This Website will be devoted to essays and insights related to diversity, addiction/recovery, psychological growth issues, global perspectives, the disenfranchised, aesthetics, and cultural values. The core value streaming throughout the essays I write will be about returning to our innocence, which sometimes requires a trauma, a jolt, an invasion of the “other,” or a paradigm shift.
Many of my comments will sometimes reflect a more radically progressive approach to an idea. At other times, I may very well see some healthy alternatives in a more reactionary, conservative approach. There will be few areas, if any, that I hold sacred, taboo territory. In that sense, everything will be up for grabs.
I am also interested in international film narratives, stories whose voices are too often left out of the more powerful voices of the international film industry. They have much to teach us about aesthetics, cultural values, and morality.
For those wishing to participate, enjoy the ride!
John T. Marohn
Prosperity and the Good Life
“Who doesn’t want to see their kids prosperous?” says the mother of Qin and Yang in the documentary, Last Train Home. This is a refrain begun earlier by the grandmother: “But who doesn’t want their children to live a good life?”
If we are to believe the mother and the grandmother, prosperity and the good life are the two goals of all families. China appears to be no exception to this rule in Lixin Fan’s brilliant documentary of one family’s attempts to achieve some form of prosperity in the new hypercapitalist China.
But it is a prosperity that has a profound emotional price tag. Over a period of thirteen years, the Zhang family becomes fractured when the mother and father leave their two children home with the grandmother as the parents pursue the Chinese dream to succeed.
And they don’t just leave home to go to a nearby city. They travel a little over 1300 miles to work in a makeshift factory in the city of Guangzhou in Guandong Province. Like the other 130 million migrant workers working in cities all over China, the Zhang couple returns only once a year to their small village.
Green arrow on a traffic light,
One thumb telling me
To go left, always left,
Permission to move quietly,
Across the bow of stilled traffic
On the other side.
When I take the offer
Of absolution, the reprieved man,
At the head of the line,
Pulled by the sweet magnet
Of the left turn,
I feel no guilt.
“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,” says T S Eliot’s Prufrock.
He goes on to say that he sees the “Eternal Footman” holding his coat, snickering, suggesting that even the personified death figure would find Prufrock an amusing irrelevancy.
Later on, he admits that he is “no Prince Hamlet,” but merely “an attendant lord….Deferential, glad to be of use.”
What are we to make of Prufrock’s draw? Why do English teachers seem to love this poem? Why are we attracted to a guy whose life is without drama or vitality? A guy who seems to huddle next to the inconsequential; to revel in a world of what-might-have-beens; or to languish in a life that has never been completely or satisfactorily consummated. Continue reading
What does it mean to be free?
Freedom From Prison
I often think of my friend, Sam, an ex-Attica inmate, whom I met at an AA meeting many years ago. Freedom, for Sam, was very identifiable. When released from prison, institutional confinement was history for him. He could now do whatever he wanted.
He was free.
On the other hand, at 52, he entered a kind of free-fall world with no job skills and lost time, which he could have used to build some seniority and benefits in a manufacturing job.
Nevertheless, technically, he was still free. Continue reading
- The guy sleeping in a small entrance cove of a store, at two in the morning, with a near-empty wine bottle tucked inside his stained trench coat.
- The guy, with blood-shot eyes, standing in front of a seven-eleven, asking me for loose change so he can “buy a piece of pizza.”
- The guy, with hands trembling, sitting on the steps of an urban church, stopping passers-by telling them he needs gas money to visit his mother in hospice.
- The barroom story-tellers spinning out their lazy-tongued tales of resentments against a boss, an ex-girlfriend, or all the corrupt Washington politicians in bed with Wall St.
Modern Technology, the Great Equalizer
Modernity is usually associated with some kind of scientific discovery or technological device—vaccines, the automobile, high-speed air travel, MRIs, iPhones, the flat screen. Continue reading
The Introvert/Extrovert Dilemma
When I look back at my own psychological MO, I would also have to say that I played at being sociable throughout most of my adulthood. My more dominant side was drawn to ideas, the inner life, books, and—as a writer—observations.
Yet I chose a profession, teaching, where I had to be constantly on point—talking, explaining, analyzing, synthesizing, even negotiating. I was also very vocal at faculty senate meetings and even ended up being the teacher’s union president. So much for a shy, retiring, sensitive introvert I prided myself on being. Continue reading