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Friday, August 12, 2011

Self-Reliance and Individualism have their limits.

The brave man is not afraid to serve, voluntarily a greater cause than he for the common good. Note I said voluntarily.  I recognize my debt to others and the civil society in which I live.  God made us strong only for a while so that we can help others.  One cannot only think of one's self but i also believe in the virtue of self-reliance because I know that in self-reliance is great strength, joy and dignity.  But I am also wise enough to know that one man alone is not enough; united we stand -as free men with a free choice-divided we fall.   The virtue of self-reliance and individualism if taken the extreme is a flawed ideal that constricts our social, national and our personal emotional natures.  No man is an island; we live and flourish in communities.  It is in the context of a civil society and its social structures that great things can be done and achieved never forgetting the right to individual freedom, individual conscience to worship God (or not) as one wishes in one's private life.   I believe very strongly in the private life, my private religion and my private languages but i am also a citizen.  I have individual rights but I also have duties to perform for my school, my community, my state, my nation and my house of God.   If you do not know such virtues or such community spirit then I pity you.  You are missing out on the chance to help others and be helped by them and to gain the love and gratitude of your neighbors and your fellows.   RICHARD K. MUNRO


A Munro sleeping on a rock
Auld Lang Syne: The Leal and True Men arrive:
France August 1914 THEY SHALL NOT PASS!!!
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An Eternal Bond:WWI Jocks and Doughboys

Dear Sir:

I want to thank you for your thoughtful and moving tribute to the Doughboys. Indeed “Pershing’s army has finally retired from the field. The drum is stilled….”

I am descended from World War II and World War I veterans and I have an especial love and respect for the Doughboys.

My father and uncles served in the American forces during WWII but my Scottish grandfather served in a Highland Regiment –the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders- from August 1914 until May 1919. His name was Thomas Munro, Sr. (1886-1963) and he received the Military Medal for Valour during 2nd Ypres (1915). He was one of only three men in his company to serve the entire war without being killed or seriously wounded.

One of the happiest days of his life was when they got the news that the United States had declared war on Germany in April 1917. He was stationed at Salonika at the time and all the talk was that the Balkans could be abandoned to prepare for a last ditch defense against the Germans on the Western Front. My grandfather survived 2nd Ypres –barely, and Gallipoli and the Struma Valley but he probably would not have survived 5th Ypres. He knew then the Allies would win the war and so he had this photo taken and sent to my grandmother with the note; “Dear Mary, running to catch the post. With America in the war victory cannot be far off. Your loving husband, Thomas.” He always felt he literally owed his life to the Doughboys.

He and his Scottish pals volunteered en masse in response to the declaration of war following the violation of Belgium’s neutrality by Germany. They were encouraged by Scottish Chiefs and their sons and nephews and notable Scots like Arthur Conan Doyle whose brother-in-law, nephews and brothers all enlisted (they would all be killed or die of their wounds).. One of the most famous people to enlist in the Argylls and to encourage others to do likewise was Harry Lauder’s son Captain John Lauder who was later killed in action after having been seriously wounded twice. Later Harry Lauder wrote “Keep Right On To the End of the Road” in honor of his son, the Argylls and all the Allied soldiers who experienced the Calvary of the Western Front.

Over 200,000 men enlisted in Glasgow –a number that seems incredible today- but not all of the men were Glaswegians or even Scottish. I would estimate that at least 50,000 were overseas Scots or people of Scottish sympathies of blood. We should remember many Americans as well as Canadians were in the war from the very beginning. My grandfather grew up playing shinty in the Highlands (he never played football or soccer) but during the war he played baseball in Salonika in 1917 with the Americans and Canadians in the Allied Forces there. So there were Canadians and Americans in the Argylls as well as Italians, Irish, English, Scandinavians, Jews, Catholics and Protestants.

My grandfather’s best friend was called American Johnny Robertson by everyone because he was a naturalized US citizen. Robertson just happened to be in Glasgow at the time of the declaration of war and so got caught up in all his enthusiasm. Robertson, whose photograph can be seen in the Edison museum with Thomas Edison, was an electronics and communications expert. He was a master of improvisation and of keeping phone communications between the front and the rear. I never knew him of course he died in 1941- but my father and grandfather knew him very well and my father saw the letter of recommendation signed by Thomas Edison that “American” Johnny always carried with him. I own books that belonged to Johnny Robertson –called “Uncle Johnny” by my father which Robertson had given to my father in 1938 before he returned to Scotland after a second long sojourn in America that began in 1920. He and my grandfather were roommates and travelled all over America working on various construction projects in New York, Baltimore, Galveston , Texas and other places.

Today we sometimes think World War I was all for nothing and the men who enlisted were naïve but to those men they were defending the lifeline of their country for if Belgium and the channel ports had fallen to the Germans and their U-Boats the British Isles would have been in a precarious position as we were later to see during WWII. They knew Kaiserism was a real danger to the peace, freedom and independence of the English-speaking peoples as well as others.

Hence the dogged determination by the British and Commonwealth forces to hold on to Ypres. Over 250,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers would give their lives in the desperate defense of the Ypres Salient. My grandfather and his Scottish pals helped hold the Ypres Salient at 2nd Ypres; they arrived at the Western Front in January 1915 and the fighting started to heat up gradually in March 1915 until it exploded in a terrific battle of hellish proportions that saw the first wide-scale use of poison gas by the Germans. Some of the fiercest fighting took place from April 1915 and early May specifically from May 8 to May 13th. The Argylls spent 36 straight days in combat without any relief and much of the time individual companies were cut off and virtually surrounded without any officers or NCO’s.

Privates like Colin Campbell Mitchell, Sr., took command and organized strong points, rationing food and water and resupplying themselves at night from the bodies of dead soldiers. He was later given a battlefield commission in the Argylls to captain. The Argylls had very few machine guns but the men had four or five rifles a piece –usually the Smelly, the Lee-Enfield Mark III with the spitzer .303 high velocity ammunition. They were lucky to be armed in abundance with the best bolt action infantry rifle ever produced. A reasonably trained soldier could easily get off 15 rounds a minute but in the top British regiments most of the soldiers were trained to shoot over 20 rounds a minute even reaching 30 rounds in a crisis situation. As guns and ammunition were plentiful this gave the British and Commonwealth troops a decisive advantage especially in defense where the Germans could not utilize their heavy machine guns. There were many stories of squads holding a flank using multiple rifles against hundreds of attackers.

None of the allied troops had any gas masks to begin with and their only defense was blankets, rubberized tents and urine impregnated handkerchiefs. One of the reasons the Argyll positions were not lost is that medical students from Glasgow University were quick to indentify the gas as chlorine gas and rapidly improvised a defense. The urine impregnated handkerchiefs acted as a primitive filter and gave soldiers a few minutes of extra protection. In the first days their only tactic was to take cover in shelters that were as air tight as possible and hope that the winds or rain would blow away the gas. Individual soldiers would venture out protected only by motorcycle goggles and medical gauze impregnated with urine. Later they got supplies of chemicals to do the same thing and supplemented with captured German gas masks. The leader of the Argylls during the most desperate days was Captain Dick Donald Porteous (called “Port” by the men); he was killed in the very last stage of the battle by a German sniper on May 10, 1915. My grandfather said Captain Porteous was a great and beloved man and that he could have been as great as Churchill. So many talented and good men were lost in that terrible war.

Today 2nd Ypres is largely forgotten but the heroism and resourcefulness of the soldiers of the 81st Brigade and the 27th Division which included Indian troops (“Dins”) , the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Highland Light Infantry matched anything in the annals of human warfare including Balaklava which was the signature Thin Red Line moment of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

But all that sacrifice would have been for naught if had not been for the Doughboys like Frank Buckles, Joyce Kilmer (killed in action), Col. “Wild Bill” Donovan, (Medal of Honor), Marine Sergeant Major Dan Daly (Twice awarded the Medal of Honor).,Alvin York (Medal of Honor), Eddie Rickenbacker, Quentin Roosevelt (killed in action and now buried next to his brother another Doughboy Gen Theodore Roosevelt Jr who died after D-day –also awarded the Medal of Honor.) and Major Whittlesey of the Lost Battalion (Medal of Honor). Behind them was a force of Doughboys almost 2,000,000 strong. The fact that only about half of them reached Europe is beside the point. Their mere existence and their readiness to cross the Atlantic to go Over There completely demoralized the Germans and at the same time gave the Allies the courage they needed to hang on just a little longer until relief finally came.

Britain, the Democracies of Europe and the world owe a very great debt of gratitude to the American fighting men of the twentieth century. We should remember their fortitude and their selfless devotion to duty in the cause of liberty.

It is not an exaggeration to say the whole of Western Europe and the Free World is their monument. NE OBLIVISCARIS: do not forget. And to the Doughboys I give personal thanks and pledge to honor their memory the rest of my life. I had only one grandfather growing up (the other was killed in August 1918) but I was blessed to have at least one and get to know him, love him and hear his stories. Many other sons and grandsons were not so lucky.

Richard K. Munro


Why do people riot, loot and steal?

Why do people riot, loot and steal?

.by Richard K. Munro on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 7:08pm.Richard K. Munro

Urban "Youths" at play
Sorry to say but this doesn't look like New York's Finest; they seem demoralized and underequipped.

People who have three square meals a day, free education, free healthcare, cheap public transportation, free or subsidized housing do not riot like san cullottes due to a lack of material necessities. They steal because they are greedy and amoral and have TOO MUCH free time on their hands. Idleness is the devil's workshop is an old saying. How true. They are uncontrolled because they are a spoiled entitlement mob expecting more bread, more booze, more holidays and more circuses (entertainment). Hard working decent people of honor would be ashamed to act as they do (I am sure still most British people are horrified and ashamed at the behavior of this state-subsidized underclass).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Reading is a very special and inestimable pleasure

Two well-known Shakespearean actors: Maurice Evans & Charlton Heston
"Human see, human do."

George Taylor (Charlton Heston): "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape." quoted in the current blockbuster.
Most famous quote by a Shakespearan actor in the 20th century (Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius)

Maurice Evans had fun in Hollywooed for laughs and lucre
"Dr. Zira, I must caution you. Experimental brain surgery on these creatures is one thing, and I'm all in favor of it. But your behavior studies are another matter. To suggest that we can learn anything about the simian nature from a study of man is sheer nonsense. Why, man is a nuisance. He eats up his food supply in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated, the better. It's a question of simian survival."
Also "The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it, ages ago."

Reading for pleasure is a vital part of reading development. In order to read well one must have an adequate vocabulary and the discipline to concentrate. One does not develop vocabulary by watching TV sit-coms. One does not develop vocabulary having casual conversations. One develops vocabulary and cultural literacy by a steady habit of reading and when one is young, in particular, by being read to. I enjoy recorded books occasionally as a change of pace but for me they could not replace books because, frankly, there are not many quality recorded books and certainly the range is very small. Book reading seems today almost as much a minority pleasure as in Fahrenheit 451. Yet, in the end, reading and writing are both inestimable pleasures. One is foolish not to give reading a try.

Of course, some of the reading we do will not be for pleasure. Reading tax information or reading an application for a passport. However, I believe reading is a habit and the pleasures of reading are developed by choice and whim. If you enjoy reading adventure or about hunting and fishing or sports or military history great. As a boy I was an avid reader of sports biographies and comic books. Then I graduated to science fiction. I read the entire collections of autors I liked. And of course science fiction led me to read H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Steven Vincent Benet, Jules Verne, and Joseph Conrad.

You don't have to be a specialist. You can develop an amateur interest in the subject and as you become an aficionado you will enjoy it even more. I also believe there is a place for reading aloud. Some prose and some poetry is best when read aloud. Recently I was hiking round the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. As it is my habit I also carry some small books with me to read in a spare moment. I have not yet graduated to Kindle or Nook. I enjoy having a physical book which I can carry with me and where I can underline the words. I enjoy reading the WSJ on line when I am on vacation or in a remote location. There it is a delight to have access in a place where there are no kiosks. Nevertheless, I prefer reading the newspaper and when I like articles I can keep them. They are already printed out. One thing people do not mention is that the permant book like the permanent magazine article or the printed encourage re-reading. Re-reading fine literature is one of the great pleasures of reading. On-line articles have the great virtue of being easy to share and interactive, which is wonderful in its own way. But I rarely re-read or closely read on-line articles. If I like a book review I print it out to keep for future reference.

The 20th century scholar, author and teacher Gilbert Highet gave good advice on reading: Highet recommends to readers to read for pleasure and mature their reading pleasures. Highet believed it was important to choose an “important author” and read all of his or her work. He argues that such a regimen helps readers to “escape from themselves.” It certainly will develop taste and stamina for reading. Highet felt “it is also valuable to push directly through the works of a good author, trying to see them as a single creation, appreciating their wholeness and their uniqueness and leaving the details for later study.”

I have followed his advice with a few authors, Conrad, Hemingway, Orwell, Twain, Camilo José Cela, Emile Zola, Cervantes, and a lot but not quite all of Chesterton, or Dickens or Shakespeare. Of course, I have followed Highet’s advice with his own work. Many of his books remain in print; The Classical Tradition, The Art of Teaching, Man’s Unconquerable Mind are enduring books. I consider Highet’s best essays on par with anything Orwell or Chesterton wrote. Most of his books and essays are still are in print. A great anthology could be compiled just publishing his numerous book reviews. I have read dozens of them from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

In addition, Highet, suggests reading about “one single important and interesting subject: for instance, the paintings of the cave men; or the agony of modern music; or the rebirth of calligraphy; or recent theories of the creation and duration of the universe.” Once again, not everyone is going to have the same tastes but one of the purposes of reading widely is to acquaint yourself with different subject areas. Surely one or another will be more interesting to the individual reader. As a teacher I have always tried to encourage extra credit and individual choice in reading as much as possible.

Highet also believe it was important to read across a whole variety of genres, not merely fiction or merely non-fiction but also travel writing, biography, history, poetry, drams, stories, novels. Highet said “we might read a large selection of poems and prose passages selected in order to illuminate one single aspect of the world. One such volume would go into a pocket or a handbag and yet last all summer.” Ravitch’s American Reader or his English Reader are some good modern examples but there are also the excellent Norton Anthologies. The Library of America has a wonderful series of anthologies, American Sea Writing, Reporting WWII, True Crime: an American Anthology, Baseball: a Literary Anthology and The Lincoln Anthology.

Reading Highet –who wrote this over fifty years ago is sometimes poignant because he often shows to me how he is closer to Victorian Scotland than we are.  Also he also has become from being my contemporary to becoming a historic figure for us living in the 20th century.  Highet wrote most of his best work 50 and 60 years ago.

Highet wrote: “ might decide to spend the summer with a single great or at least a single interesting man. For example, every doctor should know The Life of Sir William Osler by Harvey Cushing, and after reading that fine book he would enjoy himself if he went on to read Osler’s own writings. Osler never tired of complaining that most doctors had minds too limited and too confined to the physical symptoms which they observed in the routine of their practice. He kept trying to enlarge his own mind and spirit, and his books will therefore enlarge the mind and spirit of his readers, whether they are of the medical profession or not.”

It seems to me Mr. Highet lived in a happier, more sane world in which scholars and teacher could safely assume SOME of their students, neighbor and readers would be broadly educated and have wide interests beyond their own narrow field. Highet assumed there were a well-read general reading public who would seek delight and entertainment as well as enlightenment in the books they read. Highet was sure that if they read and re-read “Great Books” and the best of modern literature he or she would find self-improvement to their liking.

Personally, I cannot imagine a life without books, without literature and without poetry and song. Pop culture and the movies are mildly entertaining but very superficial. The best that can be said for them is that they are an easy shared pleasure.

But even entertaining films like The Rise of the Planet Apes have their literary precursors. La Planète des singes 1963, (Planet of the Apes)of course was first a French novel by Pierre Boulle. Boulle’s book was also influenced by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, H.G. Well’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.

In this last novel there is an a wise “Ape-Man” - A who considers himself equal to men and capable of “big think.” Even earlier than H.G. Wells is Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island (1874). Also influential was Stephen Vincent Benet’s famous short story “By the Waters of Babylon” (1937) originally called the “Place of the Gods”.

Benet’s work, which was written as a reaction to the Nazi fire-bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica is fascinating because at first one is not certain of the time and place. We find out that the Place of the Gods is actually the bombed out ruins of New York City. It is also fascinating because it was written long before the development of the Atomic bomb or missles yet Benet’s seemed to know that once world war broke out advances in military technology would be ever more dangerous and might even destroy most of humanity. The complete story can be read on the internet.

From Richard Connell's famous story; here I saw the movie first. The movie is fairly close to the book except they added a sexy Fay Wray to make it more interesting and to allow for a more chipper dialogue.  Many adventures add a romantic element to add drama and make it more appealing.
There is nothing wrong with reading comic book versions or abridged versions; they can be very entertaining and may lead the reader to read the original later.  I cheerfully admit to having read most of the classics from age 5 to 12 in the Classic Illustrated version.  I read some of them dozens of times.
Flight from the Plaent of the Apes (In German); a book dervied from the movie
The idea of human decline and the fall of civilization due to war, disease or uncontrolled science is a theme seen over and over again. One of the reasons it appeals to people is that we are all fascinated by the very real possibility of the fall of our civilization and the possibility of a “New Dark Age made more sinister and more protracted,” as Churchill himself remarked during WWII. “by the lights of perverted science.” Here there are a plethora of thrilling stories: Well’s The Time Machine (1895) and his The Shape of Things to Come (1933), Nightfall (1941) by Isaac Asimov, or his Foundation Trilogy (1951) “There will come soft rains” (1950) by Ray Bradbury. Then there is I am Legend (1954). Another fine thriller is The White Plague (1982) by Frank Herbert. Film, it seems to me, is very dependent on literature for its best stories and inspiration. In other words even your movie going pleasure is improved by a knowledge of classic film and classic books!

We recall Cicero's speech, Pro Archia, with its famous defense of literature and quoted by Petrarch, Jefferon, Gibbon, Toynbee, Highet and countless others. . Haec studia adolescentiam alunt…"These studies sustain youth and entertain old age, they are an ornament during prosperity. They offer a refuge and solace in hard times; they delight us when we are at home but do not hinder us in the world outside. They are with us in the evenings, in our wanderings and travels and when in the country..."

Petrarch was very fond of this quotation and whenever Cicero used the phrase "litterarum lumen", "the light of literature", Petrarch drew a sketch in the margin  of a candle  (still used as a symbol for enlightenment today).
Sometimes it is good to read serious literature and other times it is good to slum and enjoy more popular genres such as sports, survival literature, adventure or romance. All reading is good in that it sharpens the mind and improves one’s fluency and enriches one’s vocabulary and cultural literacy. Nonetheless, one need not read Moby Dick every day nor write it; one can merely correspond with friends and read as the whim suits.

In conclusion, we may not all be Joseph Conrads or Hemingways or Andrew Roberts or Stephen Ambrose or Edith Wharton but we can write book reviews, blogs and letters.

And this too is part of the Republic of Letters.

And we can read and share our reading experiences with others -for our own edification as well as for others.

Reading is one of the greatest and most lasting pleasures for those wise enough to cultivate this habit.

If you want to be a reader it really is very simple and not that expensive.
Just read. And by all means read for pleasure as much as you can.

Yes, I often tell my students “Try it! You might like it.”

Or as Unamuno said: “leer, leer, leer!” READ, READ, READ.

Wise advice by the most prolific of Spanish authors.

Note: (Cicero Pro Archia

Poeta 7.16).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Inner excellence matters more than physical appearance

I am presently visiting Phoenix, Arizona where my son and daughter-in-law are residing at present. It is an amazing oasis in the middle of what must have been a burning desert only 100 years ago. I thought Bakersfield, California was hot but Phoenix makes Bakersfield seem tame by comparison as Phoenix is more Texas-like in its 100+ degrees every day (109 day after day). One effect this has is that when one goes for a walk (I have no car) one has to have some water, sun screen (60+ or more) and a hat. It is interesting to visit with so many young people and hear their views and to meet both  athletes and business people. When one comes to a place like this, which is rather far from the centers of culture and far from the sort of people one usually consorts with one is taken aback at times.

Of the young people I met -all college graduates- not a single one reads the daily newspaper or subscribes to a single magazine. What news they get they get from the Daily Show and the Internet but it seems to me they are far more interested in 1) gossip 2) popular culture which includes vampire shows and pop music 3)professional sports and or gambling and 4) sex and pornography (not necessarily in that order). All of the young men in question had his own very attractive "squeeze" (some married some not) but still the talk turned to a discussion on collections of hard core pornography. The kind that makes Playboy seem like Shakespeare! It appeared there was a fascination with hedonism of all kinds particularly the sexual but also food and drink and simple animal pleasures. Everyone was having a Good Time and it seems every lust and appetite was being satisfied and new stimulants for lust were being invented. It appears to me that much of the wealth of America is being squandered before my very eyes on women, drink, drugs, sports, gambling and other modern circuses.

We always talk about education and the future but we must consider the very real possiblity that the American people might just commit suicide. People respect education in a way because they know it is a necessary outward sign of a person of means but that doesn't mean they really like it. Suppose our economic problems were solved and the work week were shortened and vacations of six weeks or more were guaranteed. Which would these people prefer? Art? Music (fine music? Books? or video games, gambling and pornography? I know the new Planet of the Apes film is about to premiere. can't help thinking we MUST be closely related to apes because so few of us understand that hedonistic pleasures are not the same as happiness.

Ingrid Berman in her 20's circa 1943
Irish actress Maureen O'Hara still spry in her 90's
A young actress without any English, French or Italian (she later added these to her native Swedish and German):
INGRID BERGMAN circa 1937 about 19 years old
I thought of the young women I saw last night. As I said they were all very attractive, far above average I would say and all less than 25 years of age; perhaps one or two was 27 or so. Females must be especially burdened by the attention they receive for their pretty faces, curling locks and slender appealing figures. From the time they are young such women must have been flattered by males and evaluated heavily only in terms of their physical appearance.

Unfortunately, if a woman only tends to her looks and physical appearance because she figures that is the way to get a man's attention she may let her inner gifts and talents atrophy. Such a woman puts all of her efforts into enhancing and maintaining her physical beauty at the price of distorting her natural self to pleasure others, chiefly males. Despite all the furor of Equal Rights and Feminism some things have not changed at all especially here in the provinces.

I think it is mistake many people make -and this includes men as well as women. They put all their efforts in managing their physical appearance and the impression they make on others. I could not help but think that some of these young women ten or fifteen years hence will be discarded for "newer models". The lucky ones will have at least gotten married to someone with some money and thus gained some security. Yes, the world may reward us for wrong or superficial reasons -such as our youth and physical beauty- but what really matters now and in the long run is character and culture -who we are inside and who we are becoming.

All of us seek the happy life and a secure life but many confuse the means -wealth and rank- with life. The really worthwhile things are family, children, friends, faith, good books, time spent together with shared leisure -swimming, going to a ball game, telling stories, singing, laughing, cooking family recipes passed down from lip to ear and to tongue, watching fireworks and hiking in the Grand Canyon. The things that make life worthwhile are sound, healthy virtuous activities not the external means that seem to produce it. We are all tempted to buy the fanciest car, the special shoes and the stylish shirt. I saw shirts priced at over $100 each. I saw shoes and accessories priced at over $500 each. But I must say I was very happy with my discounted cotton shirts from JC Penny and my comfortable, well-fitting New Balance (American-made) walking shoes.

But just when I was about to write off an entire generation of Americans I found myself renewed at the ball park.

 There I saw the great mass of Americans lower middle class, middle class and upper middle class, enjoying a common moment of leisure. There I saw many families with young children -2, 3 or even 4 -this isn't Madrid or Rome or Berlin or New York. One of the most touching moments was when they had a romantic frame on the scoreboard for kisses and they moved across the stadium crowd for couples from 18 to 80 and asked them to show us all a kiss. Then they focused in on a pretty young Hispanic woman and a muscular young American with a short crew cut -he might have been an off duty soldier- and he asked her live not for a kiss but on one knee "WILL YOU MARRY ME and MAKE ME THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD". The young woman was completely surprised and doubly surprised to be on television and on the big screen of the scoreboard. She literally had to wipe the salt tears from her eyes and gave a big , almost shy smile to the entire crowd and then said yes (THE ENTIRE CROWD CHEERED "YES") and then kissed him. The lucky man then took out an engagement ring and placed it on her finger. My son said to me, "Well, Dad, what do you think of that?" And I sad, "I hope they live happily ever after!"

Some people become very pessimistic that young people are impossible, that illegal immigrants are going to destroy this country, that the Black hate the White and the White hate the Brown etc. But when you go out teach the people as I have, and go to their weddings and baptisms, and see them at their pastimes you have to feel very, very optimistic. Because when it comes down to it the melting pot is still bubbling on.

John F. Kennedy said: "And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future."

My mother used to say that "life and love were just a brief moment in time, so let us forgive each other and let us love one another while we can." When we walk down the street with our son -who is now 26- I remember when we walked out of the Polo Grounds and the old Yankee Stadium three generations of my family. And as the generation of leaves so are the generations of men! It is hard to remember now the loved and the lost but we must remember them with gratitude and tranquility for I was very lucky to have had them as mentors and companions if only for a brief moment in time. Yes, we are all mortal that is a certainty. What lies beyond is not; it may be described as a fond hope.  As Jake Barnes said: "Isn't it pretty to think so."  My father, ever the sceptic said, "I vote yes for all the good it will do me."

I recently re-read MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor Frankl. I first read it almost 40 years ago and I think I have read it at least once every five years since then. It was not the edition I was used to but a new edition belonging to my son which he had bought at ASU. The older book had a different introduction by a psychologist a certain Dr. Gordon Allport; this edition (2006) had and introduction written by a clergyman, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. Kushner wrote: "terrible as it was, his experience in Auschwitz reinforced what was already one of his key ideas: Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times.

I think the reason so many teachers are happy despite everything is that their work is very, very significant. They are not usually rewarded in a material sense but the teacher's true rewards is the love and gratitude of his or her disciples. And I think teachers find joy when they have to be courageous during difficult times.

Think back to Columbine when a teacher sacrificed his life to save his students.

Frankl's love for his young wife -torn from his breast before even a final kiss were possible-is very, very moving: "That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of us wife. Occasionally I looked in the sky, where the starts were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife' image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: THE SALVATION OF MAN IS THROUGH LOVE and IN LOVE. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be if only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way -an honorable way- in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved {MUNRO: I would say BELOVEDS}, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."


"My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were still alive. I konw only one thing -which I have learned well by now. LOVE GOES FAR BEYOND THE PHYSICAL PERSON OF THE BELOVED. IT FINDS ITS DEEPEST MEANING IN HIS SPIRITUAL BEING, HIS INNER SELF. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importantance." ...nothing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved....."

Yes, Dr. Frankl suffered and was very unlucky. And he would say that suffering is of itself meaningless. We give suffering and sacrifice meaning by the way we respond to it. In our lives there will be forces beyond our ken and beyond our human control. There will be storms, floods, fires and acts of God and acts of the Godless. All our human posseessions could be smashed or taken from us. All those we love might be killed or separated from us forever. But if we live there is one thing , one freedom that no one can take away from us. That is how we respond to the storms, temptations and travails of life. Rabbi Kushner said, following Frankl, "you cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always, control what you will feel and do about what happens to you."

Argyll and Sutheland Highlanders arrive in France, August 1914:
The many Scottish Pals Aye the Floors o' the Forest are a' weed awa

They suffered over 6,000 killed and 25,000 casualties.  My grandfather lost his brother, his brother-in-law, most of his best friends, over 10 first cousins, all of his commanding officers and NCO's from 1914. All of them. 1914-1918 was a journey of the cross for an entire generation of Scottish manhood; after 1918 over 400,000 Scots (10% of the population and 30% of the youth emigrated most never to return.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
We count our blessings.

I like to put quotations on my bulletin boards. I think I have found a new one for this fall. Teachers all over America must do what men and women will do and must suffer what teachers -especially American teachers must. But no matter what happens or what indignity we suffer we can control how we behave, how we feel and do something about what happens to us and our schools. We are not sticks upon strings adrift without pattern or hope; we are human beings and we are swimmers, strong swimmers. We can endure, we can reach the shore and we can carry on despite everything.