and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
I don't usually get topical on here. But yesterday, April 15, was a day I shall always remember on the media and public arena front. I wanted to record it because even the most vivid memories get overcast and recast by future events.
First, when we drove Liam down to the AMtrak station we passed the central valley Tea Party and there were many, many cars there at the Savemart center. Our state of California has its own deficit crisis and is proposing measures like making businesses pay punitive rates if they move their business to another state -- basically an economic iron curtain to keep people in who are tempted to leave because the taxes are escalating to such giddy heights.
Then there was the news about Dr Dillon. Though we have never met him, we grieved personally for his loss. We've seen him around the TAC campus and his presence was certainly felt in a lot of the things we loved about the college. Studeo is collecting news stories and remembrances from alumni on Thomas Dillon. Quiddity has an In Memoriam including a speech Thomas Dillon gave for convocation in 2005, which was the year Liam first went there as a freshman. And Love2Learn's collection of tributes includes one from my daughter. The excerpt that Clare pulled out from Dr Dillon's 2005 address is well worth pondering:
"the true, the good, and the beautiful have much greater reality than do the false, the evil, and the ugly, which latter are too often idolized in the larger world. So I urge you to bring reality to that world - to take whatever you have grasped here of the true, good, and beautiful out into that larger world, so much in need of what is real rather than what is illusory."
While I was still in tears and shock over the news about Dr Dillon, Kevin called me into his office to show me a YouTube video which probably most of you have seen already. On the video I saw Simon Cowell in the judges' seat along with a blond movie star type lady and someone else, and a frumpy-looking lady appearing on a stage in front of them, and the title, Britain's Got Talent, and honestly, wasn't in the mood to see something silly or undignified, which is what I expected. It would be hard to imagine someone less interested in the "Got Talent" genre than I am. But this was something far different, as I'm sure you know – anyway, there's a link here that gives some background story and also has a link to the video clip that seems to be everywhere. It really is an extraordinary story. Seriously, watch the video.
This is a disparate bunch of memories, but they are all linked by the public element and also, by some mystery of the spirit that kept me awake for a good part of the night. The human being is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Even a sort of hokiness about the civil protest and the instant stardom of an unlikely talent doesn't detract from that. When reading Johny Tremain to Kieron I was very struck about how easy it would have been for some British aristocrat to be quite cynical about the Boston Tea Party. Civilians wearing Indian paint dumping tea, forsooth. But something happened there, and the Bostonians recognized it – the novel describes hundreds of silent people standing at the pier, watching, watching. The world changed right then.
I also thought – not related directly to anything else, except that this is Easter Week – about Pontius Pilate. Think about cynicism and tiredness… a civilized Roman governing a balky, difficult imperial outpost. He must have seen all kinds of cranks and criminals, people whose way of life and thought was bizarre to him. His job was no sinecure. Then one day Our Lord walked in with his hands bound. We know very well that Pilate knew how extraordinary Jesus was. Much as he might have superficially appeared as a crank or rebel, Pilate recognized that he was something else. It's obvious by what he said in the Gospel accounts.
Sometimes cynicism recognizes that cynicism is simply way insufficient, as when the judges in the Got Talent show simply sat there and gazed like children through the beautiful "I Dreamed a Dream" of Fantine in Les Miserables. And they respond, and either feel like the world is new for a moment or two and they are almost awkward children again in a different place. Or else they pull back and wash their hands and go on with their lives. But with them or without them, the world changes right then.
One more thing, while I'm talking about the mystery and grandeur of the human spirit. Through Leave the Lights On -- human dignity of anencephalic babies I came across this truly beautiful blog. ... The Story of Faith Hope. A beautiful, gentle, loving blog by a single mother who has a baby daughter with anencephaly who is now almost 2 months old. She is so precious.... the name Faith Hope suits her. In the videos, she smiles and tries to hold her head up. Her mother writes:
I'm 23 years old and a single mom to a very special little girl.When I was 19 weeks pregnant, I was told that my baby had no brain. This condition is known as "anencephaly." I was told that my baby was only alive because she was attached to me, but that she couldn't survive on her own. The doctor said that I could continue the pregnancy safely, but that my baby would die shortly after being born. Or I could choose to terminate the pregnancy then, which would mean being induced at 20 weeks and letting my baby die without ever seeing or holding her (I don't even want to know what they do with babies in this case). Well, to some people this would be a difficult decision, but it wasn't for me. I knew there was nothing to gain by terminating the pregnancy and I already loved my daughter more than anyone else in the world. Even if she was unconscious like the doctors said and lived for only a few seconds or minutes --even if she was stillborn --it was worth it to me. And so we began our journey...