Born Again

With some frequency, I have mentioned that I once returned to college many years after leaving it. I never deliberately dropped out: eventually, after more than four years of hard study there, I was excreted.

The first time I left, though, I was propelled from college. Something was happening to me which I did not understand. Friendships were dissolving, personalities were shape-shifting, my body was bloating, the world was gnawing. And it was spring. But more significantly, I had hit a wall. I enrolled in a course on Renaissance Europe at Memphis State University. I had taken four very good required survey history courses prior to this particular course but had mainly taken courses in business and psychology. More inclined toward the latter – and seeing the former, based in no small part on the other people pursuing it, as a misfit for my temperament, principles, and evolving interests – I sought out new study paths late in my junior year.

The readings for the Renaissance course were complex and overwhelming on many levels. Though my professor was a spellbinding storyteller, I felt lost in material that I could neither digest nor piece together. I was captivated by images and tales of men and women who made my own life seem under-lived and completely uninteresting; I encountered ideas that made those surrounding me and my time appear clearly insufficient. Yet, I felt the time speak to me – call to me. Having read and attended with all my ability, I went to my professor and told him of my decision to withdraw from school. I told him that I would risk all, even risk being drafted for duty in Vietnam, to see the world and find my place in it. This man, who seemed to hold the world in his large hands, his imposing stature, and his deep, authoritative voice – a true believer in the power and fundamental necessity of education – did not attempt to dissuade me. He was genuinely supportive of the reasoning upon which I based my move outward.

I will be honest. I left school in pursuit of craft. The very word loomed noble and superior to bland consumption. Emphatically, I did not leave for humanism. I never would have dreamed that humanism could, through the twisted witchcraft of modern-day religion, be cast in popular American culture as the most wicked scourge ever to plague mankind. I was humanism through and through. I did not need to pursue it. And there was nothing that could drive it from me. It was the grand gift that had seeped into my pores from the moment that I was born. It was the alpha and omega of my education. It was the beginning and sustenance of my values. And nothing solidified humanism’s hold on me like the benevolent Protestant upbringing in my household that surrounded me since birth. To me, Jesus was humanism writ large. He would not stand so pervasively and personally approachable without the ideals, contributions, and sacrifices of humanism, and humanism would not thrive without the model and teachings of Jesus.

Consistent with my practice of posting manuscripts related to the Middle Ages, I have attached essays pertaining to my exploration of the Renaissance.

The mighty figures and events of the Renaissance would mock our petty conceits. And we justly deride many of theirs. But we easily see ourselves among them. We find their assumptions familiar. Their excesses are recognizably human in our eyes.

The Renaissance in History
Lawyers and Statecraft
Michelangelo
Letter About Machiavelli’s The Prince
Review of Renaissance Letters

(Refer to the key offered in the previous post on dooms to view these learning journals. Read them or ignore them at will.)

Man of Earth

Recently my wife and I re-watched the entire six-hour Italian mini-series entitled “The Best of Youth.” In the last hour, there are glorious scenes of Tuscany. When a car en route to Florence crests a hill and the camera pans right, there is a breathtaking view of the city center from the direction of the Piazzale Michelangelo. The entire hour — the entire mini-series — I felt as if my heart was being ripped from my chest.

Please join me in celebrating a story of Italy — a tale about the best of youth and age.

Read it here.

Riding the Tempest

Phases of Astonishment: Chapter 3

What species is it? I am not smart enough to classify this piece. It certainly is dissimilar to most of my so-called stories. And just as surely, it is unlikely to appeal to the tastes of many readers. Yet, I send a notice of its existence to you – if only to let you know that I still wrestle with this puzzle, wading the swamp of memory to find ties in what remains. Despite questions about this short ramble, it is, nonetheless, a part of the larger story and should not necessarily be excluded because it is less appealing or less narrative. It is, for better or worse, mostly true – even if brimming over a bit. A long, more typical two-part story, relating to Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, in the vein of the excursion to Rome, is in the works, needing only repeated proofreading and pruning without the meddlesome interference of better judgment.

Read it here.

Phases of Astonishment

Patchwork

My life has been old fashion; for the most part, it remains that way. When I hear, read or tell a story, I like and expect for it to follow a chronological line. That keeps me from getting dizzy. The folds of my brain are plain but impressionable. Not until I started exploring what could be done in cyberspace with a story did I begin to toy with tales that have no definite beginning, middle or end. With age, events and reasons become a muddle. Sometimes that is not a bad effect: it extends and softens the edges. But there is little or no punch.

This is pure crazy in an old fashion way. It is not wholly unlike the crazy that has preceded it. After working on it, I happily bought and sampled a bottle of grappa. Italy does that and will continue to do so until my last breath.

Start the journey here.

Why This? Why Now?
Phases of Astonishment: Introduction A
Read it here.

Death by Serialization
Phases of Astonishment: Introduction B
Read it here.

Fourth of July: Anarchy in Italy
Phases of Astonishment: Chapter 1
Read it here.

Lost in Rome
Phases of Astonishment: Chapter 2
Read it here.

Riding the Tempest
Phases of Astonishment: Chapter 3
Read it here.
Preface & Reader Response

To the Ends of Civility
Phases of Astonishment: Chapter 4
Read it here.
Preface & Reader Response