...for now the thoughtBoth of lost happiness and lasting painTorments him; round he throws his baleful eyesThat witnesse'd huge affliction and dismaymixt with obdurate pride and steadfast hate:At once as far as Angels ken he viewsThe dismal Situation waste and wild,A dungeon horrible on all sides roundAs one great furnace flam'd, yet those flamesNo light, but rather darkness visible,Serv'd only to discover sights of woe, (italics mine)Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peaceAnd rest can never dwell, hope never comesThat comes to all; but torture without endStill urges and a fiery Deluge, fedWith ever-burning Sulphur, unconsum'd:Such place Eternal Justice had prepar'dFor those rebellious, here thir Prison ordainedIn utter darkness and thir portion setAs far removed from God and light of Heav'nAs from the Center thrice to th' utmost Pole.(Book I, Verses 54-74)
Monday, July 26, 2021
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
The Lingering Pain that Will not go away
A solitary cry I cannot breathe
I hear only the silence
of petals floating at a calm sea
Sudden pain on my chest
Like the weight of 50 bricks
The medics rush to rescue
All I hear are the sounds of silence
Slipstreaming in winter skies
Two centripetal bodies drawn ever closer
Echoing the harmony of the spheres
-Haiku inspired verse composed in honor of Women’s History Month (3/8/21)
Celebrating Unsung heroes: Contributors to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County and the Kitchen Staff at Greenwich High School
First, its wonderful to see the overflowing Food Bank bin at my local Newfield Greens Grade A supermarket where shoppers are responding with generous weekly donations to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County. It is so heartening to see so many reach out to help feed the many many hundreds of indigent and hungry residents of our communities especially during these pandemic times.
The overstocked Foodbank bin at Grade A Newfield Greens Supermarket
Likewise I wish to commend the food service employees at Greenwich High School who daily prepare hundreds of meals to feed the hungry residents of the community.
Monday, April 19, 2021
Deb Haaland becomes the first Native American to achieve Cabinet Level status as Secretary of the Interior
Kudos to the U.S. Senate which by a vote of 51-40 last month confirmed Congresswoman, Deb Halaand of New Mexico to the cabinet post of Secretary of the Interior.
It is my sincere hope that she will act with fairness and integrity in dealing with issues relating to Native American citizens as well as being a steward of the vast tracts of public lands.
For my previous blog discussing this inspiring cabinet appointment against a backdrop of the history of abuses directed against Native Americans in our country click here.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
The Power of the Imagination to transform reality: James Mcbride's novel Deacon King Kong is a tour de force hinting at rectification of a culture spinning out of control
As I prepare to publish this posting, the newswires are flashing with news that both the President and First Lady have tested positive for the Corona Virus and are quarantined and the president has been admitted to Walter Reed Hospital.
This is an alarming 'bit' of news in itself as the country is ready to enter the last month before a national election.
What is at the heart of this article is the power of the imagination.
Just how powerful is the imagination in shaping our reality?
How far can the imagination go, with its power to shape our beliefs and understanding, before it collides head on--with potential mortal consequences?
We know that for the past 6 months, our Potus and First Lady have acted as if the pandemic did not exist as a threat to life--at least as regards themselves.
Whether they believed that the pandemic was a serious global threat or not, they acted as if they were somehow immune. They ignored the best medical experts and defiantly did not wear facemasks.
Were they successful in reimagining reality? Has their overt defiance of global medical wisdom made a difference in their supposed immunity to the virus?
This issue lies at the heart of the next of my postings as I explore how a number of brilliant writers who have reimagined the harsh, often brutal circumstances mushrooming beyond their control.
Can great writing somehow transcend and diminish the harsh decree of the pandemic which claims thousands of American lives daily?
My answer is an 'affirmative' yes and I will demonstrate in the next few posts.
Deacon King Kong by James Mcbride is an excellent illustration.
This monumental writing is a saga that runs only 370 pages! But in its gutsy, visceral, at times stream of consciousness prose, it will hold you breathless in a roller coaster ride from start to finish.
The time is 1969, The setting is a New York City housing authority run ' project' eponymously called the "Cause" located in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn--an area filled with loading docks immortalized by Marlon Brando in "On the Waterfront."
It is a time when heavy drugs, heroine and crack are in heavy use and the distribution controlled by competing drug lords
It is a time of hope and change symbolized by the Mayor John Lindsay's liberal republican administration filled with young ivy league educated idealistic public servants filled with aspirations to clean up the lives of the trodden masses, the wretched refuse to make the city a more humane habitat for all its denizens.
Against the squalid lives of the outlying forgotten souls is the oft mentioned recurring symbol of hope-the Statue of Liberty- in full view from this south Brooklyn community.
The central character-- Deacon King Kong-- is a moniker for a church centered drunkard whose life centers around a constant imbibing of home grown whisky called king kong, At the same time he is dealing with a number of other convergent obsessions: the loss of his deceased wife Hettie with whose apparition he is in constant dialogue, obsessed with finding the Church Christmas Club money he believes she hid; obsessed with his role as 'failed' mentor to a promising church-raised 19 year old kid, aptly named Deems Clemens. (ala Roger)
This kid has a great pitching arm with a probable major league career in the wings. Sadly, he drops baseball to become the local lucrative distributor, controlling the sale of heroine to hapless, clueless denizens of the "Cause" projects.
The climax occurs when an inebriated Deacon quietly approaches Deems at the flagpole located in the center of the communal courtyard at high noon as Deems is presiding over the daily distribution of drugs; Deacon then pulls out a revolver with intent to kill his erstwhile baseball star. Fortunately the intended victim turns his head at the last moment and so Deacon blows off his ear.
Questions loom big: does Deems exact revenge upon his mentor Deacon King Kong? And does Deems, now convalescing in the hospital lose his position to another drug lord eager to control such a lucrative enterprise? Finally, what becomes of the Deacon at the end of the novel? Immortalized or dehumanized?
And other questions are writ large: James Mcbride portrays many cultures: black, Irish, Italian and Jewish with with long standing turf wars by drug lords fighting over the control and distribution of heroine to dozens of neighborhoods. Do you agree with me that the novel at various times hints at the rectification and humanization of the 'dark side' of noble creative cultures -with deep roots in the ante-bellum south, Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe?
At the center of the novel is the redeeming burgeoning love that sprouts between an Italian drug lord and a legitimate owner of a successful bagel business.
This novel is sure to grab you from start to finish.
Finally, does Mcbride portray some hope amidst this corrupted culture?
For these and other questions, I will not share answers with you until you have devoured and have had a chance to digest this great read--as I will continue to do for a long time.
We get a hint of Deems' 'big game ' future as he lays in bed convalescing from his wound:
"...Deems lay sideways, his bandaged ear toward the ceiling, closed his eyes, and slept the sleep of a troubled boy who, over the course of an hour, had suddenly become what he'd always wanted to be: not a boy from one of New York City's worst housing projects, an unhappy boy who had no dream, no house, no direction, no safety, no aspiration, no house keys, no backyard, no Jesus, no marching band practice, not a mother who listened to him, no father who knew him, no cousin who showed him right from wrong. He was no longer a boy who could throw a baseball seventy-eight miles an hour at age thirteen because back then it was the one thing in his sorry life he could control. All that was past. He was a man with a plan now, and he had to make a big play, no matter what. That was the game."
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
A Day of Mob Rule in our Citadel of Democracry: Recall these words of President John Adams 200 Years ago
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Standing in Awe: The Power of Great Literature to Inform, Transform and Rectify (Human Behavior and Effect Social Changes)
I am still in a state of awe over a series events that occurred over a two day period.
Here's what happened.
As part of a Literature at Lunch class that I lead with Rabbi Moshe/Mitchell Kurtz at Congregation Agudath Sholom, we just discussed what is perhaps the most anthologized native American short story, "The Man to Send Rainclouds." It is written by Leslie Marmon Silko, pictured above, who is a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe of New Mexico.
Artistically compressed tightly in its two and a half pages are many themes and symbols. In the interests of keeping my essay brief here are some are in a nutshell.
First, the historical background of the canvas upon she paints her masterpiece namely white European man's burden to civilize the natives--seen as savages--which involved coerced conversion to Catholicism, forced agricultural labor on missions, torture and killing of resisters.
A major character of the story is LAND-- which, in accordance with native American traditions, is held in stewardship for the entire community. Also, land is needed, of course, to provide man with provender for sustenance. And in order to insure a steady supply of crops, a steady supply of rain is essential. And, humans, who have passed on, are an essential part of the ritual to guarantee rain.
To illustrate, when grandfather Teophilo dies suddenly while tending his flock of sheep, his grandchildren quickly prepare the body for a simple interment, wrapping him in a red blanket, attaching a feather to his long strand of white hair, painting his face with symbolic colors and sprinkling him with corn and pollen.
These rituals insure his soul a swift protected journey to reunite with the Great Spirit while his body is infused with the sanctity acting as an agent to guarantee continued and future fertility of the soil.
His passage begins with a proper burial of the body, enriching the earth with nutrients as the body decomposes; and then eventually the soul is a type of offering to the Great Spirit given to help ensure abundant rainfall.
And...….The story ends after the funeral with Leon surmising "...now the old man could send them big thunderclouds for sure."
II. Thursday's Announcement: RADICAL AMAZEMENT
The very next day after our discussion, it was announced by the White House that President Biden's choice for Secretary of the Interior would be Deb Haaland, like Leslie Marmon Silko, a native American citizen of the Laugna Pueblo Tribe of New Mexico and 35th generation, to boot.
Why am I in radical amazement?
The shoe-in appointee for the position of Secretary of the Interior was thought to be Tom Udall, senator from New Mexico whose father Stewart Udall served as Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961-1969.
What's more Tom, like his deceased dad, is a staunch supporter of wilderness conservation.
So, the announcement that congresswoman Haaland, a member of the very same Laguna Pueblo tribe as that of our author Leslie Marmon Silko, is the first native American ever to be nominated to a cabinet post, came as a pleasant surprise.
I am tempted against my better judgment to attribute this totally unexpected event in some small part to my teaching this work of fiction which so urgently calls for our recognition of and making rectification to an ethnic minority--once clearly a majority on the North American continent--a group that has suffered horrifically to the point of near extinction over the past 500 years.
Consider these numbers: Historians put the native American population in North America in the 1500's at about 3 to 7 million. By 1800, this number shrank to about 300,000 and by the late 19th century the figure stood at about 260,000.
That is a 90% drop.
The decimation of this indigenous race was a result of disease brought to the Americas by settlers from European countries, by appropriation of ancestral lands, forced conversion and internment on Spanish missions often accompanied by torture and wanton slaughter and by wars fought against military foes with superior weapons.
Today the Native American population stands at about 2.9 million with over 574 recognized tribes. Indian land areas in the U.S. are administered as federal land areas. There are 326 reservations; the Navajo nation is the largest one comprising over 17 million acres covering southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico.
It is my hope that Deb Haaland's nomination be quickly approved and that she be the "woman to bring rectification" to centuries of abuse.