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“Babbitt” is an important book in American Literature.  It mirrors a pivotal time in the history of a country that is less than 150 years old. I agree with an article I recently read that said ‘Goodreads had it all wrong when they gave “Babbitt” an undeserving low score.’ This author, whom I will have to go back and find, said that “Babbitt” is an hilarious book. True enough, but the humor is derived from a dark, satirical critique of society, which is mimicked throughout the 20th century, and now, into the 21st.

Through “Babbitt,” we see in its main character, the result of the reversal of two American political parties; Republicans and Democrats. The story takes place, in 1920, only 55 years after the party of Abe Lincoln, (kind of) freed the slaves, built the Railroad to the Wild West, and started the Homestead Act that allowed new immigrants to find a future for themselves, and their families. Business, at the end of the 19th century, in history, needed the government to get on their feet, and help them build an infrastructure. The Republican party liberally supported these small business people, but once businesses became bigger and stronger, they no longer wanted government snooping around. As a result, the Republican party, needing the support of conservative business to maintain their base, became a conservative party, and gradually began to embrace members that advocated for business enterprise. The Republicans began to undervalue the need to have social programs for the more fragile, and struggling citizens, e.g. immigrants, marginalized citizens, like African (ex-slaves, sharecroppers), and Native Americans, many of Spanish and mixed descent. By 1930, with the election of FDR, the Democrats, the party of the South completely reversed from conservative, into the liberal court, advocating for reforms, and the Republicans, in turn, became the party of ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’. Today, we still see members of both parties flip-flopping amongst themselves. Bob Dole, for example, a few years ago reminded the American people ‘to not forget that the Republican party was the party of Abe Lincoln’. There are many Democrat’s who espouse liberalism, yet, when it comes to real voting, go the conservative way, which promotes the White Anglo-Saxon status quo. One could argue that the diversity of thought, within, and across party lines, is crucial to the need for a two party system. A citizen of left leaning thought would object to the white ego-centrism of both parties.

Back to “Babbitt”; its main character ‘Babbitt’ is an incarnation of the completed evolution of the extreme conservative Republican businessman, who by 1920 advocated for big business enterprise, and the acquisition of personal wealth, at the expense of the more feeble citizens, of society. Babbitt, uses false advertising, shrewdly teasing poor people into buying his real estate over its true value, and in the process, materialistically enriches himself. His purpose – to increase, and perpetuate, indefinitely his wealthy status, and image. Babbitt lacks individuality, sees only glitz, loathes Bolsheviks, for bringing down the wealthy Czars, and undervalues human beings that express themselves artistically. Sinclair Lewis with brilliant literary wit, satirically, and allegorically, created ‘Babbitt’, who hauntingly lives today, in the reality of the 21st century.

Note: Sinclair Lewis, a perceptive author, with a keen ability to write in the American English style was born, February 7, 1885. Interestingly, he was a Midwesterner, born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, but attended Yale University. He died near Rome, Italy, was buried in his hometown, and became the first American author to get the Nobel Prize, in 1930.

 

 

If you come back someday.

I am the forest
I am the forest.

The day is waiting!  Dawn passed before I awoke, and the sun is getting too bright for comfort.  Alas, one mustn’t begrudge the sunshine, though there is nothing like a rainy day to set thoughts in motion.

Having awakened with a clean slate, alongside one of many chores, and things to do, I ask, “Which will prevail?  Meandering my way through unprescribed discovery, or following the rule of accomplishment, and purpose?”  Balance is the prudent course.

To open the day, here is a poem by a Finnish artist, named Eeva Lisa Manner (1921-1995).  The title, “ASSIMILATION”

Assimilation that I have travelled. I will show you a way that I have travelled. If you come If you come back some day searching for me do you see how everything shifts a little every moment and becomes less pretentious and more primitive (like pictures drawn by children or early forms of life: the soul’s alphabet) you will come to a warm region it is soft and hazy but then I will no longer be me, but the forest.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, or a Wizard’s Palace?

 

St. Paul’s Cathedral in St. Paul, Minnesota, sits high on a hill, and looms over the city landscape.  In the distance, one can see the the State Capital, which is made of a more luminescent white stone.

The Cathedral is on Summit Avenue, the elegant street of St. Paul, where F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented many a home for social occasions.  At one address, he apparently wrote his first novel, “This Side of Paradise”.  Summit is lined with an array of architectural dreams come true for the wealthy, who moved to St. Paul in the 19th century.  Some homes are more elegant in their beauty, than others.  Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Mansion of James J. Hill, one of the most powerful men in the country, whose wealth was acquired through the railroad business.  He and J.P. Morgan created an empire, and subjugated the worker to such meager wages, that Teddy Roosevelt took the matter into his hands, and shut them down, or so the story goes.  Photographs of the Hill Mansion will follow.

Let it be said, however, that Mrs. Hill, an industrious, highly organized housewife, and fervent Catholic, felt right at home with the Cathedral in plain view, sitting outside her front door.  True to the Catholic tradition, she and James grew a large family, of ten children, and today, there are still many heirs to the family wealth.

On a personal note, this is the first time I stepped foot into the Cathedral, although, as a child, I remember marveling at it’s grandeur every time our family went into the Twin Cities, to visit Uncle Johnny and Aunt Betty.  Until now, it was always a fantasy vision, which took me to fictional places in my mind.  It reminded me of a palace, where a wizard would live, and if you ever got the chance to visit, he would give you anything you wanted, and make your dreams come true.

 

Carpe Diem & the Lion

Carpe Diem & the Lion

Snow March 8, 2013
Snow ~ March 8, 2013  It came in like a lion.

When there’s nothing else to talk about, there’s always the weather.  Weather is the essence of nature, and a metaphor for human behavior, not to mention how much it can influence our mood and outlook. Today is no exception. The morning was beautiful, as I drove to work.  There was a light fog, the sun, at its normal place in the horizon for this time of day, was shining through the forest, making the dew drops hanging on the trees, glisten like crystal. What else could I ask for, except for my camera, which I decided to leave at home.  So, I went to my pockets to find my iPhone, and stopped myself to say, “just enjoy it!”  It’s the best advice I’ve given myself all day.  If I had taken pictures of it, I probably wouldn’t be writing this down.  Besides, I would have been late to work.

So back to the weather.  We get fed up with winter, and the snow, but really, the temperatures are relatively more civilized now, than they were 2 years ago, when we were in the midst of a nor’easter.  It was the month of March, coming in like a lion.  This photograph, which I found archived and unpublished, is a testimony to that storm.  Despite the teasing of more sunshine and nice temps, we are not out of the woods yet, though it seems we are turning an optimistic corner towards spring. I am looking forward to blossoms, and the fresh smell in the air.  It will come!  Today it’s over 50 degrees, so that’s a start. In future days, I will hopefully be out early enough to find more beautiful mornings, like I did today.  Mornings of fog, mist, dew and hazy sunshine, and who knows, what else.  It was Carpe Diem, at its best!

Superstitions

Good LuckA while back I read an interesting article about superstitions. If I recall, it was from the  Wall Street Journal, or the Washington Post.  Anyway, the ideas have come back to me.  The article, defined superstitions as associations made with habits, or the acquisition of objects, for a desired outcome, or to prevent an undesirable outcome.  When we hear of a habit, that could bring good luck, we might say, “Oh, I think I’ll start doing that.”

Why do people develop these habits and superstitions?  Well, the article suggests that these ideas give us the illusion of having control over a situation, or give us meaning, and psychological comfort.  Sometimes they can even boost our performance.  The discussion eluded to the negative aspect of having superstitions, and that is, that people who acquire them, are perfectionists, have a sense of helplessness, and a high need to feel in control.  For example, many of us have good luck charms, and are not willing to part with them, for fear we have bad luck.  The article also suggested that emotionally secure people tend not to have superstitious beliefs, and are able to cope without creating a system of habits, that run contrary to reasonable thinking.

Now, I will be the first to admit, that I do have habits, things I do, the way I think, and even a few good luck charms, which I want to keep around. On the other hand, it would be liberating to shed these things from my life, to adapt a more carefree and secure sense of being. Becoming a minimalist seems like one way to approach this way of being.  Another is to begin to look at good personal characteristics within myself, to lean on, instead of these mental crutches, whether it be a thought pattern, or an object to have in my possession.

But really, do we want to throw the rabbit foot out into the garbage, or take away the upside down horseshoe over the doorway?  All these symbols of good luck are like religious icons donning the churches.  Which brings us to another topic of ways we think to cope. Well, maybe we want to keep the horseshoe up there to rust away, but trimming down anything that gets into the way of sound thinking and stability in life, sounds like a good idea to me. “I think I’ll start doing that.”

A broken friend, & other random thoughts.

A broken friend, & other random thoughts.

Sometimes biting in to a bad chocolate, and eating it, is like adopting a broken friend, and never giving up on him, or her.

When everything seems hopeless, browse for that inner voice calling your own name.  You are not alone.

There seems to be a cosmic conscience of alter egos, in the universe.  It appears like a wave from the ocean, or a gust of wind, out of the clear blue sky.  It can be strong and persistent, only to subside, and return again.

Synthesis is needed in life, for it to have meaning.

Happy birthday, dad!

1917 First Family Car

I keep putting this up and putting it down.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s denial.  It’s hard to believe he would be 100 years old, and that I am still alive to be able to know this fact.

This is my dad’s way of thinking, per my brother.  In a nutshell, my dad wrote to him after a huge fight, that lasted a whole day; “We all have our ups and downs, differences of opinion and happy times. In those bad times, when we know that the issue is not as important as the relationship, we should forget the differences and move on. He said that he can accomplish that by writing down his feelings or opinion and delivering that in the form of the written word. It is less passionate, is likely to be less vehement and with much more consideration of the other person.”