40. POPULAR

CULTURE

 

There is a great deal in popular culture that I have found useful to draw on for this poetic domain. Below are an essay and several poems that arose out of the rich reservoire of relationships between popular culture and the Baha'i Cause. The essay below is an introduction I wrote to a collection of published articles, 800 words each, which appeared in a newspaper in Katherine in the Northern Territory of Australia between 1983 and 1986. For the most part they were essays on popular culture, high and low culture, serious and the everyday. In these early years of this new millennium these published articles, some 120,000 words, are the major form of published work I have, although I have also a book on the Internet on "the Emergence of a Baha'I Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White." This book can be found at:

http://bahai-library.org/books/white.

But first, some poems that draw on aspects of popular culture: music, TV, film, games and the Baha'i Faith, from both a contemporary and a historical perspective.

THEY CAN'T GET NO SATISFACTION

Arguably the greatest English essayist of the nineteenth century, Hazlitt, wondered whether anyone who had lived through the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars would find satisfaction in the contrived ardours of literature. It seems to me that the same question that Hazlitt asked early in the nineteenth century can be logically asked, a fortiori,early in the twenty-first. Although more novels are read now that ever before, there are millions of people for whom the renditions of experience that literature attempts hold no attraction. People for whom the electronic media bring the events of the world and forms of sensory entertainment into such graphic reality in their homes day after day, year after year, for an entire lifetime experience a level of stimulus far in excess of that stimulus referred to by Hazlitt. Hence the contrived ardours of literature in our day hold little to no satisfaction for these and other reasons to a substantial portion of humanity. -Ron Price with thanks to George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, Penguin Books, 1967(1959), p.27.

 

You might think this sheer mass

of observed fact and factual analysis,

the absolutely massive

and burgeoning literature

out there day to day

would overcome and dissolve

my poetic purpose, my formal control.

 

Pioneering Over Four Epochs'1

sole owner, Ron Price!

I claim for this poetry

the territory of my own life,

it goes without saying---

identified as I am with

an emerging world religion

in a global society

and not with the precious

graveyards of civilizations

that have long ago died.2

 

1 The title of my entire poetic opus, now some 6000 prose-poems

2 Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky in George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, Penguin, 1967, p.36.

Ron Price

March 28, 2002

FAIR MANSIONS--BUT NOT YET

In 1973 Clint Eastwood starred in a film called Magnum Force. The film presents a picture of urban life consistent with the Baha'i view that society is in "the dark heart of an age of transition." When the film was released in 1973 I had just finished five years of teaching primary and secondary school. I was more than a little conscious of the moral vacuum and the social and behavioural disorders within the society I had grown up in and now lived as a young adult-a rapidly westernizing, rapidly globalizing, rapidly populating one. Magnum Force graphically underlined some of the disorder in urban life through a narrative with Clint Eastwood as a cop in Los Angeles. -Ron Price with thanks to WIN TV, 9:30-11:55 pm, 14 February 2002, "Magnum Force(1973)."

Clint, there was an alternative

to all that violence and confusion,

all that corruption and absurdity.

It was just then spreading around

the world, embryonic, first steps,

just stuck its head above the ground

and the apex of this new System

was about to have a new building

that would serve as its Seat, the Seat

of the Universal House of Justice.1

But this wasn't much use to you

back then, the cop that you were in LA.

 

Clint, we had begun to raise

the fair mansions

of God's Own Kingdom

wherein all the chaos and ruin

would cease. And I was moving,

or so I thought, to a safer place

and plane free of these disorders.

 

Sadly I found, as you found, Clint,

another form of disorder

in my own house, under my own roof.

For there was no escape for all of us

in this dark heart, except to sink deeper

into the firm earth of the Teachings:2

sacred and resplendent tokens

from the planes of glory.3

 

1 The Universal House of Justice, Messages: 1968-1973, Wilmette, 1976, 1p. 119: the first steps were taken in 1973

2 ibid., p.79.

3 Baha'u'llah, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.3.

 

Ron Price

14 February 2002

___________________________ 

SPINNING TRAJECTORIES

The Frisbee was marketed in 1959. It was originally called the Flyin' Saucer and was marketed with that name by the Wham-O-Company in 1957. It immediately became a nationwide craze. That same year, 1959, I became a Baha'i. I was fifteen. Far from creating a craze, the Baha'i Faith in the 1950s was a 'few-and-far-between' phenomenon. There were, perhaps, 800 Baha'is in all of Canada in 1959. I was the only youth in my town of Burlington with a population of about 6000 at the time. There was a small handful of, arguably, two dozen youth in their teens and twenties in all of southern Ontario at the time. -Ron Price with thanks to "Inventions: Information from the Fifties," Internet, 31 January 2002.

 

And we've been spinning ever since....

me and the Frisbee, round and round,

always aiming and being aimed,

sometimes floating high

and out of reach,

wide of the mark,

way over their head

and at other times

right into the palm of their hands,

always hoping to float right in there.

Floating is so much easier,

as unrestrained as the wind,

didn't He say that somewhere?

 

It's been quite popular

all across the land,

easy to market,

spinning its way into people's hearts,

giving them fun, pleasure.

 

Now this other item

spinning me about

these many years,

is going to take a little longer

to be a craze.

This one's not about

going round and round

in quite the same way.

 

The spinning trajectory

involves the whole planet

and takes more time

than an instant on

a sunny afternoon.

This one takes a lifetime,

perhaps eternity.

 

Ron Price

1 February 2002

 

EMERGENCE

At the beginning of the first Seven Year Plan in 1937 John Birks(Dizzy) Gillespie went to New York to play his trumpet in the experimental, unpredictable way that he had begun in South Carolina. Charlie Parker came to New York from Kansas City that same year to play the saxophone with his hard, brittle, new and complex sound. In 1942 they came together to play in a new melodic style with a fresh harmonic content which came to be known as Bebop. America in these war years defined itself in some important ways through its music. Gillespie, in many ways, came to personify the modern jazz musician. -Ron Price with thanks to "Jazz: Episode 7: Swinging With Change," ABC TV, 9:30-10:30 pm, 10 January 2002; and Brad Pokornoy, "From Hothead to World Citizen," One Country, Vol.11, No.2, Sept. 1999.

 

These were early years for you

and for us1

as we too were putting together

for the first time

our sound which we were just then

starting to take around the world.

 

They were years of a glorious

emergence from a severe crisis2

in that same city3 where bebop

was then revolutionizing

the whole sound of jazz.

 

The American Baha'i community

was then assuming its rightful place

at the forefront of a spiritual army

where you would one day be

an ambassador,a world citizen,

transformed from that roughneck,

knife-carrying youth of yesteryear,

into that easy-going, hip, black beret,

horn-rimmed glasses and goatee,

personification of a jazz musician.

 

1 1937-1944 and particularly 1942.

2 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, p.58.

3 New York

 

Ron Price

11 January 2002

 

SUSPENSE

Film director Alfred Hitchcock produced his film The Birds in 1963.1 The essential element in Hitchcock's films is suspense and it operates on deeper psychological and moral levels than it does in simple 'who-dun-its.' This suspense was, it seems to me, an appropriate emotion for the year 1963. The hundred year period, 1913-2013, and particularly the 1960s, was and would be a traumatic one for humanity. 1963 was the mid-point of this period filled with convulsions precipitated in the world by "the waywardness of a godless and materialistic age."2 One of Hitchcock's most important contributions to cinema was his recognition of the spectator's tendency to identify with the characters on the screen. When The Birds was first screened in 1963, I was just starting out on my pioneering life and I was being asked to "gird (myself) for heroism."3 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Tippy Hedren on "Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 8 January 2002 and 2The Universal House of Justice,Wellspring of Guidance, Wilmette, 1969, p.27 and 3p.60.

Little did I know, then,

and little did his audiences see

the metaphorical significance

of all those birds

attacking and screeching

just after the House was elected,

trustee of that global undertaking

set in motion a century before.

 

In the intimate and private parts

of our lives, on that long, stony,

tortuous road he'd told us about,

that path of the dawnbreakers

of a previous age,

that catastrophe

of undreamed of dimensions,

that fire, that consternation,

that terror which would come

to exist in the hearts of men

had indeed come.

 

And still we wondered why

the darkness, the world confusion.

In our own lives the birds of our hearts

too often did not sing,

caught-up in the dust-heap

of this mortal world:

many a talon claweth

at this thrush of the eternal garden.

Pitiless ravens do lie in wait

for this bird of the heavens of God....1

1 Baha'u'llah, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.41.

-------Ron Price 8 January 2002

 

A DANCE TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER

By the mid and late 1930s jazz had become the defining music of the generation, the generation that was then coming into its teens. Jazz seemed to unleash forces and energies like rock 'n roll did twenty years later. Like rock 'n roll, too, it seemed to possess a physicality; it released pent-up emotions; it was pure pleasure; it was a form of escape and it was entertainment. As jazz emerged so, too, did Baha'i Administration. In 1937 Baha'i Administration had developed sufficiently to take on a teaching Seven Year Plan. Between Benny Goodman becoming the generation's icon of popular music by playing at Times Square to a packed house of teenagers in the Paramount Theatre in March of 1937 and his band's contest with Chick Webb's band at the Savoy Ballroom in May of 1937, this Seven Year Plan began. -Ron Price with thanks to "Episode Five: Jazz: Pure Pleasure," ABC TV, 9:30-10:30 pm, 27/10/2001.

It exploded, completely unknown,

overnight, or so it seemed,

to the generation who began

that Plan in '37. In reality,

it had been slowly developing

in theory and form for nearly

a century, well, if you go back

to that magic year of 1844.

 

Jazz was becoming popular

the way we would have liked

to be popular, but our Plan

was a slow release model,

an experimental disposition,

a dance to a different drummer,

with the light and lyrical,

exquisite touch of an Eddy Wilson,

the often sad, slow pace

of a Billy Holliday or a Glen Miller

popular romantic-swing.

 

Men and women working

together, composing on-the-spot,

everyone in harmony,

moving toward elegance and joy:

that was one way of defining

what our aim was too

in those early Baha'i Groups

and Assemblies beginning

in those first-days-of-form,

days of Administrative vision,

when we started our dreaming.1

1 When Duke Ellington was asked what he was doing when he was playing jazz on the piano, he said "I'm dreaming."

Ron Price

27 December 2001

THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS AS THEY SEEM

During the first forty years of the initiation and implementation of the teaching Plans, 'Abdu'l-Baha's Divine Plan, 1937-1977, the most popular entertainer on earth was Bing Crosby(1904-1977). When the second Seven Year Plan began in 1946, Bing was voted the most popular person alive. The irony of his life was that, although he was so popular and radiated a warmth and a smooth and mellow voice, that won the hearts of people everywhere, no one really knew him. At least until his second marriage in 1957 his private life was sad and troubled. One of the great truths of the entire entertainment industry may just be that: how an actor/a person appears and how they are in reality is very often, if not always, a very different story. -Ron Price with thanks to "Bing Crosby: Voice of the Century," SBS TV, 8:30-9:30 pm, 26 December 2001.

We were just starting the game,

the great teaching Plan of 1937,

when you sponsored your first

golf tournament, opened your

first race course, worked with

Bob Hope in a series of films

and saw your wife pregnant

with your fourth child.

 

We were just starting out

to shed a luster no less brilliant

than the immortal deeds

which signalized the birth

of our Faith in its heroic age.

 

Our mission, then, was

inextricably interwoven

with our destiny and we

were called to persevere

while you were

the most popular singer

in jute-box land

and beginning to churn out

what would be 2000 songs.

 

My mother was just about

to meet my father in Hamilton

Ontario Canada at the Otis

Elevator Company and that

tempest was about to explode

all over the earth for the second time.

Ron Price

26 December 2001

___________________________ 

STILL AT THE CENTRE

In 1962 three westerns were released: 2David Miller's Lonely Are the Brave, Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country. That same year my pioneering life began quite unobtrusively. Looking back, I find it difficult to define the texture of my life and my society as it existed then. How can I describe the interface between my personal life, that historical moment in society and the stage of development of the religion I had come to be associated with, by then, for nearly ten years? The raw material for the western genre came from the 1840s to the 1890s when the USA expanded at a staggering rate. So was this true of the raw material of my religion, and specifically the Revelation of the Bab and Baha'u'llah: 1844-1892.

The first western was shot, writes Gary Johnson1, in 1898. The western genre emerged out of the embers of the actual frontier history, a frontier which formally ended in 1893. By 1962, the typical new western Baha'i pioneer lived imaginatively, to some extent anyway, in "Bonanzaland"3 thanks to the TV western. In the Baha'i Faith this pioneer also lived imaginatively, to an important extent, in a crescent occupying a region from Teheran to Akka and Haifa in Israel. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Gary Johnson, "The History of the Western," Article on the Internet; 2Richard Armstrong's Review of John Saunders, The Western Genre: From Lordsburg to Big Whiskey, Wallflower Press, London, 2001; and 3M. McLuhan in Philip French, Westerns: Aspects of a Movie Genre, Seeker and Warburg, London, 1977.

 

As the world was being turned

into one vast tourist attraction,

amidst war and horror,

free-wheeling anarchic community,

a staggering complexity,

I started my pioneer journey

beyond my St. Louis1

amidst TV horse operas:

Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Virginian

 

Not equipped to handle

complex socio-political ideas,

we lived under the illusion

that what we saw was

a neutral recording of events,

not cinematic artificiality,

for the eye was so much busier

than the mind, for most of us.

 

We mapped out personal life-stories

over these simple tales and, in the process,

provided a glue to the social order,

little did we know, then,

for cinema did not question,

was not critical. The social consensus

had not come apart back then,2

or so some argued anyway.

 

Beside Bonanzaland a new narrative

was played on the stage, for some.

It was told across the wide-wide world,

To the observer of mass-culture

it looked like other stories were

winning: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,

Rosemary's Baby, Amityville Horror,

The Clockwork Orange, On Golden Pond,

The Exorcist, Apocalypse Now, Dirty Harry---.

and on and on------went the complex tale------

as liberalism failed,

and conservatism triumphed;

as a strand of the radicalism of the sixties

slowly became organized

in a broadbased movement

that was still at the centre

of that quiet revolution

which began in Shiraz.

 

2 M. Ryan and D. Kellner, Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film, Indiana UP, Bloomington, 1990, p.3.

1 St. Louis Missouri was the beginning point of 'The West' in 1850; my St. Louis was Burlington Ontario Canada in 1962.

Ron Price

4 December 2001

________________________________ 

INTRODUCTION TO A COLLECTION OF 150 ESSAYS

Over fifteen years ago now, from May 1983 to March 1986, some 150 essays appeared in the newspapers of a small town in the Northern Territory. I had pioneered to this place in 1982 and remained there until 1986. The town was Katherine, three hours by car south of Darwin. Many of the essays I then wrote were about popular culture. What I write here will serve as a brief introduction to this collection of essays and I include it here because of the broad emphasis on popular culture in these essays.

Looking back over my life as it has evolved, it would seem that whatever intellectual gifts I have been endowed with, insofar as writing are concerned, were first in evidence in these published essays in what was then, and still is, a remote part of Australia. None of this material, these essays, has been transferred to this website. They sit in my study here in Tasmania and there they may remain indefinitely. Time will tell if they will ever be published.

For ten years before these essays first appeared, I had been a lecturer in a college of advanced education, among a number of other jobs, but the gift of writing was not really in evidence to my own eyes until these essays started to appear in the Katherine Advertiser in 1983. I was thirty-eight years old. I had been praying for the assistance of holy souls to furnish the power to manifest "the arts and the wonders of the world" for about four years. These essays appears to me now, in retrospect, as one of the earliest manifestatins of this power. At the time I don't recall being conscious of this relationship with 'holy souls,' although I must have been.

 

"Time, which puts an end to human pleasures and sorrows", said Samuel Johnson when he finished writing the Rambler in 1754, "has likewise concluded my labours."1 It would be three decades, in 1784, before Johnson’s labours, literary and other, were concluded. My own literary labours in the field of writing, had just begun in Katherine in 1983. A meticulous researcher could find articles in former college magazines in Ballarat and Launceston at their Colleges of Advanced Education, in newspapers in Tasmania and in Baha’i magazines and archives in the period up to 1984. But, in the main, even up to this year, most of my published works are in this collection of essays. And they draw heavily on popular culture.

 

For those who find my poetry not to their liking, or who find my autobiography in its many forms not to their taste, they may find here in this collection of essays manageable chunks of interest. Here is autobiography in another form, for essays tell much about a man-a 'secret self'-some say.2 In the years before the Lesser Peace it was difficult to get direct Baha’i ideas, quotations and 'language' into the print media. Few in Australia had been successful although, when I went to Perth in 1988, I met several individuals who were more successful than I or, at least, successful in different ways.3 Indirection was often the only way to expose the non-Baha'i public to the Cause in both the print and electronic media. My essays were an example of this indirection. Several Baha'i academics in Australia had published some of their work in academic journals, but I have not acquired any list of their efforts. These journals, of course, are not part of popular culture which is the particular focus here in this introduction which I have revised for this website.

 

"The distinctions between living, writing and reading were beginning to become blurred" says Tony Tanner in his analysis of the life of Henry James and the Art of Fiction".4 James saturated himself with, immersed himself in, his own writing. These essays represent the beginning of this process of immersion for me and ten years later, by the early 1990s, the process of immersion took the form of poetry. I was kept from the extremes of immersion that James and other writers expressed in their lives. A job, a family and a community kept me on a more moderate course. There is none of the sacrificial vicariousness found in James’ writing, the heroic proportions found in the erudite performances of some of the great writers of history, none of the immense energies applied to the effort to write as there were in the case of Xavier Herbert. Most of my writing in the two decades after these essays first appeared was in the form of poetry and this poetry was mostly a font of pleasure with a great weariness at the edges. One of the dominant themes in my poetry is the interrelationships between popular culture and the Baha'i Faith.

 

Perhaps for eight hours a day on average I have been involved with print, with the written word, since my retirement nearly three years ago. But it is rarely more than that. Mine has been a moderate fixation. Some of these essays deal with why I write and I will not reiterate these reasons here, but I should refer to the articles at the beginning of this collection of my essays, articles about Harold Ross, Shiva Naipaul, Brian Matthews and Norman Podhoretz since they contain some useful perspectives which I have integrated unknowingly into my own writing. I have not sent these articles to the BWCL. As I say, they are in my collection at home in my study.

I would also like to refer to James Olney, one of the great analysts of autobiography, who said autobiography can "advance our understanding of the question ‘how shall I live?’"5 If these essays contribute in some small part to answering this question I shall be amply rewarded. And if this cannot be done for a reader, I hope at least that I can give the reader a little pleasure. These essays also have a great deal to say, as I have indicated above, about popular culture. Since they may be the first, or at least one of the first, series of long essays in the press that were written by a Baha'i here in Australia; and since these essays deal extensively with popular culture, I mention them by way of introducing this hyperlink on popular culture.. I leave it to future readers to draw on them for their research, when and if the time arises.

These essays and particularly the ones on popular culture may slip into oblivion, though, and to prevent that possible eventuality I may transfer them to a website. But that is in the future.

1 Bertrand Bronson, editor, Samuel Johnson: Rasselas, Poems, Selected Prose, third edition, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, NY, 1952, pp.164-168.

2 'The Secret Self: Exploring Biography and Autobiography,' National Library of Australia Conference: October 19-20 2001.

3 Keith McDonald, Mike Day and Drewfus and Chelinay Gates, as well as the Baha’i Office of Public Information for Western Australia, in the years I have lived in Perth: 1987 to 1996, have contributed in no small way to the proclamation of the Baha’i Faith in the print and electronic media. They would merit a story unto themselves.

4 Tony Tanner, Henry James and the Art of Fiction, University of Georgia Press, London, 1995, p.29.

5 James Olney, Metaphor of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography, Princeton UP, 1972, p.xi.

Ron Price

27 December 2001

__________________ 

RIDING, FINALLY RIDING

The original film Zorro Rides Again is set in Mexico and was released in 1937. The Zorro character was first introduced in a 1919 story called "The Curse of Capistrano." The historical narrative comes from the 1840s in Mexico, but Warner Bros changed the historical Zorro into a Robin Hood when they released a film that came out in 1938 entitled "The Adventures of Robin Hood." In the 1950s a TV series called Zorro was produced by Walt Disney. I find the parallels with significant dates in Baha'i history at the very least coincidental and, at the very most, heuristic enough to give rise to the following poem. -Ron Price with thanks to David P. Hayes, "Movie Versions of Zorro," Internet, 7 December 2001.

 

Yes, it all goes back to the 1840s.

So many things go back to then.

Zorro, the Bab, the telegraph,

Marx's first writings, Darwin's work.

 

But it seemed to take awhile

to put the story down for the masses:

Zorro in 1919,

the year The Tablets were unveiled

and 1937 the year The Plan was finally inaugurated.

Zorro was indeed riding again;

the Cause was finally being spread

across the globe, especially in the '50s,

especially in the '50s; they were big years.

Zorro was riding again for millions.

Ron Price

8 December 2001

______________________ 

THE BALLAST OF SUCCESS

I've enjoyed Clint Eastwood movies. A superhero with the answers, double cool, self-sufficient, existing without society, without anyone's help, quiet, a man of few words, few ideas, but lots of action: this was the Eastwood persona. It was partly the real person too. Such was the character of Dirty Harry in the 1973 movie Magnum Force. With this movie Eastwood had become "the undisputed top movie star in the world."1 As I read the book1 I came to appreciate a man with some fine qualities and a man with his own particular weaknesses. He certainly did not enjoy his celebrity status. It made him uncomfortable.

In 1973 I had moved into a type of celebrity status in my own little world as a high school teacher in South Australia. It was a status I enjoyed as a teacher, off and on, until 1999. If a biography was ever to be written about my life it would reveal, as it did of Eastwood, a man of strengths and weaknesses. I found the celebrity status, the endless talking and listening both in schools and in my private life, wore me out by century's end. My persona, my personality, my road to success, was the opposite to Eastwood's: people in community, ideas and words, wall to wall for years. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Michael Munn, Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner, Robson Books, London, 1992, p.142.

 

You made your millions, Clint,

while I got through my career

after a somewhat shakey start.

 

Your quiet self, superhero persona,

man of action par excellence

took you to the top of the movie tree,

while this man of ideas and words,

endless words, produced poetry

and print with millions of phrases

and sentences on pages

and in relationships

enough to sink a ship.

 

My ship's ballast,

the ballast of my creativity,

was not the great Hollywood engine,

but an emerging world religion,

the centre of a psych-intellectual life

which drove me, eventually, it seems,

to find poetry everywhere.

 

Ron Price

16 November 2001

________________________ 

THE MANUFACTURE OF WANTING

The Baha'i Faith in North America expanded and consolidated in an advertising age. By the 1890s when the first Baha'is taught in Illinois, advertising had been part of the American way of life for thirty years, since at least the Civil War: 1861-1864. The approach of Christian evangelists, with their emphasis on redemption and the experience of grace, was transferred subtly and not-so-subtlety to the advertising world and its method of sale of patent medicines in the 1870s and 1880s. In the first three decades that the Baha'i Faith expanded in the USA, 1894 to 1924, the population of the USA expanded by twenty-five percent each year. This population was exposed to the magical promises and the philosophy of modern advertising.

By the time the first teaching Plan began in 1937 the golden age of radio had arrived and advertising found a new home in this medium. The same was true of TV where, after WW2, television brought advertising's pictures right into people's homes. In the late 1950s and 1960s advertising moved away from a conformist,sclerotic, mode, some would say military style and tone, to a reliance on the techniques of surprise, cleverness and creativity. The year I became a Baha'i, for example, in 1959, the Volkswagon Company developed an advertising campaign based around 'The Bug.' -Ron Price with thanks to ABC Radio National, "A History of Advertising," 1:00-2:00 pm, 2 August 2001.

 

Was He trying to block the air-waves,

trying to fog-up their oral/visual worlds,

trying to make it as difficult as possible

for them to get at all near, even close to,

this Most Great Ocean?

 

An increasingly dark incoherence

spoke across the American landscape,

advertising's endless jingle-jangle

told them again and again

the source of their current disturbances

could be found in the lack

of an equal distribution of wealth

and of indoor plumbing.

 

Was He simply giving them

ways of learning about

this Great River of Life:

millions of papers,

sounds floating through the air,

pictures right in their noses?

 

Yes, yes, but what a jungle

of sensation and triviality,

evanescence and idiocy:

the manufacture of wanting

everything but the Voice of Him

Who is the most manifest of the manifest

and the most hidden of the hidden.1

1 Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Prayers, USA, 1985, p.143.

Ron Price

2 August 2001

 

TV AND THE TEMPEST

During the decade of the Ten Year Crusade, which Baha’is see as the ninth stage of history, television swept into the homes of hundreds of millions of people. This poem describes what was in many ways a wonderful invention, an invention that brought the possibilities and pleasures of culture, education and entertainment to people everywhere in the West. By the time the tenth stage of history began in 1963, people everywhere could also watch the social breakdown of society which this poem describes by means of contrasting images of darkness and tempest. These contrasting images of social upheaval that beset these same people during this ninth stage of history were graphically analysed by the Guardian and outlined in his letters in the several years before he died.-Ron Price with appreciation to Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965.

A whole world opened

before the eyes of millions

in that ninth stage of history,

with the technology set up

during the eighth.

 

Becoming one psychologically

has been taking place slowly,

with His sweet-scented streams

of eternity giving humans

so much more

pleasure, culture, entertainment

than they had ever drunk before;

with the fruits of the tree of His being

given them to taste;

and with His other hand,

He sucked the spirit unobtrusively,

and not so unobtrusively,

out of all traditional orthodoxies,

so seductively

that the world moved into a dark heart;

and the tempest, that had been sweeping

across the surface of the earth for some time---

perhaps more than a hundred years---

was gradually leaving humankind everywhere:

bewildered, agonized and helpless,1

as he said it was, as he said it would be,

as we see it now, as we saw it then.

1 Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p.1.

13 December 1999

 

copyright Marco Abrar

HEROS AND ANTI-HEROES

In the poetry of Roger White there is what Geoffrey Nash calls a dialectic. It is a dialectic, a dialogue, a contrast, between the ordinary self and the heroic soul, between the often dull exterior of a person and an inner shine of greatness, between the real and/or apparent hegemony of their material condition and the potential and/or real spiritual heroism, between the pain at the heart of life and the denial of its existence. White is challenging us to move beyond our role as anti-hero, to transcend our ordinary self and its proective chrysalis. We may still possess certain vanities and cupidities. We may in the end remain anonymous. But we go through a struggle and therein lies our heroism. White calls us all to "arise and struggle."-Ron Price with thanks to Geoffrey Nash, "The Heroic Soul and the Ordinary Self," Baha'i Studies, Vol. 10, pp. 23-31.

 

Was it merely coincidental

that those superheros

began to emerge in that first year

of the teaching Plans in 1937-8?1

 

That proliferating symbol

of human, semi-human, greatness

has now wandered across

the whole earth

devoted to justice

in the most ordinary

of ordinary circumstances.

 

This superhero1 has a mission

to reinvent society

with a sense of history

and the future.2

He assaults the humbling summits,

makes his vertical ascents

past fault and fissure.

Through the miasmal ooze

he painfully inches

his consequential necessary way.3

1 Superman emerged in the mass media in 1938 as did the first generation of pioneers during the teaching Plans.

2 Christian L. Pyle in "The Superhero Meets the Culture Critic," Postmodern Culture, Vol.5, No.1, 1994, informs us that the superheros of the print and electronic media in the last sixty years have generally not tried to change society only battle on behalf of its status quo, with little sense of the history or the future. The Baha'i pioneers, on the other hand, who rise beyond their ordinary self, do try to reinvent the world with a strong sense of both history and the future.

3 Roger White, "Nine Ascending," The Language of There, Canada, 1992, p.34.

Ron Price

3 August 2001

AND THAT’S THE WAY IT IS

"And that’s the way it is". -Walter Cronkite, his parting words every night after delivering the news. He was the first newsreader to make a million dollars a year. He worked for CBS News for 19 Years.

The religion here is slick and fast

and so polished as to have no name,

soaked-up, subliminal

and not-so-subliminal,

night after night, a ritual aesthetic,

fills the spaces, tele-grazing vidiots,

coccooning, periscopes up,

retreating, hermetically sealed

in sensual immediacy and intensity,

perceptions rendered into many languages,

structured, amusing ourselves to death

in an endless round of entertainment

and disturbing shallowness,

glamour, exoticism and chicness

with our perceptions structured,

in an eider-down of unreality

and a smorgasbord of ephemeral,

light-weight, engineered appearances

with revolution coming to be

closer to sheer impulse

and a narcotizing dysfunction

and truth running along

behind an implosion of playful trivia

and knowledge’s vast explosion

everywhere in evidence.

Ron Price

29 December 1996

 

DRAMA:TAKING OUT THE GARBAGE

One very rich and many-sided character that the great Irish dramatist, Sean O’Casey(1880-1964), painstakingly created was himself. Several characters in his plays were weak and self-indulgent and based on himself. He fed on an inner animus in his writing much more than the external world. And if, as Goerge Bernard Shaw said, "no man is real until he has been turned into a work of art", then O’Casey is very real. So, too, is Price. For autobiography, even a poetic type, is a work of art. There is an element of the dramatist in this poetic oeuvre. There is certainly a painstaking creation here sourced by an inner animus and, like O’Casey, there is weakness and self-indulgence. Just ask my wife, the person as aware of whatever richness and many-sidedness as well as weakness there is in my character as anyone.-Ron Price with thanks to Garry O’Connor, Sean O’Casey: A Life, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1988, Prologue.

 

With this, the greatest drama

in the world’s spiritual history,

it is, by definition, a time

for the greatest drama

in the individual lives of its members.

Some inner animus, inner world,

must be the centre of this drama

combined with an outer world

in rich and complex profusion, confusion.

 

Like O’Casey, I could describe my wife

in terms of her early loveliness,

our marriage, our son, her daughters,

the twist of hardship and tests

that she had to wear around her neck

like a necklace, the home she made for us

whereever we were, the practical centre,1

the quiet drama of sadness and joy,

peace and tranquillity that we experienced together:

for herein lies the drama---ordinary, humble life,

well-lived, with a pure, kindly and radiant heart,2

enjoying civilized pleasures, nature’s joys,

the simple routines of washing up, peeling spuds

and carrying out the garbage3

in the sacrament of daily life,

in the one bond of humanity.4

1 See O’Casey in Sean O’Casey: A Life, Garry O’Connor, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1988, p.324.

2 Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words.

3 ibid., p.375.

4 ibid., p.376.

27 June 1999

THE STORYTELLER

One of the obligations of the storyteller, the bard, the poet, is to tell his own story, tell who he is and tell it intelligibly. He has to share his own story, his interests, his perspectives, his seeds, his loyalties, his beliefs, his loves, his frustrations. For all he has is his story. Some writers tell their story through novels or short stories; some through poetry. I write what is openly autobiographical poetry. This is how I tell my story.

The titles of each of my 46 booklets of poetry are drawn from recent experience in the Baha’i community often in connection with the Mt. Carmel Project. What is happening on Mt. Carmel is very much something that is happening to me. For community, shared community, is largely and most intimately experienced alone, no matter how much of the experience is shared in group interaction. In this poetry the reader will see how I people my solitude, how I am alone in a crowd and how I achieve that degree of virtue proportional to what I am worthy—always an unknown quantity. And if, the reader finds they want more of my story they will have to read my unpublished autobiography, now some 150 pages and about 75,000 words. At present my plans are to have it publsihed posthumously.

Ron Price

3 August 2001

THE BABE

The history of the career of George Herman("Babe") Ruth can be divided into two basic stages: 1920 to 1927 and 1928 to 1935.....by 1935 Ruth had left the Yankees and his youthful vitality, energy and hitting prowess never returned. He died in 1948. -Ron Price, from a summary of Ruth’s life in Collier’s Encyclopedia, Vol.20, p.306.

The development of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the USA can be divided into two basic stages: 1922 to 1926 and 1927 to 1936....by 1936 the National Assembly...and the national committees and Local Spiritual Assemblies were sufficiently strong to come together for the execution of an international missionary program. -Loni Bramson-Lerche, "Development of Baha’i Administration", Studies in Babi and Baha’i History, Vol.1, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1982, pp.260-275.

The year after He came west

the Babe’s career began

and as that Order, that babe,

began to take its first shaping

in the late teens and during that haitus,

before the international teaching campaign began,

the Babe’s career came to its maturity and end.

 

His batting average was .378

the year of the beginning

of a conscientious and active following

of Baha’i laws and teachings in 1924,

just about fully organized

beyond a loose movement;

and when the "World Order Letters" came out

year after year his career slowly came to an end.

As he came to his retirement,

the Cause emerged from dealing

with its endless minor problems

to propagation and unifying its own community

in a Formative Age

while a beauty not matched by any domical structure

since Michelangelo’s dome on the Basilica of St. Peter

emerged and each of the 735 home runs hit by the Babe

in his latter years took him slowly to cancer and death in 1948.

 

Ron Price

23 December 1996

THE ART OF GLORIFICATION

A poetry which glorifies, which accords values to the previously undervalued, is part of this poetry’s very raison d’etre. Poetry should glorify itself, its writer, the community which gave it birth and culture itself in all its diversity. It is poetry of this kind (the kind which glorifies, which shows the true value of the undervalued) which we lack and which we desperately need. -Frederick Turner, "Mighty Poets in Their Misery Dead", Poetry After Modernism, editor, Robert McDowell, Story Line Press, 1991, p.368.

I’ve been trying all my life

to befittingly glorify

what has yet to be glorified

by my society, my culture,

my friends, myself,

with a distinctive human voice

and now I have found it, in poetry:

such a small, solitary, but vital part of life.

But, it is just as difficult to share as ever,

bearing some inverse relationship

between popularity and quality.

Still, I come alive,

with the smallest acts of courage

as I play my part

in this greatest renaissance of history

with this hard won, toughened resolve and realism,

with this autobiographical impersonality.

 

Ron Price

27 November 1996

 

ORDERING THE COSMOS

You have no cosmos until you can order it.

-Ezra Pound

This is no grand synthesis that is being

made from multifarious borrowings,

endlessly unraveling webs

in the stream of history,

looking for truth in the detritus of the past,

some pure fragment,

striving for pattern amidst chaos,

faint shades that dwell there,

half hid in forgetfulness,

in the sleeping dead,

in this delicate pause of life,1

antidote to fragmentation and illusion,

more than some sympathetic penetration

of a vesture of the past

where we are fatally, mysteriously,

shrouded, hidden impenetrably from ourselves.

 

We’re getting inside history here,

an historical poetry

whose sweep encompasses

all the corners of the known world

back as far as time began

and five hundred thousand years cycles hence.

This is no remaking, but a bracing view

from a new height far above the multitude of voices,

a chaos blown clean by a powerful attempt

at order, a vast spiritual map projected on

an immense multiplicity, embracing endless

bounties of inner significance

where the self is found in all its nothingness,

in a fire of thought

and words entire from the Master of Love.2

1 I often feel that writing poetry is a delicate process, a delicate pause.

2 Baha’u’llah, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.28.

2 August 1997

FUNNIES AND WEE-WISDOMS

 

Preamble:

 

I wrote the following little bit of prose on Wee-Wisdoms and Funnies: A Sub-Genre of the Email Industry due to the many humorous and not-so-humorous, wise and not-so-wise emails I've received in the last 15 years. My guess is that about 5% of all the emails I’ve received from 1993, when emails first began to enter my life, are of these types. I hope you enjoy the read. This little bit of prose which follows is a digest of the twenty-one page, 10,000+ word, essay that did NOT make it into Dr. Funwisdum's new book Human Communication in the Twenty-First Century, editor, Harry Funwisdum, Oxford University Press, 2002.

 

Dr. Funwisdum rejected my contribution to his book, but encouraged me to try for his next collection so impressed was he with the quality of the short essay which follows. I trust you enjoy it, too, even if it is a little longer than my normal emails to you and even if it is a little too critical of the sub-genre with which it is concerned. If you don't enjoy what you read here, I'm sure you will at least tolerate its presence. We must all, in and out of the world of emails, increasingly learn to tolerate each other's eccentricities, thus making the world an easier place to live in.

 

Recently, since my retirement from full-time, part-time and casual work in the years 1999 to 2005, I have been writing prolifically and, although I am neither famous nor rich, I like to think I am churning out some provocative, entertaining and intellectually stimulating stuff from my word-factory near the mouth of the Tamar River, at Port Dalrymple, here in northern Tasmania at the last stop on the way to Antarctica if you take the western Pacific rim route. Of course, what one likes to think and what the reality is about one’s writing or, indeed, anything else is often at significant variance.-Ron Price, George Town, Tasmania, Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2008.

 

To : All Senders of 'Wee-Wisdoms and Funnies'

From : Ron Price

Date : 14 February 2008

Subject : Funnies and Wee-Wisdoms

___________________________________________________________________________________

I hope you enjoy this little piece of gentle satire, perhaps sarcasm is a more accurate word, analysis and comment. It will serve as a more detailed response to the many emails I have received over the last 20 years, 1988 to 2008, emails which were intended to be either funny or wise or both. In my first years in Perth Western Australia, while working at the Thornlie Campus, now part of the Swan Tafe system, my first contact with email systems began. There is virtually no one I am writing to now and from whom I received emails then in the years 1988 to 1993 who is on my current email list, although I now have many email correspondents who have lasted more than a decade in the years 1993 to 2008.

 

When one is not teaching sociology and the several social sciences and humanities, as I had been doing for so many years; when one is not having one’s mind kept busy by a hundred students a week and trying to be a father, husband, friend, neighbour and citizen; when one retires from the employment, the job-world part of one’s life, other things come into the gap. For me, one of these things is writing and posting on the internet and responding to the inevitable emails that result from all this writing.

 

Emails need to be given some sort of analysis, at least the sub-genre I am concerned with here, due to their frequency as a form of communication during these fifteen years. This piece, this email, is probably a little too long given the general orthodoxy of most personal email communication which tends to be shorter and shortest--before giving up entirely as non-existent. This is not true of all my correspondents some of whom send me many a long piece of print usually written by someone else and sent as an attachment or a cut-and-past exercise. Not everyone is into writing any more than everyone is into gardening or cooking, washing the car or shopping.

 

Perhaps you could see this missive from yours truly as one of the long articles on the internet that you need to copy for future reading rather than seeing it as one of those quick-hit-emails you receive as part of your daily quota. Then, with this alternative framework in mind, perhaps, your emotional equipment will be able to make a positive adjustment to this lengthy, some might say verbose, piece of communication which I send for your pleasure.

SIX PAGE SUMMARY ARTICLE:

 

Receiving so many funnies and words-of-wisdom as I have month after month for over some 15 years now, from a small coterie of people, a coterie which changes with the months and years, I thought I would try to respond more befittingly than I normally do with my perfunctory and usually brief set of phrases and sentences, if indeed I respond at all, to these sometimes delightful, sometimes funny, sometimes wise and wonderful pieces and sometimes tiresome in their frequency that are sent to me with regularity. It is a regularity that reminds me to my days as a teacher when I was the recipient of similar pieces of humour and wisdom on A-4 paper and not in cyberspace.

 

What you find below is intended as a reflective piece that sets all these wisdoms and funnies I receive from you--and others--in some perspective, a perspective that derives in large measure from my years, as I say, as a teacher/lecturer and from well-nigh half a century now of imbibing funnies and wisdoms from a multitude of sources. It is probably these years as a teacher, though, that have resulted in my habit, engrained after all these years, of responding if I can to any and all incoming mail/email.

 

I enjoyed teaching but, as the years approached thirty-in-the-game, I got tired of much of what was involved in the process. At the same time, as this fatigue was developing, I experienced a simultaneous life enrichment from writing prose and poetry and a certain increase in sensory sensitivity and awareness. As the 1990s advanced and the new millennium opened I retired from teaching and went on a new medication for my bipolar disorder. The positive processes that had begun in the 1990s increased many fold. Fatigue only now returns after eight to twelve hours of reading and writing in a day or as a natural bi-product of my medication cocktail.

 

The emails and the occasional letter I receive now are somewhat like pieces of work I used to have to mark. It’s part of my life-work, my responsibility, my role, my task, in life, my burden of duty. Like making comments on the work of students, I now respond to emails and letters with courtesy and with honesty. This is not always easy for courtesy and honesty do not sit easily together, especially if the content of the received material is, for me, neither funny nor edifying, as is the case with so much of the material I receive and have received over the years—again like much of the stuff I had to mark as a teacher and lecturer, a tutor and facilitator. It has been 15 years(1993-2008) since the email became part of my daily life, after a several year warm up from, say, 1988 to 1992,(circa) while I was a Tafe teacher. This short think-piece in which I am attempting to summarize the 15 years of experience with this sub-genre of emails is but a series of reflections. It is also a celebration of the many advantages of reading the products of this wonderful mechanism of technology and its products which are, sadly, not always rewarding or intellectually engaging.

 

I think I write this for me more than I do for you since the thrust of so much of this sub-genre of email communication does not, for the most part, require any reflection, or at least a minimum of reflection on the part of the sender of the material. It is primarily meant to entertain and, like so much of TV and the print and electronic media, it generally accomplishes this task. Hence its popularity. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not against entertainment. I'm sure that the entertainment function is the primary reason for the success of this sub-genre of communication.

 

Quick hits as so many emails are, like jokes themselves-"affections arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing," as the philosopher Emmanuel Kant once defined laughter, on occasion stir the mind. Perhaps, they are a sign of "a mind lively and at ease, as Emma once said in Jane Austin's book by the same name. These quick hits require quick responses, if any at all. Many of the emails, as I say above, both the funnies and the wee-wisdoms--are funny or wise and sometimes both. But given their frequency over the last decade and a half, I felt like making some statement about them. Perhaps it is the slight itch they have created in my sensory emporium. I remember listening to the famous Australian author Tim Winton express his concern for what, from his point of view, was a wasted use of a wonderful technology. My feelings to not run as deep as Winton’s; I have little to no angst over this internet form, this "I want to tickle your fancy" type of communication. In Australia it’s part of a modus vivendi, part of a leg-pulling, pleasure-loving ethos with its cynical beneath surface mentality, downunder. It is a mode, a manner, I have come to enjoy for it has helped to give me a balance, a balance to the quite serious side of my life which I brought with me in 1971 when I moved to Australia from Canada.

 

Some writers and analysts see these funnies and wee-wisdoms as part of the trivialization of the human battle, the denial of tragedy, the dislike of authority, part of a defence mechanism to ward off real personal commitment. Such writers see the authors of this form of communication here in Australia as a form based on the desire to dismiss all self-questioning as ratbaggery. Ronald Conway, Australia’s most famous clinical psychologist, puts it this way. Others see it as part of a chronically skeptical society as the literary critic Susan Langer once defined so much of the output of the electronic media factories? I hope you don't find this little think-piece too heavy, too much thinking, too long without the quick-natural-lift, message or laugh that is part of this particular sub-genre of emails. In the end you may see me as too critical but, as I used to say to my students, that is the risk you take when you open your mouth or write or send items my way.

 

Being nice is, for me, part of the great Canadian white-way and has been all my life; perhaps this epistle is just a means, a tool, for a man now in the evening of his life, to balance off all this niceness with some elements of my ego, my dark, my animalistic heritage which I have been struggling with successfully and unsuccessfully, at least with partial success all my life.

GETTING TO THE POINT: CARRY ON GANG

 

In a more general sense, I have been giving and receiving various forms of advice/wisdom for some 65 years now: 2008 back to 1943 when I was in my mother's womb and she was imbibing, as she so often did, the earliest 20th century form of positive thinking and Christianity from Norman Vincent Peale's radio program which my mother first heard in the years before she met my father circa 1940. The program was called "The Art of Living" which began in 1935. In 1952 Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking which has now sold over 7 million copies.

 

By the early 1950s my mother began to read passages each morning to me from The Daily Word, a publication of the Unity School of Christianity with its world centre in Madison Wisconsin, if I recall correctly after all these years. I see those readings now as the experience of my first mantras. Then, in those same early fifties, when my mother began to take an interest in the Baha'i cause, I was exposed to Baha'i prayers. Baha'i was a religion that had been in Canada then for more than fifty years and the books my mother read from, English translations of Persian and Arabic Baha'i prayers, were just beginning to be published in prayer books. I found these words beautiful then and I still do after the slow evolution of nearly sixty years.

 

Life began to assume a more serious aspect in the years of my late childhood(1953 to 1957) and, then, in my teens: school, sport, girls and entertainment found some competition in life's round of activities from the more earnest side of life. I first imbibed wisdom as a student from the several founts of knowledge I was then exposed to or that I investigated as a youth, a period I have always defined as those in their teens and twenties taking as that period did the years of early adulthood; then wisdom came my way as a teacher/lecturer in the social sciences and humanities—including such subjects as human relations, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, negotiation skills, working in teams and a list of subjects as long as your proverbial arm. During these years as a teacher I received and dispensed advice and wisdoms in a multitude of forms. I was clearly into the advice and wisdom absorbing and dispensing business right from the dawn of my life. It was part of the very air I breathed.

 

I'm sure even in those years of unconsciousness, in utero and in the years of early childhood where no memories reside, I had my very earliest experiences of wee-wisdoms, although funnies were in short supply during the war and shortly thereafter, at least in my consanguineal family. My mother was one of those seekers, always willing to try on a new idea if it came into town. And now, thirty years after her passing, I have a small book of the wee-wisdoms she collected in her half a century of collecting from the late 1920s, in her early twenties, to her death in 1978. I should by now be a fount of unusually perspicacious aphorisms from the wisdom literature of history or, at the very least, I should run 'wisdom workshops' for the lean and hungry.

 

The funnies department of my life as a child, as an adolescent or in the first decade of my young adult life from 20 to 30, was never as extensive or successful as the wee-wisdom section. Right from my first exposure to jokes about: Newfees, Polocks and the Irish or the genitals of males and females and their mutual interconnections, I generally found much of the humour distasteful back in my late childhood and adolescence; perhaps this was due to the gently puritanical and pious(perhaps religious is just the right word) upbringing I had, an upbringing I now appreciate to the full, although not in its entirety then. I must confess, indeed I am pleased to acknowledge, that nearly 40 years of living in Australia has taught me a rich appreciation of the funny side of life probably due to the humour that lurks both below the surface and at the surface of so much of Australian culture and inevitably bubbles to the surface in this essentially pleasure-loving people.

 

Australian stoicism is strengthened by an ability to see the lighter side of life. In this dry dog-biscuit of a continent, with a beauty all its own and where fires burn up part of its landmass every summer from December to March, humour is virtually compulsory. By now, I should have an accumulation of jokes-and-funnies to keep everyone laughing in perpetuity. And I did by 1999. By the time I retired as I headed toward the new millennium and away from FT teaching, I had a whole section of my filing cabinet stocked with items, with funnies, received from my students, in their hope that I could see the funny side of life--and occasionally I did.

 

Now, in the evening of my life, I feel a little like the marriage guidance counsellor who has been married six times. He has never been able to pull-it-off, marriage that is, but he has had a lot of experience trying. For some nine years, during the final part of my educative process as a full-time teacher(1990-1999)--and educative it was--I used to give out "a summary of the wisdom of the ages" on several sheets of A-4 paper to the approximately one hundred students I had every term or semester. One of the strong threads in this summary of wisdom literature were several quotations from Murphy’s Law a set of sayings that contained many grains of truth and humour and which had gained a high degree of popularity in Australia. Thousands of intending students of leisure and life and I went through the material to see if we could come up with the 'wisest of the wise' stuff, practical goodies for the market-place and the inner man/woman. For the most part I enjoyed the process. Giving and receiving advice was a buzz, particularly when it was sugar-coated with humour. Advice-giving can be a tedious activity and the advice can act as a weight even if it is good advice, unless the context is right. Humour often makes it right.

Now that the evening of my life is in full swing, the wee-wisdoms and the funnies continue to float in or on cyberspace unavoidably, inevitably if one is open to human contact in that increasingly popular domain. From emails and the internet, among other sources, material is obtained from my interlocutors which they, in turn, obtain from:

 

(i) the wisdom literature of the great historical religions;

(ii) the wisdom of the philosophical traditions

(outside traditional religions);

(iii) the wisdom of popular psychology and the social sciences

….usually from the fields of: (a) human relations, (b) interpersonal skills,

(c) pop-psychology, (d) management and organizational behaviour

and (e) endless funnies and wee-wisdoms from known & unknown word and audio-visual factories; and

(iv) the electronic media.

 

The social sciences provide the disciplines in which so much of the wisdom literature I receive is now located. The social sciences are either old: like history, philosophy and religion; or young: like economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, human relations, inter alia. Unlike some of the other academic fields, say the biological and physical sciences, all these social sciences are inexact, highly subjective and infinitely more complex than the physical and biological sciences--or so I see them anyway. Everybody and their dog can play at dispensing their wisdoms, with the dogs sometimes providing the best advice in the form of close friendships, at least for some people with canine proclivities. Unlike the physical and biological sciences, too, knowledge and experience is not required. Anyone can play the game. Often the untutored and apparently ignorant and those who have read nothing at all in the field, can offer humble wisdoms and funnies which excel the most learned, with or without their PhDs. So be warned: it's a mine field, this advice and wisdom business. It’s highly democratic, individualistic, egalitarian.

 

The result for many practitioners who would really like to be both wise and entertaining is the experience of a field that resembles a mud-pie, poorly constructed and not of much use to humanity, although lots of laughs are had and wisdom gets distributed liberally—which, as far as it goes, obviously has some use to us all in what very well may be the darkest hours in the history of civilization.. Who would want to deny or prevent the liberal effusion of this new art form? The industry, the word factories, pour out their wisdoms and their humour with greater frequency on every passing day. I often wonder how Voltaire would have coped downunder. He said he never had one "ha ha" in his whole life. I think he would have gone home to France pretty fast on a boat with the whinging-poms, if he had ever come to Australia way back when in the years of the Enlightenment over two centuries ago.

 

And so I begin or, should I say, end with apologies all-round to any who might take offence here. But I felt like having a little think about this sub-genre of emails at this 15 year mark(1993-2008) in my email-life. In what you might call my wisdom/advice-lifeline I am just about to pass the 65 mark and enter the middle years of late adulthood, 65 to 75. As I, and you, continue to imbibe the endless supply of resources available from the endless supply of word and audio-visual factories, we will continue to get both our laughs, our funnies, our wisdoms and the endless aphorismx. And we should thank the Lord for them! For who would want a life without laughs and/or without wisdom?

 

I hope my satire, my sarcasm, here is gentle and does not bite too hard or at all. Canadians are, on the whole, a nice people who try to perform their operations on their patients in such a way that these patients leave the hospital without the suspicion they have even been operated on at all, but with the new glands, the new body parts, fully installed for daily use. Like the pick-pocket and the burglar, I want to get in-there-and-out without alerting anyone to my work. A state of total anesthesia is helpful during the process.

 

The New Testament calls it, or so one could argue, the act of: 'The Thief in the Night,' or so one could render one possible interpretation. The phrase was applied to prophecy when Christ said He would come again. But, again, this is a prophecy capable of many interpretations, as all prophecies are. I send this communication your way in response to the many emails I've received in this sub-genre in recent months/years. There are, perhaps, a dozen people now who are 'into this sub-genre' and who send me this special type of material in the course of a year, some with a zeal bordering on the religious or should I say the fanatical. This dozen sends me many delightful pieces, more it seems as the years go by, including photos, images, attachments of various kinds and colours, to embellish the content of the wisdom and humour.

 

I feel, after so many years of giving out my jokes as a teacher, that it is only fair that I now receive humour and wisdom as graciously as mine was accepted by my students over those many years. Like my in-class jokes, some of the material I receive is funny, some not-so-funny; some is wise, some not-so-wise. But, then, you can't win them all. Both wisdom and humour are hopefully irrepressible quotients, at least in some people. And again, perhaps, we have the Lord to thank for that. So, carry on gang with your own particular brand of giving and receiving. Who am I to put a lid on your enthusiasms?

I have noticed, might I add parenthetically, that some enthusiastic senders of these email goodies often drop off the radar screen suddenly and their goodies are seen no more or, at least, far less than they once were in the hey-day of their goodie-sending life. There are, of course, many reasons for this that one might hypothesize: a change in their life’s role, a drop or a rise in their lifeline status, a desire to save downloading space in their monthly allocation from their internet provider, a simple fatigue with the process of getting and sending(by which as the poet Wordsworth once said "we lay waste our powers")-- for one can only get overkill, overdone, overwork, overstate, overfunny, so many times. Sometimes such enthusiasts completely drop-out of the email game. As their life goes in other directions their output moves to other domains.

As Gore Vidal, a man of irrepressible humour and erudition as he criticizes American society from his home in Italy, once said, "our whole society has laughing gas pumped into its billions of lounge-rooms every night--as the world continues its mad, mad race and pace." Can one get tired of laughing? Who knows? But there is definitely a lifeline, a lifespan, a life-funny-line trajectory for each person who gets into the funny-wee-wisdom sending and receiving business. It does not continue at the same pace year after year in perpetuity. And thank the Lord for that.

 

George Bernard Shaw used to say that: "I can no more write what people want than I can play the fiddle to a happy company of folk-dancers." So he wrote what he thought his readers needed. What people need and what they want are usually not the same. Many found George presumptuous. I hope what you find here is not in the same category as Shaw's, presumptuous that is. I hope, too, that this somewhat lengthy read has been worth your while. If not, well, you now have......ten choices regarding what to do next:

A FOLLOW-UP EXERCISE FOR READERS

A.

(i) delete the above;

(ii) print and save the above for pondering because it's wise, clever

and something quite personal from the sender;

(iii) read it again now, then delete it;

(iv) save the very good bits and delete the rest;

(v) none of the above;

(vi) all of the above, if that is possible;

(vii) write your own think-piece on this sub-genre of emails;

(viii) send me a copy of your 'writing on this sub-genre of emails'

for: (a) my evaluation(1)and/or (b) my pleasure;

(ix) don't send your evaluation to me; and

(x) don't think about what I've written; just dismiss it as the meanderings of a man

moving speedily within the early years of his late adulthood.

B.

If time permits from your busy life rate the above piece of writing using either the scale:

A+(91-100), A(81-90) and A-(75-80); B+(71-74),B(68-70) and B-(65-67); C+(60-64, C(55-59) and C-(50-54); D(25-49 hold and try again) and E(0-24 attend a workshop on 'wisdoms and funnies')---or

C.

You might prefer to provide feedback in an anecdotal form with: (a) commentary, (b) advice, (c) suggestions for improvement, (d) et cetera. Just forward it to Dr. Funwisdom via myself. And I will

 

.....remain yours sincerely

Ron Price

Tasmania

Happy Valentines Day!

Updated: 14/2/08

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That's All Folks!

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