Scripture for Our Time
A Chapel Talk
at Lewis & Clark College
1 Mar 1962
Sometimes listening alertly to Scripture, I am touched with a flickering realization of how it might be to live in times when Scripture is lived and write. Think of coming alive to participate in human events so important that they connect with the everlasting. How would it be to know that what you did, what you said, what you wrote, how you responded to others was crucial?
I love this sly guy William Stafford, copied this exerpt from the typescript of the chapel talk when I was at the library at Lewis & Clark College this last Sunday. Here's some more:
...and I think steadily about our own times: there should be writings so coercive that all in our time yield to them. Maybe our crisis is an art crisis: people must come to believe art, and art must come to be worthy of belief.
Yes! Yes! And keep talking, Mr. Stafford:
...An ultimately responsible writer could feel this way: things happen the way they ought to happen when people know enough - and soon enough - about their own situation. When people want what the world will give them, and in terms they live with, then they have balanced their culture.
Yeah, as Wayne said, and monkeys will fly out my butt, but also, yeah, and why the heck not?
I would like to be an utimately responsible writer, and an artist who creates art worthy of belief, just as I hope that I am worthy of belief from the kids I work with in classrooms. Am I a writer? Yes. Do I believe that reading and writing can change or even save my life? Yes. Do they believe me? As much as I live it, yes.
I don't know what the chapel looked like. By the time I attended Lewis & Clark, beginning August of 1970, there was a brand-new round rather Native American looking edifice that was the pride of the campus. One anti-Vietnam-war protest began with a prayer vigil in this chapel, when my Yeats professor, John Callahan, read "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen" by W.B. Yeats, and catapulted my socks into orbit around a distant star. John Callahan later became literary executor to the estate of Ralph Ellison. In life, they were great friends. Callahan has endured some rather unfriendly "you are not Black, you have no rights" derision, but has carried on as his friend asked him to with the business of Ellison's literary legacy.
I dropped out of Lewis & Clark one quarter and seven weeks after beginning, mostly on the basis of being so far over my head in Callahan's senior seminar on Yeats that I couldn't even open my mouth for air when I surfaced in his little quanset hut office. Humiliated that I had no idea what the 22 year old literary lights were talking about in seminar, being 18 and fresh out of high school, I couldn't face my first academic defeat and hitchhiked away from school with a friend of a friend who claimed to be hitching to New Jersey, which I thought was funny; everyone was hitching to California at the time, good drugs, countercultural correctness. We did in fact hitchhike to California, Santa Cruz. Excrutiatingly predictable.
My daughter graduated from Lewis & Clark, and had John Callahan for teacher in her freshman "Imagining America" mandatory philosophical college grounding course. Love that school.