Thursday, December 31, 2009

* "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master": Ideations without Borders

A friend asks me to write on "How civilization needs to outgrow religion".
As I would not be a slave of religion, so I would not be a master.

Since I believe religion is a form of primitive psychiatry emerging from the collective unconscious, I think civilization needs desperately to keep religion not abandon it.

Without the Ten Commandments (The Ten Ideations) for instance in the Judeo-Christian world, our world would be in a thousand times greater chaos than it is presently. (see Nov. 26 post:"Bring Hell Back--- On Steroids")

At least, the criminals who engineer war (and I include white Yale graduates in this group) will always wonder (and worry?) in a tiny corner of their tiny minds if they are going to be punished for their slaughters, thanks to that old time religion.

Lincoln worried outloud, and came to this religious rationalization: "For every drop of blood from the lash, a drop of blood from the sword."

In other words, Providence (Lincoln was reluctant to use the word "God") is punishing us with war in exact and equal proportion to the torture and death we created with slavery.

I don't think civilization needs to "outgrow" religion, but perhaps it needs to cut it back to its roots and "regrow" it

Or better still, maybe civilization needs to reinterpret religion. And perhaps that's what's beginning to happen with what we call secularism today where the Ten Commandments are being reinvented or reimagined as what I call the Ten Ideations or The Ten Mirrors (see December 15 post: "Tiger Woulds: The Ten Mirrors.")

This secular seepage would have the advantage of not being confined only to followers of the Big Oldies: Judaism and Christianity. In fact it would be a kind of secular religion: Not Doctors without Borders; Not Clerics without Borders; but, Ideations without Borders.

Divinity doesn't needs cathedrals and trinities and pantheons to manifest itself.

As Emerson believed (and Dylan Thomas said), it manifests itself a billion times a day: "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, drives my soul"; or as Thornton Wilder believed, "Every baby born into the world is Nature's attempt to make a perfect human being."

But I'm not sure Albert Schweitzer's "reverence for life" (a religious philosophy which subsumes Emerson, Wilder and Thomas) is a sturdy enough structure for "civilization." It hasn't shown itself to be, anyway.

So to avoid incremental anarchy (AKA disorganized crime), I'm all for religion: let it be the emperor's old clothes, as long as we get a new emperor who's not too proud to notice his own nakedness: who wants us to be neither slave nor master.

* Killing Oeddy Loman with Tweets?

Bowling alone may have been replaced by Tweeting together, Facebooking forever, and MySpacing myself.

The great Oedipal shadow of competetive isolation which has hovered over manhood in our country for more than half a century may be being defeated (or disguised) by a digital "hall of mirrors".

The American male used to be lonely: Willy Loman even said it , "I've got no one to talk to...". His "phoney dream" in Death of a Salesman is hissed over his grave by his phoney son, Happy Loman :"It's the only dream you can have: to come out number one man."

Ask Tiger.

Or now, ask Hillary.

Her recent angry response in Korea to a reporter's question ("What does President Clinton think . . .") indicates that the frenzy of becoming number one is no longer gender specific. Here is how madame Secretary replied: "My husband is not the Secretary of State, I am . . . I am not channelling my husband . . ."

Harold Bloom's great theory (all literature is Oedipal) applies here.

All capitalism is Oedipal.

The competitors (now not only the "sons" but the Hillaries of the world) are trying to overshadow whoever they perceive to be the shadow-throwing "father", the Laius they subconsciously want to kill.

To that end, the Mercantiliacs are constantly tallying their status these days: Number of Friends on Facebook (in the thousands!): Number of tweets in a day; Number of text messages in a month. These softwear solutions to loneliness are called "social networking."


Its really narcissism, consumerism and competetivism dressed in Digital Drag.

The Secretary of Education has even institutionalized this Oedipal phenomenon with his multi-billion-dollar carrot: the "race to the top". Now not only students can be lonely and self-absorbed, but institutions they inhabit can be so too.

For Mr. Duncan's information there is only one race: "the race all runners come" as A.E. Housman says in To an Athlete Dying Young and everyone finishes alone.

Everyone finishes last and Number One. There are no others in this race.

Garrison Keillor is the modern Sophocles who has outfoxed the Oedipal world of Harold Bloom, Willy Loman and the Tiger: Lake Wobegone has no competition at all: All the children are above average.


And, as any parent knows, there's a truth beyond Twitter in that statement:

The truth of the heart: the truth which beats, not races.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

* Safe Text? Move Yale to Vermont.

The world is a whore, and I don't want a social disease.

This has been my attitude for the last 25 years (since I left Yale) and the sole reason for my reformer-pen's silence for that quarter century. All that time, I have written nothing to try to change the world, after my preceding twenty years of activism at Ithaca, Kent State and Yale, 1964-84.

What put the pen back in my hand (or the keyboard under my finger's) after all these years?

The surgeon's knife a year ago December 19th, and the real possibility that I might never have an opportunity to say what I want to again: I might have come out of anaesthesia paralyzed--or not come out at all.

That get's you thinking. So does turning 65.

Hence this blog with its 65 posts (now 66) since June, and my 12 other blogs (Click on My Profile in the side panel)brimming with stuff.

Even, if no one reads it, I want the satisfaction of knowing my stuff will outlive me and not simply wind up in a dumpster when my belongings are sorted through, although I suppose a collapse of the Internet could wipe it all out forever.

So I AM right: the world IS a whore, even the digital world.

And there is no truly "safe" text, just as in the world of actual red light districts there is really no truly "safe" sex.

True, some of my stuff is already in the May 4th Collection at Kent State University Archives and The Kent State Collection at Yale University's Sterling Library Manuscripts and Archives.

But Global warming could put Yale University 20 feet under water from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic's Connecticut shore.

Yale just bought a "West Campus" 15 miles from the present one. It would be smarter to move the whole campus to Vermont and leave Harkness Tower to its ultimate fate: a half submerged lighthouse.

And Ohio? Archives are no safer from global warming in the midwest. When I lived in Kent, the Cuyahoga River was so polluted with chemicals that it actually caught fire. (No exaggeration.)

Even so, just on the chance that the digital world is not a red light district riddled with fatal viruses, I've turned one paper which collected dust in Sterling's archives for 30 years into a blog here: The Bound and the Unbound: Oedipus, Isaac and Jesus.

But I know the truth of Ecclesiastes: All will be dust in the wind, or flotsam on the sea, or digits in a cloud with no computer to summon them into being.

I have read The World Without Us.

Winter, the greatest metaphor, will wait, watchfully, then whiten.

Winter wins.

* Divorce: The B.M. degree

I used to say that divorce had become an apprenticeship for marriage.

Now, after a decade of a 50% divorce rate (one in two marriages ends in divorce) I'm going to change that to divorce has become a diploma from marriage:Yeah, I went through Marriage College, learned all I needed to know(including what NOT to do) and now, with the B.M. (Bachelor of Marriage) degree, I'm ready to enter a real world marriage.

Too bad for the discarded mate from the "artificial" marriage, which BTW took a real lawyer to get out of.

Too bad for the kids, if there are any, who may wind up with four parents or one parent.

Too bad for the grandmothers and grandfathers who don't know how to explain all the confusion to the kids.

Too bad for all the suckers who sent wedding gifts.

I've gotten to the point that I attend and do the gift thing for the FIRST wedding only: I'm not going to 'Play Happy' for the wreckage of other people's lives, even if it is disguised as a 'learning experince'.

Yes, I am a liberal Protestant by upbringing, but in a world of impetuous marriages (hormone marriages)I'm reminded of the wisdom of a church practice which my Roman Catholic friends had to observe when I was young, a practice which I thought was harsh and excessive:

Engagement had to last a full year minimally, with mandatory couple's counselling. Of course at that time there was no pre-marital sex; no pre-marital apartment (home) sharing.

The wisdom of that ONE FULL YEAR (even with sex and home sharing) makes perfect sense to me in 2009: Time to get bored with the object of your love; time to get bored with sex (maybe two years!); time to get bored with your self.

Then--and only then -- you really learn something and deserve a diploma.

And it's still a B.M. degree:

Bachelor of Myself * .

Now you're ready to work.

(Not play.)

* The advanced degree is the M.M.,
Master of Myself.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

* Stopping the Underwear Bombers: It's the Poverty, Stupid!

If I understand the two experts on PBS News Hour tonight (one a former Ambassador to Yemen), the big problem in Yemen which makes it a fertile ground for terrorists (even rich, spoiled, post-pubescent, lonely ones) is not Al Qaeda, it is the failure of the Yemeni government to deliver services to citizens and elevate the poor to a level of greater opportunity. Poverty breeds anger,even poverty experienced vicariously by the likes of the wealthy underwear bomber.

In short: It's the poverty, stupid!

The ONLY thing that is going to lure young, post-pubescent fanatics away from the salvation and paradise promised by the terrorists, is the salvation and paradise
which money cannot merely promise but can DEMONSTRATE on the ground (not the heavens) to those who don't have money.

Enter Hillary (LAW '73), stage left!

The new concept of a State Department which engages not simply in diplomacy, but in economacy or diplonomics, is the mustard seed of hope in a government which is mired in generations of spending money the WRONG ways, from the money-bags-Defense-Department to the piggy-bank-Foreign-Aid-budget.

Economacy? Ugly to the ear. Diplonomics sounds better.

Translate that to "Raising the poor out of poverty for Diplomatic Benefit to the USA": Giving people what they need and want and then advertising the fact and bragging about it, the way Hamas does to the Palestinians.

Or translate it as: Spending the same BIG BUCKS on making peace as we spend on making war; only, instead of being a Hamas, we'll be a U.S. Aid.

And we (not an Al Qaeda, or a Hamas) will become indispensable.

Sound too neat? Glib? Shallow?

Who's ever tried it.

Maybe the new millenia will be the BH and AH era( Before Hillary and After Hillary era).

It couldn't hurt to experiment.

And let's do it where the poverty, political dangers and inequity are worst. Put strings on that money----LONG strings---that ensure it gets into the correct pockets.

Easier said than done?

Ask Todd Beamer:

"Let's roll."

Monday, December 28, 2009

* Bullets and Booze

The Asymmetrical Law of Consequences:

With Malice Toward None;With Charity for All

It seems unfair that a tiny piece of metal smaller than half an index finger, stuffed with powder, is able to remove from civilization forever persons of great social benefit: Lincoln,Gandhi,Kennedy, King.

Just from the standpoint of physics (the relation of energy to mass, and vice versa), it seems too unbalanced: a tiny piece of metal propelled through the air can wipe out often in an instant a consciousness with volition, molded by decades of experiences, able to lead nations.

The scales are tilted to extreme--if not inverted--on this matter presented to Blind Lady Justice.

There is not even a semblance of symmetry: One bullet at Ford's Theater wipes out "with malice toward none, with charity for all" and ensures Jim Crowe and segregation for the next hundred years?

It's an Absurdist's world.

And so too do we have New Year's Eve, 2009/10 in which an entire nation jokes about a liquid which, when poured into a driver, turns a car into a lethal weapon.

Before I was born, my father's mother was killed by a drunk driver as she stepped off a trolley in West Haven, Connecticut at the age of 49.

My cousin's 16-year-old son was killed in 1979 by a drunk driver in Gaithersburg, Maryland while he walked by the side of the road.

And my housemate, Irene O'Malley, the 38-year-old mother of two boys and two girls, was killed in 1986 when a drunk driver
(the 19-year old son of one of my co-workers) crossed lanes and plowed her station-wagon off the road, over a hillside in Bethel, Vermont as she travelled to her third-shift job as an obstetrical nurse at a local hospital. The 19-year-old boy was killed too. (see

Upper, right:
My grandfather (front fender), LeRoy Ward

My grandmother, killed by a drunk driver at age 49, Hulda Bonhau Keane, 1878-1927

Unfair odds: that a bottle of liquid can remove a mother from the world; and a son too.

The physics of it is similarly unfair: A grotesque symmetry of life.

But in this case, the logistics seem unfairer still, since that liquid can be sold legally in stores on most streets in every state in the union.


At least nowadays you have to drive a few miles to buy them.



Flowers are

than bullets:

better than
than funerals.

"A live dog is better than a dead lion."

New Year,

Sunday, December 27, 2009

* Aging on the Sly: Dance to the Muses.

What is it about dancers? Especially women dancers?

When Martha Graham was 95 she was received at a tea in the White House by whoever the First Lady was then. I recall hearing her interview.

At 95 you can fake a lot with make-up and hair color and false teeth and eye shadow and costume, but you can't fake voice. And the amazing thing about Martha Graham at 95 was not her legendary energy and dramatic profile, but her smoothe, elegant, uncracked-by-age voice. It was YOUTH itself.

And now we have Alicia Alonso, in her 90th year, 2009. She danced well into her seventies (although legally blind most of her career--she uses lights on stage to locate other performers and objects).

Madame Alonso (prima ballerina assoluta) is a triumph of will and talent over reality, including turning her unique facial features into a work of art. Even today at 90 she looks like Picasso painted her fractured face into a thing of drama and remark.

Graham's voice; Alonso's face?

Are these simply theatrical tricks to coy age into submission, or at least remission?

I wonder.

Perhaps it is because they spent so much of their life off their feet, and I don't mean reclining: I mean IN THE AIR.

There may be something in dance itself--or music (ever notice how long musicians live: Rubinstein, Casals, Stokowski, each at 95 still performing/teaching)--- which defies the leadening inertia of the body and elevates one to the level of the spheres: a kind of atom-like weightlessness.

Maybe "ingesting" music retards aging.

It is December 27, 2009.

Tomorrow I turn 65.

Turn up the Muses please.

We shall dance.

You and I.


Friday, December 25, 2009

* Strangling Speech Selectively at Yale, 2009

YaleSpeak Then and Now

THE REGION (New England)

Escapee Gives Up

Published: February 28, 1984
A convicted prostitute, believed to be suffering from AIDS, surrendered to a public defender here today, six days after she escaped from a drug treatment program.

The woman, Carlotta XXXXXXXX, 29 years old, was ordered held in $25,000 bond. She was arraigned in Superior Court in New Haven on charges of failing to appear in court, disorderly conduct, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of narcotics.

Yale rebuked by
Foundation for Individual Rights
in Education (FIRE)
December, 2009

Adam Kissel (Harvard '94)
Director, Individual Rights Defense Program of
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
has sent Yale President Richard Levin a "rebuke" according to a Yale Daily News article for allowing Dean Mary Miller to bully Yale freshmen council into withdrawing a T-shirt it had designed with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise: "I think of all Harvard men as sissies."

Well I don't know what Fitzgerald and Yale freshmen would think, but I think of all Yale administrators and faculty not as sissies but as Bullies.

It's Bully for Yale and to hell with the rest of the world-----starting at about Elm and Howe Street where the drug and prostitute section of New Haven begins, one block from the Yale Co-op and half a block from Payne Whitney Gym.

I know, I used to live there when I went to Yale Divinity School and I ate breakfast in Patricia's Restaurant almost every morning.

It was in that neighborhood that I discovered in 1983 the first woman known in America to have transmitted AIDS (to her own infant, in the womb), a prostitute and heroin addict, facts which Yale medical and academic faculty criticized me for revealing on "60 Minutes" at a time when heterosexual transmission of AIDS was unknown in America. (What was I to do? Let people DIE for my politically correct silence?)

No faculty member or administrator lifted a finger to help alert people that AIDS could be transmitted heterosexually. (Recall, AIDS was taboo at this time, more taboo than homosexuality ever was. Many claimed it was God's punishment for homosexuality.) No one dared touch this heterosexual hot potato with a ten foot pole.

With one courageous exception: The Chaplain, John Vannorsdall.

In fact, Woodbridge Hall (I was an alumnus by then) made the President's legal counsel available to me not to save human lives, but, only to keep me from embarrassing Yale by blundering into illegality.

President Giamatti did send me a one sentence note of thanks, but uncomplainingly allowed me to pay out of my own pocket for 5000 A.I.D.S.(AIDS Information Dissemination Service) pamphlets which were distributed to Yale students through Yale Station, warning students of explicit sexual acts which could transmit AIDS.

Pretty controversial (taboo even) for its day, 1984, before the now omni-present Viagra Generation was even conceived (pun intended).

As for Yale's neighbors a block away? Did Yale use its massive free-speech machinery to warn them of the mortal dangers?

Let them eat cake--or heroin.

It's only prostitutes and drug addicts. They won't affect our precious Ivy League clientele.

They live on the wrong side of the tracks anyway.

That was 25 years ago, and the tracks are getting even closer to Bully Old Blue today with the building of two new colleges in a location which makes Yale and the ghetto virtually contiguous.

Imagine the wall which will be erected. Will it be electrified? Or maybe buried? A human variation of Invisible Fence?

All Yale students and employees can wear collars (bulldog collars) which will permit them to pass through, bar coded to their ID's.

This minimal benchmark will ensure transparency and accountability in case the collars are lost or sold. (I'm in Obama-buzz-word heaven! Have you been lulled into complacency or boredom yet?)

Better still, Yale Health Services can implant bar coded devices under the skin, making loss or sale impossible. They can even charge a monthly rental fee (great way to raise revenue) and de-activate those collars( from an automated computer system) whose owners are in arrears. Marvelous idea.

But back to the present (2009/10) and the 'sissies' T-shirt.

By Dean Miller's standards, an infamous T-shirt which appeared after the Kent State shootings should also be banished from academia (in fact, it was---but what would you expect of a mid-western cow college?).

That T-shirt had a large bull's-eye on its chest with the words "Kent State student" under it. It can't even be found on Google Images today or e-Bay.

Freedom of speech was deadly at Kent State in 1970; but it may be dead or in danger of dying at Yale in 2010.

And the killers?

(Not National Guardsmen)

Political Correctness Officers.



See October 2nd post this blog; "25th Anniversary of Heterosexual Transmisssion of AIDS Uncovered at Yale"

Move bar to 4 minutes 41 seconds to begin this video story.

(Move bar to 4 minutes 41 seconds.)

The Miami Herald - Feb 28, 1984

* Titans and Pygmies: Living in he Interstitium

Have all the giants died at once? We seem to be living in a world of pygmies, both artistically and politically.

Perhaps Zaha Hadid is an exception: a new Frank Lloyd Wrong. But Artists? Musicians? Humanitarians?(Nelson Mandella?)World leaders?

Maybe they're just gestating: after a world exhasuted of Churchills,Eisenhowers,Schweitzers,Freuds, Darwins, Einsteins,Gandhis,Roosevelts, Horowitzs, Toscaninis,Andersons,Stravinskis, Picassos, Steins,Faulkners, Mother Teresa (no plural possible there),Salks,Fontaines and Lunts, Hopes and Crosbys,Astairs and Rogerses.

Maybe the world is just taking twenty or thirty years to grow a new crop of greats: An Age of Interstice. (Note: Jimmy Carter may be working himself into a mini-Schweitzer: Bill Gates? Maybe the Gates Foundation, but not the person. Decidedly not the person.)

Or maybe it takes a cataclysm (W.W. I) or two to produce titans?

Perhaps it will be AIDS wiping out a third of the world; or global warming turning Manhattan into an unwilling Venice with a gondola grid of 125 canals? Or terrorism?

Thornton Wilder had it wrong in The Skin of Our Teeth: a great glacier was slowly moving toward New Jersey in his 1942 play. Actually only half wrong: in 2010 (next week) it is a great MELTED glacier that is moving slowly toward New Jersey. NOW.

I'm surprised the GWP's (Global Warming Poeple) now known as the CCP's (Climate Change People) haven't latched on to that Wilder play as a premonitory clarion call to action.

With the liberties taken in theatre, I'll bet somebody could turn The Skin of Our Teeth into a Global Warming Soap Opera: Tom Cruise as Mr. Antrobus and Madonna as Sabina.

Why not you?

It's "a new world to make! ---think it over."
(Sabina, The Skin of Our Teeth, Act II)

* Rocking-horse winner, pass by!

Endlessly Rocking in the Teleological Tide. . .

Sitting across a restaurant table from Thornton Wilder in The Old Heidelburg in New Haven was like sitting across from Halley's Comet, chained to a chair. (see

And that was when he was 78, only months before his death in 1975. Imagine what he was like when he was young!

Now that I am pushing the years further and further and have looked death straight in the eye myself, I understand what Thornton Wilder was doing, not only for himself, but for those around him: He was defying oblivion, "out of the cradle endlessly rocking". (He once said, "It is the duty of the old to lie to the young.")

In case you have any doubt that the author of Our Town believed in personal -- indeed humanity's --oblivion, consider these words about his attraction (at 78) to the writing of Claude Levi-Strauss:words from The Enthusiast: A Life of Thornton Wilder by Gilbert Harrison:

". . . he continued writing hours each day, and with faltering eyesight reread Goethe's converstaions with Eckermann, Madame de Sevigne's letters, Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle('spledid'), Boswell's London Journal ('a little Scotch puppy and how he grew') and, most stimulating, the social anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss whose thought in The Naked Man paralleled his own. "Man has to live and struggle,think, believe and above all preserve his courage,' wrote Levi-Strauss ' although he can never at any moment lose sight of the opposite certainty that he was not present on earth in former times, that he will not always be here in the future and that, with his inevitable disappearance from the surface of the planet which is itself doomed to die, his sorrows, his joys, his hopes, his works will be as if they never existed'" (Harrison, p.373)

Four years earlier, at age 74, Wilder had written an aging, ill friend:

"I -- and Goethe -- acknowledge a God but we don't anthropomorphize him. We call him die Natur and we know He, She, It embraces this vast process and has fashioned it with a million marvelous smaller processes which betray an intense concern for how the whole thing works --- a concern that much resembles love. All Nature strives to bring every detail to its truest expression of its function. All Nature is working for you. Rise above immediate things and feel that. Float in the teleological tide." (Harrison, p. 371)

How can the "teleological tide" be reconciled with the planet and humanity's "inevitable disappearance"?

It can't.

But as Bertrand Russell says (somewhere): Just because the human mind is structured to search for cause-and-effect, does not mean that the universe operates in cause-and-effect.

Just as Nature may make quantum leaps, so too may the human mind.

Wilder's, floating in the teleological tide as opposed to swimming with it
(Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"?) or against it (Thomas's "Do not go gentle into that good night") may actually be the ultimate religious adjustment to the
certain uncertainty of extinction (to crudely reword Hamlet).

Cast a cold eye On life, on death. Rocking-horse winner, pass by!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

* Empty Manger; Empty Tomb

Christmas Eve, 2009

I was named after my parents' youth minister, Douglas Clyde Macintosh*. My parents came from the "poor section" of New Haven, Connecticut. Macintosh was a professor in that city at Yale Divinity School for 40 years. One of his books (Social Religion) had a preposterous proposition: Even if the Jesus of history never existed, the validity of Christianity would remain intact.

Pretty radical: Christianity without Jesus; Christmas without a manger; Easter without a cross; death without a Resurrection.

My own average citizen interpretation of this is, that if you susbstituted the word Forgiveness with a capital "F" for the word Christ, the religion would mean exactly the same: Forgiveness is my personal Savior(saves me from the hell of Self); Forgiveness promises me victory over death (saves me from fear of Eternal Judgment; because every time I refuse to judge --indeed I forgive --others, I build faith in a judgement-free Eternity); Forgiveness cleanses my soul (where resentment and fear were, there shall serenity be).

Admittedly, this is a psychoanalytic interpretation of Christianity; but, then, I believe all religion is an imagistic, metaphoric form of primitive psychiatry emerging from the collective unconscious.

Our difficulty as inheritors of this primitive psychiatry is that we have turned the images and metaphors ( Father, virgin, manger, savior, king, crucifixion, resurrection, eternal life, eternal damnation, etc.) into literalities instead of the cathartic symbols they are intended to be. We have made them ends, rather than means (or meanings).

Would living a life of forgiveness and sacrifice without a historical Jesus bullying us to do so, bring life everlasting, i.e. life undeterred, life uninterrupted ("EVER-lasting") by anxiety, fear,and the burden of self?

Is that all there is?

No Emerald City in the Sky?

Just, Peace?


Paul D.M. Keane
Yale Divinity School

* See September 11 post: "Macintosh Chalice donated to Yale Law School"