The sidebar on the right side of of my pages shows a red-figure tondo of A Boy Fishing (ca. 515-500 BCE) attributed to the Ambrosios Painter, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It’s meant to be me as a boy, searching happily after the things I like. Though older now, I guess I’m still trying to find out, to get good at it—or, as Socrates puts it in the quotation in the sidebar, to become good.
What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.
— Sir Thomas Browne, Hydriotaphia
(quoted by Edgar Allen Poe as the epigraph to
The Murders in the Rue Morgue)
(For more on the metaphor of detectives finding out about murders as a meaning for finding out other things, see the post Sherlock Holmes — on imagination.)
William Blake points to a related idea:
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
— William Blake,
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
The famous opening, and subsequent, lines of John Keats’s Endymion says my belief in the power of such things and my need for them.
A THING of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness
. . .
Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast,
They alway must be with us, or we die.
— John Keats,
Endymion, 1-3, 25-33
Another fundamental presentation of this belief is Percy Shelley’s Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.
As well as these European and Romantic-Era quotes, there’s mostly a distinctly American strain in my sensibility represented well by Thoreau, who also speaks to my tendency to be a loner:
My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles; to be hindered from accomplishing which for want of a little common sense, a little enterprise and business talent, appeared not so sad as foolish.
— Henry David Thoreau,
Like him, I’ve accomplished nothing much, except as self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms.
It is true, I never assisted the sun materially in his rising, but, doubt not, it was of the last importance only to be present at it.
— Henry David Thoreau,
Another great American was Thoreau’s friend Emerson:
We accompany the youth with sympathy and manifold old sayings of the wise to the gate of the arena, but ’tis certain that not by strength of ours, or of the old sayings, but only on strength of his own, unknown to us or to any, he must stand or fall. That by which a man conquers in any passage is a profound secret to every other being in the world, and it is only as he turns his back on us and on all men and draws on this most private wisdom, that any good can come to him. What we have therefore to say of life is rather description, or if you please, celebration, than available rules. Yet vigor is contagious, and whatever makes us either think or feel strongly, adds to our power and enlarges our field of action.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Considerations by the Way
My mission is what Allen Ginsberg wrote,
America, I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.
— Allen Ginsberg,
Another expressive Rockwell Kent image:
A classical quote that expresses this sense of using imagination, spirit, to reach out and find:
Pheidias did not actually see Zeus, but nevertheless he made him as the thunderer, nor did Athena stand before his eyes, but nevertheless his spirit was equal to the task of conceiving those deities by his art and of representing them.
— Seneca, Controversiae, 10.34
(from J. J. Pollitt, The Art of Ancient Greece)
Accordingly, I ask Apollo and all twelve Olympians to guide and help me, and I invoke the Muses. One has to dive in and trust them. . . . Image from the Tomb of the Diver at Paestum (ca. 500-453 BCE).
The image on the right is A Muse on Mount Helikon, ca. 450-430BC, from a lekythos by the Achilles Painter, in a private collection. This picture was taken from an extensive illustrated discussion Greek Pottery – Ceramic History Tutorials for Potters and Clay Artists by Victor Bryant.
Yes, I am interested in the subjects listed in the sidebars of my pages—and yes, I like Plato. I’ve actually taken far more opposition for such things than I have for being gay; but that’s probably because, unlike my gayness, people notice right away. It’s my idea of getting fun out of life. My mp3 player has lots of classical music, jazz, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, and the Gershwin brothers. It’s not snobbery: when I was a teenager, the music librarian viscerally hated me taking out his opera records because I was obviously a little hoodlum from the streets who wasn’t socially and educationally entitled. But I figured it was a public library and why couldn’t I do what I liked? Anyway, it was my way of rebelling. Adults pretended to admire that stuff, but I really did care for it so all I had to do was what I wanted and I’d be in a place nobody could touch me. Now, an adult myself in an era with different perceptions, I’m your classic dead, white male. Who knew?
If it happened anytime after ‘72 or so, I’m probably unaware of it. My son recently was aghast to find out I didn’t know who Homer Simpson is. (Needless to say, I do know who Homer is.) He tried to educate me but didn’t get very far. I did love the ’60s and found them liberating. My head is more or less permanently stuck in 1958, the year I was 13. It’s like I just almost made it out of the ’50s, but didn’t really have the necessary escape velocity. By the way, the ’50s were nothing like the nostalgia of Happy Days. As we constantly noticed at the time, they were seriously earnest, conformist, repressive, discriminatory, sometimes unbearably stifling. It’s hard to imagine any of us could grow up that way. However, there was also a quality in people’s thought and in their lives, then and in the ’60s, that has been unapproachable since. I remember the owner of the bar where I worked finding me and two other cooks debating a point in Latin grammar.
And yes, I also happen to be gay. Get over it. It’s a random, unchosen, unchangeable, inscrutable circumstance that occurs in about 10% of the population—the same as having a social security number whose last digit is “6,” like mine. Gays have nothing in common other than attraction to our own gender, and other than the social bigotry that has shaped us and given us some partial sort of brotherhood. I’m not bound by any stereotype, yet being gay is an essential part of who I am, affecting my deepest emotions. I love being gay, even if I hate the discrimination I’ve suffered. I’m proud of being gay, in the same tolerant sense I might be proud of being Irish-American while expecting others to be proud of their own ethnic background. I can’t imagine myself if I weren’t gay. Being gay doesn’t make any difference, yet it makes all the difference in the world. In generalities, my needs and wants are like anybody’s, but the details are different in ways that are pervasive and make me myself. I shouldn’t need to especially mention it here or anywhere, like I’m confessing to leprosy: it isn’t a disease. It isn’t an issue to me. People make it into an issue that’s only slowly going away. I say it here because I need to stand up for who I am, because I can’t let some people ignorantly despise my kind at the same time they take in the results of the work I contribute. People need to be aware that they interact with gays all the time in the most ordinary situations. This happens to be one of them. I’m trying to fight prejudice by spreading information. The gay links in the sidebar are a necessary service: they may not be interesting to many of my readers but they’re important to a few who may have too little access to the gay community. If you belong to the small but vocal minority of those who don’t like homosexuals, then I gently suggest you read someone else’s blog and not rip off mine. Everyone else, anyone in the majority, is welcome here.
I don’t expect more than a few posts in this blog to fall in the “Being gay” category. I do have other things I think about. Most posts will not explicitly mention gays, but all the posts are written by one.
The photo that appears with posts in the “Clinical trials” category shows the Temple of Apollo at the Asklepion on the Greek island of Kos. Hippocrates practiced medicine at the Asklepion, though long before this temple was built. Since I visited the Asklepion, its sacred grounds have perfectly embodied my ideals as a person dedicated to medical research.
One final note. I’m a compulsive perfectionist. If I reread any post I’ll find some need to revise it. So please don’t expect posts to be the same if you return to them.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy!