Friday, March 15, 2013

Subliminal Academia

Pardon me if I indulge in a little "navel contemplation" this morning.  It's just that last night I had such a rich and lengthy dream and want to get it down in words.  Everyone dreams each night and some of them we even remember.  But last night was a sub-liminal spectacular, nurtured by what I was listening to as I drifted off to sleep.

Before I turned into bed last night I fired up my iPod, opened a folder that held dozens of C-Span interviews of authors and historians, and settled back to listen.

Before long I found my self standing under an elm tree on a residential street with Brian Lamb, C-Span's CEO and multipurpose interviewer of the "smart and famous".  Soon Lamb had hailed down a car and began interviewing a young Black man about a book on 21st Century technology.  I remember trying to interject in order to ask the young writer what publishing program he was using to put his book together.  Both Lamb and the young writer were ignoring me completely.  After several minutes there were cars behind backed up for five or six blocks and I was telling Lamb that this was a hell of a wrong place to be conducting a writer's interview.

Frustrated I left the scene and ducked into a bakery.  All along the right wall of the bakery were trays of donuts and other pastries scattered haphazardly on trays, a coffee tray holding a coffee urn, with discarded cream and sugar packs scattered about.  The bakery had no service counter.  Instead, standing in the middle of the bakery was none other than popular historian David McCullough, surrounded by a couple of dozen adoring listeners.  McCullough was giving a talk on the importance of today's students learning history and the liberal arts.  As the silver headed, cotton ball eye-browed McCullough transitioned to the rich heritage of 18th century scholarship a middle age lady entered the shop.  She seemed to be very shy and confused about how to secure assistance in getting a donut and coffee.  It was then I noticed a sign above the baked goods; "McCullough's Bakery".  It was then I noticed there were no cups available for the coffee.  I looked over at "famous author" in subtle plea for his assistance.
But McCullough just continued his lecture, wry smile in place, and seemingly not concerned that was selling no donuts or coffee.

Just as McCullough was transitioning for a discussion of Thomas Jefferson's classic education and his academic brilliance I left the shop and headed across the green commons of a university.  I began walking toward what appeared to be an administration building when I looked down to see I was carrying several syllabuses and a class schedule.  After consulting my schedule I headed for my assigned class in an adjacent building.

As I entered the classroom I was jostled a bit by young men in their mid-twenties, looked again at my schedule and found I was attending a Masters level liberal arts class.  The tone and attitude of the students was a bit more rowdy here, the students more confrontational with a multiply talented and diverse faculty panel, two of which were historian Douglas Brinkley and the broad who played Charlie Sheen's mom on "Two And A Half Men".

Brinkley was discussing Theodore Roosevelt's role in expanding the national park system and reflecting on the deep friendship between naturist John Muir and Roosevelt.  While I found the lecture quite stimulating my attention was diverted somewhat by my wondering what a "60 something" man like me is doing on a college campus some thirty years since I last occupied a seat in academia.

Brinkley must have noted my mind wandering from his brilliant lecture.  He stopped mid-sentence and asked me a question.  But he spoke so softly I couldn't hear the question.  When I did not respond the noted professor pulled a sheet of paper from a stack before him and said I was to prepare an essay by tomorrow's class on why my fellow students might appreciate the reading of "Sonnets of the Portuguese"by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Just then a bell somewhere signaled an end to the lecture and I wandered out into a bright afternoon sun, trying to remember what I knew about Sonnets Of the Portuguese.  I remembered that it was a somewhat long, sensual poem that spoke of love of both the intimate as well as love for her fellow man.  I then remembered that it was the last stanza that is most remembered by those who have read it, or used it in some long ago romantic interlude:

HOW do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.       
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use        5
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seem’d to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of ally my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

P.S.  Strange dreams folks.  A subliminal spectacular
brought about by modern technology and an iPod.
But I can think of worse things to wake up to than
the sweet cooings of Ms. Browning.  :)


  1. Your writing is something I always enjoy, but every now and again you just hit one right out of the park! This is one of those. You should keep a best of "Good News". Wow that was a good dream! I also walk away from this a smarter man, now I know the origin of that poem. I'll have to read some more.

    Thank you, this good read made a good day better!

  2. And, as usual loyal reader Ken, you've made my day by taking the time to express your appreciation for my efforts. Thanks again.