A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Think for Yourself. Question Authority.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Dr. Timothy Leary.

Tim is the most famous graduate of my alma mater, Classical High School in Springfield, Massachusetts.

He is arguably the most famous citizen of Springfield. Some may dispute that it is Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, author of many fantastical books for children. Or the city's founder, William Pynchon, author of the first book banned in Boston, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption, Justification, Etc...., who was actually born in Springfield, Essex, England.

What's beyond dispute is that all were independent thinkers, in a city noted for independent thought. Springfield was home to the first armed insurrection against the authority of the American government, Shays' Rebellion. Later, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad (the building next door to me was one of the safe houses, built by an escaped slave).

"Never do anything like anyone else. Find your own way . . .Be one of a kind!" were words spoken to Tim by his grandfather, also named Dr. Timothy Leary...words which obviously had an impact on his namesake.

What psychedelic drugs were to Dr. Leary in the '60's, the internet became in the '90's. The web is a place where you can create and interact with your own worlds. It's affordable, widely available, and, amazingly enough, legal.

Although Timothy Leary produced children and wrote prolifically, one of the ways he desired to live on was by means of a presence in cyberspace. Leary.com consists simply--today--of his version of his grandfather's counsel:

(OCT 22, 1920 - MAY 31, 1996)

Word of the Day: Endful

Possibly my favorite word is endful, a word coined by Tim Eriksen of the band Cordelia's Dad.

I was listening to one of the band's acoustic concerts up in Greenfield, Massachusetts one night in the late '90's with my daughter, Cordelia (I know, I know--it's a coincidence). Tim's the lead singer in the band, and prefaces each song with extensive historical, cultural, and ethnomusicological ramblings. At the time I didn't know much about the band members themselves, only that their music was fascinating and unusual. And that Tim had a haunting and compelling tenor voice.

Tim was telling an anecdote related, I think, to the folk origin of the lyrics to the song he was about to perform. A long anecdote. Finally he said, "Well, to make an endless story endful...."

I have a pretty large vocabulary, but I had never heard "endful." I knew instantly that "endful" was not a word--and I was right. (No mention at all in Merriam-Webster. The Oxford English Dictionary lists "endfull" as obsolete, quotes an example in context from the year 1645, and defines it as meaning "ambitious." Different word altogether!)

What that told me, in two syllables, was that Tim Eriksen was intelligent, articulate, and probably highly educated. People who coin words on the spot usually are.

I was right. Turns out he has an undergraduate degree from Amherst College, a Master's in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University, and has taught at Dartmouth College and the University of Minnesota, among many other things.

Although Codelia's Dad is currently on hiatus, the coffeehouse in Greenfield has gone under, Tim's gotten married, had two kids, released solo albums, and gone Hollywood to do some Oscar-nominated work in films..."endful" lives on. In my vocabulary at least.