Anniversary Poem

Photo Credit: Fulton Street Market

Full height of summer,

Before drought and heat

When long light plays

On fields to paint far trees:

Joy floats through the market

Of new herbs, asparagus,

And strawberries’ first sweet taste.


Who’s the music for?

This afternoon had the opportunity to listen to the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony concert that included a wonderful performance of Holst’s The Planets. The orchestra was full and often thrilling in its playing. But I also left with a certain sadness, it was a concert that indirectly conveyed the continuing hit the arts have taken in our schools.

As was clear in the program, these high performing student comes from a rather restricted background: a few elite public schools, Christian schools, or home schools. Music that should be the common inheritance of all is instead nurtured only in a few schools or programs. This was most evident in the Classical Symphony (their training program) where most students were out of home schooled environments. While a host of benefits belong to learning and mastering a musical instrument, such work is now the area of a committed few. And as the Youth Symphony revealed, most often not in a public (or charter) setting. Directly or not, we’ve privatized out our music.

Not surprisingly, a privatized music is sociologically narrow, even (dare we say it) mono-chromatic. That’s not the students’ fault, or the organization’s, rather it points to conditions in our society, the audible disconnect with our communities. Much as I love the kids I know at Christian school kids, or the students it work with at City, what I long for is a different ensemble. Something Sphinx-inspired, music that frankly has a little more color in it.

I’m thinking we would all be better for it.

Personal firearms and resistance

A great many gun owners express their ownership through the grid of resistance to tyranny. Apart, from the fact that little in the way to suggest incipient tyranny, the vocalized meme is too strong to ignore. This suggests that its holders do so, not for policy or political reasons, but for those resting in a more private drama. Much of that inner life if in a somewhat more extreme form is captured in Arthur Farnsley’s “Flea Market Capitalism” in the current issue of The Christian CenturyPrivate ownership  borrows the language of armed resistance, but it is of a more emotional sort, turning on the question of autonomy.

A gun represents the ultimate ability to say no to coercion. Guns are about freedom—again, not the freedom to do whatever you want, but the freedom from being forced to do what you do not want.

Here, the gun ends up as the symbol of freedom while also being the sign of a lack of freedom, that one’s freedom to act, one’s freedom from authority is itself limited. Closely tied to the self is that of the implicit community, and why  narratives of oppression by elites reinforces the desire to resist, all symbolized in the gun. Any discussion of Second Amendment and especially of the restriction on guns can sound like an attempt to further erode this psychic resistance. And so a political non-starter.

School is a headache

Between the demands of the classes at the college, and debate/speech four days a week at City — blogging has taken a back seat.

Plenty of good things are happening, but honestly, I need to make time. So as they say,

watch this space.

“Unsoftened by distance and unfamiliarity”

Jo is brought in. He is not one of Mrs. Pardiggle’s Tockahoopo Indians; he is not one of Mrs. Jellyby’s lambs, being wholly unconnected with Borrioboola Gha; he is not softened by distance and unfamiliarity; he is not a genuine foreign-grown-savage; he is the ordinary home-made article. Dirty, ugly, disagreeable to all the senses, in body a common creature of the common streets, only in soul a heathen. Homely filth begrimes him, homely parasites devour him, homely sores are in him, homely rags are on him: native ignorance, the growth of English soil and climate, sinks his immortal nature lower than the beasts that perish.

Charles Dickens
Chapter XLVII, “Jo’s Will”, Bleak House

The Waters Call

Les Cheneaux Islands

The islands vary in size… All are heavily timbered, and many trails lead through forests of pine, cedar, and balsam. From a distance the islands appear to be great floating rafts of greenery, each striped at the water’s edge with a narrow line of white beach. The illusion of height in some of the islands is created almost entirely by the tall timber. (554)

Michigan. A Guide to the Wolverine State.
Compiled by workers of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Michigan
New York: Oxford University Press. 1941

Writing resumes August 9.