CHICAGO RIVER DYED GREEN [Pic by Page BD.COM]
CHICAGO RIVER DYED GREEN [Pic by Page BD.COM]
“The basic exercise is for us to list about a dozen meaningful events [from birth to our current circumstance] in the movement of our life up to the present point in time. . . . it gives us a perspective of our life as a whole from the time of our birth to our situation at the time when we are listing our Steppingstones. The listing of the Steppingstones of our life is the basic step in positioning ourselves between our past and our future.” [“Steppingstones are the meaningful events that mark off the movement of a person’s life from that person’s own point of view . . . not objectively important . . . always personally important . . . perceived through the eyes and through the experience of the person who is living the life.”] –Ira Progoff, Life-Study (Dialogue House, 1983)
* * *
Ira Progoff (1921-1998) was an American psychotherapist best known for his development of the Intensive Journal Method; his main interest was in depth psychology. A humanist, who studied privately with Carl Jung in Switzerland, he founded Dialogue House in New York City to help promote this method. In 1966, Progoff introduced the Intensive Journal method of personal development, the innovation for which he is most remembered. The public use of the method increased, and the National Intensive Journal Program was formed in 1977. It supplied materials and leaders to provide Intensive Journal workshops in the United States and other countries. The Intensive Journal education program was expanded upon in 1983 with the publication of Life-Study. [See Wikipedia and http://intensivejournal.org for more introduction to the Method.]
“. . . I was drawn further toward the conclusion that a private journal is the essential instrument for personal growth . . . I began in 1957 to use a journal as an adjunct to psychotherapy in my private practice.”
[My purpose is to have you use] “techniques to help you become your own person and find a way of living that will validate itself to you both in terms of your inner sense of truth and the actualities of your outer experience.”
“The Steppingstones of our life are those events that come to our minds when we spontaneously reflect on the course that our life has taken from its beginning to the present moment.”
List no more than a dozen: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
“We go back into the past of our lives, not because of fascination with the past . . . not to lose ourselves in the field of memory . . . [but] in order to reconnect ourselves with the movement of our personal Time/Life, and so that we can move more adequately into our future.”
“The listing of our Steppingstones is the first step that we take in order to position ourselves in the full continuity of our lives. Each set of Steppingstones that we draw together reflects the interior view of our life as it is perceived from the vantage point of a particular moment. By being expressed spontaneously and concisely without self-conscious analysis, the Steppingstones list gives us a direct, inner perception of the movement of our life.”
* * *
At a Journal Workshop: The Basic Text and Guide for Using the Intensive Journal Process (Dialogue House, 1975)
The Practice of Process Meditation: The Intensive Journal Way to Spiritual Experience (Dialogue House, 1980)
Life Study: Experiencing Creative Lives by the Intensive Journal Method (Dialogue House, 1983)
The Progoff Intensive Journal ® Program: http://intensivejournal.org/index.php
By James F. O’Neil
“To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humour of a scholar. . . Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be digested. . . . Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. . . .” –“Of Studies,” Francis Bacon (1561-1626).
+ + +
My first research paper, as I re-call, was finding out about Scotland. This search had to be started in sixth or seventh grade. I discovered lakes, cities, and climate–and probably something about wool, whiskey, and politics. I had only the encyclopedia: that’s all we had back then. I learned the basics from that first paper. (I have often referred to that kind of paper as “The Switzerland Paper”: about banks, lakes, and chocolates. And that is basic.)
SOME SWISS CHOCOLATE
During high school, I am sure I wrote a few research papers (“term papers”); but I recollect one in particular for an education class: I wrote about Friedrich Froebel and the founding of the kindergarten. I may have had eight or ten sources. Yet what I do remember more than anything else–not the long hours writing nor the time-consuming typing on my portable 1955 (manual) Underwood typewriter nor the submitting the paper, but the thrill of being in a library, a great library, doing serious research. I delighted being in the Chicago Public Library (downtown) and also at the Newberry Library, a special place for researchers then over age sixteen.
NEWBERRY LIBRARY, CHICAGO
Throughout college, the papers came and went, and on into graduate school and post graduate work: papers, papers, papers: Shakespeare, sonnets, Jesus and school administration, Arthurian romances, the G.I. Bill, teachers and in-service activities, manic depression and school administrators, chaos and adultery, public service, the aorist tense in Greek, “Poe the Philosopher,” water symbolism in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man–and more, many more.
Some papers I hated as chores; most I loved as opportunities for knowledge and writing experience. From this, despite the grade and the time spent, I learned time-use, planning, and library skills. More than that, I learned organizational skills and meeting deadlines. All this was not easy; learning sometimes hurts. (And, I am sure, there were tears of frustration–but never a late paper.)
From this, I also developed a sense of researching–and my three questions: What do I already know? What do I want to know? And, What do I need to know? Where those questions came from, I do not know. But they have always worked for me.
Of course, I had to learn documentation skills: “the old Turabian” was all we had back then. And I learned it–and even wrote a little research handbook for students. Now MLA, APA, and OWL far exceed anything we had–but so has the amount of knowledge increased, with electronic access to this knowledge. How lucky I am now to see this, to use this, to be a part of global knowledge and learning. “I just love the Internet!”
But the smell of books, walking the stacks, sitting and reading and taking notes in England at the Cambridge University Library, or at the US Library of Congress, the libraries at the University of Minnesota, and in any small-town public library does more for me than sitting at the computer, drinking coffee, doing a Google Search. “I love the smell of a musty book in the morning!” Nothing like doing research . . . But I found that it takes heart, organizational skills, and a sense of the past: where I came from, where I have been, what I have done. All this enters into my questions: What am I doing this for? What do I want out of this? To me, that is what doing research is all about. “What’s it to me?”
Having done professional stained-glass work, I learned the most difficult aspect of craftsmanship was not cutting the glass, not the pattern making, not the assembly–no matter how large or small the project–but choosing the right glass, the right textures, the right colors.
GLASS RESTORATION PROJECT: CUT AND READY FOR COPPER FOIL, THEN SOLDER
Choosing the right glass is likened to the most difficult aspect of doing a research project: choosing the right topic. “Choice of topic: the hardest part of all,” I say.
I have never chosen anything dumb or stupid; I have chosen (for the most part) wisely. Not everything came back an A, of course. Can’t have all A’s. But can’t have all gold medals, can’t always win the Super Bowl, can’t always be #1, and can’t always be perfect. However, I have learned I can do my best, and have that sense of accomplishment (relief?) when I submit the project. AHHH! Done. And on to the next, for there is always a next–no matter how big or small, no matter in school or on the job: “Look this up for me, will ya’?” “You have a paper due . . .” “I need to find . . . Can you help?” “As a member of this parent-teacher committee, . . . ”
“Hafta’ what?” Know facts. Document. Have opinions. Present feelings. Solve problems. Search. Learn. And make a presentation: to the family, a board, a committee, a boss, a reading club, a course instructor, a hearing officer, a judge–on and on and on. There is no easy way. And it all begins with the basics, with “My Switzerland Paper.”
And these are my thoughts today on doing research.
© JAMES F. O’NEIL 2019
PS: All of the above is rated at the 6th grade reading level: my computer figured that out; but I used to know how to do it without the computer. I researched it . . .
PPS: I was once told that a “good” 1500-word paper takes about 40 hours–plus typing–from choosing the topic to the last bit of punctuation. (Getting it right takes time.)
BY JAMES F O’NEIL
“To be educated is to know how much one wishes to know and to have the courage not to be tempted beyond that limit. [ . . . culture] teaches that there is much one does not want to know.” –Michael Oakeshott (1901–1990) in The Ideal of Culture by Joseph Epstein (Axios 2018)
English philosopher and political theorist, Michael Oakeshott wrote about philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, and aesthetics; philosophy of education and philosophy of law. He was Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics, and was a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He was the author of many works, including Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, On History and Other Essays, and The Voice of Liberal Learning.
Some of my high school classmates and I in the past year had an opportunity to comment upon what we thought of our education, curriculum, and teachers. The results were overwhelmingly positive towards our liberal arts education and the courses we were enrolled in. My transcript reads like a medieval or Renaissance Trivium or Quadrivium Liberal Arts Program: grammar, logic, rhetoric; and arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy (well, not much astronomy).
Now when I look back, our Liberal Arts curriculum was, to some extent, “lofty,” compared with that of students in other schools (like Lane Tech in Chicago)–those studying “practical arts”–or studying architecture. (Some might have been attending private schools for pre-med, heavy on science and medicine.)
After four years, then, I graduated with a transcript heavily loaded with Latin, Greek, writing, reading, some science, history, music. Some faculty believed that our course of study would have as an end purpose to “create” “cultured gentlemen.” Some of my classmates, remembering these days and years, 1955-1959, more than fifty years ago, agree with their feeling of being “cultured.”
“To be cultured implies a certain roundedness of knowledge and interests . . . [yet] no one is fully rounded . . . fully cultured . . . and . . . culture, itself, remains an ideal . . . still worth pursuing. A cultured person has a standard, a recollection, through literature and history and philosophy . . . of greatness. The cultured . . . insofar as possible, restrict themselves to knowing what is genuinely worth knowing.” — Joseph Epstein, The Ideal of Culture
And what, at the end of four years of high school, did I have? What did I receive, what could I do? For one, I was self-taught in many areas: I did not know how to type (I still have not yet mastered a keyboard!), and had to teach myself. I never learned in a classroom how to fix my lawnmower, but did install a carburetor on my ’54 Ford, and a water pump and generator on my ’57 Olds “Love Buggy.” I had Chilton’s to help me there; reading was essential, and following directions required.
CHILTON’S AUTO REPAIR MANUAL
I never played football (no football team), was a horrible basketball player (I did dribble and drool, however, from time to time); a little swimming, running, and gymnastics from gym class. Some wrestling (heavyweight).
Nevertheless, I was able to read and speak some German; translate Cicero and Horace and some other Latin literature; and read Plato, Homer, St. Paul, and other Christian writers in Greek. (So much of that now is “Lost in translation”: I cannot do it.) I belonged to a Book Club, and read from a list of Summer Reading each year (complete with Book Reports submitted). (Is there a magic list of books out there that guarantees “cultural literacy”?) And read [“red”] and read [“red”] and wrote.
I remember so admiring some of my teachers, my favorites, as “cultured gentlemen.” How did they know so much? Be so smart? Teach music, then Greek? Play the piano, and read and teach and speak Latin? Such talents. Teach us writing skills in one class, German conversation in another. Religion and Spirituality (Catholic school) in one class, then English composition in another. Some were my models, my heroes, and one or two my “saints” who let goodness and worth and value shine through. And then it was over. Graduation.
“Off we go!” No military service. Into college I went: liberal arts: English major, philosophy and education minors: 143 credit hours. More “liberal education” (I’m known in the Alumni Directory as “James F. O’Neil BA, LAS ’64”: Liberal Arts and Sciences.) Then after a few part-time jobs while I was “finding myself,” a full-time teaching job in a boys’ high school, English, of course. Then a few years later (after my MA ’66), teaching English as a career in college settings: Am Lit I, Comp 101 (never the Romantics; no one wanted Milton and the Eighteenth Century: “I’ll do it.”). Maybe after a few years, nearing tenure, a course in Contemporary Novel. After a while, I moved on . . .
After years in a community college position, getting quite adept at teaching technical writing to nursing students, police officers, business majors, and others in Associate in Science programs, I got a call to “come up to the majors.”
“Do you have what it takes?” asked one. “It will require much preparation,” another cautioned. “You seem to be qualified from your credentials and your experience,” the Dean remarked. “We could use you this next term while Professor XYZ takes a leave. Are you interested?” “I say ‘Yes.’ I’m in.” Thus began my new life as a teacher of humanities, for some years, for a while at least–until I retired.
* * *
Our textbook, for years: CULTURE AND VALUES: A SURVEY OF THE HUMANITIES, Ninth Edition: This text takes you on a tour of some of the world’s most interesting and significant examples of art, music, philosophy, and literature, from the beginnings of civilization to today. Chapter previews, timelines, glossaries of key terms, Compare + Contrast, new Connections and Culture & Society features, and “Big Picture” reviews all help make it easy for you to learn the material and study more effectively. Links to full readings and playlists of the music selections discussed in your text are available online in MindTap, where you will also find study resources and such tools as image flashcards, guides to research and writing, practice quizzes and exercises, and more.
Was I ready? Could I do it? I could not read music. I was in the high school choir, in the church choir; but I always memorized the notes. (I could sing, though–a lovely 1st tenor.) I loved music and song! I knew my composers, and classical pieces. I learned rhythm, melody, and harmony. What else?
I knew the difference between LISTEN to this and HEAR this! I had had a record player from once-upon-a-time, had the first CD player in town (Yamaha $539), always had FM music playing. I wrote a paper about West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet! In high school I attended operas, and concerts, and had begun a record collection. I really am/was a movie lover. A reel lover! And I had a few subscriptions to movie magazines at one time. (My favorite actress? Kim Novak, of course, when I was VERY young. And, yes, Casablanca is a favorite–as is The Hours. Did I fail to mention Meryl Streep?)
How much more did I have to know to be able to lead a class of students through a college semester, HUM 2230 17th Century to the Present? I would have to do much reading; but the syllabus was already prepared, the textbooks were chosen, I would simply have to gather up my wits about me (years of standing before classrooms of students and writing lesson plans), and prepare my Pearls of Wisdom.
Using the text, with my “culture” and “learning,” I created a course that would follow major themes of architecture, art, music, film, literature, philosophy, history, and religion‑‑primarily those from Western traditions. I was even able to end the course with James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and with Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. The course was supposed to enhance a student’s interest in examining some of the most compelling questions (and facts) about living the life of culture–physically, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally–by reading, viewing, listening, and–most importantly–by thinking.
And so it went, one semester, then another. I got better and better at it. More confident, that is, in my qualifications to teach humanities.
This Backward Glance over it all, My Memoriesofatime as a Humanities Teacher, was occasioned by that recent high school survey, causing me to bring it bring it all together here: All those courses enumerated on my transcript. The college teaching listed on my résumé. (A major bonus occurred in 2000, when the president of the college asked me to begin an honors program that would incorporate classes at Cambridge University. While there in England during summers, tutoring students, I was able to attend seminars in music, art, literature, and history. I was overwhelmed and honored.)
My first thought was to title this story “The Pitfalls and Dangers of a Classical Education.” My story would have begun about the little boy from the South Side of Chicago, growing into a student of Latin, Greek, and German, and the classics. The young reader of How to Read a Book would become a lover of literature, even an attendee at the Chicago Opera House. Then he would evolve into a classroom teacher, with Palmer-Method penmanship, and SQ3R study skills. Perhaps a too ho-hum story, about a little learning being a dangerous thing?
Then I thought, maybe my story would be “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent.” This story would be told, not by an idiot, but by a seventy-eight-year-old man, no tale of sound and fury, but the story of a great-grandson of one of the Chicago Haymarket Rioters, a Bohemian kid from Chicago, a hard-working paperboy, Boy Scout, Baltimore-catechist, literature-lover, grammarian, teacher-husband-father, graduate student. This story includes anecdotes about hospital orderly work and, yet, at the same time, his reading Chardin, Joyce, and Milton. In this story, he formulates “My Three Favorites of All”: Othello, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and The Power and the Glory. Then age sets in.
No, age has not set in. Not in this story, for I do not yet “wear my trousers rolled.” (I do wear shorts a lot.) In fact, I consider myself a rather distinguished fellow: still concerned about teaching the classics in the classroom; still reading history essays and studying film; writing book reviews–and my own bloggy-“memoirs.” (At the same time, the technology of media and YouTube have helped me and my hands install faucets and a garbage disposal.)
THE FAMILIAR “GO!” OF YOUTUBE
I dabble a bit, yet, in philosophy, less in theology. Even less in modern contemporary novelists (whose books might be purchased but sit on a shelf unopened, or are archived in my Kindle.) I am, perhaps, even a bit “still crazy after all these years.”
“All these years” is my strength, the 45-plus years in education with my Renaissance-type education and training, my skills and techniques as classroom teacher, seminar instructor, and my being an educated man. This story is mine.
At the end of the film Saving Private Ryan, one of my all-time “favorite” war films, the veteran of D-Day walks among the crosses and graves at Normandy.
He, Private Ryan, comes to that white cross of his squad leader Cpt. John Miller, killed many, many years before, June 13, 1944. Private Ryan, in emotion, says, “I hope . . . I earned what all of you have done for me.” Ryan has led a good life; he is told he is a good man.
What more could I ask for? My life experience is nothing at all comparable to what those soldiers endured. Yet I can be empathic during these last moments of the film. I can say of my teachers, with honesty, that I hope I’ve earned what they have done for me. I, too, hope I have instilled “culture” into others as it was instilled, I believe, into me. And that likewise, I do hope my many students can . . . well, . . . you know . . .
© James F. O’Neil 2019
“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.”
. . .
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.
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)
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).
Picture 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
“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 Epstein 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”….
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:
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. And 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!” It’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? 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. Thousands 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
“After all these years, I may have found my own best reader, and he turns out to be me.” –Joseph Epstein
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.”