This is the last

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 7.35.12 PM.png“It is very happily and kindly provided,” writes Dr. Johnson, “that in every life there are certain pauses and interruptions, which force consideration upon the careless, and seriousness upon the light; points of time where one course of action ends and another begins; and by vicissitude of fortune, or alteration of employment, by change of place, or loss of friendship, we are forced to say of something, this is the last.”

Today is the last soccer game for my son Joseph, or at least at the last one at St. Andrew’s. The last game of his high school career, and the last one he’ll play in Sewanee. If he plays again, it will be in college, or on a club somewhere later in his life. And it’s too bad this one had to be the last, really. The first game of the division championship, St. Andrew’s should have beat Grace Baptist handily. They went up by 2 in the first half, and then somehow got tied on PKs. SAS roared back with a third goal that the Baptists improbably matched. Into overtime it went–two ten minute halves that the Mountain Lions dominated–and then into sudden death. Then, a lucky chip over the defense to a Baptist player, who dribbled it in to win. Their fans went wild, and we stood slack-jawed. It was over: the game, the season, the whole thing.

Our boys ran across the field one last time, and through my own, I could see the tears in their eyes. I have always said that I watched Joseph play soccer through two sets of eyes–my own, and my father’s. Dad was a natural athlete who did it all: baseball, hockey, football, basketball, boxing. You name it. Joe inherited his athleticism from him. My own gift seems to be skipping–as in, skipping a generation. My father died some years ago, but I knew that, if he could have, he would have loved watching Joe play. I went to as many games as I could, because I could. But now there will be no more. In a few weeks he will graduate, and in a few months after that, head off to New England for college. His whole life is ahead of him, and I am overjoyed about it. But for now, all I see is that graceful young man trotting over the green toward me. He stops, and turns, and is gone.

Posted in Family, Sewanee, Sports & Games, Time, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Weeping for RFK

I just finished watching Netflix’ 4-part documentary “Bobby Kennedy for President,” and it is intense. I guess, insofar as I knew about RFK, it was in relation to his brothers– Jack was a staple of every Irish Catholic household in Boston in the 60s and 70s when I was growing up, and Ted was our senator. There’s a story I recall the political analyst Mike Barnicle telling about Ted Kennedy–a Republican hopeful came to see him for advice, and Barnicle told him, “Well, Teddy’s always been a 60/40 proposition around here, so you start out with 40% of the vote.” That cheered the guy, who asked, What do I do next? “Well, you spend $20 million and you get it up to 45%” OK, what then? “Another $20 million in the last week and you’re at 48%.” And how do I nail it down? “Nail it down?” Yeah, how do I beat him? “You can’t beat Teddy Kennedy! His two brothers were assassinated! Do we look like a bunch of fucking ingrates?”

In general, what I knew of Bobby Kennedy was an amalgam of different archetypes: his brother’s ruthless campaign manager and Roy Cohn’s right-hand man in the McCarthy hearings, but also this leftwing savior who broke bread with Cesar Chavez and calmed a potential  riot in Indianapolis by citing Aeschylus. He seemed to reside in the same celestial sphere as Germanicus or Bonnie Prince Charlie, figures not of the counterculture but of the contrafactual. There’s a lot of film I’d not seen before in the documentary, where he is not seen through either a demonizing or hagiographical lens, but speaks for himself. When he is introduced to a roaring crowd at the 1964 Democratic convention, he looks down and then up at them in genuine wonder and gratitude. There is sweetness, and also wit. At one rally on the presidential trail, Kennedy quipped that he had received only four votes in a poll of his ten children. “Two votes went to my brother Teddy,” he goes on. “Two went to my sister Pat. The others were re-assessing their position.” The family man is evident throughout, and I was struck by an image of RFK in a gray flannel suit skating with Ethel and his children holding hands– it may be the dearest picture I’ve ever seen of a politician.


The documentary goes off the rails in the fourth part with conspiracy theories, unfortunately–I’m afraid my takeaway is that Sirhan Sirhan is a pitiful nobody, a motiveless malignity not worth the energy expended by the truthers on him. But the extended sequence in the third part from the Ambassador Hotel is almost unbearable, including the interview with the Mexican busboy who put his rosary into the RFK’s dying hand. To see John Lewis, who was there, break down as he says, “I cried all the way from LA to Atlanta” is overwhelming–fifty years later, this great man’s tears still come when he thinks of Kennedy’s death. And I’m not ashamed to say that, watching Lewis weep, I felt permission to weep too. Cut down at his prime, there was so much unrealized promise there–that, had he become President, he would have made mistakes and committed atrocities is likely. But at the podium of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, he is all potential without blemish. Many an article about Bobby is called “What If?” It is fifty years on from then, but it does not feel fifty years better. In this age of deep cultural division, with a president almost universally reviled by everyone I know, I wept for RFK, for everything that he had been and everything he might have been.




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Longinus Sdazepe

The tombstone of Longinus Sdazepe in Colchester, prior to AD 60 (presumably broken in the Boudiccan Revolt). A roman cavalryman riding roughshod over a native Briton.


Inscription beneath, according to RIB 201 (with further bibliography), reads:

Longinus Sdapeze 
Matyci (filius) duplicarius 
ala prima Tracum pago 
Sardi(ca) anno(rum) XL aeror(um) XV 
heredes exs testam(ento) [f(aciendum)] c̣(uraverunt) 
h(ic) s(itus) e(st)

Longinus Sdapeze son of Matucus, duplicarius from the First Cavalry Regiment of Thracians, from the district of Sardica, aged 40, of 15 years’ service, lies buried here; his heirs under his will had this set up.

The name is interesting. Longinus reminds me of St. Longinus, of course, the soldier who pierced Christ’s side on the cross with his spear, later intoning, “Indeed, this was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). His spear is reputed to be one of the pillars over the altar at St. Peter’s in Rome. According to RIB above, the last name, Sdapeze, appears to be Thracian– from Sardica, now Sophia, the capital of Bulgaria.

Concerning the native being trampled–note his beard, not unlike the Gorgon on the temple pediment at Aquae Sulis (Bath), or any other number of depictions of the Britons. He  is naked, cowering on his shield beneath Longinus’ horse. No doubt this represents an instance of the arrogance of the Roman veterans and soldiers settled in Camulodunum (Colchester) that would gave rise to the Revolt of Boudicca in 60 AD. As described by Tacitus (Ann. 14.31), … acerrimo in veteranos odio. Quippe in coloniam Camulodunum recens deducti pellebant domibus, exturbabant agris, captivos, servos appellando, foventibus impotentiam veteranorum militibus similitudine vitae et spe eiusdem licentiae. “The bitterest animosity was felt against the veterans; who, fresh from their settlement in the colony of  Camulodunum, were acting as though they had received a free gift of the entire country, driving the natives from their homes, ejecting them from their lands, — they styled them ‘captives’ and ‘slaves,’ — and abetted in their fury by the troops, with their similar mode of life and their hopes of equal indulgence.”

Posted in Bible, Cemeteries & Funerals, England, Military, Rome, Saints, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Telly Savalas’ cuirass

At $3500, I have no intention of buying the cuirass worn by Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate in The Greatest Story Ever Told, now up for auction at 1stdibs. It sure is sweet to look at a bunch of pictures of it there, however, even if they won’t let me download them! This uniform was designed by Vittorio Nino Novarese, later to win Oscars for Cleopatra and Cromwell, who squabbled with Greatest Story director George Stevens over the appearance of Pilate in the film.

from 1stdibs:

Released by MGM Studios in 1965, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was a star studded film dealing with the death of Jesus (Max Von Sydow). Pontius Pilate, the commanding officer of the occupying Roman army, is played by Telly Savalas, of later “Kojak” TV fame. The chest plate is molded leather over fiberglass, with metal medallion decorations. The bottom red fringe is a more supple leather, also decorated by medallions. The costume opens on both sides, with ties for access. The interior is marked in felt marker “Savalas Pilate”. The costume is mounted on a custom-made steel Stand and both are in nice original condition. The costume originated from an MGM auction in the early 1970s, when the studio was thinning out its’ inventory of costumes and props. Photo of Mr. Savalas in costume are included.

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Regrets of Romulus

The Daily Mail, among other news outlets, is reporting this week that “A man raised by wolves for 12 years says his life in human society was a failure and he wishes he could go live among the animals again.” Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja’s story has been told before, since he was found in the 1970s. “Did This Man Live with Wolves?” the BBC asked in 2013. Sent to work in the Spanish mountains at the age of 5 or so, he was abandoned when the goatherd he’d be given to died. Wolves took him in, he said, feeding him and treating them as one of their own. When he was discovered a decade and a half later, he couldn’t really speak or act like a person. He gradually relearned human ways, but was ambiguous about the good it had done him. As the BBC notes, “Now in his late 60s, Marcos bears few grudges, but he does wonder why, after forcing him to come down from the mountains, the state didn’t prepare him properly for life in society.” Evidently, he’d like to go back now, and this made me think about an ancient story. With his brother, Romulus was raised by a wolf, too. At the end of his life, he disappeared, according to Livy (1.16)–Subito coorta tempestas cum magno fragore tonitribusque tam denso regem operuit nimbo ut conspectum eius contioni abstulerit; nec deinde in terris Romulus fuit, “suddenly a storm came up, with loud claps of thunder, and enveloped him in a cloud so thick as to hide him from the sight of the assembly; and from that moment Romulus was no more on earth.” Some say the senate killed him, others say the gods took him up to heaven. But I wonder whether his long tenure as king hadn’t finally gotten to him. To rule Rome, said a later leader, is lupum auribus tenere. Maybe Romulus concluded in the end that it might be just as easy to go back to the wolves.

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The legacy of lynching

From Oprah Winfrey’s 60 Minutes feature, “Inside the Memorial to Victims of Lynching,”  about Bryan Stevenson’s memorial and museum in Montgomery, Alabama. Here she is discussing the photos that show white people “in their Sunday best” surrounding the hanging bodies of black people.

Oprah Winfrey: I think about who are those people–

Bryan Stevenson: Yes.

Oprah Winfrey: –that are smiling into the camera?

Bryan Stevenson: And I think it’s done real psychic damage not just to black people, but to white people, too. Because you can’t bring your child to the public square and have your child watch someone be burned to death, be tortured, to have their fingers cut off, to be castrated, to be taunted, to be menaced, to be hanged like that and not expect it to have some consequence, some legacy. And the legacy that I think it’s created is this indifference to how we treat people who look different than us. And I think that’s tragic. I don’t even think that white people in our country are free. I think we’re all burdened by this history of racial inequality.

Oprah Winfrey: What about everyone who says, and there are black and white people say it, enough already, of all that. That happened. That’s the past. Let’s move forward.

Bryan Stevenson: I don’t think we get to pretend that this stuff didn’t happen. I don’t think you can just play it off. This is like a disease. You have to treat it.

I’ve put this exchange here so I can easily find it again. I have no doubt I will be thinking of it in connection with local matters sometime.

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Career of Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie

Another tidbit for my eventual online history of Classics at Sewanee–the very eccentric Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, who attended the University in the 1890s and was a “Professor of Extension” in the 1910s.

From the Introductory matter to his translations of Proclus (1925)

Career of Dr Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie

He was born in Scotland’s ‘Bonny Dundee’ on July 22, 1871 of an interesting ancestry, whose spiritual heritage determined his career.

His maternal grandmother, Frances Wright of Dundee first achieved a literary prominence by writing a dozen dramas of which Altorf was produced in Philadelphia, and published. Then she felt the call to ascertain truth, and in 1802 visited the then young United States, recording her impressions in her Views of Manners and Society in America. In this investigation her conscience was outraged by two abuses which in characteristic fashion she immediately set out to rectify. As to slavery, she secured from the State of Tennessee a grant of 2400 acres, on the Wolf River, 18 miles E of Memphis, named Nashoba, on which she educated slaves, and freed them in Hayti. As to the subjection of Woman, she was the real pioneer of the Woman’s Rights movement, and is so recognized in Appleton’s Encyclopedia. This naturally led to her last phase, a sociologic one, which led her to visit the colony of Robert Dale Owen in New Harmony, Ind.

Here she met and married Casimir Silvain Phiquepal d’Arusmont, a noble French emigre from Agen, who brought over with him a number of French youths to educate, on the way stopping in Philadelphia with Col McClure. He was a philosopher and scientist, and invented the since then so popular tonic sol-fa system. The married pair then went to Paris where was born their daughter Frances Sylva. But Frances Wright returned to the United States to her lecturing, and published her still continually reprinted A Few Days in Athens. She then practised law in Cincinnati, where she died, resting in Spring Grove Cemetery.

To these five phases of thought was added the note of religious devotion by Frances Sylva, who was converted in Notre Dame by Lacordaire, and devoted her sons to the sacred ministry, and that in the Episcopal Church, as the only sufficiently liberal one.

Being born too late in his family’s fortunes to be given an education, he earned one, taking his M. A. in 1890 and Theology at Sewanee; his Ph.D. in 1893 at Tulane; A.M. Harvard, 1894; M.D., with three gold medals, 1904; Marburg and Jena, 1911; Ph.D, Columbia, 1915; Professor in Extension, Sewanee, in 1912.

His mother’s devotional interest fructified in his Communion with God, Presence of God, Ladder of God and Why You Want to Become a Churchman.

His grandfather’s philosophical and educational interests resulted in his monumental opening to the world in translations of Plotinus, Numenius, Pythagoras and Zoroaster; Teachers’ Problems and How to Solve Them.

A combination of both these interests resulted in Angels, Ancient & Modern; the Mithraic Mysteries, the Angelic Mysteries of the Nine Heavens, etc

His grandmother’s literary taste produced the Spiritual Message of Literature, Collected Poems, Perronik.

Her quest for truth originated his Message of the Master, How the Master Saved the World, Studies in Comparative Religion, his New Testament Translation.

Her crusades against abuses continued in his Dawn of Liberty, A Bunch of Thistles.

Her sociologic ideals matured in his Complete Progressive Education, A Romance of Two Centuries, etc.

But the very unusual breadth of his conflicting interests checkmated his career, so far as worldly advancement. Little understood or recognized, he had to find consolation in earning his living honestly by teaching a language to children, by pouring out his religious experiences to the few who visited his semi-deserted East Side church, and in putting the accumulated results of his studies in such shape that, to the greater glory of God, they may be of service to humanity, if possible thro’ his children (Sylvia Camilla, Sept. 1, 1916; and Kenneth Launfal, Jan 19, 1918).

His has been a drawn battle over-delayed by self-support.


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