HUMPTY DUMPTY – AND – LANCE ARMSTRONG

BLOG #5, SERIES 4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
HUMPTY DUMPTY – AND – LANCE ARMSTRONG
January 30, 2013

During the last several years, we’ve seen the fall of two of the world’s super heroes: Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. But of the two, Armstrong fell further. Reason being: Woods betrayed his immediate family; Armstrong betrayed us all. Let me tell you why.

Over the last two decades, my wife Connie and I have made watching the Tour de France an annual tradition, even getting up at 5:00 a.m. to keep up with the race’s progress. Why? Because of the mesmerizing presence of that indomitable cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong. How vicariously proud he made us feel of our nation, the bicycling sport, and the human spirit. Not just in America alone, for Armstrong became a world icon.

Then the doping dominoes began to fall, one after another; but, in spite of multiple accusations, Armstrong’s teflon armor withstood all attacks. We collectively believed in him, attributing the doping accusations to envy, sour grapes, or mere plea bargaining. After all, Lance had given us his word. Given it to us in thousands of sound-bytes. Had sued one after another of his accusers. Had spent a fortune to protect his good name.

And then, like a Greek tragedy: the fall. The long, long fall. The sitting in a chair opposite Oprah where he admitted, matter-of-factly, that yes, his entire climb to the very top of cycling’s Mount Olympus was riddled with lies: there was no substance to his room full of yellow jerseys, for they’d come to him via years of stacked decks—no level playing field for him! Yes, he admitted in deadpan fashion, he’d lied to everyone: teammates, racing officials, interviewers, fans, even his own son. He’d viciously attacked and done his best to ruin those who dared to speak the truth about him. In short, he’d lied to the entire world. And there, in that chair, he revealed to us all that the Emperor had no clothes—never had had clothes. It was all sham.

Why? For the same expressed reason all those other cyclists used to justify their acts: “because everyone else was doing it.”

But Lance was not “everyone else”—we’d held him to a higher standard than they.

Humpty-Dumpty had such a great fall that not all the king’s horses or all the king’s men could put him together again. The same is true of Lance—he can never be put back together again. Others who betray those closest to them, we may in time forgive. But not Lance, for he betrayed us all.

My wife and I will never again look at cycling the way we did before. Always, in the back of our minds, will be that insidious question: Are we being betrayed again? Which of today’s leaders got to the front because of doping? Of what value are time trials when some win through performance-enhancing drugs? Which ones are winning through deceit today? How many wide-eyed hero-worshiping children will be stripped of their innocence, their faith in their sports idols? How many will, as a result, become disillusioned, cynical about sports victories that used to mean something?

Next week, we’ll dig deeper into this international tragedy. Not just Lance and Tiger, but how we as a society have got this way.

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THE GIFT OF AWARENESS

BLOG #3, SERIES 4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THE GIFT OF AWARENESS
January 16, 2013

Only the curious
Have, if they live, a tale
Worth telling at all!
—Alastair Reid

Again and again and again, in recent years, in searching for a place or address, it has happened: The person being asked for information looks at me with a blank three-watt look, and mumbles, “I don’t know where it is” or “Dunno” or “Huh?” It matters not if the place in question is only two or three blocks away!

Which brings me to today’s subject: “The Gift of Awareness.” One of the greatest gifts a parent, teacher, or mentor can bestow on a child or teenager.

Paradoxically, at no time in human history has this much knowledge been accessible, at one’s fingertips; yet at no time in human history has such knowledge been devalued more. Just look around you at the millions who are myopically majoring in minors and minoring in majors, steadily constricting their worlds into knowledge that means virtually nothing: pop culture (celebrities, media, and sports). More likely to be immersed in a meaningless virtual reality world than the real. Boys especially, locked into a Peter Pan existence on their computer keyboards. Both sexes bailing out of growth trajectories in favor of obsessive text-messaging and substance abuse (be it drugs, alcohol, pornography, pop culture, or virtual reality). Result: You walk up to them, ask a question; they look at you with zombyish eyes—there’s nobody home.

So where did we as a society get off the track? Early. The first time we snuff out the God-given sense of wonder each child is born with by responding to questions with, “Oh, stop bothering me! Go watch TV” or “Go play a video game!” “Stop being such a pest!”

Each time this scenario takes place, the child’s light of awareness dims, the inner-wattage is reduced. In time, the result is another walking zombie.

Contrast that tragic result with the flip-side: a child or teen whose questions are enthusiastically fielded. Such lucky people grow up to be an Einstein, a Bill Gates, a Steve Jobs, an Edison, or Tesla. Or in the humanities, an Emily Dickinson or a Leonardo; a Tolstoy or a Schweitzer; a Dante or a Bronte; a Georgia O’Keefe or a Winslow Homer.

Blessed beyond belief is the child or teen who is mentored by a parent or teacher who is excited about life and growth and becoming. Could it be that the current wave of homeschooling is but the result of teachers and administrators who are devoid of such excitement, who blight their students’ lives by boring them?

What we need is a new concept of achievement: might it not be true that taking the time to ignite the mind of just one child or teen—such as Annie Sullivan so famously did with deaf, dumb, and blind Helen Keller—would by itself be worth having lived?

Beloved, what do you say to our making ourselves a committee of one determined to bestow the gift of awareness to children and teens in our homes, our classrooms, or proximity?

What is a Friend?

    BLOG #2, SERIES 4
    WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
    WHAT IS A FRIEND?
    January 9, 2013
    
    
    “A FRIEND IS A RARE BOOK OF WHICH
    BUT ONE COPY IS MADE”

 

About thirty years ago, a cherished friend, one of my Adult Degree Program students honored me beyond belief by gifting me with this plaque.  It has held the place of honor hanging on my office wall ever since.  Every day of my life, it greets me and reminds me that each of my friends is indeed a one-of-a-kind.

And the more years that pass, the more such friends come to mean to me.  When we lose such a friend it’s like an irreplaceable part of our being has been ripped out.

It is because of this truth, this undeniable reality of life, that I urge each reader of this blog to stop everything today in order to tell each such friend how very much he or she means to you.

Tomorrow it may be too late!

Published in: on January 9, 2013 at 9:27 am  Comments (9)  
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Grace Richmond’s Foursquare

    BLOG #1, SERIES 4
    WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
    DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #16
    GRACE RICHMOND’S FOURSQUARE
    January 2, 2013

It is a new year.  The beauty of new years is that they each offer the opportunity to write on a blank slate, to make a brand new start.  2012 is gone – never to return.  2013 is here, young and vibrant, begging to be used.

It is the perfect blog to anchor our reading for the new year as well.  But before I discuss our sixteenth book, since a number of blog-readers may not have been with us back in the fall of 2011 when Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month Club began, I’m pausing a moment to explain what makes this series different from all others.  Primarily, the fact that I personally choose each selection — not a committee.  From a lifetime of voracious reading, 34 years in the classroom, and studying books en route to a bachelors in history, a masters in English, and a doctorate in English (History of Ideas concentration), certain authors and certain books have risen to the surface.  Books that several generations of students have weighed in on.

I am not a traditional academic, fixated only on classics blessed by academics, but rather a professor who chooses the best and most meaningful books from academic classics, popular culture, and Christian publishing.  Books that have the potential to change lives, to ennoble, to entertain, to inspire.  To put it more succinctly, I draw from books I have loved personally.

A number of our “club” members are former students of mine who miss our book discussions and have signed on for more.  What a joy it is for me to welcome them back into my life!  The rest of you, well you’re now my students too.  A surprisingly large number of people, over the last 21 years, have sighingly said, “If only I could have been one of your students!”  Well, by joining our book club, you become my students.

Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2009

Though this book was written a little over 90 years ago, never has it been more timely or more needed than it is today.  Today when, all too often, educators jeer at Christianity and Judeo-Christian values in their classrooms, advocating in their place a gospel of secularism divorced from God, and leaving in their wake a moral twilight.

How long has it been since you read a novel that elevated those old-time values Americans used to live by, and expected to see incorporated into the educational institutions of the land?

This is just such a book.  It moved me many years ago, and moves me still.  Expect to see questions such as these incorporated into the fabric of this timeless romance.

•    Are writing and literature that erode rather than enhance and create Judeo-Christian values worth reading and internalizing?
•    Is extensive exposure to the seamy side of life conducive to purity?
•    Do we still need Christian-based colleges and universities today?
•    Is the product (graduates) of Christian colleges different from that of secular institutions that steer away from spiritually based ethics?
•    Are our youth strong enough to resist mentors who themselves live lives at variance from the values once prized by early Americans?
•    How do mentorees avoid becoming clones?
•    What is the impact of positive versus negative examples?
•    Is it easy–or is it difficult–to cripple or destroy the human spirit?
•    What is this thing called “creativity”?
•    How powerful is music?
•    What does it mean to be a real leader?  Ought a leader to be passionate?
•    What is the role of drama in our lives?
•    Is big better than small?
•    How powerful are books?
•    What do you consider most significant about this book?
•    Is it dated?  If so, how?
•    Does the book change you?  How?

GRACE LOUISE SMITH RICHMOND
(1866 – 1959)

Our readers will remember an earlier book selection by Richmond, her wondrous romance, THE TWENTY-FOURTH OF JUNE (SEE May 23, 2012 blog).

Grace Smith was born on March 3, 1866, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to a minister father, the Rev. Dr. Charles E. Smith and mother, Catherine “Kitty” Kimball Smith. Grace was a direct descendant ot the state’s founder, Roger Williams.  An only child, Grace grew up the focal center of her parents’ manse.  In 1885, after having pastored Baptist churches in Mt. Auburn, Ohio; New Haven, Connecticut; and Syracuse, New York, Dr. Smith was called to Fredonia, New York; and there he would remain for the rest of his life.  On Oct. 29, 1887, Grace married the personable young family doctor, Dr. Nelson G. Richmond, who purchased a home next door to the manse.  So after marriage, Grace merely moved next door.  And it was here in Fredonia that the bride would write her many stories, essays, and novels.

The home.  It all starts there, the action happens there, and it all ends there.  Because of this, Grace Richmond is known as “The Novelist of the Home.”  Of the thousands of writers who have written about the home, only Richmond earned that title.  Only in her fictional world is the home the all-in-all, the core, the bedrock.

Among her other beloved books are novels such as The Indifference of Juliet, The Second Violin, A Court of Inquiry, Red Pepper Burns, Strawberry Acres, The Brown Study, Red Pepper’s Patients, Red and Black, Foursquare, Cherry Square, Lights Up, At the South Gate, The Listening Post, High Fences, and several Christmas novelettes.  She was among the most prolific short story writers in America.  Most of her novels were serialized as well.  For 40 years, she was never out of print.  Of the dominant family authors of the first half of the twentieth century, only Zane Grey, Gene Stratton Porter, and Harold Bell Wright were better known than she; and her name ranked up there with Frances Hodgson Burnett, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Pearl S. Buck, Bess Streeter Aldrich, and Temple Bailey.  It was illustrious company indeed.  At the height of her popularity she was paid upward of $30,000 for magazine serializations (a princely sum back then!).  Doubleday would sell more than 2,500,000 copies of her books.

You should be able to pick up a First Edition or reprint of the book on the web.

Foursquare, by Grace S. Richmond (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1922).  First Edition features special chapter illustrations.