All posts by Richard K. Munro (Auld Munro)

Like Russell Kirk, I am a great admirer of the late Gilbert Highet. I am the president and founder of the Gilbert Highet Society (on Facebook) which includes many scholars and authors. I was intensely homeschooled as a boy learning English phonics, drama, and oratory as well as the history of the Raj and British Empire where my people prominently served as Empire builders in the Merchant Marine, Indian Civil Service or Highland Regiments. I learned to read and write at home before I went to school singing and listening to many languages. My people specialized in building ships, trains, bridges and were soldiers, interpreters or scouts for the British Army or Navy for generations. For many generations, it was the desire of each son of Munro, Keith, Fraser, MacFarlane or MacKenzie to go a-soldiering far "frae the hame" and to return to marry a woman of his faith "and race and line" and by that was meant to marry a woman of the Highlands and Islands (Gaidhealteachd). Two things changed this pattern forever. 1) the depopulation of the Highlands from 1790-1890 meaning there was no place to go home to and 2) the Catastrophe of what we called An Cogadh Mòr (the Big War)1914-1918 and An Cogadh Hitler (the Hitler War) 1914-1945 (WWII: An Dara Cogadh an t-Saoghail ) This led to the biggest catastrophe of all -the British Empire went smash and so we became "Orphans of Empire." Victory did not bring economic or political security and many Scots (particularly Highlanders) ; we scattered to the four winds most never to return to their native land. And the old Highland prophecy sang "Is gearr gach reachd ach riaghailt Dhe" (Each realm is short but the Kingdom of God.") We have seen many Empires rise and fall. We have as Auld Pop used to say, "served the Yoke." I am a teacher of English, Spanish.& history. I am principally a teacher of English and history to English learners though I taught AP Spanish for twelve years and was very successful. I Have taught Spanish for Native Speakers, AP US HISTORY, AP Spanish as well as English for Learners in the USA and Spain. I am the author of some short non-fiction articles and one-act plays. Author of Spying for the Other Side, KIM PHILBY &The Historic El CID. I have authored one-act plays such as "Euripides' Trojan Women (Calliope),"Romans on the Rhine", "Clad in Gold Our Young Mary" "Beneath Alexandria's Sapphire Sky" among others. I am a California Certified teacher in history, Spanish and English. MA Spanish Literature. BA with Honors (NYU '78) winner of Helen M. Jones Prize for History. ISI Fellow UVA 2004-2005. I am on the Board of PRO-ENGLISH. I have edited galleys of several books but especially CHURCHILL WALKING WITH DESTINY for my friend Andrew Roberts with whom it was my honor to serve. I consider this biography to be the greatest biography of our time both for history and as literature. To have been associated with it only in a minor capacity was a great honor. Recently I have helped research and edit his forthcoming book THE LAST KING OF AMERICA: GEORGE III coming out in October 2021 My specialty is English literacy for newcomers (emphasizing phonics, diction, and grammar) and sheltered English immersion Social Studies (history) for English learners. I believe in sheltered English immersion for newcomers (English language books, notes, tests and quizzes with some translation and bilingual glossaries available.) I believe in high-quality Dual Immersion instruction but I do not believe (generally speaking) that NENLI is a good idea, in most instances. NENLI is Non-English Native Langauge Instruction. Schools should be very honest about what they are doing. If they are NOT teaching the core curriculum in English they should say so. The temptation to retain students (i have seen it) and create alternative pathways without requiring students to study their core subjects in English is ultimately, in my opinion, harmful to students. Bilingual programs must have rigor. History, science, and math classes must have rigor. If students only accumulate hollow credits then ultimately they are cut off from the satisfaction of higher academic endeavors. But I do believe local communities should have some choice as to what kind of educational programs they want to provide and what languages they teach. However, I believe English should be the official language of the United States. I do not believe we can or ought to be an officially bilingual nation. I have a New Wine Credential. I am married with three children. Two of our children are teachers (Spanish and Dual Immersion k-6) and one is an engineer. I am proud to have served as a peacetime "Ice Cream" Marine (reserves) and to hold an honorable discharge from USMCR. My parents emigrated to the USA when young in 1923 and 1927. The war destroyed the fragile economic communities from which they came and essentially no one ever returned. They became US citizens and were Americans by choice. Both graduated from public high school in New York and were the first and only members of their families to graduate from high school and go on to college. My mother was an RN and came from a strict Free Church Calvinist family. My father had a BA in English and French Comparative Literature and was a Roman Catholic. They were married in two separate Catholic and Anglican ceremonies. In the 20th Century, my family emigrated to the Americas (Chile, Canada, and the USA) My uncle worked in Chile and Argentina circa 1914-1936 and my father was an American officer in Texas, Louisiana, and the Pacific Theater during WWII. My father was a notable amateur linguist ( reading ancient Greek, Latin, speaking Tagalog, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian). I grew up in a multilingual cosmopolitan household and cannot remember a time when I spoke, sang or heard only English. My mother played the piano and sang in five languages. I lived and studied in Spain and got my MA in Spanish Literature there via the University of Northern Iowa under the legendary Adolfo Franco Pino. I first visited Spain and Italy in 1964. My primary interest is in classical literature (chiefly English. Spanish, Latin and Gaelic), as well history, music, and poetry particularly the music and literature of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. In my old age, I have begun to study Ancient Greek. Cuimhnich air na daoine bhon tainig mise (I remember the people I came from...the Gaels of Cioch Mhor in Ferindonald- My people lived there for over one thousand years). Most of my family today is Spanish-speaking (Spain, Mexico, Chile, and the USA). Most of us follow the faith traditions of St. Maelrubha, St. Columba, St. Patrick, and St. Mungo. I was married in Spain on St. Columba's Day and my son was married in Mexico. It is a cognate fact that every marriage in our family for centuries has a direct or indirect connection to Spain either through marriage in Spain or marriage by priests educated in the Scots College in Spain or Rome. La fuerza del sino? (The Force of Destiny?) I believe in the policy of the Buen Vecino (the Good Neighbor) and in la conviviencia (peaceful coexistence) of different cultures, languages, and religions. I realize I am the very last of my race but I am glad to be the father of a new race of Americans whose blood comes from the peoples and races of four continents. Hyphenations can be good descriptors but they are usually a temporary condition like bilingualism. Monolingualism, cultural diffusion, and assimilation are the natural tendencies of the human race. From where I stand the melting pot bubbles on.

THE STOIC WISDOM OF ROBERT BURNS

By Richard K. Munro

https://hwbrands.substack.com/p/man-was-made-to-mourn/comments

I was surprised to see a piece on Robert Burns who is one of my favorite poets. He was also, as H.W. Brands probably knows, a favorite poet of Abraham Lincoln. Some people, if they think of him at all remember Burns as an author of romantic lyrical poems which he was.

But as you have pointed out Burns was much more. Burns was a great and original thinker who lived on the cusp of the modern age (he once took a trip on a steam powered boat) but who lived with a close tie to the Iron Age of Scotland which ended abruptly on April 16, 1746 as Toynbee pointed out some years ago. The history of Scotland that Burns knew was a series of disasters and defeats punctuated by some extraordinary victories. He was aware that some secured much less of the world’s material goods and security and others secured more than, perhaps their respective merit deserved. Burns may not have known of so-called White Privilege but he did know the privilege of rank.

“The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, the man’s the gowd (gold) for a’ that. “

Burns lived on the edge of poverty and saw sickness and early death all around him. Mary Morison, “the toast of the town” was known to be among the most beautiful women in Mauchline, Scotland from age 16 to 20.

Yestreen when to the trembling string

The dance gaed thro’ the lighted ha’

To thee my fancy took its wing,

I sat, but neither heard nor saw:

Tho’ this was fair, and that was braw,

And yon the toast of a’ the town,

I sigh’d, and said amang them a’,

“Ye are na Mary Morison.”

O Mary, canst thou wreck his peace,

Wha for thy sake wad gladly die?

Or canst thou break that heart of his,

Whase only faut is loving thee?

If love for love thou wilt na gie

At least be pity to me shown:

A thought ungentle canna be

The thought o’ Mary Morison.

Mary Morison died at age 20 she had the gift of beauty but not health or longevity.

Burns was wise but the power of his poetry is in its absolute truthfulness. Wordsworth recognized that Burn’s leading characteristic was his utter sincerity and almost absolute truthfulness. Wordsworth acknowledged few masters but of Burns he said:

Whose light I hailed when it first shone

and showed my youth

How verse may build a princely throne

On humble truth.

Burns was the son of workers from the lower levels of society and through education and talent made a name for himself. He commented on Society -both high and low-on Nature homely or beautiful with the clearest eye and the warmest Scottish heart. Burns touched life at myriad points seeing the pretence of hollowness of the men and women he met and also the sterling core of their virtues

Yes once upon a time, there was a lad born in Ayr: Robert Burns.

To go to that rude cottage of Ayr the birthplace of Burns so near the Brig o’ Doon, is to experience a secular epiphany as to the essential equality of all humanity. It is to experience awe at the true mystery of talent and genius. It is an affirmation at what secret treasures can be found hidden anywhere among any class, gender or race IF individuals are given a a proper upbringing and decent education and chance to develop, discover and explore their God-given gifts.

As Burns’ father knew it is hard to be poor . At the age of 19 Burns’ father was a homeless migrant farm laborer but he was proud he could read, write and cipher and always carried the Old Book with him. But Agnes Brown (Mrs. Burns) and her husband kept their entire family of seven under one roof and surrounded the children’s lives with care and tender love. Both mother and father displayed a piety that was neither excessive nor harsh unlike the extreme Calvinism that was the mode of the established clergy of his time. In Burn’s house physical labor was incessant, food and fuel were scarce. But education and religion were not neglected; they were held rather by the Burns family as an essential, sacred duty. And Mrs. Burns “sang so sweet” Rab oft “couldna” sleep as she crooned “the Auld Scots sangs” to him. Burns had no shame of his very humble origin:

From scenes like these old Scotia’s grandeur springs

That makes her loved at home, revered abroad

Princes and lords are but the breath of kings

An honest man’s the noblest work of God.

As John Masefield has written

I have seen flowers in stony places

and kindness done by men with ugly faces

and the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races;

So I trust too.

Sir Walter Scott, who met Burns as a boy at Adam Fergusson’s home in Edinburgh said meeting Burns was like meeting Vergil in person. He described Burns as a man of “dignified plainness and simplicity…his person was strong and robust…there was a strong expression of sense and shrewdness ..his eye was large and of a dark cast, which glowed (I say literally glowed)…when he spoke with feeling or interest. I never saw such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time.”

Burns had no Gaelic but he read McPherson’s translations and adaptations . In addition to writing his own lyrics, Burns was a preserver, without pay, of ancient airs and songs of Scotland. Burns heard Gaelic song in the Highlands and no doubt at Ferguson’s Edinburgh home These ancient rhapsodies were interpreted for him and brought him into contact with centuries of verses praising the country, the mist-covered mountains, the flowers the birds…

Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale…

…..flow gently sweet Afton, among they green braes, flow gently, I’ll sing a song in thy praise…

{Och} But pleasures are like poppies spread, you seize the flower, its bloom is shed

or like the snow-fall in the river a moment white then melts forever..”

In a sense Burns is a Scottish Hemingway literary but appealing to men.

Unlike Hemingway however, Burns is equally appealing to women whom Burns did not recognize as inferior to men or merely sex objects but something complementary. If not as physically strong they were if anything, worthier in some ways than men and worthy of love, protection and sacrifice:

For you sae douce ye sneer at this

ye’re nought but senseless asses, O

the wisest man the warl’ e’er saw

he dearly lov’d the lasses, O

Auld Nature swear, the lovely dears

Her noblest works she classes, O

Her prentice han’ she try’d on man

and THEN she made the lasses, O.!

Green grow the rashes, O

Green grow the rashes O

The sweetest hours that e’er I spend

Are spent among the lasses, O!

The Regiment and male bonding was great but family life, led by a good woman was the center of all that was good and clean:

To make a happy fireside clime

To weans and wife

That is the true pathos sublime

Of human life.

Burns looks firmly towards the future and democracy but he never forgot his own and his people’s past. Had he lived he might well have emigrated to America as did his direct descendants. (Filmmakers Ric and Ken Burns are direct descendants of Robert Burns. ) Burns speaks to the world, if they would hear, about the true meaning of liberty and the nobility of man -an woman too- who dwell in every land and every walk of life.

Burns suffered with the poor and oppressed be they colonials , blacks slaves from Senegal , Scots, Chinese or English or French or American factory workers.

“Man’s inhumanity to man”, he wrote , “makes countless thousands mourn”.

Wrote Burns: “Whatever mitigates the woes or increases the happiness of others, this is my criterion of goodness; and whatever injures society at large, or an individual in it, this is my measure of iniquity.”

Burns preaches not irreligion but tolerance for skeptics as well as for all faiths and denominations. Burns sings not just of woman’s beauty but of her rights and of her mind and the equality of these tender souls created in the image of God.

All that Scotland had done and suffered, the memory of her heroic but disastrous history, the heads bloodied but unbowed, the strong valiant, manhood of her Highland men, the deep sonsie lyric womanhood and pragmatism of her lassies, the memory of dualchas araid, the splendid ancient Gaelic heritage, the songs of the Hebrides, the beauty of Scotland’s nature and her scenery -of Highlands, lowlands and Islands, may have vanished without trace without the unconquerable spirit of Robert Burns.

And the British people and people ‘round the world would have been for the poorer.

Yes, all this could have been utterly destroyed by mindless uniformity, the depressing deracination of the urban poor, the manufactured ugliness of slum upon slum and a numb proletarian anomie, had Scotland been left without the Scottish and Celtic renaissance led by Burns.

Truly the pen and the heart and the lips are mightier than the sword! NE OBLIVISCARIS do not forget the poet.

Do not forget ROBERT BURNS.

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HUMAN BABEL and BILINGUALISM

RE: H. W. BRANDS HUMAN BABEL

https://hwbrands.substack.com/p/human-babel?r=hwxgw&s=r&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

There can be no question that commerce and political union tend to favor the Big Languages and marginalize other “little” languages such as Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Navajo , Quechua, etc. I think mankind has a tendency towards monolingualism. Certainly nationalists, almost invariably, favor one official national language. So I do not believe a little Babel is built into the human soul.

Quite the contrary. One has to invest in and work at maintaining a bilingual household or to encourage polyglotism. I know this from personal experience. There are varying levels of bilingualism or multilingualism in our family. I think it highly likely that all our grandchildren will be bilingual at the very least.

However, a healthy bilingualism is possible over a long term: Switzerland is a good example. Canada (English and French) is another. The United States seems to be permanently bilingual Spanish/English in some regions. Another example would be Israel (Hebrew and English).

But I would say that Israel did not have to reach into the past to revive Hebrew. Hebrew has always been a language that has been studied and spoken aloud. In modern times it merely replaced Yiddish or Ladino. But we recall Yiddish and Ladino were often written with Hebrew characters.

Some say “Official bilingualism”, as it is called in Anglophone Canada, detracts from multiculturalism because it unfairly prioritizes French over other minority languages. Scottish Gaelic is still spoken in Nova Scotia but has diminished greatly since 1900 and has had little government support. The same is true for Canada’s indigenous languages.

But French like English is a Big Language or culture language not unlike Latin or Greek in their time.

St. Patrick could (probably )speak at least two Celtic dialects -Old Irish and British) but he wrote almost exclusively in Latin.

Why?

Because Latin was a “Big Language” or culture language in a way Irish Gaelic was not. Latin, Greek and Hebrew were Big Languages because they were languages of the Bible, a vast literature, laws etc.

So historically Big Languages (languages that are commercially or culturally important) are more likely to be a Koine or lingua franca) and so therefore much more likely to survive over a long period of time.

Italian is a lesser Big Language and so is German BUT both these languages are such powerful cultural languages (with a vast literature and musical culture) that their songs will be sung for centuries all over the world. Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese all seem to have a guaranteed future for religious, political and demographic reasons.

I have been a student of languages all of my life and now in retirement I am studying Modern Greek and Ancient Greek as well as reading Latin every day.

Most of the languages I study have strong associations with literature, poetry, and song. I have read most international literature in translation, of course, but when I have read poetry or songs in their original, I know that translations are not sufficient, so I try whenever possible to study bilingual texts and the original versions.

Each language is indeed God’s work of art. Official bilingualism may not be possible everywhere, but language studies are very important for everyone and that we should respect the cultures and languages of others. Personally, my own life and education have been greatly enriched by the study of languages. My understanding of English grammar and vocabulary has been heightened by my studies of Latin, Spanish and Portuguese grammar.

DonQuixote & Our Splendid Ancient Heritage

by RIchard K Munro

“And one morning before dawn on a hot day in July, without informing a single person of his intentions, and without anyone seeing him, he armored himself with all his armor and mounted Rocinante, wearing his poorly constructed helmet, and he grasped his shield and took up his lance and through the side door of a corral he rode out into the countryside with great joy and delight at seeing how easily he had given a beginning to his virtuous desire.”  CERVANTES

I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that one should read at least one old book for every one or two new books. Now, I love old books and the classics and when it comes to literature (drama, novels, poetry) i favor the classics. I enjoy the Beatles but if one reads their songs as poems and literature, they are quite minor when compared to the greatest songwriter ever produced by the British Isles, namely, Robert Burns. The Beatles are like nice picture postcards or cotton candy, but they are not deeply wise and as moving as, for example, as Shakerspeare, Cervantes or Tirso de Molina or Calderon de la Barca or even El Duque de Rivas.

But I always come back to Don Quixote. Instead of going back to watch “video thrillers” like The Sopranos or Stranger Things (both enteraining in their own ways) consider doing something else like reading or re-reading a classic poem or book (something over 100 years old). We have Netflix series today and movies but during the Renaissance people were engaged by the Arthurian Romance like Amadis de Gaula circa 1535 and numerous sequels. These stories all followed a similar pattern: the beautiful and virtuous damsel, incredibly handsome and brave and noble chivalrous knights, evil and treacherous villains, impossible quests. As literacy developed with the printing press the romance was what the reading public adored.

It is not insignificant that some of the Spanish Conquistadors of the 16th century named places they discovered from names that directly came from chivalric romances, for example: California. Cervantes turned this world on its head. Instead of fantasy he seemed to say I will show you the real world the real Spain, real places and real people the Spanish people and their culture. And he did. Don Quixote is a serious and tragic book but it is also one of the funniest books every written! Cervantes gave us unforgettable stories and characters and much more to laugh about and to think about.

Another thing Cervantes did was move away from stories merely focused on the court and aristocratic life to daily life of the ordinary people of Spain. We remember Don Quixote as the first novel but it was one of the first and still the greatest on the road narratives. Whomever Don Quixote finds on his travels, a nobleman, a common innkeeper, a barber, a bandit, a soldier, prisoner, a moor, or a prostitute Cervantes showed dignity and humanity in everyone.

Don Quixote proclaimed: “It is not the responsibility of knights errant to discover whether the afflicted, the enchained and the oppressed whom they encounter on the road are reduced to these circumstances and suffer this distress for their vices, or for their virtues: the knight’s sole responsibility is to succour them as people in need, having eyes only for their sufferings, not for their misdeeds.” 

And of course, Don Quixote has the delightful travelling companion the everyman of the people, Sancho Panza. It is interesting to note that Shakespeare, who was a contemporary of Cervantes, mostly wrote of the higher echelons of society, the captains and the kings, the queens, the nobility, MacBeth, Brutus, Caesar Cleopatra or Mark Anthony. The commoners are to be found in Shakespeare, of course, I recall the Gravedigger in Hamlet, Bottom, Feste the Jester, Malvolio but the nobles and elites predominate.

Here, Cervantes is more modern than Shakespeare who was so grounded in the aristocratic classics like Plutarch’s Lives. Shakespeare seemed to know, instinctively, that the “groundlings” loved to vicariously enjoy the life of lords and ladies. “

In English-speaking America the delightful Lazarillo de Tormes is not as well-known as Don Quixote but I have always considered it an important precursor and I believe inspiration to Don Quixote. In one episode the Hidalgo of Toledo, reminds us of a younger Don Quixote. And like Don Quixote, Lazarillo de Tormes is a road story. The primary difference is that it is rather more episodic than Don Quixote and the remarkably interesting sympathetic and tragic character of the Hidalgo only appears in one episode. So this picaresque novel is really more a series of interrelated stories than a complete novel. But like Don Quixote Lazarillo is ironic and intensely funny.

But in addition, like Don Quixote, Lazarillo de Tormes is very realistic and continually makes reference to the dress, food, customs of 16th century Spain. In many ways, Lazarillo de Tormes is one of the first psychological works. In its humor and satire on Spanish society. I recommend to anyone who reads Don Quixote to spend a few evenings to read Lazarillo de Tormes. “ni oro ni plata te puedo dar, pero sí muchas enseñanzas para vivir.”  “No hay tal cosa en el mundo para vivir mucho que comer poco.”  These are quotations of the penniless Hidalgo. “Neither gold nor silver can I give you but many lessons for life” and “There is nothing is the world to live well as to eat little.” This is what the Hidalgo says when his poverty causes Lazarillo and him to fast.

Cervante’s characters are full of wise commentaries on life:

“All I know is that while I’m asleep, I’m never afraid, and I have no hopes, no struggles, no glories — and bless the man who invented sleep, a cloak over all human thought, food that drives away hunger, water that banishes thirst, fire that heats up cold, chill that moderates passion, and, finally, universal currency with which all things can be bought, weight and balance that brings the shepherd and the king, the fool and the wise, to the same level. There’s only one bad thing about sleep, as far as I’ve ever heard, and that is that it resembles death, since there’s very little difference between a sleeping man and a corpse.” 

Don “Quixote says: “Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is noble, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth.”
“What giants?” Asked Sancho Panza.
“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”
“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”
“Obviously,” replied Don Quijote, “you don’t know much about adventures.” 

Sancho doesn’t know the fictional world of chivalric knights like someone today who does not know the world of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings.

There is a wonderful old Highland saying “is i ‘n ailleantachd maise nam ban” (the truest beauty of womankind is in their modesty). Immodesty is like drunkenness is unattractive. Character is perhaps the most important element of beauty. Cervantes wrote:

“Remember that there are two kinds of beauty: one of the soul and the other of the body. That of the soul displays its radiance in intelligence, in chastity, in good conduct, in generosity, and in good breeding, and all these qualities may exist in an ugly man. And when we focus our attention upon that beauty, not upon the physical, love generally arises with great violence and intensity. I am well aware that I am not handsome, but I also know that I am not deformed, and it is enough for a man of worth not to be a monster for him to be dearly loved, provided he has those spiritual endowments I have spoken of.” 

“It is a science,” said Don Quixote, “that comprehends in itself all or most of the sciences in the world, for he who professes it must be a jurist, and must know the rules of justice, distributive and equitable, so as to give to each one what belongs to him and is due to him. He must be a theologian, so as to be able to give a clear and distinctive reason for the Christian faith he professes, wherever it may be asked of him. He must be a physician, and above all a herbalist, so as in wastes and solitudes to know the herbs that have the property of healing wounds, for a knight-errant must not go looking for someone to cure him at every step. He must be an astronomer, so as to know by the stars how many hours of the night have passed, and what clime and quarter of the world he is in. He must know mathematics, for at every turn some occasion for them will present itself to him; and, putting it aside that he must be adorned with all the virtues, cardinal and theological, to come down to minor particulars, he must, I say, be able to swim as well as Nicholas or Nicolao the Fish could, as the story goes; he must know how to shoe a horse, and repair his saddle and bridle; and, to return to higher matters, he must be faithful to God and to his lady; he must be pure in thought, decorous in words, generous in works, valiant in deeds, patient in suffering, compassionate towards the needy, and, lastly, an upholder of the truth though its defence should cost him his life. Of all these qualities, great and small, is a true knight-errant made up;” 

The greatest and noblest of the virtues Cervantes teaches us comes from love and friendship:

“I will buy a flock of sheep, and everything that is fit for the pastoral life; and so calling myself the shepherd Quixotis, and then the shepherd Pansino, we will range the woods, the hills and the meadows, singing and versifying….Love will inspire us with a theme and wit, and Apollo with harmonious lays. So shall we become famous, not only while we live, but to make our loves as eternal as our songs. ”

The idea of romantic love has an attractive and rich history in classical literature.

Robert Burns and Walter Scott come to mind immediately

 Highland lad my love was born (Burns)

A Highland lad my love was born,
The Lalland laws he held in scorn,
But he still was faithfu' to his clan,
My gallant, braw John Highlandman.
Chorus: 
  Sing hey my braw John Highlandman!
  Sing ho my braw John Highlandman!
  There's not a lad in a' the lan'
  Was match for my John Highlandman.

With his philibeg an' tartan plaid,
An' guid claymore down by his side,
The ladies' hearts he did trepan,
My gallant, braw John Highlandman.

We ranged a' from Tweed to Spey,
An' liv'd like lords an' ladies gay,
For a Lalland face he feared none,
My gallant, braw John Highlandman.

They banish'd him beyond the sea
But ere the bud was on the tree,
Adown my cheeks the pearls ran,
Embracing my John Highlandman.

But, och! they catch'd him at the last,
And bound him in a dungeon fast.
My curse upon them every one,
They've hang'd my braw John Highlandman!

And now a widow, I must mourn
[The pleasures that will] ne'er return ;
No comfort but a hearty can,
When I think on John Highlandman.

Here it is performed by the famous and talented Highland composer and bardess Mairi MacInnes.  Her modern Gaelic songs and compositions are very admired.

BURNS. “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose” . This is a famous song. My father and grandfather knew this poem by heart and both recited it the day of their wedding. I sang it at my wedding in Spain and translated it to Spanish.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6Z8f42fF8M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IC_s6JUzbM

Walter Scott: JOCK O’ Hazeldean is an old favorite I sang with my mother at our Hamiliton upright piano countless times or in long rides back from Shea Stadium after a baseball game in the 1960s.

Why weep ye by the tide, ladie,
  Why weep ye by the tide?
I'll wed ye tae my youngest son,
  And ye'll shall be his bride;
And ye'll shall be his bride, ladie,
  Sae comely tae be seen;"
But aye she loot the tears down fa'
  For Jock o' Hazeldean.

Then we have also Victor Hugo’s The Toilers of the Sea, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, Verdi’s magnificent La forza del destino The Force of Destiny)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmCXWtqDqIA

The libretto was based on a Spanish romantic drama, Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino (1835), by Ángel de Saavedra, El Duke of Rivas. It is very interesting to note that La Fuerza del Sino deals with the theme on racism and class prejudice as well as interracial love.

Unforgettable in the story of romantic love we have Heine’s love poems and the Schubert and Hugo Wolf music settings for them. My mother used to sing Heine’s famous song. She said it almost made on forget German beastliness entirely and remember a better world and the best part of German culture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DX_aykzT9Q&t=7s

Buch Der Lieder: Die Heimkehr:

‘Ich Weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten’ (Heine)

I don’t know what it could mean,

Or why I’m so sad: I find,

A fairy-tale, from times unseen,

Won’t vanish from my mind.

The air is cool and it darkens,

And quiet flows the Rhine:

The tops of the mountains sparkle,

In evening’s after-shine.

The loveliest of maidens,

She’s wonderful, sits there,

Her golden jewels glisten,

She combs her golden hair.

She combs it with a comb of gold,

And sings a song as well:

Its strangeness too is old

And casts a powerful spell.

It grips the boatman in his boat

With a wild pang of woe:

He only looks up to the heights,

Can’t see the rocks below.

The waves end by swallowing

The boat and its boatman,

That’s what, by her singing,

The Lorelei has done.

And there are an infinite number of parodies and burlesques of romantic stories including Tom Jones as well as Don Quixote. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum comes to mind (Stephen Sondheim) as well as Learner and Loewe’s Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, Gigi and Camelot.

“If the spark doesn’t come, that’s a pity; but we do not read the classics out of duty or respect, but only out of love.” said Italo Calvino. “All that can be done is for each of us to invent our own ideal library of our classics; and I would say that one half of it would consist of books we have read and that have meant something for us and the other half of books which we intend to read and which we suppose might mean something to us. We should also leave a section of empty spaces for surprises and chance discoveries.”

Italo Calvino also wrote:

“The classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them. For the fact is that the reading we do when young can often be of little value because we are impatient, cannot concentrate, lack expertise in how to read, or because we lack experience of life. This youthful reading can be (perhaps at the same time) literally formative in that it gives a form or shape to our future experiences, providing them with models, ways of dealing with them, terms of comparison, schemes for categorizing them, scales of value, paradigms of beauty: all things which continue to operate in us even when we remember little or nothing about the book we read when young. When we reread the book in our maturity, we then rediscover these constants which by now form part of our inner mechanisms though we have forgotten where they came from. There is a particular potency in the work which can be forgotten in itself but which leaves its seed behind in us. “

So let us return to the classics and often.

A classic to me is something of surpassing literary beauty that touches upon themes of universal human importance such as timeless truths. There are many books on family relationships; one of the greatest of course is the Old Testament another is the Odyssey. Both books illustrate that the traditional family is the essential foundation of any civilization and culture. My father and I often talked about marriage and choosing a mate and the importance of chilldren. My father often said “marriage did not mean sex or money or advancement but openness to children and deep frienship.” He was married for 59 1/2 years separated only by war and, finally, death. When spoke of marriage he referred to the classics such as Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities Little Dorrit and the Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. My father emphasized that one should not marry or have a relationship based on sexual attraction alone. One should marry someone at the right time for the right reasons. I loved a girl once but did not ask her to marry me because I had no job and very little to offer her. I did offer her my friendship and worked hard to be worthy of her love. In the end, we married and lived happily ever after. But I only asked her to marry me at the right time and in the right place.

“The classics are a treasury of the world’s accumulated wisdom that counteract trendy ideas and modern ideologies Just as there is great art, great music, and great architecture that evokes wonder and enlarges the mind,” wrote Mitchell Kalpaka. He said also that. “the classics too possess the power to reach the depths of the mind, heart, and soul in a way that films and media can never penetrate.”

Movies ARE wonderful because they are an easy shared experience. I love classic movies and grew up watching them with my parents and grandparents at places like the Little Carnegie in New York City, on Saturday Night on the Movies or the CBS LATE Show and later on VHS tapes. I will never forget seeing the 1935 David Copperfield one dark and rainy evening almost 60 years ago with my entire family including my mother’s mother. At one poignant point when David finally reaches his aunt after much suffering and travail the entire family broke down in tears including all the children. I can never re-read Dickens without remembering movie and TV versions of his works. But the books are greater and deeper than the films. The films are like canned soup and toast compared to a homemade Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath is a powerful unforgettable film about how poverty almost destroyed family bonds beneath the wheel but Steinbeck’s book is far deeper. Richard Brook’s Elmer Gantry is a wonderful introduction to the 1927 novel by Sinclair Lewis but it is less than half the story (read the entire book!). All Quiet on the Western Front is a 1930 American film based on the 1929 by German novelist Erich Maria Remarque and was Directed by Lewis Milestone. It was the first Oscar Winner for Best Picture winner based on a novel and to its credit it comes very close to the spirt of the novel. My grandfather, who was a World War I combat veteran said the book and the movie came closest to the experience of the combat soldier as any he knew. For Whom the Bell Tolls (see the uncut version) is a 1943 American film produced and directed by Sam Wood and starring Gary CooperIngrid Bergman, unforgettably  Akim Tamiroff as Pabloi and , Katina Paxinou  as Pilar. The film is a noble attempt but the main character Robert Jordan (an American teacher of Spanish) is only partially characterized in the film, but the film does summarize the main action. El Sordo’s Last Stand is powerfully recreated for example. However, the education of Robert Jordan during the Spanish Civil War his experience with fanatical Communists as well as Spanish Nationalists and his love for Spain and the Spanish people are only partially illustrated. Once again, the film is a good introduction to the book but the book is far deeper. The late Hugh Thomas, an expert on the Spanish Civil war felt the two best books and essential books on the Spanish Civil War were For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway and Homage to Catalonia by Orwell. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy has been filmed several times (I remember the Garbo/March version and the 2012 Keira Knightley, version.) I read Anna Karenina as a young man and was moved by its modernity with its honest themes of adultery, passionate erotic love, humanity, and life in Russia plus I think elements of mental illness.

But nothing beats a great book—not even great movies or operas based on books.

Sed in primis ad fontes ipsos properandum, id est graecos et antiquos. (“Above all, one must go to the sources themselves, that is, to the Greeks and the Ancient authors” ERASMUS)

So we must return to CERVANTES, DANTE, HOMER, VERGIL and SHAKERSPEARE and other greats and near greats. I would never say Rumer Godden’s 1945 A Fugue in Time, made into the film Enchantment in 1948 starring David Niven and Teresa Wright is the greatest book every written but I will say this for the book. It is very accessible and I am fond of it. There is a lot of room for lesser classics and sentimental favorites. And it had a very important influence on me personally. I saw the film first and read the book. Because of the book I realized as Conan Doyle did there were decisive moments in our life. “Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill.” Sometimes you have to take a chance. Sometimes you have only a narrow opportunity to get to know someone and to express your true feelings to that person. Loves and friendships can wash away and be lost forever. We all have regrets and have all made mistakes but if one can say one is happy at the end of one’s life and if one has had much love and contentment in one’s personal life one can count oneself blessed. This lesson the Bible and the great classics teach us.

THE POWER TO TAX IS THE POWER TO DESTROY

by Richard K. Munro

The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to get the most feathers with the least hissing.  ~  Jean-Baptiste Colbert

https://hwbrands.substack.com/p/taxes-taxes-taxes

The power to tax is the power to destroy. We left NY and NJ because the real estate taxes were exhorbitant. I now have no close relatives there. Everyone moved to Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida. We live in California where the tax situation is not ideal but thanks to Prop 13 our real estate tax is reasonable and under control which is important now that we are retired. Still gradually our real estate taxes, trash and insurance go up every year. We should be OK but If Prop 13 were rescinded we would sell and take all our savings and property out of state.

I knew a semi-retired doctor in NYC who owned his home free and clear and owed almost $50,000 in real estate tax. He sold his house invested in CD’s and moved away. He was cashing in $20,000 a year in CD’s just to pay his taxes. He said if he stayed in New York five more years he would be flat broke. That is wrong. Now he lives out of state in an apartment and pays zero real estate tax. Previously he paid NEW JERSEY STATE INCOME TAX, NEW YORK CITY INCOME TAX and NEW YORK STATE INCOME TAX as well as FEDERAL INCOME TAX. And he was a man who saved his money his whole life, paid off his home and made a very good salary at his medical profession. But he could not afford to be retired in NYC. Public housing is now the largest single landlord in NYC (about 8%). NYC is becoming a city of the few who are ultra rich and the poor. But taxes and crime are also driving younger New Yorkers and retired New Yorkers out of the region. A recent poll stated : “My family would have a better future if we left New York City permanently.”

The poll found 59% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement, while 41% somewhat or strongly disagreed.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/06/why-majority-of-new-yorkers-would-rather-be-anywhere-else-poll/

Chicago and New York are losing so many people and businesses due to oppressive almost confiscatory taxes AND declining public safety and services. I haven’t been back to either city since the 1990s and I have no intention of living there or even visiting there again. Almost everyone I knew in school has moved out of state.

So back to my first point. The power to tax is a necessary power of the state, city and federal government. But when the state confiscates the savings and property of the retired middle class it is going too far and people will vote with their feet and pocketbooks.

Should we be Pessimists or Optimists?

by RICHARD K. MUNRO

“Troubles indeed abound, but troubles have always abounded. We humans have always got past them, albeit not always quickly or easily.” (HW BRANDS) Yes I too have confidence in the ability of mankind to respond to new challenges with new inventions and life-saving medicines and technologies. I believe we must have hope and optimism about the future. I believe Good will triumph ultimately over evil.

Humans are rational and have God-given power to search for the truth and to behave in accordance with Right and Wrong. As we seek knowledge we must be grateful but also humble.

As we seek knowledge we should have awe for the mystery of our existence, for the world itself for day and for night and the cosmos above.

I know my life has not many days or years left but I am satisfied as I have children and grandchildren and I derive much joy and hope from them. My greatest wish is that they are able to live happy, productive and secure lives.

It seems reasonable that they will have a good chance for such a life

But I know all cannnot be known so I do what I can and for the rest I have the last weapon of the weak and the old: prayer.

The Old Book teaches us that life is a continuous struggle for doing what is right and understanding what is right. But only God can accomplish the greatest things.

“Except for the Lord the watchman waketh in vain.” History and life is ever new. We can move ahead. We can pray. We can grow better or worse. Certainly we can learn from history and life. And I think history gives up hope.

Booker T. Washington , Dubois and Wotan’s Farewell.

Wagner-Die Walkure-“Leb wohl,du kunhes, herrliches Kind!”

Thomas Munro jr (1915-2003) in 1937 upon graduation from Brooklyn College

I have studied Booker T. Washington and Dubois. Both had a case but it all depends on where you are in your life and who you are. I think Dubois is a rather tragic figure. Let us not forget he left the USA to live in Africa and became a Communist by the end of life. By many measures, Booker T. Washington was a happier and more successul figure in America as an American. Washington adapted to the world in which he lived; I think he accepted the fact that progress in racial relations would take generations. But in the mean time, Washington thought, African Americans have to take personal responsiblity for their education and training and their habits and be economically stable and successful. With economic success other opportunties would come.

Thomas Munro, Jr. as a 1st Lt in Manila during WW2 while serving with the US Army (the Transportation Corps)

My father worked in a slaughter house at night when he was in high school. To do so he had to sacrifice any social life or any sports (even though he had been a soccer star in his native land). This experience had a strong influence on his entire life. He learned to be almost completely self-sufficient and I would say socially isolated.

For example, he chose to have no friendships or social relationships with the workers at the slaughter house with the exception of some older workers who befriended him and looked after him while he slept returning home on the Manhattan to Brooklyn subway at 3AM. He was lucky in that his mother and sister fed him, shopped for any sundries he needed and washed and ironed his clothes. My father turned over HIS ENTIRE paycheck to his mother. She would give him $1.50 so he could see movies and have a small snack.

My father’s chief relaxations were reading, Saturday movies and Sunday baseball games with his father. He usually went alone to the movies. I don’t remember him ever saying he went to baseball games with his friends or alone. He had a few American acquaintences but really he had no intimate friends. This was big change from his early life when he was a popular athlete and had many many close friends. Sadly, he was separated by emigration from most of his close friends and many were killed in WW2. My father’s early life from age 12 was focused almost completely on working to support his family as his father had lost his job in 1932 and did not go back to work until 1937. My father continued his industriousness after high school and studied at Brooklyn College where he graduated in 1937. Soon the war came and but my father continued in his pattern of perseverence. He began miltary service as a E-1 private and worked his way up to corporal and finally an NCO in the MPs. From there he went to OCS and became a 2nd Lt. He went overseas in 1943-46 and rose in rank to 1st Lt. After the war he went to NYU on the GI bill and had a career in business in which he was reasonably successful in achievement a stable career. I think he could have advanced economically much more if he had sacrificed his family life and intellectual life. But he chose to focus on his private family life and his private intellectual life. Others would bar hop or play golf on business trips. My father would read Homer in the original Greek in his hotel rooms in Atlanta. His chief hobbies were opera (listening and collected historial recordings), literature, languages, classic movies, plays and baseball. I think my father was somewhat lonely except for the close friendship with my mother and her friends. In someways he lived the solitary isolated life of a prisoner but he was never bored and I think he was happiest when he escaped into his music and books. We are shaped by our environment and its challenges but we also are shaped by individual choices in how we respond to those challenges. I never once saw my father inebriated. He drank beer and wine but not spirits. He believed in moderation. He smoked cigarettes for about 25 years but quit in his 40s and smoked only cigars. He loved smoking cigars. But on the advice of his doctor he quit cigars also in his 50s. He lived a reasonably long life and a very healthy one until he was 87 when he fell and broke his hip. Thereafter he declined physically but remained mentally sharp until the very end. His very last words were “I think this is the best breakfast I have ever had.” He suffered a stroke and lingered a few days in the hospital. He was listening to Wotan’s farewell (Lieb wohl) in the hospital. I was not present but my sister said he reacted and there were tears falling from his eyes. My father’s last lesson to me is that there is such a thing a a Good Death. If one can say goodbye to one’s loved ones and die without pain and suffering in bed surrounded by loved ones and beautiful music then one can say one has experieced a Good Death.

“Perhaps Washington and DuBois were both right — whether someone chooses education or commerce, the important thing is that there is opportunity in both for anyone willing to put in the hard work to find it.” It all depends on the situation one finds oneself in. As a man who was in his youth a soldier and construction worker paid by the piece and later as a teacher. I found necessity meant I had to get a reasonably paying job immediately. So there are times you have to cast the bucket down where you are. Once I had some savings and had established my credit and had a free and clear car I felt the confidence to make gradual career changes. I took a pay cut to work at a bank. I remember I earned only $7.23 an hour! But the bank meant REGULAR HOURS and FLEX TIME and was across the street from a university. I then spent five years at the bank and had as a goal going back to school for an advanced degree. At first I thought I would get an MBA but then I realized I would prefer something where I could use my love of languages, literature and history. So I got a 5th Year Certification as a k-12 teacher. I was certified in English, Spanish and Social Studies. I thought my multiple certificaiton would make my job transition easier but in fact I had almost no job offers. So I considered job offers ANYWHERE -Alaska, Texas, California and even Australia. And by being open to emigration to a new location I was able to get a steady job. It is all about CHALLENGES and RESPONSE. I could not have made the change WITHOUT having sacrificed and made an investment in my PAPER CREDENTIALS. Of course I could have expanded my paper credentials even more but I had to consider the economic return on investment.

Thomas Munro in retirement later in life circa 1978 aged 63

HAVING A PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE and A GOOD ROLE MODEL

by Richard K. Munro

I learned a lot about White Privilege from my father an immigrant who worked NIGHTS in the slaughterhouses of NYC where the UN is now.  

 My father worked five nights a week while he was in high school. He wasn’t able to do any activities at school -even date girls- or play sports (he had been a star soccer player in his home country). He did at times fall asleep in Mr. Sullivans 11th grade English class 7th period.  But he never was late to school or missed a single day.  At one time (during the Great Depression) he was the only person working in his household his father having been laid off in 1932.

There were many of his classmates and neighbors who worked in the slaughter houses.  It wore them down and they slept in and missed many classes. Most dropped out.  

Once my father turned in an essay with dark stains on it.  Mr. Sullivan was very angry until to his shock he realized the spots were blood stains from the slaughter house and my father had finished the essay on his break at 100 AM.

My father endured and suffered and worked because

1) he had a loving mother who helped keep him feed and in clean clothes  2) some older men who were co-workers who looked after my father and let him sleep on the subway on the way home at 4AM. 

 My father never asked for any favors. He turned his entire paycheck 1932-1937 to his mother.   He had one advantage -he studied in a Jesuit run k-6 school in Glasgow, Scotland and so learned to read and write in standard English (though English was not his native language) reasonably well.   In Scotland the Headmaster said there were only two choices for him -the Army or the docks.  At that time there was only one Catholic HS in Glasgow. Only the top students and those who studied for the priesthood were admitted.  My grandmother said, “Och no, there’s a third choice. AMERRRICA.”   The reason they came to America was so my father could have a CHANCE at an education.

Class prejudice.   Religious prejudice.   Ethnic prejudice were all things endured by my father -he was from the lowest orders of society Teuchters (Gaelic speaking Highlanders) and Joad-flittin hairstfolk (Migrant Irish farm workers). In addition to that his family was impoverished and forced into emigration to the four winds.   His mother MARY MUNRO lost two brothers, a brother in law, and seven nephews and cousins killed in the Great War.  As a small boy my father visited limbless veterans who were relatives or neighbors.  The died one by one from 1919-1935.

There is a thing called CLASS PRIVILEGE (something Mr Obama had in abundance most of his life) and I suppose there is an advantage to be stubborn and  healthy.   I would prefer to have money and connections over any so-called “WHITE PRIVILEGE” anyday.

But my father was the only person in his family to graduate from high school (Manual Training High School in Brooklyn). and then kept on working and graduated from Brooklyn College.  He enlisted in the US Army in Dec 1941 as a e-1 private.  He worked his way up to E-5 Sergeant in the MPs 1941-1943 then was picked to attend OCS where he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt.  He rose to the rank of 1st Lt (the only officer in the history of our family by the way) and at the end General Sutherland on the recommendation of Gen MacArthur offered him a regular commission as a Captain in the US Army. He often said that if he had been in India in 1890 he would have accepted but he had not seen my mother for almost five years (they were married June 14, 1941).   She did not want to live in a tent in Manila and after all she was already 30 years old in 1946.   My father came home and went to night school at NYU on the GI Bill.  He remained is the US Army Reserve until July 1953.

My father was never a millionaire or an influential person but he was a good father and husband (that was the biggest advantage I had a solid loving family life).  He played ball with me and taught me how to keep score at baseball games,  He never played golf or activities that would keep him from his family. Almost all of our modest vacations were family vacations though I remember once we stayed at my grandmother’s apartment when they went on a cruise to Bermuda in 1962.  He was a remarkable autodidact. He taught himself ANCIENT GREEK, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN.  In high school in NY he studied FRENCH,  GERMAN and LATIN. He read all the great Italian authors, Greek authors, German authors, Latin authors, French authors in the original.  He had an advantage because his Scots dialect helped him with German and his Gaelic helped him with French.  During WW2 he was stationed in Puerto Rico, Lousiana and Texas.    He taught himself Spanish. He was then sent to the Pacific Theater and 1944 -1946 was in the Phillippines in the Transporation Corps.  He commanded a company of US soldiers and a batallion of Pinoy (Filipino) cargadores who only spoke Tagalog so he learned Tagalog.  They called him  Mbuti Teniente the Good Lieutenant. One of the things his did was make sure the workers got ice cold Coca Cola at least once a week and he would never drink his until each man had got his drink.  Then he would take a break and joke and talk to the cargadores or sometimes the local priests (one who was Irish from Glasgow and the other was Spanish). 

While in the army my father, who was a natural teacher, tutored African-American soldiers with the help of an Irish-American chaplain and a local African-American minister and his wife. My father believed if given a chance those men could improve and learn.  Many of his men later became NCOs some became ministers!  He risked his commission but the Commanding officer , the Chaplain and the local community backed him up and he was given a recommendation at the end.  The men were very grateful. When he was overseas from time to time some of his former soldiers would vist him if they happened to be in the area.  Challenge and response. An individual choice to help others and individual choice to take advantage to improve oneself. Most progressed but my father said some used the free time to goof off. That’s human nature.

My father was the Entertainment officer for his Batallion and so he would pick the movies so one of his things he would do would invite people to see his movies.    One of the persons who saw movies with him was ROBERT MONTGOMERY whom he knew in the war.  My father had a signed picture of Montgomery which said TO MY FRIEND TOM MUNRO FROM BOB MONTGOMERY.  My father also arranged for General MacArthur to see Laurence Oliver’s HENRY V in technicolor.  My father had the only technicolor copy in the Pacific (Eisenhower saw it in Black and White by the way).   

So my father briefly met Generall MacArthur and used to tell some stories about him.   MacArthur, after inspecting his base said to my father, “MUNRO that’s a fine old Scotch name isn’t it?  It isn’t Italian!”  My father saluted and said, “NOT AS OLD AND DISTINGUISHED as the NAME MACARTHUR”.  Old Mac cracked a smile.

 My father taught me that to be happy and successful

#1 thing is working hard consistently while being on time and reliable 

#2 try to get along with people . Be polite and not too sensitive.

#3 treat all people with respect ESPECIALLY the poor, women and children. My father also said “never date a girl who wouldn’t be a good mate.” My father said one of the most important decisions in you life is choosing a good life partner. If you are lucky you can have a nice family and many years of trust and companionship. My father and mother were married for 59 1/2 years and separated only by war and death.

#4 never seek a fight but don’t shun it if it is forced on you.  Some people want to fight or steal and so sometimes you have to fight back. You might not always win but you will make the bad guy think twice about tangling with you. Keep your doors and windows locked at night and have a plan if someone breaks in.

#5 live your life with honor. He often said, “this is the only life you have this side of paradise so don’t be an SOB.” 

 #6 ifyou drink alcohol drink in moderation -booze can destroy your mind, your character and your health. I never saw my father drunk at anytime.   At ball games he NEVER had even one beer if he had to drive.  He liked coffee and cokes.  He bought me my first drink when I was 18 (a whisky sour).  He told me “don’t like it too much and have only one now and again.”    MODERATION.

#7 ECONOMICS: primary rule of economics is SCARCITY. You have only a limited about of time and money. Spend both wisely. SHARE (Charity) SPEND and SAVE.  Be generous but never spend your bottom dollar.  He gave to educational and religious charities.  He often gave people magazines and used books (paperbacks) to read (especially children).  I am very glad I grew up with books. Gilbert Highet was not on any college reading list but I read many books he passed on to me. He never denigrated my love for baseball books. He said you should read serious books and also light books for fun. He had a 1954 Ford (free and clear for over 20 years) .  He never spent money on fancy cars.  I think the fanciest car he ever had was a 1972 Chrysler New Yorker.  It was still running in 1988 and had over 200,000 miles. 

#8 My father was interested in societal problems. In the late 1950s there were some people who did not want to sell homes to non-White families. My father said: “I would not want just anybody to live in my neighborhood either. But anyone who could afford to pay rent or pay for a mortgage in this town is welcome to me.”   My father was convinced the number one reason for increased black poverty and educational gaps was due to an enormous rise of black single-mother families (25% circa 1965 and today over 70%) and  a destructive chaotic vein of ghetto culture. A lack of a strong family structure, a lack of discipline and moderation made the education of many youths problematic and at risk. My father did not have all the answers. He said some things cannot be known and some problems are endemic and can never be completely solved. But he did believe children need to have a safe and orderly home life and school.   Our home was always a remanso de paz -a haven of peace full of music, books and some beautiful objects (mostly reproductions) but some original art or handcrafts. We never had more than one television and my wife and I have followed that. The difference is that today everyone has a laptop and phone. But still we all watch certain things together such as the CBS news TVE news (Spain) and Jeopardy. We share the TV. In my library I listen to the radio (mostly ballgames)or podcasts.

All his life my father was worried about

1) being jobless 2) not having enough to eat 3) being homeless. He knew comrades of my grandfather (from the Great War) who never got their lives together and who would have been homeless without my grandfather’s help and generosity. One was his nephew Jimmy Quiqley. Jimmy (whom my father and first cousin knew well) was 16 when he enlisted in 1914. He served the entire war in the infantry and saw hundreds of days of heavy combat. He saw friends killed. He killed. He was buried alive at one point. During the war he began to drink and smoke. It is sad. He survived the war but never had a steady job and never married. He died in the early 1950s in New York and was buried in Long Island near his aunt my grandmother.

My father never cooked in his entire life EXCEPT he knew how to make 1) a pot of fresh coffee or tea (very hot) 2) how to open a can of tomato soup 3) he knew how to make  toasted cheese sandwich with sliced tomato. 4) he knew how to make a toasted English muffin with butter and marmalade.  He used to do those things if his mother, sister or my mother were out shopping.  Otherwise he never went to the refrignerator or kitchen.  He did not like to waste food.  Sometimes he brought home food from business lunches or business parties.  He brought home the high quality plastic forks and knives and washed them for his personal use at home.  He always washed his own dishes and if necessary his own clothes.  He vacuumed the house on the weekend and thought nothing of moping the floor and helping out in the garden and taking out the garbage. But I did learn to cook a little from my mother and this helped me be independent. But my father never had a barbecue and rarely camped out. He did rent cabins for vacations in the 1950s and 1960s. But the only picnics he ever went on with his father were hotdogs at Ebbets field or Yankee stadium with his father.

I used to call my father on the phone 1973-1992 and the first thing he said was “HOW’S YOUR WEE JO-AB (job).” 

He figured if I was still working I would be in good health and things couldn’t be so bad”

I would pay a million dollars if I could talk to him now only for five minutes. But I have no regrets my father and I corresponded for years and talked on the phone or in person thousands of times. I still enjoy reading his comments in some of books and the occasional letter I find in a book. I have been retired now for almost a year. My father would be proud of me because I am reading Latin every day and studying Modern Greek about one hour a day every day via Duolingo. I have learned the Greek alphabet and have the goal of studying ancient Greek so I can read Homer and the New Testament. I have a small Greek library I inherited from my father upon his passing in 2003 (including an interlinear NT) and I preserved them for some future ocassion. My father said “Greek is a door that opens straight to paradise. ”  Sophocles wrote “For these things live not today or yesterday, but for all time.” I do find study of ancient literature a sweet distraction.

The other day my son called me and said how lucky he was to have a good role model in me and the older he got the more he appreciated the sacrifices I made for his education but especially the example of always loving and respecting and cherisihng his mother. I didn’t say anything but I knew my father who lived to see my son graduate from ASU would be very proud of his grandson as I am. It is good to know someone of our splendid ancient heritage has been passed on to a new generation

My father felt prejudices and racism were part of the human condition. He felt, however, they could be palliated if not ended gradually via intermarriage and societial integration and assimilation.   So he was reasonably optimistic about the future of America.

But my father also said said people will ALWAYS be prejudiced in favor of  BEAUTIFUL, YOUNG SLIM and RICH PEOPLE over ugly fat  old and poor  people.   

Some people will always have insider advantage and privileges.  That’s life.  RANK HATHS ITS PRIVILEGES.  Officers will have it better than enlisted.  College professors have it easier over k-12 teachers.

Some people will always hate and resent Jews or some other groups

The best we can hope for my father said is like the ancient Roman Coin CONCORDIA et PAX  Harmony of peoples and peace.

The best we can hope for is  Honoring citizens OB CIVES SERVATOS For Saving the Citizens)

All people could become citizens of Rome even Africans Jews, Greeks or Galatians.  There are many questions that can never be solved.

Some things can be cured but instead must be endured.   But one must guard one’s health and cultivate one’s own garden. With luck one can find some tranquility and happiness.

Yesterday’s Seven Thousand Years

My grandfather THOMAS MUNRO, SR ASH 1914-1919
Near the end of the Long, long road CONSTANTINOPLE January 1919 my grandfather is 5th from the right. He told me stories of the Turks (whom he hated with a passion) and visited Haggia Sophia and the ruins of city. He also had contact with Greek and Armenian refugees and he said the tales they told were heart-breaking and horrific.
Thomas Munro, Sr. in Salonika Greece APRIL 1917. He had written to my grandmother that now that the USA was in the war the Allies would surely win. He aid it was just a matter of time six months? a year? two years. He didn’t know for sure but all of the men felt hope they might now survive the war. He used to say he survived 2nd Ypres but would not have survived 5th or 6th Ypres.
The 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders arrive to come to the rescue of France and Belgium.
This photo has the same sources

When people say “New York” they mean “New York City” when they want to talk about the state they say “New York State.” As an exile from New York, I don’t consider myself a New Yorker and never considered myself a New Yorker. I was never accepted as a New Yorker. My family just passed through New York via Montreal, Canada, and Ellis Island. They never really were New Yorkers or even “Yankees”.

And you know what they say: being born in a garage doesn’t make you a car. I wouldn’t mind visiting it again (I haven’t been there since 2005) but I have no burning desire to return and no family and few friends to greet me.

Cianalas is the Highland word for it -that place you are connected to by heritage where joy and sadness mingle.

But it is quite true. You can’t go home again. The greatest distance between two points is time. New York, Glasgow, Argyll, Inverness, Glenties, Ferindonald represent lost worlds to me. So is Seattle, Washington where we lived for seven years.

There is some warmth of memories in all of those places places where my family lived for over one thousand years but I know them well enough to know they all belong to the past and are not likely to have any place in my future and the future of my children.

They are now part of Yesterday’s Seven Thousand Years.

We may sing of them and memory remembers the ghost of a tune and the ghost of a kiss and the Silent Ones.

But the Silent Ones greet forever as they greet no more.

Gars ye tae greet,aye. “But the broken heart it kens no second spring again thought the waeful heart cease not from its greeting.” (grieving; lamenting -that’s Scots dialect)

But then I am speaking only to myself.

“The world is hard and cruel. We are here none knows why, and we go none knows whither. We must be very humble. We must see the beauty of quietness. We must go through life so inconspicuously that Fate does not notice us. And let us seek the love of simple, ignorant people. Their ignorance is better than all our knowledge. Let us be silent, content in our little corner, meek and gentle like them. That is the wisdom of life.” (The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham)

Of course, the 1890 Highlands is a vanished world and so is pre-1914 Glasgow and so is Brooklyn, USA 1927-1957.

I grew up hearing about Ebbets Field ( I was there in 1955 in utero) and my cousins and sisters went there. I used to be very happy to return to New York but that is because my grandmother and mother and father lived there (plus a few college friends). But since they have passed on -it has been over 20 years so there is no homestead, no property, no address and no welcoming face at any door. The phone numbers still remembered are disconnected.

It is sad when you know your mother’s email and phone number and you know no matter how long you wait there will never be a return message or call.

Phone numbers disconnected and ideas for conversations that would never take place. I used to call my mother long distance at least once a week and she would see “this is costing money” and I told her it was cheaper than a cocaine habit and in any case I know each day is a gift. I told her I would call her now for a modest amount. The time is coming, I said to her, that no matter how much I would spend the door would still be locked and the phone disconnected.

Life and love are just a brief moment in time. My mother used to say that. I half believed it. Now I have learned it.

I thought winter would never come but winter came and the snow is general.

Even on Labor Day. Especially on a holiday. Thank God for my beloved wife! Thank God for our children and the new generation to come!