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IN THE COLLEGES where I learned and taught, students were required to write papers and reports to demonstrate their understanding of topics or concepts. The emphasis was always to support a premise or an argument using credible sources: facts and authorities, proven theories or accepted logic, studies, and experiments. The strength of a paper or report relied upon the foundation of existing knowledge–of Truth.  Almost all we  can point to as human progress is a result of the process of establishing what is True and then building on it. The structure of human advancement is a citadel atop a mountain of Truth. Certainly the leaps in sciences could not have occurred with if we had designed our cars and boats and planes  based on how

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IMPORTANT SPIRITS FROM OUR PAST summoned their experiences, perspectives, and talents to deliver blessings and admonitions—invaluable gifts–to posterity. Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hugo, Sappho, Simone De Beauvoir, Ursula Le Guin are just a few that come to mind. They used books, plays, and poems to craft messages and warnings that would be relevant for millennia. After all, the human drama is nothing if not a series of remakes and sequels. Because human group behavior is so repetitive, many such messages and warnings have the clarity of a premonition or a revelation. I just finished reading the George Orwell (his real name was Eric Blair) classic 1984 for about the seventh time. I have read it every four or five years since I was in college and

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  A Token of the Holly King By William Hecht Weekday afternoons at two o’clock, he began to look for her. Each time the little bell sounded to announce that the door to Ye Olde Coffee and Tea Shop had been opened, he would turn his head. As three o’clock grew near and brought with it the possibility that she wouldn’t arrive that day, he began to resent the other customers who instead appeared in the door at the sound of the bell. He imagined that she must have begun working at one of the neighborhood shops in mid-November, and that she probably arrived at work in late morning and took a break in the afternoons. Though it was nearly Christmas and she visited most

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  AT THE AGE of 22, my life path was given a shake when a roommate spontaneously recited a few poignant passages of a book he was reading. The title was The Day on Fire and the author, James Ramsey Ullman, had fictionalized the life of a great poet. Arthur Rimbaud was the enfant terrible of French Poetry; he was only 17 when he arrived in Paris, and by the time he turned 21 he had shocked the literary world.  He shocked my world, too. He wrote things powered by vision and imagination–and their impact was not overly weakened by filter of translation: As soon as the idea of the Deluge had subsided, a hare stopped in the clover amid the swaying bluebells, and said

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    “We have to live without sympathy, don’t we? That’s impossible of course. We act it to one another, all this hardness; but we aren’t like that really, I mean…one can’t be out in the cold all the time; one has to come in from the cold…d’you see what I mean?” “I can’t talk like this, Control. What do you want me to do?” “I want you to stay out in the cold a little longer.”                                         –Control and Leamas, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold   On Sunday, my favorite author died at 89 years of age. John Le Carre’, born David

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    [Author’s Note: I wrote this seven or eight years ago, before I moved back. Every time it snows during the night, I am reminded of this piece.]     I AM IN THE NORTH for a family visit. My elderly parents manage their simple life with a grace that humbles me. They could be threatened by the simplest acts. My minor setbacks would be their calamities: a fall, the flu, a minor accident driving to the store. Today they were mirthful and sweet and I could not decide if they were revisiting childhood or auditioning to become angels. Last month, I watched the movie “Amour,” an intense look at a couple managing change after half a century of life together (they managed it

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She is Winter      by William Hecht Deep December night and she is spent. She is consumed–like the fields after a greedy harvest. She slumbers—as does the world. Only her essence is sentient, aware. It is a spell: cast in the light of the great moon, it will break with the first rays of the equinox sun. Her hair is black. It is a wave of boreal night that flowed through the glass, swept down her  cheek, and spilled on a pale shoulder.  Things made of night are smooth–and softer by far than anything made from day. She dreams—as does the world–of light and warmth, of aromas and twitching roots, the vibration of launching sprouts: calls to life. If I could dream with her, I would

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  [This is a seasonal piece from Unit Three Writings] MY SEASON APPROACHES and with it arrive my best prospects for redemption. I refer to September, both as the ninth month and as a stage of Life–the ripeness of being that precedes the bitter cold. I refer to the September I was born in and those sweet, sad days that invite surrender to Melancholy’s caress. This belief takes shape in me only now, at fifty. It formed in increments by way of three separate and eclectic experiences. The first came while I was away at college, that blissful period when my future was indiminishable by doubt or skepticism, and a writing pad stuck out of my back pocket that I might recognize and record rare

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      I WAS A FAN of Matthew Rhys from having watched The Americans series and then had no choice but to rave about him in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. His typically somber and introspective character is perfect for the tone of this series. The measure, for me, of the strength of a series is how deeply I pine for the next episode and I pined (silently) like a hound for the chase. This Perry Mason genesis story has all the things I like: it’s a period piece, it’s noir,  has good casting with several plot points converging. At a time in our country when Justice and Truth are struggling to take a form we can all recognize, what better way to put them into

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    [This piece, taken from the writing collection of the same title, is re-posted as an anniversary tribute. Dad died on August 12, 2013. ]       The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder is my favorite book. It is probably also the most underrated novel of the last century. I never merely re-read it; every few years it summons me, and like a somnambulist I turn to the bookshelf and reach for my copy. A novel such as that is a conjurer’s orb: your hands surround and caress it, your eyes peer into its depths and… a voice sounds. The voice wields the kind of authority that dismisses fiction. The images, the characters—the story chronicles a series of events so rife with Truth

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