In The Light Within the Light (see Favorite Books--next page), Donald Hall , after moving back home to Eagle Pond in New Hampshire in the shadow of Mt. Kearsarge, is quoted as follows: "I've come to understand after being here for sometime that this place has become a centering place for me. The culture--or maybe the feelings I had toward the culture and the old people here when I was a boy--have created a platform for me from which to view the rest of the world. It is my vantage point." [p.9]
Damn! When I read this selection, I realized how much of my life has been spent searching for, and fighting against, my vantage point--mostly without knowing it. As I have reflected on this during my Sentimental Journey, it turns out that vantage points is a more apt description in my case.
My first vantage points were: Louisville, Brandenburg, and Lexington, all in Kentucky, that Dark and Bloody Ground where I was born, raised, and received my early intellectual, social, and religious education and conditioning. It was in Kentucky that I was indoctrinated (quite outside my awareness), with lots of the values and attitudes which have both enlightened and plagued me for the rest of my life.
I'll mention a few. First, there's racism, sexism, class-ism, (if there is such a thing), liberal evangelical Christian point of view, and a pervasive Sectional identity. I was a white, and male, born a Protestant into all the privileges of the upper middle class in the border state South. My "growing-up" time, my initial mental and emotional maturing, were shaped by the end of the Great Depression, World War II, the Eisenhower Fifties, fears about Russia and the A-bomb, the Korean conflict, and low-level angst about the distant rumblings of conflict in Viet Nam as I went off to college.
At the time, of course, I was oblivious to my "conditioning," to the way my very Self was being molded by forces out of my control and largely out of my conscious sight. I'm sure I was no different from my most of my peers who were raised with the same set of values and attitudes. My closest friends, I know now, were more like me than different from me in virtually all respects. We did very little in the way of challenging each others' points of view, unless, of course, they pertained to which high school and college athletic teams (football and basketball only) were "best." What I believed, they believed, and vice versa. Our main concern, other than sports, was females--what made them different, how to get them to like us, what the stages of sex with them were (or would be) like (appropriately referred to in sports lingo as first base, second base, etc).
Referring back to Donald Hall's quote, I now see that my vantage point, my platform, in those days was limited by innocence and by the powerful influences of the environment around me which I felt compelled to conform to without deviation or error. [After all I had been raised in the Calvinist tradition.] I knew with certainty that America was the finest country in the history of the world, that other countries would be better off if they were constitutional democracies, that we were militarily superior to all nations (despite a growing concern about Russia in this regard), that our economy could produce limitless amounts of goods and services to make our lives easier and richer, and that inventiveness was a mostly American trait. Wasn't it an American, Jonas Salk, after all who cured polio?
I also believed in my heart and mind that white, Southern Protestant males were better in every way than any female, any Yankee, or anyone Black, Jewish, Catholic, poor, or the citizens of any non-English speaking nation with the possible exception of France which ,we were reminded, helped us win our freedom from England.
In Brandenburg, Ky., I established another point of view or platform from which to see the world. In the small Ohio River town of Brandenburg, in Otter Creek Park, was YMCA's Camp Piomingo which I attended in one role or another from the time I was nine until my Junior year in college. My experiences at Piomingo reinforced some of my values and ideas, but also furnished me with evidence, experiental evidence, that directly contradicted others.
To be continued...
A welcome to readers
As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime: