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Archive for January, 2010

(In response to “Bachelor’s Degree a must in job market” Times-Herald Record 1/31/10.)

If the yellow brick road is really a metaphor for our life’s journey, then it would be impossible to exclude any mention of life-long learning in this ongoing discussion. I believe learning is a process that has a beginning but perhaps never has an end. An education, on the other hand, involves a process (of learning) but is more rigidly defined. And the definition, in my experience, has many limitations, and most always comes to an end with what is ironically called a “terminal degree.”

If Dorothy came to a fork in the road and  had to choose between a path that led to learning and one that led to a college degree, I believe she would have chosen the path to learning.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of learning opportunities on the road to a degree – probably more of them and to a greater ‘degree.’ but I believe we often confuse a degree with an education.

Just because a person completes a course of study and is granted a degree, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person has really been educated.

More and more people are earning degrees. But are we becoming better educated?

(topic to be continued)

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Much of our daily diet for the soul is sorely lacking in vital nutrients. We’re so busy with the ordinary, we don’t have much time for the extra-ordinary. In the course of my life I have found books to be a great source of energy. One author in particular is highly nutritious – Hermann Hesse (I learned about him while studying abroad in college).

While I devoured Demian, Siddhartha and Beneath the Wheel, I savored Narcissus and Goldmund because I read the right story at the right time. It is a story all about the journey told by a master journeyman. It tells the tale of a young Goldmund who follows his yellow brick road, at the urging of Narcissus, his teacher. In the end, after having made the journey, Goldmund returns ‘home.’

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good journey story, especially to those who are about to embark on their life’s journey.

Over the course of time I will comment on books that have inspired me along the journey (new section on the blog to be added). If any visitors would like to share books that have inspired them, please leave a comment and I’ll add them to the book list.

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He was as elusive and reclusive as the characters he created. And now he’s gone. While the mysterious J.D. Salinger, who went from author to a figment of the imagination, will remain an enigma , he will forever be the author who inspired me to both become an avid reader and a writer.

This summer I read “The Catcher in the Rye” for the fourth time. It was as fresh as it was the first time I read it as a high school sophomore.  Holden Caulfield was another Dorothy. He was taking a journey on the yellow brick road.

I credit Holden Caulfield with my life-long desire to also be a catcher in the rye.

Salinger is one man I would love to have had the opportunity to meet. Of course that will never happen. I guess I’ll have to be content with the fact that I did get to know a woman, Leila Hadley Luce,  who not only knew him (as Jerry), but also dated him.

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.

“Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.

“That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

Thanks, J.D. for filling the yellow brick road with some very good reads.

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On the road for others

Rose Hawthrorne  Lathrop
A Profile in Courage #1

Imagine sitting around a fireplace listening to your father read to you from one of his stories and in walks Herman Melville to pay a visit to his good friend.  That’s the kind of childhood Rose Hawthorne (b. 1851) had, a childhood of privilege and luxury. She wasn’t just walking on a yellow brick road, she was walking on a road paved with gold, living in London, Paris, Rome and Florence.

The gold began to lose its luster when Rose’s father died when she was 14; her mother died a few years later. Instead of finding her own way, Rose married magazine editor, George Lathrop, when she was barely 20 years old.  Although she was really never in love with George, her heart belonged to her young son, but the same heart was broken when her son died when he was four. George turned to drinking. Rose turned to sorrow. A sorrow that was all consuming.

While living with the famously wealthy in New York City, Rose discovered that not everyone lived such a lavish life. She was moved by the sight of the poor, especially those who were sick and dying.

With her marriage falling apart, Rose spent more and more of her time visiting the sick. When George died, Rose, who had converted to Catholicism, took up nursing, believing the road she needed to be walking on was one in service to those poor people who were dying of cancer.

Not only did Rose visit the “incurables” in their home, she invited them to live their last days with her in her own apartment. She never took money from the poor, but rather turned to the more fortunate, her own social class, for the money she needed to care for the less fortunate.

In 1900, she and a friend, were received into the Dominican Order. Six years later she started her own congregation of Dominican sisters, the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer.

By the time Rose, who was then known as Mother Alphonsa, died (1926), the number of sisters belonging to her congregation had grown immeasurably.  The Order continues the work started by Mother Alphonsa (www.hawthorne-domincans.org).

 Rose Hawthorne Lathrop was a woman of courage. She not only walked the yellow brick road…she owned it.

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Although trying to understand a T. S. Eliot poem can make your hair hurt, I still count him among my favorite writers. I don’t know if he ever read “The Wizard of Oz,” but he certainly had something to say about the journey in East Coker, the second piece in his famous The Four Quartets.

….In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must  go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

– Hmm, now why couldn’t I have said that.

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…there you are,” was just one of the inane sayings coming out of the 60s, but more often than not there’s a kernel of truth even in the inane. The saying aptly comments on our journey along the yellow brick road because wherever we find ourselves on the road…that’s where we happen to be in the present.

Too often, I believe, we waste precious time both thinking about where we were and also where we want to be. Where we were is history. We shouldn’t let it lay claim to us in the present.  We also shouldn’t let our present be dictated by the future, especially if it is a future we think we need to be whole.

That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate what has happened or learn from it, and it doesn’t mean we can’t have hopes for the future. It only means we have to drink every drop of the present. We have to savor the moments we have. We have to be an active participant, not just a bystander.

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No sooner had Dorothy been whisked away by a twister, then she desperately wanted to go home, and the only way to do so, or so she thought, was to travel the yellow brick road to Oz where she would ask the Wizard to send her home.

How Dorothy-like we all are. While discontent with our present condition, we want nothing more than to be somewhere else. But when we get there, we can’t wait to get home.

It’s more than our fickle nature. It’s what keeps us going. It keeps us fresh. But as we ‘grow,’ we come to realize that being somewhere else is not really what we want. We do want to go home, but we should never be tricked into thinking that going home means going back to where we came from.  The only way to get home is to go forward on the yellow brick road. It’s never about going backwards.

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