April 16, 2024

No News From Doodlebug Island…by William F Jordan


A quiet, modest man given to personal reflection, Emerson Godspeed has spent the bulk of his ninety years fixing things for people. Things that clog or break or that won’t work gain new life under his hands; and what is true of physical things is true of people, as well. For, in the calm waters of his presence, troubles seem smaller and more manageable, and those who seek his help seem to come away with a renewed confidence and an ability to deal with their difficulties.

“Life is a classroom,” he’s fond of saying, “and we must learn how to deal with the battering we receive.”

Asked if there’s an ultimate purpose or goal toward which those life-lessons are taking us, he smiles impishly and replies, “Now, how would I know that? I’m doing pretty well just remembering how to tie my shoes!” However, it is generally thought that Emerson harbors some secret notion regarding the purpose of life, for his analogies almost always run to the spiritual.

“It’s important to observe,” he has been heard to say, “no one gets by unscathed, not the wealthy, the famous, the erudite, nor their opposites! Why, while it may not be in the same form as that described in the New Testament, everyone experiences his or her own crucifixion, and likely more than one.” Seen from that perspective, folks generally adopt a more resilient attitude, and are the better for it.

This introduction to Emerson is important because it speaks to his kindliness and his giving nature which will undoubtedly appear in contrast to other aspects of his life and philosophy described herein. Those not acquainted with the man may think of him as cold and unconcerned, an abstract thinker whose observations are devoid of sentiment not calculated to inspire. But this is simply not the case. Far from being detached, the man and his ideas provide a lofty platform from which to view life in an almost God-like manner, absolved of blame or accusation.

“Everything is cyclical,” he’s been heard to say. “Today’s ideas regarding education, justice, morals, marriage, and all else have been around in one form or another since man’s conscious awareness of time began. Concepts of those things mutate and reformulate with each generation only to mutate and reformulate with the next. Taken in the long view, it could be assumed that there’s very little difference to be noted or achieved simply because each generation views its findings subjectively. Gun lobbyists may play to the paranoia of the present generation, but it will be surprising if the next
generation doesn’t abolish large and multi-shelled weapons as impractical and a threat to society.”

On an occasion I was interviewing Emerson for my paper, The Doodlebug Island Run-On, I asked him, “Are you suggesting that we should take no interest in current affairs?”

“No, people should take interest in anything they like, and contribute in any way they prefer,” he laughs. “I’m personally involved in a crusade to abolish the Arizona State Department of Public Instruction, which I know is never going to happen. This department, after all, is unique and calls for specialized management. Strange then, that four of the last five directors have been people with no experience in education. Two were attorneys, one was a public speaker, and one was a former cafeteria manager. It may be unkind to say it, but apparently the voting public believes this department could be
administered by about anyone off the streets.”

Then, having made such a confession, Emerson chuckled “There’s a little of the Don Quixote in each of us. Yes, and elements of Einstein, Jesus, and Mephistopheles. Today we might be Sisyphus, tomorrow Hector. It’s as Shakespeare said, ‘We play many roles.’”

Although well read in classical and practical philosophy, Emerson refuses membership in the local philosophy society, but he does so without prejudice. “The failure is mine,” he pointed out, “I simply cannot learn in that way. I have to read and
think, turning a matter over in my mind, examining it from every angle, and I don’t know the means by which that could be encapsulated either for my benefit or that of others. Discussions, I have found, reduce to little more than participants speaking in or listening to topic sentences. It’s like pounding a nail with a fishnet.” He laughed and slapped his knee.

“Bill, I have found my niche in life! I have achieved the status of curmudgeon!”

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