“The better life rests less on the prohibitions of the Ten Commandments and more on the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Golden Rule.” David Josiah Brewer
David Josiah Brewer (above) served on the Supreme Court for 20 years until his death in 1910 at age 73. Born in the ancient Greek city of Smyrna to missionary parents, Brewer grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Yale University. According to Supreme Court historian Lucas Powe, Brewer as a justice “was a vigorous defender of minority rights, including African Americans and Asian immigrants.
Becca on stage and with "Godspell" cast members
Granddaughter Becca shined in the musical “Godspell.” In the program Becca thanked her amazing parents for their support and mentioned that she’s been involved in musical theater from age 6 and played Molly in a Star Plaza production of “Annie.” When I asked Toni why she had to wear uncomfortable boots instead of sneakers like everyone else, it was because she was playing a harlot based on the character Mary Magdalene. She really seemed to enjoy vamping seductively. At one point she ambled down the aisle singing and flirting with audience members. I had trouble hearing many lines but wasn’t much interested in the religious story, so it didn’t reduce my enjoyment of the music or watching Rebecca interact with cast members.
One of the lively “Godspell” numbers acted out the parable about separating the sheep, who were charitable and deserving of God’s mercy, from the sinful goats. Wyatt Lee, playing Jesus, wore a Superman shirt. While he was explaining the parable of the Prodigal Son, Phil leaned over and said, “That’s the story your dad hated so much isn’t it?” Vic never understood why the sibling who abandoned his family and squandered his inheritance deserved more praise than the loyal, hard-working brother. When he taught Sunday School at Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Washington, Vic couldn’t bring himself to stick to the lesson plan.
Abraham Lincoln often referenced biblical parables in conversation and speeches. In 1858 he said this about rival Stephen Douglas:
He says I have a proneness for quoting scripture. If I should do so now, it occurs that perhaps he places himself somewhat upon the ground of the parable of the lost sheep which went astray upon the mountains, and when the owner of the hundred sheep found the one that was lost, and threw it upon his shoulders, and came home rejoicing, it was said that there was more rejoicing over the one sheep that was lost and had been found, than over the ninety and nine in the fold. [Great cheering, renewed cheering.]
The application is made by the Saviour in this parable, thus, “Verily I say unto you, there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentence.” [Cheering.] And now, if the Judge claims the benefit of his parable, let him repent. [Vociferous applause.] Let him not come up here and say: I am the only just person; and you are the ninety-nine sinners! Repentence, before forgiveness is a provision of the Christian system, and on that condition alone will the Republicans grant his forgiveness. [Laughter and cheers.]
Patricia Damata, V.O.L.T.S. co-chair, sent me a thank you note for speaking at VU about Vivian Carter and Vee-Jay Records and signed it “IUNW Class of 1971 and 1974.” She said that members really enjoyed my insightful program, adding: “I didn’t know we had so many Rock and Rollers. It is remarkable how we still remember the words and the danceable music.” Her colleague Diana Austin added: “The incorporation of the actual songs with additional background of the groups in that era was just amazing and so neat!!”
Hollis Donald wrote a eulogy for IUN maintenance technician Stan “Stosh” Lawrence (above), who passed away last month at age 66, calling him “generous to a fault, honest, kind, quick to share his knowledge and skill and his belongings.” Physical Plant supervisor Otto Jefimenko said of Lawrence, “Everyone on campus loved him. We will all miss talking to him and seeing him every day. People would always stop him and ask him to do something for them and he was always a cheerful helper.”
I traded emails with Marla Gee about Trump’s election (she was listening to Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” and thought it still timely) and the mighty Cubs. She wrote:
Would you believe my first Cubs game was at Shea Stadium? I was living in New York in 1974, and was so homesick I trekked from Manhattan out to the Mets' ballpark to see the hometown team. It was the only time I left Manhattan, other than when I was on the Greyhound going back to Gary. Commuting to Chicago on a temp assignment, one of the lawyers had these box seat season tickets that he only used on weekends; when he found out I was a fan, he told me to ask for a certain person at the box office, and they would generally have a front row seat for me if my friend from work wasn't at the ballpark that day. Otherwise, he let me use his seat. If you go to that many games, and sitting where I did, you'll eventually have a nodding acquaintance with ALL of the players!
I used to attend the Cubs Diamond Dinner in January. One year in particular it was brutally cold, and Rick Monday was making a big deal about “how beautiful it was!” and marveling how the ice caked up on the windows. (I think he lived in California during the off season.)
During a Chicago performance of “Hamilton’ an audience member shouted “We won” and uttered profanities during the “Yorktown” song after the cast sang the line, “Immigrants/ We get the job done.” When he continued disrupting the show, ushers removed him. Meanwhile, on Broadway, Mike Pence’s arrival was greeted with both cheers and jeers. During curtain call cast member Brandon Victor Dixon directed this statement to Pence:
We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.
Pence publicly reacted like it was no big deal, saying:
My daughter and I and her cousins really enjoyed the show. “Hamilton” is just an incredible production, incredibly talented people. It was a real joy to be there. When we arrived we heard a few boos, and we heard some cheers. I nudged my kids and reminded them that is what freedom sounds like.
Trump, however, posted on Twitter that the future V.P was harassed and deserved an apology, adding that he’d heard the play was highly over-rated. Then after Alec Baldwin, playing Trump on SNL, said to someone playing Pence, “Mike, you’re going to do everything, right?” the president-elect tweeted: “I watched parts of Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one—sided biased show – nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?”
Trump’s election has killed my interest in Sunday morning news shows. Phil and Delia were still with us, so I bought a dozen Dunkin’ donuts for breakfast for $9.99 – more than I’d expected. A half-dozen cars were lined up at the carry-out window, but nobody was ahead of me inside. Phil said that was par for the course; some customers were probably in pajamas. I got cocoanut for Delia, chocolate glazed for Phil, plain for Toni, and (by mistake) Bavarian cream for me, thinking they were the same as the vanilla cream-filled ones.
IUN students have the entire week off, but not staff. Former history secretary Vickie Mitrovich, now working for the department of Computer Information Systems, brought in a loaf of raisin bread I had ordered from her church group. Back when I was teaching, only Thanksgiving and Friday were holidays, but now all IU campuses have the same schedule.
At the library I checked out an anthology about the 1960s highlighting articles that appeared in the New Yorker after noting that the first selections were by Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Jonathan Schell, and Richard Rovere. I also found a Leonard Cohen live CD that included “Suzanne,” from a 1993 concert in Vancouver. While listening to it, I called Terry Jenkins, who said he heard a middle school choir perform it last year. The middle verse reminded me of “Godspell,” only gloomier:
And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
He said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them
But he himself was broken, long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone