Category Archives: Liberal arts

Nobel Prize to poet

“An Adventure,” from “Faithful and Virtuous Night,” by Louise Glück, quoted in NY Times.

All experience is an arch wherethro’ gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades for ever and forever when I move. Alfred Tennyson

Not fade away.

The Arc of a Professional’s Career.

Attention is the limited resource

For persons who are at an age when the word “retirement” is not irrelevant, this NY Times column strikes me as valuable: “I talked to the Cassandra of the Internet Age,”

He says, “one of the most finite resources in the world is human attention.”

Before now, I had some sense of this. If you are retired and if you are not careful, you can piss away what’s left of your life with social media.

And so I have stopped using most social media. I have not exterminated FaceBook from my machine, but that is mainly because I don’t know how to. I just don’t go on it anymore.  

Truth is, it was already getting to be that way with books. Where I grew up there was a public library, two newspapers (Tarboro Daily Southerner and Raleigh N&O), and magazines (mostly, Time, Saturday Evening Post, and American Heritage). That was it. Now, there are bookstores, used bookstores, Amazon, and Project Gutenberg. And those little free book-exchange libraries that some people put in their yards.

And, social media.

We have got to figure out how to manage the glut of almost-free information coming at us. Maybe cost is good. It assigns value. MIchael Goldhaber says

We can explore the ways in which our attention is generated, manipulated, valued, and degraded. Sometimes attention might simply be a lens through which to read the events of the moment. But it can also force us toward a better understanding of how our minds work or how we value our time and the time of others. Perhaps, just by acknowledging its presence, we can begin to direct it toward people, ideas and causes that are worthy of our precious resource.

It’s not the information that is limited anymore. It’s the attention.

If you are of a certain age, you know about limited resources. You know about conserving and marshaling resources.

“Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.”

Absolutely unbelievable

I blame cable TV.

It has sucked the meaning almost completely out of these words:

  • incredible
  • unbelievable
  • absolutely
  • awesome

It’s unbelievable.

 

Streaming olfactory event: “Pheromone”

Play at Elon. Playwright a Westtown graduate. Admission free. Attendance virtual. Streaming olfactory?

Pheromone: An Awkward Olfactory Inquiry

Playwright: Rachel Graf Evans

Director: Professor Kevin Hoffmann

October 1-6, 2020
Roberts Studio Theatre

Somewhere in a dilapidated warehouse in Atlanta, a new kind of party is just getting started. Wear a t-shirt for three days, put it in a Ziploc bag, bring it to the party, fall in love. What matters more in a successful relationship: biology or commitment? An awkward olfactory inquiry into the nature of attraction, betrayal, and the quirky characters we meet in our quest to find true love.

You’d do well to get a ticket.

On public libraries

There’s an obituary in today’s Greensboro newspaper (nothing to do with Coronavirus) for a man named Tex Wood.

At the end of his obituary, it says “When once asked by the librarian in Stuart [Patrick County Public Library, Stuart, Virginia] to complete a comment card … as part of a funding request, his reply, which remains on the librarian’s desk today, was pure Tex. ‘A community without a library is a cesspool.’”

I did not know this man, but I will miss him.

Longest-running pick-up basketball game in the WORLD at Guilford College

By rights, Guilford College would be known as the Mother of College Sports in North Carolina.

The first college baseball game in North Carolina was played there. Later, Guilford baseball teams were preeminent among southern colleges and a parade of its graduates became professional stars and hall-of-famers. In the 1960s and ‘70s, it produced now-legendary basketball teams and players. To this day, Guilford basketball, golf, volleyball, softball, and other teams achieve success at the national level (NCAA, Division III), year-in and year-out. And Guilford is a leader in providing new opportunities for women, most recently having fielded a women’s rugby team. As many as 40% of Guilford students are varsity athletes, and graduates of its sports management curriculum regularly graduate to become coaches, athletics administrators, and managers of professional sports franchises.

But those are merely conventional measures of success in college athletics.

Guilford professor Richie Zweigenhaft has published a new book that points the way to the ultimate evolution of college sports: Geezerball, North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest. (Half Court Press 2020).

Guilford College, after all, is a classic, small, independent liberal arts college. It prepares its graduates not merely for jobs, or even careers, but for successful, rounded, and gratifying lives. And Professor Zweigenhaft’s memoir demonstrates as powerfully as that first baseball game did, the important place of sports (and team sports) in everyone’s lives.

The longest-running pick-up basketball game in the world is played at Guilford College. It’s been going for more than forty years. Its current players range in age from their thirties to their seventies. It has been the subject of magazine, newspaper, and journal articles – and now it has a book.

What it is, is a demonstration of where sports fits and why it’s important not to drop games when school is done. Zweigenhaft quotes George Bernard Shaw: “We do not quit playing because we grow old. We grow old because we quit playing.”

And the forty-year-old Geezerball game at Guilford College is a model for students and graduates of all stripes. It has been open to students, professors, college staff, and members of the Greensboro community, including men and women of all races, the short and the tall, the quick and the not-so-quick. Befitting its demographics, it makes a place for those who value strategy and teamwork over running and gunning. Players include not just academics, but bankers, doctors, salesmen, podiatrists. Pretty much anybody. Mostly professionals. Notably, not lawyers.

The book boasts cover blurbs from an NBA Commissioner and a prominent NBA coach, which extol Zweigenhalft’s work, although the credits on the copyright page admit that the quotations are fake. Scorners or whitlings might cavil that, since those blurbs are fake anyway, they could have been a bit more enthusiastic. What kind of modesty is this?

Ultimately though, and memoir though it may be, Geezerball is a model: lifelong athletics alongside lifelong learning. The guiding principles of the longest-running pick-up game in the world set forth by Zweigenhalft are (1) everyone plays an equal amount, (2) injuries and arguments are to be minimized, and (3) friendship first (a maxim taken from the Chinese Communist ping pong team). And the outlines of a grand vision may be discerned in those principles.

It’s not about stats. It doesn’t end when school is done. It may be the ultimate evolution of sport as part of a liberal learning community.

Jesus, Paul, Micah, George Fox — MidLaw takes a turn to the religious

David French recently pointed to

Jesus:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

Paul:

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.

Micah:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

French did not cite George Fox, but he might have. Fox was not so succinct, but he was munchier.

This is the word of the Lord God to you all: Go not forth to the aggravating part, to strive with it out of the power of God, lest ye hurt yourselves, and run into the same nature, out of the life. For patience must get the victory, and to answer that of God in everyone; it must bring everyone to it; to bring them from the contrary. So let your moderation, and temperance, and patience be known unto all men in the seed of God. For that which reacheth to the aggravating part without life, sets up the aggravating part, and breeds confusion; and hath a life in outward strife, but reacheth not to the witness of God in everyone, through which they might come into peace and covenant with God, and fellowship one with another. Therefore that which reacheth this witness of God in yourselves, and in others, is the life and light; which will out-last all, and is overall, and will overcome all. And therefore in the seed of life live, which bruiseth the seed of death.

The conservative response would be to seek to follow these foundational Christian precepts.

So would the radical, progressive, and liberal responses.

Marcus in a dyspeptic moment

What was he reading?

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius advises

Cast out the thirst for books that you may not die growling, but with true graciousness, and grateful to the gods from the heart.

For most of his career, and especially while he campaigned on the northern borders, which is when he wrote The Meditations, Marcus had no access to cable TV.

Allowing for the subsequent passage of time, one may perhaps broadly interpret what he was saying as: “watch too much cable TV and you will die growling.”  Grrrr.

Cast out that thirst.

The “first planter of education” at Guilford College was a woman “who stepped directly from the forest” – Anne the Huntress

Guilford College is rightly celebrated as the first coeducational college in the South.

What may be less well known is the tale of the first “planter of education” in the community that became Guilford College. She was known as “Anne the Huntress.” Her character and attributes color the culture, if not the attire, of women (and men) at Guilford College to this day. She stepped directly from the forest.

Quoth Dorothy Gilbert:

The first planter of education [in the New Garden community] was a woman who stepped directly from the forest in 1790 and vanished away into it seventeen years later. Her coming was dramatic. A large company had gathered to watch a shooting match, and suddenly there was among them a beautiful young woman carrying a highly ornamented rifle and equipped with a shot pouch, belt, hunting knife, and hatchet. She asked permission to take a shot with contesting riflemen: then she stepped to the line, gracefully raised her rifle, took quick aim, and fired. The ball drove the center sixty yards away. And this was the teacher, for Ann the Huntress – she never gave another name – lingered happily in the community for years: and as she visited from home to home, she taught the children for her recreation and killed the deer for her livelihood. She particularly objected to careless pronunciation, and young Quakers began the use of the final consonant. The speech within that neighborhood showed perceptible differences, and Addison Coffin believed that the influence of Anne the Huntress accounted for it and prepared the way for the success of [what became Guilford College].

This teacher “who wore Indian leggings and carried her rifle,” Gilbert believed, ”deserves commemoration in the annals of the profession.” She came from the forest and she planted a tradition of education and refinement at the very beginnings of the New Garden settlement in the Carolinas. “Ann the Huntress” was her name.

To this day, selected Guilford students may be observed to exhibit memorable attire. Perhaps there is a strain of the Huntress in that.

While no latter-day Guilford student is known to carry a silver-plated rifle (nor would a rifle likely be welcome on campus in these parlous times), one account of Ann’s 1790 bullseye reports that she fired a second shot immediately after the first – and landed it “neatly atop the first;” and hitting the mark is another Huntress attribute that characterizes Guilford students to this day. It is seen in the performance of Guilford’s golf and basketball teams, the creations of its Mark Dixon’s sculpture students, and the precision of all those accounting majors.

Issues of careless pronunciation among present-day Guilfordians want closer scrutiny.

 

Contronyms: at the frontiers of language

Somewhere in Southern California, there’s a lady named Judith Herman.  She’s got a blog: Lexie Kahn, Word Snooper. Her snoop is “Lexie Kahn, Private Etymologist.”

Herman is doing good work.

She’s published “25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites;” and “16 More Words That Are Their Own Opposites.” Others are on this trail. Somebody posted “20 Words That Are Their Own Opposites.” Grammarly posted 75 Contronyms (Words with Contradictory Meanings)

Words that mean exactly what they don’t mean.

Go English!