Delight Springs

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


"In response to a telegram from the American Civil Liberties Union, I reached Dayton in time for my evening meal on July 13."

That's Dr. Winterton Curtis, recalling a pilgrimage of sorts and his non-participation as one of the disallowed expert scientific witnesses in the 1925 Scopes Trial in Tennessee. He was a distinguished zoologist from the University of Missouri. His autobiographical account of "Fundamentalism vs Evolution at Dayton, Tennessee" was published serially in the summer of 1956.

In 1957, a young veterinary student, his wife, and their newborn son rented Dr. Curtis's second floor ($45/month). It would be their home until that young student graduated and moved away to set up practice in the St. Louis area. Dr. Curtis would visit them periodically until his death at age 91, in 1966, charming the little boy, miraculously extracting dollar bills from his ears.

I'm still charmed by Dr. Curtis's accounts of Dayton, Columbia, and the perennial tug of war between science and faith. We'll talk about that in class today, and about his (and Einstein's) "humanistic philosophy of life."
The humanistic philosophy of life, which flowered in Greece and which has blossomed again, is not the crude materialistic desire to eat, drink, and be merry. It is a spiritual joy in living and a confidence in the future, which makes this life a thing worthwhile.
I bet we'll talk as well about the President's remarkable oration in Dallas yesterday, which also bespeaks a humane alternative to the dark days we've been suffering of late.

And, because part of me occupies the alternate universe in which our Study Abroad course might have drawn two more participants, maybe we'll also talk a bit about Freud and Keats. We were to visit their homes today.

"On 26th August 1910, Gustav Mahler took a four hour walk with Sigmund Freud..." Anybody care to research this? (Final reports due soon. Just sayin'.) Or Freud's general affinity for walking meetings?

Or Keats's pub crawl in Hampstead, "a magnet for creative people" where thirsty pilgrims are advised to "drop into The Flask and drink in the ambience of a genuine Victorian pub."

Or Highgate Cemetery, final London home of Karl Marx.

And tomorrow, Darwin's sandwalk and home at Down House.

The home I'd really like to revisit, though, is the one on Westmount as I left it in 1960. That would be some pilgrimage. Physics won't support it, but imagination does.

5:43/5:42, 73/95, 8:03

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