Emily Dickinson on Being a Nobody

Sandy Kress and Camille Kress complete their “Summer Celebration of Emily Dickinson” with a look at the great poet’s “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” What does she mean by a “nobody?” What does she find objectionable about being a “somebody?”  In this very short poem, what is Dickinson teaching us about how and what to be?

 

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

 

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

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SANDY KRESS –

 

With this poem, we must define terms right away.

 

I don’t for a minute think Emily Dickinson is a Nobody. I have never known of anyone more a “somebody” than this great poet. With the exception of Shakespeare and a few other extraordinary literary figures, she has as much depth of understanding of life and the world (and taught us of it) as anyone who’s written in the English language.

 

A “nobody” is traditionally considered a person of no importance, influence, or power, that is, a no one. Emily Dickinson is hardly a nobody, as defined; nor does she think anyone who will ultimately find, read, and appreciate this poem is a nobody.

 

We can get to her real meaning, I think, only by following her clues about the meaning she ascribes to “Somebody,” the opposite of “Nobody.”

 

“Somebody” is defined as someone who “like a Frog” tells his “name – the livelong June” in “public” to “an admiring Bog!”

 

We know these somebodies in our own times. As with Dickinson’s “Somebody,” there is nothing to be said about them as to real work of quality, or the difficulty or private pain it takes to do it. There is no mention there of anything truly beautiful that’s been created by them. There is no mention of animus directed their way for having the courage to go it alone, especially in the pursuit of doing the right thing that opposes the popular will.

 

Rather the “Somebody” she pictures is like a frog doing nothing but croaking his name – and for an entire month – to an admiring crowd.

 

Wow, did Dickinson write this 150 years ago, or yesterday? Can you picture certain celebrities, “journalists,” politicians, “novelists,” “actors,” donors in “the world of charity,” clergy men and women, and so many other such “Somebodies” in our own time?

 

It’s the self-worship of the ego she’s decrying, I think. It’s the bloated ego that is all about the ego, not the stuff of living – truth, creation, sacrifice in furtherance of beauty and life, contribution and giving to others.

 

In religious terms, the question is: do we do what we do for the sake of Heaven or the sake of ourselves? Dickinson says the self-effacing path of the “Nobody” is the one taken for the sake of Heaven.

 

God bless the memory of Emily Dickinson!

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CAMILLE KRESS –

 

What he said.

 

Really. I’m not sure I can top Sandy’s excellent analysis here at the end of our Summer Dickinson Festival. But at the risk of being a nobody, I will add some of my own insights, maybe even a few that counter Sandy’s understanding of, not so much the poem, but, of the poet who wrote it.

 

I, too, don’t think for a minute that Emily Dickinson thought she was a Nobody, but unlike Sandy, I wonder about her self-confidence, especially when it came to revealing her writing to the public. She was thought by some to be a recluse later in life, rarely leaving her parents’ home, and very few of her poems were published in her lifetime. Nearly 1800 were discovered after her death. Although she had close relatonships and shared some of her poems with friends, family and editors, this is hardly a woman who felt comfortable being fully known. I’ve always sensed both wisdom and uncertainty in her.

 

It would be a mistake, however, to think she did not struggle with the idea of being a Somebody.

 

It is evident through several of her poems that the subject of fame, for its own sake, was on her mind: “Fame is the one that does not stay;”  “Fame is a fickle food;” and “Fame is a Bee.” She even critizes her profession: “Publication – is the Auction.”

 

And, yet, in a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, author of an article that ran in the Atlantic Monthy in 1862, she wrote, “Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?” Perhaps she had some concern about what was thought in the Bog.

 

In the end, I think Dickinson found peace in knowing that the good work we do will endure and make a name for itself.

Emily Dickinson and Luck

In the next-to-last blog of their “Summer Celebration of Emily Dickinson,” Camille and Sandy Kress explore the poet’s extraordinary “Luck is Not Chance.” What is luck? What is the cause of our good fortune? Do we value what truly creates value? These are some of the profound questions Dickinson asks and discusses, thus making them ripe for our consideration.

 

Luck is not chance—

It’s Toil—

Fortune’s expensive smile

Is earned—

The Father of the Mine

Is that old-fashioned Coin

We spurned—

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Camille Kress –

The fact that the first four lines of this poem appear on posters and refrigerator magnets tells you a lot. We need to be reminded, perhaps daily, that hard work, not luck, brings success.

Bottom line: We make our luck. We earn it. We, not fate, increase the odds.

Something tells me that Emily would not have liked cute refrigerator magnets and predictable posters. On closer look, we see her embed a jarring idea in the first four lines.

She chooses to personify Fortune, by giving her an expensive smile. Given Dickinson’s classical education, she would have known of Fortuna, the Latin goddess of fortune and the personification of luck in Roman religion. The irony here is that the goddess came to represent life’s capriciousness. One never knew if Fortuna was going to bring good or bad luck. Effort had nothing to do with it. Life was left to fate. A whim.

Dickinson cautions against this. Right away, our poet pits human will against chance. She stages a duel: Fortuna vs. Toil. A daily unpredictable fight between Lady Luck and You!

Fear not…Emily tells us how to resist: She wants us to recognize that traces of ancient superstition are still embedded in the modern mind. She abhors the idea that we see our lives as built on capriciousness.

No. You earn it, she says. Toil is not easy. Our future takes work.

The last lines, I’m afraid, remind me of all the times I’ve lost the fight, wasting time blaming circumstances instead of shaping my own goals. But this is the way Emily fights. She provokes through poetry.

“The Father of the Mine

Is that old-fashioned Coin

We spurned—”

 

Dickinson seems to want us to respect the “Father of the Mine.” But, who is this person? Cherish the Coin, she says – those “old-fashioned” values of daily work that add up to production.

Said another way – the Father is a metaphor for disciplinarian, the one in charge of the Mine, that place (or pronoun: me “mine”) where rich resources are extracted.

In a poem that seems to begin with a simple maxim, Dickinson leaves us with a more challenging task. She makes us ask ourselves: What would it take for me to be the Father, the disciplinarian, of my own life?

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Sandy Kress –

I love this poem!

For one thing, it’s a bit simple, relative to so many others in Dickinson’s oeuvre. Further, it has a wise, proverbial message. But, third, and most important, there’s a touch of complexity in it that prevents us from ever taking the great poet for granted.

We make our “luck,” Dickinson seems to be saying at the start. We work hard at the things that matter. The success of such work is reflected in fortune’s smile. But that smile doesn’t come easily. It’s expensive. By saying so, Dickinson makes clear that she’s not talking about mere toil, but rather a special sort of excellent, productive toil.

Dickinson’s poems are surely illustrative of the toil that earns “fortune’s expensive smile.” I bet you’ve done certain work in your life that makes you particularly proud. Think about the finest thing you have ever created.

I believe Dickinson tells us in the most difficult verse in the poem what essentially is responsible for our best creation.

“The Father of the Mine is that old-fashioned Coin we spurned -“

Who’s the Father of the Mine? The poem suggests it’s the old-fashioned Coin. Well – then – who or what is that? Let’s break it down.

The Coin is capitalized, thus important. It’s old-fashioned, as if to say it’s valued, traditional, of lasting importance. Perhaps the poet wants us to think of an enduring currency of great worth, such as deep principles, ideas of great beauty, or proven values, such as those that push us to do extraordinary work.

Another possible notion of “Coin” is that it represents the reward of work, the material fruit of work, which, in turn, drives us to work.

Whichever of these views we hold, let’s explore how this Coin can be the Father of the Mine.

First, it is what fathers our wellbeing, whether material or otherwise, which is so wonderfully expressed in the use of the word, mine, as in a mine of gold or other substances of great value.

Or, it could be that this Coin is the Father of Mine, in that it is what begets me! It is the father of the true me, the best me, the most productive me. All the things that constitute the old-fashioned Coin – the virtues, the beauty, the push to live in the best ways – are what guide me, as a good father does, to the toil that earns fortune’s expensive smile.

Yet, how often we spurn the Coin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Dickinson and Truth

Camille and I tackle a short, brilliant Dickinson poem this week. What is truth? How can it best be told? How do we learn and understand it? These are the questions on the poet’s mind, and she has answers.

The poem is conventionally understood one way. Camille takes that path, though I believe far more creatively than most. I come at the poem from a very unconventional angle.

How do you see it?

 

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Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

 

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Sandy Kress –

 

I must push back – in certain ways – on the conventional understanding of this poem.

Many read Dickinson to be suggesting that all the truth should be told, but not necessarily at once, and certainly very carefully. This is so, these commentators say, because the truth is too hard to take straight.

They point for support to the verses that suggest that truth is “too bright” and that it requires, as does teaching lightning to children, to be “eased” and delivered with “explanation kind.” If truth dazzles too suddenly, it will “blind.”

I do not want to argue altogether with this explanation – at least at the surface level. But I think the poet has a deeper intention in mind.

She is saying, I think, that truth is complex, profound, and incapable of expression in its fullest “truth” in simple and easy motions. It comes at its best with “superb surprise,” and especially from many directions. It comes at “a slant.” It comes mostly from round and round; “success in Circuit lies.”

Our fragile capacity to be enlightened requires that truth often be revealed through indirection and in a spectrum of colors, not because we can’t handle it “too bright.” Rather we get it better and truer that way. I have no better evidence for my view than Dickinson’s poetry itself. Unlike many other poets, she tells “all the truth,” but tells it “slant.”

The world often seems to us “as Lightning to children.” It’s not that we can’t take the truth or need it watered down. It’s just more felicitous to know what it really is, not just what it appears to be on first impression. Our sense of truth, for example, can be “eased” when a “kind” poet cares enough to share her hard earned understanding so that we get that understanding, too.

Truths, such as those Dickinson tells, do indeed “dazzle gradually.” This is not because they would blind us if we tried to get them straight or quickly. Rather she is saying we may remain blind to Truth if we do not get it as It best comes.

 

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Camille Kress –

 

Like lighting, four words strike me in the first line. Let’s deal with them in a flash.

Tell: We are charged with a bold instruction.
all: not some, not mine, but all.
truth: it’s not capitalized, something to watch for when reading Emily Dickinson.
slant: Knowing that Dickinson often equates truth with light, the poet’s choice of the word “slant” evokes, for me, a prism in which refracting surfaces at an acute angle separate white light into a spectrum of colors.

It should be noted that poetry that does not perfectly rhyme is called slant rhyme, or approximate rhyme. Perhaps the poet is asking us to remember that truth begins as approximate. But, in that it emanates from something Whole, it can become more fully known.

We sense this trajectory in the next line when we see classic Emily capitalization – “Success in Circuit lies.” Success, here, suggests accomplishment, the creation of a Circle, a full circumference containing, not approximate, but “all the truth” – the Truth.

Can you imagine Light hitting you from such completeness? The shear bolt would, indeed, be “Too bright for our infirm Delight.”

“As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind”

When children are afraid of lightning, we admit to them its startling and frightening side, but we also tell the truth through the rest of the story – its likely distance, its beauty, its science.

So, how is Truth told?

It “dazzles gradually,” she says. If it did not, “every man be blind,” as if struck by unrefracted Light.

Looking through the prism of this poem, I see all kinds of ways we tell truth with slant: poetry, parables, myths, proverbs, folktales, nature, and the like.

It is in the best of them that we find our Delight through Truth’s “superb surprise.”

 

Emily Dickinson and the Brain

This week Camille Kress and I look at, and write about, Emily Dickinson’s provocative poem, The Brain.

The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—

The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
As Sponges—Buckets—do—

The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—

S.Kress

The little brain is wider than the whole, great sky?

Upon first impression, it sounds preposterous, which makes us pay attention, and it gives the beginning of the poem a nice kick forward. Yet, when we think about it deeply, we understand the assertion to be true. The brain is wider than the Sky in that it can comprehend it…and much, much more.

This insight must have been a source of joy for the brainy poet who understood the scope and power of nature so brilliantly.

Is the “You” in the poem, God? If so, the brain can comprehend both the natural and the Divine. I like that and agree.

If, instead, by “You,” she means any possible “you,” including all readers of the poem, I like that, too. This “my brain-You” relationship, also, makes me think of Martin Buber’s I-Thou formulation. My brain can understand and help me live properly with You.

The brain is deeper than the sea. The brain can absorb of the sea, as can a sponge or a bucket. The seawater in a sponge or bucket is representative of the whole of the sea, as is my brain’s grasp of it.

The last stanza powers up, as did the first. There is little actual “weight” to the brain, as there is none to God. Yet, we understand the underlying truth. Both are among the heftiest “things” that exist in the world. Not sure the Brain and God differ really (perhaps since one knows the Other and the Other knows the one intimately), the poet leaves us with an astounding metaphorical comparison.

God is the Sound for which our brain can understand and form but a syllable, a fragment of human language, which gives a bit of verse to the song. But it is our syllable, and it is a syllable that beautifully and aptly fits the Tune. Our brain, thus, brings us right into the flow of the great Sound.

C.Kress

Let’s start with what we know – the tangibles:
Width.
Depth.
Weight.

Dickinson has led us to concepts of measurement. She compares the small human brain to the vastness of the sky, the depth of the brain to a plunging sea, and the weight of the brain to the weight of God. Absurd, is it not?

No. I see what you’re doing here, Emily. You use tangibles but intend something very much beyond. Human thought is limitless, reaching beyond the sky. A thinking mass, just 140 mm wide, has the power to grow and change, not in size, but in the immeasurably expansive “You.”

In the next stanza, we are to compare – “Blue to Blue” – the brain and the sea. Our “Brain” is not only deeper than the sea; it can “absorb” it.

It’s about here that I begin to see a pattern in the words Dickinson chooses to capitalize, as if she is using Letter scales, measure for measure. She’s also got me wondering why other poets often select the loftier word “Mind” to express human thought, but she goes with “Brain.” And then there are “Sponges” and “Buckets.”

Again, we have tangible things that express the Intangible. Look down. You’re knee deep in Dickinson now.

“The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—”

How does she expect us to equate a 3-pound organ with God?

“And they will differ—if they do—As Syllable from Sound—”

That third stanza is a hard one, so let’s tackle it with tangible things:
Vowels.
Consonants.
Language.

These are what give sound human understanding. We hear the rush of wind blowing through sky, the crashing waves of the sea, and our gray matter gives sound meaning. She seems to be saying, Syllable and Sound may differ, but they carry the same weight, they share an agreement – a covenant – to make sense of life.

But how can the Brain weigh the same as God?

Some scholars note Emily Dickinson’s rejection of conventional religion, speculating that the brain is equal to God because humans have created the idea of God. But Emily does not strike me as a lazy rejecter. She may have lost patience with convention, but her poems pulsate with an urge for the Divine.

Here’s my twist on an insight of Professor Evan Thompson. The Hebrew word, kavod, means “honor” or “glory.” Interestingly, it also means, “heavy” or a difficult burden to carry.

I know the heavy weight of God in my own brain. Like Emily Dickinson’s, my spiritual journey has not always been full of light metaphors and poetry that rhymes. My cortex carries conflicting signals of faith and doubt. Thoughts have substance. If “honor” and “weight” are interchangeable, perhaps my burden is, as was hers, a glory.

Emily Dickinson and Hope

My wife, Camille Ware Kress, and I are big fans of the great American poet, Emily Dickinson. Frequently, we’ll put life aside and devote an hour to the wonderful work of reading, discussing, and coming to an understanding of one of her poems.

We buy all sorts of editions of her work. We travel to other cities to see exhibits about her. And, of course, when a film such as “A Quiet Passion,” comes out, we’ll rush out to see it.

As you might expect from zealots such as ourselves, we are embarking on a little summer project to highlight this extraordinary poet. Every week or so, we will pick a poem, study it, write a short blog on our take of its meaning, publish it in various social media, and invite study and further comments from our friends.

Here’s the first.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

By Emily Dickinson

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

 

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

 

C. Kress: According to the Emily Dickinson Lexicon, the poet uses the word “thing” 115 times and with seven different meanings in her poems. She also often employs birds, land, and sea as metaphor, turning nature into human-nature.

So what sort of thing is Hope?

In the first stanza, we learn it is a winged thing, a feathered thing, a thing that “perches in the soul.” Dickinson could have named Hope in these beginning lines, simply calling it a bird. She does not. Rather, she hints of something that dwells within us capable of flight.

This thing “sings the tune without the words.” Perhaps, this is the poet’s way of saying that there is a greater mystery in melody, rather than defined lyrics – and where there is mystery, there is humility. Isn’t it true that our deepest hopes can’t be expressed or described in words? At times of both joy and pain, the thing renders us speechless. Hope is ineffable.

The last line of the first stanza is Dickinson’s most optimistic. She seems to assure us that hope is everlasting. “And never stops – at all” It appears we are a spiritual species with a direct flightpath to the Eternal!

Not so fast…Leave it to Emily Dickinson to show hope contested by howling winds. She is not fond of over-confidence and tidy plans. In stanza two, we are left to wonder if this thing within us will survive. There may be a “sore” storm that could “abash” it.

Here, Dickinson uses the name Bird for the first time. In her strange style, she capitalizes certain words, putting the reader on notice: Pay attention.

Will the thing with feathers fall to its death? Are there some hopes that simply can’t survive?

Maybe. But she has told us that it “never stops – at all.” Further, it’s heard “in the Gale” and is its “sweetest” there.

“I’ve heard it in the chillest land – And on the strangest Sea.” Dickinson knew the death of loved ones up close and personal – “the chillest land.” Rarely leaving her parents home as an adult, she was thought by some to be an odd recluse. Perhaps, but she probably dealt with the isolation – “the strangest sea” – that comes with a persistent melancholy, what we often call depression today. “Hope” may, for her, have been a Bird, forever threatened, but always singing a sustaining song.

“Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.”

In a life in which our wise and sensitive poet felt that much was asked of her, it’s lovely to see that that which served her best asked nothing of her at all.

In closing, she leaves us, not with certainty, but with a sense of gratitude for the mystery of Hope. Even when we call out in desperation – “in Extremity” – it seems to be there, perched in the soul, singing without words…waiting to take flight.


S. Kress: I believe this is one of the most purely optimistic, “happy” of Emily Dickinson’s poems.

I love the thought of a songbird and its beautiful melody as the metaphor for hope. A songbird perched in the soul, and one that never stops – at all – is a very strong hope!

Even more, a hope that still lives in the midst of storm, well, that’s real hope. How true it is that the storms of our lives – and all that bring them on – have as a first aim the destruction of hope. Yet, in the midst of real hope, how “sore” it and they must be that they can’t abash the Little Bird. (By the way, do the capital letters for little bird connote the idea that God is there in the hope, too?)

What a lovely ending. And how true: hope is there, with its warming song, even in the most difficult times, and it never asks anything in return from us.

Cultural Decline in the Public Square

I recently had the pleasure of reading A Sense of the Future, a collection of essays on science, by the late Jacob Bronowski.  While diving into this fine book, I recalled with equal pleasure the experience of watching the remarkable documentary, The Ascent of Man, which he created for television in the 1970s. One thing led to another in my mind, and before long, I was reminiscing about the incredible array of intellectually and culturally rich programming on television from roughly the mid-50s to about 1980. And – spoiler alert – after I describe it a bit, I’m here to tell you I’m damned worried we’ve lost it, and the loss is no good.

 

Who can forget Kenneth Clark’s jewel, Civilisation, which covered art and cultural history in a fashion similar to Bronowski’s treatment of the history of science?

 

In music, Leonard Bernstein made fifty-three episodes of Young People’s Concerts for CBS. I remember watching these programs as a young person trying to understand what this music was about and whether and why I might like it. Without doubt, it enriched my life culturally, as it did the lives of so many other young and not-so-young people.

 

Though I have only a vague recollection of the Hallmark Hall of Fame, I absolutely marvel in retrospect at its productions. Debuts of new operas by significant composers, exciting productions of Shakespeare’s plays featuring the best actors of the day, and important new plays – all were produced on a major network for the general public to watch, learn, and enjoy.

 

Now, before I provoke you with my main hypothesis and questions, let me lay out some caveats. First, I realize that most of what was put on TV in the early days was mediocre, just as it is today.

 

 

 

Second, I know that fine programming has continued to be produced in the decades that followed 1980. Further, it is true that there has been a proliferation of venues all across the country where art and culture can be and are experienced. This is not insignificant, though one wonders whether the best of it is quite expensive and principally accessible mostly to elites.

 

Third, there are new forms of art, such as high quality television series, that have in some ways replaced fine film, etc. I do a little binge watching myself and won’t argue with the fact that we have genres of expression today that are well made and fit the times.

 

But, notwithstanding these caveats, I do want to present a hypothesis that alarms me and challenge you to test it out, and, if it bears truth, begin to think out possible explanations and perhaps solutions.

 

Here’s the hypothesis: though the types and numbers of media generally and publicly available have multiplied many times over, the aesthetic and cultural quality of all their offerings, as a whole, has diminished. In fact, for the most part, they have made us coarser and less attuned to the best ideas and values we’ve inherited from the past.

 

Make no mistake: I’m quite well aware, as a consumer, of the BBC and PBS. But, notwithstanding their occasional good offerings, I would say two things: 1) the times we see giants of thought and performance are fewer and less sustained, and 2) the overall quality of the programming has particularly and noticeably declined in the last 5-10 years.

 

Why has this happened?

 

First, money was important to early era TV producers, but nowhere near as important as it is today. I suspect there was a sense in those days that high culture was good for people and that it ought to be provided, however much profit it produced. I doubt that such an ethic is generally operational today.

 

Second, the public today generally values classic thought, art, and performance less than it did just decades ago. By the way, when I say “classic,” I mean both old and new. It could be Shakespeare, or it could be August Wilson. It could be Beethoven, or it could be Coltrane. It could be Turner, or it could be O’Keefe.

 

Third, the net effect has been that public intellectuals and the great artists are no longer drawn out into the public square as they once were. And in their place, mostly, we get underwhelming pundits and “journalists” and merely popular entertainers.

 

Call me effete, hopelessly out of date, or what you will. But I’ll die standing by the view that it would be good for all citizens to read and understand what Jacob Bronowski wrote in A Sense of the Future. Those producers who cared enough about promoting these and other best values of our culture made a huge difference in the life of this kid growing up on Meadow Lake Avenue in Dallas, Texas. Shouldn’t we expect the same for my kids and yours?

Cultural De-Advance

During the holidays, I tend to reminisce.

One of my topics of focus in this holiday season has been to remember fondly the time I served during my law school years as chairman of the UT Cultural Entertainment Committee. Our committee would receive several dollars out of each “blanket tax” students would pay, mostly for the right to get to sporting events for free or at very reduced prices. With these proceeds plus minor charges we would assess, we would build and fund a series of performing arts and entertainment programs for the year.

We had a University administrator who staffed our work as well as faculty advisers who would share their views on artists they thought merited our attention. But the final decision-making was left to us.

I want to list some of the highlights of that 1972-1973 season. And then I want to pose a few questions that baffle me, and, through whatever means of social media you encounter this little essay, I would truly like to have your response to the questions.

Let me say in advance that I am confident that the costs of traveling and performing those many decades ago were substantially less than they are today. But, on the other hand, our budget, even in constant dollars, was pretty meager.

Here are the highlights of that season:

 

  1. Austin Symphony Orchestra, Aaron Copland conducting
  2. Edward Villella Dance Ensemble of the New York City Ballet
  3. Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Georg Solti conducting
  4. Harkness Ballet
  5. Alfred Brendel
  6. Julian Bream
  7. Harkness Ballet
  8. Sherrill Milnes
  9. Julliard String Quartet
  10. Evelyn Lear
  11. Pinchas Zuckerman
  12. Jean-Pierre Rampal with Robert Veyron-Lacroix
  13. Emlyn Williams as Dylan Thomas
  14. San Francisco Mime Troupe
  15. Marcel Marceau
  16. Godspell
  17. Poco
  18. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
  19. Billy Preston
  20. Fleetwood Mac
  21. Jazz Festival, featuring groups of McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Pharoah Sanders, and Herbie Mann
  22. Roberta Flack
  23. Earl Scruggs Revue

Now, here are my questions: 1) How is it with all growth in population, “sophistication,” and the amazing new venues we have in Austin, Texas, that we do not each year bring this caliber of programming to our city today?; 2) Or, do you believe we do just fine and that my tastes are those of an old fuddy-duddy who just does not appreciate the wonders of the new “global style” or how today’s advances in the music scene are really all that matters?; 3) Or is it that the sorts of artists and groups who traveled way back then just do not do so any more, or that it is prohibitively expensive for them to do so on anything like the scale they did back then?

 

I am prepared to believe that the answer to any or all of these questions might, at least in part, be yes. But I hope that you’ll forgive me for thinking that we have not advanced as much culturally as we should have, given all the millions of dollars we have put into our new fancy facilities and the high esteem in which we hold our hot-shot selves and our city. Actually, my hypothesis is that, culturally, we have de-advanced.