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Tuesday
Sep232014

Ambler, No. 26 [On Spinning in Circles]

Thus is man that great and true Amphibium, whose nature is disposed to live not only like other creatures in diverse elements, but in divided and distinguished worlds. -- Sir Thomas Browne

NT; (c) Greenway; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Two weeks ago I made mention in this series of essays that, though I have never considered myself lost, I often have little idea as to where I’m heading. The statement was made in regards to land travel: while it may be true that sundry landscapes appear very similar, causing modern house cats to quickly become bewildered; while it may be even more true that modern house cats are increasing in the population and that many of these modern house cats are so lost in the metaphysical sense of the word--that fewer men can distinguish east from north, let alone conclude what side of the stump moss grows on, it is still true that north, despite what modern metaphysics does to its symbolic meaning, will always and forever be north. Until California falls into the sea--and may that day come quickly--it will always be west of Kansas, and if a modern explorer only studies a map long enough, he will find it’s far easier these days to lose one’s soul than one’s body.

Nevertheless, I am very rarely ever in a boat, and when a man is accustomed to a particular landscape from the view of land, his perspective is certainly altered from water. So it was as the boat wobbled and my fellow explorer and I left the boat ramp in our canoe. Our guide, eyeing us suspiciously as he handed the paddles to us, asked if we had ever been in a canoe before. Answering him that we surely had though it had been some time, the man, still with a suspecting eye about him, explained to us that the back paddle was for steering. Easy enough, thought I. Whether it was due to my adventurous spirit or manly pride, I grabbed the steering paddle and awkwardly maneuvered my body into the back of the canoe. The suspecting eye of the guide turned into one of annoyance, and I was commanded to get out of the canoe so he could properly give us our push. Like Lewis and Clark we shot out from the shore as if we had been canoeing for years. It did, however, take us half a moment to get our sea legs accustomed to the wobbliness of the boat, and my companion recognizing that I was steering it astray, switched the side on which he was paddling. This caused the canoe to sway not a little, and after I thoroughly reprimanded him, we decided that as the one steering the vessel, I would call out “Switch!” when needed. We were not but fifty yards from the ramp, and though I did not see him, I felt the suspicious eyes of our guide bearing down on us from shore.

The following account must be taken with the full knowledge that I am a novice. For as we somehow managed to make our way into open waters, my ability to steer us properly was significantly hindered. An island worth exploring was due west, and we immediately made our way towards it. However, every time we had our boat aimed in the direction of the island and began paddling towards it, we would dart to the right. As navigator I would let out a “Switch!” and after switching the boat would either continue on its course to the right as unaffected as an elephant by a fly, or the boat would violently change directions. It happened that I had to call out “Switch!” so often and that we change course so frequently, that we zig-zagged our way through the waters heading in every direction but the island.

Life often has a way of sending a man in the last direction he would choose to go. To our south were two fishermen in a boat, and wanting to avoid the embarrassment and shame that was our paddling ability, my companion explained to me that he would rather we not bother those fishermen. He said this in a way that assumed confidence in my ability to steer us anywhere but in circles, yet it also hinted at a skepticism of that ability. Well, as fate would have it, we headed due south toward the fishermen. We still had high hopes of reaching the island, and after hearing the directions to stay away from the fishermen, I attempted to navigate the canoe westward. But it seemed that the more I wished to push the boat to the right the more it went south. I then decided to adopt the age-old philosophy that there is more than one way to skin a cat. (Some philosophers even proclaim there is no wrong way to skin a cat.) Navigating the canoe eastward, I then managed to do a complete three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn, pointing us straight toward that island. Like a good post-modern, I had spun us around in circles, working hard to arrive nowhere.

*****

Every weekend I seek to wander about through nature to escape the confines of my desk job. But it is not just to escape the desk and the cinder-block walls; it is to escape the waterfall of nonsense that pours over me throughout the week. In today’s world common sense is so uncommon that man must now create theories to explain truisms. We may take the modern and pointless field of gender studies as an example. I teach out of a textbook which explains that people who happen to be born biologically male and who happen to also identify with that gender are to be called cis-males. It may take me three-hundred-and-sixty degrees to arrive at the same place as an experienced canoe-man; it takes an expert gender studies academic a three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn to figure out what every five-year-old has known for two years.

Every age is defined by something; each has their blind spots and nonsense that only seems to come out after all those theorists have died off. I am beginning to feel that our age may be defined by the absurd insistence to apply every cracked theory to every facet of life. If truth and knowledge are constructed socially then so is gender--biology even. If biology is a construction then so are sunsets and avalanches. But something like an avalanche would only be socially constructed if it caused no damage. No two social constructionists would ever actually go tell their theory on a mountain for the mountain would overtake their stupidity. Perhaps then it would not be so bad if all of these social constructionists applied their theory to avalanches; their obnoxious wailing would surely construct something--be it a bear or an avalanche--that would rid the world of their nonsense for good.

*****

After roughly five or six three-hundred-and-sixty degree spins, we made it to the island and decided to switch navigators. Like an academic with truth on his side, we veered neither right nor left, flying across the waters like Hawkeye and his Indian friends. As it turned out we grew quite comfortable with my companion as navigator. So comfortable that I felt confident I could navigate us back to shore. The scenario is an analogy to mankind. Truth and common sense ideas often create relatively peaceful and prosperous societies; but with those societies, ignorant men have too much time on their hands, and with that time, they think up absurdities. So it was with us as I took the reins again, believing I could navigate us back to shore, for our canoe was due. As our guide watched from the ramp, he saw a young man in a position he should not have been in and a canoe making little progress but spinning in circles.

Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written at The Ole Midshipman,
With a new dip pen,
Sunday, September 14, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
In the English Building, Kansas State University,
September 23, 2014

Painting: "Five Natives in a Traditional Canoe"
Unknown artist,
Tempera on board, n.d.

Tuesday
Sep162014

Ambler, No. 25 [On The Modern Blind]

That a Man hath one Rib lesse then a Woman, is a common conceit derived from the history of Genesis. – Sir Thomas Browne

I have for some time now longed to create a t-shirt. To evoke common, and therefore good, gender stereotypes, the shirt would be blue. On this shirt would be the picture of a door being held by a man for a woman. It need not be elaborate. Stick figures will do. Above or below the image will be the words “Hold a door” followed by an ellipsis. The back of this shirt will read, “Tick off a feminist,” and I trust the shirt would also do the same. For a modern farce is among us, and that is the idea that all things are socially constructed. Women are just as capable of holding doors for men; men can wear pink; why do men always get to drive the car?

That the colors pink or blue are arbitrarily picked to symbolize women and men respectively is no cause for which to die. No man would argue that there is anything essentially female about pink, or male about blue; but the average, non-academic man would say there is certainly something essentially male about man and essentially female about woman. Only someone whose reason has led them to draw the false correlation between colors and genders will draw the very false and very dangerous premise that, because colors are symbolic, so the whole nature is constructed.

*****

The lunacy of this is played out nearly every day. Recently I was helping a friend move a mini-fridge. My friend was female but was not, thankfully for her, a feminist. For if she were a feminist in the most recent rendering of that word, she would have been not only carrying the fridge by herself but also holding the door while telling me that I was not doing a very good job of respecting her womanhood. But as I said, she was not a feminist, and though she did hold the door, she did not carry the fridge.

I awkwardly maneuvered my body so as to properly carry the relatively heavy object, grunting and groaning as I freed it from the back seat of my car. Within ten steps to the door my arms were throbbing, my back was bent, my soul was crushed. My old bones barely made it into the building, and I could not help but lament that our journey still had a good portion left to be accomplished. Luckily, we were heading downstairs, but as we were nearing those steps an idea popped into my head that could release me from this torture. I looked at my friend who was leading the way. With a satirical seriousness, I looked into her eyes and said, “Wait a minute. We’re evoking and promoting common gender stereotypes here. Would you mind carrying this?”

*****

Modern man is a walking contradiction. Just the other day, I listened to a learned academic from Harvard (that fortress of Knowledge and Truth!) lecture about how all things were constructed and how essentialism, that out-dated theory handed down by insignificant philosophers like Plato, was proved untrue. How any modern academic can believe anything he says is beyond my powers of intellect. But what I do know is that--unfortunately--the abstract concept of social constructionism is a very essential thing to a constructionist. To say that social constructionism was itself socially constructed would be like saying the mother birthed herself or the sunrise led to the sunrise. For in order for social constructionism to work properly, evolution as we know it must be disregarded. Man’s thought, by itself, freed from social circles, is meaningless; in fact, it cannot be believed to exist. Thus, "the dawn of man" had to have been "the dawn of men," and like-minded men at that. And the curious fact is that the dawn of man that led to men was like-minded. One-hundred men at the beginning of the world were more like-minded and uniform in thought than any single man today.

If even bare facts are invalid without society’s consent, we have little reason to believe that social constructionism is valid, for society does not believe it. Only in the ivory dungeons of humanities departments does social constructionism hold any merit. The common garbage man or housewife lives his or her life as if genders, Truth, and knowledge are essential things, platonic ideals, even if they do not have the vocabulary to explain this. But an even more telling example is how the modern academic lives like an essentialist. A modern academic will spend thirty minutes telling you that truth is socially constructed and twenty minutes spouting “truths” that the larger society outside of academia has not acknowledged to be true.

But a truly sad result of this thinking has occurred in writing. Prior to social constructionism, a man could write down his thoughts without having to cite fifteen other individuals who happened to agree with him. Today, an academic is so bogged down in what he calls “the conversation” that he cannot state what everyone once took for granted as true without finding some other academic who acknowledges that yes, this is true. Now this may hold some merit in that few, if any, elevated thoughts are truly new in the sense that the individual creates them; but it does not hold in that if only one man stated Truth it would make it any less true for lack of consensus, as if one man fighting slavery made the abolition movement false. The problem many academic writers have today is an unholy fear of saying something against the “established” consensus; they fear that even what seems to be true based on common sense should not be said; for an original idea posited by one man in the farce of the academic circle is discredited not on the basis of its merit but on the (very small) consensus of that circle.

What is even more maddening is that we have deviated so far from common sense and even objective reality that we are even beginning to question and qualify the most obvious Truths. A man with a Ph.D. today is no more certain about his gender than he is about the existence of God. He has spent so much time questioning the metaphysical that he now questions the physical; the sun rises, not because he perceives it to rise but because he collaborated with a friend and reached an agreement that, indeed, the sun rose today.

It is this lunacy that is killing the humanities. There is at least some comfort in knowing that man can live about thirty seconds as a social constructionist before he contradicts himself. Nevertheless, the cowardly prose of the modern academic is so muddled with jargon and qualifiers that after one cuts through all the extra limbs and leaves of the dense forest of prose, he sees nothing but a haggard and hollow stump similar to every other stump planted by academics. For if one needs to know anything about academic writing, it is that no one ever says anything different than anyone else, and thus, no one really says anything. Truth, after being dragged through the mud and disparaged, ends up ironically being the one thing academics cower in fear of. Their fear of saying anything socially unacceptable, socially untrue and against the consensus of their peers is so great that they are willing to follow their colleagues wherever they may be led, even if it is the blind leading the blind.

Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written with a dip pen,
Manhattan, KS
Sunday, September 7, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
At the Campus of Kansas State University,
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Painting: "Blind Man's Bluff"
By Alexander Hohenlohe Burr
Oil on canvas, 1888

Saturday
Sep132014

From the annals: "On the Size of the Universe and Other Trifles"

We, at The Ink Society, do not stand for "Chronologic Snobbery" even in the recent past. Therefore, it seems only fitting to recognize that what was written before might be even more seasonable and felicitous today. With this principle before us, we offer the following from the annals of The Ink Society: 


“Why should not a man say, ‘I like this cozy little cosmos, with its decent number of stars and as neat a provision of live stock as I wish to see.’”[1]
           --G.K. Chesterton

            Every now and then I wonder at the size of the universe, and every time I come to the same conclusion: Either it is very large or I am very small. It is true, the universe is the largest thing we know, but we know so little, really. We think it is gigantic, romantic and hauntingly cold and beautiful, but as universes go It could be a rather medium-sized, homely one. The truest statement we can make about the general size of our personal universe is, that in comparison to us, it is rather hefty—like the bags.

            The next question to be addressed is, “Why?” Why is our universe so large, so spread out, so maddeningly outside our ability to explore it? Space may be the final frontier, but it is a frontier into which we have barely inched. Our little attempts at going to the moon and mars are like swimming a couple meters off the coast of California and claiming we have explored the Ocean. Wecould go farther, but current technology only allows us to reach the nearest star system as decayed bones or at best, fossils—not an ideal condition in which to go exploring or collect data.

            It seems that God has ordained humankind to stay on earth, at least for now; it is also clear he has not told us directly what is reasoning is for this. So I would like to guess. You will be tempted to call some of my conjectures science fiction, but I answer that it is only science if it is practical and only fictional if it is untrue. The following guesses on the reason for the size of the universe are neither practical nor, provably untrue. Better call them “Impractical Possibilities,” or better yet, “Silly Guesses.”

            1. God made the universe so colossal in proportion to humans simply to show them his grandeur--as a sort of exhibition of lights soely for the benefit of Earth's inhabitants. In this view, the far flung galaxies, nebulae and gas clouds are as they appear through telescopes—lifeless and beautiful to behold from earth. They are simply signposts on a cosmic scale pointing to the work of a powerful creator and sustainer. Earth may not be at the center of the universe on the “Atlas of the Cosmos” but it is the cultural, spiritual and biological center—the only life-sustaining planet fashioned by God, when he created the universe ex nihilo(out of nothing).

            I would guess this is the view held by the vast majority of Christians. It also happens to be the most uninteresting and, to be frank (sometimes I get tired of being Eric), boring option. It also has two major flaws: 1. It presumes that humans are the most significant thing created in the material universe—a tad bit presumptuous for a race of beings that gave “Captain Underpants” a Kids Choice award in 2007.  2. It makes God seem arbitrary and the rest of the universe superfluous. I’m sure there are nooks and crannies out there between galaxies or behind dark matter that are lovely places to look at, but due to our spatial and visual limitations, we are unable to see or enjoy them. If humans are the only really significant material life-form in the universe, it is hard to see a purpose for all the vastness and intricacy of the second heaven—outer space. In defense of this view, God may have created those unobservable nooks and crannies for his own pleasure, without mankind in view. But, in my estimation, this theory is quite limiting and narrow for a God who is anything but limited or narrow.

            2. The universe is gigantic because it was made to be explored/exploited by unfallen men and women. Now this view fires the imagination a bit! If physical death was one result of the fall (not a given, but certainly possible), then humans were made to stay in the physical universe indefinitely, procreating and recreating in innocent bliss. But, in that case, the earth would be inadequate to hold all these happy, good humans after a certain number of centuries. What a lovely thought it is that after the earth was filled, as God had commanded, there would be millions of other verdant planets, waiting to be populated with perfect humans—planets covered in lush,  exotic, edible plants and colorful wildlife, never before seen by human eyes; forests of unimaginably large hardwoods ringing with unrecorded bird songs; blue and green oceans, spangled with islands and teaming with, as the French say, “the fruits of the sea” (only they say it in French). Maybe, just maybe, the universe was made to be filled by humans, but that option was removed at the fall of mankind by the elimination of some interstellar highway or mode of travel. Maybe, as you read this, those beautiful planets are quietly spinning in a solar system millions of light-years away, filled with all good things for humans to enjoy, waiting patiently for the day when all things are made new and the plan of redemption is complete.

            Call it fantasy; call me crazy, but this theory is just as possible as the first, maybe more. It’s certainly more logical. It gives the universe a purpose outside of it's general impression on mankind. It gives it living purpose—to be explored and settled.

            3. Now we come to my personal favorite of the possible reasons for the universe’s immense girth. God made the universe so unfathomably large to keep humans out of it—to keep us from soiling other planets and races who did not fall into sin as we did. We are quarantined by light-years of space that we have no hope of traversing alive, and the last frontier is really only the inside of a generously large but barren prison cell.

           Are we so audacious as to presume we are absolutely the only intelligent life God created in this entire universe? Humans, made in the image of God, have prolific imaginations filled with visions of intergalactic alliances, elves, boy wizards and those little furry guys from Star Wars. Must God’s creativity be relegated to Earth? Granted, Earth is a lovely, romantic, complex and mostly comfortable place to live. But I would argue, there is more life in the mind of God than we see across our land and in our oceans. This theory makes the scientists’ desperate attempts to find microbial life in the underwater oceans of Jupiter’s moons comic and a little sad. They don’t realize it is our sin that makes finding life on other planets and planets’ moons impossible. God has a plan to redeem the Earth; part of that plan may be to keep us and our sin on that earth and not to spread the disease of our selfishness to races who chose not to eat their forbidden fruit—or whatever form it took on their planets (forbidden fish jerky?). The implications of this view are highly fascinating and give a new meaning to “the great multitude” of Revelation seven and an expanded view of what the new heaven and earth imply. It is important to note, each one of thse views, though differing in details, has one constant: "The heavens declare the glory of God." Whether the universe is burgeoning with life or completely sterile, its function never changes.

            In 1977, the United States launched the voyager spacecraft. On that spacecraft was a golden record with a voice recording from then President Jimmy Carter (brother of the highly esteemed Billy Carter) that said in a silly southern accent to any alien life form that may find that record,

“This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.”

            President Carter (brother of the esteemed Billy Carter) in his little recording may have been entertaining prophecy unawares. But those who “survive our time” will be the redeemed of the LORD and not scientists with the highest IQs. So to all of the NASA scientists and space nerds longing to explore the billions upon billions of Galaxies filling our universe, your best chance of doing that will come when you fall on your knees in repentance to the God who made those Galaxies and will someday open their mysteries to the redeemed inhabitants of Earth.

R. Eric Tippin
In "The Study" on 8th Street
October 26, 2012 

Image:
"Cow Considering the Stars and the Moon"
Acrylic on Canvas - 1923
Peter L. Folkes 


[1] Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (2009-10-04). Orthodoxy (p. 58). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. 

Wednesday
Sep102014

Hobbler No. 3 [On Waking First]

I have been ruminating as of late upon the particular appeal of the early morning as opposed to other times of day. As with many concepts I turn over in my head, I have pressed, punched, kneaded, and rolled out a number of ideas that, in part, may speak to this phenomenon. But, similar to a pastry chef dissatisfied with the amorphous collection of ingredients loosely formed on his floured table, so too does the doughy ball of my musings still seem unfit for the oven. Perhaps this essay may become a glass bowl of sorts, towel-draped, in which a writer’s yeast might be allowed to burgeon forth a necessary volume and consistency for the product. And so I begin!

It seems to me that, being a man of only twenty-four, I am still nearer to the period of my life in which I yearned for more sleep, dreading always the impending grind of A.M. classes, (be those high school or collegiate) the six o’clock chill of the butcher shop where I worked for some time, or any of the varied challenges that seem to walk arm-in-arm with the dawn. Naturally, as I cherished the time when I could avoid early rising, and relished very little the surrounding joys when I had no choice but to be awake, I have fewer memories than I would like of exceptional mornings. This brings me to my first and simplest point: I seek to soak up the morning as often as is possible because I feel I’ve somewhat squandered those opportunities until this moment of life. Of course, there are natural external factors that demand and condition a person to consider the “sleep in” as a relic of the past—driving one’s wife to work, years spent attending or teaching day-opening courses, and a genetic predisposition for light sleep being a personal few. 

Travel seems to be a fascination of more and more people that I encounter, but before I yearn to explore states, continents, oceans, and beyond, I would rather temporally explore my current surroundings, absorbing all that they are at all times that they exist. Early mornings and late evenings prove to be far less expensive endeavors.  

Large family gatherings are, for all their extraordinary benefits, often awkward experiences as various individuals with varied sleep schedules, morning routines, and the like worm out from underneath comforters, stumble to doors, and collapse on living room furniture while sleepily awaiting a quorum for breakfast (a number usually determined by the matriarch(s) of the family, who, from my observation, regularly assume the mantle of coffee preparation, as “pot” quickly becomes “pots”). As a child I found it terribly uncomfortable to rouse myself and twiddle my thumbs on the couch rather than participate in the multitude of activities I enjoyed—most of which would have disturbed the sleep of others—and so remained in bed, studying the ceiling (or sky, were it a camping adventure). It was on one such camping trip with my wife’s extended family that I realized what a role and responsibility it is to be the first out of bed.

We were gathered in a campsite in Upper Sioux territory, and as my wife (who has the gift of finding the deepest of sleep in the shortest of time) blissfully lay on our slowly-deflating air mattress, I half-crawled half-stiffly somersaulted from the unzipped tent door, pulled on a sweatshirt, and began reading Dickens’ David Copperfield at a picnic table. As each of my relatives began to emerge from their makeshift wilderness lodgings, I found it perfectly suited to my mood to direct them quietly to the coffee, greet them with a smile, and return to my reading, putting the “ball in their court,” so to speak, in terms of opening conversation. Human beings, immediately after they wake, are often at their most vulnerable. Before we enter sleep, we carefully tend to the safety concerns of our surroundings, be those locked doors for thieves or properly stored food for bears. We often clothe ourselves far less, and if full pajamas are a preference, they’re not as durable or protective as the jeans, work boots, or jackets of midday hours. While asleep, our defenses are lowered, our wits are certainly not about us, and we, in all honesty, enter a state of exposure possibly equaled only by venturing into traffic while operating a motorized vehicle. By being the first to rise, one is also the first to take assessment of the surroundings, to check belongings, to determine if anything is amiss. One becomes, however temporarily, the watchman, the protector. Each rising member of the family, upon seeing one more alert and kick-started than themselves, is relieved of some stress—they need not be on guard, need not be worried, at least for the moment. 

In that small gift to my relatives, I see an infinitesimal reflection of a gift we receive every day; our Father never sleeps, our Lord sees all things, our God greets us at our most vulnerable. What a joy to have this reassurance at all times!

I realize that some, in the reading of this essay, are those heavy sleepers who find it difficult to rise first, and who might feel slighted by this writing. Let me be clear in saying that I intend not to delineate a better approach to one’s resting habits, favoring one above another, but rather to proclaim, in words, a thought previously held but unarticulated. Deep, full, rich, unencumbered sleep is a blessing, and is something I have envied in others, but realizing the way that one joy replaces another is a skill that allows us to take ownership of our gifts, and to cultivate a fertile ground for the growth of the Spirit within us.  

Welcome those moments when you can usher in others to a new day. Welcome those chances to do things that fall by the wayside among the flurry of midday activity. Presently, I’m doing my best to make the most of one such morning, and it is indeed rewarding.

Bryn Homuth
Listening to autumn’s cool whistle on my apartment porch
September 10, 2014

Image:
"Early Morning, Fishing Boat on a Strand"
Oil on Canvas - 1877-1944
James Humbert Craig 

Tuesday
Sep092014

Ambler, No. 24 [On The Soul of Sports] 

If we should question the teeth of Elephants, that is, whether they be properly so termed, or might not rather be called horns; it were no new enquiry of mine, but a paradox as old as Oppianus. -- Sir Thomas Browne

(c) Rosie Sayers; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

While it is certainly true that I am never lost, but that I just happen to have very little idea where I am going, it is also very true that I often have very little idea where I am going. A man is afforded the opportunity to test his directional prowess in stadiums where athletic events are taking place. For though all men are unique, and no two are completely similar in physical or mental makeup, it still holds that most men have heads. It is, in fact, far more likely for a young man to get lost in a stadium than out in nature, for nature allows us to find our way by the sun or the stars. But as I was saying, most men have heads, and when looking for that particular back portion of a head, lost in a sea of heads, the task becomes excruciatingly difficult.

*****

The author of these audacious Amblers has mixed feelings about the nature of athletic competitions. It is becoming truer that the religious fervor which once dominated our lands is being replaced by an unhealthy adoration for these competitions--men knowing and openly discussing the height and weight of other men. Nevertheless, athletic competitions allow us to freely observe a fundamental aspect of man--competition. It was during one of these events that I left my seat and took on the role of water boy. Juggling four water bottles and stumbling and staggering my way toward the aisle, I finally made it “out of the frying pan and into the fire,” if you will. For though not as congested, the aisle at an athletic stadium is no safe place to be. It is similar to merging into the freeway, and I was that car that, upon getting onto the freeway, seems to have second guessed the choice, and instead of speeding up with the rest of traffic, maintains its original speed.

And there I was, attempting to keep track of whose water bottle was whose without spilling or dropping anything. Emerging from the row I was end, I picked up speed lest I got bulldozed over, and in so doing, I completely disregarded the number of the row. Despite the odds not being in my favor, I eventually did make it to the water fountain where I proceeded to fill up four water bottles while impatient and dehydrated fans cursed me under their breath. I was undeterred, however, and my shirt supporting the home team, I was not pummeled to death. It happened, though, that because I was far too concerned about keeping the specific water bottle with its owner and keeping my eyes glued to the bottles, I reentered to the stadium in the wrong section.

The back of a man’s head is not so unique, and so I labored down a few steps--all the while attempting to keep the water bottles straight--and sought to get a view of the faces from down below. It was at this point that I cursed myself for not making note of the numbers of my row. Numbers are objective. Faces are not. A man may smile and smile and still be a villain. The false face must hide what the false heart doth know. In short, the sea of white faces looked wholly unfamiliar to me until I spotted a particular individual whom I believed to have recognized from before. If this were the same individual, which of course it was not, my row should be three up from his. So dodging bodies and fumbling with the bottles, I proceeded up and down that aisle to get a proper view. Nothing. No familiar faces in sight. At some point in my traversing back and forth through the aisle, eyes no longer glued to the bottles, but wide-eyed in fear of losing my friends, I believe the attendants began to get rather annoyed with me. It was to my fortune that at some point during this debacle the home team scored, putting everyone in a jolly mood.

*****

That athletics are unnaturally taken with far too much seriousness these days is true. But athletic competitions remind us an important lesson, and that is, that though winning is good and more desirable, losing is necessary. They harken back to the soul of man, the now forgotten soul that would dash off to war and fight for a cause. But now the only cause worth fighting for is the fight for the self. Goodness, morality, truth, and meaning all proceed from within us these days and fighting for an ideal is seen as problematic for a pluralistic society.

This mindset has infected modern society to the point where standards, or the ideal, are outdated and not helpful. The only standard that matters is the standard we set up for ourselves. So every kid gets a trophy even if he does nothing but pick at dandelions during the game. Every high school student gets a diploma even if he cannot (or will not) read it. I recently read a somewhat outdated (an often ill-used term) article that argued an English major can graduate with a bachelor’s degree without taking a single course in grammar. But it is not that he can get a bachelor’s degree without taking a grammar course; it is that he can obtain his doctorate without taking, or knowing, any grammar; it is that, if he really wants to, he can be a doctor in English, having no latin and less Greek; that he can teach English at a university without ever having read Plato, Aristotle, or the Apostle Paul. I would not be so surprised if the average English doctorate student read fewer than three plays by Shakespeare outside required class readings and was more familiar with the modern theory on gender than Milton, Dickens, or Chaucer.

*****

When the home team scored and the crowd cheered, I was reminded, and grateful, that the majority of the world does not live in academia. I did eventually find my friends and we watched the band blow and bang on their instruments, inciting the crowd to cheer their team to victory. In athletics, equality is the pejorative. The odd thing about a fight song is that, it does not really encourage anyone to fight. More than likely, the songs invite the crowd to march in honor of their ideal--their ideal team. But, of course, I believe our culture needs more fight songs for things other than gridiron. We should compose fight songs for every aspect of society. The local grocery store should compose a fight song to counteract the horrible globalization our nation has undergone. The checkers and baggers should sing the song while they work; men at the meat counters would slice the meat to the beat; the 'duce-man would juggle apples and oranges; other 'duce-men would spin the celery like a baton; the men stocking the shelves would do so in a beautiful pattern, perhaps the store's logo, as they marched down the aisle; the fans who come to this grocery store would eventually join in; the revolution would be started; the locals would march for their ideal grocery store simply because it was theirs.*

Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written at The Ole Midshipman,
Manhattan, KS
August 31, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
In "The Catacombs,"
Kansas State University English Department,
September 9, 2014

Painting: "Fulham Marching Band"
by Rosie Sayers,
Oil on canvas, n.d.

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*The thoughts on the final paragraph are courtesy of R. Eric Tippin who likewise received the same ideas from G.K. Chesterton's fantastic essay, "The Little Birds Who Won't Sing."