Archive for January, 2015

Road to a Grecian Turn

January 30, 2015

With apology to John Keats, a new poem for 2015:

 

Oh, You unbridled bride of Entitlement,

Can you still afford to pay the Rent?

You, love-child of Austerity and Free-spending,

Is your ambrosia Never-ending?

Paid debts are sweet, but those unpaid are sweeter

says your new Syriza leader,

’cause we’ve got to get the people working,

so in Unemployment they’ll not be lurking.

Ah, happy, happy days that cannot end,

as long as EU-lovers still do send

debt forgiveness, and credits new

so you’ll never bid EU adieu.

UmbrelSyntagm

Who are these coming to the Sacrifice?

a little help from Euro friends would sure be nice.

The Germans, the French, will surely come

and Play the Games until they’re done!

MarblStrt2

Oh Athenic State, on marbled path of Austerity

Can you reach that elusive peak of Victory?

Winged Athens, her goddess wings now torn away–

Has she lost her head in heat of the fray?

PleatedFigur

Oh, for ever may you live, and Greece be fair!

as long as EU pals still care.

Austerity puts Prosperity on the go–

That’s all you really need to know!

Glass Chimera

AcrpRokFlag

A World in Harmony, or Not

January 29, 2015

AcropVwTheatre

This morning I am watching the sky over Athens, Greece, as a new day brightens this fascinating city.

Yesterday, Pat and I toured the Acropolis, a mountaintop collection of ancient Greek temples. Greeks of 2500 years ago believed in a multiplicity of gods who were contending with each other for power.

I woke up thinking about their pantheon of many gods, and how different that belief is from my Christian faith in One God.

Believing in one God means the world is in divine harmony, because God made the world the way it is supposed to be. This belief enables me to reconcile the obvious contradictions of good and evil in this world.

The pagan religion, it seems to me, does not enable a believer to adequately find true harmony in this world, because all the “gods” or forces of nature or spiritual forces, are contending with each other. Therefore there is no ultimate reconciliation of good vs. evil.

Is the universe in harmony with itself, or not?

So this morning I am considering this idea of harmony, or not-harmony. Is the world humming along in a harmony that was coded into it by a Creator? Or is it just a bunch of god-wannabe forces working against each other?

Just looking around in the world as it presently exists, it seems more like the latter.

Being a musician, I began to consider musical harmony. Think about the perfection that Mozart manifested in his symphonies and sonatas. Lots of harmony and perfect precision there. It’s nice to listen to, and very impressive. But I prefer the dynamic, existential dissonance of Beethoven’s music. Why is that?

Is there something about the dis-harmony, or dissonance, that is more appropriate, or more true, than appreciating a harmony that doesn’t really exist?

But let me go back a little further in musical time that Mozart and Beethoven.

Harmony and dissonance in music go back further than those two geniuses.

A half a century or so before them were Bach and Vivaldi.

Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi were able to appropriate old modes and melodies that had been floating around since ancient (Greek, Indo-European, etc) times, and weave them into intricately constructed masterpieces of musical construction.

Bach was a pioneer in this; he was a genius. He experimented with the ancient Greek modes, blending them with tuneful elements of his own Germanic heritage to produce new inventions of musical expression that had never been heard, or even dreamed of, before. In fact, a series of his compositions are called “inventions.” They are carefully constructed, in almost the same sense that the later sound-generating machines of Edison, Bell, or Marconi came to be known, in the late 1800s, as “inventions.”

While Bach was the master inventor of the new (what we call baroque) music, Antonio Vivaldi was, during that same period, the grand master of musical passion. His universally popular “Four Seasons” (my all-time favorite) violin concertos express a level of instrumental virtuosity that surpass, by their emotional intensity, Bach’s work, which is more cerebral or scientific.

Of course Bach had his emotions going hard-at-it too, but in a very different–what we might call a “German”–way. While Vivaldi was. . . from Venice.  And. . . well, you know how Italians are, very expressive. (This all goes back, metaphorically, to the Greeks and Romans.)

Bach and Vivaldi were analogous to the Bill Gates and  Steve Jobs of their age.

Just as Bach had propelled the world into totally new forms of music in the 1700s, Bill Gates, working in the late 1900s, wove computer software into a whole new world of innovative technology.

Just as Vivaldi had propelled the violin, oboe and other instruments into unprecedented explorations of emotional catharsis, so did Steve Jobs, by his unpredictable innovations make computers “sing.”

While Bach was carefully constructing, on his keyboards, inventions of technical music wonder, Vivaldi was making the world ring, and sing, with creative passion.

There were others, of course, of that age: Telemann, Corelli, Pachelbel. Many great musicians during the baroque.

Then along came a prodigy: Mozart. He cranked out one masterpiece after another, and made it seem as simple as breathing. In Amadeus, music found its highest possible level of precise perfection.

Even so, listening to a meticulously perfect Mozart symphony or sonata does not pack the dynamic crescendo that would soon arrive under the masterful musical poetry of Ludwig von Beethoven.

What Bach did with the keyboard was raw creative genius, honed into exquisite constructions of sound. It is similar to what Gates did with software.

What Vivaldi did with instruments–violin, oboe–was pure passionate profundity, similar to what Jobs did with (what used to be called the computer) Apple.

Now, how did I, watching the day dawn in Athens,  arrive at all this rumination about Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Gates and Jobs?

I don’t know. How irresponsible of me.

I began this inharmonic quest about two hours ago with intentions that were totally different from what this essay has become. While watching a new day brighten the sky over Athens, I had an idea about the difference between paganism–belief in multiple gods or forces of nature that are contending with each other–and Christianity, which eventually dominated Greek (and European) culture. Having toured the Acropolis yesterday, I was considering all the huge architectural structures that the ancients had constructed here in Athens.

Those Greeks, and later the Romans, of ancient times seem to have been highly motivated with memorializing their devotion to a pantheon of many gods, mostly Athena and Zeus. They did so by building very large structures of architectural precision and grandiosity. I’m quite amazed, but there’s something missing here.

Then a Hebrew teacher named Paul came to Athens. He saw all their temples and memorials devoted to the gods, and promptly proclaimed to them otherwise:

This pantheon, or multiplicity, of forces you are  worshipping– I have to break it to ya– are not

truly gods. Rather, those entities are merely elemental forces in nature, and all of them subservient in power to One God:

YWHW, who sent his son to show us how to live and die.

What an innovator that Paul was. What followed is history, as Christian Europe would attest for the next 1900 years or so.

However, methinks some consequence, yet hanging in the world, shall bitterly begin with this year’s contentions.

Glass Chimera

Turning the World upside qomu in Athens

January 27, 2015

I am 63 years old now.

But a long time ago, when I was 27, my life changed in a big way.

I had made a mess of things, having tasted too freely of the pleasures of this world. My own lusts and weaknesses were dragging me down into a terrible moshpit of overstimulated sensuous confusion.

When I finally hit bottom, I turned to Jesus and he dragged me up out of all that depravity. He set my feet upon a rock,

AeropRoc

and gave me a new start in life.

After a while, a year or so, of getting straightened by God and his ways and means committee, I got some definite direction. Many good things happened during those days. I met Pat, who became my life-mate, and has been so for 35 years, as of yesterday, January 26, 2015.

We gravitated to a small town in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, USA; there we joined a little New Testament church and linked up with some other like-minded Christians, many of whom were, like me, refugees from the rat-race world of 1979.

Our little flock was led, New Testament style, by a pastor, Tom.

Tom had read the Scriptures quite a bit, a lot more than I had, and he was teaching us about the message of the gospel proclaimed therein.

We had a little community of believers–all of us young, in our 20s and 30s mostly–and we were determined to do things right to live in Christian community, doing it “by the book.”

The “book” being the Bible.

It was a great life. Still is, but there have been some changes.

Tom taught us quite a bit from a New Testament book called the Acts. In the Bible, Acts is the first book after the four gospels.

We learned a lot. Pat and I like to think we had a lot going for us, raising our three children in a little Christian bubble of the Holy Spirit’s (and our) construction.

Tom was heavy into the book of Acts. Acts of the Apostles.

A very important part of that great narrative in Acts is this:

The eleven men (of the original “twelve apostles”) who walked this earth alongside Jesus stayed in Judea after Jesus’ death by crucifixion, resurrection, and  ascension into heaven. Then the Lord brought forth, from the Pharisee sect of the Jews, a really zealous preacher who spent most of his life traveling in the eastern Mediterranean, delivering the message of Jesus to his fellow Jews, but also to Greeks and Asians and anyone else who would listen.

I must say that, over those first twenty or so years of living in tight Christian community and implementing the gospel as preached by our pastor Tom, then Ben and others, I got a little tired of hearing about Paul all the time.

Paul this, and Paul that. What about the main main, Yeshua haMeschiach, Jesus?

But this is no simple question to answer, although the gospel itself is simple–it had to be, so that all men and women could comprehend it and receive it.

This is what frustrates intelligent people so much about the gospel–that it is so dam simple.

The gospel had to be simple so that it could be accessible to all men and women. The message is: Jesus was crucified by men for our sin (he had no sin of his own) so that we could believe in his resurrection and be rejoined with God.

Now it just so happens that today, as I write this, Pat and I are in Athens, a great city of the world. What a city! Such a city.

I love the place.

And because of what we saw and heard yesterday from Jimmy, who led us through a tour around the Aereopagus and the Acropolis, I have gained a new appreciation for old brother Paul, who traveled through here about 1,950 years ago.

Because, as Jimmy put it, Paul stood at the Aereopagus, the place where seekers gathered on a hillside in Athens, and told all those wise folks that the “unknown” God whose identity and work so were so elusive to them–this unknown God– had indeed been revealed to us through the eternal life of Jesus, the Christ, Messiah.

And, as Jimmy put it, Paul sought to convert these Greeks (who worshipped a multiplicity of gods) into Christians. Good luck with that, Paul!

Here’s the rock from the top of which Paul probably addressed the Athenian seekers:

AereopPlaq

Quite a task that was, that Paul took unto himself.

And so I learned yesterday that Paul wasn’t such a stodgy old religious guy. Rather, he was spiritual revolutionary, trying to turn the religious world upside down. And because of his  trailblazing work, and the work of many others who have followed  him through history, the gospel of Jesus has trickled through history and time to me, an American wandering through the city of Athens in the year 2015. Pretty revolutionary stuff. Paul did indeed “turn the world upside down.”

I hope you can relate. Thanks for stopping by.

Glass Chimera

at The Cradle of Western Civilization

January 26, 2015

Back in the 1960’s days of my youth I began what eventually became a lifetime study of history and literature. While studying classic English literature in college (LSU) I sometimes wondered why the great writers of British literature had such a fascination, almost obsession with, ancient Greek literature.

Yesterday I began to understand why.

When you actually go to a place like Athens and walk around for a day, your definition of literacy changes. You see how far back our quest for knowledge goes. You notice  how different that quest was then, even though it now seems to be somehow the same pursuit.

While ambling on foundations (literally) of Western civilization established in Athenian ground 2500 years ago, you get an unfamiliar sense of time-travel, especially if you’re an American like me. I grew up in a national identity that was only hundreds of years old instead of, you know, thousands of years old.

This sense of getting deep insight into the origins of constructive thought is probably similar to what the classic English writers–Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Keats, Shelley, etc. etc.–felt when they came here.

It is a sense of this Culture thing that’s going on in the annals of mankind–it goes back a long, long way!

What I want to do here is present to you three examples of this experience that I had yesterday.

1.

Pat and I  stumbled upon (with a little help from a map) an ancient theatre, thousands of years old, where actual people who lived during that time came to see and hear actual plays being acted, like we would go to plays or movies today.

It was in this place:

TheatrDion2

In this very place, in this grandiose structure, playwrights of ancient Athens were amused as they watched ancient Athenian actors acting out on stage the dramas that they–the playwrights– had written.

When I dabbled in classic literature, back in the day, in college, I read selections from very old plays or poems written by long-dead Greek guys like Aeschylus, Euripides, or Homer. When I was reading, on printed pages, their old dramas and stories–like Oedipus Rex or The Odyssey or whatever–the reading experience was rather shallow.

To see the place where those ancient Greek stories were recited or acted out–there’s just something about it that propels the awareness of human story-telling into a new reality, a new appreciation for history that I never understood before.

Doesn’t that resemble a theater of auditorium in which you have been seated, having been perhaps assisted by an usher?

So that you see and hear some old story acted or sung about.

The urge to watch drama–plays or musicals of whatever fashion–goes back a long way! It’s nothing new.

There’s nothing new under the sun, as the ancient (even older than these Greeks) Hebrew poet Ecclesiastes noted.

What I am seeing is that, while the content of the narrative may change with time and fashion, the fundamental means of dramatic story-telling has changed not so much.

2.

This is true not only of literature, but also of military conquest and politics.

Pat snapped this picture of the antiquated structure called Hadrian’s Arch. You see me standing there beneath the architecture.

HadrArchCare

What’s funny about this is, on one side of the arch the citizens of Athens had inscribed (only barely visible) this statement:

“This is Athens, the city of Theseus.”

A few centuries later, the Romans came through and took over Athens. The Romans conquered the Greeks, or subjugated them, or threw their weight around in such a way that they wanted to demonstrate to the Athenians that  they–the Romans, new kids on the block of civilization– were now in charge of things around here and so now we pre-Italianos would be running the show and things would be different around here and you better know who’s calling the shots, if you know what I mean. And so, to make their point in an impressively architectural way, the Romans inscribed on the other side of the arch a new statement:

“This is the city of Hadrian, not Theseus”

I thought that was quite funny when Pat read it to me in the guide book.

3.

Here’s a time-travel appointment with one more  event that had happened in Athens, almost two thousand years ago. We were at a stony hilltop called Aereopagus.

AeropRoc

Yesterday I was standing here, looking at the marbly rocks of geological and historical time; the stones were worn smooth by millions of human feet that had trod there since the tree of knowledge was first encountered. Here, Greeks of long ago would gather to talk about the meaning of life, and probably drink coffee or wine, while discovering among themselves great thoughts of philosophy, history, politics, sports and bullshit and war and whatnot.

One day a zealous proponent of a new movement called Christianity came to town. He had come on a boat from Israel.

Paul had wandered in Athens for a day or two, and had heard about the serious pursuits of knowledge and nascent Western civilization that were taking place up on Aereopagus. So he went up there to listen, and to deliver a message to those sages. Here is (as recorded in a book, Acts of the Apostles) the beginning of what he told them:

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man . . .”

But that was only another new beginning, even though it was in the middle of everything.

More to come. News at 11.

Glass Chimera

She is love

January 25, 2015

She is love, and that’s why

I married her.

Thirty-five years ago.

Everything about her is love and so

I noticed her,

and I thought:

She is not like me; she

makes up the difference between

me and every other damned thing

in the world.

How many mornings, at work, have I wondered

who am I? and how

did I get here

in this place in life. And then,

she brings me all the way across

an ocean and

an old continent,

AlpsOver

to wake up

on a sunny morning in Athens

to this:

AthensMorng

Like I said, she is

all about love.

 

Glass half-Full

Heathrow!

January 24, 2015

Heathrow1

Heathrow!

Flight-catcher for the world

Trip-maker, Gate-shaker for planes,

Router of jets, and the globe’s baggage handler

Moving, busy, enthralling,

Hub of all Western Orb-travellers:

 

How many flying souls have passed through your doors!

How many rushing feet thrashed your slickety floors,

after how many flights that o’erflown your Albion shores?

 

Beneath miles and miles of glist’ning glass,

flashing sunshine, while they pass–

myriad travelers of all class.

 

Hurry, scurry, flurry, don’t show worry.

Slurp tea with breakfast, or take dinner with some curry.

But make your flight! catch that connection–hurry!

 

From far Mombosa, from far Bombay

from here, from there, every which-a-way

they pass like cattle every day.

 

Mega-beams of steel overhead–

they span a mega-traveled Heathrow shed

of tubular steel and electronic thread.

 

“Oh lovely Rita, security maid,

just scan my bags; don’t make me late.

Why’d you take my gels?” I said.

 

While bags roll beneath the scan,

hurrysome travelers fly where they can,

‘cross ocean, air, o’er sea and land.

 

Oh London bridges, what a town!

conducting travelers, up and down

through Heathrow gates the world around,

 

As planes go up, while flights abound

at Heathrow ‘port, they do come down,

but not without a sound. They do astound

me.

 

Smoke

MLK Parade in Charlotte

January 19, 2015

Last Saturday, January 17, 2015, I attended the parade in Charlotte to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  After watching the festivity, I have been reflecting for a day or two on those celebrations, while viewing some pics that I snapped there.

This reflection ends with a song I recorded in 1978 about the visionary Dr. King: “Mountaintop”

As a white man who grew up in Mississippi and Louisiana in the 1950’s and ’60’s, I want to express to you what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. meant to me, and correlate my expression with images of some of the people I saw two days ago in that parade in downtown Charlotte. What I am seeing is this:

ParBandYoung
A prophet who saw what needed to happen, then acted effectively to make in happen.

ParGetnRedy
A man who walked, successfully, a tightrope between violent comrades on one side and non-violent believers on the other.

ParStopVio
A builder, who built a bridge of provision and good will between those who have and those who had not.

ParadeMindGo

A drum major for justice

ParHiStepn

A man who did try, in his life, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and forge new opportunity for those who had none.

ParHorses
A man who strove to make a way where there was no way

ParChrtrScool
A man whose hope for mankind has outlasted the injustice that put him in an early grave.

ParFormnUp

A man whose love for mankind has overcome the evil that men do.

ParWCband

An effective Christian antidote to a world infected by people who had perfected the practice of hate.

A reverent Christian response to a world populated by people who had rejected a loving God.

A servant of the Lord,

A man of peace,

A Christian,

ParMacedonia

a sinner saved by grace.

A visionary.

This is only a small part of Dr. King’s legacy.

in the event of a World War. . .

January 10, 2015

First, the bad news:

World War I was the excruciating death-seizure of 19th-century imperialism.

World War II was an agonizing replay of WWI, with 20th-century ideologies replacing old-world imperialist dynasties.

World War III will be a torturous replay of the medieval Crusades, with 20th-century ideologies reverting to ancient religious hegemonies.

World War I was fought in trenched battlefields, mostly in Europe, by soldiers disciplined in classic military tactics.

World War II was fought in Europe, north Africa, and the Asian rim of the Pacific, which qualified the conflagration as an actual “World” war, in the global expanse of land,  sea, and air. Combatants were highly-trained  soldiers, organized in in mega-armies.

World War III will be incinerated by terrorists, against constitutional law ‘n order governments.  The Worldwide death-struggle will pit electronically-networked ad hoc jihadists against hyper-securitized anti-terrorist specialized military teams. The battlefields of World War III will be the cities of this world.

World War I was fought with rifles, artillery, primitive tanks and primitive airplanes.

World War II was fought with rifles, artillery, advanced airplanes, destroyer ships, intelligence, aircraft carriers and two H-bombs.

World War III will be fought with fatwas, improvised explosive devices, shocking media executions, surgical air-campaigns, automatic weapons, drones, weaponized missiles, suicide bombs, media-hyped propaganda misinformation, frenzied media-wars in which news companies are scooping each other for shock’n’awe digital imagery, cartoons, hyped-up hate speech, hacking, digital hijacking, video-games converted to actual weaponry, torture, manipulated scarcities, manipulated bounties, false intelligence, chemical weapons, dirty bombs, tactical nuclear weapons (or the threat of them) and the god of forces masquerading as religion (on both “sides”).

World War I pitted European Central Powers against Entente Allies.

World War II pitted Nazi/Fascist Axis against Capitalist/Communist Allies.

World War III pits IslamoFascists against Everybody else in the World.

World War I was, until it ended.

World War II was, until it ended.

World War III is already here, and now.

World War I produced a lot of collateral damage.

World War II produced more collateral damage.

World War III will be all about collateral damage.

And we will all die in it, or in some time thereafter.

That’s the bad news. The good news is:

there is life after death. Here’s the big picture:

 “The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, ‘Please read this,’ he will say, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’

Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, ‘Please read this.’ And he will say, ‘I cannot read.’ “

The best strategy for dealing with World War III is: learn to “read”, and act accordingly. That way, you won’t have to depend on cartoons for your intelligence.

Until next time. . .

Smoke

The tender part of January

January 4, 2015

January is tender just now,

not knowing why or how

ice melts slow, and snow is no-show;

it may not be so, tomorrow.

Grayness yawns from the sleepy sky,

while dripping branches cry,

lulling leafless hardwoods to sleep.

Beneath the leafy deep, crawly critters creep.

They hunker down ’til spring,

and whatever that might bring.

But now they know, oh, they know

that slipping silence waits for greens to grow.

I can’t see the glassy pane

that insulates my hearth-warm heart

from nipping, dripping, misting rain,

‘though it keeps me apart, to ponder winter’s art.

Here, inside this cozy room

fingers slide on black keys, and white.

They thrust; they glide, and peck a tune

from cloud-borne, dispersing light.

From spring’s remembered cumulus sky,

and summer’s drench that turned August dry,

from autumn’s golden high, and sad goodbye,

this gentle wint’ring brings a lullaby.

Glass half-Full

Walking into Maelstrom, 1969

January 3, 2015

I graduated from high school in May of 1969. Then I left home and went to college. What a change that was. There was a lot going on at the university.

I think most kids who leave home at the tender age of 17 find out that there’s a whole ‘nother world going on out there, and it seems quite different from what they grew up in. It’s exciting, like turning over a new leaf, or starting a new chapter of life.

Now that I’m past sixty, I’ve gained some perspective that I didn’t have then. And since reading and doing historical research are pursuits I enjoy, I’ve decided to study that decade in which I lived as a teenager–the 1960’s.

I have a feeling I’m not the only boomer who is doing this, which is why the stuff of my research will eventually be written as a novel, my fourth. It is named King of Soul.

Back in September ’68, when my senior year in high school had just begun, I addressed our student body as the incoming President of the Student Council. I remember telling them something about there was a lot going on out there in the world, and that our generation seemed to be discontented. But we, as responsible young adults at a Catholic high school, could certainly change the world by acting reasonably and playing by the rules. The students rewarded my innocent positivism with a standing ovation at the end.

About a year later, when I was a freshman at LSU, I began to see (although not necessarily understand) that my well-received idea of playing by the rules was not so simple as I had presented it.

There was, indeed, a lot going on in in 1969, and a lot of that change was being propelled by kids, not much older than I, who were working against the system with organized resistance, rather than “playing by rules.” There was an authentic reason for this.

The Vietnam War.

One of the things that happened to me while I was discovering all this angst and protest in my g-generation was the draft lottery. My number came up 349, so I didn’t have to worry about being drafted. I would be able to stay in school without being called to go fight the Viet Cong.

Nevertheless, all that ’60’s stuff was not just about the war. There was something happening here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5M_Ttstbgs

Among the war-protesters, there was a wide array of strategies being implemented to end the war–everything from pacifist Episcopalians, to SDS “bring the war home” agitators, to outright Weatherman revolutionaries.

In the research I am now doing, here is something I have come to understand clearly:

The seeds of antiwar, anti-establishment resistance tactics were sown into the American experience during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s-60’s.

Oppression breeds Resistance, which leads to Tactics.

You know what I’m talking about–Little Rock Schools, Rosa on the bus, Dr. King’s courageous, nonviolent leadership, Selma, Greensboro Woolworth’s sit-in, voter registrations in the deep South, etc. It was mostly black folks getting organized.

Medgar Evers had fought in the Great War, in Europe. He was a hero, like all them Americans and others who had run the Nazis into the ground back in ’45. But when Medgar got back to Mississippi (where I was in the 1950’s a clueless white kid living in suburban Jackson), he got on a bus to ride back to his hometown, and the driver told this war hero– who had risked his life for our freedom– to go the the back of the bus!

Say what?

Medgar, being a man of peace, a Christian–well, he got through that humiliating incident–but he quietly went about his bid’ness. But he got to thinking he might try to help his people make some changes (and he was playing by the rules) so he started working with the NAACP to get black folks registered to vote in his home state.

But in June, 1963, brother Medgar was shot dead, near midnight, in his own front yard.

Now that–along with all the other injustices being brought into the light of day– got the attention of a lot of Americans.

So some of us honkys started to see the light and get involved.

The next year, 1964, saw a flood of white folks headed from up Nawth, going down South, to help black folks get organized and register. The whole movement was called the Mississippi Freedom Summer. It was a great event in American history, except for when Andrew Freedman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner got murdered.

During that sweltering summer in Mississippi, the seeds of American antiwar, antiestablishment resistance were sown. White kids from Boston, Philly, Santa Monica and Sausalito and everywhere in between went down south to help black folks.

And the black folks taught ’em how its done–civil disobedience to resist injustice, in the streets of America.

There were hundreds of white kids who went. To name just one: Mario Savio, who went down South to do civil rights work, then returned to his home in California. Later that fall, 1964 he climbed on top of a car so he could be heard while making a speech about a local issue to his fellow protesters.

And the Free Speech Movement was born in Berkeley.

Now, go back to the future–the year I was telling you about when I started this piece–1969:

While the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley was still rattling the ivys at colleges all across the nation, including the campus at LSU were I was a clueless freshman . . .

The administrators of the University of California at Berkeley had bought a vacant lot very close to campus. It was, according to David Obst, in his book, Too Good To Be Forgotten, a “three-acre field the school had bought a couple of years before.”

http://www.amazon.com/Too-Good-To-Be-Forgotten/dp/0471295388

David writes:

“In mid-April a number of street people decided the field would make a groovy park. They decided to reclaim the land from the university and give it back to the people. All this was to be done under the doctrine of squatters’s rights.

For the next few weeks, hundreds of students and street people, folks who wouldn’t work if their parents or employers begged or paid them, worked for free at the park. They transformed the mud-splattered field into a grass-covered park by bringing together a weird collection of sod, shrub, and seedlings. A grove of apple trees was planted and and a brick walkway was laid. Swings and a sandbox for kids were put up; there was even a fishpond, and a . . .’revolutionary cornfield.’ “

Now, I, reading this, thought that was a pretty productive, creative way to make good use of a vacant lot.

But of course the Berkeley admins didn’t think so, so the chancellor called Governor Reagan, who called in the National Guard, and things got ugly, kind of like, you know, Selma, or you know–but this was a bunch of white kids.

By ‘n by, I later came to appreciate Ronald Reagan, when he was President. But this was not one of his shining moments.

Which gets to my point: there are two sides to every story. Confusion is the order of the day when you’re a freshman.

When I walked into the college maelstrom of 1969, I was entering a storm of controversies. . . with both sides right and both sides wrong. How was I to make sense of it all?

As I later learned from Scriptures: “There is not one right, no, not one.”

The long, collegial tradition of free thought and orderly discourse was being challenged from both sides–left and right–during those  tempestuous days.  On the left, the “Movement” was being split. A huge rift was tearing the violent-prone revolutionaries apart from the “play by the rules” nonviolent protesters.

David Horowitz, years ahead of me, had been, along with David Obst (quoted above) in the very thick of the antiwar, antiestablishment resistance during those days. But later, in the 1970’s, he changed his tune and his political affiliations. In his book, Radical Son, Horowitz wrote:

http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Son-A-Generational-Odyssey/dp/0684840057

“Although the Panther vanguard was isolated and small . . .its leaders were able to rob and kill without incurring the penalty of the law. They were able to do so, because the Left made the Panthers a law unto themselves. The same way the Left had made Stalin a law unto himself. The same way the Left makes Fidel Castro and the Sandinista comandates laws unto themselves.”

“. . .the best intentions can lead to the worst ends. I had believed in the Left because of the good it had promised; I had learned to judge it by the evil it had done.”

Such is the electrifying commotion of ideologies and tactics that I walked into while starting college in 1969. And I am still trying to figure it all out–who is right, who is wrong.

More about all this later. Film at 11. Book in, probably, about three years.

Glass half-Full