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August 16, 2012

Upon Turning 40

There comes that time in a man's life when he doesn't just feel and look old, the whole world reminds him by celebrating the fact. Oh, it's an honorable event, filled with various eulogies, gifts and tears. But it's a glaring reminder of that short path to the future --- a future none of us was really promised in the first place.

We celebrated my 40th year with KP today. Balloons. Banner and posters. Video taping. Pictures. Chinese food. Humorous slide show. Talk of changes and the 'old days.' Three digitaries drove over from corporate headquarters with well-wishes. The company founder sent blessings. Gift card. Bobblehead doll of yours truly.

And I was truly surprised and deeply honored by those who know me best. Barb and Elizabeth sat by me, ready to catch me if I passed out from the praise.

"Let another praise thee, and not thine own . . . lips." (Proverbs 27:2) immediately follows King Solomon's admonition: "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Humility enjoined. Contrition elevated to a new height. The meekness and brevity of life underlined.

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Psalm 90:12.

August 8, 2012

The American Theater

When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, our little experiment was steamrolling ahead as the greatest wonder of the world. Published in 1830, and a second volume in 1835, the Frenchman's critique of American society epitomizes a true understanding and assessment of "the sovereignty of the people."

His words should be required reading in school, regular reading at home and revered reading online.

Some Observations on the Theater Among Democratic Peoples

"As the love of the drama is, of all literary tastes, that most natural to democratic peoples, the number of authors, spectators, and plays is constantly on the increase. Such a multitude, composed of such varied elements and scattered so widely over the land, cannot acknowledge the same rules or submit to the same laws. No agreement is possible among judges so numerous, who never know when they may meet again and who all like to judge for themselves. All literary rules and conventions are shaken by the impact of democracy, but in the drama they are entirely abolished, leaving only the caprice of each author and each audience . . .

"The Puritan founders of the American republics [sic] were not only hostile to all pleasures but professed a special abhorrence for the stage. They thought it an abominable amusement, and so long as their principles prevailed without question, the drama was wholly unknown among them. These opinions of the founding fathers of the colonies have left deep traces on the minds of their descendants.

"In America extreme regularity of habits and great strictness of morals have up to now [emphasis mine] told against the growth of the drama.

"There are no subjects for drama in a country which has seen no great political catastrophes and in which love always leads to a direct and easy road to marriage. People who spend every weekday making money and Sunday in praying to God give no scope to the Muse of Comedy.

"A single fact is enough to show that the stage is not very popular in America.

"The Americans, whose laws allow the utmost freedom, and even license, of language in other respects, nevertheless subject the drama to a sort of censorship. Plays can only be performed by permission of the municipal authorities. This illustrates how like communities are to individuals: without a thought they give way to their chief passions, and then take great care not to be carried away by tastes they do not possess.

"The drama, more than any other form of literature, is bound by many close links to the actual state of society."