Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

July 22, 2009

Literacy and the elephant's trunk...

After listening to NPR today and an interview with a guy named Chris Hedges, I feel the need to write, if only for my kids, to confirm my dire feelings about the loss of literacy in our land, not just reading skills but reading at all, reading the right stuff, reading to find out what's up with our world! Hedges was mesmerizing to listen to, a former newsman for the NY Times, but also an astute cultural critic! His book is new, The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and The Triumph of Spectacle, addressing how much deterioration we have in our society because we only look at the image of things, not the depth - the outside of things but not the deep down inside, because we don't know history and its problems and are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past unless we see more than just what's on the surface of our lives. We are also doomed to be manipulated by despots and those who have no motive other than to deceive, to get power, to change things without any thought of the future or consequences.

I have long been an advocate of cultural literacy, starting with Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, then Hirsch's laundry list of things we should all know in his Cultural Literacy. Recently I picked up a copy of something called An Incomplete Education: From Plato's Cave to Planck's Constant...Einstein to Gertrude Stein..Twelfth Night to Twelve-Tone Theory...Half-Life to the Afterlife PLUS how to tell The Iliad from the Odyssey. (Whew!) I love these kinds of books - I call them gap-fillers, because they fill in gaps in my education - and after all, a good learning process tries to connect the dots, make connections of knowledge wherever so we can see the whole, not just the pieces. Otherwise we're like those twelve blind men trying to describe a whole elephant while each is touching only a certain part of it. Sorry, I'm not interested in just the trunk...

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