It felt different, today, Wednesday, July 10, when I reached into my satchel, unwound the cord and plugged in the pronged box of a charger, found the hidey-hole that attaches to the laptop, and then with music from the coffee shop swelling in the background, hit the little button on the side and brought the screen to life. There was nothing unusual in the procedure -- do it all the time -- but this is an occasion I've been looking toward for months.
I'm fond of the Roman habit of marking things in groups. A "century" was not exclusively a collection of a hundred years, in sequence, but could be said of other counted things. A "centurion," for instance, was a member of a military unit, a soldier of one among a group of a hundred. A "cent" or penny is but one of a hundred that amounts to a dollar.
There is some agitation toward doing away with pocket change, and the modern direction of development says it is just an old anachronistic habit, unnecessary, because we can do all the purchasing and selling and banking on our cell phones. I'd miss the penny, and certain locutions that relate--'I'm like a bad penny, always returning,' or, 'in for a penny, in for a pound,' or, 'pennies from heaven,' or "Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes…" It would seem weird to encounter a person who had never held a penny, and thus unable to make sense of these admittedly ancient formulations.
This is my hundredth 'nugget,' a century of brief musings on humanites-related topics. I have weekly provided my 'two cents worth' for your entertainment and edification.
So next in what seems a disconnected few paragraphs, I want to discuss birds. An author I admire, Jonathan Franzen, revealed that in recent years he has become a "birdwatcher." The term was first used in 1891 to identify a person who tracks bird life, and the use of 'bird' as a verb followed soon after--e.g., to go birding or 'to bird.' Today I encountered a "cloud" (or "cluster," or "merle") of red-wing blackbirds--protective, buzzing around me, making sharp urgent chirps and tweets (not digital at all). I love to watch a good bird in flight. "My heart in hiding / Stirred for a bird, - the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! ("The Windhover," by Gerard Manly Hopkins).
I think of these quasi-weekly commentaries as if they were birds I had hatched and released, essay-lets (eaglets, or maybe cygnets?) that flew off into the winds of public discourse, occasionally admirable, the bird-on-the-wing, the bird's eye view, or more often perhaps inanely 'for the birds.' My friend Greg Hagan has had parrots for years, one of which was fond of squawking profanities. Greg liked to tell me he lined his parrot cage with my newspaper column. He was joking though I saw the reason behind his jab: these commentaries "…dissolve, and, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep"
-- Prospero, in "The Tempest," IV, I, 154-58, by Bill Shakespeare.
So about three years ago, I began the project of "saving the Humanities," charged by my superiors to do so. I started writing these paeans to the arts and humanities as a way to inform others, including my colleagues, as to the value of such studies. Due to financial aid funding and reductions in requirements, few students are signing up for the courses we in the humanities are especially trained to teach.
Perhaps the pendulum of popularity will swing back and the concept of mercenary education in the get-er-done world of tech for job creation will be acknowledged as essentially dissatisfying -- that there ought to be more to education than workforce development and the Puritan work-ethic: "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate," so we can spend our hard-earned money on things we don't really want or necessarily need (_Fight Club_, Tyler Durden's Middle-Children of History speech, by Chuck Palahniuk). Wouldn't it be better if we became more widely educated, more 'well-rounded,' and found things to study that we truly enjoy?
Thanks for reading my forays into thoughtful musings. I am changed into a swan, and this is my fabled song. You can reach me at: Scottvdp57@yahoo.com .
May you prosper in your centuries.