Monthly Archives March 2014

Driving Lessons and the Marvel of Consciousness

If, as the old maxim goes, the best way to learn something is to teach it, I am now advancing rapidly toward my Ph.D degree in Advanced Driverology. Yes, my friends, that would mean I am teaching my 15 1/2 year-old daughter how to drive a car. Pray for me.

Want to know what is most striking about the experience? (Besides the near violent pitching forward of my body as Beloved Daughter works out the finer sensory details of applying appropriate pressure on the brakes.) The astonishing array of rapid-fire stimuli that human consciousness can absorb and act upon in the course of its otherwise mundane comings and goings.

Get into that passenger seat in an instructive mode with a beginner and you suddenly see, in a way that you simply don’t even notice anymore yourself, how many fast-moving, whack-a-mole stimuli keep popping up, competing for your attention and requiring immediate response as you navigate a 3...

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Making Love to Your Life: Light Amidst Philip Roth’s Dark Vision

 In Philip Roth’s otherwise dark and terrifying Pulitzer Prize-winning novel American Pastoral, there is an improbably lovely sequence during which the protagonist, Swede Levov, is romping over hill and dale on his gentleman’s country estate, caught up in reminiscences about his boyhood literary hero Johnny Appleseed. Youthful, vigorous and successful before Roth begins to turn the vise of multiple tragedy tighter and tighter on his neck, Levov is concluding his jaunt by cheerfully pretending to toss apple seeds across his beloved land from an imaginary bag on his shoulder.

Having observed him from an upstairs window, his wife inquires upon his return to the house what he had been doing...

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“As You Did to the Least of Them”…Notes on a Special Education

A little more than 40 years ago, I literally wandered into my first job out of college, a totally unplanned and unprepared for happenstance that nevertheless bequeathed to me a timely, early exposure to the whole faith-in-the-human-race idea that has helped sustain me ever since. A week ago, I met back up with some of the people from that job, most of whom I hadn’t seen since then, at a reunion that made the intervening 40 years seem like a short stroll we had all taken around the block to catch a breath of air.

The situation in the winter of 1973 was that my college counselor had miscounted my transcripts and I was one unit short of graduation that was looming just a few months hence...

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