30 June 2011

The Green Ray

The birds woke me this morning too early. Except for the crows’ caw I recognized no other accent, but there was certainly a teeming cosmopolitan atmosphere outside my bedroom and dreams. I arose earlier than I had anticipated. I think it was in Eric Rohmer’s 1986 film Summer (I have netflixed it: the past tense of a new verb akin to ‘to google’) that someone stated that there was a brief moment at about 4:00am (or exactly at 4:00am perhaps) when the world is completely silent. For a brief moment nothing stirs, not even the wind, and not a sound is heard anywhere. Of course, I am usually asleep at that hour, and therefore miss that incredible moment of absolute quiet; or if I am up, like Daisy Fay Buchanan who always waits for the longest day of the year and then misses it, I am distracted and miss that moment of complete stillness. But no sooner is the moment over, however, then everything returns to its regular decibel level, and incrementally the day fills noisefully with sound and movement. In Rohmer’s film, Delphine, the main character, experiences that moment of quiet attitudes of awe and wonder, though she is herself not at all happy. The peace is exquisite. 
The original title of Rohmer’s film (The Green Ray) alludes to a Jules Verne novel by the same name. The green ray is a flash of light that appears rarely but only and always at sunrise or sunset; when the green flash of light is seen one’s thoughts and those of others are made aural and known. The moment of its sighting is soon gonelike the moment of complete silenceand when it ends, our thoughts and those of others may no longer be heard. The absolute peacefulness of the moment of silence available at 4:00 am contrasts with the lonely isolation that accompanies the fading of the green flash, and the volubility of the world contrasts with the silence of our loneliness. I remember the power of these scenes in the film. 
But as I said, I always hear my birds after that singular but daily moment, and I know know that the crows at least are quite hungry and wondering where might be their breakfast. It is my habit to give them the crumbs from the heels of our bread, and they prefer I not sleep too late. This morning I did not, and I awoke to their sounds. They protest loudly when I stay abed, and then they broadcast loudly the arrival of breakfast. And then they are gone. 
Every day I awake as well to the squawking in the media about the necessity for setting standards for education and demanding that teachers assume responsibility for every child achieving proficiency in those standards. I am not re-entering that ring right now, though I am going to talk about standards. 
I see that Bristol Palin’s new book has been published and she is presently engaged on a nationwide book tour. She appeared with her mother at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Her mother is Sarah Palin, the very one who doesn’t know the difference between Concord, New Hampshire and Concord, Massachusetts. I am sure that the book will sell fairly well. 
Bristol Palin is a twenty year old whose only claim to fame is to have had a child out of wedlock. At best hers could be sold as a cautionary tale to Seventeen magazine, but there are so many such tales already published in these arenas that hers would probably be unexceptional and passed over. But that a book company would credibly publish this absurd memoir as if there were any socially redeeming value to it bespeaks the incredibly low standards of the publishing industry and the reading public. That a publishing company would spend money on such drivel argues that the industry has no standards other than to earn as quick and dirty a profit as possible. As a teacher, as a reader, as a writer, as a scholar, as a father and as a citizen I am appalled and embarrassed by the publication of this garbage masquerading as a book, and I am incensed at the hypocrisies of an industry that market Bristol Palin as a credible author whose words are worthy of someone’s time. 
The anti-intellectual nature of American society increases every day alongside my despair. I go into the classroomI even send my children therebut the barbarians are closing in. 


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