Saturday, January 21, 2017

Boldt Words & Images: Awakening

By Bob Boldt

[From a sermonette to be delivered tomorrow at the author’s local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, in Jefferson, Missouri.]

Have you ever readThe Lost Boy” by Thomas Wolfe? It concerns the dawning awareness of Grover, a young lad of twelve when he comes fully into an awareness of himself as a conscious, moral agent in the world.
    I had a similar experience at about age fourteen, in a very different context. In eighth grade a friend of mine got into a fight with the local playground bully. We met over recess to settle things. The bully’s friend and I were witnesses to guarantee a fair fight. The pitched match soon outstayed the recess. I was not about to return to class and allow my friend to have to fight two bullies. The result was that we all got detention and demerits on our records for staying out past the recess bell.
    When I objected, I was given the further sanction of being stripped of my white safety guard sash and removed from the patrol at the next school assembly. It resembled the humiliation of being drummed out of the French Foreign Legion. Had it not been for my dad’s coming to my defense, the impact and the lesson of the event might have been quite different. He actually gave the principal a tongue lashing the cowardly man never forgot. After that confrontation the poor man would always make himself scarce at meetings my father attended.
    Until that time I never was inclined to see any conflict over the rightness of authority figures or the immutably of rules. Like Huck Finn, who found himself in a similar conflict whether to remain true to Jim or to the rules of society, I saw my own loyalty to my friend in conflict with “the rules.”
    It was an emotional response that was to play out only much later, and more fully intellectually. At the age of fourteen, I quite fully learned to always question authority. This went against nearly every axiom of the 50’s. It was not until the 60’s and the Vietnam War that it became a mantra. This realization, this awakening moment has been perhaps the most important principle of my life and has taught me to always think for myself first. I would rather arrive at an answer that proves to be wrong than blindly accept the right answer solely based on someone else’s authority.

At about that same time, I remember reading “If—” by Rudyard Kipling. I came especially to appreciate the concluding lines: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you but make allowance for their doubting too….” This revelation changed my life and is as present with me today as when it happened. It can be counted on to put me forever at odds with my society and my government and most people I meet.

Copyright © 2017 by Bob Boldt

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