Inspiration and the Experience of Order


The subject of this book is a moment in the process of wrestling with impressions,
experiences, gathered data, emotions, when suddenly a long sought solution, a desired form, a poem with its words, rhymes and rhythms, or the form and content of a composition, present themselves, all at once coherent and as though given from the outside of the mind…

Chapter 1: Metaphysics of the Pool Table

I start in a context that excludes contamination of thought by romanticized concepts
seeping in from a culture of glorified, mythologized creativity. A perfectly objective, almost, I would say, scientific basis of inspiration, is my point of departure, a context where we can observe inspiration as “a fundamental mode of human experience” (W. James) and we can see the laws it is based on functioning “independent of any historical developments.”

Chapter 2: Johannes Kepler

Kepler’s narratives of discovery are models of inspiration: experiences of order—he receives hidden knowledge of the universe from sources outside himself; an elegant and orderly unity coalesces all of a sudden; the euphoria, the sense of unerring precision of thought, the uncanny coincidence of idea and data, the predictive ability that comes from such a vision.

Chapter 3: Isaac Newton

Here is an interesting text to invite you to read the full chapter

Brothers Karamazov

I’m rereading Brothers Karamazov after many years. What a great book! And what resonance with US political dynamics of the moment. In the core of the complicated plot is a murder mystery driven by the mechanism of the inciter and the incited. The murderer eventually admits his crime (privately, to the inciter; the forces of justice condemn the wrong man). But claims that the real guilt lies with the man who told him that murder is licit. (If God does not exist, then everything is licit.) The inciter’s first reaction is to deny any guilt (To suggest criminal acts are justified doesn’t make them happen!) But he slowly recognizes his complicity–a shrinking violet compared with Trump.

Donald Trump says: “I didn’t tell them, go perpetrate violence; I’m against violence.” 

The incited, at least the few arrested, say: “The president told me to do it.”

That mechanism was at work when the trickster God Loki put a lethal weapon (mistletoe!) into the hand of the blind god Hother and told him to throw it at the dancing Balder. It turns into a lance and kills the good god. 

Also when Henry II said, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome cleric!” (Ok, more explicit than a dog whistle, but he’s a king.)

Any other examples?

The form this takes with Trump is, “They’re stealing the country from us! You’ve got to fight like hell.” 

It’s murder and mayhem incited with deniability. In Bros Karamazov both inciter and incited are ultimately destroyed by the murder. But probably a good lawyer can get Trump off.

Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial: The Limits of Charismatic Art

These thoughts on the aesthetics of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial began as the last chapter of my book, Enchantment: On Charisma and the Sublime in the Arts of the West (2012). Because the book was already too long, this essay became an orphan. I hope it’s still worth reading without the rest of its family.

Open this ppt program to see the illustrations to Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial

Philosophy, 950-1050

Abstract: The leading conception of “Philosophy” in the period 950–1050 distinguishes it from the discipline as understood either in the Carolingian period or the later eleventh and twelfth centuries. This essay takes issue with current opinion on the subject, which tends to give particular stress to the cultivation of Aristotelian logic, mediated above all by Boethius. The focus of the consensus view is fixed on Benedictine monasteries. However, the imperial court and the cathedral schools which arose in the second half of the tenth century received and developed a conception of philosophy based on Cicero’s ethical philosophy that is based on the Roman reduction of ancient Stoicism to an ethic of state service. This philosophy was not speculative. Dialectic played a part, but as a handmaiden of the language arts leading to public oratory. Witnesses to this development include Ruotger, the biographer of Bruno of Cologne; Gerbert of Aurillac; and a host of clerical writers in letters, poems and biographies from the period. The advent of speculative philosophy with Berengar of Tours in the second half of the eleventh century represents a sharp break with this brief hundred-year renewal of ancient Roman ethical philosophy.

Keywords: Philosophy, Roman Stoicism, Bruno of Cologne, Gerbert of Aurillac, dialectic, logic, oratory, imperial court, cathedral schools, ethical philosophy, Cicero, lived philosophy.

The Romance of Violence: Three Essays

The Romance of Violence in Western Culture

The Romance of Violence and the Crisis of mid-Twentieth-Century America: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey

Burckhardt’s Renaissance and the Cult of Violence in the Nineteenth-Century and Beyond

The Good Person of Bronzeville: A Liturgical Blues Comedy

Adapted from the play by Bertolt Brecht “The Good Person of Sechzuan”


A defrocked pastor meets God, Jesus Christ and Satan in a Chicago blues bar late one night. The fate of mankind hangs on a bet between God and Satan. God has decided to wipe out mankind and create a new race of humans, this time truly human. If Jesus can find one good person he’ll relent, and mankind will be saved. Jesus and Rev. Phillups seek their good man in the owner of Rodney’s Grocery Store, Rodney Jefferson Jones. Rodney’s business and his family are brought to the brink of destruction by economic circumstances (and the conniving of Cecil Slitherman, aka Sly). To save his business Rodney is forced to transform himself into a tough, mean dude, Rodney Jackson Jones, aka Hotrod. He fights off the threats to the business by a combination of gangster tactics, calculated business pressure, and threatened strike and boycott actions. He makes a huge success; goes public; but it comes at a cost. God retires to peaceful parts of the universe while Jesus takes a job bagging and cleaning up in Rodney’s. God reappears in the final scene to render judgment. 


The Good Person of Bronzeville adapts Bertolt Brecht’s play, The Good Person of Szechuan to the circumstances of black people on the south side of Chicago. I’ve changed the motives and the characters, and produced a play that deals with the social and economic forces that really prey on African-Americans in present day America. In the Brecht play the forces that threatened the small business were the masses of the poor—the owner was too kind (“good”) to resist their needs; and the weakness of the main character, a prostitute who got a cigarette store as a gift from the gods on their visit to the world looking for good people. I wrote this play while I lived in south side Chicago and realized how false it would be to represent the same forces at work in the social situation that Brecht envisioned in his play: the masses of the poor, poverty itself the bad guy? the weakness of the woman (she falls in love, she gets pregnant, she needs a hard-edged man to run the business)? These are nothing like the forces at work in American black communities. Workers and the middle class are threatened by a voracious capitalism which destabilizes poor and middle class alike, exploits the people least able to withstand its predatory tendencies, in short, is a cause of poverty; and finally by a criminal justice system that controls the oppressed.

This play is about African-Americans; that’s its life and energy.  But it gets its resonance because Rodney and family represent what Ralph Ellison calls “the black mask of humanity.” Black embodies a life and a fate much more broadly representative than a single ethnic group.

I have borrowed the two most brilliantly theatrical elements of The Good Person of Szechuan: the visit of the gods and the doubling of the main character.  Otherwise very little of the confusing ethos of Brecht’s play has gotten into this “Good Person” and none of Brecht’s characterizations and dialogue, though I adapt plot elements from other of his plays.

 “Liturgical Blues Comedy” expresses what I hope will be the unique and, I think, original tone and atmosphere of “The Good Person of Bronzeville.”  (I think I can claim that this is the first time in the history of theater, of Judaism and Christianity that God and the devil sing a duet on stage; also, that Jesus is reincarnated as a social activist.) Its cosmic frame is a lot different from Brecht’s light-opera gods. It calls on elements of the Book of Job, Goethe’s Faust and Aeschylus, Oresteia.

Two points on production: it’s big–a big cast, many scenes, and music. But the sets and staging should be simple, abstract, mythical: iconic images projected onto screens, all theater space, not realistic stage sets. The music calls on traditional blues pieces, spirituals, and a hymn (minimal problems getting rights; the lyrics are all my work). One blues piano and the voices of actors and ensemble can carry the music.

Bucky the Great and the Foul (Ball) Affair

Few people know the name, Buckminster Bixby. But everyone knows Bucky the Great.  Three time American League MVP, home run champ seven years running, twice triple crown winner, unforgettable personality. By unanimous acclaim, his team, his fans, and all of baseball conferred on him a title no other player in the history of the game had borne, “Bucky the Great.” No story shows his greatness more than the reform which reshaped the game of baseball, now known as “Buckyball.” 

Bucky was my best friend until his tragic death. You’ll want to consult my two-volume biography, Bucky the Great, for details of his life.. But I’m writing this article for  the American Heritage magazine to commemorate his role as liberator of the game of baseball from strictures that threatened to destroy it along with its all-but-lost American ideals and to rescue his reputation from his many misguided detractors.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were pitiful; they had sunk into long-term confinement in the cellar of the National League West, until Bucky raised them up and infused them with an energy and will to win that his performance by itself cannot explain. It was his person, his presence, a smile and a manner that sent the clear message: “You’re so lucky to know me. Nothing can stop me.”  He stood 6’ 5” and radiated robustness and courage. His casual, jovial manner, his hands jammed in his pockets like an aw-shucks schoolboy, his red cheeks beaming irresistible charm, and his whole presence charged with the magnetism of his unmatched statistics, it was impossible to resist him. 

Now I know that many stodgy convention-addicted readers who cannot think beyond the rule-bound life, will howl anew at what became the program of Baseball Liberation (BL). But it’s important, especially in the present age, to appreciate Bucky’s reforms. They predicted the renewal now sweeping the country in many other areas.

The Foul Affair

“Bucky’s revolt”, as it came to be known, or to his enemies “The Foul Affair,”  began in a critical game with the Boston Red Sox. LA had good prospects for the AL penant and a shot at the world series. It lagged behind the Red Sox by a game and a half in season play, and so the post-season series was played with sweat and passion.

It happened in the ninth inning of game two, LA now trailing Boston by 1 game in the three game series, score tied 5 to 5, bases loaded for LA. Bucky comes to bat. With a count of 3 and 2, Bucky sent a towering fly ball to right field.  It was of historic length. Scientific measurement later determined it to be the longest ball ever hit out of Dodger stadium. The right field umpire’s call: “foul ball.”  

Bucky stopped his progress around first base and headed for home plate with a stride that left no doubt as to his purpose. He exchanged words with the head umpire, who called in the crew of four umpires from their stations. The formidable Dodger manager, Bronco Porsky, left the dugout. He also had seen the ball as foul, as did the fans and the players of both teams. The ball had cleared the right field tower on the foul side by a good two feet. The call seemed uncontroversial. 

A charge like an electric shock coursed through the 56,000 fans and both teams when the announcement came that the Dodgers had challenged the call, and a review of the video was in progress. In the meantime, Bucky, Porsky and the umpires stood around home plate, kicked at the dirt, and occasionally laughed. The atmosphere was light and the mood cheery.  After a few minutes, the right field umpire, Ziegfeld (Ziggie) Bernstein, stepped out from the little huddle, marched to the right field baseline and in a big swooping gesture toward the infield, right knee to the ground, left arm extended, right arm sawing the air like an archer releasing one arrow after another, declared in a voice of brass, “Fair ball.” 

Pandemonium followed. The LA base runners trotted around the bases to touch home plate; Bucky followed. The Boston bench cleared in an instant. It was a melée like none seen since George Brett’s explosion at the infamous “pine-tar bat” call.

While the battle raged, Bucky sauntered to the side of the fray and cleaned his fingernails. The LAPD took the field to hustle the umpire crew off the field and to safety. The heat of the confrontation evaporated gradually.  The Boston coach declared that he would challenge the call with an appeal to the commissioner of baseball. The Boston pitcher, Koji Fujimitsu, had to be helped from the field. The Dodgers won the game 9 – 5 and went on to win the penant and the world series.   

Ziggie Bernstein admitted later that he had seen the ball as foul, but a brief talk with Bucky persuaded him to reverse his call. He did not understand his decision at the time, and he could not explain it other than by saying that Bucky had a way about him. 

The LA Times and other papers published photographs showing the ball pass to the foul side of the right field tower.  The headline in the Boston Globe read “FAIR IS FOUL AND FOUL IS FAIR”. The magnificent height and historic distance of the hit seemed to soften popular attitudes toward the obvious truth: it was a foul ball.  

Bucky himself refused to discuss the right or wrong of the call. His defense instead focused on the placement of the right field tower.  He argued that the surveyor responsible had misaligned the post.  It was three feet out of true, and the flight of the ball was fair; only the position of the tower was in the wrong.

Bucky, the two coaches and the four umpires were interviewed in a classic series of Baseball Commission hearings.  Thanks to my research for Bucky’s bio, the transcripts of the hearings, stored in the MLB archives in Cooperstown, are now available. The two coaches, Bucky and the entire umpire crew were present, along with a large retinue attached to both sides. Koji Fujimitsu was unavailable, having sequestered himself in a Tokyo treatment center for nervous disorders.  

The commissioner at the time was the fabled Honus McGraw, better known as “Rock” McGraw, because his faith in the rules, regulations and conventions of baseball was compared by one pundit to the Rock of Gibraltar: unmoveable. In fact he had discussed the foul ball affair in an op-ed piece for the Boston Globe, in which he famously compared the rules of baseball to the American constitution, and the structure of the baseball field to Euclidean geometry and Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion.

After some casual preluding, the questioning started with Commissioner  McGraw putting it hard and straight to all participants: “What are we doing here? The ball was foul.”

Porsky: “It depends on how you understand the concept of ‘foul.’”

Commissioner McGraw: “The hell it does!”

Porsky: “Let’s not be hasty here. Remember, there are four umpires present who’ll agree that Bucky’s hit was fair.  Right, gentlemen?”

The four umpires nod agreement.

Porsky: “Roy [i.e. Roy Paige, home base umpire], how long have you been judging major league games.”

Roy: “Thirty Years.”

Porsky: “And you called the hit fair?”

Roy: “Yes, I did.”

Porsky: “Ziggie, how about you?  You’ve been calling games for, what? Ten years?”

Ziggie: “Twenty, if you include the minors.”

Porsky: “ And both these men called the hit fair. So did [umpires] Scully and Robinson. These are the best there are. How can you argue?”

McGraw: “What the hell’s going on here, Roy?”

Roy: “We’ve done some rethinking, Mac. The fact is, the game is changing. We gotta change with it or be left behind.  The old rules are strangling the game.”

Ziggie: “Foul ball lines are barriers to greatness.”

McGraw: “who the hell put an idea like greatness into your hollow head, Ziggie? Just call em the way you see em.”

Ziggie: “The way I see it, Bucky here hits a ball like no one has ever seen before, and we should just act as though it’s just another strike? Toss it in the wastebin of failed swings? It’s a world record. That hit is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. What about all the kids who are dreaming of greatness? We should just throw cold water on that dream by calling it foul?”

Commissioner McGraw: “Bucky, maybe you can straighten this out. Are these guys crazy? You got a big ego, Bucky, but I know you as a straight-shooter. Now give us some help here; come clean. I mean, for Chrissake. You’re what baseball’s about, and these guys seem to want to destroy it.”

In fact Bucky had not spoken a word during the hearing.  He had polished his fingernails and whistled softly. Watching him you would think there was very little at stake, or, that the outcome was so obvious to him that he didn’t need to speak. He took his time. Put away his fingernail file in a little silver case.Then nodded and raised his eyebrows, as if to say, “What more can I add? They’ve made the case.” 

Porsky stepped in. “Rock, it’s not ego. It’s the game, the game that counts. Bucky’s hit was one of baseball’s finest moments. If Bucky does great, the game is greater.”

 Roy Paige: “It’s all these foolish restrictions. Rock, we want the foul lines removed…”

McGraw: “Removed? You mean, no foul lines at all?

Porsky: “That’s right.”

McGraw: “What about foul tips. Should tips be in play?”

Porsky: “Of course not. We want to make the game greater, not smaller. Foul tips are for losers. A foul tip is an out. My God, how permissive can this game get?  Pretty soon every minor league shlub will be a batting champ.”

Roy: “We’ve thought it over, Rock. In fact we need to rethink everything. You know, we’ve had the same foul lines for a long time.  You get tired of that sort of thing. It really gets old. In the new game, there’ll be no foul or fair. There’ll be bad, decent, excellent and great. No balls and strikes.  No strike zone. Umpires have pretended for years that the strike zone is a law of nature.  But everyone, umps and batters, knows, it’s as phony as a three dollar bill. Honestly, Mac, if I don’t like a pitcher, the strike-zone shrinks. If I do, it expands.  How fair is that? And I do that balanced and equal. If I don’t like a batter, the same applies.”

McGraw: “You mean…?”

Roy: “And the sacred anger of the umpire when the coach swears at him? The umpire’s power to eject? it’s show; treats totally subjective calls as if they were God’s truth.”

McGraw: “What you’re saying is…is …”

Porsky: “Mac, what we want is simple. We want to make the game heroic again. Give all the kids at home more, much more, to admire. In the early days of the sport, the players were titans. They didn’t care a damn about balls and strikes. When they saw the pitch coming, they hit it. That’s the kind of men they were. Since then the noose has been tightening. Think about it, Rock. Could there be anything more cowardly and snivelling than a base on balls? It’s a handout; it’s a free pass. We’re choking in petty regulations and laws. We want freedom. Rock, we’re at the beginning of a great movement.  Best you don’t get in the way.  You don’t seem to realize that everyone in the game, players, coaches, umpires, fans, share that feeling that the best in us is being stifled. The commissioner and the owners have lost sight of the will of the majority.  That conference on the field in the Boston game was like a match in a powder keg. Ziggie’s call was the start; we’re taking control of the game; it’s a revolution. It’ll spread like wildfire. Ziggie will go down in baseball history as the first man brave enough to defy the tyranny of the foul line. Freedom is what this is about. We’re all gasping for it.  

McGraw: “So lemme see: abolish foul lines, end the concept of the foul ball, stop calling balls and strikes, anything else?  Shall we throw out bases and the pitcher’s mound?” 

Porsky: “Throw out the rule book! The great player is a rule book unto himself.  It’s time to rethink everything. Okay, maybe you gotta have bases to have hits and a home plate to have home runs. We might think in terms of adding some bases. Four or five would add a lot of variety to the game, don’t you think? Maybe randomly placed? Or moveable? We’ve gotta broaden the boundaries, widen the horizons.  Bring back excitement to the game. It’s dull as yesterday’s dishwater.”

McGraw: “It is what it is Bucky. Nothing’s changing. The rules of the game are sacred.”

 Porsky: “Now there you go; that’s just what I’m saying, Rock. That rigidness; that stodginess. Rock, I’m telling you, join us: Tear down those towers! Redraw the lines or erase them! Remove the outfield barriers. They’ve held us down for years. I want open fields. We’re free souls longing to realize our true potential.”

Roy: “He’s right Rock. I’m letting the word go forth: from this time on, my calls will honor the hero and disgrace the mediocrity. This  is America. We think big. We go our own way, we’re not bound by petty conventions.”  

Ziggie: “Every major league umpire will follow us. You suppose we like people belittling us? Shouting insults? Questioning our calls? All you fellow-umpires, throw away your masks and your chest guards, your shin guards and steel-padded shoes! That’s what’s holding you to the ground. We want to fly, to soar like eagles.”

Up to this point the Boston coach, Marty Steinfeld, a quiet but intense man, had said nothing. He sat there with his arms crossed, and listened. Now he got up slowly and spoke at first in the soft voice that all the players knew and respected. 

Steinfeld: “Bucky, you’re a big fat phony. You’re willing to see all of baseball tradition go down the drain to rescue one foul ball.  Porsky, this is the saddest gambit I’ve ever seen in a serious coach.  You guys are hungry enough for the win that you’d flush the whole game down the sewer. And, Roy, you poor fool! What did they pay you to reverse that call?  And where did you get these damn crazy ideas? Throw out the rule books and you also throw out the umpires.  And where would a pack of wooden-headed buffoons like you get another job? Listen to you with your tin ideals. Porsky wants to steal the game, the pennant, and the world series. That’s what this “reform” is about. Rock, listen to me: if you pay attention to these bozos, you’ll destroy baseball.”


It went on for a long time, including breaks during which the commissioner made hushed phone calls. At last McGraw left the hearing shaken, sweating, steadying himself on the wall as he walked. This rock of Gibraltar  now wobbled. He did not issue a ruling, but agreed to call a meeting of the thirty club owners, supreme court of major league baseball. 

That meeting, charged with the fate of American baseball, took place in NYC, 40th floor conference room of the Plaza Hotel. A large crowd of Bucky supporters had gathered outside of the hotel, chanting loudly in support of reform. The crowd spilled out far into Central Park. Police estimates placed the crowd at 20,000. The reports that vulgarity and threats of violence were rife among the protesters are ridiculous fabrications. If there was trouble it was because the Boston Red Sox management had hired thugs and agents to rile up the protesters. Of course the Red Sox and the Boston press made the usual claims that it was Bucky and his supporters who had bussed in violent provocateurs to intimidate the Boston fans who had poured into Manhattan by the busload for the occasion.

The club owners paused every so often in their deliberations to look out of the window at the melée below. The shouting and angry clamoring, the police sirens and ambulances coming and going provided the audio background to this meeting.

To my great regret I was not allowed into that meeting and no transcript was kept.  I rely on my notes from the luncheon preceding and the session following this history-making event, both of which I was privileged to attend as Bucky’s guest.  

Over lunch, the owners, well-lubricated with martinis, were in a festive, light-hearted mood. It seemed to one and all like one of those easily managed crises, where the right and wrong were guaranteed by the rules; one more pitiful attack on the great unassailable fortress of American baseball, whose rules were as firm and as hard to change as the law of the land. 

Then came the meeting. The executive session lasted three hours. Besides the owners, only Bronco Porsky, Marty Steinfeld and Bucky were present.  

When the doors of the meeting room finally opened the mood had changed to high serious.  The owners adjourned to a press conference in the vast Champagne Room of the Plaza, filled with journalists. Honus McGraw stepped to the cluster of microphones, and announced, “Gentlemen, I have the rare privilege of announcing the outcome of today’s session.  The owners of the thirty Major League Baseball teams have decided in  favor of a thorough revision of the rules of baseball in America. The vote was 29 in favor, one against.” He distributed a slate of ten guidelines for the new game. (See Appendix 1). The best known and most discussed of the changes are the replacement of bases with “safety zones,” larger areas randomly distributed through the field, which guarantee a more fluid progress towards home plate; base lines are abolished; an “out” occurs only when a player is tagged directly with the ball. And of course, the foul ball is abolished. 

It was Bucky triumphant. 

Chaos and pandemonium followed. The word spread quickly to the crowd outside, and it was greeted by full-throated cheers that filled Central Park like rolling thunder. Celebrating continued into the evening.  Jubilation turned to frenzy when Bucky himself, who had sat silently in the meeting whistling, beaming self-confidence, and tending to his manicure, appeared on a balcony of the Champagne Room, magnificent in his old-fashioned baseball uniform, acknowledged their ovation by stretching both arms, each extended diagonally heavenward, by the length of a baseball bat, a monumental human Victory-sign, a gesture bigger than American baseball. He looked for all the world like some Olympian Zeus wielding thunderbolts, or a Roman general returning from victory, the very pose which would later appear on the special issue Bucky-the-Great stamp of the US postal service. 

The crowd developed from a rally into a festival.  The newspapers noted, consistent with their usual bias, that the hired thugs attacked only the hold-out Boston fans, who tried to voice vociferous protests, but were either shouted, and in some cases, clubbed down. But the inference that the imported thugs were hired by Bucky supporters is just sour grapes, poor-loser posturing.  

The owners emerged from the meeting convinced, all but one, that the old, antiquated rules were destroying the game.  What could have produced such a turn-about? Bucky’s reforms promised fresh air and an expansive new conception of baseball. The reform promised increases in attendance. Also, it pulled one of the thorns in the side of owners: virtuoso players commanding high salaries. The cultivation and coddling of pitchers had reached decadent heights.  That position especially benefitted from revision. It was opened to a wider variety of talents. As the chief of the umpire’s union commented, “We can finally move beyond the absurd refinements of sliders,  split-fingered fastball, cutter, and knuckle ball.”  

From this point on, through the whole range of players and positions, personality and self-presentation would play a far greater role in hiring decisions than the tiresome statistics of fielding, batting average, earned run average etc.  The withering costs of mounting a winning team would be reduced and the box-office-take greatly increased in the new game.

The following season fulfilled these hopes, whatever protests rolled in from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Japan. Curiosity about the new game was high; its free-wheeling vitality captured fan interest immediately. Stadiums could not hold the numbers thronging them.  Games were sold out weeks in advance.  The competition for new players in the off-season grew fierce. Scouts broadened their search regions, branching out to other sports. Players from the national hockey league were especially popular, also pro football players eager to fill out their off-season in MLB. It caused a sensation when the Houston Astros managed to snag Gus Griswold from the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment Co.). Griswold was also known as “4G”, referrring to his nickname, the “Grim, Gruesome, Grizzly Griswold.”  That enlistment soon found a counterpart when the Minnesota Twins recruited Zelda Brockwinkel (Zeebee), world-class kick-boxer, holder of the prestigious WBAN belt, who also overturned the gender barrier in professional baseball. Games between those two teams were top draws in MLB. Griswold and Brockwinkel provided some of the most exciting, tense and erotically charged competition anywhere in the majors.  Griswold in his gold-spangled bikini and sweaty, greased naked upper body and Brockwinkel in her Wonder Woman outfit (uniforms were a thing of the past) could sustain a run-down of ten minutes including rough and tumble groping. The fans gobbled it up. The fashion of super-hero players was short lived, but various forms of gladiator dress and manner promised a sustained popularity.

Marty Steinfeld retired from the Redsox a few weeks after the fateful owners’ meeting. He was hit by a withering storm of hate-mails: he was a wimp, a clown, a loser, who hadn’t led the Redsox to a world series in two generations. While he was missed and many admired him, it was the kind of admiration reserved for people who are competent and nothing more.  He was a mollusk in a game of lions and eagles. The Boston Globe stood by him, called him a lone voice of reason in a time that was abandoning all values.

Then followed the glory days of Bucky’s reform movement. It had turned into a philosophy of heroism and greatness that spread rapidly to other areas of culture and politics: 

  • Siegfried Weizenbier, artistic director of the Tucson Symphony, reeling from a nasty review of his Mahler’s eighth, created a sensation by announcing a post-modernist, free-style performance of that same work based on polystylistic randomness. Weizenbier, declaring the liberation of music from the unbearable demands of convention, gave each performer freedom to perform his or her part when and how he liked. Weizenbier was immediately offered the vacant position of artistic director of the Chicago Symphony. No one to my knowledge paid any attention to the music critic of Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star, who declared the performance “chaotic, disgusting cacophony.”
  • The one-time great Russian chess master, Zbiegniew Malakowski, in his second season of losses to younger men, declared the emancipation of the king, which could move in any and every pattern. The World Chess Federation has contacted Malakowski for discussions on the reform of chess.

The tragic death of Bucky Bixby only cemented his influence. Bucky was a passenger in a car driven by free range outfielder, Hecatomb Margate. He died instantly when their car was struck by a driver who ran a red light. Margate suffered career-ending injuries.  The driver of the other car claimed that the light was green. Confronted in court by twenty eye-witnesses, he argued biased judgment. He also insisted that red traffic lights were an unfair restriction on individual freedom of action. He even referred to the great reforms of Bucky Bixby, evidently unaware that the victim of his individualistic driving had been none other than his hero, Bucky the Great. 


APPENDIX 1: Guidelines for the Rewriting of Baseball Rules 

1) the concept of the foul ball will be abolished; 

2) bases to be replaced by a more fluid system of progress to home plate involving “safety zones”; 

3) Home plate will be the only fixed point on the field; 

4) The location of the pitcher’s mound will be at the pitcher’s discretion; 

5) baselines will no longer be marked; 

6) A “run” will be scored when a batter/runner procedes through all safety zones in any sequence and touches home plate; 

7) A hit ball is in play until the batter reaches a safe zone or is tagged out. A runner in a safe-zone may leave at his discretion. 

8) “Outs” occur only when a runner is tagged directly with the ball; 

9) Umpires will judge the performance quality, not the accuracy of pitches, using a rating system of one to five; balls and strikes are herewith abolished; 

10) Umpires may call outs at their own discretion.

Enlightenment Man: An Academic-Superhero Action-Adventure Thriller

SEASON 1, PART I: “The Deth Ray”

The city is in a state of frenzy; wild enthusiasm spreads from one block to the next.  Cheering crowds fill the streets whenever Enlightenment Man appears. The city shuts down and people come out of their apartments, speak to neighbors they’d ignored for years.  They understand each other; they tolerate each other, they like each other; they are good to each other.  The hum and buzz of human kindness fills the neighborhoods. Old and young philosophize in the city parks about the democratic form of government, the future of technology, sexual diversity, climate change, capitalist monopolies and the destiny of the human race. They deplore racism, poverty, ignorance and war. They seek peaceful means of resolving conflicts, they hunger for unity and mutual understanding.   

Here are some of the stories from local headlines that followed on EMan’s most recent rendez-vous-with-wrongs:

  • Medicare abusers, Doctors and HMO administrators line up at the federal building to return their overcharges; 
  • Embezzling CEO turns ill-gotten gains over to charity, tutors disadvantaged high school youths in service to society.
  • The notorious “Red Sharks” gang continue their repair work on Ballard Grammar School.
  • Anti-tax initiative signers relent; advocate full state support for K-12 and public universities.  

He’s a one-man solution to the ills of society, he’s a walking-talking Age-of-Reason, he’s Enlightenment Man!  Some strange force that beams from him creates unity, peace, kindness and consideration, ends incivility, brings on maturity, cleans up bad language and exposes irrationality.  Misers become benefactors; fascists become Quakers.

EMan’s weekly reading group has had to move from the modest venue at the public library to the Seahawks’ Safeco Field, recently renamed Human Rights Stadium.  20,000 attended the meeting last week, where Enlightenment Man read from Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man,” a prelude to a week of dignity, self-confidence and optimism in the people of Seattle.  

Police have observed a steep decline in criminal activity in the weeks after public readings. EMan’s reading assignments are proving an effective means of rehabilitating hardened felons.  The criminal justice system took note when notorious gangsta rapper and hip-hop artist B.H. (Bad Habits) Flash decried a serious chivalry deficit in his preferred art form upon reading The Princess of Clèves, the classic tale of noble love and self-sacrificing courtesy by Madame de Lafayette.  B.H.’s so-called “Princess Working Groups” (PWGs) now have chapters in 40 states. Mistreatment of women and domestic violence virtually disappear where the PWGs are active. Participation in a PWG is now part of the mandatory sentencing for rapists and perpetrators of domestic violence. 

Morris Penningworth’s law practice specialized in funnelling the money of rich widows into shell charities to fund construction of his multi-million-dollar mansion in Aruba. The cutthroat counselor was so taken by Plato’s Republic, that he gave up law in favor of philosophy.  Penningworth’s book on Plato’s idea of justice and goodness won the Parker J. Finlay prize for engaged philosophical inquiry and is now required reading in the Wharton School of Business.  His correspondence with celebrity humanist Martha Nussbaum is forthcoming from Princeton University Press.   He has donated his mansion built on ill-gotten gains to the Franciscan Order of Poor Clares.

With the recent election of Myron Tulkingham as first philosopher-mayor, the city seemed on track for a final stage of a utopian, humanitarian dream-city-state.  But then, as if drawn by this flood tide of beneficence and good will, Dr. Deth appeared on the scene.  He brought with him the Deth Ray, which has the power to counteract all EMan’s influence.  In the path of the deth ray good turns to evil, kindness to malice, generosity to greed, love to hate, decorum to vulgarity. This terrifying weapon casts a purple and black ray and can compass up to four city blocks in a single blast. Its oil-slick ooze quickly hardens into a tacky scum, death to vegetation and lethal to traffic. Its ear-splitting and mind-rattling sound blasts surpass in decibels all that is currently known to the entertainment and heavy metal industries. 

There’s no need to retell in any detail the story of Dr. Deth’s dramatic emergence as a counter force to EMan, since all the news media discussed little else for days after the event: briefly, while Maestro Gerard Schwarz conducted an unforgettable performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute, buoyant and enchanting, the orchestra slipped, seemingly with no cue from the conductor into the minor key in the love duet of Tamino and Pamina; its tempo sped madly out of control, the magic flute made way as the terrifying shriek of a demonic flute filled the hall, while the sound intensified until sensitive patrons clapped hands to ears and collapsed, and the Chehuli chandelier shattered, sending shards of glass down on the audience. Panic ensued, helped along by high-decibel blasts of Wagner and Max Bruch. The hideous laughter of Dr. Deth echoed through the hall and the nearby streets. He had stolen Gerard Schwarz’s tuxedo and smuggled himself onto the director’s podium while the maestro struggled with his bonds in the performers’ locker room dressed only in his underwear. 

Meanwhile in the performance hall, the Deth Ray shot from Dr. Deth’s extended finger tips, while the audience burst through the exit doors in a panicked rout. [The movie script, “Deth Squad,” now in production at Lionsgate Studios, at this point inserted a spectacular sequence of the chaotic evacuation of Benaroya Hall: speeding cars flying into the air, turning flips and crashing on crowds, huge gasoline explosions, freeway overpasses collapsing, buildings toppling, random senseless gunfire.]

Now our story switches to the apartment of modest and unassuming University of Washington professor of English Literature, Peter Millstein.  Nothing about his appearance or his apartment reveals the true character of the man who lives here, for Peter Millstein leads a secret life as– Enlightenment Man. As we look in on him, his valet, butler and private secretary, Clyde, is cleaning Peter’s pipe and replenishing its tobacco, having just delivered materials for Peter’s upcoming lecture on Emmanuel Kant’s idea of the inevitability of an eternal middle-class city-state.  The German philosopher had proven with iron logic that a democracy on the model of the American constitution must develop into a permanent, unchanging form of just government dedicated to the welfare of all citizens. 

Peter had just lit his pipe and settled in to write, when a knock at the door interrupted his work. Enter his colleague Minerva Chouette, professor of ancient philosophy, who leads a double life as Owl Woman, Enlightenment Man’s loyal side-kick.    

“Hey Minnie, What’s up?”

“I just had a talk with President Walcott. He and the football and basketball coaches and six deans have requested reductions in their salaries to balance the university budget.” 

“Awesome,” says Peter. 

“Makes sense,” says Minerva.  “They recognized that the humanities courses couldn’t accommodate the huge numbers of students crowding in.  The dean of the business school resisted, but they forced the issue. Enrollment has sunk so low in business administration that there was no alternative. the money saved will finance about twenty tenure-track professorships university-wide. They’ve also made big savings because faculty conflict virtually stopped and sexual harassment is a thing of the past. Those huge defense funds are now freed up for other purposes..”

“Clyde, bring us some sherry, will you. We want to celebrate. Say, Minnie, are you free tomorrow evening? Dinner and the ancient Greek read-aloud study group?”

“No can do, Peter. I’ve got tickets for Finnegan’s Wake.”

“The hip-hop musical?!! You’re kidding. How did you get them? I’m on a two-year waiting list.”


“How about lunch tomorrow?”

“Fraid not. I’m meeting with the CEOs of Nordstrom and Saks 5th Ave.”

“Reading levels of hourly workers?”

“Yup. Yesterday it was Walmart and Target. Walmart’s up to $18 per hour for Hemingway and Emily Dickinson. Then Target outbid them with Tom Sawyer and E. E. Cummings for $20 per hour.”

“Can they really get their workers to read at that level?”

“Sure.  Higher wages – more reading time.  More reading—higher wages. Better educated sales staff – more customers and more sales.”

“What’s the agenda for Nordstrom and Saks?” Peter asked.

“Nordstrom’s talking Dickens and T.S. Eliot @ $22 per hour, and—get this—Saks is adding Marcel Proust: vol. 1-  $25 per hour. Then a two dollar rise for each later volume.  Read all seven, and you’re pulling in a cool $40 per at Saks.”

“What snobs. They would go for Proust.”

“Snobs? May be, but the fact is, job applications doubled after the Proust announcement.”

“That was a great idea of yours: index the Wage scale of workers to literary accomplishment …”  

Suddenly Minerva gasped, seemed to lose her balance and had to steady herself at Millstein’s reading podium.  

“What’s the matter?  Are you okay?” asked Peter. “What is it.”

“I just felt a great disturbance in the eco-system.  I fear something terrible has happened.”

“Better check into it,” says Peter.  

Before his very eyes, Minerva transformed into a large snowy owl and flew out the window. An hour later she flew back with a report: the Deth Ray had stopped all traffic and devastated all flowering trees and bushes in the city, and now it’s headed north. 

“But what could have happened?” Peter exclaimed. “Didn’t we seed the area with Thoreau’s Walden and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring?”

Restored to woman-shape, Minerva answered, “Wake up and hear the birdies sing, Peter, It’s Dr. Deth.”

“My God you’re right.”

“And you  know what’s up there north of town? Thousands of acres of tulips. Stretch from Marysville to Mt. Vernon. In full blossom right now.”

“Great heavens!, an immense black and purple killer wave field threatening the entire northwest tulip crop.”

“Sounds like a job for Enlightenment Man. What’ll we do?”

“Start by deploying an emergency humanities rapid-response team.  Maybe it’s not too late to save the tulips.”

“I’ll get on it EMan.”

The crop was saved. The famous Force-Field-Five set up a high-energy interference vector field that stopped the Deth Ray’s progress.  Physics Professor Herbert Soloveitchik sent a sample of Deth ray goo to his lab for analysis.  The results were mind-boggling.

Find out the chemical composition of the Deth Ray and of Dr. Deth’s brain, in 

PART II, “Deth’s Dark Secret”

And stay tuned for 

Part III: “Enlightenment Man vs. the Demon Algorithm”: the epic combat between the forces of Deth and Enlightenment Man in the Seattle Public Library.


1 Clyde Hickman is the reformed grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, west coast chapter. His popular poetry slams are credited with the disappearance of the white supremacist movement in Washington State. He is a winner of the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.