Life’s meaning is not from distant, lofty examples of public recognition of personal achievements. It can be found in everyday life; however, it may seem trifle or prosaic. For me, I see my mom in her old, invalid self whose back is arched like a bow and her left knee immobile and think she has reached the stage of the Old Woman as presented by Shakespeare’s poetic view of human life composed of Seven Stages of Man. Gone are the days of parental tyranny built on tirades, a rant of frustration, ire of a disappointed expectation, and a delusion of estrangement. Without the queen’s mighty power, she is now approaching the age of oblivion with one foot in the threshold of the last stage of a play called life.
I have recently read Samuel Johnson’s essay on authoritarian parenting. Johnson must have written it out of his childhood experience or observation from others. Johnson follows the Aristotelian definition of parenting as being naturally tyrannical. He admonishes the dysfunctional effects on the child’s mind and body, subject to the illogical rants of inordinate temper and crude ignorance on the part of the parent. To be a good parent requires no occasion for the assistance of high education or social standing of recognition, but unconditional love and understanding springing from the parent’s heart. A good parent encourages, nourishes, and loves the child who will return the jewels of parentship at the Latter Stages of Man. Therefore, it is all over but the shouting that a parent whose intermittent bouts of uncontrolled tantrum inflict pain and exact terror on the child will live in malignity of the disaffected child who mistreats now the old, infirm parent without the presence of love and warmth. What a pity.
Upon reading the essay, I saw the images of a young mom, mature mom, and old mom screened in a phantasmagorial display of the ancient time on a mind’s theater. From childhood until now, mom I have known is lonely, living in her castle where no one would bother or scare her fragile sensitivity that feels too much to confront life’s realities, including parenthood. How I will think of her as a parent is a foregone conclusion not with spite but with sympathy. With her left knee immovable by the osteoporosis combined with calcification in tibial arteries, I now only see an older woman on the verge of extreme pathos about the life she did not like much, among which her regret of not being an ideal mother. Although Johnson had a point in admonishing harsh parentship without love producing revengeful quid pro quo consequences, I cannot turn my shoulders away from my mom, who has none but me to take care of her in this world. I remember Mother Teresa pleading to all of us that charity begins right at home. That’s what I feel when I see my mom asleep like a baby. And thereby hangs a tale.
The Bard must have been punctual like me in doing his business as an actor, a writer, and an entrepreneur, not least because of his perspicuous witty aphorism that “Better three hours too soon than one minute too late.” Yes, the Bard and I are connected, among others, by the number three (3) because when I went to Little Tokyo for Toro’s follow-up appointment with a vet, it was thirty minutes earlier than the appointed time. It seems too pat that gave me a mental jolt, while Toro was trying to get out of a new pet carrying tote I had bought from Amazon. The popular tote failed to serve the purpose of being a portable carriage of the ever Curious Cat preferring his humanoid sister as a moving tall cat tree. In fact, Toro always likes to climb on my back and shoulders, which I wish to be wider and firmer so that he can securely sit on either side of them. My wish was father to the thought unless I saved a fairy who would grant me the wish as a quid pro quo in bona fide.
Since coffee is my morning elixir, I wended my direction toward a nearby Starbucks with the Curious Cat on my right shoulder, making me look curiouser and curiouser. Maybe I should not have gone to the Starbucks but instead to the Seven-Eleven, where they also sold excellent cheap coffee. Or is it just my innately high-strung sensibilities that detect the vibe? Notwithstanding the famous green mermaid’s angelic presence, it was the surprise unwelcome reception at the mermaid’s coffeehouse. My Curious Cat Toro was sitting on my shoulder while I was entering the store, and the two lady barristers looked at us as though they were looking at freaks from a defunct circus closed due to the pandemic. One of them at the register began with a slight grimace: “Miss, you can’t bring a cat here.” I was surprised to hear such an announcement because having seen dogs at other stores; it was more than a mind blow akin to heartbreak. So I remonstrated as softly as possible with my futilely pitiful reference to the dogs at Starbucks stores near my work. Then the other woman who appeared to be senior in staff hierarchy explained: “Dogs are allowed, but not cats. Our district manager is very strict about that. But I will serve you coffee because you seemed to not to know of it.” What a mercy. Yes, I got the coffee, I took Toro to the vet, and at least all was fine. Yet, the incident made me feel sorry about Toro, a de facto discrimination subject, per se.
Thankfully, Toro didn’t know of the episode performed in human language, but my heart sank when I looked at his large green eyes innocently looking into my eyes from a backpack I carried him into. So I showered him with new feather toys and cans of chicken pumpkin soup from a Petco in the afternoon. The district manager’s policy of not allowing cats to enter the premise makes my head swivel in 360 degrees of wonderment. Whether or not such policy is personally motivated under the particular feline nature’s pretext is a mystery, but cats’ exclusion is hard to swallow. Certainly, Toro and his feline kind will be welcome in the coffee houses of Teheran, where their wild ancestors were an integral part of arts and religions. Is that why cats were burned with alleged witches in Europe? No? It makes me couriouser and couriouser.
“I’ll teach you differences,” said King Lear as his motto of philosophical investigations in Shakespeare’s eponymous play. I imagine the ghost of King Lear would utter it again when he deigned to come to our realities of universities in this time. The importance of responsible education to remove the social ills and carbuncles resulting from dissentious political domination has never been more conspicuously called for in our high learning institutions as a recent consequence of the George Floyd incident, and the following the Black Lives Matter movement. However, this doesn’t mean that universities should be a breeding ground for training gladiators equipped with political syllabuses and dogmatic agendas to fight against the public foes. Instead, education should disabuse the ignorance of the unenlightened for our society’s universal betterment.
Professor Benjamin Y. Fong, in his NY Times article “Teaching Racial Justice isn’t Racial Justice,” addressed the issue of education as the fighting tool. It has become fashionable that most American universities have competingly added courses on social injustice to the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the idea of education is to provide students opportunities to learn and actively engage with conflicting thoughts and various real-life issues in a place enriched with knowledge linked with the fellow members of the human race from antiquity. In this environment, a university is a place for education that can improve social conditions in the fight against social, political carbuncles, not for the battle itself, training students for social gladiators.
Many universities are focused on the quantitative quota of educational syllabuses aimed for the universities’ reputations as the most liberal and forward-thinking higher-learning institutions for the socially recognized prestige, not the qualitative aspect of the education of the minds. It is not the textual syllabuses filled with political ideologies and social campaigns. Still, the practical teaching of various conservative and progressive considerations enables students to incorporate the learning to their perspectives. Education serves to articulate ideas based on the standard of reason and taste universal in all human creatures regarding the principles of judgment and sentiment common to all humankind.
Suppose we want our higher learning institutions to remedy the existing ills of our social and political realities by implementing more social justice courses. In that case, we must first understand the fact that education itself is not the fight itself. Neither Plato’s academy nor Aristotle’s lyceum was a place for the battle against the absurdities of Man. Or even the beloved, peripatetic Socrates did not use his open universities in Athens as a place for campaigning against the government hostile to his philosophy. Remember that there is no new thing under the sun as long as we as the collective enterprise called Humanity continue to voyage in the Universe.
Ambition, made of sterner stuff, is the solder’s virtue that chooses gain, which darkens him. Bravery, comprised of nobler spirit, is the solder’s honor that elevates the soldier’s merit to the echelon of Homeric virtue of arete, the excellence of man leading to achieving a supernatural feat of heroism. An excellent soldier with arete knows no boundary of political, religious, social, or racial division and transcends the subjectivity of time. Major Dundee (1965), an American western film directed by Sam Peckinpah, cogently translates a balanced, objective equilibrium to test the validity of the soldiers’ virtues on the continuum of the Homeric arete in the background setting of the American Civil War.
Major Amos Charles Dundee of the Union Army (played by Charlton Heston) is a man of primitive ambition of glory sent to head a squalid prisoner-of-war camp in the New Mexico Territory. There he meets his former friend turned foe Confederate Captain Benjamin Tyreen (played by Richard Harris), who bears a grudge against Major Dundee for his betrayal of friendship. The notable tension between the two always remains even after their uneasy but necessary collaboration. Still, the esprit de corps consisting of unlikely but able-bodied characters sets to take out the Apache War Party in the new territories. Major Dundee sets out for the campaign not of pure divine patriotism but his glory despite his contentions with Captain Tyreen, who is more morally honorable and culturally sophisticated than himself.
It is Captain Tyreen, the renegade leader of the southern rebels who embodies the model of the arete, combined with moral integrity and soldierly fitness fabulously demonstrated in his effortlessly stylish habiliment. He is a dandy gentleman with decency and learning and an exemplary soldier and leader with justice and bravery. The refinement of civility as incarnate in the figure of Captain Tyreen is vividly contrasted with the rough intransigence of Major Dundee through the exterior appearances and actions of the two opposite characters. Even Captain Tyreen’s attitude toward the colored Union soldiers surpasses Major Dundee’s languid attitude toward his colored soldiers fighting for the same cause.
“Major Dundee” is a new type of western that abandons its common thematic elements consisting of noble savages, self-righteous lone gunslingers, the arch-villains, and beautiful women in pursuit. It is a new type of western that begins to be aware of the societal changes in the reflection of the nature of humanity with bold actions of likable bravado and admiring characters that are not circumscribed in the extreme ambit of norms and conventions with an artistic touch of vivid realism. Despite the rather unsatisfying commercial success of the film when it first came out, I find this film both entertaining and thoughtful in the historical background of the Civil War, showing true bravery equipped with respectful integrity of a person, friend or foe. There is no better sign of excellence in man than the bare demonstration of the act.
To see the pretty summer sky is poetry breathing life. The world outside books provide the optical pleasure that sparks up otherwise monotonous landscapes of everyday life. Indeed, it was such a beautiful morning that would make you forgive your persona non-grate with the love of mankind. It was a kind of jolly morning that made the whole world seem kin. So Tuco took a lovely jaunt in the beautiful historic Santa Barbara County Courthouse this morning. He went there alone in the bliss of solitude that always flashed upon his inward eye for creative inspiration. One casual glimpse at Tuco might give you an impression of an ordinary guy with beer-belly spending his evening time and Sundays in front of a TV set. Contrary to his embonpoint, avuncular physiognomy, Tuco is an artist, a poet, a thinker. He is, what Edgar Allam Poe would call without hesitation, an intellect with passion.
Tuco chose the Santa Barbara Country because its Spanish colonial architectural style reminds him of the familiar civic landscapes of his childhood hometown. The Courthouse, located at 1100 Anacapa Street, in downtown Santa Barbara, California, is famous for the Spanish Colonial Revival Style building designed by Charles Willard Moore and completed in 1929. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005 for its beautifully distinctive colonial-style respective of the Spanish cultural heritage harmoniously attributing to the aesthetic character and history of California.
While strolling around the Courthouse, Tuco’s eyes were suddenly fixed on a white doll attached to the palm tree. It was a tawdry but scary-looking doll that gave him the creep down on his spine. ‘Did someone who had a beef with the court’s decision put this voodoo doll here as a curse to the Courthouse?’ Trepidation for the unknown terror began to spring from his tactile sensory organs, making him momentarily delirious. He was becoming unsure of whether it was a wise decision to take a picture of the evil doll or even to come to the Courthouse. Was it an omen? ‘Oh, come on. Are you kidding me? It’s just a doll, more or less. No need to waste your energy on contriving meaning to the ugly voodoo doll.’ With this sudden forceful exercise of affirmation, Tuco wended his way toward the beautiful scenes of the earth, the sky, and the view of the world.
Tuco exclaimed, “How hard it is to hide the sparks of nature!” The sky was high and blue, the lawn was full and green, and his eyes filled with pleasure. Today was the end of his vacation, and he lamented about returning to work for livelihood. However, the beauty of the scenery made his otherwise grim and dreary Sunday lovely, and Tuco thought life was not supposed to be all that hard and unbearable.