So, as I predicted in “Juggernaut,” along comes, electronically, my invitation to this summer’s high school essay reading, my ticket to beautiful Louisville, Kentucky. I am very happy about this. Almost happy enough to still the terrors that strike at my vitals when I realize that this means another forced march through Cyberland. Stay tuned. With luck there will be no “electronic signature” to contend with.
Yet again I have been almost brought low by technology. I say “almost” because I haven’t given up yet, though it may be a near thing. A certain outfit that I sometimes work for has sent me an on-line form to fill out for them. It wasn’t always this way. These people and I used to communicate by snail mail. I would get hard copies in the mail and I would fill them out and send them back. Simple. But now, more and more, it is all done on-line, and the point is that I have no choice but to play their demonic game. I think there is something very wrong about this.
I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write this wonk (the first line on my note pad reads, “Is Techno Guy worth it?”). But this week the UNM Chorus, the Dulce Sueno Chorus, and the UNM Orchestra, under guest conductor Stephano Miceli, performed Brahms’ German Requiem, one of the masterworks of the Western world, and the contrast was just too stark to ignore. At the risk of compromising my modesty—faithful readers know that I have sung in the UNM Chorus for years—I will tell you that the performance was truly professional-grade, a stunning and transcendent experience for all.
Ever notice that some animals seem to have real trouble following the script? Take your penguin, for example. As a bird he is a disgrace (I’m sorry, but it’s time somebody said so and if it has to be me, well there you are then). Your penguin could pass muster as a portly butler in a whodunit, but where he really shines—if you have ever seen him gracefully cavorting under water—is as a fish. What’s—as they say—with that? And if penguins insist on behaving like fish, at least they do a better job of it than the ostrich, another bird with suspect credentials and ugly into the bargain.
If you ponder Krutch’s security axiom—security lies not in what one has but in what one can do without—long enough, you inevitably remember the story of the ant and the grasshopper, one of Aesop’s most famous fables. The details vary a bit in each telling but basically we have a happy-go-lucky grasshopper (in the original, a cicada) and a no-nonsense ant. The ant has spent the summer and fall finding bits of grain and grubs and hauling them laboriously back to his larder in the ant colony.
Last week I said that Joseph Wood Krutch’s axiom—which I usually phrase as “security lies not in what one has but in what one can do without”—may have more to do with morality than with materiality. I think it does, but I would like to put that on hold for a bit. And I have been telling my faithful correspondents, Joe and Sally, that I think that axiom is either very profound or just very commonsensical, and that its phrasing may be more compelling and beguiling than the idea behind it.
Way early in my teaching career, I used a book by Joseph Wood Krutch entitled The Desert Year. Krutch (1893-1970) was a drama critic, an English professor, a naturalist, a graceful writer, and, I have always thought, a wise man. The Desert Year is a collection of essays inspired by his observing and contemplating a year of life in the Sonoran Desert. Think Thoreau in Arizona.
Last week, after my watch fell into the boiling spaghetti water (don’t ask), I guessed that I would need a new one soon. Although it did dry out enough to begin working again, it began to get very creative in its time-telling. When the sun had just come up but my watch told me it was 1:47, I went shopping as soon as I could. And a surprise was waiting for me. I liked my old digital watch, but except for the chintzy $3.99 models I couldn’t find a new one. Almost all the watches these days are the old “analogue” jobs, the ones with the traditional clock face and hands.
Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, said Freud famously, and he set us off on that road in the scientific quest for dream understanding. Dream analysis can be a very helpful tool to serious psychoanalysts. Downscale, we have the dream interpreters in the daily papers. Often those interpretations confirms our hopes and wishes—our dreams—for love or money. Not much different from the astrology columns, really.
Last week, when I was visiting son Dan in San Diego, I had my usual anxiety dream and was telling him about it, somewhat bemused because here I was in La-La-Land, having a wonderful vacation with not an obvious care in the world. Anyway, I refer to “my anxiety dream” in the singular because it really has been the same dream with just minor variations for the past fifty years. Always the setting is some school and I am probably an undergraduate. This time the nasty was a term paper that I had completely spaced out and that was due the next day.