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.

Reverence for Life in a hard-hearted World

By Richard K. Munro

It’s a brave new world where children can access abortion pills (abortifacients) without a doctor’s prescription and without parental notification or consent. It seems reasonable to me that at the very least parents should be notified if their child has a major medical treatment or is prescribed powerful drugs. It seems to me drugs like this should not be administered without a doctor.

An abortifacient is defined as “an agent (such as a drug) that induces abortion.” However, manufacturers often market these drugs as “contraception” so as to obfuscate what these drugs actually do. Many Americans use abortion and abortion pills as a preferred form of birth control.

65 % of American women use or have used artificial birth control.  

91 percent of Americans believe birth control should be made free and widely available if abortion is restricted or banned. Among those who are anti-abortion rights, 61 percent agree.  There is no question the majority of Americans want access to artificial birth control. There is little argument there. The argument is over two questions:

  1. is abortion a form of birth control that should be freely available to all without restriction or limits for all ages (including minors without parental consent)? Condoms, IUDs, and the abortifacient morning-after pill are given to students in high schools – including those under age 16 – free of charge and without parents’ knowledge or consent in many places. Is this right? Some do not think so.
  2. Can or should states restrict or limit access to abortions for minors without parental consent or notification? Some think there can be reasonable restrictions on abortion. Abortion is legal most places in the United States during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. Most abortions are done during the first trimester of pregnancy. The first trimester refers to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Some states allow abortions until the 24th week, which is at the very end of the second trimester. Some people think there is an unlimited right to abortion even in the third trimester. But that is a minority. In the third trimester, just 19 percent of Americans believe most or all abortions should legal. according to a poll. But a recent poll indicates 80% of American believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester.

If a person is considering abortion, there are two ways of ending a pregnancy: in-clinic abortion and medication abortion (also known as the “abortion pill”). The percentage of abortions done with U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved mifepristone pills rose from about 44% in 2019 to 54% in 2020. This number will continue to grow as in clinic abortions become less common. On Jan. 3, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the distribution of abortion pills to retail pharmacies.

Under the new regulation, certified pharmacies can distribute mifepristone — which is used in conjunction with misoprostol, a more easily accessible drug, to end a pregnancy — in person or through the mail to patients who have a prescription from a certified provider. President Biden’s Department of Justice, meanwhile, has assured the US Postal Service (USPS) that it can continue to deliver packages of abortion pills nationwide, even in states that restrict or limit abortion.

In Texas, for example abortion is restricted except for life-threatening medical emergency, and anyone under 18 requires parental permission or a judicial bypass. I have personally met with young people who were pro-life speakers from Texas. In both cases the mother came very close to terminating the pregnancy (in one case the young person showed a Costco card and in another a fake ID). In both cases parents and or uncles and aunts intervened to demonstrated the young women was not of age of consent. They promised to welcome the children into their family. In both cases the young women decided to carry the babies to term. I met these beautiful and strong young people. I was, personally, haunted by the fact that if they had been Californians their lives would have been snuffed out and thus these two citizens would not exist.

Since the Dobbs ruling, pro-choice advocates say there has been a growth in self-managed abortions — via abortion pills that are obtained through avenues that skirt the law — in restrictive states. Once again I think young women should have reasonable access to birth control but young people should also be aware of the risks of some medical treatments. I think it reasonable that some drugs should be available at pharmacies only with a doctor’s prescription.

Incredible as it seems In 1963, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare shared the widely held definition of abortion as “all the measures which impair the viability of the zygote at any time between the instant of fertilization and the completion of labor.” (emphasis mine; a direct quote).

Indeed, until the mid-1960s, most doctors and scientists acknowledged that human life began at the moment of fertilization of the ovum by the sperm somewhere in the Fallopian tube.

How times have changed!

In 1965, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published its first Terminology Bulletin, stating: “Conception is the implantation of a fertilized ovum.” (Emphasis mine). 

This change of medical terminology as far as I can determine was not based on new scientific findings.

The modern definition of conception was a political decision to appease Planned Parenthood and birth control activists.

Reverence for Life affords us a fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm, or to hinder life is evil.  So I would say LIFE is a better choice than DEATH.

I have no opposition to those who want to remain celibate their entire lives. 

I have no opposition to those who want to use birth control to remain childless or limit the children they have. 

If people choose to use abortion or abortifacient drugs for birth control that is their choice. 

Abortion will always exist because it exists in nature and some people want to use it as a form of birth control.   But in the final analysis, LIFE is a better CHOICE than death. 

I would respect Planned Parenthood more if they boasted how many lives they saved and gave up for adoption (they actively discourage giving children up for abortion -they wouldn’t make any money that way).

Abortion should be legal but I think it should also be rare.

Yes, it is a person’s right to choose (within reason) to have a child or children. 

But next year and next century and for 1000 years more it will be a heartbreaking tragedy that so many innocent lives are snuffed out like so many wet matches. Morally to abort without a very strong reason (to save the life of the mother etc.) will always remain an immoral act and a human tragedy.

Why The Last Valley was so controversial

By Richard K. Munro

The other day I got the sad news that CHRISTIAN ROBERTS who had appeared in TO SIR WITH LOVE (with Sidney Poitier) and THE LAST VALLEY (with Michael Caine and Omar Sharif) passed away in December 2022. Andrew Roberts, his nephew, wrote a very moving obituary in the Telegraph. TO SIR WITH LOVE is a very well-known film but THE LAST VALLEY which an excellent and unusual film has been very little seen especially in the USA. Why would that be?

The opening prologue sums up that era of internecine warfare forcefully and concisely: “The Thirty Years War began in 1618. It started as a religious war – Catholics against Protestants. But in their relentless pursuit of power, princes of both faiths changed sides as it suited them and in the name of religion butchered Europe.”

But THE LAST VALLEY was controversial in its time and still remains largely unknown to the general public. Why?

Because The Last Valley was considered by many to be blasphemous and atheistic.

The Last Valley was boycotted by evangelical churches and Roman Catholic Church. I remember there were ads put out against it in major newspapers and religious newspapers. It was not shown on TV for years.   I don’t think it was ever released on VHS.  

Finally, it came out in DVD and we saw it again.   Still, I think it was a great and moving film. The Last Valley had to courage to deal with an actual human quandary. How the poor and the weak can survive an invasion of well-armed and ruthless mercenaries. Michael Caine’s captain could have been a Nazi officer or a Russian officer of today in Ukraine.

The Last Valley was one of the most popular movies at the British box office in 1971.  However, it was an expensive flop overall. It earned rentals of $380,000 in North America and $900,000 in other countries, recording an overall loss of $7,185,000.

Rentals in the USA and Canada were less than $500,000!!!! 

So I would say the boycotts were effective you could see it in New York and San Francisco and LA (briefly) but that was about it.

My father and I went to see it in NYC -heck it was a Michael Caine movie! He and I were the only ones in the theater! It closed almost right away.  

Many people attacked James Clavell’s script because he was a well-known atheist.    

Personally, I thought it was a very honest film and thoughtful film it did not take the side of the Protestants or the Catholics really but had a lot of complexity.  THE LAST VALLEY is also endowed by the ethereal music of the John Barry soundtrack. Barry seemed to capture the mood of the era.

The nihilism and atheism of the captain (Caine) were totally believable. after all the violence he had seen and all the treacherous and corruption of Christian leaders both Catholic and Protestant.

The film was an equal opportunity offender in that way.

The main characters in THE LAST VALLEY were traumatized by the violence and killing they had seen and committed. Such a brutal experience could shake the values of the most serious Christian or Jew.

Traumatic experiences can affect different individuals in different ways.

NIGHT one of the great Holocaust books showed hows the experiences and suffering of Elie Wiesel deeply scarred him and turned him into an atheist.  On the other hand, Viktor Frankl in MAN’S QUEST FOR MEANING another excellent Holocaust book- became more religious.  

In the Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn became more religious by his experience.  C. S. Lewis to me the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century became deeply religious because of his great war experiences. Others became disillusioned and joined the “Lost Generation.” 

I gain my philosophy of life from Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius as well as Lincoln, Churchill, and CS Lewis.  I am influenced by Judeo-Christian teachings naturally but do not consider myself a man of ONE BOOK or

Homo unius libri  (Thomas Aquinas). Aquinas is reputed to have said “hominem unius libri timeo” I fear the man of a single book. I think the Bible is great but recall that the New Testament is just one great book of Greek Literature out of many.    Though many do not recognize it the New Testament paraphrases Greek literature and philosophy.

My father and I often discussed religious and philosophical themes and he used to say I VOTE YES but heaven and eternal life IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.   HE WISHED THERE WAS A JUST JUDGE AND THAT HITLER AND STALIN WERE BURNING IN HELL.   But in truth, he felt they were just as dead and senseless as Julius Caesar. They were beyond pain and punishment. Still, I hope there is a God and I hope he punishes the wicked.

So I suppose my father tended toward the skeptical even more than me.  THE LAST VALLEY was most controversial when it comes to explaining the process of granting indulgences by Roman Catholic priests. In that era their authority was almost complete. Per Oscarsson, a prestigious Swedish veteran of stage and screen in his homeland gave a splendid and singular performance as Father Sebastion (the fanatical priest).

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

Omar Sharif plays the role of an educated stranger to the valley and is entirely credible. Vogel delicately uses his brains, not his brawn. Vogel must find a way to keep the soldiers from massacring the villagers while maintaining peace with the headman., yet at the same time maintaining an uneasy peace with the headman. This was one of Sharif’s great performances. In a supporting role, we have Arthur O’Connell always a very convincing actor.

I thought the script of the LAST VALLEY was intelligent and brilliant and all the acting was first-class.  Michael Caine’s performance was unforgettable. I can’t think of any other film that dealt with the 30 Years’ War.    I think we all can agree that the wars of religion were a great tragedy perhaps as bad as World War 1.   The only thing worse would have been the complete conquest of Europe by the Ottoman Turks! 

And of course, in a way the 30 Years war continued in Ireland until recent times.  

 Sectarian hatreds and prejudices are extremely harmful.    

None of us is perfect and the honest man agrees religion can be a positive influence or a negative influence.  

 I think people should choose for themselves (as adults what religion if any they want to practice). 

Anglican or Catholic or Jewish any tradition could be good and could have a beneficent effect on children and family life.   

  I perhaps would not show the LAST VALLEY to my grandchildren NOW (aged 1 to 5) but by the time they are in high school or college, they SHOULD SEE IT.

I am not in favor of boycotting books or movies although I would say some books and movies should not be shown to k-6 students.  Some are PG PG 13 etc.  

The Last Valley was rated PG and was suitable for all audiences. 

I showed PART of Schindler’s list to my high school students but never showed the entire movie but I recommended it.   I thought the entire movie was too much.  And of course in our district, one could show clips without parental permission but not R films.  You could show an R film if you had parental permission or gave students a chance to opt-out.   

I thought ALL the students should watch at least SOME of the film. Similarly I think The Last Valley is a film every person interested in history and the history of religious conflict should watch. I am glad I saw it in 1971 and I would see it again. It is in my film library next to TO SIR WITH LOVE, The Lilies of the Field, The Keys of the Kingdom The Mission, the Sound of Music, and Miracle on 34th Street.

The Rise and Fall of an American Boobacracy?


For generation after generation, most Americans have not learned to read with fluency.  Today most Americans apparently read only when they have to.  The numbers are daunting: 

  1. Roughly 21% of American adults are illiterate, and another 33% read at or below a 6th grade level; 
  2. Americans between the ages of 15 and 44 spend ten minutes or less a day reading books;
  3. More than half of adult Americans haven’t read a full book in over a year, and 
  4. Young people are reading less than half the number of books that older generations read. 

I included a few cartoons so we can laugh a little before we weep.

As a retired teacher I can tell you literacy has been gradually and continuously declining in America since the 1920s and 1930s.  My grandfather, for example, had very little formal education.   He went to sea as a boy apprentice circa 1894 at age 8.   Of course, in those days on British merchant ships the boy apprentices slept apart from the sailors and were tutored by the captain in reading, basic math, and navigation.   He was very good at basic math and tutored my cousin in high school and helped her graduate. She is grateful to this day. He died the day she graduated from high school.

They read the King James Bible, Scott, Shakespeare,  Dickens, and Burns.  One thing they did not do much of was writing so my grandfather was ashamed that he could not spell and write fluently.   He often would have a friend write letters for him and then he would copy them out line for line.     I suppose that way he improved his writing gradually over the years.  He had a very good-looking signature.    But I don’t think he ever read a book in his entire life.    He was an avid newspaper and magazine reader, however.  He loved to study maps and atlases.    He knew all the classes of naval vessels (he built a few) and he knew British aviation and German aviation and American aviation and production figures.   My father was a college graduate but he always believed his father had deep experience, knowledge, and wisdom even though he lacked degrees and diplomas.   I remember as a boy he read two or three newspapers every day (Daily News, Post, Herald-Tribune plus LIFE magazine and National Geographic).   He could smoke and read quietly for hours.  Of course, he read to me.  He read Kipling, he read comic books (Superman and Classics Illustrated), he read Greek Myths,  He knew some Gaelic but was almost completely illiterate in that language.   Similarly, he knew Scots very well but could not spell or write the way he spoke.  But my grandfather was no unusual.   His working friends all avidly read newspapers and political tracts (some were pro-Communist).   Similarly my father’s mother probably never read a single book in her whole life   But one book she knew very well was the Bible.   She was a devout Christian in the Roman Catholic tradition and it was not unusual for her to attend Mass seven days a week.    What she knew about art and music she mostly got from the church.   She had relatives who were teachers and priests and she had great respect for learning.   She was a very humble woman.  My father was greatly influenced by his uncle who was a teacher and later by his Jewish teachers and professors at Manual Training HS in Brooklyn and Brooklyn College.  

Unlike his father, my father was a very serious reader and an amateur linguist as well. He studied Latin and French in High School and German and French in College.  He taught himself SPANISH, TAGALOG, Italian, Ancient Greek and Modern Greek, as well as Russian.  His reading endurance was remarkable.   He read all of Dickens, all of Shaw, all of Stevenson, all of Twain. All of Shakespeare, All of Dante all of the Greek playwrights all of Cicero, all of Caesar, all of Xenophon all of Homer,  Cervantes,  all of Zola. of Balzac,  all of Victor Hugo.  All of Dante, all of Will Durant, All of Barzun, All of Gilbert Hight all of Orwell  I could go on. I was lucky enough to inherit most of his books I still have a long way to go but in 50 years have made some progress.

My wife is a reader my cousin is a reader we all read the newspapers and Reader’s Digest (for light reading)  My daughter a k-6 teacher reads dozens of books every year and belongs to book clubs.  Like her mother, she reads in Spanish and English.     Her small children are already playing with books and being read to.   They see their parents and grandparents reading,  My four-year-old granddaughter was going over a book of dinosaurs and animals and recognized dozens of animals in English and Spanish EXCEPT  Cheetah or Guepardo.    She said it was a leopard and I pointed out how big cats were different.   Jaguars, Leopards, Lions, and Pumas . She has a little toy Noah’s Arc and she lines up the animals and compares and contrasts them.  She knows colors and the things animals eats.   She loves going to the ZOO. This is how one develops readers.  By example and by reading with them and to them.

I told my students that you don’t get vocabulary by watching TV shows like “Friends”  I made a charter of vocabulary, and verb tenses of three different works  #1 was a random “Friends” episode #2 was a play by G B Shaw #3  was the vocabulary in a book like Tale of Two Cities, Tom Jones,  For Whom the Bell Tolls or 1984 by Orwell.    One could spend MONTHS  studying and commenting on the vocabulary and cultural allusions of the books. Years even.    Pyramus and Thisbe we see in OVID, FIELDING,  Cervantes, SHAKESPEARE, for example

  “Friends” had zero biblical allusions zero historical zero literary allusions and less than 8th-grade vocabulary.      Mostly it had low-brow off-color humor. But it was very clear the education and vocabulary one would receive from a TV show like this would be very limited. 

Of course, one could watch something a little higher up on the cultural scale, Laurence of Arabia,  Great Expectations,  the King’s Speech.    But it is not a coincidence that some of the greatest films are derived from plays and books. But generally, movies and documentaries are just summaries. ELMER GANTRY (1960_ was a fine film but only half or less than the book. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (1943) was a faithful adaptation of Hemingway’s novel but one needed the book to understand the background and the characters. It’s a rare movie that is better than the book. Three examples I can think of are John Ford’s GRAPES OF WRATH, John Ford’s THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, John Houston’s TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE and STANLEY KUBRICK’s PATHS OF GLORY. I read the original books but they were not nearly as memorable as the film versions.

So one should read to gain vocabulary, facts, and information.    This could be the nutritional value of foods or the rules of a game or how to plant a rose bush or olive tree. This could be on how to maintain basic hygiene to reduce illness and avoid the flu,  VD or Covid 19.  

One should read to sharpen your mind and learn from the experiences of those in history or stories.  Years ago I saw the FILM ENCHANTMENT with David Niven and Teresa Wright.  My mother encouraged me to read the book which I did the Rumer Godden novel, “Take Three Tenses” This book was very important for me and for my life because it taught me a very important lesson:  When you find love and happiness don’t let it pass you by.  Take a chance and tell the person how you feel don’t be full of regrets like the Old General who lost the love of his life basically so he could advance his career.   A few times I met women who were really worthwhile and special women.   Sometimes the mutual chemistry and magnetism were not there.   So the relationship never developed or we broke up.   But when you find that love, that friendship, that laughter that joy, that trust you have to take a chance.  You can’t put off love forever do it by your 20s or early 30s at the latest.   Rummer Godden may not be the greatest author in history but she knew about some important things and she woke me up to the fact what was I doing wasting my life with people and women who could not make me happy?   I knew who I loved and just needed to prove to her that I could make her happy and secure.   So we fell in love and lived happily ever after.  And I thank my mother (and David Niven) and Rummer Godden for teaching me the way to make good choices.  But it all started with reading.

Reading teaches empathy and makes one more compassionate for the sufferings of others.   I remember the book THE EDGE OF SADNESS and  THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM and saw the glory and the tragedy of the life of priests and missionaries.    I had some interest in the priesthood and missionary work because I liked teaching and helping people.   But I could never be celibate because especially when I was 17-25 I just loved women and wanted to be with them!   I didn’t want all women however I would be happy with one.

Sometimes I have to travel by myself and wait in airports. I once spent five hours on a layover in Dallas and eight hours at Barajas Airport.  But neither were bad experiences because I had books to read.  There were clean bathrooms, cafés restaurants and places to sit.   So I read and drank coca-cola or coffee and then strolled and then snacked and then ate supper with a book or newspaper.  Before I knew it I was on my plane.   If I hadn’t anything to read it might have been dreadful but I always have a supply or reading materials old and new.  Reading is a great companion and sweet distraction.  Fernando Pessoa, the Portuguese poet was right when he said “literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”     I once spent six weeks on Madeira. I had some hedonistic fun.  But what I enjoyed most was reading every morning and most afternoons in the garden of the small hotel where I was staying.   I had an entire suitcase of books that I carried around all over Portugal and Spain including one concise Oxford Dictionary and a small Collins Portuguese and Spanish dictionary.  When I finished with the books I mailed them by boat back to America and filled up my suitcase with the books I picked up.   The Casa Del Libro in Madrid naturally had a magnificent collection of Spanish,  Latin, Greek, and French books but they also had an entire floor dedicated to English language books.  They had a complete collection of Penguins and Everyman books plus many others.   I must have read hundreds of Penguins when I lived in Spain.  I still have a few by Walter Scott and Rex Warner and Michael Grant but most I gave away.  They were just disposable paperbacks after all.    I still have paperbacks and I still enjoy reading print versions of magazines Commentary, National Geographic,  Baseball Digest, and Reader’s Digest but I mostly read electronic versions of newspapers and books unless I really want to study and read a book deeply.   Some books I have on Audible books, hardcover, and e-book versions.    I enjoy adventure tales and westerns and many I listen to on Audible books.   But authors I meet on Audible books I often turn to and read their other books.  If a movie or audible book encourages you to get to know an author that’s great.  What one usually finds is reading is the most satisfying way to experience a book.   I know I remember MORE when I read a physical book than when I read an electronic book or listen to a book.   Having a physical book makes it easier to reference, write notes or re-read.  I find I rarely re-read e-books unless they are very special. One thing is certain. I cannot live without books. People who live without books are missing out on some of the best things in life.


By Richard K. Munro

I have been an adjunct professor on the fringes of Academe at Seattle University, Bakersfield College and UVA. I knew a friend who was an adjunct professor at NYU for 7 years. But pathways to a solid career in academia were few and far between it seemed to me.

One of the things I noticed was that marriage and family life were almost impossible under those circumstances. Molto honore poco contante as the Italians say. I was called Professor Munro for $22 an hour no benefits and no future pension. I would say it was an interesting experience, but I truly enjoyed teaching HS much more.

My HS AP students were superior (generally speaking) to my adult JC students. I also had greater freedom to choose my curriculum. At the JC one was mandated to teach the book everyone used. Most were overblown and overpriced. They charged students over $250 dollars for materials for Spanish 1a and 1B. Talk about price gouging. Another reason college is too expensive.

From my JC students I gained private police officers they were astonished that I used inexpensive materials $10.95 for Teacher Yourself Spanish books and CD’s and $7.95 for Collins dictionary. I told them all they needed were those tools, notebooks, colored pencils, and index cards and they could learn any language but they had to invest 3-5 years.

Of course, my colleagues at the JC didn’t really like HS teachers. They resented I took students away from them (AP students tested out). They always resented I taught police officers at 5AM. Working people found it difficult to advance via JC scheduled classes a 1Pm or 4PM what everyone wanted to teach. But to me it was interesting work (meeting people in a different lines of work) and it helped pay the mortgage in the summer.

I studied Spanish for five years in Junior High and High school plus four years in the university and four years in Graduate school (Summers in Spain) I loved studying in Spain (half my teachers were Spanish and the other half were Cuban Americans) and having the opportunity to travel in Western Europe. Of course, Spanish changed my life it was my one expertise besides typing that was always in demand. I worked for the Bank of America, the Marine Corps, and in construction. Knowing Spanish was always advantageous. It kept me in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, everyone else went to Okinawa. I remember Woody Allen joked that being bisexual doubled your chance on a Saturday night; for me speaking another language doubled or tripled my chances for a date. I also think I might have been less garrulous and more polite as a non-native speaker.

JC students were easy to handle, however. I made a choice to be a very competitive k-12 teacher. Instead of a narrow education, I had a broad education. I was certified to teach in English, Spanish, and Social Studies with a bilingual certificate of competence. And I coached soccer and baseball. I enjoyed that when I was young.

At one time I gained 30 credits toward my Ph.D. at UVA but I cut my losses (maxed out my pay grade). It was not a matter of doing the academic work. It was just too costly for very few opportunities. I studied at the Curry School. D- intellectual atmosphere IMHO.

I had 35-year-old PhDs who had never heard of Barzun or Highet or even Will Durant. And you could forget about Spanish or French or British literature. Most seemed to have never read a real book in their lives. They loved the Pedagogy of Oppression by Paulo Freire (complete crap and an evil book). I was a TA for an adjunct who taught a class on intelligence (not in the Curry Schoo). and that was ok I graded about 300 final exams. As an AP teacher, I was good at that. UVA outside of the the Curry School was solid but compared to NYU or Oxford or Salamanca low wattage.

K-12 I earned great benefits for my family plus one year of sabbatical (I spent at UVA and traveled) plus a solid pension I am enjoying now.

I got an MA in Spanish literature in Spain and enjoyed that very much.

Most graduate work in Teacher Ed was merely jumping through hoops it didn’t thrill me. I could have easily gotten an MA in education (I think I was 15 credits short but I did a 5th-year certification and instead of an MA in education I chose an additional certificate in English. In the long run that turned out to be a very good choice.

K-12 education had its flaws -I found it frustrating that most Administrators didn’t really care about education or standards. To many, I was just a cog to fill in a schedule. I worked as a utility player. I taught over dozen preps in three subject areas. I stayed employed but was not happy not being able to teach one curriculum and really getting to know it.

I taught AP US history for five years and AP Spanish and Spanish Literature for 12 years but the demand was not there. They don’t even teach AP at my former school. Everything is via computer and via JC concurrent credit. The bottom line is kids don’t write essays, and don’t research. Now they say kids have AI do their essays and HW.

Brave New World!

The demand and summer schoolwork was in ESL so I gradually specialized in ESL Social Studies and ESL English (all levels).

The advantage was I had mostly immigrant students who were so grateful not to be in Venezuela, El Salvador, Egypt Burma Syrian Russia, or Iraq that they were very happy (and most serious students).

My favorite classes were Spanish for Native Speakers and English as a Second Language.

Most were very enthusiastic.

My least favorite classes were make-up summer school for football players in World History. Administrators would tell me x y and z needed an A or B to be eligible. My response was you should be talking to them not me. Of course, I never taught again for that administrator (he was later fired for indiscretions anyway).

Another least favorite class merely a potboiler was Spanish 1 for Americans. My only interesting students were a pair of Yemeni sisters who were fascinated by Arabic words in Spanish and made for me (I still have a series of posters in Arabic Spanish and English educational and moral quotes of Muhammed). Of course, they were model students. 100% attendance. They also became fluent in Spanish and work at their parent’s local 7-11. Each one had ten children I think.

We have a growing Muslim community. Every Muslim student I knew married and had children. I had one male student who had 8 children by the time he graduated from HS (his wife lived in Yemen and emigrated at age 16). As far as I know, she still speaks no English.

Too many American students just were goof-offs in my experience. It was all I could to tolerate them. OF course, the Administrators didn’t care as long as everyone got at least a D or C.

I also tutored a few football players, privately in Spanish but I did that as a favor.

My best private students were police officers and firemen. They WANTED to learn.

I also tutored the children of teachers in AP US government and AP US History and AP European History. I had a certain reputation everyone I had got a 5. But it was a great experience with kids who wanted to excel.

Unfortunately, I never taught AP European history in HS myself but two of my children studied it in HS (and got 5’s). My own children were AP Scholars. I respect AP because it is a rigorous curriculum. To get a 5 in AP Spanish Literature is no easy matter. To get 5s simultaneously in AP Calculus AP Environmental Science AP US History AP European History and AP English is rare and a true intellectual achievement.

But most Americans were intellectually lazy especially when it came to foreign languages, in my experience. Two of my children are teachers by the way -one is a K-6 Dual Immersion teacher and the other is a HS AP Spanish teacher (who teaches IN his class JC college-level classes also for some extra money. He also tutors Minor League Baseball players for good money for a MLB club. Like me, they went for financial security and tenure via k-12 education. I got tenure after #1 getting a clear credential #2 three years of certified satisfactory work. Of course, you CAN get laid off in k-12 education. But if you are a math teacher, science teacher, or bilingual teacher you will probably stay employed and get a lot of extra work.

I had a wonderful junior HS teacher in Ancient History and I asked him why he wasn’t a PhD in College – He knew Italian, Latin and Greek- He showed me his wife and family four kids -he said you have to make choices I chose personal happiness and family life.

I have no regrets.

Personally, I am very glad I did not hang out in graduate school for years.

Most of my graduate school was really in Spain in a non- college atmosphere. Most of the women I dated were museum docents American express travel agents, nurses or neighbors. Most were readers and well-educated esp by American standards a high school graduate in France or Spain or Italy was at least equivalent to most AA or BA’s in America.

Thinking back very few of the women I dated were college students. or even English-speakers. After age 21 I never dated an English-speaking American girl ever again. Most I met did not have my values and interests. Some of course only wanted to marry for money -big money. I suppose I was naive. I wanted to marry for love and friendship. My own wife had zero money. I didn’t care about that. I promised I would provide a secure life and would work hard. Most college educated American women I met wanted to give away sex -they would be angry if you turned them away but few I met were interested in marriage and children. To me, however marriage and family life were chief goals. I met a lot of semi-educated “Sangerites” (ZPG hard core). Sexual suicide.

For whatever reason, I was seen as very attractive to Latins in the Americas and in Europe.

I think that is because I came from an immigrant family.

My mother and her mother grew up on an Island with 300 people and my father’s mother grew up in rural Argyll. She went to Mass almost daily.

All were devoutly religious and very traditional wives and mothers. They were mostly horrified and shocked by the mores and manners of American women. They would not allow their children to be babysat by American teenagers for example. The mothers of the Latin and Greek women I dated always liked me and welcomed me. I courted the women I dated and showed them great respect. I always respected the parents and grandparents.

I was a gentleman and considered good marriage material. I used to attend religious services with the relatives and parents of the women I dated. They respected that. I didn’t mind attending Greek Orthodox, Evangelical services or Catholic services. I found it interesting. In the service I attended Jewish services and was very friendly with the Naval Chaplain (he lent me books).

I knew a Jewish business associate of my father’s -I liked him- but was shocked when he said he would not allow me to date his (very attractive) daughter. I told him if I dated a Jewish girl -for example, the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor or an Israeli it would be to marry her and if I would marry such a woman I would convert to Judaism and raise our children in the Jewish faith. I was sincere. He was amazed. I think I gained his respect. I believe a couple should have the same faith and raise the children in the faith of the most religious. One of my relatives, by the way, IS JEWISH now as he converted upon marriage a decision I deeply respect.

I lived happily ever after so it worked out for me.

Staying away from the Adjunct Life was a smart decision.

Nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.


by Richard K. Munro

I agree with the Greco-Roman philosophers that wisdom is, eventually, chief among virtues. However, wisdom is a virtue which comes later in life and slowly. Wisdom is a slow growth. It is not, then, first among the virtues we can hope to impart or encourage in the youth.

Cicero said: “Beginning with the bonds of affection between family and friends, we are prompted to move gradually further out and associate ourselves firstly with our fellow citizens and then with every person on earth.”

So what is early education? Child rearing (or breeding) is the product of one’s personal associations in the home, in one’s neighborhood, one’s community and one’s school. Rearing or bringing up the youth presupposes properly coordinating the habits of the young and subordinating the wild, the unhygienic, the selfish and the baser instincts of our single but riven race. A people, a nation or a civilization must have its moral education, its code of civility and norms as well as its time of formal instruction or schooling.

There is a Spanish saying of which I am fond: “Para la virtud, la educación; para la ciencia la instrucción” which means “First teach virtue, manners, good habits and civility; then school for knowledge.” This saying has long fascinated me because it implies that formal education (instruction; schooling) must be preceded and accompanied by what we used to call “breeding” or “upbringing” or training in manners, socially acceptable behavior, politeness, or civility.

In America and the English-speaking world there is much confusion today as to the role of parents, community and school in the rearing, training and education of children and youth and this confusion is reflected in our opaque, modern usage with silly and synthetic expressions like “parenting”, “empowering” etc. which are cut off from the Aristotelian concepts which were once the basis of all Western schools.

In the division favored traditionally by the French and Spanish, we can clearly perceive the influence of Thomistic and Greek philosophy (particularly Aristotle and Plato). So in Spanish one can say without any irony that one’s grandparents were bien educados (polite, generous and courteous) but sin instrucción alguna (without formal schooling -even illiterate).

Himmler was formerly schooled, a wise Spanish nurse said to me, but muy maleducado (without social graces, without a moral conscience, boorish and rude, in short, a barbarian).

Haim Ginott made a very wise observation in his wonderful book Teacher and Child :

On the first day of the new school year, all the teachers in one private school received the following note from a principal:

Dear Teacher:
I am the survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness.
Gas chambers built by learned engineers
Children poisoned by educated physicians/
Infants killed by trained nurses.
Women and babies shot and burned
By high school and college graduates.
So I am suspicious of education.
My request is: Help your students become human.
Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.
Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.

Ginott is saying that moral and character education (what the Spanish know as ‘”educación”) is really more important even than academic achievement or excellence because it is what makes people respectful, merciful, decent and fully human or humane.

The Spanish language makes it very clear that education is a process of socialization and ethical development which is accompanied by and followed by “aprendizaje” (which means learning but also “apprenticeship”) which leads to a higher intellectual development called formal education or instruction (formación o instrucción).” The French have the same concept and a similar vocabulary and speak of ‘bonne éducation’ (good manners) or “politesse et civilité” (politeness and civility) as important virtues. Formal schooling is sometimes called “education” or “études” (studies) but especially “instruction et formation” (schooling and academic training). Language helps shape our ideas and our perspectives. It for this reason I believe the well-educated person will have training in one or more languages besides English. There is no question that foreign language study sharpens the mind as to the nuances and shades of meaning of words.


Why I love history and think it is so important”

By Richard K. Munro

I love history because history is fascinating and so full of so many dramatic stories. History well told is beautiful and exciting.

And often “truth is stranger than fiction.”

The Roman poet Martial, who traveled to many lands and saw many wonders said, “He who loves history lives twice”. History, I believe, makes us wiser as history offers a multitude of examples about how leaders and societies react in the crises of domestic struggles, economic challenges, and war.

Winston Churchill said “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” History provides essential knowledge about the emergence of our national instructions, our culture, our sports, our constitution, and our democratic values.

History is important because it helps us understand the present so we can analyze events more clearly and make better decisions now and in the future. History also provides all of us an identity as individuals and as a people so as to unify us as Americans.

Lincoln, the president who saved our union, said, “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.” We ignore it at our peril. Without history, we could lose our freedom, our national independence and our personal identity leaving us only with disunity, ignorance, and despair.


by Richard K. Munro

College is not for everyone. And College is not for everyone right away. I did not go to college right after high school (unless you count a 10-week summer program with the U. of Northern Iowa) in Spain (I did earn 3 college credits). But then I stayed in Spain for a period of time. I got my BA from NYU. I should have gotten at MA (perhaps) at that time I took many graduate level classes in Spanish, political science and history for undergraduate credit. I commuted so NYU (much cheaper then) was economical (then). But graduate school in the liberal arts seemed then overpriced. I was tired of school (but not reading and learning). So, I served in the Marines and later traveled in Europe and Latin America. I worked in private industry for a period of time but after ten years returned to school to get a Teacher’s Certificate and get into an MA program with the University of Northern Iowa (in Spain). I had only a few marketable skills. One of the best things I did in high school was studying typing (at night school). I became competent and so typed all my own papers in college in English and Spanish. Working at the bank as I did for five years and in the military, it was useful to be able to type. Unfortunately, I came to the computer late but when I did word processing it was a strong skill for me.

Another expertise I had was being bilingual in Spanish and English. Living and studying in Spain greatly strengthened my Spanish (I also studied Portuguese) I worked in Spain as a tutor, translator, and tour guide. I transacted all my business in Spanish.

I do not regret traveling and visiting Portugal, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Germany, Ireland and Britain. I mostly lived in Spain which was relatively inexpensive then. I could not afford to live in NYC in the 1970s but I could live in Madrid and my rent was $100 a month! I had no car but had a EURAIL PASS so I could travel inexpensively all-over Western Europe. In Madrid, Lisbon, Paris, and Barcelona I used the metro and public buses. i had no phone. I had no TV. I did have a radio cassette player. I had a PO box at American Express. I could also cash personal checks at AMEX. Most of my mail was sent to Madrid but I could also pick up mail in Funchal, Lisbon, Barcelona, Rome, Paris if I so desired. I loved living in Europe. I read a lot of books in English, Spanish esp. I went to plays, concerts and opera. I went to soccer games. I visited museums and historical sites all over Western Europe including battlefields. The only reason I came back from Europe, really, was because I wanted to get married and have a family.

I am grateful that America gave me (and my father and grandfather who were immigrants) economic and professional opportunity. I returned to college 2004-2005 on an ISI scholarship at UVA. I earned thirty post graduate credits (and maxed out my pay scale in preparation for my retirement) but cut my losses. I could have academically earned a PhD but to do so I would have had to sell my house cash in my retirement and struggle for years to finish the program and support my family. It just wasn’t in the cards. I had three children to help get through college. I paid my own way for graduate school.

We helped our kids (they worked too) for undergraduate. They paid their own way for graduate degrees which were career specific (engineering, or teaching certificates). If you have a clear career goal college could be a very good choice. If you have no clear goals, then I would suggest

1) working

2) doing 1 tour of service in the military

3) going to a Community College -you can transfer to a four year college later.

My son in law took TEN YEARS to get his BS in Engineering. He started at JC and got his AA degree and then finally went to college full time in Mechanical Engineering. He works for a major Aerospace manufacturer. He is highly skilled and only getting more so as his career progresses. After HS he worked at Sprouts but never gave up his goal. One of the advantages of doing a program over ten years is you can pay as you go. He borrowed no money for living expenses or tuition. My daughter worked on average 35 hours a week at IHOP when she was in college. With her AP credits she graduated in 4 years and gained a K-6 teaching credential with a bilingual certificate. Having her expertise helped her get a job right away. Most of us have to work for living. It is important for young people HS or beyond to GET WORK EXPERIENCE. For too many College is a debilitating hedonistic experience. If you have to work and study you will be more serious. If you are paying your own way and have bills to pay you will be more serioius.

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Meritocracy Vs. Affirmative Action (“Equity”)


“To the extent their grades and scores reflect hard work, maybe. But grades and test scores are at least equally reflective of innate abilities and early opportunities, for which the students themselves deserve no credit. They simply won the genetic and socio-economic lottery.”

TRUE to a certain extent.  If one’s parents are well-educated, economically successful, and cosmopolitan the children MAY have an advantage IF they are not slackers.   But sometimes they are and so crash and burn.

There is no question if you have money and connections, you have an advantage in an acting career for example but in classical music I think talent, training and natural ability make the classical music world more of a meritocracy.   More Asians per capita are successful in the classical music field because they come from a culture that has emulated the high musical culture of the West more than other groups. Similarly the Italians seem to produce the best tenors and sopranos because singing is so deeply part of their musical tradition.  The idea of having quotas for minorities is silly and harmful for classical music, medical school, engineering school the sciences etc.

And when it comes to piping it is just a cognate fact the very best pipers are Scottish or Irish then British then English speaking (Canadian/Australian/USA etc) of Celtic origin. 

There may be a few great Israeli or African American pipers but I haven’t heard or seen any.    

On the other hand I HAVE heard and seen great Indian and Gurkha pipers because those groups have many generations of close contact with Highland Regiments and so it is an integral part of its military culture.  Piping and Pipe bands have public competitions and so are highly meritocratic.

I think the biggest difference is students from poor families or modest families have less of margin of error for failure.   Students from upper class or upper middle-class families can start over at age 30 or 35 and still hope to have decent job or career.   IF the are not hopelessly alcoholic or drug addicted.  

You speak of STUDENTS but when I think of meritocracy I also think of ATHLETES, FIRST RESPONDERS and the MILITARY.   Both these fields favor , generally speaking, true meritocracy.  

No team wants to lower standards and so be a losing team.   They may have female batting coaches or even female managers but unless a female can find a way to compete on the field successfully (always a possibility) teams will not have quotas for their starting lineups.    

If one does not have a mediocratic approach (fitness, strength, health, sight, hearing etc)  for FIRST RESPONDERS or the MILITARY one threatens public safety and national security. 

When I was a young Marine everyone and I mean everyone knew the Marines were tougher, fitter and more highly motivated than the Army because they had higher standards and a strong ethos of training, pride of unit and identity.    We were all volunteers and tended to be healthier, more motivated, and more physically fit than your average American. It meant something to be a MARINE and it still does to have been a US Marine just like it means something to be a Ranger or Navy SEAL.  

If one lowers the standards (and I think the Marines have lowered standards to   certain extent then man for man (or Marine for Marine) preparedness is someone lessened.   One of the reasons the Marines held on at the Chosin Reservoir and at Guadalcanal is because the Marines were deep in soldiers trained as infantrymen.  When down to the last platoon every Marine was a trained infantryman and familiar with small arms and unit defense.

  Even Marine mechanics, cooks and pilots are trained as infantrymen.  More recently we have the example of the Battle of Bastion in Afghanistan.    Marine pilots, navigators and mechanics quickly and efficiently sallied out as INFANTRY to fight of terrorist infiltrators. 

Enemy Inside the Wire: The Untold Story of the Battle of Bastion | GQ

“Perhaps this is all a waste of breath. Elites have historically devised schemes for reproducing themselves. Sometimes the reproduction is literal, as when the children of elites are introduced to each other and pair off and have children. College selection serves this purpose very effectively, given that college is a time and place when many young people find their mates or at least figure out what they are looking for in a mate.

Whatever system is established for handing out scarce goods—prestigious diplomas, for instance—the smart and the rich will find ways to game the system. That’s what brains and money do. And they’ll end up with the prize.  

But, please, don’t make us pretend they deserve it. “


NO IT IS NOT A WASTE OF BREATH.  It is a very important topic.  Society has to decide how much it is going to invest in EDUCATION,   ATHLETICS and the MILITARY and who is going to get the “glittering prizes”.    Scarcity is a universal law. We have scarce slots and scarce resources.  We have to invest wisely so as to have the best engineers, best scientists,  foreign language teachers, doctors,  soldiers, Airmen, Marines, sailors, firefighters etc.   For the sake of social harmony and societal peace when may have to address diversity issues but having AUTHENTIC HIGH STANDARDS IS GOOD FOR INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIETY.   HAVING LOW STANDARDS OR OPEN ADMISSION IS BAD FOR INSTITUTIONS AND FOR SOCEITY IN THE LONG RUN.

I am glad you pointed out LEGACY entrances into universities.  That is the OLD AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.   Everybody knows it.      But one wonders how small the number of White Males at university would be WITHOUT LEGACY Admissions.   The number of males and White Males particularly had precipitously declined in the USA (and other places) And of course under the strictures of Affirmative Action schools and individuals were tempted to fiddle with the system by finding alternative paths of entry to select schools via athletics sometimes via obscure sports.    In some cases we know these athletic CV’s were falsified or exaggerated.  Sometimes the students athletes never even played a single game. The whole charade was to get INTO the college.   And there is no question that CHILDREN of ELITES may intermarry and so maintain family wealth.   

Some individuals will always have the edge over other individuals due differences in WEALTH,  SOCIETAL CLASS,   BEAUTY and YOUTH.   It is of course, better to be YOUNG, BEAUTIFUL, HEALTHY and RICH than to be OLD, UGLY and SICK.   It is better to KNOW PEOPLE and have connections than to be an isolated newcomer without a reputation or connections.     I will say this, however, there is ALWAYS CHALLENGE and RESPONSE.    Men and women who come up the hard way gain  wisdom, strength and confidence that cannot be gained any other way.   In other words there is no Royal Road to Geometry or Marine Corps OCS at Quantico.

A Generation of American Men Give Up on College: ‘I Just Feel Lost’ – WSJ


White men are now almost extinct on university campuses – and that’s exactly what feminists want — RT Op-ed

What good is poetry? What good are prayers?

by Richard K. Munro

About fifty years ago I heard a concert given by the Scottish tenor Kenneth McKellar.    He sang of course, mostly Scottish songs -some were fabulous poems by Burns, Scott, and Byron -others were fun ditties.    But one song he sang I will never forget as it made such an impression on me.  McKellar made some comments on Scots going to sea and ship building and that everyone in the hall probably had an ancestor or relative who was in the Merchant Marine or Navy.   I remembered that my Scottish grandfather had gone to sea himself on a tall ship circa 1895 when he was eight years old.   The song McKellar sang was Sea-Fever by John Masefield (music by Ireland)

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

The first time I heard this song I did not understand it completely. 

 But I did not know that “a trick” was a sailor’s turn at the helm for a few hours.   

Later I realized the “long trick” was life itself and that the “quiet sleep and sweet dream” was death.    

 I have read the poem dozens of times in the last fifty years and heard the song in recordings by McKellar and many other times.   Today I appreciate the lovely imagery of the poem and the lure of adventure and excitement that is the sailor’s life but also how lovely it is to experience nature in person.   I know the word WHETTED means sharpened.   I know the whale’s way is the deep blue ocean. 

Reading the poem, I have some idea of what my grandfather experienced before the mast in the late 19th century. The song is forever linked to memories of my grandfather and to Kenneth McKellar and my parents who took me to see him perform at Kearny High School in Kearney New Jersey so long ago.

Poetry like prayer is important for our inner lives.   We will all have challenges and disappointments in life.  We will all know sickness (how dreary!) and the death of loved ones (how heart breaking!).  We will feel an intense emotion, but we won’t know what to say.  We will be at a loss for words or an explanation.  But the bard and songster can put our feelings into words and provide some consolation. In this poetry comes close to religion.    

Many times, people have come close to Sergeant Death in bombings of cities (I knew people who survived the London Blitz and one who was buried alive for three days).   Many times, in battle under a bombardment men huddled closely and put their hands over the bible in their front pocket or grabbed hold of their rosaries.   It is almost unbelievable to read that regiments like my grandfather’s (The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) were under continuous attack for thirty-six days during 2nd Ypres (1915).   The soldiers repeated the Hail Mary and the Our Father over and over and Psalm 23.  The freethinkers among them did not argue, in fact one said “GIE ME THEM BEADS!”.    They repeated together an ancient poem that some had not said since boyhood:

1)The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

And they found great comfort in these words.  I am sure many thought back to their mothers and loved ones and quiet and safe times back home.    Many found comfort in those words as no words of their own could have brought them.  

 I remember the day my mother died at age 86.  On New Year’s Day she unexpectedly had a heart attack.   She lingered a few days in the hospital but before we knew it she was gone.    It was one of the saddest days of my life.

I will never forget when my mother said to us, “This time I don’t think I am going to make it.” 

My immediate reaction was to take her by her hand now cold and weak and say with her the OUR FATHER, the Hail Mary and repeat the 23rd Psalm that she had taught me as a child.   She smiled an angelic smile and was not worried about her death and her parting from this world.   She instead was WORRIED FOR US!    She said she would be waiting on the other side in paradise, but we would suffer many years of separation.   That was my mother all over always concerned for others more than herself!

My mother had a Good Death.  There is such thing as a Good Death.  She did not suffer.  She was not alone when she died, and he lived a long life mostly in good health. 

Before my mother’s death I found it very difficult to deal with the deaths of loved ones but after her death I found a new wisdom and a maturity to endure without losing control.

My mother was very glad to have met and known and loved her three grandchildren and only wished she had more time with them.  But she was happy to know they were safe and in happy homes and had a good start at life.    She was happy they knew their own father. 

My mother never knew her father.  He was killed when she was three years old so she had no memory of him. But she heard stories about him from her mother and aunt.  She had some of his books -one was a book with illustrations of Theodore Roosevelt’s adventures in Africa and South America.   The book had his signature in it ERIC ANDERSON.   She also had his Bible that had some favorite parts starred or underlined in pencil.    She also had some of his record collection -he loved music.   Songs by John McCormack music by Rachmaninoff.   

My mother later saw McCormack and Rachmaninoff perform in person in New York.     She enjoyed the concerts very much and it gave her special pleasure to know her father had appreciated and loved those artists and now she was sharing that appreciation!

We all at some time in the mysterious future may have to endure some experience absolutely outside our present scope.   Many a man has lived happily until something made him for the first time think about committing suicide.  

Such a man or woman might be able to understand himself or herself and rise above such dark thoughts if for example he knows music Rachmaninoff wrote when he too had such self-destructive thoughts and conquered them.   Rachmaninoff had a happy, successful, and prosperous early life but when the Russian Revolution came, he lost all his savings and property and many of his friend were killed in the war or murdered by the Communists.  He came to America as a penniless immigrant without friends or connections.  Then he fell sick with the Spanish Flu and more of his friends and neighbors died including his son-in-law.  He recovered in 1919 and began to earn money as a concert pianist.  And just by dint of hard work and his musical talent he rebuilt his life and gained some financial security.  Before he died, he became a US.  citizen.

Even if we are not called to endure such extremes there are those about us, perhaps very close ,who will face situations: drug abuse, alcoholism, a car crash, mugging, sudden wealth, divorce, sudden unemployment, poverty, old age and humiliations.

  Poetry, I think, teaches wisdom and creates a deeper sympathy in our hearts.  

Poetry, like prayer, has a special power and is something we will need in our lives.   

Poetry, prayers, and songs have always been immensely valuable to me.    It is my antidote to depression, loneliness, and fatigue.  

I have often said the only time I forget that my mother is dead is when I play and sing the songs, she taught me.

We will all suffer personal loses in this life because no man and no woman are mastets of the line of his or her life. 

We are all mortal.  Genesis 3:19

 By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,

till thou return unto the ground;

for out of it wast thou taken:

for dust thou art,

and unto dust shalt thou return.

So here’s an idea.  Find a poetry anthology.  Find a poem. Find a quotation.  Perhaps a fragment of a poem or anonymous ballad.   

Any poem.  Any song.  Write it down. Say it.  Memorize it. Then when you feel down in a funk you can say it to yourself or look it up and find it and read it again.  You can say it in your head or on your tongue.   

And you will find that poetry is magic.  It restores love.  It restores joy.  It Connects to memory.  It gives us laughter and tears.   

It reminds us that life and love are just brief moments in time and that one day “the long trick” will be over. But we are not to be afraid for in our final sleep there is no pain or torment only deep peace.