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Table of contents
Psychological Studies of Imagination. Dowden, Edward Shakespeare: Freud, Sigmund The Interpretation of Dreams. A paperback edition was published in by Science Editions. Ghiselin, Brewster editor The Creative Process: Jones, Ernest Hamlet and Oedipus. An Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophrenia. Kiell, Norman Psychoanalysis, Psychology, and Literature: A Study in the Ways of the Imagination. A Venture in Psychological Method. An Introduction to the Study of Personality.
Mauron, Charles Introduction to the Psychoanalysis of Mallarme. Pages — in English Institute, Annual: Phillips, William editor Art and Psychoanalysis. A Study of Literary Judgment. Politics has to do with the public exercise of power; political fiction, with the understanding and appraisal of those who are the subjects or objects of this exercise of power.
Some writers of political fiction emphasize understanding, others appraisal. In the first case their work, if successful, approaches scientific theory in its insightful understanding of the dynamics of political power. In the second, mere appraisal without systematic understanding produces polemic or diatribe, which may nevertheless contribute expressively to understanding problems of power.
As the line between understanding and judging is often indistinct, so also is the line between fiction that is political and fiction that is not. Ever since political leaders first exercised power over the rest of society, writers have had the elite as subject matter—as Sophocles had in Antigone. Ever since ordinary citizens began to exercise overt power, notably during and after the Protestant Reformation and later the industrial revolution, writers have had the additional task of understanding and judging the public exercise of power by both elite and nonelite.
This inherent, reciprocal, ancient relationship between the leader and the led, each as the subject and object of power, had not been clearly stated, let alone understood, before the modern activation of ordinary citizens. The infusion of psychological knowledge into culture, notably starting in the twentieth century with Freud, has made it possible to understand and judge political power with a penetration previously rare.
Several bold, and a few successful, fictional efforts have been made in this direction. Some of the bolder and more successful ones are discussed below. Even fiction that is political only by the vaguest of connections, allegorical or otherwise, has had enormous political impact. A very long and rambling Chinese novel, dating from the fifteenth century or before, Shut hu chuan translated in by Pearl S. Buck under the title All Men Are Brothers , has among its themes brigandage, corruption of kings and princes, and the unending effort of valiant, lawless men to destroy the rich and powerful so that the poor and impotent might live in decency and justice.
Even before the revolution a leading Chinese communist called this medieval novel the first communist writing, and it became a kind of guiding light for the revolutionary leaders during the decades before they got full power. Comparable in their influence have been the eighteenth-century satires of Jonathan Swift the most savage, perhaps, being his Modest Proposal for solving the population problem in Ireland by selling yearling Irish children to be served as a delicacy on the tables of English gentlemen and the portrayals of social stench by Charles Dickens in his novels of poverty in Victorian England and by Victor Hugo in France.
Such polemical social fiction, however strong its influence on the climate of political opinion among elite and nonelite, does not, except by portraying the social context, contribute much to understanding or judging political power. Such fiction indeed involves political issues like corruption, personal integrity, and courage. But it relates these only peripherally to more central issues involved in the exercise of power. Or it only scratches the surface in areas where Dostoevski, Koestler, Orwell, and Mann have excavated deeply.
There are books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and politics in everything, but there is also a continuous running babble of political fiction that signifies next to nothing. These relations always include contact between individuals. The contact between one individual and another involves not only appraisal and understanding of the other individual but also appraisal and understanding of oneself. The age-old questions of right and wrong, justice, and choice still endure. In recent decades they have been raised anew, in searching analyses of the individual himself, as the agent who chooses between right and wrong, just and unjust.
The age-old rote exhortation to exercise power virtuously has in twentieth-century fiction been succeeded by a maturing comprehension of the intimate relations of one individual with others and with himself. Modern writers have boldly explored paths opened by psychologists of both intuitive and empirical orientation and with such modern knowledge have in effect analyzed ancient Greek and Judaic statements of the problem of political power.
In the groping exploration of the nineteenth century the Russian Dostoevski had the Grand Inquisitor say in Spanish Seville that mankind wanted bread rather than liberty—wanted to survive but cared not for freedom. In the mid-twentieth century has come the rather antithetical observation that man and society can be enslaved and destroyed only as Orwell seems to have said if man, the social animal, is reduced to the point where his survival depends on the grace of an omnipotent Big Brother.
As will be discussed, this thesis raises questions about the nature of man himelf. Political fiction typically has been written in protest. The protest, more often than not, has been against the social and political status quo and has favored some kind of Utopia where the contemporary real and evil society and polity are replaced by the good. But with increasing frequency in the mid-twentieth century, the protest has radically criticized the good society envisioned by Utopians.
It has extrapolated from current developments to their logical conclusion in the polity that ends politics, when the exercise of power is unlimited and controls every human act. Orwell in finds the origin of this trend in the development of techniques of power by corrupt civilization. With a far more devastating analysis which he seems to have abandoned in later writing , William Golding in Lord of the Flies finds it in the human soul, released from the restraints of civilization.
Orwell says man is socially corrupted; Golding, in this novel, proclaims that man is innately corrupt. Each book is logical; each is equally incredible in its holistic analysis of political action as the product exclusively of either the environment or the organism. Both and Lord of the Flies have, however, set the focus of attention on the human psyche, the point where determining forces, external and internal, do their work and where choice—if the forces are not altogether determining—is made. And, as will appear later, Golding and others have proffered an explanation that is neither strictly environmental nor strictly organic but both.
Most political fiction involves status distinctions between people—differences of superiority and inferiority. In one major tributary of writing the status relation arising from economic inequality dominates the appraisal of political power. In Utopia the status distinctions of an England in transition from feudalism to an open society are eliminated in a classless egalitarianism where virtually everyone enjoys the simplest provision of goods. The few who enjoy a little more do so only in consequence of their feudal but acknowledged exercise of political power, which includes authority not only to maintain order and national defense but also to allocate work.
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To keep the citizens from becoming accustomed to killing, the slaughter of livestock is done by slaves. People are punished as readily for the intent to commit a crime as for its commission. There are few laws and treaties, men being bound together by love, not words. Deeply troubled as More was by the misery produced when feudally common pasture lands were enclosed and anti-Catholicism was rampant, his future good society looks like a serene early Christian communism.
And it employs supposedly popular coercive measures having the gray-brown drabness and uniformity of the totalitarian slave-labor camps that actually came into being in the twentieth century. The election of top princes by high officials, of high officials by lesser ones, and of lower officials by citizens voting in family units seems more like feudalism stood on its head than like representative democracy.
Reacting against the atavism of his time a breakdown of community and law that seems to occur in all societies in transition , More could propose only a reversion to humanized, equalized, coerced feudalism. The exploiters are not landowners enclosing once-common lands, thereby causing sheep to devour men as More put it , but mine operators who work their miners to death.
One part of the problem is the class system. The other part is the selfishness of man, whether bourgeois or proletarian. Zola abhorred the state of affairs in which the strong devour the weak, in which the lawless aim of each is to acquire power for himself, and in which the ability to love, sexually or otherwise, becomes a means of exploitation.
Without resolving the issues of egoism, power, and love, Zola, in Marxist fashion, trusted the power of the proletariat to lay the basis for Utopia in the next century by an avenging destruction of the bourgeoisie. Later novelists have likewise reacted to the class crisis after industrialization, and they have similarly described despair and longed for Utopia. In The Iron Heel , Jack London began the reign of plutocrats soon after the last free election, in , and continued it for three centuries.
But London precociously presented a dilemma that has persisted: London clarified the problem of power with a pre-science that portended Orwell. London has Martin Eden, torn asunder by his love of both the downtrodden and the distinguished, reflect: Perhaps there was no truth in anything, no truth in truth—no such thing as truth. It is my soul, my brain. I seem to have lost all values. I care for nothing. It is too late now. By comparison with his contemporaries London, however lost he was, was not lost in a fog.
In The Octopus , by Frank Norris , the destructive aspects of capitalism come into false focus. It is all a battle of the interests against the decent, hard-working, bravely risk-taking farmers. London was caught between Scylla and Charybdis and knew it. For his contemporaries, like Norris and Donnelly, power remained a murky mystery, and they wallowed in it exquisitely.
For Paul Leicester Ford , power was neither a murky sea nor a rocky shore. It was something that one simply seized and used—like an adolescent grasping a gyrocompass but not trigonometry.
The hero of his Honorable Peter Stirling wins both the governorship and a fair young lady, almost simultaneously. Stirling, in his long, stolid, and solid evolution from a boor to the beloved and just champion of the poor, shuns demagogy and observes neither more nor less than a firm respect for the just interests of the rich. Writing in a fictional milieu that took class conflict as a given, Ford and Norris and Anthony Trollope in Phineas Finn remained not seriously dismayed by the problem of power. Like a mad mariner, London pointed in anguish toward the twentieth century, which people had entered but were not yet in, and foresaw the techniques and consequences of complete social control.
Another major tributary of political fiction deals with the kind of status that is not a consequence of property differences but of race. Writers have appraised this political problem in both the colonial and the intranational context. The issue is indeed raised by Shakespeare in Othello c. But it was not until the twentieth century, when E. Forster wrote his Passage to India , that a broad and deep statement was made of the consequences of the conjunction of one race that calls itself master and another that acknowledges and protests its own subordination.
Forster analyzed hierarchy by observing the effects of racial status as it was superimposed by conquest on a culture where status was already indigenously and meticulously imposed by caste and religion. He probed intimately into the relations between individuals who try to see others and themselves as individuals but who cannot escape the differences of status and are not much helped by the abstract egalitarianism of Christianity and Islam.
The basic conflict is not oversimplified but is reduced by Forster to that of loyalty and affection between individuals as they are inhibited and restricted by the bonds of religious, social, and national status. In the novel, Forster implicitly argues for the greater value of individual ties of affection, basing this on his supreme valuation of individuality as more important than religion, caste, and nation.
In both, individuals try to reach each other across the chasm of racial distinction. In the second, the sexual aspect, clearly present but not dominant in A Passage to India, becomes a central theme—the fascination of forbidden fruit and the spontaneity of physical interpersonal love, which closes its eyes to skin color. The etiology of the endemic disease of racial tension, as it affects both individuals and politics, is classically stated and explored in these three novels.
The dynamics as they operate within a nation have been inevitably stated in America, with its centuries-old dilemma of relations between whites and Negroes. The more recent work of Negro authors, written with an intensity that cannot ever be attained by white writers, has also been largely apolitical.
What is remarkable is the enormous political influence such fiction has had. It is not true that any one book or any other force has by itself impelled a social or political movement, but these writings have at times helped raise the strong winds of opinion to hurricane force. Literary discussion from the s to the s of race relations, in intranational, colonial, and latterly in foreign-aid contexts—e. A common theme of social novels with status preoccupation—whether it be economic or racial in origin—is the equality and dignity of the individual human being.
The criticism of discrimination on the basis of class or race rests implicitly or explicitly on the belief in equal dignity or equal worth, regardless of bodily or economic circumstances over which the individual has no control. Another category of writings reverses this theme and looks at what can happen when the principle of equality as the only end is assumed and any means appropriate to its achievement is morally justified. From Dostoevski in The Possessed to Henry James in The Princess Casamassima and Joseph Conrad in The Secret Agent the antianarchic critique of amoral equality has stressed the need for decency, honor, and integrity on the grounds that monistic egalitarianism produces only the destruction of orderly society and ultimately the nihilistic negation of the individual himself.
The egalitarian context in which these three novels were written is socioeconomic. They say in effect: What you people like More, Trollope, Chekhov, Hugo, and Dickens are talking about is all very well, but if you altogether succeed, what then? Are you quite sure your poor, sat-upon, proletarian egg will not be hatched a hawk? The theme of racial equality has undergone a similar attack more recently, in a pair of novels: With a querulous, lascivious dwelling on the terrors of extreme brutality, these novels present at most, and only by implication, a ritualistic solution to the dilemma of inequality return to the decent, humane virtues of the aristocratic race , but they do succeed in presenting the problem in a crude fashion.
The recoil by such as Dostoievski, Conrad, and Ruark at some of the consequences of equality poses the question of the exercise of power without stint in a society dedicated solely to the proposition that all men are created equal. These writings are reactionary without being atavistic: The dialogue between the proponents and opponents of socioeconomic and racial equality skirts but never directly enters the area of political power exercised for its own sake.
It deals with the adjective rather than the noun, with wealthy or racist power in politics rather than power itself. The moral problem of political power itself was posed as early as the fifth century B.
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These direct statements of the power problem do not, however, bore into its origins and its portents. The proliferation of these remarkable works and their failure to fit into a chronological development makes it necessary to consider them by type rather than time. Only in a genetic sport, a man who developed in a neglected portion of the earth to which conditioning has not yet made its way, is the serene pattern disturbed.
Both frightening and at times hilarious, the novel lacks the somber quality of later penetration into individual and social psychology. In Mans Hope he continued the argument, now set in the Spanish Civil War — which he again saw firsthand. Building at least systematically, if not actually, on the somewhat impersonal social accounts just discussed, the Italian writer Ignazio Silone increasingly personalized the power problem. And a new feature—the top political leader, the chief of state—emerges somewhat dimly in the background.
This character is absent or distant in the work of Huxley, Capek, and Malraux. The dilemmas of ideology, Utopia, simple affection among human beings and its savage antithesis: Both the peasantry and the politically declassed members of the ruling elite are juxtaposed to the leader in passionate ambivalence. Three later novels move the ruling class farther into the foreground and the ordinary citizenry into the background.
Two of these are psychologically distinguished and logically brilliant; the other, with one or two exceptions, is unsurpassed in its psychological penetration. In Animal Farm and , George Orwell carries to their logical conclusions certain tendencies already well developed in modern industrial society. Animal Farm, the allegorical polity in which all animals are equal but the ruling elite of pigs is more equal than the other creatures, argues that ideology and social justice are trivial matters when they confront the lust for power.
In simple, spontaneous, uncontrived, uninduced love, of course, loses the battle, and Winston Smith, mentally in extremis, betrays his beloved Julia and comes to love Big Brother himself. The protagonist of the novel, Rubashov, is a composite of several Soviet leaders who were tried and executed during the Soviet purge trials of the late s. He is a composite of ideologism, courage, intellectuality, opportunism, and atrophied compassion.
His life deftly poses several fundamental questions of political power: What means justify what ends? When may proximate falsehood be used in the interests of ultimate truth? The book contains several tragedies: These tragedies are conjoined with two politically deeper ones: Neither the compassion of others nor fidelity to party saves him from destruction.
In the end Rubashov can choose neither to stand with his fellow men nor to stand alone. The early antiutopias of the s and s were relatively impersonal and dealt mainly with ordinary citizens. The more personal, and more real, accounts of Silone, Malraux, and Koestler move partially or completely from treatment of the ordinary to the extraordinary citizen, to the declassed member of the ruling elite. Two additional novels dealing with the same problems of unconstrained political power are fictionalized biographies of actual chiefs of state.
There is the use and betrayal of people, the abuse of truth and the use of falsehood, the passionate sense of abstract justice combined with the enthusiasm for inducing a lawless personal dependency—revenge and grace without justice. The tragedy lies in the inability of the leader, Willie Stark, to extricate himself from the personal nest he has woven for himself and then befouled. A Wreath for Udomo similarly conjoins the personal and the political. Udomo is beloved by and loves a mature Englishwoman he meets in London.
He betrays her by having an affair with a mutual friend. When he later gets established as leader of his newly liberated African nation, he sacrifices the life of an old friend and devoted follower, as the price for getting technical aid from the hated, white-ruled nation of South Africa. He is at last killed by tribal atavism, the fear-driven reaction to the modern ways Udomo is introducing. Most of these antianarchie novels from Dostoevski to Conrad and antityrannic novels, often mislabeled antiutopias from Huxley to Abrahams , were written in western Europe. Out of eastern Europe, in the post-Stalin era, has come a series of novels that offer the promise, and no more as yet, of the re-emergence of intensely political writing in the land that produced Dostoevski and Gogol.
The new books remain timid, uncrafted products, still too close to tyranny itself to be able to appraise it freely. It nevertheless is a milestone in the public recognition it has accorded the author in the Soviet Union, where he was nominated in for the Lenin Prize. There remains still another category of political novels, incongruous among those that oppose either anarchy or tyranny.
These are the writings that implicitly or explicitly espouse and justify—or reject and condemn—a Nietzschean, individualist anarchism divorced from any social or socialist commitment. In a sense, these are antipolitical works. He pushes into boudoirs and the bureaus of business and government with a purity of heart that beguiles. At the end he faces trial with a moral courage and a refusal to compromise his principle that makes it easy to overlook the principle to which he was dedicated.
If the pure in heart ever are to see their God, Julien saw his in himself and was by himself blest. The Red and the Black is indeed a pure novel, unbesmirched by the dilemma between individual distinction and social service. If the solution for Martin Eden was the escape of private suicide, Julien went to his public execution with the courage of Socrates and Christ, the sole difference being in the diverse principles for which Julien and Socrates and Christ died. Two more-recent novels echo the Red and Black theme, in one case with several inklings of awareness of the dilemma and in the other with no more than an inkling.
For a while, nevertheless, he enjoys warming and being warmed by others. He does it all with a remarkable sense of high purpose, blaming only the chaos and the Soviet system for his faults, that is, his inability to succeed altogether in his self-service. The critical enthusiasm with which the ook was received after its official Soviet condemnation and the awarding of the Nobel Prize to its author reflected a pharisaical condemnation of Soviet communism and no understanding of the refusal of Pasternak to face the dilemma confronted by London, Koestler, and Orwell.
Zhivago, Nietzsche is not problematical but axiomatic. Two individualistic American novels throw this issue into relief: Both emphasize individual values and candidly make their protagonists into heroes. Both clearly indicate a commitment of these heroes to their communities. Obviously nonpolitical, this pungent play deeply influenced Gamal Abdel Nasser, who viewed the same prurient egoism on the other side of the Mediterranean as a prime cause of Egyptian political impotence before and after the revolution.
The existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre in The Age of Reason has his characters search for private freedom, after liberty has been publicly betrayed in the Spanish Civil War. They seek it in the paradox of uncommitted love that exploits others for their companionship and passion but ends in solitude. To personal egoism is conjoined national egoism: All one can do, Sartre seems to say, is endure, clutching the thin coin of existentialism whose other side is nihilism.
The cry of Albert Camus is even more piercing. In an allegory of France during the Nazi occupation, he finds individual men who dedicate themselves warmly to a solidary, compassionate succoring of the plague-stricken community. Society must endure, and with individual compassion for individuals it can endure.
But in The Fall , Camus appears to have surrendered to despair. There can be no conjunction of freedom and society. Solitude is unbearable, and man cannot bear freedom, a court sentence imposed on oneself by oneself. Man must be a slave, in a society where all are slaves to their own inescapable egoism. Lacking love, men are dragged through life by their almost impotent hypersexuality. Their common guilt can hold them together, but it only delays the solitude of death. In Wild Strawberries , a distinguished septuagenarian scientist, about to be honored for his dedicated pursuit of reality, in his dreams sees himself as indifferent, unloving and unloved, living in deadly solitude.
But, Bergman insists, men are capable of compassion. Political fiction, like political science , has always been a product of the developing stage of culture in which it was written. Both fiction and science have drawn from the same intellectual sources and appraised the dilemmas of the time. When the very idea of limited government was taking shape, Sophocles in Antigone raised the radical issue of civil disobedience. In the twentieth century, when tyranny underwent another revival—perhaps unequaled since the savage sixteenth century of the Reformation and Counter Reformation —the theme of tyranny again became central.
But political fiction now reflects the infusion of new knowledge, notably from psychology and physiology. It has consequently produced an inquiry into the causes and consequences of tyranny that is remarkable in depth and suggestiveness. In so doing, political fiction has articulated analyses of problems that in contemporary writing in political science have had largely disjointed treatment: Indeed, to a great extent the new political theory of the twentieth century has been written in fictional form. Some writings already discussed and some not yet discussed show this sharply.
In Orwell develops his story and his theory by employing an almost classic Freudian thesis. Government, to control individual political loyalty, must sever ties of loyalty between individuals. The basic tie, says Orwell, following Freud, is the erotic one—physical love with its attendant personal affection. To break this tie, government must destroy physical desire. To do this, government must, in turn, reactivate the primordial individual desire for sheer survival and replace love between real people with the childish dependent love for the never-seen omnipotence that graciously or tyrannically permits survival and provides the means for survival.
Heterosexual love is replaced with asexual, childish, dependent love, and political autonomy is replaced with political infancy. Koestler in Darkness at Noon offers a more complicated set of hypotheses. Love and loyalty between individuals are indeed deadened by tyranny. Justice now relates to means and ends. As object and subject the individual is considered by Koestler to be a commodity to be valued quite apart from his usefulness to the polity. But can man choose?
With a vague, attenuated humanitarianism that becomes entangled with the justification of any efficient means to humane ends, Rubashov chooses only to condemn himself. A socialized, collectivized Nietzschean, he can exercise his will only by conforming to the will of the political party , which has become identical with the will of the leader. Koestler seems to say that men can be aware but not choose.
With or without the benefit of psychoanalytic theory, Conrad poignantly refines the problem. He indicates that the consequence of choice, when it destroys other people, is to destroy the chooser. The criteria for choice are considered in two of the first works which deeply explore political behavior. In the theoretical dialogue between sexual and nonsexual love eros and agape , both these novels employ depth psychology and argue against a simplistic Freudian erotism.
Franz Kafka in The Castle has his protagonist, K. He now argues that man cannot live alone, that he must live with and for other individuals, and that the dilemma of living for oneself and for others will persist and is the basis for guilt, which also will persist. Man is not altogether formed by either his genes or his environs: He can never help establish a free society or free himself without considering the consequences of his choices both for himself and for others.
In so stating the criteria for choice, Golding avoids the surrender to divine will implicit in the Biblical Job and the modern Castle, to the will of the party and leader explicit in Darkness at Noon and , and to individually uncontrollable forces as in Martin Eden. Free Fall thus implies there is choice, that forces within and without the individual are not altogether uncontrollable, and that anxiety and guilt will inevitably accompany the exercise of choice. To this extent Golding indicates a way out of the dilemma so poignantly posed by London.
All these factors have been integrated in unequaled, necessarily epigrammatic form in a political novella of classic proportions, Mario and the Magician by Thomas Mann. In Mario are fully presented the leader, the citizenry that is led, and the citizen who kills the tyrant. And using the need for people to huddle together, the leader isolates potential dissenters. In a brilliantly contrived denouement, Mann has the leader exploit and pervert sexual love and be undone by a young man whose revulsion at the leader seems to stem from the depths of the untutored, natural man.
Mann in this rather short story does not explicate other political fiction; he epitomizes it. If the themes of private and public egoism, tyranny, and free choice had not recurred in Russian, English, Italian, French, German, and Swedish writing, in contexts scattered over centuries and over the globe, one might argue that the condition was not universal but parochial. Man need not just exist and then cease: Deepened psychological understanding need not just witness or contribute to the destruction of men and society; it can help build both.
Man is helpless neither against the tyranny of his own egoism nor against the tyranny of egoism in the general public and its leaders. One conclusion from a look at political fiction is that the lines between fiction, theory, and fact are very indistinct. In a sense fiction here was a decade ahead of published fact and two decades ahead of systematic theory and observation.
Koestler in turn was building on fact. Bukharin, one of the most distinguished victims of the purge, said at his trial: If you must die, what are you dying for? In raising basic issues of power in its political manifestations and of the ability and responsibility to make choices, political fiction has been working in the same garden as have political theory and political research. The far from accidental consequence is that political fiction has posed problems and stated solutions that are rarely behind, and often ahead of, the statement and resolution of these problems by more prosaic investigators.
There is a tie between Freudian theory, Marxian socioeconomic theory, and the writings of Koestler, Golding, and Bergman. Each supports and facilitates the understanding of the other. One very notable distinction is that the fiction writer puts the reader on guard, since the reader of fiction realizes that what is being written is not necessarily ultimate truth or exact fact. The nonfiction theorist or researcher in politics seldom so protects the reader. In this sense writers of political fiction are exercising a responsible moral choice as to the canons of scientific method that is too infrequently faced by writers of political science.
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The first Europeans in America did not encounter a silent world. A chorus of voices had been alive and moving through the air for approximately 25, years before. Weaving tales of tricksters, warriors and gods; spinning prayers, creation stories, and spiritual prophesies, the First Nations carved out their oral traditions long before colonial minds were fired and flummoxed by a world loud with language when Leif Ericsson first sighted Newfoundland in a.
Gradually the stories that these first communities told about themselves became muffled as the eminences of the European Renaissance began to contemplate the New World. One of them, the French thinker and father of the essay, Michel de Montaigne , was not loath to transform the anecdotes of a servant who had visited Antarctic France modern Brazil into a report on the lives of virtuous cannibals.
According to his "On Cannibals" , despite their predilection for white meat, these noble individuals led lives of goodness and dignity, in shaming contrast to corrupt Europe. Little wonder that on an imaginary New World island in Shakespeare's The Tempest first performed in , the rude savage Caliban awaits a conquering Prospero in the midst of natural bounty. Whether partially or entirely fanciful, these visions of paradise on Earth were not much different from Sir Thomas More 's Utopia , itself partly inspired by the Italian Amerigo Vespucci 's voyages to the New World.
Wonders of a new Eden, untainted by European decadence, beckoned. Between these extremes lay something approaching the truth: America as equal parts heaven and hell, its aboriginal inhabitants as human beings capable of both virtue and vice. While wealth, albeit cloaked in Christian missionary zeal, may have been the primary motive for transatlantic journeys, many explorers quickly understood that survival had to be secured before pagan souls or gold.
John Smith , himself an escaped slave from the Balkans who led the expedition to Virginia, wrote of his plunders with a raconteur's flair for embellishment, impatient with those who bemoaned the rigors of earning their colonial daily bread. Competing accounts of the American experiment multiplied with Thomas Morton, whose Maypole paganism and free trade in arms with the natives raised the ire of his Puritan neighbors, Governor William Bradford , who led Mayflower Pilgrims from religious persecution in England to Plymouth Rock in , and Roger Williams , who sought to understand the language of the natives, earning him expulsion from the "sanctuary" of Massachusetts.
More often than not, feverish religiosity cast as potent a spell on these early American authors as their English literary heritage. The terrors of Judgment Day inspired Michael Wigglesworth 's The Day of Doom , a poem so sensational that one in twenty homes ended up harboring a copy. Equally electrifying were narratives of captivity and restoration, like that of Mary Rowlandson , often cast as allegories of the soul's journey from a world of torment to heaven.
Beset by fragile health and religious doubt, Anne Bradstreet captured in her Several Poems a moving picture of a Pilgrim mind grappling with the redemptive trials of life with a courage that would later bestir Emily Dickinson. It seems unlikely that two college roommates at Harvard, Edward Taylor and Samuel Sewall , would both come to define Puritan literary culture—yet they did. Sewall's Diary begun 12 August made him as much a rival of his British counterpart Samuel Pepys as of the more ribald chronicler of Virginia, William Byrd. While it is easy to caricature the Puritans as models of virtue or else vicious persecutors of real or imagined heresy, the simplicity of myth beggars the complexity of reality.
A jurist who presided over the Salem witch trials, Sewall was also the author of The Selling of Joseph , the first antislavery tract in an America that had accepted the practice since The Great Awakening , a period in which the Puritan mindset enjoyed a brief revival, is notable for the prolific historian and hagiographer Cotton Mather. The Wonders of the Invisible World afforded a glimpse of his skepticism about the prosecutors of the witch trials, while his Magnalia Christi Americana provided a narrative of settlers' history of America, regularly illuminated with the exemplary "lives of the saints.
True to form, Edwards's A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God is a celebration not only of spiritual reawakening, but of the empiricism of John Locke as well. If anyone embodied the recoil from seventeenth-century Puritan orthodoxy toward the Enlightenment, it was the architect of an independent, modern United States , Benjamin Franklin — Printer, statesman, scientist, and journalist, he first delighted his readers with the annual wit and wisdom of Poor Richard's Almanac launched in But it was his best-selling Autobiography that revealed the extent to which his personal destiny twined with the turbulent course of the new state.
Ostensibly a lesson in life for his son, the book became a compass for generations of Americans as it tracked Citizen Franklin's progress from a humble printer's apprentice, through his glory as a diplomat in the Revolutionary War — , to the exclusive club of the founding fathers who drafted the Declaration of Independence and ratified the Constitution. The Revolution that stamped Franklin's life with the destiny of the nation found its most brazen exponent in Thomas Paine. Author of Common Sense and The American Crisis pamphlet series, — , Paine was a British expatriate who came to Philadelphia sponsored by Franklin and galvanized the battle for independence.
His fervid opposition to the British social order , slavery, and the inferior status of women made him a lightning rod of the Revolution, helping to create an American identity in its wake. America's emergence as a sovereign power became enshrined in the Declaration of Independence , drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Harking back to Montaigne in Notes on the State of Virginia — , this patrician statesman idolized the purity of agrarian society in the fear that the closer the New World edged toward the satanic mills of industrial Europe, the more corrupt it would become.
The founder of the University of Virginia , whose library would seed the Library of Congress , Jefferson was elected president in and again in After the Revolution, American literary culture grew less dependent on British models, and the popular success of poets like the Connecticut Wits, including Timothy Dwight , composer of an American would be epic, The Conquest of Canaan , only confirmed this point.
The broad appeal of novels like The Power of Sympathy by William Hill Brown and Charlotte Temple by Susanna Haswell Rowson , both tales of seduction that spoke to what future critics would call a pulp fiction sensibility, signaled the growing success of domestic authors Rowson's novel, the best-seller of the eighteenth century, would do equally well in the nineteenth. Modeled on Don Quixote , the comic writings of Hugh Henry Brackenridge and the gothic sensibilities of Charles Brockden Brown also won a degree of popular and critical laurels, the latter presaging the dark strains of Poe and Hawthorne.
Affected by the Romantics, Irving created folk literature for the New World: While critics from Twain to the present have belittled Cooper's cumbersome prose, he gripped the imagination with books of frontier adventure and romance, collectively known as the Leatherstocking Tales after the recurrent hero. The Pioneers , The Last of the Mohicans , and The Prairie still captivate as narrative testimonies to American frontier clashes: The flood of creative energy unleashed by these no longer apologetic American authors crested with the birth of transcendentalism, overseen by the sage Ralph Waldo Emerson.
This minister, essayist, and philosopher renounced the theological and literary dogma of the past, striving to nurture and encourage new American muses. It is for no other reason that his essays, including "Nature" and "Representative Men" , and his Harvard address, "The American Scholar" , amount to America's declaration of literary independence.
The more reclusive Henry David Thoreau beheld in the tranquility of the pond at Walden the difference between false liberty and herd consciousness, while his Civil Disobedience made nonviolent resistance to tyranny a new and powerful weapon in the hands of Gandhi, King, and Mandela. Singing himself and America, Walt Whitman cultivated his Leaves of Grass over nine evergrander editions, confirming him as the poet that Emerson tried to conjure: Emily Dickinson would lift her voice along with Whitman, though her startling hymns were made for the chambers of the solitary mind, minted to miniature perfection.
The same fertile season saw Herman Melville complete Moby-Dick , a multilayered sea epic whose White Whale incarnates the essence of evil and otherness and everything that the human will cannot conquer. Its deranged pursuer, Ahab, may be the doomed part of us all that vainly rejects that "cannot. Nathaniel Hawthorne revisited an allegorical world in which vice masqueraded as virtue, staining the Puritan snow with blood from "Young Goodman Brown" to The Scarlet Letter The shadows explored by Hawthorne became the abode of Edgar Allan Poe , a legendary editor, poet, and literary critic, as well as a short story giant, inventor of the detective novel, and father of modern horror and science fiction.
The events of the Civil War — made it possible for the literature written by African Americans to receive a measure of attention and acclaim, the torch passing from Olaudah Equiano and Phillis Wheatley to Frederick Douglass. With the advent of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation , black Americans would finally secure basic liberties and a literary voice.
Some of the abolitionist zeal, both at home and abroad, may be credited to Harriet Beecher Stowe: Though a powerful storyteller, she was certainly no Joel Chandler Harris , whose acute ear for dialect and fearless sense of humor made his tales of Uncle Remus — as entertaining as morally astute. In some of their writings, Booker T. Du Bois would continue to offer differing remedies for the gross inequities still imposed on their black countrymen. The end of the nineteenth century was the playing field for Bret Harte and his regional tales of a harsh, untamed California, for the crackling wit of William Sydney Porter, a.
Henry — , and for the scalding satire of Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known as Mark Twain — A national masterpiece, Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been universally admired since its publication, though it continues to stir controversy in politically correct circles.
Just because the author permits his protagonist to speak the mind of his age and call his runaway slave friend, Jim, "a nigger," some readers miss the moral metamorphoses that Huck undergoes, and the salvos Twain launches against ignorance and prejudice. What looks like interpretive "safe water" Clemens's pseudonym meant "two fathoms of navigable water under the keel" , can prove very turbulent, indeed.
Twain's unflinching representation of "things as they were," whether noble or nasty, shared in the realism that reigned in the novels and stories of Henry James — Lavish psychological portraits and a keen eye for the petty horrors of bourgeois life allowed James to stir controversy, and occasionally, as in The Turn of the Screw , genuine terror. Edith Wharton — , who added the gray agonies of Ethan Frome to the canon of American realism, garnered a Pulitzer in , and in she became the first woman to receive the degree of Doctor of Letters from Yale.
Stephen Crane — used his short life to produce extraordinary journalism about New York 's daily life and a gory close-up of warfare in The Red Badge of Courage Fidelity to life along realistic lines, combined with a pessimistic determinism concerning human existence, dominated naturalism, a somewhat later strain in American fiction. Heavily under the influence of Marx and Nietzsche, Jack London was more fascinated by the gutter than the stars—his The People of the Abyss , a study of the city of London's down and out, merits as much attention as The Call of the Wild Theodore Dreiser — gave a Zolaesque account of sexual exploitation in the naturalist classic Sister Carrie , and similarly shocking scenes of deranged dentistry in McTeague allowed Frank Norris to show the mind cracking under the vice of fate, symptoms that would become more familiar as the next anxious century unfolded.
According to Jonathan Schell, antinuclear activist and author of the harrowing Fate of the Earth , the "short" twentieth century extended from the Great War — to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in In the United States , the changing of the guard coincided with the New York Armory Show of , a defiant exhibition of European cubists, from the enfant terrible Marcel Duchamp to the already famous Pablo Picasso.
On their geometrically condensed and contorted canvas lay the heart of modernism. Order, linearity, harmony were out. Fragmentation, collage, and miscellany were in. Continuities ceded to multitudes of perspectives; classical unities to clusters of "days in the life"; moral closure to open-ended, controlled chaos.
The Sun Also Rises , Ernest Hemingway 's story of Jake Barnes, a war-emasculated Fisher-King vet, captures not only this literary generation but also its poetics of arbitrary beginnings, episodes bound only by the concreteness of imagery and the irony of detachment, and the endings dissolving with no resolution. The prose is sparse, the narrator limited in time, space, and omniscience, the speech colloquial and "unliterary," in accord with Papa Hemingway's dictum that American literature really began with Huckleberry Finn. Hard and terse prose was in part a legacy of the muckrakers, a new breed of investigative journalists who scandalized the public with the stench of avarice, corruption, and political "muck.
An instant celebrity, its socialist author, who conferred with President Theodore Roosevelt and later came within a heartbeat of winning the governorship of California, forever rued hitting the country in the stomach while aiming for its heart. The same vernacular, mean street—savvy style became the trademark of Dashiell Hammett , James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler, hardboiled founders of the American noir which, together with the western, science fiction , and the romance, began its long ascent out of the literary gutter into the native voice and dominant vehicle of American culture.
Novelistic modernism—less international, more involved with domestic, social themes—flourished in the period of to It stretched from the Jazz Age, during which American literature caught up with the world, to the end of the radical, experiment-heavy decade of the Great Depression —from Sinclair Lewis 's broadsides against conformism and Babbitry in Main Street and Babbitt , to the controversial breast-feeding finale of John Steinbeck 's proletarian The Grapes of Wrath There was also F.
Scott Fitzgerald, whose masterpiece The Great Gatsby told of a man in search of the elusive bird of happiness, fatally beguiled by America's materialist Dream. The obscure symbolism of T. Eliot's The Waste Land was interpreted by the culturati as a rallying cry against a nation that, in accord with the presidential "the business of America is business," lost its soul amid advertisements for toothpastes, laxatives, soft drinks, automobiles, and household gadgets without which families might become un-American.
Trying to make sense of these freewheeling times was Van Wyck Brooks's America's Coming of Age , which mythologized the nation's "usable past" while assaulting its puritanism and stagnation. This harsh diagnosis was seconded by a crop of polemical columnists, running the gamut from arch-conservatives like H. He died when my father, John Archie Nelson, was only 9 years old. He ultimately left school after the 8th grade to work full-time. Emma was a short but not frail woman.
After I was born, she lived with us in Redondo Beach and Lawndale for awhile. I was too young to care, but when, as a teen, I saw the old photographs of those days, I was embarrassed to have a record of how I had been dressed. As I grew into my teens, I remember Emma as a thinner elderly lady with silver grey hair and a really nice personality. I first met Jackie when she was about 3 and the last time before she passed away she was about In all those years whenever we would meet, she would run to me and give me a big hug.
To my everlasting shame, I always felt awkward and uncomfortable around Jackie, but I can still see her round smiling face and her radiating pure love to this day. In her later years, Grandma Nelson alternately lived with my dad or his oldest sister, Marion, until she finally passed away.
When, at the age of 8, I was sent to the farm to live while my parents divorced, I was able to learn somewhat about them during the 2-years I lived there. I felt pretty close to both of them; to my grandfather, because I was named after him; John after my dad and his dad and Richard after grandpa. While I was there, I was not allowed to do anything with the fun farm equipment, or fun chores, like driving the tractor while plowing, mowing the lawn with a power mower, etc. They were very protective of me irritatingly so. I was allowed to help feed the cows, stack hay bales onto trailers and then again in the barn.
I was no good at milking because the cows were so much bigger than I was and I was VERY hesitant in getting between any two of them in their stalls to install the milking machines onto their business ends. I did watch and laugh, as grandpa would occasionally hand-milk a cow just to squirt milk at all the cats and kittens that would sit on their hind legs and beg like a dog. Grandpa did allow me to ride on the tractor with him while he would plow, plant, cultivate, and harvest his crops. I could also ride whenever he would mow, rake, and bale hay.
I spent many long hours riding with him. Grandma absolutely refused to let me mow the yard with the power mower. She considered it too dangerous. She did assign me the job of collecting the morning eggs, however. Grandma made the most delicious dessert, which remains my favorite to this day. While grandpa was generally proportionally muscled for his average frame, grandma was a bit on the husky not fat side as she was a hard worker who not only managed a two-story farmhouse but also had a nice medium sized garden.
Every autumn she would do a lot of canning of her garden vegetables, including the ever-present rhubarb. Even into her older age, she was quite a lovely woman and nice to look at. Because he spent so much time out in the sun, grandpa resembled one of those ancient cowboys one occasionally sees on greeting cards. He had a very dark tan, but with his shirt off, the sun, reflecting off his alabaster chest could be quite blinding.
One of the chores I got to do, I did because I wanted to, not because they asked me to. I just loved to go out to the fields and trap gophers. Other farm boys would come over to our farm with their dads and show him the tails from gophers that they had caught and he would pay them 10 cents a tail. I just brought home the whole body.
Killing the gophers in my traps was one thing; I did not want to cut the tail off. I loved all my grandparents and I miss them as much as I miss my own parents. Grandparents , Life Stories , Ricky. I answered it easily. I wrote a very long paper exploring different approaches but found myself arguing with an ancient story of origins way back there in the old book.
I kept telling myself to write a personal story that in some way connected. If what follows fills the bill, good. No one slithered my way to tempt me, at least not anyone I was very interested in. As a child I liked sexual games with friends, especially those with other boys. As a teen I was open to the advances of an acquaintance, a boy a year younger than I. I went on living my life, realizing more and more about difference sexual, social, racial, and cultural and grew more fascinated by the array of perspectives related not only to my sexual desires but also concerning common habits for example, eating , pallets such as favorite colors , sounds like in musical styles , even reality including visions cultural, philosophical, theological and anthropological.
I came to know the great variety of religious values held sacred and true by peoples around the world and even in a single country town. Although my mother was a prohibitionist as relates to alcohol, she still taught an open attitude toward life and allowed great freedom for her children. Both she and my dad had personal standards that they chose to teach through their consistent practice rather than judgmental and manipulative badgering. Although we kids really liked each other, we bickered a lot. Of course, my parents and siblings were not the only teachers.
The culture with its lore and assumptions, history and laws taught much more and powerfully. The word temptation seems defined by that story, but the temptation is impossible without the forbidding. To say so may sound cheeky. What eventually gets to me is the misogyny of the whole scene. The god Yahweh is too human meaning way too male with too much power. He, this desert god, is too egotistical. Of course, this was eons before Moses and other prophets started training him for international diplomacy, eons before the Greeks insisted he be consistent and perfect, before they demanded that if he was going to insist on a purity code for his creatures, he act that way himself.
AND so much more had occurred that I would never know of but that still informs the cultural understanding around and even within me. One thing I escaped in all this was the feeling of guilt. I did see the beauty of some men, an unconventional male beauty not based on Greek-like muscles or shape of face, not based on the accrual of power and influence and money, but something more elusive and simple. I liked that attraction and wondered when it would become consequential for me. I knew I could not resist it out of some feeling of prohibition or guilt.
It would be like my experience of finally finding a piano teacher who succeeded in establishing a technical approach to the keyboard, or a voice teacher who actually helped focus my voice away from the throat tension that had compromised its fluidity, or finding myself in my best job of a lifetime, or working in a church I actually loved—all these what I call do-not-expect-a-repeat experiences. So at age thirty I fell in love with an unlikely man. At fifty-five I had another such experience that went far beyond the one a quarter of a century earlier.
I tended these relationships both against convention and as acts of love. Of course, in conventional sin-and-redemption, prohibition-and-disobedience terms, I am just hopeless. But where in all this was I in line with the powerful Hebrew story? I was not trying to have the same powers as God. I was not vaunting my own importance. I found so much love as to transform me into a useful vessel of the eternal and lively divinity. So since I have missed the past two sessions and I have had thoughts on the three most recent topics I am going to write a single piece addressing all three: My human birth is by far and away the most remarkable thing that has ever happened to me.
The chance of that occurring was so infinitesimally unlikely and remote as to be more than mind boggling. I have always liked the way the Buddha addressed this amazing reality. Speaking to a group of monks he said: It would come up to the surface only once every years. Now what do you suppose the chances would be that a blind turtle coming to the surface every years would stick its nose into the yoke with a single hole? The reality is that a significant majority of all conceived embryos are simply flushed out totally unnoticed in normal menstrual flow without anyone being aware.
This occurs naturally and is unrelated to any form of birth control. It is very amazing and truly hard to believe that the cellular beginnings of my embryonic conception did not wind up in the septic tank buried outside our rural Indiana farmhouse. The fact that I was born alive and healthy on January 12th of is quite spectacular really and its all been down hill from there. The successful conception nine months prior was the beginning of my death dance called life on earth for Patrick J. Gourley, though if you take a big picture look it more likely began at the moment of the Big Bang, estimated to have occurred about My profession as a nurse, work for several decades in an AIDS clinic, my own HIV infection and the loss of many friends and lovers have all significantly informed my own personal relationship with the inevitability of my own death.
Being in the presence of someone dying can be a very potent moment of clarity. For me personally over the years these many moments of clarity have in part pushed me to a firm atheist perspective on it all. Though I now describe myself as an atheist I am open to spirituality and more on this further in this piece.
A striking and certainly very plausible explanation for what it may be like to be dead, i. Wilbur pointed out three states of consciousness waking, dreaming and deep dreamless sleep. For the vast majority of us deep dreamless sleep is really quite similar to death. This can also occur for example when under anesthesia for various medical procedures. Most recently this happened for me during a colonoscopy I had last week.
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Once my IV was in, oxygen on, pulse oximetry on my finger and lying on my side butt to the doctor he introduced himself and we shook hands, a truly odd formality it seemed given the situation. I would think a playful pat on the butt would have been a more appropriate physical greeting than the handshake. The doc then said I am going to give you some medicine to relax you and his next statement was now I am going to do a rectal exam. My next conscious memory was the nurse saying you did great and everything looked good.
This was at least 20 minutes later. So not only did I miss a good rectal exam while high no less I also sort of died. I mean my heart kept beating and I continued to breathe but these were not actions I was aware of on any level I could comprehend. Oh maybe there would have been a tunnel with a bright light at the end but that would just be few synapses sparking and freaking out from a lack of oxygen I suspect and the doorway to heaven.
Not a bad way to dance out I might add but not usually how it occurs. Looks like it may very well have all started with the Big Band some many billions of years ago. My physical makeup is literally stardust that coalesced into this majestic planet and one thing led to about a billion trillion other things and here I am babbling on.
A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by a dear friend. He sums up the reason to do this quite eloquently in the last two lines of the book: Open your eyes and see. I do not however spend every waking moment pondering the illusion of self, my pending death or how the hell I got here but often of an evening I engage in much more mundane activities.
After a day of work in a local Urgent Care Clinic having the infinite suffering of humanity thrust in my face repeatedly or absorbing the mind-numbing onslaught of the current mid-term elections, or the latest ISIS beheadings or the current Ebola hysteria and realizing I am still not enlightened I often seek solace and escape by watching, often several times over, reruns of the great hit sit-com The Big Bang Theory! I used to think I was straight, but now I know I am actually as queer, as the saying goes, as a three dollar bill. No, that's not really true.
Oh, the queer part is, but back then I didn't think I was straight, because the words straight and gay were not yet in play; indeed the concepts barely were. So what I actually thought was that there was something wrong with me that I didn't get all excited about boys the way my girlfriends did. But I also believed it would go away. It was just a phase. I used to think, when I got married to a man, that it was forever. I took my marriage vows very seriously and meant every word of that rather horrid phrase, till death us do part. It was the end of a phase.
Of course I know now that it was doomed from day one. My previous feelings were not a phase, and neither was my marriage, being no more than a piece of rather good acting on my part, albeit somewhat subconscious. I used to think, when it came over me that I just had to come out, that I would lose a few people I thought of as my friends, but so be it.
Now I know that most people, even back in the early eighties, really didn't care. And it gets more that way with each passing day. I used to think, when I first came out, that I would never get too serious about any one woman. I would simply play the field making up for decades of lost time. Now I know that when you meet that special woman, all previous thoughts, in fact all thought of any kind, flies right out the window.
I used to think, long after coming out, long after committing my life to partnership with my beautiful Betsy, that there was no hope that gay marriage would ever come to this country, even as it spread to many countries across the globe. I told myself I didn't care. We had as loving and committed a relationship as was possible. We didn't need, or even want, that failed straight institution. I know, now, that I was in a wee state of denial. After all, if something is unavailable what is the point in hungering for it? I still have a dream that we queers can do something better, but meanwhile I proudly clutch my official, legal at least in about twenty states marriage license.
I used to think that my liking for alcohol would pass. I know now that at the age of 72, after drinking my way quite steadily through over half a century, that is not likely to happen. On the other hand, it is not the temptation it once was. Or perhaps to be more accurate I should say that the temptation, if succumbed to, is much shorter lived. I tend to fall asleep after one beer, unless I remain in constant motion and my arthritis argues strongly against that.
I used to think, as a pudgy child, that my battle with weight would also pass. And indeed for many years taken up with raising four step-children and putting in long exhausting hours at work, I settled comfortably in the acceptable center of that BMI range. For several years now, though, I have been pushing greedily against the BMI north face, and sometimes toppling over.
I now know that if I ever return to the center, where all the charts and measurements estimate I should be, if I ever lose considerable weight, it will probably result from some condition not promising me health and longevity. I used to think that someday I would no longer feel pain from the death of my mom and dad. Suffering the loss of one's parents is, after all, the natural progression of life.
Now I know I shall never get used to being an orphan, and will always have that tiny empty space inside me. I used to think that someday I would write that unique novel. It would be translated into at least thirty different languages. My name would be recognized in as many countries. I would walk into a meeting room on a business trip to, say, the IBM facility in Melbourne. Those Aussie jaws would drop as they chorused, "Oh my word! I am honored to have a very occasional short piece published in that most erudite of journals, Out Front.
I also know, now, that if I can write a few hundred words which occasionally amuse or emotionally captivate a small minority of a group of wonderful people gathered around a table on a Monday afternoon, that is the only claim to fame I need. I told him I loved him and nothing else mattered. The requests continued after the parade with hundreds of telephone calls from gay and lesbian people wanting Jeanne to speak to their parents.
It became clear to her that a support group was needed. Thus the first meeting was held in March in Greenwich Village. Jeanne continued answering the calls and began traveling the country making appearances on radio and tv promoting the cause. By many similar groups had sprung up around the country. By the first PFLAG National office was established in Los Angeles followed by the incorporation and granting of tax exempt status to the organization which now included some 20 groups.
The headquarters was relocated to Denver in under President Elinor Lewallen, whom many of us knew well. The administration of George H. Such treatment always brings with it pain and perpetuates intolerance. Perhaps one of the greatest services provided by PFLAG over the years has been the dissemination of information to educational institutions and communities of faith and the general public nationwide. This along with personal and group support for parents who sometimes are in tears and in shock and are trying to understand.
I decided to attend a meeting. At the meeting I found many acquaintances, gays, lesbians, and straight. The chair of the board was an old acquaintance from my married days--she had worked with my husband at CU medical school. I think she was surprised to see me there. Before I knew it I found myself on the board of directors of the Denver Chapter. There I remained for 7 years having held the office of president for 2 years until my tenure ended due to term limits.
I was glad to be active and committed to this organization. The credibility of parents who love their children just as they are and want to support them can be very powerful. I thought at first that I knew a good bit of what being both the parent of a lesbian and being a lesbian myself was about. Some were having difficulty with this, fearing rejection by those closest to them, and had been closeted themselves for a long time. Speaking with school groups, students, staff, and parents to promote better understanding and acceptance of GLBT.
Working with schools who have bullying issues to address. Providing support and education to parents and school personnel around transgender issues. Speaking similarly with other community groups including churches. Providing educational materials put out by the national office. Providing a monthly support meeting with a trained facilitator for parents whose sons or daughters have just come out to them.
The support meeting is followed by a program featuring a speaker or panel of speakers always bringing enlightenment to their audiences. Advocating for marriage equality. I believe there will always be a need. The specific activities of the organization may change with the times. With more awareness, more children are coming out and often at a younger age than in past decades. Although there has been increased acceptance and policy changes, there is still much misinformation and misunderstanding and hatred of homosexual people.
The more recent emergence of awareness of transgender issues by itself presents huge challenges to families involved and to advocacy groups. Thursday, January 15, Clothes by Will Stanton. I also am not going to talk about the way I dress. Instead, I'm going to talk some about the clothes that many young people wear and contrast that with my own generation. I was sitting in a restaurant, and the young waitress came up to my table. I noted that she was wearing jeans that were so tight that the waistline was bound to cut off blood circulation. Doctors have warned women about that.
She wore them so low that her plump tummy hung out over the jean-tops and below the tight blouse that came down just below her breasts. I suppose that she considered showing off a bare tummy was sexy. Some testosterone-agitated boys and aging men probably found her appearance titillating, but I wondered how this peculiar clothing style had come about and why girls choose to dress that way at work. Ironically, girls' wearing very tight clothes is in marked contrast with boys' baggy apparel for a long time now.
While seated at the table at the very same restaurant, a teenage boy came in. He probably weighed all of pounds, but his shirt was so huge that it could have fit a man who weighed and stood a foot taller. Even more silly was that he was wearing his jeans literally below his butt, or more accurately, where his butt should be; for this young kid didn't have any butt, hips, or waist. At least his boxer shorts covered that area.
His pants were so ridiculously baggy that two boys could have worn them at the same time. I hope that he realized that, if he tried to rip off a , there would be no way of his outrunning a cop. Those baggy pants undoubtedly would become tangled up around his legs, tripping him. I do admit that a few of the boys I knew in school wore pants so tight that one could tell whether or not they were circumcised. That certainly was true with Randy, the very sexy kid whose pants appeared to be in danger of cutting him in half or exploding apart at one particularly revealing seam, which I actually saw happen on one occasion.
That sort of thing tended to draw attention. He was a school-band member, and I was amused to learn that, when the band went on over-night tours, some band members argued as to who would have the privilege of sharing a motel room with Randy. I have no evidence as to whether just his appearance fostered such controversy or other factors contributed to his popularity.
It appears to me that, at some point in America's history of clothing styles, arbitrators of taste chose to affect a reversal for the younger consumer. Modesty no longer is a factor in designing clothes for females. From bathing suits to ball gowns, young women can choose to expose as much skin as they dare.
As for young guys, especially teens, the goal appears to be to camouflage the physical form as much as possible. Have clothes-makers concluded that the male form is too titillating or even obscene? I don't necessarily advocate returning to Randy's style of pants that were so tight as to potentially emasculate the wearer, but I do maintain that the return to more sensible, form-fitting clothes for males is long overdue.
Let's get rid of bagginess once and for all. Wednesday, January 14, Locked Out by Ricky. Locked Out or Locked In, It's All the Same Perhaps the greatest fear a person can have short of going to hell when one dies, is the fear that they might become locked into their own minds, and locked out of reality at the same time. Dementia and Alzheimer diseases are two examples of this condition.
Another would be where a person has an active and normal mental state but is incapable of communicating anything to anyone. I certainly would not like to be in any of those conditions. Although I have made jokes about the good thing about Alzheimer disease is that, you get to meet new people every day; it really is not funny.
Can you imagine the frustration, confusion, disorientation, and fear that probably results from not being able to communicate or understand what is happening around you or even to you? I imagine I would feel mental anguish a thousand times worse, if I had any of those conditions permanently. My future wife got off from work one Friday night in Pensacola and drove to her mother's home miles away in Niceville yes, that's a real town. Her arrival at about 9PM was unexpected and her mother refused to let her in for the night, effectively locking her out of the home where her childhood bedroom was.
In desperation she came to my trailer or called me first where upon I let her stay that night and the rest of the weekend. I knew how she felt because her tears and words were communicating perfectly.
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As a youngster, I was fairly fearless or perhaps my parents would have used different words such as thoughtless or even stupid. Even then, I had a healthy case of acrophobia. The problem manifested upon my turning around to get back on the ladder to go down. Anyway, at about years old my father had taken me to somewhere in Minnesota to visit one of his childhood friends who just happened to have two boys, both younger than me.
As farmer's sons, they naturally had to help with all the farm work, which included stacking hay bales in the hayloft of the barn during summer harvesting. The boys told me about their hideaway and wanted to show it to me so I went to the barn with them being anxious to see what I had only fantasized doing while living on my grandfather's farm. By this time in my life I had mentally matured somewhat so I was not thoughtless, but still not completely un-stupid either. The boys would only take me to their hideaway if I used the vertical shaft as the entrance.
I looked at the opening and told them that I was too big to fit and they said there was plenty of room as they were not that much smaller than me. My common sense was overruled by my desire to see the hideaway and so ignoring my eyes, which had been telling me the truth, I started down the shaft to the bottom and then managed to back into the tunnel, which was only about 9 inches high and 13 or 14 inches wide.
I managed to crawl backwards about four feet and then got stuck. I spent three-months stuck under all that hay during the five-minutes it took them to use one of the other tunnels to get behind me and pull me feet first into the hideaway. Using the other entrances along the wall I easily returned to the surface of the hay.
One could say that I was locked-out of a normal life because beginning in high school I was not attracted to girls' looks but only their personalities and only then when thinking about having someone with which to go to movies or other non-sexual activities associated with dating—at that time I only fantasized sexually about boys.
Although this has not been as explosively traumatic as being stuck under tons of hay and the result thereof, this type of locked-out was nonetheless a chronically mild trauma whose persistent presence kept building consequences beyond it's apparent significance.