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An Odd Catechism

      A week ago today, my wife an I found ourselves sitting on white folding chairs in a green clearing surrounded by wooded hills and ringed with leaved trees[1]. Four women in black pant suits were playing string quartet versions of modern pop hits (Viva la Viola, Call me Mozart  . . . etc) and in time a woman in a white dress glided in, bringing everyone  in the clearing to their feet. Yes, a wedding. We were sitting in a wedding. My wife was on my right and on my left was a man in his fifties or sixties holding his Kool-Aid stained grandson. From all I could observe he was a good grandpa. He played horse with his leg, smiled more than he frowned and kept his grandson from kicking the nice man next to him.

           Adult interaction with children in general has (as far as I know) always been very ritualized and repetitive. Nearly every children’s book is built on repetition, and Dickens’ work has a child-like whimsicality for that same reason. As for ritual, “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” “This Little Pig Went to Market,” “The Little Engine that Could,” and “Patty-Cake” are solemn and ancient sacraments of childhood, performed at short intervals and unquestioned by the countless generations that pass them on. Every time I went out our front door growing up, my mother would speak a benediction over me: “God bless you and make you a blessing.” Her mother had done the same to her. No doubt atheistic mothers repeat phrases like, “Be good. Don’t ask why!”

      No matter how iconoclastic, anti-liturgical and anti-sacramental our society becomes, those images, ballads, poems and ceremonies of childhood will endure unchallenged; for children are and will always be more old fashioned than adults. The irony is, adults perpetuate childhood ritualism, and venerate it and protect it like it is something precious while they (meaning some of them) simultaneously scoff at religion—the oldest institution of our society—and its ceremonial trappings for being antiquated, repetitious, inartistic and unhelpful to an enlightened, post-modern, multi-cultural, changing world.

           Well, as I said, this grandfather was doing his part to pass on these rituals and rules when, unexpectedly, he catechized his grandson in a novel way. He looked into his childish blue eyes and said:

            Q. “What color are your eyes?”

            A. “Pink”

            Q. How old are you?

            A. Six!

            Q. (more solemnly) How old are you?

            A. I two.

            Q. Are you happy?

            A. (sigh and smile) Yes.

         And that was that. I don’t know if this is a family catechism of great importance and ancient forethought or the creation of a moment, but I like it[2]. The first question assesses self-awareness, the second social standing (age being the arch-status symbol of childhood). The repetition of the second question is important, for it gives the questioned a second chance at honesty—It is tempting at any time of life to lie about your age. The third forces the questioned to step outside his or her own situation and asses it in the macro. The child did, and found himself happy. And finding himself happy seemed to make him happier still. He grinned and grinned. His grandfather grinned back and resumed the leg-a-horse routine. Then the wedding began its own rituals.


R. Eric Tippin
In The Living Room on 8th Street
July 4, 2013

[1] It’s more poetic if you pronounce “leaved” “Leave-ed.” Go ahead, read that sentence again. See, see!

[2] Incidentally, they seem like three of the best questions you could ask an extra-terrestrial, if you happened to encounter one. 


Der Böse Enkel - "Ο Κακός Εγγονός"
Georgios Iakovidis (1853-1932)


Joy in the Morning (A Blurb)

A good book is worth the reading posthaste and a terrible book is hardly worth the mentioning. Therefore, why all the hem-hawing over lengthy reviews? For the purpose of keeping them short and to the point, we submit our blurbs:



"An Unquenchably hilarious and humbling humorous work. The lowest mind in the jolly drama runs fantastic English circles around the reader!" -P. Tippin


  "No dark, subtle humor here—only the brightest jokes, the most blatant gags and unapologetic erudite wit, all combining to make one of the funniest books I have had the pleasure of opening." -R. Eric Tippin




 Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse


The University

"The university was trying to be the world of the future, and maybe it has had a good deal to do with the world as it has turned out to be, but this has not been as big an improvement as the university expected. The university thought of itself as a place of freedom for thought and study and experimentation, and maybe it was, in a way. But it was an island too, a floating or a flying island. It was preparing people from the world of the past for the world of the future, and what was missing was the world of the present, where every body was living its small, short, surprising, miserable, wonderful, blessed, damaged, only life."
--Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow


Image: Boat race night in Oxford, 1958 


Said Painting

"Said Painting"
Oil on Canvas
George Something-Or-Other I think

I came into possession of two filters during the week just lived, both quite different and yet...

The first:
It must have been Tuesday night I laid down that dollar bill (and by "laid down" I mean authorized a rather vast number of virtual interactions to conspire together) and bought myself a virtual good. The transaction and product bespeak of the current, the now. For, it is an effects filter for photos taken with my phone, and with this filter, I am now able to align more closely that picture of the mushrooms in my yard to the mushrooms in my minds eye. I can make my meager amateur work stun the populous like the professional and thus better relate the glow of life that I feel in that little fungus.

The second:
A certain precious member of my family came across this other filter with thoughts of adding it to our homely abode. It is an oil on canvas painting of a snowy mountain slope. Being displayed with many other items of life, it was picked up in that most public of galleries, the Friday morning trash pile. I suppose I must be clear, based on my primary evaluation of it as "well...its not terrible," the curb may have been a fitting exhibition.

However, unlike my first filter of the week, this painting is of the primary variety. It aligns with my choice of taking the picture of the mushrooms. On the secondary level, the only thing that stands between this painting and the halls of The Louvre is that type of filter that I purchased for a dollar. As my picture of the foliage now stands a strong chance of creating a stir on an online photo sharing site, all this rather rugged example of paint on canvas needs is a simple Edwin Aaron Penley filter for wider public consumption. The great masters could have made a mint had they only monetized their final touch.

Another thought occurs to me. As George MacDonald* would point out, this newly acquired painting, though lacking beauty and refinement in itself, is nevertheless a beautiful type of primary filter. The scene portrayed had to work itself through the mind and then the artist's hand to the canvas. Here-in lies the value! The painting is the most personal of filters! While my photo does little good until secondarily filtered (and even then its value remains questionable), this painting, though recently given the value of an empty Cheerios box, has accomplished a great thing in its time. It has done its duty of making the artist stop and consider the scene and work out its essence with effort and diligence. The scene could not be preserved without the labor, but now that the labor is complete, even if the work is found wanting, the artist is the better for the image has been impressed on his heart. I, on the other hand, quickly turn my photo into an Ansel Adams and ship it off to the admiring multitude without gaining that purposeful consideration of the subject. The difference is staggering and not a little bit indictive of the value of my "art."

Though some may like to claim many sins and weaknesses for our generation and despite that the sharing with the masses is simple, the weakness of self restraint and profligacy when it comes to someone's own art or creativity is not limited to us. One need only look as far as the excesses of a certain mother-in-law of Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge. While M.M. ruined much of politics and journalism for me (and I thank him for it), his mother-in-law almost single-handedly ruined art for me as well (without my thanks),…

"I stayed with Kitty's family in their villa; one of a number recently built close to the sand-dunes. It was the same disorderly, ramshackle household I remembered from the previous occasion. Mrs. Dobbs prepared the meals, such as they were; in the process getting herself covered with flour, caked with fat, sticky with sugar and burning her long leather fingers - sores which she ignored. If the conversation was raging - which it usually was - she would emerge from her kitchen, steaming saucepan in one hand, a ladle in the other, and join in. Her intellectual interests took precedence over all other; there were no circumstances in which she would refrain from participating in a discussion on immorality or the extent of space. Dead or alive, she was there for the kill. Over the explosive sound of a brew boiling over, in the lurid light of a roast catching fire, one would hear her proclaiming her views of the ego which affirms and the ego which denies. When at last her tumultuous chores were over, the last mouthful of horse-meat washed down by the last gulf of vinegarish vin ordinaries, she was off to catch the final light of the setting sun, working away with her paints and brushes as long as she could see, and even after. She did not really need to see; what she painted was the notion of a sunset, rather than anything she saw in the sky, built up from many sunsets, seen, enthused over, and painted over the years. She could do it in her sleep. When she died, she left behind her trunkfuls of paintings, all equally good, or bad, and mostly of the same subjects. The only thing she liked better than painting was having rows…"

... but the redeeming fact that each work could not be shared on a social network allows me to feel less inclined towards despair. Rather, I would remind myself of the benefit that can remain for the individual and nothing lost for the masses if one's work is not found available.

I understand this thought, as it is pretty well over, is disjointed. It has, however, worked out its value by working itself through me. Once Instagram adds filters for text and short written works, this will be safe to publish for the world to see. So, technology permitting, I will apply the "Dickens Filter" and have done with it.

Phillip Tippin
On a high-backed wicker chair
Roeland Park, KS

Quote from Chronicles of Wasted Time an Autobiography by Malcolm Muggeridge

*MacDonald hits on this theme in The Seaboard Parish


The Iliad (A Blurb)

A good book is worth the reading posthaste and a terrible book is hardly worth the mentioning. Therefore, why all the hem-hawing over lengthy reviews? For the purpose of keeping them short and to the point, we submit our blurbs:


"Not for the squeamish, not for the pacifist, not for the atheist." --R. Eric Tippin






The Iliad by Homer