Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon
Today is erev Rosh Hashanah, the evening of the Jewish New Year. Jewish days start at sunset. L’shana tova which you may hear, or say, comes from this longer phrase: l’shana tova tikateyvu, “May you be written [in the Book of Life] for a good year.”
Today is also Michaelmas, the feast day of the Archangel Michael as well as the name for the first term in many Irish and British schools: the Michaelmas term and for the beginning of court sessions, too. It is also the springtime of the soul as Rudolf Steiner wrote. I’ve said elsewhere why I find this apt. The beginning of darkness triumphing over light. Remember the equilux on September 26th?
However, none of this is what’s upper most in my mind this morning. Youthful follies. Mom died in 1964, October. I graduated from Alexandria High School that spring, 1965, and in the fall I matriculated to Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Wabash was, and remains, a bittersweet time for me. Going off to college was a dream, finally pushing away from my then bucolic small town toward, well, I don’t know. The future. Yes, certainly that, but also pushing away from the grief and confusion. I hoped.
Nope. Sleeping in the cold dorm at Phi Kappa Psi (we freshmen had to pledge a fraternity since the only dorm rooms available were taken by upper classmen and freshmen couldn’t live off campus.), I had dreams of my father dying. Of my mother coming back. Of deep black holes waiting to consume me.
Even so during the day Contemporary Civilization, C.C., Introduction to Philosophy, English, Introduction to Symbolic Logic, German made my mind spin. I wanted a liberal arts education. I knew that from the beginning. And I was getting one. German knocked me down. I dropped it and felt ashamed at giving up. As for the rest, I hung on every word, studied hard, and did well.
All my inner turmoil disappeared when I took my books to the study carrels at Lilly Library. I could disappear into Plato, the Middle Ages, the law of the excluded middle. This is a pattern that exists for me today. Not the folly.
The folly began in my study room at Phi Kappa Psi. Both of my roommates smoked. And drank. One used Romilar, a codeine based cough medicine. Not for coughs. I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs. But not for long.
I made the choice. Drinking Singapore Slings until I got sick. Vowed to never drink sweet liquor again. But, didn’t vow not to drink again. It would take until 1976 to put away both smoking and drinking. I knew all along that neither were good for me.
Ball State kicked me off campus for public drunkenness. The recession of 1966 had made Wabash financially unreachable for me. I smoked, drank, discovered marijuana and LSD, peyote, mescaline. The study carrel was still my refuge. My grades didn’t suffer.
These habits carried themselves off campus and into my years as a Presbyterian minister, and two marriages. Not my best choices, clouded by that youthful folly, imagining I could handle it all.
No, I don’t regret any of it. I made my choices and lived with them the best I could for 15 years or so. Besides, what good does regret do? I can’t change the past.
Now, though, I’m living with COPD. Prostate cancer is down to gender, genetics, and bad luck. COPD I created all on my own. Glad it took so long to show up. I’ll do what I need to do to maintain my health, but I know that this one is on me, the youthful me. Who committed more follies than I’ve recounted here.