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EDUCATION AND LEARNING

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

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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

YODA AN INFJ

 

 

 

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?  Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten…”  George Orwell, 1984

Newspeak influences and limits thought by decreasing the range of expressiveness of the English language, by eliminating ambiguity and nuance from the language, and so reduce the language to simple concepts.  The user’s range of thought is diminished, realized with a minimal vocabulary of limited denotation and connotation.  This is done chiefly by eliminating undesirable words, and by stripping such words as remain of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.  [Wikipedia]

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more or less.”  “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”  “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master–that’s all.”  Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass 

TBT on FB?  Any photo captioned “throwback” and posted by one whose memories are still live, and the feelings wanted to be expressed.  Throwback indicates the time which has passed, or things which happened in past time.  Now it is a time for re-feeling.  

Yes, it means something from the past.  More specifically, it usually means something that is nostalgic, something with memories, something back in the day, something old school.  

Throwback could be a sudden reminder of the past–a person or a thing–that seems to belong to an earlier period of time or that makes one think of an earlier period of time, not always necessarily in one’s own experience, like “a throwback to the 1950s when he saw a [1954] picture of me in my blue suede shoes.”

Blue Suede Shoes 1954

Perhaps it is simply a decorated birthday cake, or wedding dress–designs or “a reversion to an earlier ancestral characteristic.”  “Those tail lights on the new Ferrari remind me of…”   “Don’t her melodies remind you of early Joan Baez?”  “He stands like Shoeless Joe Jackson.”

A person or thing that is similar to an earlier type, like a…throwback.

interrobang

           

“The truth is that our way of celebrating the Christmas season does spring from myriad cultures and sources, from St. Nicholas to Coca-Cola advertising campaigns.”  –Richard Roeper [BrainyQuote]

“Advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century.”  –Marshall McLuhan
[BrainyQuote]

* * *

REMEMBER THIS (Review this): Words have no meanings in themselves.  People have meanings for words.  Meanings change in time, in place, in cultures.

Some basics: a FACT is an event, observation, or bit of information, objectively verified (or verifiable), asserted as certain, having real demonstrable existence, past or present.

A REPORT is a (written or oral) statement of fact.

An INFERENCE is a statement about the UNKNOWN, made on the basis of the KNOWN; a “maybe” even.

A JUDGMENT is a statement of OPINION, or an expression of approval or disapproval; an EVALUATION: a CONFIDENT CONCLUSION.

* * *

Advertising is any VERBAL and/or VISUAL statement of communication, which a) ATTRACTS ATTENTION; b) CREATES A NEED; c), PRESENTS A PRODUCT (to satisfy the need or needs).

* * *

Analyzing the “language” of advertising is a learned process, a three-part exercise that takes place sometimes in an instant 30-second commercial, or with the turn of the page of a magazine.

EXPERIENCE…EXAMINE…EVALUATE… 

e. e. cummings writes “since feeling is first…” Intensely experience: see, hear, touch, taste, smell, AND kinesis [motion or non-motion] of the words, pictures, visuals, sounds; the connotation and/or denotation; the sensual (sexual) or/and the sensuous (sensory)–as the Cool Water cascades, or the Land Rover plows through the mountain snows…

Is there any/enough time to EXAMINE the language?  Figures of speech?  “Herding cats”?  “Every kiss begins with…”  Metaphor, paradox, tone (What am I stupid?), bias, irony, simile (“like a rolling stone”), “Things go better with…”; “Real heroes don’t wear capes, they wear…”  Point of view?  What is really being promoted?

Finally, in the last 15 seconds of the commercial for the dog food or the cold medicine or the right tequila or perfume, DECIDE THE VALUE, if you wish, weighing the importance of the mini-argument, the persuasive speech, to have you BUY-BUY-BUY, or to consider the importance of what is being spoken/written, the shingles vaccine or the flu shot, or hand-washing.

ARE YOU A RESPONSIBLE VIEWER/CONSUMER?

Next time you scratch and sniff that perfume sample in the magazine, see those TV kids spill that milk on the clean kitchen floor, smell that litter box through your 52″ 1080p HD LCD television, hear that KIA commercial one more time on the radio, or page through a two-month old issue of People while waiting for your annual doctor’s visit, pause for a moment.  Be a critic:

DISCOVER PURPOSE…CRITICIZE TECHNIQUE…JUDGE ITS WORTH

interrobang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

[MOTHER’S DAY GIFT: REVISION OF MAY 2014 POSTING]

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

MOTHERS’ DAY: The current holiday was created in 1908 as a day to honor one’s mother.  President Woodrow Wilson made the day an official national holiday in 1914.

Have you ever been asked, “Who is the person you most admired from your childhood?”  I believed from once upon a time that everything “must be true.  My mother said so.”

Yes, that worked for me, with my religion of motherolatry.  I thought it was true: My mother was all-powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise–seeing all.

M-O-M = G-O-D.

Then it happened: 9th grade for sure.  World History.  Discussion question about . . . and my answer: “My mother said so.”  And the teacher’s response: “Your mother is not God!” shouted back by my man-teacher wearing his black cassock.  “NO?”

How could I have been so naive?  How did I ever make it into high school believing that my mother had the VERUM VERBUM, the true word?  When did I stop believing?  When did I come to that realization the Game of Life was changing?  That I had to learn for myself?

verbum-dei

Somewhere, sometime, I said, “NO!” to Mom-God.  There I was, probably shaking while or after the words came from my mouth.  My Act of Rebellion.

And so it goes in the Game of Life, as we grow through adolescence into adulthood (which my pop-psychology taught me.  Or was that Gail Sheehy: Tryout Twenties, Turbulent Thirties, Flourishing Forties, Flaming Fifties, and Serene Sixties?).

* * *

I cannot imagine not having a mother, losing her to disease [Steel Magnolias], in a car accident [Raising Helen], in childbirth [The Sign], to a hunter’s bullet [Bambi], or to the many other awful things that happen to mothers before their children know them. 

“I lost my mother when I was five.”  “I don’t remember my mother.”  “My mother died of cancer, when I was seventeen.”  “My mom never came home from the party.”

And on it went, as I read college essay after college essay, year after year, for over twenty years.  This question was my choice.  I wanted my students to do personal narratives by which they could express themselves–and do their best writing–I hoped.

As the semesters ended, I turned to my readings.  Often tired, I usually would become pensive while reading.  I tried to be an objective reader, weighing the writing against the grading standards.  Yet so often I was pulled into the story being told.  I think I was, at times, like Miss Lonelyhearts [by Nathaniel West], encountering sad story after sad story, truth stranger than fiction.  I could not help it.

Essays ranged from the “My mother took care of me when I was sick” to “My mom had it rough raising the nine of us with no father…or with a druggie father…or with an alcoholic father…or with a___ father.”  [How did she manage?]

While I was drifting off, and away from the papers, my own questions, my own answers snuck in: How did my mother manage to sleep, work nights (mostly), raise the four of us, and keep up with the household duties–and be a wife, too?

Doing the dishes was the job that fell to my sister, Janice, and me.  We learned–and were outstanding dish-doers.  “Glasses, knives, and forks.  Dishes, pots, and pans.”  That was The Sacred Order.  I learned that way, from Mom.  [Trait One: MANAGER]

Years before (maybe when in 9th grade?) as I was washing coffee cups after supper, I reached into the soapy water, reaching after a cup that slipped from my soapy left hand.  My hand went automatically to retrieve the cup, but the broken cup sliced into the fingers of my left hand.  Blood in the water.  Panic from the immediate intense pain, soap-in-cut.  My sister screaming for, of course, “M-O-M!”  [Trait Two: NURSE]

“Mom, can you read my story before you go to work?”  [Trait Three: GRAMMARIAN]  ‘Nuff said.

grammarian amazon

Mothers cheer us on: “You can do it.  Go ahead!  Go ahead!”  I remember vividly, her feeling good on a warm Saturday evening in Chicago.  She had just ridden the (used) small bicycle bought for me.  I ran alongside her with glee.  At the corner, she turned around, giving me the bike.  My turn.  My first two-wheeler.

“You can do it.  Try again,” I heard as I tried to gain balance, but fell into the bushes.  Getting up, scratched arms be damned!, I tried again.  Her laughing encouragement behind me grew as I cycled away from her.  At the end of the sidewalk, near the alley, I stopped (applying the brakes expertly), then fell over–and off.  I turned back to see my mom waiting at the end of the street.  I rode to her.  “Expertly,” of course.  Yeah, wobbling from side to side, houses’ steps and bushes on the right, grass-curb-city street on the left.  I pedaled the gauntlet.  To Mom.  [Trait Four: CYCLIST TRAINER]

50s bicycle

50s BICYCLE (CREDIT: LIVEAUCTIONEERS)

“What do you think I should do?”

If there is one question I ask, probably more than any other, it is “What do you think I should do?”  My kids do it.  My wife does it.  We all do it.

Looking over my Early Asking Age to now, I realize this has to be The Ultimate Question: Each of us is a Grand Inquisitor.  We seek answers.  I seek (and sought) answers.  However, the answers that come from “What do you think I should do?”, though not unique to kids asking moms, make us Deciders.  For the answer usually is, “You’ll have to decide.”  It means, “You’ll have to make up your own mind–and live with it.”  This is not cold, harsh, cruel, but is concerning, caring, and–when I think more about it–allowing the Inquisitor to grow and live.  Therefore, we talk and discuss and ask: “What should we do?”

Yes, just like a mom, she said, “Yes, you’ll have to decide.”  Just as I expected, not unexpected.  [Trait Five: NON-DECIDER/DECIDER]

Good move, for, as we all know so well, not just Mother Nature, but “Mother knows best” (often).

So I would search those student essays for goodness and admiration, stories that demonstrated “goodness” and “admiration.”  “All the good” moms do . . . “is oft interred with their bones.”

NO!  The good DOES live after them.  I CAN recall the good times, the admired times; memories of the hard times, the rough times; illnesses, job layoffs, or . . . .”

Too, from Trait Five, I learned: to be able to reach decisions, come to conclusions, after rational thought, not impulse thoughts, but rather, like a good Indiana Jones Crusader, to choose wisely.

 So, “The person I most admire from childhood . . . .”

 © James F. O’Neil   2014;  Rev. 2017

* * *

 ~Irish Proverb: “A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best, but his mother the longest.”

happy-mothers-day shlomoandvitos.com

(CREDIT: shlomoandvitos.com)

 

Omne agens agit propter finem.    Every agent acts on account of an end.

To begin, let us focus on statements regarding human action from Thomas Aquinas, the Summa Contra Gentiles [I.II:1:6]: That is to say, every subject acts toward an end that is a good for him.

The act of love is the first of all acts and gives rise to all others.

Thomas asks whether love is the cause of all that the lover does.  His reply is brief yet incisive: “I reply that every agent acts for an end.  The end, however, is the good which is loved and desired by each thing.  Hence it is clear that every agent, whatever it may be, carries out every action from some love.”

The primacy of the person in Aquinas’ “moral universe” is evident.  The first affective motion is love (amor).  The priority of love holds not only for the passions, but also for the rational appetite or will.  Thus love is the most basic motion of the will and the principle of all moral action.  The absolutely first appetitive motion in rational beings is the love of persons.  It is this love that gives rise to all moral action, whether good or evil, since in all action the agent aims at the perfection of some person, either himself or another.  It is no surprise then to find Thomas explicitly stating this position: “The principal ends of human acts are God, self, and others, since we do whatever we do for the sake of one of these.”

BUT: “A subject isolated from sensory stimulus and social interchange begins to hallucinate rapidly and to lose all sense of reality.  Sadists who subject prisoners to solitary confinement understand intuitively that the cruelest punishment is to remove a man [or woman] from the community and thereby deprive him [or her] of his [or her] humanity.  Confusion results when community is lost.

HEALTH DEPENDS UPON THE CONVICTION THAT OUR ACTIONS COUNT.  I remain potent only so long as I get feedback which demonstrates that the force of my action is felt…I [obtain] the knowledge of the resonance of my actions, as well as the joy of knowing that my gifts are received and appreciated.

[I become] a responsible agent, with a sense that the future is open, [and] I understand myself to be essentially in a social context, and therefore my fundamental desires always involve other persons.”  –Sam Keen, To a Dancing God [1970]

interrobang

 

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