I was born in Salem, Massachusetts, famous for the House of Seven Gables, which means little, save that Nathaniel Hawthorne also came from Salem and wrote a book about the place. While I confess I haven't been inside the house since I was a child, I still remember its secret hiding room, accessed by a turnstile wall. Who'd have expected a contraption like that in the 17th century? Salem became infamous for its witch trials of 1692. I used to fish on Gallows Hill, where 16 of the accused were executed.
Since those early days I've lived in other places__Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and the last thirty-two, in Kentucky, which I think of as one of America's best kept secrets. But I still miss New England and remain a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox.
I am a recently retired English professor, privileged to have taught several thousand students across a career of 35-years that afforded me that splendid weaving_which sometimes really does happen_of vocation and avocation. I have always loved reading and, especially, poetry, even in a world where it has been increasingly marginalized. I adore Blake, Keats, Dickinson, Hopkins, Yeats, and Larkin. Among authors, I relish James Joyce, who "after Shakespeare created most," to paraphrase Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses. But I love all artists__be they writer, painter, or musician. I see art as one of the capacities separating the human from non-human, a triumph of the intuitive over the rational, so iconized in today's pragmatic and increasingly materialistic world, denying soul. Art says that individuality counts and that beauty matters and that life is to be examined in this brief interval of light. Art grants us that one respite against our mortality.
Another special interest of mine is the environment. I think we are running out of time and space, resources and air itself. I think we are our own menace and that unless we take heed of the opening warnings, for example, the several holes in the ozone layer, the increasingly hungry masses, the advancing deserts, then we are doomed, first to a slow squeeze; subsequently to a final gasp. How many of us realize that we have perhaps only thirty years of fossil fuels left? Or that the water table supporting one of our richest agricultural regions in America is drying up" Or that populous China itself will have increasing need for imported grain in a world unable to supply it?
I love animals and I lament the extinction of creatures who dwelled upon this planet eons before Man. I will not participate in their slaughter to feed my belly. I am a vegetarian and more healthy for that choice. I think that our meat eating even more than our smoking threatens our health. I love whales and dophins, gorillas and chimps, dogs and cats.
I enjoy talking to the big questions: Why are we here? What lies beyond: What makes for the justified life? Why is Man the way he is? I hate prejudice and I loathe extremists. I love the lonely and the distraught. I root for the underdog. I grow angry at cruelty and unfairness. I am strongly for women, blacks, children, for the too many who have been denied. I believe in freedom to dissent, to take a side path from the crowd, to discuss and to read and to protest. I think this is one of the enhancing dimensions of the Internet itself, and I worry that because of the excesses of a few and the political machinations of authority much of what we enjoy__and perhaps take for granted__may be lost.
My heroes are many from all times and places. I admire Buddha and Jesus in their gentle advocacy of love as the better way; Alighieri Dante, who refused to bow the knee to the Florentine power brokers, Albert Schweitzer, that humane man of plethoric gifts who shunned worldly ambition to perform a legacy of compassion in distant Gabon; John Stuart Mill, that "saint of rationalism," who was addicted to the truth; in our own time, Carl Sagan, whose death I mourn, for he believed in our capacity to transcend ourselves. I have so many heroes, but you get the picture.
I like so many things, it's hard to know where to begin. I like jazz, folk music, the classics, and soft rock. I'm a news buff and take interest in the political questions of the day. I like computers and studying languages. Currently I'm studying Spanish, America's second language, and just recently completed immersion Spanish at the Spanish Institute in Puebla, Mexico. I like a good movie, something that enlargens me. A wonderful adventure for me has been riding my Piaggio MP 3 500 megascooter, which cruises in excess of 75 mph and gets 54 mpg.
Hey, it's time to go! If you like, you may send me some lines. (See button below.) I always answer. And thanks for walking part of the way with me.