at the lake, noisily sounding out for food from cottage guests.  Some dead trees felled by recent storms lay scattered in the park area, awaiting disposal.

Inside, for me, after a week of sorting clothes, and catching up on minor repairs, I’m ready for…nothing.  TO VACATE.  IT’S VACATION!  Is it not?  I brought six magazines and three books.  Why?  And the books unread from previous years (including Doctor Zhivago and Madame Bovary)?  I’ve already made a trip to the library with book donations.  (I love that place. But with little self-control, I checked out four DVDs and picture-filled books: all about chocolate, and new watches of 2017.)

barnesville public library

Barnesville Public Library

So friends ask, “What do you do when you go to Ohio?  What do you do all day?  Do you ever get bored?”  Never bored.  And the days go so quickly…

Up: 8:00-9:00   Morning Reading and Meditation: 9:00-9:30

Breakfast: fruit, cereal, cappuccino, toast, oatmeal, vitamins, coffee, medications, etc.  9:30-10:30.

Contemplation of Day’s Activities while watching ducks, geese, humming birds: 10:30-11:45. 

Planning for Lunch: 11:45-noon (Get mail at post office in town.  Postal employees have lunch from twelve to one.  Mail goes out at 4-ish.)

Afternoon activities: Painting, dusting, cleaning, sitting watching lake and humming birds: noon-2:00 pm.

Lunch: 2:00 pm-3:00 pm: soup, sandwiches, salad, fruit, piece of Dove chocolate, etc.

Continuation of Activities: 3:00-5:00 pm (or laundry, litter box, play with cat, quiet reading, gardening–while in afternoon shade)

Nap Time: 5:00-6:00 pm. Quiet time.

Preparation for Dinner, and Dinner: 6:00-8:00 pm: Cooking, salads, varied recipes, or even an occasional pizza from the local pizza place.  Then cleanup.

Evening: 8:00-ish: Movie/DVD, reading, writing, catching up on “stuff” like mail and bills, quiet time, game time, perhaps time on the swing (depending on the mosquito population).

Ready for bed: 10:00-11:30 pm: Reading, showers, litter box, snack, continuation of DVD, night medications.  Check food and water for cat.

Good night.  “Always Kiss Me Goodnight” reads the sign in the bedroom.

OR

ALTERNATIVES: 11:00-6:00 pm: Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Kroger’s, Ollies, Jo-Ann Fabrics…  Dinner out.  Shopping, shopping, shopping.  From cottage to car to St. Clairsville (12.7 miles) to Ohio Valley Mall, et al., to cottage, to unloading groceries.  Or getting a haircut.  Or visiting Goodwill because the temperature dropped to 58 degrees and we were not prepared.  Or Steak ‘n Shake…

OR

Painting or gardening as major full-day summer projects…

OR

An evening with friends: “The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.” –Henry David Thoreau

* * *

“So, what do you do in Ohio?”  “Oh, we just relax.”

 

©  James F. O’Neil  2017 

 

 

 

 

 

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