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Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Sad Farewell to Academia... (Part 01)

He came of age during the Great Depression, a mere "child" of 17. The following decade, he fought in Patton's 3rd Army and crossed the Rhine river under intense small fire arms and a barrage of heavy artillery that would make Hercules run away. Yes, this is the story of one of those many men who courageously saved this country from fascism and God knows what other evils the rhetoric of politics (now and then) wishes to ascribe to amazing feat of arms. He was an ordinary soldier of low rank. He blended in with the rest of the thousands of men. Of course, he knew his Chain of Command well, and respected it to his utmost sense of duty. He stood by General Patton during the controversy that threatened to undo the great General's accomplishments. Suddenly, and in what appeared a flash of destiny, the war in Europe was over. He hadn't expected it, really, after that treacherous hike up the boot of Italy and the disastrous mistakes of the Allies in Sicily. But by then he had lost track of time, and, when peace finally came in Europe, and like so many other soldiers in his unit, he felt lost, disoriented, useless and tired.


The Japanese surrendered as well, and it seemed to him at the time (1945) that the world had perhaps learned its lesson. He made good use of his G.I. Bill and enrolled in NYU in 1946. His mind was an open receptacle--all of the questions the war seemed to have ingrained in his mind were now finding--one by one--the answers he so desperately sought. From an Introduction to Philosophy he learned the various definitions of Justice. From "Meno" whether it was possible or not to teach virtue. This appeared as the most interesting of arguments to him. He thought of the Germans and Italians soldiers whom he had fought against, "Were they virtuous men?" He assumed that they had mothers and fathers, and that the family values of the German, Italian, and Japanese traditions were no better or worst than those of Americans. What he discovered in that first semester of school was the beauty of philosophy, its adaptability to life and its timeless message. Literature and writing, of course, also caught his attention. He read voraciously and scored high marks on his compositions. During the course of the summers and seasons that followed he did nothing but read--Classics, contemporary novels, poetry, philosophy. He grew and grew humanistically, spiritually and, more importantly, as a human being. All of his "wounds" from a war that now appeared so far away in the timeline of his young life began to heal. He was a new man. He was happy. He was full of purpose and his mind was lit with the lamp of knowledge. What better career path than to become a teacher, a professor... to help contribute to young people what was given to him by his own professors, and to them by their ancestors, and in the great line of scholarship and humanity where we are all the same... yes, he wanted to be a part of that greatest endeavour.


Graduate school was a delightful time. The more he studied, the more he fell in love with life. His mind had never known more peace, more love and faith, more passion. The months passed in such a pleasurable way that it was difficult to measure time in terms of hours and minutes and days or even months. The days of his life were a straight line of ideas, writings, inspirations, music, art, museums, preparation for the life of a teacher/philosopher. He graduated from Princeton University with a Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1956 and was immediately hired to teach at R..... College, dead-smack center of the American Midwest.

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