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    RonPrice  75, Male, Canada - 60 entries
22
Jul 2012
4:27 AM AEST
   

MEMORIZING: The Major and Minor Leagues

The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Lifeis a new book by Harold Bloom.1Bloom at 82 is, arguably, the most famous American literary critic; he is also the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. Bloom says that his theory of literature was the offshoot of his own reading habits, principally his freakish capacity for memorization.

He discovered this ability to memorize in childhood, and it never left him. In the early 1960s, after hearing the prolific American poet W. S. Merwin’s poem Departure’s Girl-Friend, a poem of some 40 lines, he was able to repeat it verbatim.� “Even now,” he says, “I possess almost all of the poetry of one of my favorite poets, Hart Crane, by memory.”


The ability to grasp poetry in this way is rare but not unprecedented. Bloom’s hero, the English author Samuel Johnson(1709-1784), had this ability as well. “His memory was so tenacious,” Boswell writes in his great biography of Johnson, “that he never forgot anything that he either heard or read.” �One of Johnson’s schoolmates remembers having recited to him 18 verses which, after a little pause, he was able to repeat, varying only one epithet, by which he improved the line.”


The scientific study of memory is part of cognitive neuroscience, an interdisciplinary link between cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Some principles and techniques that have been used to assist in memorization include: rote learning, mnemonics, mnemonics link systems, peg systems, cramming, vedic chants, and oral traditions.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Sam Tanenhaus, Harold Bloom: An Uncommon Reader, �in The New York Times, May 20, 2011.


I had a good memory as a student

in primary and high school & was

able to go to the top of my class...,

but I was not in your league, Mr…

Bloom or Mr Johnson……I had to

work to get that information & facts

into my brain for future use usually

in exams: 99% perspiration and 1%

inspiration.� I am in a minor league,

a minor poet but, as the years went on

and my interests widened, I was able to

develop an architecture of information

in which to place a burgeoning quantity

of details as I headed through the stages

of adulthood and into old-age and its 3

phases: 65-74, 75-85 and beyond, if I

last that long!


Ron Price

26 June 2012

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    RonPrice  75, Male, Canada - 60 entries
21
Jul 2012
4:59 AM AEST
   

THE OLD TESTAMENT and ME

Note: I have tired to edit-out all the capitalization, but could not figure-out how to do it.-Ron
----------------------------------------------

The Hebrew Bible, called The Old Testament by Christians, is an extraordinarily difficult sequence of books.1 This difficulty, too easily underestimated, is greater now than it ever was, partly because no contemporary reader, however specialized, shares in the psychology of the original readers and writers of The Bible. The first millennium in which anyone read any of the words in any of the books from 1000 B.C. to the time of Christ or, perhaps more accurately, 600 B.C. to 400 A.D.2

My first memories of The Old Testament come from Bible readings in grade six when I was 11 and my mother reading passages from little booklets from the Unity School of Christianity as early as the mid-1950s. �Although some of the quotations had a broad ethical appeal to me even as a boy in my late childhood and early teens, I found the stories abstruse and distant: goats, sheep, tribes, and curious names like Balthazar and Nebuchadnezzar. They all occupied another universe far removed from my little town of 5000 in Ontario in that post-WW2 world of the 1950s. This distance existed then, as it does now, nearly 60 years later.

My individual understanding of The Bible, my biblical interpretations, rely primarily at the age of nearly 70 on my experience of nearly 60 years of intimate association with the Baha’i Faith. My interpretations and those of the Baha’i teachings are provocative, if nothing else.� But I have always found there to be a vast distance from the psychic universe of the biblical writers beginning as early as, say, 900 B.C.2 and the contemporary society that is my world. I know I have lots of company; indeed I rarely meet anyone who actually reads The Old Testament any more.


However abstruse the language of biblical prophecy and eschatology, the prophets of The Old Testament, I believe, were given a foreknowledge of the events of our times in their visions, visions which I’m sure they hardly understood themselves.� �Still, there lies a sure presentation of the times we are living-through, as long as one does not take those prophecies literally.

Yahweh's choice of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants as part of the Chosen People story was a permanent decision, intended to prevail into a time without boundaries, into our time.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Harold Bloom, “Prose and Poetry,” in The New York Times, 17 October, 1982: a review of Dan Jacobson’s THE STORY OF THE STORIES: The Chosen People and Its God, and 2the final editor, or redactor, after the return from the Babylonian Exile in the 6th century BC, put all the books of The Old Testament into something like their present form.3


When this review appeared in1

The New York TimesI had just

arrived in Australia’s Northern

Territory & the heat of summer

was just beginning to make me

run for cover to air-conditioning �

in my office, my home & the cool

air of the car....The Old Testament �

was on my universe’s far-periphery.

There it had always been in heat and

cold since those first stories when I

was in grade six in that little town in

Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe where

everyone I knew was Catholic or Jew

or Protestant, or nothing; yes, mostly

nothing and there they have remained

with that Old Testament far removed

from everyone’s everyday life. Still…

I have time now to try to get into it in

this the evening of my life; �however

complex and abstruse it may be, I want

to make-up for the decades when it had

to remain far out on my life’s periphery.


1Harold Bloom, “Prose and Poetry,” inThe New York Times, 17 October, 1982: a review of Dan Jacobson’sTHE STORY OF THE STORIES: The Chosen People and Its God.
3 See Frank Kermode, “God Speaks Through His Women,” in The New York Times, 23 September 1990: a review of Harold Bloom’s The Book of J.

Ron Price

5 July 2012




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    RonPrice  75, Male, Canada - 60 entries
12
Feb 2012
4:08 AM AEST
   

BARBIE DOLL

The popular doll, Barbie, artifact of female representation and identity, of depiction and posturing of women, has evoked a steady stream of critical attention since her debut in 1959.�� I have not been that conscious of this critical attention involved as I have been since 1959 with issues relating to my education, my career, my family and my religion. If millions of pre-pubescent girls have lived imaginatively and vicariously through Barbie this has not really concerned me.� The world is burgeoning with issues and this was one far removed from my flight path.� In 1959 I joined the Baha’i Faith and the agenda that has concerned me has only on rare occasions and only very peripherally involved the barbie doll. –Ron Price with thanks to “The Wonder of Barbie: Popular Culture and the Making of Female Identity,” Essays in Philosophy: A Biannual Journal, Vol.4, No.1, January 2003.

The essence of feminine beauty
is vigilance and artificiality.
Men may be expected to enhance
their appearance, but women are
supposed to transform themselves.

Who is the fairest of them all.
The mirror replies, “Before I
answer that, may I suggest an
alpha-hydroxy lotion?…this
Revlon spray?…this lipstick?

Where have you been Barbie?
You popped into my life when
I visited those kids in Whyalla
and when I went shopping more
than usual between marriages.

Images of maleness were many
and varied: my dad, grandfather,
uncle, those westerns on TV back
in the fifties and all those old chaps
in Baha’i history--unquestionably--

subtlely, insinuating themselves into
my imaginative faculty on cold
Canadian evenings; Jim Gibb
reading poems, John Dixon’s
quiet kindness,� Douglas Martin’s
clever use of words, so many
ordinarily ordinary men, artifacts
of identity, of depiction and posturing:
nothing like Dick, his relentless jollity,
his banklike security and his always
impeccable decorator and merry picnic.

Ron Price
2 October 2006




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    RonPrice  75, Male, Canada - 60 entries
18
Jan 2012
5:02 AM AEST
   

GORE VIDAL: master essayist of our age

Gore Vidal(b.1925-), who has been called the best all-around American man of letters since Edmund Wilson(1895-1972), began his writing career at nineteen, the year I was born. In 1962, the year I began to travel for the Canadian Baha’i community and begin my own serious literary and academic study, Vidal published his first book of essays entitled: Rocking the Boat.

Books of his essays and interviews, novels and memoirs kept appearing as I entered the teaching profession in the 1960s and finally retired in the 1990s. He’s still going, although not as strong at 85 and often in a wheel-chair.-Ron Price with thanks to Harry Kloman, “Gore Vidal’s Essays, Interviews and Memoirs: 1963-Present,” 2005.

He always impressed me with
his remarkable wit and talent:
5 decades of scintillating words
in books & live whenever I saw
him in Australia on TV…He saw
the moral-intellectual hollowness
of American politics at the same I
did—in the early 1960s with those
Kennedys and so he spent the rest
of his life writing books and essays
& a lot of other stuff1---thinking on
paper for a world slowly captured by
electronic distractions. Still, we go on
talking about books and writing them
pretending not to notice that the church
is empty and people have gone over to
attend to other gods in silence or new
words. ��Surely it’s not that bad Gore?2

1 The Washington Post calls him “the master essayist of our age.” See David Barsamian, “Citizen Gore Vidal,” These Times, 3 November 2008
2 George Scialabba, “Civic Virtues: Gore Vidal’s Selected Essays,” The Nation, 8 October 2008.

Ron Price
3 August 2011

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    RonPrice  75, Male, Canada - 60 entries
18
Jan 2012
5:00 AM AEST
   

ROBERT FROST: A PERSONAL RETROSPECTIVE

The famous national American poet Robert Frost(1875-1963) died on 30 January 1963, two months before his 89th birthday.� Three months later on 30 April 1963, the long-awaited crown of the Baha’i Administrative Order, the Universal House of Justice, sent its first statement to the Baha’i world and opened the second epoch of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Divine Plan.

In January 1963, the last month of his life, Frost knew nothing, as far as I know, about the Baha’i Faith. He had no idea that, from a Baha’i perspective, the ninth part of the spiritual evolution of man, an evolution than began with the Adamic Cycle, was about to be concluded, and that the tenth part of a divine process destined to culminate in the Christ-promised Kingdom of God on earth was about to open in less than three months.

The tributes of President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev dominated the news stories as other final eulogies were pronounced on Frost in early February. Early in that month, too, the famous poet Sylvia Plath committed suicide and Barbra Streisand’s first album was released. �The last months and weeks of what to the Baha’is was known as the Ten Year Crusade concluded on 21 April 1963, bringing to an end that first epoch in the grand design of what to the Baha’is was “God’s Holy Cause.”1

I was finishing my matriculation studies in Ontario.� At the time, I knew nothing about Robert Frost and had little appreciation of that grand design of the Baha’i community. ��Since 1963, though, I have come to appreciate much more the significance of this Holy Cause I have now been associated with for nearly 60 years. The life and poetry of Robert Frost has become an inspiration.

"My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight."
--Robert Frost

1 The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, Baha’i Pub. Trust, Wilmette, 1969, p.1.

I have come to appreciate you, Robert,
especially due to your fears, rages and
jealousies woven and muted poetically
as you wrote poem after poem over all
those decades. Your casualness and its
understatement in your simple pastoral
mode is something that I find difficult to
emulate since it reflects a person, as your
poems and life do: �disquiet, anxiety about
being in a world without any boundaries, a
darkness due the absence of life-assurances,
a fear of the awful silence of this universe &
its infinite spaces. Without a faith to comfort
you in the face of life’s ultimate bafflement &
confusion, with no vision just art’s safety net:
simple & rugged was your life and work, and
what you stood for is gone…….Is your poetry
of much use to us now? asks William Stafford.1

1William Stafford(1914-1993) was the poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress in 1970.�He wrote “The Terror in Robert Frost” in The New York Times on the Web which appeared on 18 August 1974 and from which I draw in the above poem. �Stafford at the time was the author of several collections of poems, including "Allegiances" and "Someday Maybe," He was also a professor of English at Lewis and Clark College in Portland Oregon.�

I was, at the time this article was published, having my first successes as a lecturer and tutor in post-secondary education; I was reading and enjoying immense quantities of print for the first time in my life, having a whole new set of personal tests, and was far removed from writing poetry as I would be until the 1980s about the age of 40.

Ron Price
18 January 2012

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    RonPrice  75, Male, Canada - 60 entries
17
Jan 2012
4:30 AM AEST
   

CINEMATOGRAPHY and ECCENTRICITY

Perhaps I was attracted to the autobiographical aspect, the epic story, of a larger-than-life adventurer, T.E. Lawrence's(1888-1935) Arabian adventure in Lawrence of Arabia. �Perhaps it was the impressive cinematography. �By the time I came to write this prose-poem I had been working on my own autobiography for 23 years and I had seen the film Lawrence of Arabia twice in the 47 years since the start of its production history began back in October 1959, the month I joined the Bah�’� Faith.� The film, Lawrence of Arabia, was first released three months after my travelling-pioneering venture began in Canada in September 1962 for the Canadian Baha’i community.�

Lawrence's life and personality were enigmatic and complex, solitary and adventurous. He was, I am told, sexually problematic and excessively arrogant.� These are qualities I have myself exhibited, but after some reflection and reading, I don’t think I exhibited these qualities with anything like the same intensity. Still, these qualities are features of life that characterize millions in various degrees, and people often become more conscious of them, they become what you might call more articulate, when a person goes to write his or her autobiography.�

Peter O’Toole(1932- ) who played Lawrence had his problems in life: alcohol, marriage, health, extreme eccentricity, a brilliance of sorts, a useful exemplar for the field of abnormal psychology. It seems they were useful qualities for his role in Lawrence, a man of brilliance and eccentricity as well, a man who said he was “a retired Christian.”

Lawrence's task, among others, was to unite the Arabian Bedouins against their Turkish oppressors. �My task was one of trying to bring unity to a people as well, although in the years 1959 to 1962 I had no idea of the scale, the nature and the complexity of the exercise, an exercise I was involved with in some two dozen towns where I lived in my days. My task did not operate on anything like the scale that Lawrence’s did. My world was a micro-world: small towns and cities, schools and places of work, families and small groups.

I don't want to summarize the story of Lawrence or the movie here, suffice it to say, the cinematography was breathtaking.� Some argue that this was the main reason for seeing the film.� Lawrence seemed to possess the paradoxical qualities of a man blinded by his ego, desirous of fame and yet at the same time self-effacing.� The film works with themes of fate and war, Arab tribal disunity and national politics.� Lawrence exists as a dark, blank shadow, a complex, jelly-like personality in a brightly lit desert. He is a man incomprehensible even to those who knew him best: intelligent, charismatic and slightly mad.� In the end he could not bring unity to the Arab tribes, could not even begin to create an Arab state. Unity was elusive for Lawrence and for the Arabs for many reasons as it is elusive for us.�� The pioneers of our generation can but construct a portion of it, a stage along the way to the unity of humankind in the many generations to come.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 28 December, 2006.

I had no idea back then that
I would be a bit mad, too, as
I journied across the deserts,
the Arctic-ice and the great
tracts of land playing my part
in trying to unite the peoples
of the Earth who did not seem
to want to unite at least through
the mechanism which I advised
and suggested again and again
for over fifty years, say, back to
'56 as we were just starting to go
to the moon and into rock-'n-roll.

The cinematography, the mise-
en-scene of my days, could be
magnificent in the hands of a
David Lean, a poetic imagery
with super-panavision 70 mm
scope. You could even capture
the hills and valleys of my life
with a spectacular epic story, a
much larger-than-life idealistic
adventure & reduce my several
decades to, say, 150 minutes!!!*

I had my eccentricity but it was
nothing like Peter O’Toole’s &
I married someone who helped
to keep my eccentricities within
bounds of social propriety—and
thus function in society….in the
classroom and in a community
with its heterogeneity. But fame
and wealth would never be mine.

Ron Price
28 December 2006 to
16 January 2012--Draft #2

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