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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Our Splendid Ancient Heritage (3)

Schools and formal education became important in the Greco-Roman world in the late third and early second centuries B.C. especially in the Scipionic Circle, ,Marcus Terentius Varro and Cicero. Prior to this most Romans were home schooled in by the paterfamilias and Roman education was characteristically utilitarian.
We see an example of this in Plutarch’s Cato the Elder. Cato believed that it was harmful to let strangers and slaves raise one’s children. At this time it was becoming customary for Roman men to turn over the education of their young entirely to Greek slaves. Roman woman also were beginning to neglect the rearing of their own children because presumably they had more money and leisure time for hedonistic pleasures. Cato himself was his son’s reading teacher, law teacher, and athletic trainer. It is charming to note that Cato “refrained from obscene language {in front of his son} no less than if he were in the presences of the Vestal Virgins.” Cato also wrote his roman history in large letters to make it easier for his son to read and so “acquaint himself with his country’s ancient traditions.” But even by Cato’s time this was considered an old-fashioned education.

The liberal arts were based on the trivium for the basic or elementary education which was “grammar”, logic (dialectic) and rhetoric. It appears there was a bare bones general level “Latin only” grammar (Aelius Donatus) then a higher level Institutio Oratoria of the Spaniard Quintilian, whom we can say with confidence was the greatest of all Roman schoolmasters. Later there was an “AP” grammar in Greek and Latin by the bilingual African Priscian who taught at Constantinople in the sixth century. Priscian’s work is much longer more sophisticated as it has hundreds of quotations from famous authors and philosophers in both Latin and Greek. In the Greco-Roman world ‘grammar’ did not mean merely the study of the parts of speech, syntax, syllabication, penmanship, but also the study of poetry and literature in general including history.For many books and authors the only fragments we have are from these grammars. Only after long years of study and one had mastered the Latin language, as well as the art of public speaking could one advance to the Quadrivium which included geometry. Young adults (twenty or above) could continue on this course of higher study primarily mathematics (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music). But above all a liberal culture taught a man to think. Cicero said “these studies are an impetus to youth and a delight to age. They are an adornment to good fortune, refuge and relief in trouble. They enrich private life and do not hinder public life. They are with us by night, they are with us on long journeys, they are with us in the depths of the country.’

Though little known today, the scholar-statesman M. Terentius Varro called by Quintilian, “the most learned of all Romans”. When one considers that he was a contemporary of Cicero and Vergil that is indeed high praise. Varro composed a huge number of academic, practical and literary books. Varro was a political opponent of Caesar but despite this he was respected and survived the Civil Wars. Varro was considered one of the chief representatives of Latin literature and one of the greatest Roman masters of Greek literature. Most importantly –and this is a fact rarely commented on- Varro had tried to marry the liberal arts tradition of the Greeks to the utilitarian traditions of the Romans. Besides the liberal arts Varro stressed new subject materials such as agriculture, architecture and medicine. In Roman schools gymnastics and calisthenics were out –these were considered part of a young man’s military training- and so were the fine arts of music, drawing, painting and sculpture. These, like acting were considered occupations for slaves and foreigner, not Romans. Varro’s writings –alas mostly lost- ranged from Latin grammar, etymology, rhetoric, logic, Greek and Roman literature, history, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, agriculture, architecture and medicine. Varro was bilingual and wrote equally well in Greek as well ; we recall that the Roman elite of Rome’s heyday from 200BC to 180 AD, Scipio, Caesar, Cicero, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius were all fluent in Greek, read in Greek and conversed in Greek. Varro’s biographies of 700 illustrious Greeks and Romans –probably an important source for Plutarch- called Imagines (Portraits) was at one time enormously popular and was –as Pliny states- probably the first example of work fully illustrated in color.

Livius Andronicus, Varro, Cicero and Quintilian are all to be praised for escaping from the narrowness of one aspect of Greek education: its ethnocentrism, monolingualism and its lack of interest in the languages, literature and culture of other peoples. Cicero recommended to his son that he combine the study of Latin and Greek so as to be “equally at home in two languages.” Quintilian wrote “I prefer that a boy should begin in Greek, because Latin, being in general use, will be picked up by him whether we will or no; which the fact that Latin learning is derived from Greek is a further reason for being first instructed in the latter…..but the study of Latin ought to follow at no great distance and in a short time proceed side by side with Greek. The result will be that as soon as we begin to give equal attention to both languages, neither will prove a hindrance to the other”.

The first complete literary translation of Homer into Latin was made by the great teacher and poet Livius Andronicus, in the 3rd century BC probably for his use in his private teaching. It was Andronicus who first made the correlation of the Roman gods to the Greek gods, such as Jupiter/Zeus, Juno/Hera and Mercury/Hermes. The historical importance then, of Andronicus’ example and later the educational theories of Varro and Cicero to favor the study of a foreign language and include translations from another language is momentous. It led to the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (c. 100 BC) into Greek, the translation of the whole Septuagint into Latin by Jerome (c 385 AD). The literary, cultural, religious and political implications of these translations and the example they made are of transcendent importance.
Throughout the Dark Ages classical culture was kept alive by scholars who knew another language as well as their own as so were able to interpret and translate texts. Seen in this context the achievement of St. Patrick. in establishing wide-spread literacy and schools beyond the Roman Empire in the Irish vernacular as well as Latin –laying the groundwork of the Isle of Saints and Scholars- may have been on of the greatest educational achievements of Western history. Somewhere in the West –it is not known if it was Ireland or France or in Rome itself- knowledge of Greek was kept alive.
St.Patrick was kidnapped before he could complete a full liberal arts education but he probably grew up in a multilingual household in which British (Old Welsh) and Latin were spoken. In his years of captivity he became fluent in Irish Gaelic (Old Irish). His entire endeavor of Christianizing Ireland –without a single martyrdom- would not have been possible without his pragmatic multilingual approach. Patrick and his disciples promoted the Latin alphabet over the apparently clumsy native Ogham but otherwise taught and preached in the Irish Gaelic vernacular.

Ogham (or Ogam) is the early form of Irish , Scottish and Pictish writing. It appears to be an adaptation of the Latin alphabet using notches and grooves for use on wooden tablets and sometimes stone. It would have been relatively quick to carve grooves on an angle to a base line. I believe Ogham to have been a form of writing used by the learned Druidic classes before the advent of Christianity.

I believe this for three reasons: 1) the word Ogham or Ogam is clearly based on Oghma –called Ogmios by Lucan- the Celtic god of rhetoric and eloquence whose tongue was joined by mystical chains to the ears of his listeners. 2) Ogham stones are unknown in Scotland until the arrival of the Scottish Gaels –not yet Christianized-. and then their use spread to the Pagan Picts. Ogham continued to be used in Ireland and Scotland well into the Christian period mostly for funeral stones. 3) Irish scholars never forgot the meaning of Oghamic script So this suggests a long period in which the native writing system –Ogham- coexisted with the Latin Alphabet which would make sense the policy of Patrick and the Irish Churchmen was to assimilate Irish knowledge to Christianity and assimilate the Irish to the new faith. The Gaelic alphabet gives us a fascinating clue as to how the Druids or the early missionaries taught the alphabet using trees, plants or bushes. There are 18 letters in the Gaelic alphabet and each pertains to a tree or plant. According to ancient Gaelic lore each plant had some magical qualities.

Now, I would not go so far as Thucydides or Herodotus or to say we owe EVERYTHING to the Greeks who believed they were the first free men in the world and the first to have minds of their own. When the Greeks talked like that –these same ethnocentric Greeks who –very unlike the Romans- did not value bilingualism or believe that there were other culture languages other than Greek- they were guilty of hubris and profoundly mistaken. We know of course the immeasurable and priceless value of the individual which has been the pillar of Western Civilization since the Bible and the Great Teacher and philosopher Jesus of Nazareth. It is not question of merely the past and the future or the stability of the state or society or change, evolution and revolution but a matter of the Permanent Things and |Reforms both progressive and conservative. There are, I think Permanent Things, values and virtues which are deeply entwined with the American soul, character and culture. If we believe ,as some radicals seem to believe, that nothing is permanent and that it is best to constantly live in a fervor of change and reform, the logical conclusion is that the Constitution itself can be dissolved –flooded by an endless stream of amendments- and that the self evident truths of the Declaration can be dismissed as well. But that is the logical conclusion of a policy of evolutionary and revolutionary change.

The great books are those that one returns and re-reads in awe of the ideas and the mastery of the language. Such a book is Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It seems to me that the skeptical Gibbon derived comfort from the melancholy spectacle of the fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon reflected with -the supreme optimism of the British Enlightenment- on the manifest superiority of the English-speaking world and his own enlightened age which promised to get better and better in each and every way. Gibbon drew “the pleasing conclusion that every age of the world has increased and still increases the real wealth, the happiness, the knowledge, and perhaps the virtue, of the human race.” Certainly today we cannot be so complacent about the increase of happiness and virtue.
I have read Tacitus and that Roman, like Cicero, knew that LIBERTY dwelled beyond the frontiers of Rome, in fact with men like Caractacus. The barbarian knew what freedom was. They knew what dignity was. They knew what respect was. They knew what rights were. They knew what courage was. They did not need the Romans –or later the English- to teach them what these values were.

Then too the chieftains of the several tribes went from rank to rank, encouraging and confirming the spirit of their men by making light of their fears, kindling their hopes, and by every other warlike incitement. As for Caratacus, he flew hither and thither, protesting that that day and that battle would be the beginning of the recovery of their freedom, or of everlasting bondage. He appealed, by name, to their forefathers who had driven back the dictator Caesar, by whose valour they were free from the Roman axe and tribute, and still preserved inviolate the persons of their wives and of their children. While he was thus speaking, the host shouted applause; every warrior bound himself by his national oath not to shrink from weapons or wounds. …..
In the end Caratacus .like William Wallace, was defeated but unlike Wallace he received clemency from the emperor Claudius.When he was set before the emperor's tribunal, he spoke as follows: "Had my moderation in prosperity been equal to my noble birth and fortune, I should have entered this city as your friend rather than as your captive; and you would not have disdained to receive, under a treaty of peace, a king descended from illustrious ancestors and ruling many nations. My present lot is as glorious to you as it is degrading to myself. I had men and horses, arms and wealth. What wonder if I parted with them reluctantly? If you Romans choose to lord it over the world, does it follow that the world is to accept slavery? Were I to have been at once delivered up as a prisoner, neither my fall nor your triumph would have become famous. My punishment would be followed by oblivion, whereas, if you save my life, I shall be an everlasting memorial of your clemency."
Upon this the emperor granted pardon to Caratacus, to his wife, and to his brothers. Released from their bonds, they did homage also to Agrippina who sat near, conspicuous on another throne, in the same language of praise and gratitude.
Caractacus did not need Aristotle, Plato or Thucydides to teach him about freedom and liberty and neither did many an Irishman, Gael, Briton or Scot for they knew in their bones what rights and freedoms were.

This, by the way, I think shows the true measure of the achievement of St. Patrick. He saw much that was horrible in the society of the ancient pagan Irish or “Scotti” –brutal slavery, perpetual tribal raids, rape and strife, human sacrifice, head-hunting and perhaps ritual cannibalism. But he recognized they were an intelligent, vital free people –both women and men- who respected learning. I think Patrick recognized that the men of learning or Ireland had much wisdom and knowledge of teaching, a sophisticated system of justice, music, poetry, learning, medicinal herbs, and dyes for clothing. So Patrick built upon this foundation and almost overnight there were hundreds of schools and monasteries and thousands of neophytes. His triumph can only be seen as a triumph of organization, wisdom and skill which makes him one of the greatest practical teachers and missionaries of all time to be placed on the level of Paul, Plato or Junipero Serra. Patrick wrote:
So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God; the sons of the Irish [Scotti] and the daughters of the chieftains are to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ. And there was, besides, a most beautiful, blessed, native-born noble Irish [Scotta] woman of adult age whom I baptized; and a few days later she had reason to come to us to intimate that she had received a prophecy from a divine messenger [who] advised her that she should become a virgin of Christ and she would draw nearer to God. Thanks be to God, six days from then, opportunely and most eagerly, she took the course that all virgins of God take, not with their fathers’ consent but enduring the persecutions and deceitful hindrances of their parents. Notwithstanding that, their number increases, (we do not know the number of them that are so reborn) besides the widows, and those who practise self-denial. Those who are kept in slavery suffer the most. They endure terrors and constant threats, but the Lord has given grace to many of his handmaidens, for even though they are forbidden to do so, still they resolutely follow his example.

Then there is Patrick famous excoriation of the bloodthirsty bandit prince and slaver Coroticus. Patrick documents a massacre of the innocents.
The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain) — the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people — I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood, clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty, and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them . Hence I do not know what to lament more: those who have been slain, or those whom they have taken captive, or those whom the devil has mightily ensnared. Together with him they will be slaves in Hell in an eternal punishment; for who commits sin is a slave and will be called a son of the devil. …. Ravening wolves have devoured the flock of the Lord, which in Ireland was indeed growing splendidly with the greatest care; and the sons and daughters of kings were monks and virgins of Christ — I cannot count their number. Wherefore, be not pleased with the wrong done to the just; even to hell it shall not please. Who of the saints would not shudder to be merry with such persons or to enjoy a meal with them? They have filled their houses with the spoils of dead Christians, they live on plunder. They do not know, the wretches, that what they offer their friends and sons as food is deadly poison, just as Eve did not understand that it was death she gave to her husband. So are all that do evil: they work death as their eternal punishment…. . You betray the members of Christ as it were into a brothel. What hope have you in God, or anyone who thinks as you do, or converses with you in words of flattery? God will judge. For Scripture says: "Not only them that do evil are worthy to be condemned, but they also that consent to them." I do not know why I should say or speak further about the departed ones of the sons of God, whom the sword has touched all too harshly. For Scripture says: "Weep with them that weep;" and again: "If one member be grieved, let all members grieve with it." Hence the Church mourns and laments her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were removed and carried off to faraway lands, where sin abounds openly, grossly, impudently. There people who were freeborn have, been sold, Christians made slaves, and that, too, in the service of the abominable, wicked, and apostate Picts! Therefore I shall raise my voice in sadness and grief — O you fair and beloved brethren and sons whom I have begotten in Christ, countless of number, what can I do you for? I am not worthy to come to the help of God or men. The wickedness of the wicked hath prevailed over us. We have been made, as it were, strangers. Perhaps they do not believe that we have received one and the same baptism, or have one and the same God as Father. For them it is a disgrace that we are Irish. Have ye not, as is written, one God? Have ye, every one of you, forsaken his neighbor? Therefore I grieve for you, I grieve, my dearly beloved….. Where, then, will Coroticus with his criminals, rebels against Christ, where will they see themselves, they who distribute baptized women as prizes — for a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment? As a cloud or smoke that is dispersed by the wind, so shall the deceitful wicked perish at the presence of the Lord; but the just shall feast with great constancy with Christ, they shall judge nations, and rule over wicked kings for ever and ever… ask earnestly that whoever is a willing servant of God be a carrier of this letter, so that on no account it be suppressed or hidden by anyone, but rather be read before all the people, and in the presence of Coroticus himself. May God inspire them sometime to recover their senses for God, repenting, however late, their heinous deeds — murderers of the brethren of the Lord! — and to set free the baptized women whom they took captive, in order that they may deserve to live to God, and be made whole, here and in eternity!

We do not know the final destiny of the unfortunate captives. They may have been liberated and reunited with their loved ones or died as martyrs. It is the strongest and most passionate denunciation of slavery until the rise of modern abolitionism. I can’t imagine Aristotle –who defended slavery- or St. Augustine writing such a passage. It shows a great nobility of soul for one who loved the people of his adopted nation as individuals. Patrick loved deeply and cared deeply for the physical well-being of these Gaels, these barbarians from beyond the pale, as well as the state of their souls. But there is something more.
This deep love of justice, individual dignity and individual freedom -even of women- seems to be a common strand from the natives of Britain from the speeches of Caractacus, the Confessions of Patrick to the days of Sir William Wallace and the Abroath Declaration. We see it in the Latin couplet Wallace learned from his childhood:

Dico tibi verum libertas optima rerum
nunquam servili sub nexu vivito fili
(I tell to thee the truth, son, freedom is the best condition,
never live like a slave!

Then of course there is the famous quotation from the Arbroath Declaraiton of 1320. It is a call to justice, freedom and independence and I think its language evokes Patrick’s letter to Coroticus.

Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit…..It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
Therefore it is, Reverend Father and Lord, that we beseech your Holiness with our most earnest prayers and suppliant hearts, inasmuch as you will in your sincerity and goodness consider all this, that, since with Him Whose Vice-Regent on earth you are there is neither weighing nor distinction of Jew and Greek, Scotsman or Englishman, you will look with the eyes of a father on the troubles and privation brought by the English upon us and upon the Church of God. May it please you to admonish and exhort the King of the English, who ought to be satisfied with what belongs to him since England used once to be enough for seven kings or more, to leave us Scots in peace, who live in this poor little Scotland, beyond which there is no dwelling-place at all, and covet nothing but our own. We are sincerely willing to do anything for him, having regard to our condition, that we can, to win peace for ourselves. …. Thus our nation under their protection did indeed live in freedom and peace up to the time when that mighty prince the King of the English, Edward, the father of the one who reigns today, when our kingdom had no head and our people harboured no malice or treachery and were then unused to wars or invasions, came in the guise of a friend and ally to harass them as an enemy. The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns, and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, no one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen them with his own eyes.
But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully…

I have read and been told countless times that liberty began with the Magna Carta or that natural rights theory or the right to rebel began with John Locke but as Alexander Leslie Klieforth and Robert John Munro have pointed out, there seems to be a strong natural rights philosophy emanating form the most ancient days of the Gaels and Britons.

We see this spirit in the word of Caractacus, St. Patrick, Sir William Wallace, John Duns Scotus or Bernard de Linton, the author of the Arbroath Declaration. As MacNeill has written “The spirit which animates from it first to last is a spirit which has none of the arrogance or a feudal superior, none of the servility of a feudal slave; it is the spirit of a nation purified and strengthened by a prolonged struggle against almost overwhelming odds, but which had culminated in victory. It is the spirit of Wallace….”

The Wallace Monument in Sterling and the image of Wallace –made world famous by Mel Gibson- will forever cry: “FREEDOM!” The Scottish-American War memorial, Princes Street Gardens was erected as a tribute to freedom in the years after the “Great War” by men and women of Scottish blood and sympathies in the United States. It is an impressive monument with a massive kilted soldier looking across to Edinburgh Castle. Behind him is an emotive bronze frieze depicting the men of Scotland answering as in days of old the beacon light calling them to arms. It is in the three living languages of the North, English, Gaelic and Scots. The key words inscribed there are AYE BYDAN FREE, forever unconquered, gu siorraidh neo-ceannsaichte,

Aye, bydan free.

This ancient spirit of freedom is perhaps the most precious jewel of our splendid ancient heritage and it is one in which all Americans and indeed all Britons and English-speaking people can be proud of, remember with solemn gratitude and deep reverence.

It is something that Patrick learned, not from his Roman tutors nor from his Christian parents but among the many free and independent clans and tribes of the Isles. This is our Splendid Ancient Heritage: it is a heritage of faith, freedom and humanity which owes much to the heritage of the West, to the Greeks and the Romans and the Jews but also lest we forget to the free peoples of the Isles. Ne obliviscaris! Do not forget! Aye, bydan free.

Our Splendid Ancient Heritage (2)

“Wisdom hath built herself a house, she hath hewn her out seven pillars" (Prov. 9:1).

It was Rome which formulated and universalized the seven liberal arts -artes liberales- they adapted from Greek educational models. Liberal arts were considered liberal because they were for homo liber, the free man as opposed to the slave. This is idea of a "well-rounded education" that prevailed in classical and medieval times. Behind the Greek “enkyclios paideia” (εγκυκλιος παιδεια) or the Latin encyclios disciplina lies the image of the circle –the infinite cosmos itself- and the sense that the pursuit of knowledge is one of ever expanding limitless horizons . Cicero and many of the early Roman theorists tried to reconcile and synthesize the different Greek philosophies of education and adapt them to Rome. To study the Greeks, as Cicero advised his son to do, ite ad fontes – is to go to the source, the ultimate source, Homer, the philosophers Plato and Aristotle as well as the common sense soldier Xenophon. Other teachers, like St. Patrick, pragmatically responded to on the spot challenges and so created one of the first multilingual educational systems in the West and one that would prove very influential.
The origins of the debate between utilitarian and those who favor a liberal education goes back at least to Plato’s Republic in the 4th century B.C. for it was at this time that Plato formed a new educational theory not based on Homer, Hesiod and Greek traditions but upon the theory that a strong ruler could use the state to teach virtues and so shape human nature so as to produce a more efficient and harmonious state. Plato clearly saw that an advanced commercial and military state cannot leave education to chance and to private demand for the simple reason that the head of the household was often engaged in business of the state, at war, a prisoner in the mines of Sicily or dead. The Republic was written after the disastrous Syracusan Expedition and Athens’s defeat in the Peloponnesian War.
Who was going to educate the fatherless orphans of Athens? The demands of a more advanced commercial society required a new state supported compulsory educational system. For Plato this was the only way citizens could get the training and education they required for themselves so they could serve the state. There is no question that Plato’s insistence on a compulsory, state-run educational system was a direct attack on the old Athenian custom of home-schooling which left each citizen the freedom to purchase the slaves or teachers to provide an education for the household children and provide whatever education the market could provide. There is no question this led to an uneven, haphazard education for Athenians, particularly in times of hardship or war. Plato recognized this in his Protagoras when he satirized the Athenians for giving less thought to the education of their children than to the breaking in of a horse.
Plato and Xenophon were clearly influenced by the Spartan model of state-sponsored education. Nonetheless, Plato could never have admired uncritically the one-sided and strictly utilitarian military education of Sparta however much he admired the virtues produced by such an education: unparalleled devotion to duty, patriotism, discipline, unmatched physical courage, resolution, frugality, indifference to the elements, thirst or hunger and intense and almost unbreakable military comradeship. Plato’s idea of education was not authoritarian and hierarchical -though it was elitist- but ultimately was based on the self-control of each individual. It is noticeable that Plato was more critical of Sparta in the Laws which he wrote after the Republic and towards the end of his life.
Even so, it is clear that by Plato’s day the idea of expert skill and professionalism was dawning. Spartan education’s great weakness was that it was unable to reform itself. Plato must have been impressed by the Athenian general Iphicrates who dealt crushing blows to the Spartan phalanx at Lechaeum (390 BC) using , new tactics, new armor and new weapons for which the old-fashioned Spartan hoplite training was totally unprepared. Iphicrates, himself the son of a shoemaker, realized that it was hopeless to try to match the Spartans at their own game so he used lightly armed but highly trained professional troops called peltasts to outmaneuver, outflank, out fight and to so break up the Spartan formations. The ultra conservative Spartan education was unable to adapt new tactics and technologies. Spartan population growth was stagnant or non-existent. In the end all that was left was Spartan courage so even its vaunted hoplite army grew obsolete. The last Spartans are seen as mercenary generals for the Carthaginians; by the Roman era Sparta had been reduced to a tourist attraction visited by Romans in the same way English tourists visited the Scottish Highlands in the 18th and 19th century in search of intrepid Highlanders.
Plato correctly came to understand that the whole question was not merely the training of orators or soldiers or even training itself. Behind training lies the need for wisdom: knowing WHAT to teach and the AIM of education, which is WHAT to train students TO DO and how they SHOULD BE. We can never assume that every one has the knowledge or cultural literacy which shall be taught; in fact what is critically needed is more knowledge (cultural literacy or numeracy). Plato criticized the Spartans for their prohibitionist attitude towards drinking parties. We can teach soldiers to be brave only by testing their bravery with actual combat or challenging and dangerous combat training . Similarly, the way to harden oneself to pleasures is to be exposed to the temptations of drunkenness and gluttony. Any woman can be pure as a prisoner of the seraglio; any man can be sober ship-wrecked on a desert island.

In his Meno Plato staged a debate with the sophist Meno and they discussed the aims of education and the best way to educate the young.

Meno. Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by

teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor practice,

then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?

Socrates. O Meno, there was a time when the Thessalians were

famous among the other Hellenes only for their riches and their

riding; but now, if I am not mistaken, they are equally famous for

their wisdom, especially at Larisa, which is the native city of your

friend Aristippus. And this is Gorgias' doing; for when he came there,

the flower of the Aleuadae, among them your admirer Aristippus, and

the other chiefs of the Thessalians, fell in love with his wisdom. And

he has taught you the habit of answering questions in a grand and bold

style, which becomes those who know, and is the style in which he

himself answers all comers; and any Hellene who likes may ask him


Many scholars have identified Meno as the basis of the curriculum of the Academy. Were people born to be teaches, learners, students, poets or statesmen or was it teaching that gave them the arête or virtue? Were the essential virtues –fortitude, prudence, justice, moderation- totally separate virtues or interrelated? How can we acquire virtue? Can it be taught or must it be caught (obtained from one’s peers and society so acquired by constant exposure and practice) ? Socrates (or Plato) believed the purpose of education was to make men good, to teach them knowledge of virtues, the truth and wisdom , how to speak, how to listen, how to understand geometry and mathematics, how to bear arms, to teach them habits of moderation , courage and good discipline so that they could serve the state as good citizens. Could a slave or peasant be educated? Socrates thinks they can and in one of the earliest documented educational experiments shows Meno how a young slave can learn the basics of mathematical principles by means of reason and the skillful hand of the master teacher, in this case, Socrates himself.
The Sophist point of view (Meno or Isocrates) was that teaching should not be for learning’s sake or in search of abstract truths but for practical purposes to help men become leaders, aristocratic landowners, advocates, generals, admirals or even aristocratic landowner merchants. The Sophists taught very practically only for fees and would tailor their peripatetic teaching to their audiences to as not to risk their popularity with their consumers –like so many college professors and school administrators too!!! (The way to get along is to go along with each educational, social or political fad what might be called sham knowledge and phoney academic ‘excellence’)
Socrates (and Plato) taught out of love and in the sprit of seeking truth and right knowlegdge with complete honesty and sincerity. We might say with Waggoner that the Sophist and Isocrates won because their doctrines became to dominant philosophy of teaching of the Greco-Roman world (though Cicero tried to reconcile and synthesis both points of view) However, I think it worth mentioning that Plato’s academy trained Aristotle, ‘the master of those who know’ and founder of the Lyceum. Aristotle became the virtual foster father of the Hellenistic World by virtue of being the teacher of Alexander the Great and his many companions some of whom became the Diadochi or Successors including Ptolemy ancestor of that beautiful, wise and ultimately tragic Cleopatra VII the last of or her royal line.
Aristotle, too was influenced by the Spartan model of education. Aristotle wrote in Politics

That education should be regulated by law and should be an affair of the state is not to be denied, but what should be the character of this public education, and how young persons should be educated, are questions which remain to be considered. As things are, there is a disagreement about the subjects. For mankind are by no means agreed about the things to be taught, whether we look to virtue or the best life. Neither is it clear whether education is more concerned with intellectual or with moral virtue. The existing practice is perplexing; no one knows on what principle we should proceed –should the useful in life,or should virtue, or should the higher knowledge be the aim of the our training; all three opinions have been entertained. Again, about the means there is no agreement; for different persons, starting with different ideas about the nature of virtue, naturally disagree about the practice of it. There can be no doubt that children should be taught those useful things {emphasis mine} which are really necessary, but not all useful things ; for occupations are divided into liberal and illiberal; and to young children should be imparted only such kinds of knowledge as will be useful to them without vulgarizing them. And any occupation art or science, which makes the body or soul or mind of the freeman less fit for the practice in the exercise of virtue, is vulgar; wherefore we call those arts vulgar which tend to deform the body, and likewise all paid employments, for they absorb and degrade the mind. There are also some liberal arts quite proper for a freeman to acquire, but only to a certain degree…….it is evident, then that there is a sort of education in which parents train their sons, not being useful or necessary, but because it is liberal or noble… is clear that children should be instructed in useful things –for example, in reading and writing –not only for their usefulness but because many other sorts of knowledge are acquired through them……To be always seeking after the useful does not become free and exalted souls.”

Aristotle paid little attention to the education of the hoi polloi be they free women, metics (non citizen resident aliens), helots or slaves. This is, I may add, a major flaw of Aristotle’s educational theory and Greek theory in general. When the male educated elite was diminished or wiped out there was little to sustain Greece’s higher culture. I think it fair to say Plato and Aristotle were primarily concerned with education of the elites. But so influential were Plato’s educational theories that higher studies during the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages were still based on Plato’s outline of the ideal curriculum. Education in the Greek view was not merely to help form character but also to act as a highly selective competitive society by which the best and most talented students are brought to light.

Love of Nature: The Tree Alphabet of the of the Gaels

The Gaelic alphabet gives us a fascinating clue as to how the Druids or the early missionaries such as St. Patrick taught the alphabet using trees, plants or bushes. There are 18 letters in the Gaelic alphabet and each pertains to a tree or plant. According to ancient Gaelic lore each plant had some magical qualities. I recall of course my father telling me that Highland women would keep moldy bread or moldy ground acorns for a medicinal paste for wounds. His own mother did this while working as a 'joat-flittin' hairst lassie' (migrant farm laborer) in Argyll in the late 19th century. She learned this from the Highland women there and it was common knowledge. It was a custom apprently in use for generations. This was long before Fleming discovered penicillin. Fleming, it will be noted never claimed to have invented penicillin; he claimed to have discovered it. During World War I , Fleming began searching for anti-bacterial substances and in 1921 he discovered lysozyme. In 1928 Fleming found that a penicullum mold had accidently contaminated a staphylococcus culture and stopped the bacteria's growth. In 1945 Fleming shared the Nobel Prize with Ernst Chain and Sir Howard Florey who were able to purify and manufacture peniclllin in large quantities. There were canny men and women before Fleming however and primitive anti-biotics may have been in use for thousands of years previously.

These comments do not intend to be final or even original but there is no question that the poets in the Celtic languages and Celtic peoples were powerfully drawn to the them of nature. They took intense delight in Nature's variety, color and ever changeableness. They recognized in nature a power to uplift, find release, escape or just remember. I believe this deep almost sacred love of place, river and mountain and love of nature in general may have been one of the great cultural influences of Celtic song, poetry and literature. We see it in Burns, Scott,Byron and many poets of the Romantic era in English literature. I am no expert in botany by any means but I derive great delight from my garden where many of the plants and trees I have planted and watered and labored with "mine own hand to grow."

I recall the poem by Mairi Mhor nan Oran ("Farewell to the Isle of Mists"; "Soraidh le Eilean a' Cheo') in which the bardess describes the whiteness of the clean snow and the daisy kissing mouth to mouth. Then again there are the beautiful charms and prayers of Carminda Gadelica some of which have been set to music very successfully by William Jackson, Mairi MacInnes and Maggie MacInnes.

For example:

Tagh seileach nan allt, tagh calltain nan creag
Tagh fearna nan lòn, tagh beithe nan eas
Tagh uinnseann na dubhair, tagh iubhar na leuma
Tagh leamhan na brùthiach, tagh duire na grèine.

Choose the willow of the streams, choose the hazel of the rocks
Choose the alder of the marshes, choose the birch of the waterfalls
Choose the ash of the shade, choose the yew of resilience
Choose the elm of the brae, choose the oak of the sun

Carmina Gadelica as collected by Alexander Carmichael

The WILLOW was seen as a melancholic tree representing sadness. Two common tree willows are the white willow (Salix alba L.) and the crack willow (Salix fragilis L.). The white willow is named for the whitish undersides of its leaves, and the crack willow for the propensity of its branches to "crack" off (probably another adaptation to flooding). Both species grow along with poplars and alders along lowland rivers. They In addition the was associated to love, healing, the gaining of eloquence, inspiration and, growth.

The HAZEL ( corylus avellana) was s considered one of the most important trees it is very closely related to the salmon, who eats its nuts of poetic wisdom. Its associations are: intuition; poetry; divination; meditation; wisdom; knowledge and fertility. It is the badge of the Clan Colquhoun. (Mac a’chombaich)

THE ALDER: is an unusual tree, it is water loving yet is also highly combustible, making it very sacred as it combines the elements water and fire. Because of its fierce flame it is sometimes known as the warrior tree, its symbolism being that of strength, tenacity and determination. Because of its resistance to water it can be used to hold water elementals and negative spirits. Dyes can be made from its bark, flowers and twigs, one of which was red which the druids used to dye their faces during rituals. The common alder (Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertner) is common along lowland rivers, where it grows with aspens, poplars, and willows. Like willows, alders sprout from stumps. This allows them to regenerate after heavy flooding. Alder wood is said to resist rotting when it is wet, and was the wood of choice for pilings in many regions. Alders are members of the Birch family (Betulaceae)

THE BIRCH is one of the first trees to grow on bare soil and has come to symbolize fertility, healing and rebirth The. silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) is the most common tree birch in much of Europe. It grows up to 30 m (100 feet) high, but is more often found in spreading clumps on sandy soils. It is one of the first trees to colonize an area after a mature forest is cut; this is probably a large part of its symbolic connection with new beginnings. The tree itself was used for almost everything from canoes to producing sugar and represents that which is needed for everyday living. It is known for its protective healing abilities and is used to drive out evil spirits and as protection from the faery folk.

THE ASH was very sacred to the druids NUMANTIA in Spain scene of a famous siege between Celtiberians and Scipio in 133BC. Yhe ancient Celtic citadel was said to have been built around a sacred ash grove (Nuim). The common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) is a major tree of lowland forests in much of Europe, along with oaks and beeches. It grows to 40 m (130 feet) in open sites, with a broad crown. Ash was and still is an important timber tree, and is a traditional material for the handle of a besom. Its main symbolism being that of stability as it links the inner and otherworlds. The ancient Celts of Spain fed their mature pigs a diet of acorns to enhance the taste a custom still held in Spain today for the finest hams.

THE YEW TREE (Taxus baccata L.) is a slow-growing conifer, living as long as 1000 years and reaching 20 m (65 feet). It is much less common in recent times because of overharvesting (its hard, springy wood was the source of English longbows). The evergreen needles are very broad, and the seeds are produced in red, berryis sometimes regarded as the most sacred tree to the druids with it symbolism of death and rebirth (due to the fact that the outer tree dies and a new tree grows within). It represents transformation & reincarnation. All parts of the yew are poisonous apart from the berry covering and it was used to poison weapons, it was also used to make bows so it was called the”Yew of resilience

ELM (ulmus campestris)“The fir is a tall slender tree that grows in mountainous regions, its cones respond to the environment by opening with the sun and closing with rain. Because of its height it indicates aspiring views, far sight and clear vision. In addition it symbolizes flexibility, astuteness and the ability to change. Its wood is considered good for magic that involves shapeshifting and other changing magics.

OAK: Oak has always been respected by nearly all world cultures. Admired for its strength and size it represents strength, endurance and power. Because it is often struck by lightening it has become associated with having the ability to attract inspiration, wisdom and illumination. The oak of myth and legend is the common oak (Quercus robur L.). It grows with ash and beech in the lowland forests, and can reach a height of 45 m (150 feet) and age of 800 years. Along with ashes, oaks were heavily logged throughout recent millennia, so that the remaining giant oaks in many parts of Europe are but a remnant of forests past. Like most other central and northern European trees, common oaks are deciduous, losing their leaves before Samhain (Fall) and growing new leaves in the spring so that the trees are fully clothed by Bealltaine (Spring) .Oak galls were known as Serpent Eggs and were used in magic and charms. It has also been associated with fertility. The oak is considered very sacred to the druids and their name has even been linked as a derivative of duir (oak). But this etymology is somewhat obscrure. But Pliny, Strabo and and others noted the reverence Druids had for oak trees. Peter Berresford Ellis says "one should emphasize the use of cognate and not 'deriving from'. The world Druid could be translated at 'Backwoodsman', "Wise ones of the Oak," "Oak-Priest", "Keeper of the Sacred Oak Grove", "healer" or "magician" The Oak is the ancient badge of the Camerons. Diodorus called them 'philosophers' and 'theologians
who are 'held in much honor'. Caesar says the cardinal doctrine of the Druids is that "souls are immortal and do not die." Strabo says the Druids assert' that men's souls and also the cosmos are indestructible." There are references of course to Druidesses as well as Druids. The Druids of Gaul were considered to have a triad of highly ethical moral codes. One which we know from classical sourcess is "Reverence the gods, tell the truth, and be manly'; The Irish Triad, complied perhaps one thousand years afterwards have a very similiar triad:

"Three things show a good man:
a special gift, valor and piety."

The word 'special gift' (don in the original Irish Gaelic)could be an endowment, present, divine gift from God (or the gods presumably), a faculty, an ability,, a skill, in song or poetry or a certain art (design? drawing? music? dance? healing?)

This word may be a cognate or derived from the Latin "Donum" (present, gift) and dona nuptalia (wedding gift).

Both Anne Ross and Peter Berresford Ellis have written excellent books on the Druids. Ellis' book is available in Spanish and French.

See “Ogam stones and Early Christian Latin inscriptions” and “Survivals of Paganism” in The Companion to Gaelic Scotland, ed. Derick S. Thompson, Blackwell, 1983
See also:


The Gaelic Tree Alphabet:

a B b C c D d E e F f G g H h I i
Coll (Hazel)
Fearn (Alder)
Gort (Ivy)

L l M m N n O o P p R r S s T t U u
Peithe(Guelder Rose)

The 3rd Reich,Germany and the Holocaust: understanding Evil.

By Richard John Neuhaus

In fact, says Kershaw, things were much more complicated than that. The Nazi exterminationists, who really went into high gear after German setbacks on the eastern front, had reason to believe they were acting in accord with Hitler’s wishes but were not acting under his direct orders. As for ordinary Germans, many of them knew more about what was happening to the Jews than they would later admit, but they “had many more things on their minds” than the fate of an unpopular minority. The key to their essentially passive role, says Kershaw, is explained better by “moral indifference” than by active malice.
Kershaw writes, “Whether the passivity of the majority reflected moral indifference, bad conscience, suppression of uncomfortable knowledge, fear of the consequences, or tacit approval of what was being done seems to me, truth to tell, impossible to establish. I have the feeling . . . that interpretations of the German population’s stance on the Final Solution cannot be taken any further. Sometimes historians simply have to accept that they cannot find the hard and fast answers they seek in the inadequate remnants of the past with which they have to deal.”


The decisive factor was the nature of a new kind of ideology, which, whatever its varied form and expression, was absolutist in its total claim to determine who should have the right to inhabit the earth in the building of a mooted coming utopia.
“To be a Jew under Hitler, a Kulak under Stalin, or an intellectual under Pol Pot was tantamount to a death sentence. The Nazi state, however, produced the most absolutist form of ideology of all in that the biological exclusion of Jews was more lethally uncompromising than the often brutally arbitrary socially deterministic exclusivism of Stalin or Pol Pot. And this most extreme manifestation of absolutist ideology thoroughly permeated the most advanced state machinery and exploited the most developed technology in Europe. The Final Solution arose from this unholy combination.”

MUNRO’s COMMENTARY: Kershaw is right that a complete and total understanding of the reasons for the Holocaust and the German complicity may be beyond us.

But there is this: Let us say once more that Germany was one of the best educated and most technically advanced societies in Europe. Of course, we all know that. But this same society demoralized by the Great War, hyperinflation and the Depression was also the society most needing hope. In my opinion as a very secularized society Germany had become hope-less. The God-fearing man has hope and optimism about the future. He knows good will triumph over evil. He knows God is good. A God-fearing man KNOWS we ALWAYS HAVE A MORAL CHOICE, we always have free will and so we have a moral responsibility. We all live with the tension between our selfish (sinful) response and God’s will.

The Germans in their fat, smug materialism just didn’t care about others or think about others. That was THEIR problem. Why they weren’t even Germans! They did not think of Leviticus 19:18 which teaches us we have a covenant with God that establishes bond of loyalty, and responsibility between ALL MANKIND, ALL HUMANITY and GOD. We are –whether we realize it or not- bond together in our common humanity. We are –however riven our race and lines- a community. We must maintain a profound humility for what we are, for what we have done and what we fail to do. We must keep a profound respect for the worth and lives of others. The Germans, in their hubris were not humble. The Germans in their hubris did not consider the bonds of humanity they had with the Jews –even those Jews who were deeply part of German culture! And when it was clear the war was lost, the Germans became even more fanatical in their pursuit of the Final Solution out of a savage vengeance against the Jews whom they considered at some level the cause of all Germany’s woes. I think we come closer to the answer when we realize that for most Germans-indeed many Europeans- the bank and the barracks were their cathedrals. But the Germans, and in particular the Nazis, took DELIGHT IN POWER, took DELIGHT in CRUELTY AND TERROR for their own sake. Their inhumanity, their godlessness, their intoxication with the false god of Victory, led the Germans –most Germans- into that nightmare area where there were lives ‘not worth living’ so the Master Race could decide who to snuff out and when. In the end what was amoral and sadistic, immoral and criminal just blended together in a most poisonous brew. We focus on the Holocaust –as we should- but we should not forget the millions of slave laborers –including Russian and allied enlisted men- who were literally worked and starved to death. So even Germans who did not know what was happening in the Death Camps had to know that their factories and quarries were humming with foreign laborers and POW’s. Officers and men HAD to have seen the prisoners executed and the civilians including women and children killed or left without food and shelter and left to die.

The Germans of the 1940’s were so well educated, so prepared and yet they were a cold people. I have found the Germans tolerable only after a few beers. Yet I admire their classical music, their literature, their art. Even the professionalism of the Prussian academies and meticulousness of German scholarship I admire. I love German singers, German recordings –I have a large collection of Deutsche Grammafon recordings. Bach, Mendelssohn Thomas Mann, Werner Jaeger, Mahler, Heine, Goethe are writers, artists and thinkers I deeply love and admire.

I even admit I once dated and kissed a German girl –she was fond of the opera and was if not beautiful at least reasonably intelligent and pretty.

But she was a close to an android as I have ever known in my life. There was no truth, no passion, no real love in this person and above all NO COMMITMENT TO VALUES and no sense of tradition and respect. What struck me most was the horror this individual had when I mentioned casually that my father would like to talk to her about the opera stars she knew and the opera houses she had visited. She said, and I will never forget, “This is not the kind of relationship in which we will meet each other’s families. This is just for us. Just for now.” It was just about the most shocking thing a young woman ever said to me. She wanted now and I wanted commitment and a serious friendship. I was not buying a prostitute and neither was she. I admit that was the very end of my German education, essentially, but I have no regrets.

Generalizations are difficult to make and today we are afraid to make them but I do believe certain cultures and certain educations produce certain kinds of people.

If you don’t believe this take a trip to Frankfurt and then London and then Bristol and then Donegal and then South Uist. I would be very surprised if you didn’t find the people in Bristol, Donegal and South Uist to be kinder, more humane and friendlier. But even the people in London though urban are completely different from the people you meet in Frankfurt. In the same way Italians and Spaniards ARE visibly warmer and friendlier than Germans. The nicest and most friendly people I ever met in Munich, Germany were Poles and Italians. The Germans were polite but distant and to me an extremely post-modern people.

The German education of the 1920’s and 1930’s was a hollow, materialistic and atheistic education for death. I believe the Germans tried to be too disciplined and tried to regulate German behavior. The glue they used to hold their society together was falseness and phoneyness. The made elaborate rules about what is proper and right and so genuine spontaneous impulses were stifled. When truth is stifled and free expression is stifled when genuine responses are stifled (by propaganda and PC-dom), when persons live in fear and terror of being reported or of reprisals when humanity is stifled, a complete breakdown of society and civilization occurs.

Could it happen here? It already has and is happening right now in the USA on a localized scale in schools and universities and in gang-infested urban areas all over the country. Where it will lead in the end I do not know but America is a very different country today than what it was in 1962 or 1942 or 1912 and it is a less cohesive country. We are less frugal and more obsessed with grandiosity. We are less-family oriented. We have much less respect for marriage. We have less respect for human life. We are obsessed with physical beauty (always thin) and youth. We read less. We attend houses of worship less frequently but still much more and with more sincerity than the Germans of the 1930’s so we are not as far gone as they were , then.

I have visited Germany several times and have spoken with many Germans –including WWII veterans- since 1964. I even spoke with the daughter of Col. Von Stauffenberg’s nanny. She told me some interesting things about Von Stauffenberg’s family. How his mother was a volunteer nurse in WWI and how Col. Stauffenberg found time throughout his adult life to write to his nanny who used to say the rosary with him. This was a kind and humane thing to do and for me it gives me insight as to why Stauffenberg finally decided that Hitler must be eliminated for Germany to have peace. I think also, at some level Stauffenberg was fighting to redeem the honor of the German officer corps and German people. What would we think of them today IF NO ONE HAD EVER attempted to remove Hitler?

I recall a note in Haim Ginott’s book TEACHER AND CHILD- It was a note from a school principal (in Israel I believe) who wrote:

Dear Teacher:
I am the survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness:
Gas chambers built by learned engineers.
Children poisond by educated physicians.
Infants killed by trained nurses,
Women and babies shot and burned
By high school and college graduates.
So I am suspicious of education.
My request is: Help your students become human.
Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichamanns.
Reading, writing , arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.


That’s me with respect,

RICHARD K. MUNRO (June 29, 2008)

Thursday, June 26, 2008



July 21, 2006
Good friend of Horsefeathers, Richard Munro, sent the following response to the Spanish PM Zapatero's donning of a kaffiyeh to show solidarity with the Hamas terrorists seeking to destroy the Jewish homeland.
In these disturbed days I am spending many hours reading and studying Greek and Roman books; books so profound that I am almost ashamed to say I still do not understand them but I know I can learn from them. Aristotle, Plato, Cicero. When I read them I still think these are permanent books.
I love the feeling and passion and genuineness and sweet melodies of the Big Songs as we call them and their successors but I know that these cannot teach more than simple things. They recall, after all, a way of life that has virtually passed away.
I am neither a Greek nor a Roman and I am an American by choice but I feel deep gratitude and reverence for the Great Americans.
I am really much more interested in Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln than William Wallace or Robert the Bruce or even Mary Queen of Scots about whom I have written a play which in a way was an elegy.
When I was much younger I loved Caesar and Thucydides and dreamed of finding Trajan’s lost commentaries of which only a single line survives. I wrote an article for MILITARY HISTORY based on my fascination for this lost book.
But I suppose I have always had it in my mind that all glory is fleeting and that man’s nature is to desire to struggle and gain dominion and when this is not possible to hate, brood and burn with envy.
Men love honor and they love glory. There are many manifestations of this passion.
When I think I cannot learn any more or think I have no answers I always return to the Auld Book a great Gift of the Jews and so beloved to Paul and the Great Teacher.
I think of the Sabbath in every Jewish synagogue in which a handwritten copy of the Torah, the first books of the Hebrew Scriptures, is taken out from its special place.
After a reading, the book is carried through the congregation (I have seen this myself) before it is returned to the ark and every pious Jews kisses it.
The Torah is always handwritten in the ancient style with a quill pen. It is always in the form of a parchment roll.
I have seen fragments from synagogues destroyed by the Nazis but meticulously preserved to be relics of a “vanished race”.
The text is always the same. I am told the very letters are counted so that they may not vary even an iota.
This reminds the Jews, perhaps, that the wisdom of the God Almighty does not vary and is eternal.
By doing homage to a book this way, the Jews express their devotion to the Creator but also by implication they express reverence not only for GOD but also TRADITION, their splendid ancient heritage, and one of the greatest inventions of history: the book.
I am not a Jew but I feel a deep gratitude for the wisdom of Abraham who did not kill his son Isaac in sacrifice.
Abraham’s reverence for God was great –he proved that he feared God- but he sacrificed the ram as a burnt offering instead of his son.
Perhaps I think the Jews were the first to decide that human sacrifice was cruel, unnecessary and WRONG.
It is said that Islam, like Buddhism, has also been free from human sacrifice.
I know my pagan ancestors were Gaels of the Isles, Picts and Lochlanachs -the barbarians of the Fjords (Northmen or Sutherlanders they were also called).
They came very late to letters and Christianity and had been blood thirsty killers, raiders and slavers. Somehow I know the Aztecs had nothing on these people, from whom I am descended, called the Last White Barbarians (or Savages) of Western Europe by Toynbee. So I know my own ancestors were not free of man’s darkest passions and most evil moments even perhaps cannibalism.
Some of this ferocity and passion lingers on to this day and the knowledge of this is found in Adam Ferguson's ESSAY ON CIVIL SOCIETY and this quality made his work unique, I think, in the Scottish Enlightenment which never romanticized human nature as something always tending toward the good.
So I feel in a very real sense a great gratitude for the virtues and godliness taught from the Judeo-Christian tradition which teaches above all THAT HUMAN LIFE IS a BLESSED THING AND A SACRED THING. That OUR LIVES OUR NOT FOR OURSELVES ALONE BUT FOR GOD AND FOR OUR FELLOWS.
I try to understand hatred. The hatred of the Jews.
Part of this hatred is hatred for the Other.
Part of it is hatred fueled by envy.
But a great part of it is hatred fueled by PRIDE.
THIS PRIDE makes it impossible for ARABS TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE TERRIBLE TRUTH of the terrible hatred and murderous cult-like idolatry running through THEIR OWN CIVILIZATION!
“Some people say ‘we saw you beheading, kidnappings and killing. In the end we even started kidnapping women who are our honor,’” good Muslims say. “These acts are not the work of Arabs. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew.”
The fact that Israel exists is painful to Arabs.
They think that anything that happens to the Jews is what they deserve.
They are fixated on the existence of Israel but never mention their own ferocious hatred which led to the expulsion of all the large Jewish minorities in more than 20 Arab countries.
They embrace a fantasy that somehow all the Jews will move to Brooklyn when in fact more Jews are leaving America for Israel than Israelis for America. Most Jews in Israel were born in Israel or are descended from Jewish refugees from Arab or Muslim countries.
The Israelites are not going anywhere. Israel is the last citadel of their faith and culture. It is their New Masada and they are the New Spartans. They will not yield.
If the Muslim extremists do succeed in “wiping out Israel” then surely they will destroy themselves in the process. But they cling to the delusion that the Israelis will be demoralized in the end and flee as Jews have always fled.
I humbly admire the good things English people have done, the Jews have done, the Romans have done the Greeks have done and others have done such as the Chinese and the Arabs too.
I know the part my own people have contributed to the world is small and really just an accessory to the great achievements of other greater more unified people.
I know my contributions to the world are small but I think I have done more good than evil in this world and this gives me some comfort. I have taught with sense of humility and have tried to DO NO HARM.
I know the better life I have, the more secure life politically and materially is based upon the achievements and inventions of many others.
This does not disturb me. It fills me with awe the way I am filled with awe when a woman gives birth to new life or can tame a man.
I try to think how Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah or Bin Laden are different from me.
I have had bad experiences with Jews but bad experiences with three people out of a 100 or hundreds does not make me hate “all the Jews”.
In fact meeting Jews through books and in person and studying Israel I cannot have anything but admiration so great that I probably wish I were a Jew.
I know I cannot be one but I have great love for the Chosen People whom I think have done well, upon the whole and it is upon the whole such things must be based.
I can honestly say I have known more cruel, inhuman and rapacious Scots than I have ever known, personally, cruel, rapacious and inhuman Germans.
So If I dislike the Germans more than Scots, which I do, this is due to acquired prejudice. I KNOW I HAVE A DEEP PREJUDICE, for example, against Germans and I know this is a vice so I try to control this feeling.
I know this hatred is a noxious weed AND CONTAMINATES my thought and I try to prune or overcome this hatred.
But I know I can never quite get over it. Others I know hate Mexicans or hate Blacks or hate Catholics. Some people hate rich people. Everyone has their prejudices.
I do not think Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Bin Laden are like this. In their pride their hatred for the Jews –and their American and British friends- grows. They refresh themselves by feasting upon their own passions and prejudices, and doing so their hatred and pride and their prejudices grow.
I read what the Prime Minister of Spain said with deep concern and shame. After all, my wife is a Spanish national and all my children and nieces and nephews are Spanish nationals.
According to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero Hezbullah and Israel are MORALLY EQUIVALENT! He made no criticism whatsoever of the Hezbullah terrorists.
Then Zapatero topped off his disgusting appeasement by wearing the Palestinian kaffiyah. INCREDIBLE. But of course he is a Spanish Socialist so what can you expect from such a man.
Why didn’t he put on a Nazi arm band while he was at it? This was a cowardly and disgraceful act! But of course it would take courage to support Israel or offer the slightest criticism of Al Qaida or Arab terrorists.
The reality is that if there had been no terrorist attacks and no kidnappings there would be peace now. If they want a ceasefire all they need do is return the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and stop shooting rockets at defenseless civilians. As long as Arab Muslim terrorists intentionally target innocent civilians with terrorist bombs or showers of rockets there can be no peace.
If the Israelis did disarm there would be another Holocaust. Wise Israelis know this. This is why 85% of the Israeli people support their Armed Forces and hope against hope the day of reckoning can be postponed.
Arab news media say:
"In Madrid , Spanish Prime Minister Jose' Luis Rodriguez Zapatero renewed his condemnation of the Israeli brutal aggression on Lebanon, saying that " human rights must be above all considerations ." Yeah that’s a laugh; as if human rights get much consideration in Syria, Iran etc.
Brutal aggression? One would think the Israelis fought back just for fun. They are fighting for their very lives and they know it.
The reality for Israelis is that their WAY OF LIFE IS UNDER THE SHADOW OF THIS NEW ROCKET JIHAD whose rockets are ever bigger and longer in range.
The logical conclusion is that these new Vengeance Rockets will be tipped with nuclear war heads so that ISRAEL COULD BE ERADICATED- the PROFESSED GOAL of the Islamofascists.
I am not making this up. THIS IS WHAT THEY SAY. OVER AND OVER AGAIN. They say they WANT WORLD WAR III !!!
It has been said that Islam is free from human sacrifice but reading the twenty second chapter of Genesis again I think that something is terribly wrong. What is happening today seems to be a strange manifestation in Islam of a return to MOLOCH the god of the Ammonites and Phoenicians TO WHOM CHILDREN WERE SACRIFICED.
Cannibals they say always elect cannibal kings.
This new Islamofascism seems to me to be a regressive form of idolatry, something terrible, possessing the power to exact horrible sacrifices. This is very anti-human and nothing good and no peace can ever come from such fanaticism.
As long as these people hate the Jews and their American friends more than they love their own children they will want to kill and destroy.
There can be, in my view, no parley with this wicked murder cult.
I think that Israel and its citizens, however imperfect, are noble and good. They deserve our admiration and our friendship and support.
But the Islamofascists hate Israel and say THEY WANT TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH.
Why? Because they fear the existence of Israel just as they fear the existence of America.
The mad Mullahs and Ayatollahs want to destroy, ultimately because they fear that their traditions and cultures will be washed away by the West.
Ironically their new nationalism and their new Islamofascism is totally Western in origin.
So I return to the miracle of the preservation of thought.
What is the difference between Israel and its enemies?
Israel has God but also a lot of Rome, Athens and America.
Israel is not a utopia but a humane country where human rights, rule of law, culture and civilization count for something. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.
The Islamofascists in their pride want nothing but one people, one law, one book.
In their shame they want to destroy what they are afraid to understand.
Europeans thought they would be safe when they sacrificed Czechoslovakia to appease Hitler.
Now they rush to see who can denounce Israel the most so they might be safe. They even dress like terrorists. Disgusting.
But feeding crocodiles only has one result. They grow in size and gain a taste for blood and human flesh.
Moloch will claim more blood.
The only way to stop a man-eating dragon is to kill it.
We are living in dangerous times. Very dangerous times.
Our way of life is very fragile and will not hold without strength, courage and sacrifice.
We will know, I am thinking, new horrors, hunger, thirst and hardship.
Innocent young, old and sick will suffer and die and not in one place but in many.
We must above all, think of how we will preserve thought, faith in God and freedom.
The greatest miracle of all will be the preservation of thought, not of one book but of many books.
This is what I think under the stars of the still summer night.
And I thank God for the Psalms…..and the wisdom and comfort of the Auld last reading of the night...and my first reading of the morning….
ISI Renshaw Fellow UVA 2004
Teacher of English, history and Spanish
Former Mentor Teacher, Kern HS District
Master Catechist Diocese of Fresno (New Wine Certificate)
Posted at 09:48 PM by Stephen

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Our Splendid Ancient Heritage: WHAT IS TRUE EDUCATION?

With reference to the nature of formal education available of his day, Benjamin Franklin remarked, “much of the learning now in use is not of much use.” Similar laments could be heard from educated critics and reformers down to and including the present day. This is an old discussion, the debate between utility (relevance; a pragmatic education) and the “liberal” or humane education. In a way this debate is the leitmotiv for almost every educational debate from Plato and the Sophists, to Franklin and his more traditionalist contemporaries John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, to Charles. W. Eliot and Irving Babbitt, to Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, Dewey and his ilk versus the traditionalists, perennialiats and, essentialists[1] right until our present day.
One cannot dismiss the utilitarian view entirely because one must be practical. Deborah Meier has written “What's wrong with demanding of Academics that they persuade us of their utility? Alas, when parents and average citizens applaud the importance of academic subjects it's generally because they misunderstand (confusing them with the 3 Rs), or because they fatalistically accept the proposition that it's a game that must be played in order to get a diploma, which in turn is a license to pursue utterly unacademic ends.”
Ms Meier is right here. For many people a diploma is just something one jumps through hoops to get at a lower level and then one 'buys' to gain a degree and a credential. Americans have many virtues -and traditionally among these has been good sense, civic virtue and generosity- but deep love and respect for "the academy" and higher culture are not among their virtues.
I teach in a high school and from time to time at college and know many university educated people; yet most of the time I hear the name of a college or university it is to speak of a sports team. I would say the ratio between speaking of sports teams and serious books is easily 1000 to 1. We admirers of books, poetry and classical music are almost a secret society. For many students in so far as the teacher stands before his pupils as a surrogate of the intellectual life of the mind and its 'rewards', he or she more often than not makes this life appear altogether unappealing. For most of our history teaching has been considered no better than a way station in life for a person of real ability and character. I myself have been told this dozens if not hundreds of times. But this does not disturb me as much as watching the hundreds of high-quality hard covered classics discarded. These are quality editions that were made to last 50 or 100 years. But someone has to make way I suppose for The Bluest Eye. I do my best to rescue them -Cervantes, Homer, Dickens, Boorstin, Hemingway, Twain-and see that they find good homes. I find they make excellent gifts to talented adult aides and ambitious students. There is much waste in American education. Frugality is not I have noticed a high virtue. Americans think if they spend money and 'renew' a curriculum they will have a 'better' product. That is why they are enamored with the 'fad of the year.'
One must lead a balanced life; “a sound mind in a sound body.[2]” One also must know how to manage one’s personal affairs and household. One must pay the bills, clean the laundry and ‘keep the wolf from the door’ and be prepared to compete in today’s society. One ought not to be completely helpless in the physical world. I am impressed by a school principal who sets up a generator, makes minor repairs on his car or who fixes a light switch for a teacher. I am impressed by the man or woman who can keep a kitchen spotlessly clean and prepare healthy and tasty meals in an economical fashion. The world needs handy and versatile people.
I always tell my students there are TWO educations:The first education is the practical one we all need that teaches us what we need to make a living -most of us have to make a living. To make a good living one must have a lot of youthful energy and courage or have some kind of expertise. This is why I took carpentry in high school. This is why I worked summers in construction. The experience I gained and the skills I gained were as important as the money perhaps more so. This is why I took a course in keyboarding or typewriting as it was called them. This is why I took a course on accounting and how to read financial statements. This is why I worked in a bank for five yeas learning in the process much about credit and customer service. This is why my father encouraged me to get a Spanish credential as well as an English and history credential rather than spending precious tuition dollars on subjects which I loved but were bound to lead to unemployment. It was expensive to get a formal education and one had limited time and resources. I was never discouraged from independent reading or study but I was taught that we lived in an age of credentialism. If one did not have a teacher’s certificate or an academic transcript to PROVE one knew this then as far as society was concerned one did not know things.
Because I have been practical I have spent most of my life gainfully employed and to do so I have had to pick up stakes move several times. Because I am frugal I have not had expensive brand-new cars but usually buy new-used cars at a discount. My goal is always to have at least one free and clear car. Never in my entire life have I had two car payments. I have preferred to save SOMETHING. “Never spend your bottom dollar” was what I was taught and I believe this is sensible advice.
But materialism is not enough. There are other things which really are of far more lasting value and satisfaction. My wife and I have contributed to Children International for many years and have the great joy and satisfaction to know we are helping others who have very little who still seem ,despite everything, to bubble over with joy and gratitude. Burns understood this sentiment and said that the poor were ‘contented wi’ little but cantie wi’ mair.” Yes, materialism is not enough. If we are to retain our freedom and our national unity we must have broadly educated informed citizens who care about the common good. I daresay , if we are to have the moral fiber to withstand economic downturns or even –God forbid- an economic collapse we must have other than material resources to fall back upon.
Isaac Kandel, another of the "forgotten heroes" made his "Address at St. Paul's Chapel, Columbia University" in 1940. In this age of terror this address is very timely. In it Kandel calls for an educational philosophy with integrity based on deep gratitude for the practical wisdom, Natural Rights philosophy of the Founders as well as the true roots of the "dignity of the individual", America's Judeo-Christian heritage. Only by recurring to fundamental principles, Kandel believed, could we hope to preserve our free society. Kandel wrote "The basic principles of democracy are rooted in the religious traditions of Jew and Christian alike." "Man ....cannot live on negation...he needs values that have stood the test of time." "Education, true education, should liberate” it should cultivate the genuinely free man, the man of moral judgment, of intellectual integrity.....intolerance and hatred are the foundations of the new [ totalitarian] ideologies Love thy neighbor as thyself is the injunction of the Hebrew prophets and of the Golden Rule." Kandel was a strong traditionalist, he wrote: "It is foolish to except a child to grow up in a right social direction along the lines of his own felt wants as it is to expect a man to find his way in unfamiliar territory without a map or a compass. Organized subject matter constitutes that map..." This is what Kandel said on low academic standards: "the harm done American education by the cult of...superficiality is incalculable." Kandel warned that the disunity in America could come again if we fail to provide an education "to inculcate faith in the ideals of democracy....without well-defined content, [there is]... inevitably... a negation of ideals and faith... a repudiation of the inherited forms of culture and of humanity without which the surface changes in the stream of life are mistaken for the waves of the future." According to Kandel, an important aim in education throughout history is the ideal of character formation. Kandel writes: "with the declining influence of religious institutions....with the extension of mass media...the task of character formation becomes more and more difficult... all these conflicting influences may be added a certain relaxation of standards, both intellectual and disciplinary...the 'get by' attitude."
The second education we need is the other education, the “true education” that which teaches us how to live our lives more fully by teaching us to think AND to appreciate ‘the Good Life” or what the Gael would call “ar dualchais airidh” or “our splendid ancient heritage” which the Gael or Jew know is the source of much wisdom as well as pride and joy. If you have a disastrous history you are not apt to take for granted your current prosperity, safety and independence. This is a wisdom that I see among immigrant Cubans, Poles, Estonians, Jews, the Irish and the Scots but unfortunately many fellow Americans. Too many of my countrymen live in a state of perpetual naiveté. They live or perhaps I should say “party on” as if they are good to be young, free and rich forever. We must face firmly towards the future but it is a tragic mistake to forget or lose our link to the past, in my opinion.
A liberal education, at its best, is the most practical and adaptive education a man can get. Why? For one reason, a classical education based on a broad based education of mathematics, history, literature, music and great culture languages is a very hard and challenging curriculum. It is calisthenics or gymnastics for the mind. The liberal education sharpens the mind and prepares it for greater and more original tasks. Second, a liberal education is important because we don’t know what challenges or question we may face in our lives.[3] We will be challenged by new problems and situations, new crises. The mere training of today may soon be obsolete. Our language of which we are so proud and so certain of its utility and greatness could be subjugated dispersed and pushed to the fringes of isolated mountain communities in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Cascades or the Rockies.
But the educated man can respond and survive by adapting to the new situation through force of will and intellect. Though he may be the very last of the learned ones of the English-speaking tradition like he lonely genius John Scotus Eriugenus (John the Gael from Ireland) he could translate the classics to the tongue of the conquerors and pass the tradition and the hopes of Locke, Adam Smith, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, The Roosevelts and Churchill. The third reason is ,as Cicero famously said, is that literature, the humanities or liberal arts “hinder not.” They are, indeed a great ornament and a great comfort. They are the key to a happy and satisfying life.
I have been an exile as my father was before me and my grandparents before him. They were all immigrants and naturalized Americans. I was never a prisoner in a jail with bars nor a Nazi POW like Captain Patrick Munro[4] nor a prisoner of the Gulag like Alexander Solzhenitsyn nor a survivor of the Holocaust like Victor Frankl the author of Man’s Quest for Meaning. I was spared such personal misfortunes. I was spared war time active service.
But I was still an exile. I lived far from the centers of power, far from the centers of learning, far from all my friends and family and loved ones. Often not a single person knew my name nor spoke my native tongue. But I was never bored nor without hope because I had a strong faith and I continued to educate myself through the medium of books. If I did not have many books I re-read and studied old books and good books. If I did not have books I remembered quotations, Bible verses, sonnets and songs and poems I had memorized. Even when I was unloading railcars of 50 Lb bags of Owens-Corning Fiberglas or digging trenches with an e-tool 100 feet long and three feet wide in the dark under floors of Yesler Terrace (Seattle), I carried with me the thoughts and the beauty and the wisdom of the classics.
Yes, I lived on the fringe of the English-speaking world, on the fringe of middle-class comfortable America, I had no phone, no TV no bank account, no credit cards, just a P.O. Box, and only the cash I had on me. At times I was virtually homeless except for my 1973 Chrysler with 200,000 miles on it. But I was happy, hopeful and content because I was a free man. As my teachers from Salamanca and Havana taught me, looking back into their classical republican past, sólo los instruidos son libres only the educated are free. This is of course a saying attributed to Epictetus the Stoic philosopher.
If a man has this peace—not the peace proclaimed by Cæsar (how indeed should he have it to proclaim?), nay, but the peace proclaimed by God through reason, will not that suffice him when alone, when he beholds and reflects:—Now can no evil happen unto me; for me there is no robber, for me no earthquake; all things are full of peace, full of tranquility neither highway nor city nor gathering of men, neither neighbor nor comrade can do me hurt. Another supplies my food, whose care it is; another my raiment; another hath given me perceptions of sense and primary conceptions. And when He supplies my necessities no more, it is that He is sounding the retreat, that He hath opened the door, and is saying to thee, Come!—Wither? To nought that thou needest fear, but to the friendly kindred elements whence thou didst spring. Whatsoever of fire is in thee, unto fire shall return; whatsoever of earth, unto earth; of spirit, unto spirit; of water, unto water. There is no Hades, no fabled rivers of Sighs, of Lamentation, or of Fire: but all things are full of Beings spiritual and divine. With thoughts like these, beholding the Sun, Moon, and Stars, enjoying earth and sea, a man is neither helpless nor alone! [5]

Because of my education I knew America it is why I went West –it was why I returned for brief sojourns in the East and South. Because of my education. I was able to have hope and adapt even under great difficulties that would have discouraged a lesser man who pegged his worth to mere instrumentalism and material things. As Burns said “Rank is but the guinea’s stamp, the man’s the gowd for all that.” Jefferson knew this when he said intellectual pleasures were ‘inestimable” because they could never be taken away and they are a guide to your and a comfort even in old age!
The forth and final reason why a liberal education is essential is because history, literature and the humanities in general makes you wise.[6] This is what Plato meant when he quoted his old teacher Socrates who said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We are homo sapiens, the knowing creature, because of our wisdom, not our strength. And it is only the truth and wisdom that will set us free and keep us strong as individuals, as families and as a nation. A people without wisdom –without a strong culture- without a strong memory and strong values- will come to ruin.

[1] The most interesting and influential of the 20th and early 21st century are Isaac Kandel, William Bagley, Jacques Barzun, Gilbert Highet, Allan Bloom, E.D. Hirsch and Diane Ravitch.
[2] From Juvenal Mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a sound body) Satire X. It is highly likely that this is paraphrase or translation from Greek philosophy. Gilbert Highet, Jonathan Barnes and Werner Jaeger and others have noted that the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus (Θαλῆς ὁ Μιλήσιος, ca. 624 BC–ca. 546) said,” The most happy man is he who is sound in health moderate in fortune and ,and cultivated in mind {or “of a readily teachable nature” ) or “Who is happy? One who has a healthy body, a well-stocked soul and a cultivated nature.”
ὁ τὸ μὲν σῶμα ὑγιής, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν εὔπορος, τὴν δὲ φύσιν εὐπαίδευτος Ho to men sôma hygiês, tên de psykhên euporos, tên de fysin eupaideutos . See The Oxford Companion to the Mind Richard Langton Gregory, Oliver Louis Zangwill Oxford University Press, 1987 p.744. ALSO Early GreekPhilosophy by John Burnet, 3rd edition (1920). London: A & C Black Ltd. See also p16 Early Greek Philosophy, Jonathan Barnes, Penguin Books, 1987.

[3] Who could have predicted 9/11 or the Iraq War?
[4] (Captured at Dunkirk June 1940;he and his comrades of the 51st Highland Division fought for ten days after the evacuation). I met him and his mother Mrs. Gasgoyne in July 1967 at his home in Evanton, Scotland when I was a young boy.
[5] Golden Sayings of Epictetus CLXXXVIII
[6] Or at least one hopes so!

The Scottish American War Memorial, Prince Street Gardens, Edinburgh, erected as a tribute by the men and womenof Scottish blood and sympathies in the United States, is one of the most evocative of all memorials. The figure of the kilted soldier on the plinth looks across at the impressive bulk of Edinburgh Castle dominating the scene. Behind him is an emotive bronze frieze depicting the men of Scotland answering an Gairm -the Call to Arms-, so emotive it is that it can as Burns wrote 'gar ye tae greet' (bring one to tears of emotion). Of course, to me it has especially interest because my granfather Thomas Munro, Sr. (Auld Pop we called him) answered the call himself to join the THIN RED LINE of HEROES (the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) in August 1914 along with his cousins and in-laws and best friends. In the following years they saw some of the war's heaviest fighting in both the Western Front and in the Eastern Theatre including, 2nd Ypres, Galliopoli, and the Struma Valley.

It was not unti many years after the death of my grandfather, whom I knew and loved well, that I realized how lucky I was even to have one Scottish grandfather (my other grandfather was killed August 1918).

The carved inscription is a splendid statement in the three living languages of Auld Scotia: the right true Saxon tongue, of course, (English), Gaelic (arguably the most ancient written language of the Isles), and Scots, which is really a separate language from English though it is closely related. There are a few monuments that have especial meaning to me: the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, Lincoln's tomb in Springfield, Illinois, the Iwo Jima memorial, the Menin Gate (at Ypres), the Scottish Regimental window in Glasgow Cathedral (St. Mungo's) and of course Arlington National Cemetary.

But The Scottish-American War memorial has a quality all of its own. It expresses the essence of the pride of being of Scottish descent because all Scots, Highlander and lowlander know that theirs is a splendid ancient heritage of freedom. Aye, SAORSA GU BRATH, BYDAN FREE, FOREVER UNCONQUERED. When I think of the heritage I want for my own children and for the children of my fellow citizens and neighbors above all I want their world to be a world of dignity, security and free choice. In a long journey such as we have made -and we survived the 20th century- some things must be left behind. The Islands and Highland glen stand deserted except for the call of the birds and the sound of the wind; in the old parish church I am a stranger and no one is likely to call my name or remeber my family let alone that God-fearing man Father Collins -who married my paternal grandparents and baptized my father, Thomas Munro, Jr. March 17, 1915 while his father was fighting at Ypres. In fact, Auld Pop was listed as missing in action in those days and only a miracle of friend and courage by American Johnny -his friend Johnny Robertson and the loyal Dins (Indian soldiers) led to his rescue from sure death or capture.

Here is the inscription in Scotland's three living languages:


If it be life that waits,
I shall live,
forever unconquered,
if death,
I shall die at last,
strong in my pride,
and free!


Mas e beatha a tha 'n dan,
bidh mi beo
gu siorraidh neo-cheannsaichte,
mas e am bas,
gheibh mi bas mu dheirereadh,
laidir 'nam uaisleachd,
agus saor!


Gin it's decrete at life
is tae pree,
I'll joy till't,
Gin its daith,
that weird I'll maun dee,
leal tae masel,