Monday, October 30, 2006

Treasure on the Web

Early this morning John and I began a conversation related to a comment on one of my blogs that came in last night. As so often happens, the conversation moved down a rabbit trail and ended up with the topics of muckraking and yellow journalism and Ida Tarbell and others. Our combined memories from American History courses soon ran out and I got on the computer and began googling.


What a treasure I found: "History of Journalism" with the option to click on the 20th century decades. The decade of 1900 is worth it all, with wonderful biographical references to Ida Tarbell (pictured on the left) and Nellie Bly, among others. If you love history or have any interest at all in the history of journalism, check it out. http://ehub.journalism.ku.edu/history/1900/1900.html

From that site, I went to the definition of muckraking. I had forgotten where that term came from. Test your own IQ on great English literature. I was reminded by Teddy Roosevelt. Here is a short portion of a speech he gave--well worth reading.

April 15, 1906

Over a century ago Washington laid the corner stone of the Capitol in what was then little more than a tract of wooded wilderness here beside the Potomac. . . . The material problems that face us today are not such as they were in Washington's time, but the underlying facts of human nature are the same now as they were then. Under altered external form we war with the same tendencies toward evil that were evident in Washington's time, and are helped by the same tendencies for good. It is about some of these that I wish to say a word today.

In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress you may recall the description of the Man with the Muck Rake, the man who could look no way but downward, with the muck rake in his hand; who was offered a celestial crown for his muck rake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor.

In Pilgrim's Progress the Man with the Muck Rake is set forth as the example of him whose vision is fixed on carnal instead of spiritual things. Yet he also typifies the man who in this life consistently refuses to see aught that is lofty, and fixes his eyes with solemn intentness only on that which is vile and debasing.

Now, it is very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the floor, and it must be scraped up with the muck rake; and there are times and places where this service is the most needed of all the services that can be performed. But the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speaks or writes, save of his feats with the muck rake, speedily becomes, not a help but one of the most potent forces for evil.

There are in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man, whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, business, or social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform or in a book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.

The liar is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves. It puts a premium upon knavery untruthfully to attack an honest man, or even with hysterical exaggeration to assail a bad man with untruth. . . . http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/presidents/26_t_roosevelt/psources/ps_muckrake.html

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"THE PROPHET" by Kahlil Gibran

As I was studying Woody Guthrie for the Folk Music course (See www.3holepunch.net) John and I are teaching, I came across this quote in Joe Klein's biography, Woody Guthrie, p. 68:

One day in the library, he discovered the long narrative poem The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, and it was a revelation. He was amazed to find in it a philosophy that mirrored his own exactly; it was as though Gibran had tapped his soul. He felt the same way reading it--tingly and alive--as he had in the desesrt. He loved the sonorous verities, the heavy mists and rhythms of it, the idea of the unity of all things, the idea that every living thing had value. Sometimes it seemed the Prophet said things that Woody knew but hadn't yet formulated in his mind: "The lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral."

Here is photo and an excerpt for Gibran's poem:



On Religion

And an old priest said, "Speak to us of Religion."

And he said:

Have I spoken this day of aught else?

Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,

And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?

Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?

Who can spread his hours before him, saying, "This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?"

All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.

He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.

The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.

And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.

The freest song comes not through bars and wires.

And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

Your daily life is your temple and your religion.

Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.

Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,

The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.

For in revery you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your failures.

And take with you all men:

For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.

And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.

Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.

And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.

You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

T. S. Eliot

This morning John read poems from T.S. Eliot. For those of you out there who may think he is not approachable--too deep for regular folks--the "Journey of The Magi" is a good place to start. The powerful sensual images almosst make you feel like you're going along on the journey.

Journey of The Magi

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

I copied this from a great website that has interesting material on Eliot's spiritual journey---especially his "conversion" in Rome--the city we left only a few days ago.
The site: http://itech.fgcu.edu/faculty/wohlpart/alra/eliot.htm

John also favored me with his interpretive reading of another one of Eliot's profoundly descriptive poems:


A Song for Simeon


Lord, they Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winder sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us they peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
have given and taken honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children's
children?
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat's path, and the fox's home,
Fleeing from foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel's consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints' stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let they servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.