The news is gloomy. Our national debt is greater than we think. Our populations are regressing to fatalism and dependency . Some of us have lost those exceptional qualities and virtues that made America such a success. But now we are in decline. We are losing our will to play a leading part in the world. Unemployment and a distorted market seem to be our fate.
The decline will mean a weakened dollar, higher taxes, less innovation, but more social welfare programs. The free and independent citizen morphs into a cllient of the state. Housing, food, education, healthcare, elder care--all the needs once nurtured by the family are to be managed by the state. And as our domestic need grows ever, our ability to spend abroad declines and with that our influence in the world. Mark Stein points to the cases of England and France. Each was the center of an empire and defined civilization, yet within eighty to a hundred years each was an empty shell living off its former strength--and, not incidentally, each protected in its decline by the Americans.
Now it is America's turn to decline, some say. Even the President of the United States thinks American exceptionalism is mostly myth. We are all the same, under the skin.It's time for us to get off our high horses and join the community of nations. Such thinking, say the doomsters, is itself a sign of the decline.
But what follows if the doomsday scenario comes to pass? Will the new world order post-
America preserve anything of what made America exceptional? Or will that exceptionalism prove ephemeral or even illusory, as some seem to believe? Will we end up like Athens and Rome--glorious for a time but utterly vanished (except for cultural influenes) and in utter ruin?
There's not much a person can do to make grammar exciting to a student so I am also excited about lit also.
This from a teacher. Not, "It is hard to convey how fascinating grammar is to some students' but "it is hard to make the subject of grammar, which bores me, into something of interest to my students." If he would stop pandering--wasting time with silly movies for example--maybe there would be a chance. He could use the wonderful O Brother Where Art Thou? instead of Troy.
But I am being too harsh. The poor guy is rowing against the tide. And he is no different than the men who taught me in high school so long ago. So few of them seemed to really enjoy what he taught.
There is no rational basis for making language ability an indicator of an individual’s citizenship or residency status.
That sentence appears in an open letter issued by the Moderrn Language Association (MLA) to the Governor of Arizona in protest of the law passed by its legislature requiring law enforcement officers to check the residency status of anyone they lawfully stop for other reasons whose residency status the officer has reason to doubt. The Supreme Court has already held that an officer who stopped a car full of people in the early morning and found that none could speak English and none had legal ID was within his rights in taking them to the Federal Immigration Center, where they were found to be "undocumented" (some say, "illegal aliens.')
"There is no rational basis" is a huge claim to defend. Why not claim instead that there is merely insufficient reational basis? That while there may be SOME reason to think that people who cannot speak English may be foreigners and therefore may be undocumented, the preponderance of reason is on the other side, Surely, a skillful reasoner will defend the easier to defend proposition. But not the MLA. Instead, they make a demonstrably false claim. The reason for the blunder is that they want to influence a court: "no rational basis" is a legal term from Constitutional law. The Constitution of the United States holds that states may not discriminate against particular groups or individuals when there is no rational basis for doing so. Conversely, a rational basis will allow some laws to stand. States can and do discriminate against prostitutes, since it is rational to want to limit the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The MLA wants to go on record as supporting the claim that Arizona had no rational basis "for making language ability an indicator of ... residency status." We could all agree that it would not make sense for language to be the sole indicator. But that is not what the MLA claims. They claim it cannot be an indicator at all. Contra Arizona, the MLA contends that one ought not to think a question of legal status is raised because of language and accent--even when taken together with other evidence.
Would a rational being doubt the proposition that if we wish to pressure illegal immigrants to return to their country of origin--nothing stops them from applying for citizenship--we must first find them? And while the ideal of the MLA is lovely--the law cannot even SUSPECT me just because I can't speak English and have no means of identifying myself--it remains true that we ALL get inconvenienced by the law from time to time. Arizona believes taht the rational basis test is well met when one considers the problems Arizona is trying to solve.
Is the MLA a scholarly organization or a political activist group? Nowadays the question may not even make sense to some.
June 30th, 2010 1 comment
On the way back from the coffee shop – sustainable shade-grown fair-trade coffee served by a twentysomething hipster with a metal bone through his lip – I was listening to Michael Medved. (It all averages out at the end of the day.)
Like Lileks, I too have witnessed the devolution, as more and more Americans show their solidarity with the primitive (tatoos, bones through nose of Africa) or rejection of everything (anarchists protesting the system with bombs). An element of youth rejects reason, the enlightenment, Aquinas, etc. For many, Western Civilization is just a cover up operation for a giant colonial rip off of the Other worlds of Africa, India, Indonesia and wherever else the European Colonial Powers chose to meddle and govern and demean.
As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors' "toxic assets" was the only alternative to the U.S. economy's "systemic collapse." In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets' nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.
When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term "political class" came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public's understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the "ruling class." And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.
Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several "stimulus" bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind. Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government's agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to. Sen. Orrin Hatch continued dreaming of being Ted Kennedy, while Lindsey Graham set aside what is true or false about "global warming" for the sake of getting on the right side of history. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class's continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.
Never has there been so little diversity within America's upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America's upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and "bureaucrat" was a dirty word for all. So was "social engineering." Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday's upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
Today's ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters -- speaking the "in" language -- serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America's ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.
The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century's Northerners and Southerners -- nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, "prayed to the same God." By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God "who created and doth sustain us," our ruling class prays to itself as "saviors of the planet" and improvers of humanity. Our classes' clash is over "whose country" America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark's Gospel: "if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."
The Political Divide
Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg's tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences "undecided," "none of the above," or "tea party," these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well. Hence officeholders, Democrats and Republicans, gladden the hearts of some one-third of the electorate -- most Democratic voters, plus a few Republicans. This means that Democratic politicians are the ruling class's prime legitimate representatives and that because Republican politicians are supported by only a fourth of their voters while the rest vote for them reluctantly, most are aspirants for a junior role in the ruling class. In short, the ruling class has a party, the Democrats. But some two-thirds of Americans -- a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all independents -- lack a vehicle in electoral politics.
Sooner or later, well or badly, that majority's demand for representation will be filled. Whereas in 1968 Governor George Wallace's taunt "there ain't a dime's worth of difference" between the Republican and Democratic parties resonated with only 13.5 percent of the American people, in 1992 Ross Perot became a serious contender for the presidency (at one point he was favored by 39 percent of Americans vs. 31 percent for G.H.W. Bush and 25 percent for Clinton) simply by speaking ill of the ruling class. Today, few speak well of the ruling class. Not only has it burgeoned in size and pretense, but it also has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans' conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the right thing. The rest expect that it will do more harm than good and are no longer afraid to say so.
While Europeans are accustomed to being ruled by presumed betters whom they distrust, the American people's realization of being ruled like Europeans shocked this country into well nigh revolutionary attitudes. But only the realization was new. The ruling class had sunk deep roots in America over decades before 2008. Machiavelli compares serious political diseases to the Aetolian fevers -- easy to treat early on while they are difficult to discern, but virtually untreatable by the time they become obvious.
Far from speculating how the political confrontation might develop between America's regime class -- relatively few people supported by no more than one-third of Americans -- and a country class comprising two-thirds of the country, our task here is to understand the divisions that underlie that confrontation's unpredictable future. More on politics below.
The Ruling Class
Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?
The most widespread answers -- by such as the Times's Thomas Friedman and David Brooks -- are schlock sociology. Supposedly, modern society became so complex and productive, the technical skills to run it so rare, that it called forth a new class of highly educated officials and cooperators in an ever less private sector. Similarly fanciful is Edward Goldberg's notion that America is now ruled by a "newocracy": a "new aristocracy who are the true beneficiaries of globalization -- including the multinational manager, the technologist and the aspirational members of the meritocracy." In fact, our ruling class grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its connection with ever bigger government, and above all by a certain attitude.
Other explanations are counterintuitive. Wealth? The heads of the class do live in our big cities' priciest enclaves and suburbs, from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Palo Alto, California, to Boston's Beacon Hill as well as in opulent university towns from Princeton to Boulder. But they are no wealthier than many Texas oilmen or California farmers, or than neighbors with whom they do not associate -- just as the social science and humanities class that rules universities seldom associates with physicians and physicists. Rather, regardless of where they live, their social-intellectual circle includes people in the lucrative "nonprofit" and "philanthropic" sectors and public policy. What really distinguishes these privileged people demographically is that, whether in government power directly or as officers in companies, their careers and fortunes depend on government. They vote Democrat more consistently than those who live on any of America's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Streets. These socioeconomic opposites draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the former and identify morally with what they suppose to be the latter's grievances.
Codevilla is always thought-provoking.
From The Journal of Individual Psychology
Volume 31, Number 1, May, 1975
WERNER ERHARD, Erhard Seminars Training, San Francisco
GILBERT GUERIN AND ROBERT SHAW, University of California, Berkeley
Some 22,000 people have gone through Erhard Seminars Training (est) since its inception in 1971. The training consists of two weekends, totals between so and 60 hours and includes 225 participants. The training activities are designed to provide the participants with the opportunity to look at their behavior and experience in a new way and to incorporate their discoveries into their everyday lives.
In 1974 training seminars have been held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, New York and Aspen. The sessions are most frequently conducted by a single leader and several assistants. The participants in most groups represent a broad spectrum of occupations and ages; there have also been special EST groups for children, teenagers, prisoners and medical staffs.
The purpose of this report is to discuss some observations and conclusions relative to the mind's dedication to survival, a central theoretical concept in the EST training. Terminology will be common to that used in Western philosophy and Eastern thought, free from any special jargon and therefore in keeping with the style of an Adlerian journal.
It is useful, at least for the purpose of description, to separate what are commonly described as mental activities into two groups of activities (one mental and one only apparently mental) which are dominant features in man's existence. There are first, automatic, stimulus-response activities which come from the "mind" of the individual. The second group of activities are more purposeful and creative, and issue from the "being" or the source of an individual. An individual's sense of satisfaction, aliveness and sufficiency results chiefly from his recognition that he is the source of himself. In other words, his well-being is linked to his awareness of himself as a "being" rather than as a "mind."
The "mind" as defined in this article is the collection of records of experiences that the individual has perceived and stored. It is machine-like in that it records, orders and intermixes old experiences. Each record includes: (1) all the sensations, emotions, attitudes or mental states, behaviors, thoughts and fantasies or imaginations that combined to make up the experience; and (2) a kind of background "voice-over" which conceptualizes about the experience and decides based on these conceptualizations how to "be" in the future. Hence, an experience is recorded not as a single element but rather as a total of all the characteristics, behaviors and attitudes, including the emotional components. Ansbacher (1973, P. 135) has written in a similar vein about recollection: "recollection is . . . how he typically acts and faces the future, and that he carries this picture with him as a memento or warning from his childhood, for future action."
Individuals go through their lives ordering, analyzing and explaining the events they perceive. Organizing principles emerge out of decisions and rationalizations made during early experiences and become the future explanations for one's history. These then determine how principal events are perceived, identified, interpreted and reacted to. This organizational aspect of the mind stimulates, sets perceptions and determines understandings of new events, a characteristic that was identified by both Alfred Adler and Jerome S. Bruner (Adler, 1956, p. 210). Once initiated, this process is automatic and machine-like even though, at times, it appears to be animated and full of excitement.
POINT OF VIEW
Each individual's uniquely organized pattern and content of mind is his "point of view." In other words his particular organization and content is the place from which he views the world. The mind can be said to be a "point of view" about everything. The concept of "point of view" is similar to that of "life style" in Adlerian theory. (Adler, 1929; Hall, 1957; Mosak, 1973)
It is the individual's particular organization of and rationalizations about his previous actions, feelings and thoughts that provide him with an identity-an identity locked in the past and tied to the effect of experience. The alternative, of course, is to be able to be aware of the present, to recognize oneself as the cause of experience and to have aliveness. This is a function of detaching oneself from that with which the individual has identified himself. To do this he needs only to be aware of himself as the source of that with which he previously identified. However, ongoing accumulations of experiences, each organized along previous patterns loom so large that many people act with an identity that is a monument to the past. The individual comes to view himself and his life as the result of what has happened. This "point of view" gives the individual the illusion that he "knows" why events occur and the "whys" almost always are seen as existing outside the control of the individual.
On the other hand a second function, that of "being," is based on the reality of the moment of existence. It is this concept that parallels the "creative self" that Adler identified as an extension to life style (Hall, 1957). Being is observation, choice and creativity. Choice is that human activity that Adler discussed in 1931 (Mosak, 1973), in spite of then prevalent resistance to the idea. Creativity is a concept that Hall (1957, P. 124) describes as "Adler's crowning achievement as a personality theorist." It is aptly represented in Adler's statement "Do not forget the most important fact that not heredity and not environment are determining factors-both give only the frame and the influence which are answered by the individual in regard to his styled creative power." (Adler, 1956, p. ii).
Being is awareness, recognition and attention to the experience at hand. It is at the cause of experience rather than at the effect. It is to "be" something rather than to "have" or "do" something. The poetic experiences of love, health, happiness, self-expression, and satisfaction are but a few of the feeling-action descriptions that express the process of being. They define through abstraction what is actually experienced rather than a thought or concept of what is experienced.
The very nature of the functions of mind and being is that as one dominates the other recedes. The point of view, once established, tends to perpetuate itself. If a point of view about oneself or others is threatened by new information, the records of the old experience, including the concepts, actions, justifications and rationalizations come into play, determine the current behavior and limit any sense of being. Adler (1929, p. 99) said that "In new situations, however where he is confronted with difficulties, the style of life appears clearly and distinctly."
Behavior based on prior experiences is evoked automatically, and the individual plays out his action with no awareness that he is simply repeating earlier patterns of behavior with those minor variations that make it appropriate to current conditions. In this way the mind function acts out a dedication to its own survival, a survival of what has already been stored and concluded.
It is the dominance of the mind function, the need to protect an identity rooted in past experience, that limits a person's satisfaction and sense of completion. For instance, an individual who views himself as an unhappy person will act to protect this point of view and, in order to be right (another function of the mind), will continue to be unhappy. The person as a mind or identity will justify, explain and find reasons to support his unhappiness. He will even find it righteous to be unhappy, and yet this activity will never bring the sense of satisfaction desired. His action will be grounded in the past, and it will deny him a full participation in the present.
Some of the common attitudes and activities associated with the protection of identity include the need to be right while making others wrong, the need to dominate the situation while reducing the effect of others, the need for self-justification that results in the invalidation of the ideas of others and the sense of self-righteousness that provides an illusion of survival. Self-righteousness, for example, can take various forms, such as the attitudes that "I am poorer than thou," "I'm more stupid than thou," and "I'm more tragic than thou." It generates a kind of reverse superiority.
These are patterns of behavior that most of us demonstrate in our daily lives. They are not necessarily the gross examples that have come to be associated with cases of neurotic or psychotic personalities. The "point of view" is a function that we all possess, and it is that aspect of our lives that limits our ability to be authentic, to create new experiences and to see life as it exists in the present. Patterns of behavior that are expressed in the need for success-or inferiority or superiority-can dominate an individual's life, as in the case of the neurotic, or can be found in the everyday games played by normal individuals. In each situation the persuasiveness of the point of view limits the individual's experience of aliveness and likewise affects the relationships he establishes.
The example of a person who develops an attitude of inferiority based on early experiences will serve to illustrate the mind's dedication to its own survival as well as demonstrate the resulting pattern of personal relationships. If early experiences have diminished a person's feelings about himself, he will tend to act out these feelings in subsequent behavior. Reinforcement may come from old interpretations of new interactions and he may come to expect or create further personal devaluation. Over time this pattern, this point of view, becomes more thoroughly substantiated and the individual assumes the identity of inferiority. The individual also develops reasons to explain his feelings and behavior and these help to defend him against any threat from situations that do not support his concept of personal inferiority. Within this context the mind is dominant and behavior is automatic no matter how well explained.
For the identity of inferiority to remain whole and right the activities of those who attempt to help will be perceived as wrong, just as those who attempt to criticize will be wrong. The helper will fail in his attempt to change the individual; the critic will receive blame as the source of negative feelings. The person with inferior feelings ultimately considers himself right because "It's the way things are," and "I can't help it." Each attitude is controlled or dominated by the condition of inferiority; a condition based on a point of view developed in the past and defended to protect a sense of identity.
While this is an exaggerated example, it expresses the model for everyday situations in many of our lives. It demonstrates the purpose and methods involved in the way we deal with disagreeable situations, differences of opinion, upsets with others, disappointments and unfulfilled expectations and the infinite variety of circumstances perceived as threats to our personal identity. This identity is at odds with a clear perception of the present, with an acknowledgment of responsibility and a personal sense of aliveness and satisfaction. In the latter respect, inferiority and superiority are as Adler pointed out "on the useless side" (1929, p. 89)
The process used in EST training is designed to assist the individual to experience life with less automated, patterned and repetitive behavior. The goal is to increase the individual's awareness of his present experience with satisfaction and aliveness. Three steps are involved in assisting the individual to move from the static position of an existence based on mind functions (identity) to an active participation based on the function of being.
In the first step the person is given the opportunity to recognize the automatic nature of his behavior: he is brought to an awareness of the repetitive and mechanical quality of his feelings, thoughts and behavior based on past experience. As the person develops recognition of mechanical ways of living, he can realize that he has acquired these patterns rather than that he is these patterns. "I am high strung," "I am ill tempered," "I am thoughtful," "I am considerate," all illustrate common instances of identification with patterns rather than acknowledgement of the possession of patterns, habits or characteristic responses. As soon as the person knows that he habitually responds to certain stimuli in a stereotypic manner, he begins to move to the next step.
In the second step the person learns about the motivation and "payoff" behind the maintenance of patterns of behavior. This is not an easy step. Adler (1956, P. 333) in his reference to the treatment of the neurotic has defined the individual's defense of his thoughts and behavior as a "primitive" scheme of protection that evaluates perceptions as "above-below, victor-vanquished, masculine-feminine, nothing-everything, etc." Even in the "normal" person realizations do not come easily because: (1) all the protective devices such as reasoning, justification and explanations come into play as soon as the individual tries to "look at" his behavior, and (2) responsibility for the behavior is usually projected and externalized, with the result that the person perceives himself as the victim of circumstances, background, or the overwhelming forces of life. The acceptance of personal responsibility for one's life can come slowly and it is essential to freeing the individual from the automatic behavior that limits his sense of being.
In the final step the person discovers that the ultimate cost of protecting his identity, of maintaining a point of view, of having the payoff, is the loss of the experience of love, health, intimacy and zest for life. The true cost of his attachment to his point of view and compulsion for the survival of the mind is the loss of aliveness. As the person begins to take responsibility for the patterns of his behavior that have functioned automatically as repetitive actions of the past, he begins to recognize that his fixed point of view limits his ability to experience what is true, as well as the richness and joy of life.
The EST process is designed to assist the participant to discover through experience, rather than analysis, aspects of his mental functioning and behavior. The participant "looks at" (without explanation or rationalization) his behavior, feelings, thoughts, history, justifications and the concomitant payoffs. The realization that previously unrecognized payoffs of apparently negative behavior cause the negative behavior to persist occurs here. For example, the person may come to experience the self-justification and righteousness that can occur when he is blocked, "put down" or dominated. As he gets a glimpse of what the mind has accepted as the payoff of these feelings, he gradually becomes aware of the patterns he uses to assert power and control in this situation. He now has the opportunity to see how this behavior allows him to feel "right" while it allows him to make others "wrong." He discovers how these old patterns and acts of domination reduce his aliveness and result in perpetuation of unhappiness and discontent.
ADLER, A. The science of living. Garden City, New York: Greenberg Publishers, 1929
ADLER, A. The Individual Psychology of Alfred Idler, H. Ansbacher & R. Ansbacher (Eds.). New York: Basic Books, 1956.
ANSBACHER, H. Adler's interpretation of early recollections: historical account. Journal of Individual Psychology, 1973, 29, 13S-145
HALL, C., & LINDZEY, G. Theories of personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1957
MOSAK, H. H., & DREIKURS, R. Adlerian Psychotherapy. In R. J. Corsini, (Ed.), Current psychotherapies. Itasca, Illinois: F. E. Peacock Publishers, 1973.
WOLMAN, B. B. Contemporary theories and systems in psychology. New York: Harper & Row, 1960.
WERNER ERHARD is the founder of est, an educational corporation started in 1971, located at 1750 Union St., San Francisco, Ca. 94123. . His professional experience has been in the field of business management and executive development. From 1963 to 1971 he was associated with Parents Magazine's Cultural Institute, serving as its vice-president during the last four years.
GILBERT GUERIN, Ph.D. is the Coordinator of Research in Special Education at the University of California, Berkeley and the Director of Pupil Personnel Services for Novato Unified Schools.
ROBERT SHAW, M.D. is a child and family psychiatrist. He directs the Family Youth and Children's Mental Health Services for the City of Berkeley and is co-director of the Family Institute.
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Poem With Annotations Characters Stanza Format Meter Analysis of the Poem Critic's View: A Great Poem Biography Free E-Texts of Poems ...
Analysis by Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
The Poem Annotations
Because I could not stop for Death, cckc: alliteration; Death, He: personification/metaphor He kindly stopped for me; e,y: end rhyme The carriage held but just ourselves el and el:internal rhyme And Immortality. Immortality: This word rhymes with civility in Stanza 2, Line 4 . . We slowly drove, heknew no haste, e:internal rhyme; kn, n: alliteration And I had put away hhhh:alliteration My labor, and my leisure too, lll:alliteration For his civility. civility: politeness, courtesy . . We passed the school, where children strove We passed: The repetition of these words at the beginning of At recess, in the ring; of three lines constitutes anaphora. rr:alliteration We passed the fields of gazing grain, school, fields, setting sun: symbols. School is the morning of We passed the setting sun. life, childhood; fields, midday of life, the working years; setting . sun, the evening of life, dying. gazing: ripe . . Or rather, he passed us; he passed: personification of sun The dews grew quivering and chill, ew: internal rhyme. gossamer gown: wedding dress for For only gossamer my gown, marrying death; gg: alliteration. tippet: scarf for neck and My tippet only tulle. shoulders; tulle: netting. tt: alliteration. . . We paused before a house that seemed house: her tomb, where she will "reside" during eternity A swelling of the ground; ss: alliteration with an "s" sound The roof was scarcely visible, ss: alliteration with a "z" sound The cornice but a mound. cornice: horizontal molding along top of a wall . . Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each 'tis centuries: centuries have passed since her death Feels shorter than the day shorter than the day: paradox in which a century is shorter I first surmised the horses' heads than a day Were toward eternity. hh: alliteration
Narrator: She is a woman who calmly accepts death. In fact, she seems to welcome death as a suitor who she plans "marry."
Death: The suitor who comes calling for the narrator to escort her to eternity.
Immortality: A passenger in the carriage.
Children: Boys and girls at play in a schoolyard. They symbolize early life.
Each of the six stanzas has four lines. A four-line stanza is called a quatrain.
In each stanza, the first line has eight syllables (four feet); the second, six syllables (three feet); the third, eight syllables (four feet); and the fourth, six syllables (three feet). In each line (whether eight or six syllables), the first syllable is unstressed, the second is stressed, the third is unstressed, the fourth is stressed, and so on. Thus, the first and third lines of each stanza are in iambic tetrameter, and the second and fourth lines are in iambic trimeter. (If you need detailed information on meter, click here.) The following example demonstrates the metric scheme of the first two lines of Stanza 1. The unstressed syllables are in red; the stressed are in blue capital. Over each pair of syllables is a number representing the foot. Also, a black line separates the feet.
Be CAUSE..|..I COULD..|..not STOP..|..for DEATH,
He KIND..|..ly STOPPED..|..for ME;
Allen Tate (1899-1979)–a distinguished American poet, teacher, and critic–observed that "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" is an extraordinary poem. In fact, he said, it deserves to be regarded as "one of the greatest in the English language; it is flawless to the last detail–Quoted in Brown, Clarence A., and John T. Flanagan, eds. American Literature: a College Survey. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961, Page 436.
.......“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” reveals Emily Dickinson’s calm acceptance of death. It is surprising that she presents the experience as being no more frightening than receiving a gentleman caller–in this case, her fiancé.
.......The journey to the grave begins in Stanza 1, when Death comes calling in a carriage in which Immortality is also a passenger. As the trip continues in Stanza 2, the carriage trundles along at an easy, unhurried pace, perhaps suggesting that death has arrived in the form of a disease or debility that takes its time to kill. Then, in Stanza 3, the author appears to review the stages of her life: childhood (the recess scene), maturity (the ripe, hence, “gazing” grain), and the descent into death (the setting sun)–as she passes to the other side. There, she experiences a chill because she is not warmly dressed. In fact, her garments are more appropriate for a wedding, representing a new beginning, than for a funeral, representing an end.
.......Her description of the grave as her “house” indicates how comfortable she feels about death. There after centuries pass, so pleasant is her new life that time seems to stand still, feeling “shorter than a Day.”
.......The overall theme of the poem seems to be that death is not to be feared since it is a natural part of the endless cycle of nature. Her view of death may also reflect her personality and religious beliefs. On the one hand, as a spinster, she was somewhat reclusive and introspective, tending to dwell on loneliness and death. On the other hand, as a Christian and a Bible reader, she was optimistic about her ultimate fate and appeared to see death as a friend.
An existential poem