I have loved what are called “the liberal arts” for most of my life. I can truthfully say that I moved from biblical fundamentalism to a lover of literary Modernism in the wink of an eye.
I took one look at T.S. Eliot’s poetry and Allen Ginsberg’s poetry and I was hooked on what I saw that could be communicated in the medium of poetry.
I hasten to add that one of my grandfather’s proudly spoke of graduating from the eighth grade. The other three of my grandparents and my parents did not manage to graduate eighth grade. That’s where I’m coming from.
So, when it came to discovering literature besides the King James Version of the Bible, I was on my own.
I went to high school in the early-1970s, so everything in English class was supposed to be “relevant” to my generation. Throwaway pop culture, in other words.
In community college, however, I discovered the aforementioned poets. There. There was the meaning and value, I thought.
So, I kept taking classes in literature, history, and philosophy. And here’s my point: My intro to philosophy course was about Socrates and Plato. Those were the high-water marks, I learned. Shakespeare. Keats. The American Civil War.
I ate it up. This was solid food. Art. Meaningful.
And I kept studying. And I am still studying more than half a century later.
Greece. France. England. New England. That was the trajectory of culture as I learned it. Mostly male. A female once in a while. Standard curricular stuff.
I learned enough to get a Ph.D — yep, I’m a “doctor of philosophy.” I learned it so that I could go forth and teach college students “the classics.” Because . . . the classics were important.
I have to admit that I missed the fact that I was a horse with blinders. That over there? Unimportant. Don’t bother. Don’t look.
Thus we are hooked into values not our own; but we learn that those values not our own are the valid ones.
What about the fact that my family were the comic relief — “red necks,” “hillbillies,” “trailer trash”? I look back now, baffled. Why did I buy it? How was I hoodwinked into ignoring my own roots and the roots of everyone other than the ancient Greeks. Seventeenth-century French. British. Harvard. Male. White.
“Plato-to-NATO.” Don’t buy the package.
Why has it taken so long for me to at least see that the blinders are there, even if I’m ill equipped to grasp — to comprehend —were those Western blinders removed?
Take a simple lesson from an old man: Learn. About yourself. About others on our planet.
Don’t buy the program. Decolonize your mind. Perhaps, write a poem of freedom.