A week of disjuncture 

  Good early morning from a van (traveling with students to NYC), 

Needless to say I am not driving. It is a bit ironic that I wrote an earlier entry much like this March of 2014, but I was on my way back from NYC with Jos√©, Melissa, and Jordan after seeing Stomp. Today I am going to see The Crucible. Sunday was Easter and that holiday is so different from when I was a parish pastor. Easter might be the most attended service of the year for many churches and it was the finale of a very long week in terms of number of services and energy needed to manage the week. I have to admit there are things I miss and things I do not when it comes to that week. This Easter I had 10 people for dinner (including myself) and spent significant time making paella and a variety of other things for Easter dinner. It turned out pretty well and I worked to accommodate palates and preferences. I have learned that it is pretty easy to be flexible. 

By the end of the day I was tired, but content. What I have noticed is that I have begun to be in bed (with relative frequency) by 9:30 or even earlier. I will almost always wake up at some point, often around 2:00-3:00 in the morning, and I am up for some time reading, but I usually go back to sleep. . . . When I was in Ireland a couple weeks ago, I became aware of the approaching Centenntial Celebration of the Easter Uprising. It was hard to not want to be in Iteland to see how they would commemorate this. There were a number of posters and other  placards noting a variety of events. For those who are unfamiliar, this uprising is really the beginning of Irish Indepedence.   I did not realize that such a significant event was so close to my visit. Ireland is an amazing country. The beauty of its land land and the warmth of its people are hard to describe because of the depth and degree of its reality.  The accent is sort of the icing on this emerald cake. I could listen to their speaking everyday and not grow tired of it. I’ll tell us (please re-read the previous lines in your best imagined accent.). Since coming back, not a day has passed that I have not thought of the scant or brief 5 days I was there in Corcaigh. I am wondering how such a significant holiday as Easter, as both religion and independence, would change my perception of that holiday. I was also shocked that Ireland as a Republic was so young (there was the mistaken perception because we were considering a Eurpoean country, independence was something more from the Middle Ages. Perhaps it was because Scotland is such a different situation. 

As I moved into Monday, the reality of the week ahead and the fact that the semester is rapidly drawing to a close sort of slapped me square along side my head, much like a sixth grade teacher did to me when I failed to listen to her instructions once upon a time in my life. Today, the teacher would have been in trouble. Back then it was me who was in trouble and any call to a teacher would have been to confirm my impetulance. Things have certainly changed in terms of requiring accountability. I got a phone call early Monday morning and the mother of a college classmate (a bit broadly speaking) passed unexpectedly. What I have been reminded of yet again is the giftedness of the days we are granted. In part because we know not how long we have, but more importantly because we are given so many opportunities to make a difference, but we seldom notice or take the time to do so. While the interaction had been merely beating on each other in Trivia Crack, connecting the dots in the 30 years since Dana has been an unexpected gift. The opportunity to have students attend another performance On/Off Broadway is always a great experience. The students yesterday were mostly honors students, and not surprisingly were attentive, inquisitive, and thoughtful. Seeing Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was quite a remarkable afternoon. The entire Puritan/witch-hunt craziness amazes me, but more importantly it causes be great pause. Stunning how the perception of a few powerful males could turn an entire social order upside down, demonizing women because of ignorance and an unbelievably skewed scriptural hermeneutic. What is more frightening is we have not learned much in 350 years. Arguments made this week by the person, whose name will not be spoken, concerning abortion and a woman’s right to privacy are simply shocking. It is because of the money that gives license to speak such absurdity? Is it because the media continues to salivate, like Pavlak’s dog, waiting for the next profoundly stupid utterance, reporting it wide and far and thereby keeping this imbecile on the front page? While I am probably as aware  of the comparisons as some, and perhaps more deeply connected to those comparisons than most, how did the German people react to the vilification of anyone whom Hitler deemed unworthy of being part of his Aryan clan?

When I was in Poland in January, and particularly when we visited the Jewish Quarters or Ghettos, or while standing in the midst of Nazi flags in Schindler’s factory, or even a second spine tingling visit to Auschwitz, it is hard to fathom how the rhetoric used by the Third Reich was so unparalleled in its persuasion. Yet, I listen to what I find to be tremendously vulgar, horrifyingly stupid, and simply bizarre and yet tens of thousands flock to listen, and are seemingly bewitched to blindly strike out in violence and hate. I am sorry, but what is happening is more than anger. I believe, as a white Midwestern male that too much of this reaction is an attempt to return us to a pre-women vote, pre-civil rights era of Good Ol’ Boy political corruption. These battles were fought and significant progress was made when I was in elementary school. Are we, after a mere half century, willing to undo the progress made? Mob mentality vilified the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. A lot of that vilification came from the political power of the time. I too see more parallels in Donald Trump and his goons and the fools who seem to see him as the current Aryan savior. It frightens me beyond anything I have witnessed in my sexteganarian-aged existence. I am hoping that as the seemingly unequalled string of vitriol continues to fall out of his Editwild-haired head, all of the people maligned will gather to prove that we do not have to be a people who are coerced by the lowest common denominator of our humanity.

Today, two years ago, Jennifer, my niece, was visiting and presenting to my classes. About three years ago, Dan Riordan, my mentor and friend, was here to evaluate a program. Last year, I had just come back from visiting my best friend in life for one last time and I remember speaking with two people in Tampa about ALS treatment. Unfortunately, Peter did not live much longer. Facebook’s offering that allows us to look back at what was happening provides an opportunity to see a continuum of events that, when viewed together, create a rather unique, but enormously instructive sense of what we have been doing. It is striking how these kairotic snapshots can provide such a clear block or two of our quilted existence. So today, for those of you who read my blog with any regularity will not be shock that I am flying once again. Right now I am between Detroit and Des Moines (not trying for aliteration, but it is there) at probably 32,000 ft. Going to a funeral where I will see some people I have not seen in 30 years, half my life ago. Perhaps life is not as disjointed as I thought. 

Thank you as always for reading. 

Michael (aka Dr. Martin)

Writing to living or living to write

   Good Saturday morning,

I am trying to manage, arrange, and accomplish all the things that need to be done and have my life in some semblance of order by one week from today. That is my desire and, depending on the moment, such a goal seems modestly obtainable. There are the other moments it seems to be but a pipe dream of the most exponential level of difficulty. As I sit in the corner of Dunkin’ still realizing the changes in my life in the past month, I waver between smiles and tears. When I spoke with Chandra this morning we spoke about the struggling to grip the reality of the morning and the moments where reality seems to be suspended. It is at those moments I find the need to write. 

The interesting and oxymoronic daily routine we commonly call life seems to confound me at times. I am not sure if it because I do not think about things as clearly as I could or if it is because I ponder then too much. It is probably a combination of things and it depends on both the day and the thought process. Maybe it is because there is more truth to a diagnosis I was given in January of 2003 than I would like to admit. I do know I struggle to be consistent in my behavior and my management of life at times. I also painfully cognizant that I take things to heart more than I should from time to time. Learning to let go of the things I cannot control will be something I will always fight. . . . It is now almost 10:30 Monday night, but I am a few hours ahead of EST. I am at about 32,000 feet over the coast of Wales on an Aer Lingas flight to Cork. I was planning to rent a car, but there was an issue, so I am rethinking that. I think if I can get a ride to first nights accommodations, I can walk to the bed n breakfast where I will stay the remainder of the week. I do not really have a plan for the next few days other than get caught up and try to do some writing. Part of the method to my madness on this trip is both what I have been told as well as ancestry.com notes that County Cork is part of my heritage. The article I have been bouncing around for years is about the rhetoric of place. As such, it is entirely apropos that I should write about place on location of my ancestral roots. . . . Two days have past and I have been working on school things and also merely wandering around Cork. It reminds me of my first visit to Poland – just enough to get a flavor and creating a yearning to return. I am merely walking about today. Hard to believe I am on a plane again in less than 48 hours. I love the accents here and I want to come back in the summer. As I have traveled more internationally in the past two and a half years, I am continually impressed with the genuine goodness of so many people. It is easy to become a bit disheartened by some of the lunacy that seems to be permeating America’s own politics, even those campaigning for the nation’s highest office. I am old enough now to remember when political office was something a young person could, maybe should, aspire to. I think that is, in part, at least for me, that I hoped then President-elect Obama had brought back, and while I am certainly not asking him to shoulder all the blame for where we are politically, I believe all branches of the government, as well as the American populace must bear some of the guilt for the monster that has become the 2016 primary and campaign. It has been somewhat eye-opening to listen to the people I have met in Ireland speak about what they see. Their responses have been measured, but their looks are also of almost asking, “Really???” The violence that has occurred at rallies and now the cancelation of them over the weekend, has not really occurred since the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. It would be an interesting political examination of conparing the two reactions. The seemingly-liberal student response to Vietnam and the police an the seemingly-conservative (not sure what term to use) response to our current government appears to use similar tactics. I wonder if these older conservatives were the same liberals of the late 60s? Dr. Strine, it would be an interesting research project and article. 

I should note it is now again a Saturday morning and a week has passed by more quickly than I hoped. I have struggled this week to understand why, even as a veteran and patriotic American, again I seem to be more comfortable outside my country than in it. I am reminded of a line in the movie, The Last Samarai, when Algeran is asked what America had done for him to hate this country so (a paraphrase). I certainly do not hate my country and I am most cognizant of the profound structure created by our founders, structures that allow for the very variety of tactics used in the above mentioned campaign. To have two Cuban-Americans, at one point two women, a Jewish Democratic socialist, or a black neurosurgeon throw their energy into taking on a presidential campaign is certainly inspiring on one level. Yet, there is some disillusionment with the tenor of the campaign and the sound-byte culture that seems to characterize our politics. What happened to actually answering the questions posed? What happened that canned-answers are what we can expect? What happened to thinking and really knowing the issues? I know these are not new questions that I am posing? Is it merely my idealism shining through yet again? Is it my wishing that the good in people might “trump” the foolishness, the ridiculousness, the bullying? It is the lack of decorum and the complete disdain for rhetoric as an Aristotlean art that dismays me. 

This actually gets me to the title of my blog. It is through writing I reflect; it is through writing that I think the most clearly; it is through writing I believe to understand both the world and my place in it. It almost hurts me when my students say they so dislike writing. It is because writing forces one to think more carefully, more completely, more engagingly? What I realize more and more is that my writing helps me critically understand this complex and shrinking world. People in the Dominican Republic, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ireland, or the Unoted States are not really as different as one might think. We all desire contentment. We all desire opportunity. We all wish for a world where we might be valued. It is what I hope for. It is what I think about. It is why I write. Off to London and then NYC shortly. Time to post.
Thank you for reading,

Michael (aka: Dr. Martin, the wanderer)