Sunday, May 14, 2006

Muse Misused

I believe in the Muses in the way I believe in all the gods. It is hard to deny them when their workings are everywhere manifest in the world. There is something “supernatural” in the production of beauty; rules applied by mere mortals that allow the creation of beauty worthy of God. I often explain this to my students by referencing one of the exceptional English and Writing teachers at our school. She has inspired my own children as they have participated in her classes. I ask the class if any have had poetry from Ms. Merrill. When those lucky ones raise their hands I remind them of the time she taught them the basic rules of poetry and then had them apply those rules to some random words and; what occurred? Yes indeed – they created something wonderful. I continue the point by asking if they ever wrote something – in answer to a question perhaps - and then found in their answer nuances of understanding, even insight, that they of themselves did not possess. Most everyone attests to such a miracle of the Muses. I myself have painted human figures, and found myself staring into their eyes, “how beautiful you are,” I have thought, “and I made you out of mud (pigment) and tree sap (gum Arabic binder). It must be the Muse! This is why the Greeks placed the poets above the prophets. A prophet merely recites the words of god; a poet, under the inspiration of a Muse, transforms words into new creations of beauty that have life beyond the artist. Often the writer does not even understand the power he creates; the magic is beyond his mortal comprehension. I have often thought of Twain’s disclaimer in *Huckleberry Finn* as an example of a wise author acknowledging that the might of the Muse is beyond his design, and his book will reach beyond his vision.

This manifestation of the magic of the Muses and the mortality of the Poet is found in the works of many playwrights, from Aeschylus to Arthur Miller. Next fall I will be directing the Miller play, *The Crucible* at our high school. I have avoided the work for years because of its over utilization by English teachers, and its misapplication in the Social Studies. The story, of how fanatic religion over powers reason to result in the most ungodly atrocities in the universe, is misread by most Social Studies teachers and political spin misters. Everywhere they misapply the horrible atrocity in colonial America to the anti Communist zealousness of Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activity.

It has always troubled me that McCarthy was made into the villain of the Cold War. I don’t excuse his wrong doing; he failed at his noble cause of defending freedom when he became what he hated. But Miller fails when he dismisses the evils of Communism to condemn McCarthy, as if McCarthy was representative of America. To quote Miller’s own words from (An article furnished me by our Drama Director at the high school). Miller says, “There were monuments in those days when there was no way to respond logically or reasonably to what was happening. Yes, we were in a cold war with the Soviets, and the Communists had taken over China, and there was the fear of nuclear destruction. But the cure for the fears was false, taking people who had no connection to sabotage and throwing them all together and calling them traitors and destroying a lot of lives.” Reducing the atrocities of Communism to the Cold War and the fear of nuclear attacks, elevating the atrocity of blacklisting and name calling above that of the mass murder of tens of millions of human beings, and the enslavement of billions more, demonstrate that Miller ‘s Muse speaks beyond Miller’s mind.

The real monsters of the “Cold War” were in Moscow, Peking, and Hanoi, not in Washington. Thankfully Miller’s Muse allowed him to write an allegory of fanaticism that applied to the gulags and the death camps of Stalin, Brezhnev, Mao, Ho, and Pow Pot. Sham on the small minded who could not see the divine truth, but rather choose to imagine that *The Crucible* told a story applicable to their petty concerns. The real witchcraft in this misunderstanding of Art is that the monster of Communism could be transformed by the pampered liberals of America into the victims. The true devilry was that the term “McCarthyism” became a sledgehammer pejorative, while decrying Communism became a social crime.

Now the mystery of Miller’s play will be made manifest in the present world. This summer Liam Neeson and Laura Linney are staring in a reprisal directed by Sir Richard Eyre. Eyre speaks inspired truth when he says, *The Crucible* will “always be pertinent to any society of whatever political leanings, because it’s about something fundamental – the tension between freedom and repression .” Now we will see if the miracle of the Muses will be recognized or denied. Will the critics see in the religious fanatics of Salem, fiends who crushed a man under stones to force him to confess to a crime that cannot exist and hanged 19 men and women for being witches, as an indictment of fanatic Islam that buries women alive for seeking education, and the tyranny of the cult of Saddam that instigated the murder of millions, or if the Art of Art Miller will be reduced to a political screed against the champions of individual liberty and freedom of choice that struggle to end “murder in the name of God” – surely the most damning manifestation of the Devil’s possession of mankind.

It will be revealing to see how Eyre’s version of *The Crucible* plays with the critics, if they notice it at all. I will be interested to see what the dark memories of Puritan fanaticism conger. Will it be the truth about the Islamic Fascists who murder and terrorize their way to power, or a misrepresentation of the forces that stand against them?

I will attempt to present things with less ambiguity with my production at the high school; which will get no press at all. I have been toying with the idea of dressing my actors as Taliban fanatics and placing the trial in Kabul before its liberation. I will have the summer to think it out. At the very least I will enlist the Muse in revealing the truth about where the real religious fanatics of today are to be found.

Summer is upon us; summer takes me away from the Agora. I would like to thank all who have read and contributed to our discussions over the past months. Next week, our house will be in remodel mode; Computer piled in a back room. I will keep in touch from one of the computers at school but I will not be able to compose another post for a while. In a few weeks I will be leaving computer terminals and the internet links behind for over two months. I will also be away from newspapers, radios, and televisions. The world will go on without me, but I like to think that I will be doing my part to make it better. I am grateful that such places as the one to which I am going can still be found. I am humbled by the fact that for nine weeks I will be blessed to spend 24/7 in a place of peace and bliss; Heaven with challenges. My thoughts and prayers will always be with those who defend our precious peace and freedom. As I enjoy the privileges that my heroes purchase at such great cost, I will do my best to give to those I serve the joy that America offers to the world. See you in September!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Perceiving Perception

Zeus must have been disappointed with the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. Not only did the U. S. come in second overall AGAIN – but those “Arian Supermen” from Germany came in first AGAIN. More importantly – nobody paid attention. What was the name of that city anyway?

On the other hand, all the Gods were probably very pleased with the 2002 Olympic Winter Games held in Salt Lake City. First, while the rest of America and the world were still cowering in fear from the attacks of 9/11, Salt Lake City joyously received the winter version of celebration of Zeus through athletic excellence. On the opening night President Bush stepped forward and stood in the midst of the U.S. athletes to give respect to their efforts and congratulate their courage. The inspiration of the President’s class and courage reverberates to this day. The most important homage paid to the Ancient Gods was what happened on the figure skating rink. The world watched as a young couple, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, skated circles around the Russian favorites, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze. When the judges – some of whom (notably the French) later admitted to making deals – cheated by choosing the Russians, the challenge to their falsehood was immediate. Although the vast majority of spectators worldwide were in no way ice skating experts; quality was obvious to all and the outcry was powerful and unrelenting. The Olympic Committee accepted the judgment of truth, not the biased judges, and awarded gold medals to Sale and Pellertier as well. What pleased all who value divine reason was that the truth was recognized and justice demanded, in the face of those who would have lied, by the power of humans to recognize truth. When that truth prevailed, justice was done, and humanity’s ability to PERCIVE the true and the beautiful was vindicated.

We are able to apply that same perceptive ability to judging and acting of certain challenges to the President placed before the people of the US.

With several early May polls showing Bush’s popularity on the rise, it appears that more and more Americans are beginning to recognize the truth in several areas. Admittedly some polls show Bush at new lows – but it is telling that most reports fail to note the positive growth in the other polls and fail to point out that President Bush has still not fallen as low in the polls as most other Presidents since polling data has been compiled. He has still not fallen as low as Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, or Bush the first (who is now more popular than Bill Clinton).

Here are some stories that are beginning to become clear in the public’s conscience and from which the divine reason common to all mankind will yet perceive the truth.

1. The incongruity between the angry out cry by the media over Scooter Libby’s alleged leak about Valerie Plame (allegations which did not result in any direct charge by the grand jury which investigated them) and the rush to defend and even glorify CIA Agent Mary McCarthy whose leaks have undoubtedly cost the lives of Americans and prolonged the war against terror.

2. Consider the attacks on President Bush over the price of gasoline while it was President Bush who fought to allow, and the Democrats in the Senate who blocked, the recovery of energy from Alaska’s oil fields. Had this nation been able to follow the Bush energy plan we would now have our own crud oil flowing into our refineries today. It is also note worthy that it was the enviro-radical lobby that prevented the building of refineries that would be able to provide cheaper gas even under present supply conditions.

3. Many people are beginning to marvel at the fact that, although the economy is better than it has ever been; with unemployment and the trade deficit down, personal income up, and the stock market about to reach all time record levels on real not (e)maginary business; Democrats keep talking about the fiction of American economic troubles.

4. How ironic that weeks after taking the word of “has been” generals calling for the ouster of the civilian head of the Defense Department as though silver stars gave ability to the wearer to speak no wrong, the same people are now saying that a lifetime of military service and four stars disqualify Michael Hayden from holding the post of CIA Director.

5. It is shocking that while the President is the only one to offer any workable and realistic plan for handling immigration concerns between the US and Mexico, the “ hate Bush crowd” attack the President as having failed the nation on this issue. The blocking of the President’s agenda is at last being noticed; perceptive Americans are beginning to lay the blame where it belongs, on the obstructionists in the Congress.

6. While the chant of “culture of corruption” is still the number one Democrat talking point, a Democrat Congressman, (Kennedy by name) has been given a free pass by capital police for driving under the influence and reckless driving. At the same time Louisiana Democrat Congressman Bill Jefferson is facing indictment on bribery and his cohort in crime, Vernon Jackson is facing 7 – 9 years in prison after confessing to bribing Jefferson. It does seem reasonable that if the briber is going to jail for bribing the Congressman, the Congressman should be going to jail too. In spite of her incessant attacks on Republicans, for unsubstantiated and unproven allegations, Nancy Pelosi insists that the Jefferson case is different from “Republican corruption”. It is a line that won’t hold up to the scrutiny of the perceptive.

In the end, the truth will prevail. Every day the prejudice of the media becomes more and more evident to the same thinking human beings who called foul to the misjudgments of Olympic judges in 2002. There is hope for those who have the ability to perceive truth in the miscalls and politics of those who push lies in the name of news. We must all seek to perceive the misperception that is being foisted on us, to sense the bias and the bogus. We can all have hope in the ultimate success of right; Reason will celebrate the triumph of truth.